30 June 2011

FaceBook Status:

Madison Friends. My neighbor and I are having a garage sale tomorrow (Friday) and Saturday from 8 until noon. Stop by if you want some stuff that I've decided that I really don't need. Some of it is even not bad at all. Message me if you need the address.

I am the worst sales person in the world! LOL! But it is out there. Facebook, Craigslist, and a few signs. Let the selling begin!

Oh, I hope I don't have to cart it ALL to good will.
I do hope that lots of my stuff sells, but if it doesn't it is out of the house and in the garage. Next step is un-ownership. The basement is beginning to look manageable, and the boxes I haven't gone through yet are no where near as overwhelming as they were a few months ago. I've settled, at least in my own mind, a very possible scenario for the floor and wall renovation which will be happening during our vacation. (I look at the paint patches every day, in each room, at different times, and I am still settled on those paints. They are not exciting.) On Saturday, after the yard sale, I will start packing up the house. There will be room in the basement for lots of stuff. I will come back to do the moving back in, but it will also be an incredibly clean slate. Art to be rehung, books to be put on new shelves. I forget how many changes one needs to make in feng shui, but I remember something about 21 or so changes to change the chi. I feel the chi shifting below my feet now.

A few friends have sent wishes by post or email or face book messages in the last few days. Each one is holy. The prayers and wishes and extra thoughts hold me is some safe place and I am sure that I can complete this cycle.

I have to make time for two beach days during our travels. I need the ocean and the waves, just like last year. I need to return to the sea in some way.

29 June 2011

It feels like ages since I've written -- two days. Ummm. So much has been going through my head and heart but when I sit down, I really want to distance myself from the processing. I want rest. Curious my love of the task and my longing for rest. The dichotomies surface constantly these days. Task happy v. longing for rest. Homebody v. traveller. Pile of grieving jelly v. relatively together, independent person. Mother v. In great need of someone to take care of me. Teacher v. slug. There are others.

And then I feel like I am living parallel lives -- one part of me is desperately trying remember what it felt like to life these days last year, before David died -- it dawned on me when I woke up this morning that when David was taken to the hospital a week before he died that there was a night before which was the last night that we shared a bed. I did not plan this thought -- it sprung unbidden into my head. I did not think to make an anniversary of it, but . . . . I lean towards obsession. I don't remember much - if anything - about out last night in bed together. Who put Julia to bed that night? Did I go upstairs with David or did I stay up later, as was my custom? I don't remember. How was I to know that it was the last night? What did we have for dinner that night? Who did the dishes? Maybe if I had thought to reconstruct that evening, that day, last year. Maybe.

And then there is the other part -- morning meeting with the intensive therapy team, chatting with parents at the riding school, remembering to buy milk, cooking. This part of my heart and soul just moves about the world as if it is whole with very little trouble.

And as I sort through the basement -- sorting, pricing, trashing, and arranging -- I think of how I should have done this last year, two years ago. I couldn't get started, but I see now that I could have used the clean out then, as well as now. Now, I desperately need it. Need the order. Need such a clean out. The cellar, the closets, the sealed boxes and the drawers are such metaphors, such symbols. If I want a new life, if I want to re-create, if I want to let new things in, I have to let go of something. A lot of something.

I have been cutting myself off from people recently. Many reasons -- I have nothing interesting to say to anyone. I have no interests, no awareness of the world or literature or art or anything outside of the narrow world of an autistic child and my interminable sorting. I am bad company. I wait to see the rolling of the eyes, the yawn. I am not ready to be "over it" and I am not suggesting that anyone has told me to move along, but I am aware of how I am in no way ready to be moving along. And yet, I need friends and a social life -- last weekend, with Marcia and Matthew, was lovely. Nothing incredibly special -- walks, meals, movies, lots of talking. But Marcia and Matthew are easy and forgiving. I am scared that others may not be so.

Julia and I are finishing her math work for the day. We are working on the concept of "between" for Morning Parade. First, Second, third, and fourth are pretty solid. Last is in the works. Between is hard. But this is undoubtedly progress. She is arranging her number tiles up to 40, today, with only one mistake. She is counting 1's and 10's alone; 5's and 2's with support. We do 5 easy addition problems with the abacus. She still doesn't really understand addition, but we keep working at it.

27 June 2011

Lost Cat

10 month old, neutered male Tabby. Declawed in the front. White and golden with golden tail. Very friendly and personable. Answers to Didi. Disappeared on Monday, June 21. Possibly on South Shore Drive.

Please write or call.


Neighbors are alerted. Someone brought back his collar so he has no identity. I am holding out home that we will still find him. Called the humane society and put notices up on Craigslist.

26 June 2011

Interesting confluence of events: I have to clear out both floors of my house by vacation time so that I can get the floors sanded, stained, and refinished and the first floor walls painted. I want to store some stuff in the basement and also have been trying to get rid of furniture and stuff I've been carrying around for years without using. My neighbor is having a garage sale next Saturday and asked if I wanted to put out a table. This evening during Julia's therapy, I went into the cellar and started pulling out boxes of stuff. I took a roll of masking tape and a sharpie and started pricing things -- soccer balls, souvenirs from Bolivia, computer programs that I can't use, toys that Julia never touches, material from years of saving just-in-case-I-want-to-sew, stuff from my mother's house, David's mother's house, David's grandmother's house, my grandmother's house.

A match made in heaven. This week I will load up the garage for the sale. This will clear out the basement some and give me room for what I need to store for the home work. And what doesn't sell, gets junked or given to Good Will. Period.

Thank you, Maria! My neighbor, that is.
Waking much too early from a dream, another dream of David, albeit very short. In our living room, in front of our fireplace, very aware of the details of the room. I told him that I didn't want him to die. "I don't want you to die. I didn't want you to die."

As if that was in question?

Did I need to say it to him? Did I need him to hear that?

Very strange feeling -- no relief, no extra sadness. Just the presence of him lingering, like a fine mist.

Up until very recently, I had not dreamed of David at all. I was deliberately patient with this -- me who always dreamed although not necessarily about anyone or anything, especially dead friends or relatives. But I have had dreams of dear friends, my niece, and my paternal grandmother -- comforting or enlightening, but never asked for. It is different now that it is David. How, I am not able to articulate yet, but definitely different. Maybe, I accepted those other dreams for what they were -- visits from dear ones or conjurings of my own imagination. I did not really care which. Now, I care. I would really like to know. Right this moment, I imagine that I must be content that I have the visits and not ask for origin. Just be thankful for the gift.

I usually don't mind waking up in the early morning. Hearing the beginnings of bird song and calls. This morning, I told Julia she could sleep late. I suspect that Marcia and Matthew will take advantage of sleeping in. And so, I do mind some. I'd like to fall asleep once again this morning, blissfully in the arms of Morpheus, shaper of dreams.

25 June 2011

My friends, Marcia and Matthew, came up yesterday to spend the weekend with Julia and I. We ate and cooked, walked in the farmers' markets and Olbrick Gardens. Took the dog for walks and caught lightning bugs. We, Marcia and I, shared some wine.

And I am feeling slightly more human. I am so thankful for dear friends.

Images from Father's Day

My pictures do not capture the sweetness of these moments. They are the markers for my memory. Julia, for all of her challenges, has an incredibly generous spirit and holds such a love for her Daddy.

