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Speaking in Cursive

Walking through this extraordinary life.

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Empty Nest

The River

River:a natural stream of water of fairly large size flowing in a definite course or channel or series of diverging and converging channels.

This past Thanksgiving weekend was not what anyone would call the makings of a Hallmark movie. I knew this one would be different, and I had spent a few months trying to mentally prepare myself. I had told myself and anyone who would listen that I was fine. That I was really looking forward to a quiet day, just my husband and Brett. That I was looking forward to not having to cook and prepare a huge meal, all the shopping and prepping and mess. I was going to make steaks, and decorate the house for Christmas, and we would skype with the other boys once Bryce and his girlfriend got back Thanksgiving night.I was convincing myself that I could do it. Apparently, I am a terrible liar.

I knew the upcoming holidays would be different this year. Our son in China had informed us he couldn’t be home for Christmas, but would be home in late January. Asked if we could leave up the decorations, and tree, and we could celebrate then. I was sad, but excited to extend the season. It will be fun, it will be fine, I repeated to myself. Our son Nate who recently moved to Tacoma Washington was hoping to make it home for Christmas with his girlfriend, but we discussed it and decided it would be awesome to have them all home in January. It will be okay, I thought in my head. Our son Bryce’s college break wasn’t going to start until December 23rd, so I was sad that I wasn’t going to spend anytime with him and his girlfriend before Christmas, but it was just fine. Really.

The weeks and days leading up to Thanksgiving were weighing heavily on me. I tried to push back the sadness I was feeling. I dove headfirst into Christmas music and movies. I shopped, and baked and sang. And tried to drown in the river of emotions I was feeling. I had to force myself out of bed to go to work. I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything.

I awoke on Thanksgiving morning and knew. I was off. Susie Sunshine was taking a day off too. As I sat on the couch, alone, at 5 a.m. I began to cry. I thought, “get it out of your system, before anyone sees you. Get it together lady. But the tears just kept coming, like a river flowing. My husband, sensing the impending doom, had promised to watch the Thanksgiving parade with me.He NEVER watches it. Ever.  He came downstairs and asked if it had started yet. As he sat down beside me, the tears picked up their flow. He wrapped his arms around me. “I’m sorry” I said. I explained that I was trying to stop, I really was. But I couldn’t. Who did I think I was? Having a pity party for myself because my sons were doing what I always hoped and prayed they would? I knew there were people who were ALONE alone for the holidays, people who were sick, people who were widowed etc. I knew this, but I couldn’t stop. My poor husband didn’t know what to say or do. He left the room, to take a shower, and my son Bryce came into the room. I had rolled into a ball onto the couch and covered myself up with a blanket, and put Christmas music on. The song River came on:

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on

and I began to sob. “Are you okay mom?” I heard my son say, as he came to me, and bent down to hold me. My 6ft3 son, was on his knees trying to hug me, as his dog, my grandpuppy jumped in between us as if to say “I’ve got this dad.” He asked if I was ok, I told him I would be. I wasn’t and didn’t know when I would be, but he didn’t need the guilt or worry. My son Brett came down and hugged me only the way he can, patting me on the head saying “come here momma”. They loved me and were worried, and I felt so guilty. But the salty tears fell. What in the heck was wrong with me. Where had I gone?

My husband decided to take us to a movie. I told him I was fine, and that it would be okay to stay home, he didn’t have to worry. He knew better, and away Mark, Brett and I drove the half hour to a theater to see Bad Santa 2. My eyes were red and swollen, no make up would conceal, so I didn’t bother. I felt so loved and taken care of, but I couldn’t shake it.When we got there, I told Mark to get me popcorn, and as I sat in the dark theater, waiting for the movie to start, I leaned over to my husband and said ” Now I know why Peppermint Patty was so pissed about eating popcorn and toast for Thanksgiving.” We were the only ones in the theater, except for one woman all by herself. I felt so bad for her, wondering what her story was. Why was she here, alone on Thanksgiving.

On the way home, with Christmas songs on the radio, I began to cry again. I turned my face to the window, thinking I could somehow hide. “Is it happening again?” my poor husband asked. I wanted to scream to myself “SNAP OUT OF IT!” We came home and I began to prepare our steak dinner. Bryce and his girlfriend Erin would be arriving soon from the other Thanksgiving dinners they had to attend. I was feeling myself coming out of it. We would be skyping soon with our Nate and his girlfriend.  Surely it would help. As his face popped up on the computer, the first thing he said was ” Mom, you look so sad!” and in perfect unison my husband and sons said “she is!”….”Oh mom, I am so sorry.” Nate said, and I felt so bad. Guilty that I had ruined their holidays. That I had wasted precious time off from work sulking and acting a fool.  My son and his girlfriend Emma, were happy, and enjoying being together , and that made me happy. We talked for an hour and I told him once we pinned Tony down on a firm date for January, we would plan when they too could come home.

