>End of the Innocence

>I don’t know when it happened…that moment I realized I would be okay. All I know is that gradually it has become easier to breath, to sleep, to laugh, to feel.. I’m still not as brave as before, but I have picked up my dreams and am again making plans for the future.

But only after days and days, and nights of something else. My mother’s death was the beginning of a journey with no destination…only the slogging will to make it through the day and then tomorrow, and the next day, and then the next.

After the public rituals of grief were over and friends and relatives retreated to their own lives, I returned to mine forever altered. The sun hiding behind a cloud; the world around me was suddenly moving at a different pace. I was quite certain it was being powered by society’s oblivion to anything meaningful.

I was sure part of me had died as well.

I would awake each morning unsure whether I could do all that was still expected… empty, heartsick, emotionally exhausted. I mistakenly thought that returning to work would be best (not)! Five days a week spent shoving down my feelings, pretending to be normal…really? Struggling to remember things, to complete simple tasks, I couldn’t make even easy decisions. By the end of the day, I was fighting back tears, and grief was waiting in the parking lot to envelope me again. Sleep was the only reprieve, but until a few weeks ago, I couldn’t remember the last time I slept through the night.

Since her death, I have carefully avoided places my Mom and I last went together. Minefields of blue pain; they were (and still are) not to be disturbed. For months, venturing into public made me anxious… I would pray no one would speak to me. Crowds are still just cruel; all those people moving about and not one of them the person I so desperately long to see just one more time.

So much of the music I love, songs I shared with my mother, the soundtrack of my life, is still off limits. The piano sits silently, gathering dust. Last played for Mom on Christmas Eve, it is hard to imagine when I might ever walk by and feel like playing it again

My phone is ringing less now, but it used to sound every day with my Dad, the King of Pain, on the other end. I scramble to answer, aware that my loss is dwarfed by his loneliness. I want him to feel free to grieve with me. Listening to his desperation, I search for words that will comfort him for about 2 seconds after they leave my mouth. Worry and sadness weigh heavy as I shoulder the burdens of the oldest.

Yesterday I caught myself thinking that I need to call Mom this week, and for an instant I felt that old excitement until I remembered. I still lay in bed at night trying, in the darkness, to remember the sound of her voice. When my sister recently asked me how I felt about beginning the process of dispersing Mom’s stuff, I started shaking at the thought of even opening her closet. .

I have staggered through the darkness with the wind of loss and longing howling in my mind. I have dreaded, confronted and survived each painful anniversary during this First Year, and the most difficult ones are yet to come. I have been afraid and lonely, vulnerable and diminished. Against the storm, I carry a flickering candle that burns with memories of home, childhood, and the undying love of my mother and the family she left as her legacy.

Today is October 20…eight months since her death. Missing her even more than I ever imagined, it is my soul’s desire to keep my promises and make her proud.

I love you Mom…I am okay.


>Sir Galahad and the Truth

>I have tried three different times to write this story. There are reasons I couldn’t tell it until now. ” You can’t have peace until you have all the pieces”. Some of this story I knew; some of it I did not. Thanks, Judy for helping me with the rest.

Even as a little girl, I knew my mother and grandmother didn’t get along. I overheard painful conversations between my parents often followed by mom crying on the bed. Living only a few hundred yards from her mother-in-law, Mom was sure our lives and activities were constantly being scrutinized, judged and ridiculed. My opinionated, feisty grandmother did little to contradict these fears, and over time, the air became thick with misunderstanding and mutual distrust.

My grandmother’s family parties filled my mother with dread for weeks in advance. Positive she would be greeted with only cool disregard; she became almost physically ill. I was relieved for her when they were over.

For 30 years, my grandmother played the grand dame, keeping her daughters close, with my mother always on the outside. In fairness, my mother’s hurt turned to bitterness, and she would set her jaw; unsmiling in an attempt to look dispassionate. It made her appear haughty, cold and unapproachable.

Oh, how it must have hurt her when, during one of our legendary arguments, I “ran away” to my grandparents for solace, blurting out all my mother’s alleged crimes against me for my grandmother to distribute as juicy family gossip. (Teenagers are arrogant and stupid, and for a time, I was their Queen)

Only after my grandmother and her iron influence had passed away, did my aunts begin to reach out to my mother. She cautiously accepted their invitations to shop and lunch. I believe she never completely abandoned the dreams of a 19-year old newlywed, so hopeful she had married into a family that would embrace and accept her.

Here’s what I didn’t know. Ironically, my grandmother had been treated as an outcast in my grandfather’s rigid and righteous family…always. Never seen as worthy, women in-laws were simply viewed as outlaws. Surprisingly, even the wife of my grandmother’s favorite son (not my dad) had often felt like an outsider! My mother was convinced that only she had been singled out for rejection…but this sad tradition of exclusion had been going on for generations.

When my dad told me he was having lunch with three of his four sisters and his only brother, I thought…how nice, they will visit, make awkward small talk and reminisce. I guess that is how the afternoon started. But at some point, my father decided to speak up. Finally, it was time….

He spoke of the hurts my mother had been too proud to confront when she was alive. He told them of her isolation and the years of desperate loneliness. While my mother tried to pretend that their acceptance and friendship was not important; he believes it would have changed her life…so do I. He asked how they could have ever pretended to care about him while treating his wife with such disdain.

They listened with their hearts. The sisters were anxious to try to explain my grandmother’s possible motives and their fear of her wrath or rejection. All shared their own perspectives and spoke openly of their regrets. There were apologies and many tears. In the end, Dad, the oldest, led his siblings to forgiveness and a hopeful new beginning.

For all he said and did that day, my dad is a Hero. He is my shining knight and I have never been more proud of his kind and quiet strength. As he described  this moving family gathering, we both wept for all that had been lost;  for my mother, for the years of heartache, and for the healing catharsis of truth.  

I like to imagine that she was there somehow; beaming as he finally found his voice…for both of them.