23 June 2011

Another rainy day and the business of the morning has gotten nothing at all done. Contractor, painters, floor guys and movers. It is so clear how much work I am giving myself if I want to get the floors redone. Maybe I understand why the last folks didn't do it. I have two days more than three weeks to get the house in moving condition. It would be great to come home to new floors and new paint on some of the walls.

Early this morning I had a dream of David that left me with a sense memory of myself before he died. I awoke to the feeling which was so ordinary, so normal -- as if I was whole again. It was the first morning after a bad fever breaks and I didn't want to move a muscle to hold on to the memory. I am sad that my only touch with this well being is a dream, but I am grateful for the dream, grateful for the visit.

We were ready to return home from a vacation. I had the feeling of a week spent at a beach -- the jersey shore, Fire Island. That rested, warm, awake feeling. There were pieces of my mother's house -- the carpeted hallway upstairs and a stroller in the bathroom, even though I can't ever remember a stroller in her bathroom -- where I was. I was in the bathroom and David was there too. We were in front of a mirror and one or the other of us was looking into it. I noticed that David had hair on top of his head. I said nothing about it, but wondered if I was dreaming about the 80's when he was still maintaining he last of the hair on top of his head, or if he had preferred this look as he was visiting me. (I knew this was a dream. I knew I was dreaming, but this time, not like last time, I did not say anything about it.) I threw my arm around his neck and said, very dramatically, "I want you to live, to live, to live." Very Tallulah Bankhead. And I felt such a wash of well-being. I was me before last year. I was happy. I was whole. I was aware of the glory of that feeling. It was very silly and romantic and very much like ourselves in most of our private lives. David asked if he still "had me," "Do I still have you?" And I answered, "Body and soul, body and soul." With such a smile. With such love.

And that was it. The respite that I asked for two days ago. For moments, I was painless. I remembered happy. Not for long but for real.

22 June 2011

So, okay. Today was better than yesterday. Once again, emerging from some phase that knocked me over -- a left to the gut. I emerge today, slightly hung over, drunk from the shock, and in full possession of a new fear.

What if, I do all this cleaning out of material possession, body, and spirit, and I am left with nothing to do. Maybe I will create the vacuum that gets filled by a force of nature. Maybe. Maybe the things, the projects, the people, the causes that I was passionate about through my life or even last week, will re-assert themselves so strongly that I will have no question about what comes next. But this morning I looked at my clean desk and my ordered files. I've created a place where I can go to work, and inside my brain the infant screaming says there is nothing. Nothing that I can do there; nothing that I may do there. I must be content with that feeling for awhile -- I have given myself no task to be busied by with the intention of letting nothing proceed. And yet, I am irrationally afraid of nothing. In part this is the person who is mourning a loss that goes deeper than she imagined. I have committed myself to this hell of recovery from grief, not fully realizing that . . . . not fully realizing anything.

And yesterday, the project manager, from the oil spill remediation that continues to keep my mother's estate in limbo and me working at and for the estate, called. Although the remediation work may be coming to a close, the neighbors from hell are making more demands of the insurance company. This is not my fight and not something I need to deal with, but it can continue to delay the close of the work, the restoration of the property, and the sale of the house. More delay could be another year living with the estate. And this morning, all I could think about was wanting to get out! I've worked on the estate, for my family, for 2 years now. And all I want to do is to let someone else take over. I spoke to my attorney and he urged me to stay -- well, of course. I spoke to my sister who channelled the lawyer in our conversation. Yes. Stay. It may only be a little while longer. This was the estate that was expected to close before 2009 was finished. And surely it would be done before 2010 closed when I was struggling to remember to write checks to keep the lights on. There is another water test to be done next week. If it comes back regulation clean, it will signal the beginning of the end of the project. If the neighbors are going to make more demands, that will be the time. If their demands stall the restoration of the property, I will get out. If the water comes back unclean, I will get out. If I cannot see the end of the tunnel here by September 1, I will get out. Let my brother earn his share.

I was driving on Monroe street the other day, the street where a friend was hit last summer as he road his bike to work (and now I doubt that it was Monroe Street and that he was riding to work). Nonetheless, he was hurt and for awhile his family, his community worried deeply. The other day, I sat at a stop sign, saw a bike rider, and tears sprung into my eyes. Fragile, fragile, life form. Exposing yourself to death. And once dead, you don't get to come back.

I read back over these days last year and there were signs, small ones to be sure, but signs that went without action. There was notice -- I wrote about them. We could have acted on them. Sooner. More intensely. But we had no idea how close we were to death. That's just it. The bike rider doesn't see the person opening her car door, or the driver making the illegal turn. David and I did not see that small issues -- tiredness, loss of appetite -- were not only notable, but the only flashing lights were were going to get. And once dead, you don't get to come back.

And here I live cleaning files from the 30 years of our lives together, cleaning boxes of manuscripts and lesson plans, throwing out old briefs from interesting cases and bills and receipts from work on houses that I no longer own. And do it all with the faith that once purged and orderly, some light will flow in and I will be able to rebuild life.

The constant dredging up of memory, experience here, this exercise in extreme self indulgence, is more of the same. The typewritten mirror of the paper work I engage in each night. I don't know how not to do it. I know that I must do it. I am irrationally afraid that when I finish the work, when I am empty, cleaned out, orderly, and have not a single syllable to type, that I will be a blank. I will truly have nothing. This work, which I drive myself to do and which I feel the deep need to do, may be all that sustains me, all the keeps the life that I and we have lived here. When it is neatly filed, will I be finished? Finished? What does that mean?

Am I Penelope weaving Laertes' burial shroud? That woman wisely picked a task that was totally useless -- weaving and unraveling -- whereas I edit and clean. Odysseus came home. David will not.

These are the thoughts of a wild and crazy woman tonight. They could be read as the ravings of a mad woman. They are my own total indulgences. Years ago, at ReCherChez, we talked constantly about self-indlugent art. Although I entered into the discussion and gesticulated wildly, I had so little idea of when my own work crossed the line. I had no idea of the uses and dangers of crossing the line. And no clue as to which side of the line art was to be found. Self-indlugence was bad. Bad, bad, bad. But I cannot think of one picture, one book, one poem that lacks the indulgence of the artist.

I still could not explain self-indulgence and art, but I can point to my own crossing of the line. Here. Here. HERE. I am swimming in an ocean of indulgence.

On mundane notes, I was a better mother for Julia today. She had more therapy today and less of me, which was not a bad thing. She tried a bit to please me although she forgot about it later in the day. After almost two weeks of doing the "morning parade" instructions, she is doing it better. When I write the instructions in a messy way, she erases my instructions and writes them over again. She is taking charge of this exercise which is what I wanted.

Julia drew a cover for her summer reading journal today with Ellen, one of her therapists. I am ever so grateful that these young women have talents that I lack. Ellen worked with Julia with pastels for the cover, coaching Julia when to blend the colors, how to erase, when to use outlining. More, that I didn't hear. When it was finished, Ellen sprayed the cover with hairspray to fix it. So much I could not do for Julia.

The picture is of a T-Rex in a yellow dress sitting under a tree and reading a red book to her dinosaur friends. Julia is the T-Rex, and her therapists, her friends as she calls them, are the other dinosaurs. I will take a picture.

21 June 2011

I am stuck in bed laying down as Julia tries to sleep. We have thunder storms -- although they may have passed. Oh, I hope so. -- and I thought staying upstairs would get Julia to sleep sooner. Maybe. Maybe.