You know a dream is like a river
Ever changin’ as it flows
And a dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what’s behind you
And never knowing what’s in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores.

Sunday morning we skyped with Tony. I had been looking forward to it for a while. We hadn’t in about a month, and there was new exciting things to discuss,but most importantly we would know when we would see him in person again. ” So, did you buy your ticket yet?” I excitedly asked. I was feeling more like myself, and hadn’t shed a tear since Thursday. “I am not coming in January now mom.” I exhaled, as all the color left my already pale face. I instinctively pulled my scarf up over my mouth and nose, thinking, once again, I could hide what was about to happen. ” I am sorry mom, are you ok? You look so sad.” he said. I handed the computer to my poor son Bryce and retreated to my crying room,aka the bathroom.I shut the door and the river of tears picked up steam. I could hear my husband, slight raised voice asking why, explaining how fragile I had become. I knew I had to pull my big girl pants up, and face my new normal. Tony had decided to come in summer, he said so he can spend more time here.I wanted to believe it. We talked for about an hour, and he apologized over and over. “I am not keeping the tree up til summer!” I told him half joking. The conversation ended, and I went upstairs to put laundry away and cry. Brett found me, and wrapped his arms around me, patted my head and said”come here momma.”

I am blessed beyond measure, I am loved deeply. I am cared for. This is a new stage, a new current I have to learn to flow on.

“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

My sons will always be my sons, no matter where they are, no matter where they spend their holidays. Like a river, we will come up against rough currents, and rocks. But there will also be beautiful, peaceful moments, where we all can feel home again.

 

 

 

 

Is Was, Was Is

I had a craptastic week , last week. My grand puppy went nuts and ate everything that wasn’t nailed down. Including my new couch. One of my other dogs went on a hunger strike, and I have no idea what he was protesting. He thinks he is Gandhi.I worked long crazy hours. I got stung by a wasp and had a horrible allergic reaction, go figure. I had to say goodbye to my second born son as he moved across the country with the love of his life. I ugly cried. And that is when I finally realized the definition of Motherhood.

Motherhood, Is, locking myself in the bathroom with a fun size bag of Kit Kats, crying, repeating over  and over,to the adult child knocking,  “Yes, of course, I am okay!” as the wrappers fall to the floor. I think I need to upgrade to the giant size bar.

Motherhood, Was, 5 loads of laundry a day. Smelly football uniforms. So many shoes scattered about the house, not knowing who they all belong to.Cooking to feed an army, or a football team, whoever showed up first.Doors slamming, guitars jamming, noise noise noise.Just wanting five minutes peace.

Motherhood, Is,empty places at the table, which is now just used for storage. Empty bedrooms, so I keep the doors shut.Learning to cook all over again, to feed 2 or 3 instead of 6 or 20.Throwing away bread and milk that have spoiled, because, there is not a neighborhood gang at my house eating and drinking. Too much silence.

Motherhood,Was, sleepless days and nights. Staying awake with sick kids.Holding puke buckets. Helping with projects and homework. Going to games, and tournaments, and musicals. Concerts,Spelling Bee’s and field trips. Never eating a hot meal from a plate, but rather from the serving spoon, as you cleaned off the table. Greeting them after school, at the door, about the missing homework phone call,Screaming and yelling at the top of your lungs, then regretting it the second you did. Praying that they would turn out despite how much you were screwing them up, by not knowing what the hell you were doing at all.

Motherhood, Is,Skyping, and texting and emailing, to make sure they are okay.It is sending or handing them money, and having them say “No, Mom, I am okay, I don’t need it.” (Who are they? )It is watching them, from afar, or very very afar, live and follow their dreams. Seeing them fall in love and make life decisions. It is constant, unending worry and prayer. Worrying if they made it safely, if they ate, if they have enough money,are they Happy? Praying that they did, they have, they do and they are.It is forgiving yourself over and over for all the mistakes you made raising them, and hoping they forgive you too. It is looking at old photos and wishing you could do it all over again.The, messes, the homework, the sleepless vomit filled nights. All over again.It is nagging them about making you a grandmother.It is crocheting baby blankets so you are prepared.

Motherhood , Is, Missing their laugh, their voice and their mess.It is memories to last a lifetime, to carry you through, on the quiet nights, or weekends.It IS having your heart, walking around, beating in someone else’s chest, because you love them that much.It, Was, and Is the greatest blessing in your life. It , Was, Is, worth the scars, and the stretchmarks. It Was, Is, learning to let go, before they were, or you are ready. It was, knowing they needed you, it, Is hoping they still do. It, Was, loud and noisy, it, Is, learning to embrace the silence. It, Was, all about and for them, it still Is. It Was, Is, and always will be.Motherhood, is crazy.