We had a very hard afternoon. Crazy weather -- storming, humidity, hot sun. And no therapy, horseback riding cancelled. We did math work, and played video games, and then it was nice enough to go to the pool, so we went for a short time. It was almost empty because of the storms -- camps were gone, and only a few people remained. I thought it would be so much fun to have it to ourselves. I tried to get Julia to practice the arm part of the breast stroke. It became a battle and I got angry. I would not let her win, and she, being no less stubborn than I, did not want to give control to me. We battled in the pool and then at home. It went on for 3 hours and I am not proud of being angry with her for so long. In the end, I did win, but what is such a victory? I won with fear, not love, not compassion.

I am having trouble with Julia not listening and not doing as she is told. That is not going to stop. Not for a long time.

I need help and some time. I could use a free evening.
Julia did a math sheet of subtraction in the math coloring work book we have. We do the problems together using an abacus. We keep doing it together. I hope she will understand it by herself. Today, she realized that some of the problems repeated and told me she knew the answers to the repeats.

And so it happens that 10-2 is always 8. Not a bad thing to notice.

We are using the counting tiles up to 40. She puts them in order, and then counts by 1's, 2's, 5's, and 10's. She needs help with the counting, needs help putting them all in order, need help saying her 30's, but it was a wee bit quicker than it was last week.
Home renovation is going to begin in earnest while we are on vacation. Floors are to be sanded stained and coated in shiny stuff, the downstairs walls will be painted, and the bookcases for the living room and dining room will be started. I have a list of tasks to do before I leave for vacation and some of it will look like packing up the house so that everything can be moved out of it. When I get back, the furniture will be moved back in but there will be books to unpack and pictures to hang. My handyman, who is my carpenter and general on this renovation, actually apologized for presenting me with so much work after vacation, but I don't mind it at all.

This is part of the movement of making this my house and simplifying my materials. I have boxes of books in my cellar that have not been touched since we moved because there is not enough book shelf space. The built-ins will give me more than what I have now, and I've decided that I will put out what the book shelves can hold and no more. The rest go to friends or good will/St. Vinie's. A bit arbitrary, but I there are many books that I own that I will never look at again. I am only keeping favorites. I have bunches on some topics, film, for instance. I could do a few lists and see if anyone claims them. I'd be willing to ship.

Does it look too much like washing David out of the house? I can see it taken that way. Maybe it is a bit of that. Am I too much like a dog or cat claiming territory? I don't pee all over the house, but I can paint. But there is the fact that we, David and I, had long planned the renovation, some renovation, a much bigger renovation than what I will do. I do get to pick colors without David's opinion, but these days that feels so hard. I wish for opinion.

The hall that is purple will be gray. More neutral. Maybe easier to sell in the future.

I've toyed with gray in the downstairs. Painted patches on the wall. Thought about different shades of the same gray in different downstairs rooms. But it doesn't feel right. The gray looks too much like the gray that we had in Indianapolis which was totally David's choice. Maybe it is not that gray, but too close in feel.

I have loved the green that has been on the first floor since we moved in. I wanted to get away from it, but . . . . there are greens in my new countertop (what I have picked out) and I am comfortable with green.


20 June 2011

I copied an obscene amount of C.S. Lewis' book into the last entry. I was looking for one quote about spiraling after death and came upon so much more I want to remember. It is a slim volume. I will write on some of it.

"For in grief nothing 'stays put.' One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?"

God, this is what I am about! Emerging, repeating, circles, spirals.

"Dare I hope I am on a spiral?" If I am not content to allow myself to die after a short but decent interval, I must have this hope of spiral. There must be recovery, even if I must look forward to only a wooden leg attached to the stump.

CS. Lewis

C.S. Lewis was an Irish writer, part of the Inklings Group of writers which included Tolkien. He wrote the Narnia series, he was a devout Christian. He married late in life, loved fiercely and then watched his wife die of cancer. He wrote a slim volume, A Grief Observed, pouring his guts on empty notebooks, laying bare his soul.

"I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process."

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear... At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says (3).

What pitiable cant to say, ‘She will live forever in my memory!’Live? That is exactly what she won’t do (20).

…there is a spread over everything a vague sense of wrongness, of something amiss... Will there come a time when I no longer ask why the world is like a mean street, because I shall take the squalor as normal? Does grief finally subside into boredom tinged by faint nausea (35)?

Having got once through death, to come back and then, at some later date, have all her dying to do over again? They call Stephen the first martyr. Hadn’t Lazarus the rawer deal (41)?

The other end I had in view turns out to have been based on a misunderstanding. I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but a history… (59)

Did you know, dear, how much you took away with you when you left? You have stripped me even of my past, even of the things we never shared. I was wrong to say the stump was recovering from the pain of the amputation. I was deceived because it has so many ways to hurt me that I discover them only one by one (61).

Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask – half our great theological and metaphysical problems – are like that (69).

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.

There are moments, most unexpectedly, when something inside me tries to assure me that I don't really mind so much, not so very much, after all. Love is not the whole of a man's life. I was happy before I ever met H. I've plenty of what are called 'resources'. People get over these things. Come, I shan't do so badly. One is ashamed to listen to this voice but it seems for a little to be making out a good case. Then comes a sudden jab of red-hot memory and all this 'commonsense' vanishes like an ant in the mouth of a furnace ... ( )

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not 'So there's no God after all,' but 'So this is what God's really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'

But I find that this question, however important it may be in itself, is not after all very important in relation to grief. Suppose that the earthly lives she and I shared for a few years are in reality only the basis for, or prelude to, or earthly appearance of, two unimaginable, supercosmic, eternal somethings. Those somethings could be pictures as spheres or globes. Where the plane of Nature cuts through them — that is, in earthly life — they appear as two circles (circles are slices of spheres). Two circles that touched. But those two circles, above all the point at which they touched, are the very thing I am mourning for, homesick for, famished for. You tell me, 'she goes on.' But my heart and body are crying out, come back, come back. Be a circle, touching my circle on the plane of Nature. But I know this is impossible. I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the drinks, the arguments, the lovemaking, the tiny, heartbreaking commonplace. On any view whatever, to say, 'H. is dead,' is to say, 'All that is gone.' It is a part of the past. And the past is the past and that is what time means, and time itself is one more name for death, and Heaven itself is a state where 'the former things have passed away.'

What chokes every prayer and every hope is the memory of all the prayers H. and I offered and all the false hopes we had. Not hopes raised merely by our own wishful thinking, hopes encouraged, even forced upon us, by false diagnoses, by X-ray photographs, by strange remissions, by one temporary recovery that might have ranked as a miracle. Step by step we were 'led up the garden path.' Time after time, when He seemed most gracious He was really preparing the next torture.

And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hinging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn't seem worth starting anything. I can't settle down. I yawn, I fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now here is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.

... Something quite unexpected has happened. It came this morning early. For various reasons, not in themselves at all mysterious, my heart was lighter than it had been for many weeks. For one thing, I suppose I am recovering physically from a good deal of mere exhaustion. ... And suddenly, at the very moment when, so far, I mourned H. least, I remembered her best. Indeed, it was something (almost) better than memory; an instantaneous, unanswerable impression. To say it was like a meeting would be going too far. Yet there was that in it which tempts one to use those words. It was as if the lifting of the sorrow removed a barrier.

Why has no one told me these things? How easily I might have misjudged another man in the same situation? I might have said, 'He's got over it. He's forgotten his wife,' when the truth was, 'He remembers her better because he has partly got over it.'

Such was the fact. And I believe I can make sense of it. You can't see anything properly while your eyes are blurred with tears. You can't, in most things, get what you want if you want it too desperately: anyway, you can't get the best out of it. 'Now! Let's have a real good talk' reduces everyone to silence. 'I must get a good sleep tonight' ushers in hours of wakefulness. Delicious drinks are wasted on a really ravenous thirst. Is it similarly the very intensity of the longing that draws the iron curtain, that makes us feel we are staring into a vacuum when we think about our dead? 'Them as asks' (at any rate 'as asks too importunately') don't get. Perhaps can't.

... How far have I got? Just as far, I think, as a widower of another sort who would stop, leaning on his spade, and say in answer to the inquiry, 'Thank'ee. Mustn't grumble. I do miss her something dreadful. But they say these things are sent to try us.' We have come to the same point; he with his spade, and I, who am not now much good at digging, with my own instrument. But of course, one must take 'sent to try us' in the right way. God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize that fact was to knock it down. ...

‘Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything’

‘There is one place where her absence comes locally home to me, and it is a place i can’t avoid. I mean my own body. It had such a different importance while it was the body of H’s lover. Now its like an empty house’

"For in grief nothing 'stays put.' One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral? But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?"

"Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. As I've already noted, not every bend does. Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago. That is when you wonder whether the valley isn't a circular trench. But it isn't. There are partial recurrences, but the sequence doesn't repeat."

19 June 2011

I could be red faced about my mistaken day. I had another week last year before . . . . before the hospital and the gall bladder and death. Before June 26, and not June 18. It is interesting that I pushed it up a week. The days before the noteworthy days -- holidays, anniversaries, etc. -- have been harder on me than the actual days. Maybe it all makes sense that way -- my body's clock is on its own time.

Today was Father's Day and a hard one for me. We -- David and I, and David much more than I -- did not give much weight to the Hallmark holidays. We dutifully sent cards to our parents, but so many times more because of guilt and duty than out of real affection. A proclaimed day to honor parents has just never sat well with us.

Still, for each other, there have been, since Cheshire was born, little festivities. Small cards and tokens between us and from us through the girls to us. This year, I did not want the day to go unmarked because Julia has missed David so much and she is only beginning to understand and remember holidays. She has, for months now, been interested in the cemetery that we pass as we drive to clinic and I decided that I would use that place to do something for Father's Day.

We bought balloons -- Julia picked out a blue one and a green one; I picked the white one. I thought we would walk awhile, talk some about David, and then let the balloons go as a gift to him. But those were my thoughts and did not take measure of what Julia would want.

We took out balloons and walked. Julia wanted to read the grave stones. We walked in a very old part of the cemetery, most people buried there were born and died before any of my relatives were on this side of the Atlantic. I noted couples -- when the first died and when the second. Two years, five year, 15 years. I wanted to take measure of that time between the deaths -- wanted to know what the surviving spouse had done between the death of their beloved and their own demise. I did not even think to wonder about this before. It is true that most of the deaths of spouses that were close in time were for couples who were older -- but then was 50 older in 1850? I wanted to ask the survivors if they had made an effort to go on? If they had lived life to the fullest after their spouse died, or did they let themselves die as well? My mother and my paternal grandmother fall into the later category. I need some other role models. My maternal grandmother lived for decades after her husband died when her girls were 7 and 9. She raised them, saw them grown, with families of their own before she died. But I have no idea of her mind. We never had anywhere near a conversation and my mother had nothing to say about those years.

Julia has a whole other mission. She found a small tomb with BABY printed on it and became very interested in the graves of children. It is not hard in an old cemetery to find children's graves. We found a few with little lambs carved on top. And so, when it came time to release the balloons for Daddy, Julia decided that the children needed to play with balloons more than Daddy needed to have any. And so, we tied balloons -- one on each of three children's graves -- to the lambs and around the stones. This is a part of the cemetery that does not seem to be much visited. We saw no one else walking around within out sights the entire time we were there. I like to think that there are 3 balloons bobbing and blowing on three little graves. Three children who died more than 100 years ago. Three children thought of by a child missing her Daddy.

18 June 2011

Last year, today. Was the last day of our normal family. We were excited about David's progress. He was back at work -- supposedly half time, more like 3/4+. Julia was going to clinic. I was riding my bike for exercise. I had my interview with the LEND folks. All was right with the world.

Reading last year's entry, I see no foreboding, no inkling of what was to come. How very blessed this day was last year. I would say that I wish that I could go back to then, but I can't. I know too much, what the next week looked like, what happened.

I mucked in the compost today -- I needed to take apart my pile because the chicken wire fencing posts were leaning into the piles and really cutting down on the space. I emptied it into piles on the back yard lawn. It will take a few days to work it all out -- more sorting and putting to the right order. There is some finished compost and I think I will dig a new garden bed in the back yard to put it in. My garden is not under complete control but the front looks the best it has ever looked. It is good to be playing with dirt these days.

We did a bit of food shopping -- Julia needs sandals and I forgot all about that. Then to the library -- easy chapter books for Julia. And she can read them. Then the pool, then dinner, a tv show from Australia called H2O about girls who turn into mermaids -- Julia is enchanted. Then a bit of work with math tiles and to bed for Julia.

We didn't do any of this a year ago, but it was just like this. A regular day, regular feelings, regular hopes and dreams.

“Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends." ~ Joan Didion.

Yeah, I remember that.

17 June 2011

Julia and I are on the front porch. She is coloring, after spending some time with me working on two garden beds. She has gloves and I give her a scissors to dead head flowers. She gets captivated by some spiders -- loving them and being scared of them -- but still helps. We worked for a bit more than a half hour before I release her to color. We have about a half hour before her next therapy session and although I'd rather be doing some math work right now, she probably needs some alone time before engagement begins again.

Morning parade (stickers in some order) has progressed to something like: Blue is third, red is first, yellow is fourth, green is second. She was quicker today than she has been, still not independent. I've put in big and little of one color, and also used "people" stickers. She is able to maintain herself -- not go off on some tangent -- with those. I'd like to see her do this exercise in the mornings totally independently. My vision: Julia bouncing downstairs, doing morning parade, and then showing it to me to get her quarter -- yes, it is a big ticket item on her list of chores for money. I also want to work on: First, next, last, and before and after. Slowly, I know, slowly.

Talking to Marilyn yesterday and worrying about number ability, she said that in her observation, the left brain functions come in way after the right brain abilities. That rings true with Julia, and steadied me some. Why didn't I know that?

She is doing her reading journal each day with me or one of the therapists. Today, she's asked to do it twice. Give the kid a chance to draw! She reads a book or story, writes the title, a sentence and then draws a picture. She has a white bound book for this and before we are finished, I will ask her to draw the cover. She hasn't discovered that she can do this yet.

After therapy, we went to the pool for the first time this summer. Midsummer last year, Julia decided she did not want to swim anymore. I had been letting her go into the pool alone, watching her most of the time, but losing her at times. She always seemed fine until one day, she didn't want to swim anymore. I had a nagging thought that something or someone scared her. I have no idea. So, we are taking it slow this summer. Once at the pool, I let her play in the sand pit for a long time. We were both hot and sweaty when we went to swim. I stayed with her all the time she was in the pool and I left as soon as she suggested in. It may have been nothing, but my disinterest last summer. This year, I will be on guard
I started this late last night. Early today. And the day was not as awful as the two preceding it. And I sigh deeply.