 

A dog named Rowdy near McCarville Road.

We had planned this anniversary trip for months. Celebrating 27 years of marriage. My husband had found a beautiful cabin, in the middle of nowhere. I was so excited. He had mentioned there would be no internet or cell phone reception. I was actually happy about that. Until we got there, and panic set in. How would I reach home? What if they needed me? What if something went wrong? But what if it didn’t?

IMG_0105About 10 minutes from our destination, my cell phone stopped. I was regretting booking this place. So many things that could go wrong. We were entering another Fall of goodbyes with our children.The oldest still in China, The 2nd oldest and his girlfriend about to move to Seattle, and one of the twins and his girlfriend ready to return to college for their junior year, about an hour and a half from home. I was filled with angst, and sadness, excitement and fear for all of them. Happy I still would have our Brett at home with us, and of course my 3 puppies.But I felt as though things were starting to spin out of control again,things moving in all different directions, none of which I could control.So we had planned this trip knowing I would, we would, need it. You can’t just make impulsive trips when you have a child with autism(adult now). You can’t leave him alone, so you plan it around your other adult children, to be home. I knew they would be okay, but we have never, ever been out of communication when we leave home. Never. Suddenly we had no choice.

As we pulled into the driveway of our getaway location, we were immediately met by two adorable Jack Russel terriers.They began to bark and ran up to our car. Instinctively we both got out and started calling to them, to come to us. They did.Looking around we couldn’t see the caretaker. He had told us the unit would be unlocked, to go in. So we did.To a beautiful cabin,done all in North woods design. It was stunning, and I should have been instantly at peace, but my heart was racing, and I was in panic. What if they needed me.

We went outside, and I sat on the ground, as did my husband. Here, coming from the green fields on the property came Trixie, the momma dog and her son Rowdy. Within seconds they were in our laps, licking us, kissing our faces. I didn’t know I needed them, until that moment. I think they needed us too. We walked the property, looking for Bill, the owner, as these two dogs became our shadow and our tour guides.With each step I could feel my heart slow and my mind relax. The what ifs that had paralyzed me, were becoming a distant memory. Later , Bill came to our door. My husband explained our home situation, and our need to have some communication with our son. He told us we could use his home phone at anytime. At that moment, I took a deep and soul cleansing breath.

We sat and talked with Bill for a while about his puppies,and how we just loved them.He told us how smart Trixie was and could do many tricks, but Rowdy was as “dumb as a stump”. He explained how at one point his daughters had County Fair award winning chickens, until one day, he came home and saw feathers flying, and a chicken hanging from Rowdy’s mouth. That is when I fell in love with a dog named Rowdy.

Over the next two days, we would go for long walks down McCarville Road, a winding country road where there must have been 50 shades of green. From emerald to sage. There was mile after mile of fields of corn. The hills, valleys and ridges filled with acres of wildflowers and birds. We would walk and talk and laugh. We would take in the beauty and the sounds all around us. We were living in the moment, not wondering or worrying what could happen.We just were.We put on over 12 miles in 2 days. I craved more.

Each time we appeared back on the property, there they were. Trixie and her boy Rowdy. Eventually, Trixie took a step back, to let her son get the attention, and lead the way. He took us out on the property to the trout stream. He jumped in, then rolled around on the grass. Then he would jump into my husbands lap. He was so enjoying having this love heaped upon him.Then he would come by me, doing the same thing, lavishing me with his love.And Trixie faded further into the background. Like she knew she had to let him go.

On our final night, we sat outside with Rowdy, Trixie nowhere in sight. I thought to myself,I know how she feels.We have them, we raise them, and eventually they leave.We fed Rowdy some scraps of our dinner and held him in our laps a few more times.We both felt an immense and deep love for him. Silly to some I know, but there was a connection there.My husband said “it’s like they were there just for us.” I believe they were. We said our goodbyes to this new boy in our lives, and entered our cabin, closing the door behind us. Rowdy wouldn’t leave. For over an hour, as day turned to night, he sat there, facing the door, waiting for us.I peered out our bedroom window, watching him, almost in tears, knowing if I opened the door, the goodbye would be that much harder.And I wondered where his mom Trixie was, and how could she not be worried sick over where he was. Then I realized, just because they’re out of sight doesn’t mean they are out of mind. Sometimes you just have to let them go out on their own, knowing they eventually find their way home.

The Us before Them.

 

I forgot my phone in the hotel room and I was panicked.What if one of the kids needed me, what if something was wrong with the dogs? My husband assured me all would be okay.We had gone away for the weekend. Just the two of us.

I have known my husband practically my whole life. His mom and my mom bowled together. I would ride in the back of her station wagon eating my peanut butter sandwich and then she would drop me off at school. Continue reading “The Us before Them.”

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