I am almost finished with the play room, or rather I will be finished with it before next week. I completed the sort of Julia's toys, games, puzzles, educational material, and art supplies a few days ago. Some of it still needs labels. The really bigger job of my desk -- cleaning, sorting, etc, has gone slowly because I cleaned out my three file drawers, organized them, and incorporated the plastic box files that I've used for the past year to pay bills, keep track of insurance, manage time and therapies. It is funny that I have rationally given myself a year to get my life in order and yet, I hold the irrational hope that I can rush through the sorting and ordering of stuff. Everything takes longer than I anticipated, especially the finding perfect places and labeling. This is probably a good metaphor for the internal work I am doing as well. So far, I am somewhat patient with myself as I struggle through but I suspect that I will become less so as the year wears on.

For days this week, Julia's therapists are the only adults that I have to talk to. I wonder if I am cloistering myself and if I need to reach out to friends and gather them closer for some noisy interaction. At the same time, I am aware that I need the silence of myself. I need writing and contemplation. I am dealing with chatter and this is a learning for me.

15 June 2011

Working with number tiles between therapy sessions. Julia can almost put the numbers 1-30 in order. She can almost count by 1's and 10's with minimal prompting. She can count by 5's if I start her off. She will count with me by 2's.

There are concepts that she does not have: Before/after, more/less, small/big. She cannot answer "when" or "how" or "why." She takes stabs at responding to these question words, but they are many times stabs in the dark. When I tell her something and ask "what did I say," she usually cannot tell me.

Everyone says, she has come so far, but when I take a step back and realize how far she has to go -- not to catch up with some age appropriate peer, but to function successfully in the world, even the supported world, I pale.

I am still whirling about -- Blender Syndrome and thank you, Sharyn, for the words and the love -- and so seeing the dark side of every cloud.
Could not get very good pictures of Julia's first horse back riding lesson. Damn! But still wanted to post what I did get.

The riding school is called 3 Gaits and they do different levels of therapeutic riding for kids and adults. Julia is in a class with 3 other kids -- one younger boy, and an older girl and boy. All of the kids have some disability but this is not riding as therapy, just riding with support. She is the one who needs the most discipline and reminders to pay attending, listen, and do what she is told. And she is not that bad. She did chatter on a bit which I think was due to anxiety more than anything. She was pretty good, however, about taking commands. She never refused to do what she was told and she accepted the help that was offered.

There was an instructor in the middle of the ring and then 2-4 aides who are by the child and horse. The hands in different positions were part of the exercises. Julia also was told once again about "ho" (stop) and "walk on" (go). The horse trotted towards the end of the lesson.

Julia did make a big deal about horse poop and smelly horses. Later, after she got off the horse, she also made a big deal about another child -- a girl her own age -- who has weakened legs and walks with crutches. Julia kept asking if she was hurt and was she going to get better. The girl explained that she was born that way and her legs were not going to get better. Julia kept staring and asking rather rude questions. I know that she doesn't mean anything cruel but I am struggling to find a way for her to understand that her questions can be hurtful.

14 June 2011

The day after a sleepless night is always a bit wonky. I finally turned on a movie at about 4 this afternoon for Julia and took a 45 minute nap before I took Julia to her first riding class. I am fatalistic and weary today, scared witless like I was after everyone left after David died, liable to cry at the nudge of a stranger, anxious. I cannot shake my financial fears although rationally I know that I can survive a bad investment if indeed my investments are not the wisest. I cannot shake a feeling of doom, despair over not having work that I can go back to, scared that I am too old and unskilled to take on something new. Scared that I will never have close friends who live in close proximity and also terrified for Julia and her future.

I pick this up a bit later -- Had a long talk with an old friend who is also going through a transition time and she commiserated over some of my fears. Doesn't make them less scary but give me a bit of a foot hold in reality to hear that someone else, who is not a grieving maniac, can have the same feelings. I know, I know, I could probably find my litany of irrational fears in some widow instruction booklet.

I am going to stop. I have felt awful today. I got through the day, did a few useful tasks. Maybe that is the best I can hope for on days like this. Yes, indeed, another one foot in front of the other day.

One thing: I was reading the Cap Times on line today (local newspaper) and there was an article about an artist whose husband died in 2008. She was mounting her first show since his death and doing it with a friend. I found myself reading the story for clues, for directions, for some lesson that I could use, some trick that I could incorporate. When I finished reading it, I let out a sigh of relief, and I realized that I had been holding my breath as I read.

I seem to be relentless in my search for healing.

I knew that the coming of this anniversary would be hard. I did not know how. Although I have no intention of doing so, I could well understand getting really drunk. Really trying to run away from these oppressive, all-consuming feelings. Stories of long, long grievings begin to make so much more sense. Have I lacked such imagination that I could not understand them before this?

Apparently so.

I drift and wonder about all the great characters in fiction. Are those books so wonderful because when the circumstance arises you can pluck out a character and suddenly understand them on a more complex level? Of course, the first one that comes to mind this moment is the Uncle/father character in The Secret Garden. (Yes, Cheshire, you can laugh at that one. It is the musical version that I light upon.)
Not sleeping well tonight. Well, this morning. Might as well write and the hopefully get another hour before the kiddo wakes up.

We had a crazy day of cancelled therapists. I don't mind the time with Julia. I like it in fact, but the preparing and planning the day around a therapy only to have it cancelled, is what is frustrating. There were at least three complete sets of plans for the day -- Julia is not the only one who is comforted by schedules. I can laugh at myself.

I did miss a Waisman lecture that I wanted to go to -- cognitive delays and language learning. On the other hand, Julia and I took a long walk, saw a huge dead fish, and talked about worrying.

I am awake and unable to sleep because of money worries. Worrying about the stability of investments is only valuable to a point -- I crossed that point waking up and ruining my night's sleep. But the worrying points to part of what I was writing about, and Marianne commented about yesterday -- living in the now. Sure, I've read/thought about/even espoused living in the now, but I do it rarely. The actual doing of present tense living was a cold water shower during David's transplant and then right after his death. And I see that I've crept back into the past-future way of accounting for my time. Of course, one problem with this now living is that I have no idea of how it will turn out. And I laugh at myself -- as if not living in the present gives me any more of a clue.

I am meditating most days, attending to Julia, ever sorting, cleaning and clearing, tending my garden. I hope this will set me on the path of the present. Am I missing something?

Snick, thanks for the encouragement. It is clear to me that Julia still doesn't understand addition -- that ah-ha moment with counting does not happen with number operations. And so, do I just do it -- operations that is -- in different ways, in some of the same ways, over and over, and hope that something clicks? Is that what I/we have all done with reading? It certainly feels like it.

Julia and I were working on counting with the number tiles yesterday. I divided them over and over to count by 10's, 5's, and 2's, after she had lined them up very neatly and close together. She asked me why she had to learn all this counting -- which in itself was impressive to me as a question -- and I told her it would help her . . . and I listed the usual suspects. She accepted that and counted as I asked her to, and with my help. I remember watching her Kindergarten teacher count 2's, 10's, etc. and wonder why she bothered when it was clear that most of the class was reciting from rote learning without understanding. And yet, most of those same kids are using that learning to do math today. And so, is that what learning is? Filling a brain with information by what ever means is possible until the brain is ready to digest, integrate, make real use of the information. I do have a feeling for this process -- it is like that whenever I need to research some project, it was like that when I had to research new legal issues. Gather, gather, gather, and the pow! I get it!

Is this a description of learning?

And it is so weird to be think and wondering about this after living for such a long time.

12 June 2011

Julia today and work.

We worked with number tiles. I have 100 little inch tiles, each with a number up to 100. I separated 1 though 20, and asked Julia to put them in order, 1 through 10 and 10 through 20. She has no trouble with 1 through 10, but at 13 she became confused. She put the rest in some order, the wrong order and was content to read them back, haltingly to me. I told her it was wrong. Slowly we counted 1 to 5, then 5 to 10. As we started on 11 and 12, Julia interrupted me and explained how 11 and 12 copied 1 and 2 but with a 1 in front of the numbers. We noticed together that the same was true of 13, and then she set about ordering 14 through 20. Very quickly. And she counted with a good deal more confidence that she usually does.

It was a wonderful discovery.

But more than a discovery, it set me to admire her so much. Julia has been working all year with the numbers 1 through 20, and she has not discovered this "trick" of counting. How has she managed to count relatively correctly for all this time. What feat of memorization and will to please her teachers and me has she managed.

Maybe this is a discovery that we all make as such a young age that we cannot remember not knowing. It is times like this that I am quite angry with China and the system that resulted in my child being neglected and her brain left without stimulation. This discovery today was not that of some child without capacity. Recently, on some of the adoption yahoo boards, there has been discussion of an announcement that China has made through a few adoption agencies. China is calling for examples of adoptees who have gotten awards, done wonderful things and been publicly praised, achieved something notable. I am sure there are parents who will respond to the request, sending certificates and pictures of miniature scholars, athletes, artists, and philanthropists. I wish they would not. Rather, I wish we would all send stories of children who needed love and care, medical help and special education and who can now love their parents, regulate their emotions, and learn how to count. I don't care about respecting the culture that Julia came from, I don't care what China cares about or wants to show her people or the world. These kids who were so deprived, so neglected, and who are healing -- these are the examples of successful adoption.
This is one of those days that I could write all day long -- quite a blessed day in my book -- but there is little free time for me to do so today. And so, I will do it now and again, and finish much later tonight.

And interesting text exchange with Lisa (we have lived though letters, email, and now texting. Gosh, we are old):

Me: Lying fallow is a challenge. Busy is easier for me.
Lisa: An idle mind can wreak havoc.
Me: It's not the idle mind that is the challenge.
Lisa: What is?
Me: A mind without direction, without goals, and without a partner. Limbo-like life. In the Catholic sense -- a life without god.
Lisa: Perfect time for Pema Chodron or the like.
Me: Very nice idea. I have some at my bedside.

And an interesting service in church conducted by a man whose experience is wide, varied, and quite unusual -- "Holy Feculence and Crazy Wisdom" by Doug Smith

Both have my mind wandering while I sit with Julia.

It is a lovely, really, really lovely day outside and she prefers to sit inside and do our work together. I would quite happily take it all outside, but she wanted to be inside. I will be up for this battle -- one worth fighting -- during this summer, but today, I will let her do her work inside and contend myself with a walk that we have put on the schedule for later.

Schedules, schedules, we always have schedules. It might sound cumbersome -- all the schedules -- but Julia finds such comfort in them and we get a good deal done with them. Some written, some just done with our fingers.

So, now she sits drawing in her new Summer Reading Journal after reading a story about princesses not liking camping in her new Highlights for Kids magazine. I think I had a subscription to Highlights for a few years as a kid, so did Cheshire, and now it is perfect for Julia. She really likes finding the hidden objects, so we started there yesterday. Today, it was reading a story and now writing the title and a sentence, and drawing a picture. I think the princess is turning out to be a dinosaur princess.

It is so beautiful outside that as we were driving to church, the thought sprung into my head: David, how could you be missing today? I don't often think of David's death in that way. What? Can I understand him being dead easier during the coldness of winter on a dreary wet day? During this long chilly spring? But today? No.

On Thursday, at the acupuncturist, he told me that he felt that David was very present. I believe him, although for someone who is missing the whole of David, it is very hard to appreciate a bit of him being present.

What I set out to write is how I am feeling about this fallow time.

Fallow just got hard.

The last 11 months have been full of busy-ness. I travelled after David died. I got back from England and set about getting Julia ready for school last August. I plunged into PTO work and into LEND reading. I may have been grieving hard, and that took up time and energy but it was gut work. I could have done that sort of grieving while moving mountains or writing a dissertation or brief writing. The body was engaged in the grieving while my mind was kept busy with other things.

Maybe this is common. Maybe it is not. I have no idea. I must ask someone. I have not read about it in any of the widow books I have. This was my process, however, and just that, neither good or bad, just how I got through the worst of the initial sadness.

By April, I was exhausted with my tasks and ready to think as well as feel the loss. Oh, I am making this orderly and neat, and lord know, there has been nothing neat and orderly about my grieving. Was I exhausted holding back part of the grieving that I had to do? Was I tired trying to accomplish something? Was I tired of just doing the tasks I had set out for myself, dragging my grief along like heavy trunks? I wanted to give up everything immediately and looked forward to this fallow time -- time without tasks and responsibility. It felt like there was a crack in my universe again. I could no longer shoulder responsibility and learning and needed to immerse myself, body and mind, into the grieving, mourning, and healing process.

Again, this sounds like a plan. Thoughtful. And it is not so.

When PTO and LEND finished in May -- just about a month ago now, I proclaimed my freedom from both and swore to stay free of leadership and learning. I almost gleefully took on sorting papers, cleaning the garden, and planning the house renovation -- all would allow me to think, let my mind wander and fall down rabbit holes and deep morasses of pain. This has happened and the self-pity and hurt has been poured out here and to a few friends.

And then, yesterday or the day before, I awoke bereft of purpose. It was almost frightening. Cutting myself off from the tasks that give meaning to my days, from the people who peopled those tasks, I had no identifiable purpose, no reason -- Was I cleaning my house, my body and soul for no reason? I have had purpose and goal since I was in the eighth grade. I clearly remember realizing that there was something that I was always working towards. The goal has changed. Certainly. There was a time when I decided to give up theater and look for something else to do, but at that time, the looking itself became the goal

Caveat here: The easy answer to this is Julia! My girls. Julia and Cheshire. Should I not be living for them? I answer, well, of course. Since I first laid eyes on Cheshire, I have always lived for my children. But I lived for more as well. And it is this more that seems to have suddenly deserted me. No, it did not desert me. I gave it up! I abandoned purpose. I abandoned purpose, no, I did not have any real purpose and abandoned all that I was doing, gave myself to do. Was it all merely busy work? That may be something else to think about.

Today, getting through today, set other wheels inside a turning. Feelings like: loneliness, desolation, abandonment. Questions like: What do I have to live for? Internal moaning like: I am certainly too old to find purpose and/or partner. And why the hell am I planning for anything?! This all jangled inside of me like some orchestra all out of tune, fighting to tune up and failing. And then, during our walk, all went silent. I was present. Walking. Talking to Julia about bugs and the smell of dead fish. Politely greeting other walkers and gardeners taking care of weeds and things.

I was silent inside and content to go back to sorting papers, cleaning my desk, making dinner, and reading Julia a story. I wonder now how many of these bubbles of tumult I will meet. I wonder if living without stated purpose is a goal or a stop along the way. I wonder about the vulnerability of letting go of a need for purpose. I wonder if this is the path to healing.
Blogger has not allowed me to post or to edit pages all day yesterday. Have I gone over some limit? Is something wrong? Have I started backing up posts too late?

Test, test, test.

09 June 2011

I went to the moving on ceremony -- "graduation" for second graders who are finished at Franklin School and are moving across the neighborhood to Randall School for third grade. The principal, my friend Cathy McMillan, is retiring and I wanted to be there when the school and the new PTO board honored her. It was very nice, yada, yada. But the wild thing was that I did not remember anything about this ceremony from last year when Julia's class moved on. Nothing. Nada! I spoke with the person who I sat next to last year -- she remembered what I said (about setting up the play room for a complete dinosaur summer -- funny that I am do the same thing this week), I did not even remember sitting next to her. The whole time there and most of the rest of the day, I tried to tweak my brain. I read the blog entry for that day. Yes, indeed I was there and noticed as few things. But it is as if it never happened.

I've read about forgetting things around someone's death, but this was almost a month before David died. Life was going along very smoothly at that point. I had visited Cheshire in NYC for a few days, and I think that David was back at work part time. I thought I was emerging from the fog.

Stress, trauma, shock does crazy stuff to a body and a brain. I wonder what else I forgot.

I continue to clean and mix up the play room -- I'll be getting to my desk and files next week. I am putting away a lot of toys that Julia doesn't touch and hopefully, showcasing a few things she forgets about. I am setting up a few corners -- one for calendaring, one for money learning, one for reading. Maybe if I had a dozen more kids to practice on, I could home school. I will try to post notes on our work and what we are doing with hopes of comments from some of my more experienced readers. Please, please.
Oh, I have been moaning and weepy the last few days! The weather seems to play into my mood -- hot and steamy, making it hard to be outside and hard to cool off the inside. Last night there were fierce storms -- the kind that set off sirens and set me poised to go to the basement. I stayed in bed with Julia, helped her put in ear plugs, and snuggled with her as she fell asleep. And she did! Last year at this time, a wild storm would have had her awake most of the night. She fell asleep pretty quickly and I went downstairs within 45 minutes of tucking her in. And later, when the storm picked up again and there were a few huge cracks of thunder, she did not stir. She was deep in sleep. This may be about as good a test of her feelings of safety as I could imagine.

Last night at supper, we were talking about vacations and traveling. Julia told me that she did not want to go to China. "Cross my China off the list. I stay here in Wisconsin." China is not in our travel plans this year. We'll see about next year.

Julia is really and finally taking care of the dog! She corrals Latkah, tells her to sit, and puts on her leash. Latkah does very little to make the task easier, but she doesn't do much to make it harder either. It is Julia's fear that has been the biggest obstacle to this procedure, and Julia's fear is melting away. She can still be a little afraid and I am in awe as I watch her be afraid and still do what she wants to do. This habit, if indeed we can make it a habit, will serve her well all her life. I am so proud of her.

She brought home a heavy backpack full of the notebooks and folders that we bought and labeled at the beginning of the school year. She has not brought home many pictures or drawings through out the year and now I see where she did her drawing. When I first saw this I was not happy. Yes, there are some numbers in the math notebook, and a few sentences in the writing notebook, but predominately and overwhelmingly, there are drawings.

It is interesting also that Julia has brought home very little art this year. A few projects, nothing incredible. I wonder that this art teacher, who is so active in so many ways, has taken no interest at all in Julia. It is wishful thinking to imagine that every art teacher will be taken with Julia and her talent.

And finally, there was a plastic recorder in Julia's backpack that she clearly has no idea of how to play. She doesn't have the patience for it right now and although her fine motor skills are excellent, she has not grasped the method of holding the recorder so that she can play it.

I weigh these things that rub at me a bit -- should she have been allowed to draw so much, shouldn't her art teacher cultivate the one sure talent that this kid has, and why didn't someone work with her in music class -- against the facts that Julia learned to read this year and progressed almost two years during this school year. She also is gaining, albeit slowly, a real math sense -- counting with more accuracy and a one to one relationship with what she is counting, using numbers in her daily speech, and having some idea of addition and subtraction. I cannot be unsatisfied.

The toy room/den is in pieces all over the living room floor. I did a good bit of sorting and culling yesterday and I will continue today. Also cleaning out my own file drawers and that only lengthens the process, but by sometime next week, we will have a functional work room for the both of us. I have ideas!

08 June 2011

Sometime in the last month, I imagined that I had an extra month between April and July. And, now I find that I am writing sappy, nostalgic prose and missing David. Yesterday, I realized that in less than a month he will have been dead for one year. It seems the my internal clock is keeping correct time even when I refuse to live real time.
Getting to the room off the living room, sometimes known as the den, the play room, the toy room, the away room. What is it? Office and Supply closet for my printer and desk, and Julia's toys and supplies. Stripping it bare. Maybe rearranging shelves. Painting parts of the walls. Looking to conform the shape, storage capacity, play space, work space, to fit out summer. Numbers, money, reading comprehension, and transferring my desk back to the desk and away from a plastic file container and the dining room table. And of course, dinosaurs. Took down dozens of dinosaur pictures put up over the past year -- We need new pictures. Let Julia fill the walls once again.

"Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I built my life around you . . ." - Landslide, Stevie Nicks

Sorting letter last night, seeing the proof of how long and hard David and I had to work to fit together. We were two such different souls. Thank goodness for passionate, blinding, irrational love. Without such glue, would we have worked so hard? I am now used to thinking of us as the effective team, the good family that we became, but we rubbed each other raw for years and years. We could be needy and demanding. We each felt frozen out at times from the other; we called each other selfish sometimes. And we were. And now, I climb out of the safety of the united life that we built. That too, is not easy. It is as if we worked so long and hard to make ourselves and each other perfect puzzle pieces with curves and flat places and notches and irregularities. We worked to fit each other so that we could live and love and work and raise our girls. And now, my task is to become an end piece, maybe a corner - strong and independent enough to hold my present, my future, and my children as a family.

It was a lifetime of work -- before we were married, we read a good deal of Rilke, especially from his Love and Other Difficulties. We chose well.

07 June 2011

Instead of working on the play room/den and because Julia and therapists were using that room, I did more sorting and filing. I found my letters to David and put them together with his to me. I found wishes for his birthday when he was 22 and 37 and 52. I knew that man for a long time. Is it a wonder that I miss him so much?
In the past week or two, I've been able to talk to teachers and therapists to help me figure out what to work on with Julia for the summer. Her school therapist -- speech and ot -- are talking to her private therapists coordinating efforts, and all are checking with me to see if the goals they are putting in place make sense from my view. This is the picture of what treatment for a child with Julia's challenges should look like, and every child with challenges should have such support and be so loved.

Garden work this morning for me and cleaning the toy room/den this afternoon and evening. If I can get the cleaning and sorting done today and tomorrow, I can work on set up for the summer by Thursday. Summer begins on Friday with the end of school! The community pool is filled and our summer therapy schedule is in place.

I received an email from Julia reading teacher:

I am sending home today a list of books that you can find in the library for Julia to read this summer. Her current reading level is 18, which is around beginning to mid-second grade.

I teared up. If only David could have seen that. So much worry for this child. And she has worked so hard this year. She started the year at level 3 which is beginning Kindergarten. We have a lot of work on comprehension, especially with fiction, but how could we not when she has sprung ahead so far.

Yesterday, at OT, our therapist told us about her daughter going to Yale, and it struck me (could it be for the first time?) that I might be more than happy if Julia gets through high school. Maybe it was hearing about this girl and Yale, maybe it was seeing Matthew graduate from Sycamore -- Cheshire's grammar school -- and hearing about all the lovely accomplishments of those children, I felt the loss of possibilities. I do, at time, mourn the loss of the perfect child that I wanted my second daughter to be. It is not easy being the mother of a child with challenges. I do not look for pity or sympathy, I know that many have more of an uphill battle than I do, and that so many do not have the services and educational possibilities that Julia has, but sometimes I just wish she was a normally developing 10 year old. I don't think it is weakness or a sign of less than complete mother love to admit this. It just is what it is.


I don't know whether I've written this -- I might have. This is the first time that teachers and aides are telling me that Julia is a joy to have in class. It was a complement that I took for granted during Cheshire's schooling. Now, it is a surprise and a delight! She is an odd child, this Julia of mine, but she is becoming delightful and a good learner. Oh god, am I thankful for that!

I was telling Lisa, who I saw on Saturday in Indy, that as I sort through the family paperwork, that my journals stop when my blogging began. She suggested that I start saving my entries and eventually print them out. Then yesterday, my Australian friend, Marianne, again mentioned that she saw the blog becoming a book for parents of kids on the spectrum. I don't abide with magical thinking, or view every event as a message from some higher power, but I admit that I have been feeling some inkling, a tickle, a leaning towards some writing project. I will start collecting blog entries and see where that goes after a few months. I just struck me that maybe I should read some of David's teaching notes -- he has lovely notes on how to write. I've wondered who I was saving them for. Maybe me.

03 June 2011


Julia and I drove down after seeing Marilyn to spend the weekend in Indianapolis to watch Matthew graduate from 8th grade and Sycamore School (the same grammar school that Cheshire went to) and to visit with a few friends. It is a long drive but easy tonight avoiding Chicago as much as I could and hitting very little traffic. We arrived while our hosts were picking up family (including Cheshire) from the airport and as it is very late for Julia, she is beside me in bed trying to sleep while I type. This was so much our nightly pattern in the fall -- her trying to sleep while I typed or read for my course work.

Now, not so much and I am hoping she falls asleep before people come home. She will be better for it tomorrow morning.

It has been a strange week. I’ve been very diligent about constructing my massive chrono-log of all of our family papers. The papers are from boxes and file drawers that I’ve already gone through and thrown away much. I’ve decided to put all of our papers -- David’s, mine, Cheshire’s, and a few of Julia’s as well -- into a folders marked by years. I don’t know whether it is the best organization but because our lives have been so intertwined, it is hard to separate many things. This way, someone -- that distant, future descendant I see in my mind’s eye -- will be able to look at a particular year and see what each of us was doing -- David’s publications, a bit of my work, Cheshire’s school work -- plus a few letters written to us, some Christmas cards, and maybe a flier for a house sale or the program for a play. Some years have my old journals tucked into them. I want to make this an intentional savings -- baggage to be sure, but if I am going to carry it around for the rest of my life, I want to know that I have arranged it so that someone will be able to look at it and get a feel for our lives. I have longed for such a record from my family of origin who did not leave any record outside of snap shots and certificates. No one even saved letters, or no one wrote letters. And I have always wanted more. And I figure that if I want more, there will be someone with enough of my DNA one day who will feel the same.

But it is slow going, all this filing, and it stirs up so much emotion, more emotion this time as I handle the papers for a second time and put pieces that David saved together with what I saved. I will have to go through all of the material another time before I am through -- go through each year and organize the materials a bit -- do I dare think that I will leave notes? Maybe I will identify people in photographs -- already I look at photos of David’s relatives and I am not sure who some of them are. Was I ever sure?

And so this work, which feels very right and correct to do now, occupies my time. That and the garden are my tasks of the days and nights. The work draw out emotion and memory, leaving me vulnerable and raw. I am less presentable, less able to blend into the traffic of my days.

And movies. We saw Kung Fu Panda 2 on the weekend, and then I watched The King’s Speech last night. Both, in their own ways, are very intense and very personal for me/us.

Kung Fu Panda 2 is all about adoption and coming to terms with Po’s early life. Julia liked the movie. She recognized that Po, like herself, was adopted in China. She also recognized that the bad guy, Shen, needed family therapy. On the way home, she suggested that Shen and his parents should have seen Marilyn -- and really, Shen could be diagnosed with a good case of RAD. And Julia started to ask about a “China Mommy” for the first time. She did not want to talk much about it -- stopping me from doing more than answering her direct question of whether she had a China Mommy, but it seems to be the beginning of an self-awareness that I have worried she might never have.

And then, last night, The King’s Speech. It is a good movie and I am so glad that I waited this long before seeing it. It is painful and brave and beautifully done and well acted. It was intense. I cried for the king’s pain and his triumph. I have not had to be as brave as he needed to be but I understand the feelings in a profoundly personal way. I was very happy that they made this movie because this is how so many stutterers feel, feel every day. We may not need to address a nation on the brink of war, but ordering a dozen bagels at the corner deli can take just as much courage.

And then, this evening, driving from Madison to Indy, Julia played with her leapster in the back while I listened to Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking.” It is the personal account of the year after her husband’s death. I had read it a few years ago and been stunned by its beauty and insight. I thought about it constantly when Julia and I were in England and my own year had begun. I thumbed through it often after a friend sent it to me last fall, never able to read through it completely but now and again, searching for passages that I remembered. Now, today, listening, I was again struck by the vulnerability and gut wrenching pain of the writing. Listening to every page instead of thumbing through looking for paragraphs, I was aware of the repetitions, the circlings around and around the same scene, the same words, the same facts -- looking from different angles, or the same angle at slightly different times. I too have scenes that I play over and over in my head. I see that process as my grief and as hers.

The opening words which I cannot quote here but go something like -- you sit down for dinner and everything changes in quite ordinary moments, echo through this last year for me. Yes, yes, yes -- I want to leap through the pages, I want to call Didion and tell her that I too . .. I too was in the midst of an ordinary day, a day during which David was getting better, when he died. Suddenly. Unexpectedly. Without advanced notice.

And like Didion’s husband, of course, there was notice, but it makes no difference. There can be no notice. The magical thinking is wanting him to come home. Still, I know. There I times and parts of myself that believes that David will be home soon.

I remember that when I read the book for the first time, I was left unhappy. I don’t know what I expected but I saw her as not having “recovered” after the year. She was as miserable at the end of the year, as she was the day after her husband died. I have not gotten to the end this time -- I will listen on my way home to Madison. When I read it the first time, I wanted the cure, the revelation that one day she was whole and happy again. These days, I understand too much of where she was at the end of her year. I am no where near whole and happy and it is almost 11 months.

For myself, the shock has worn thin. The denial may go very deep, but my rational brain and conscious spirit is intent on healing from the loss, not preserving some nostalgic sadness. I am no longer surprised by days so blue that it takes all of my energy to plod through until it is time to go to bed. On those days, if I can do useful tasks, some at least, I am very satisfied. I wonder how long those days will continue, they are less now than 10 months ago. I expect they will diminish further. I do not expect to ever be completely free of them. But each is a step, and I feel at times acutely aware of the process. And I grow more in spirit, I learn more about myself and my journey, and I learn as well to celebrate the steps and the journey. And for this, and not only this, I have great gratitude.