Thursday, June 25, 2009

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I walked into my father’s house yesterday and it hit me like a ton of bricks, she is not coming back. In February I wasn’t gob smacked with grief like I was (obviously) in October. Probably because I was too busy planning my father’s birthday party and had just a few days to focus on that. But yesterday, when I walked in there was something about the house; the smell, the feel of it that overwhelmed me with a wave of lose, sadness and--yes--self-pity. My mother was dead. All trace of her was gone in the house. I had no mother. Mother’s day was pretty much like this too. Had I known how I was going to react to the Hallmark holiday in May, I would have planned differently and worked or slept all day. But I couldn’t sleep through yesterday. Or maybe yesterday was more difficult than that day in February because TG couldn’t come with us and this is the first time since we have lived together we haven’t traveled together. That I missed her on top of missing my mother threatened to overwhelm me with grief.

Last night, while Dad was grilling after I sacrificed blood to the sacred mosquito we started talking about Sister’s trials and tribulations in the dating world. I made some offhand remark about spending a lot of time in therapy. He was incredulous I had spent two days a week for a year in therapy; that part of my decision to live in a terrible little rental house was so I could afford CBT and get off the antidepressants that were making me crazier. At first, I was miffed he had forgotten all of this. Then I realized: he probably never knew about it because I never told him and my mother thought it was a confidence and didn’t give it away. Until October fifteenth, I could count on one finger the number of times I chose to tell my father something important before I told my mother. Now he is the only parent I have to confide in and it hasn’t been all that bad, either. Once upon a time my father and I talked but we discussed the things I was comfortable with like my career and investments. Now I find myself engaging him in conversations about all the things my mom and I shared; family and friends of family news, travel plans, house plans…everything short of how erratic my periods are and the cute shoes I found on sale. What a gift to discover this relationship. Too bad it took losing one parent to discover the other.

I still expect to see my mother as I turn a corner in this house. Early this morning, Dad and The Beav went fishing and I had the house to myself for a few hours. It was so terrifically quiet and the first time I had been alone in the house in years. My grief felt unsettling and frankly a bit of an over reaction, it’s been over eight months since she diedwhy am I weepy about it now? Why did I feel the same emptiness I felt on October 16th when I walked into the house twenty four hours after she died. My father has a large picture of her prominately displayed, she’s standing near the water on Mikonos a few years ago, the last overseas trip she took. It’s not a very good picture of her, she looks tired and I can see the pain in her face, around her eyes, I sense her breathlessness as she tried to make a one last trip before admitted she needed oxygen 24/7 and was in unbearable pain due to her osteoporosis. I felt a buried well of loneliness for her open and then I realized living 800 plus miles away from home wasn’t helping my process. My sister and my father get to live everyday with reminders of my mother. Me? Because we saw each other just a few times a year, I have days every few months when I miss her tremendously. A one step forward three steps back approach to grief. But isn’t it part of my nature to make everything as difficult as I possibly can? I coped today by staying out of the house as much as I could when Dad and the boy were gone.

Once I was away from the house, I relaxed and was filled with the pure zen joy of being in the place I long to return to. I also realized how far I had come to be a person who is intrinsically happy. I am now a naturally happy person whether I live in a city where the Rockies meet the Midwest or in my home town or--God forbid--Lubbock Texas, I will be happy. (Lubbock is stretching it a bit, I don’t really want to try this theory out in with a return to West Texas) Because wherever you go, there you are. Despite doing things the hard way sometimes, being prone to “the glass is half full but dangerously close to falling off the edge of the table: I am deeply happy and content with my life. Once I realized this it was easier to step back into my mother’s house and own all my unaddressed grief.

Today was unspeakably hot with the gift of a sudden hard rain. Where I come from a rain like this cools things off. But here the humidity shot up to about 1100% and it felt as if we were in Houston or Florida or a Swedish sauna. After dinner, The Beav, mirroring my earlier restlessness, asked if we could go somewhere and “do“ something. I was feeling hemmed in after the rain and wanted to be outside in the sauna because it’s novel enough to experience my lungs adequately filled with oxygen but it’s a bonus to have hydrated skin. Besides that, I love the earthy cedar smell after the rain. I suggested we take a drive and see what had replaced a lovely old farm at the end of a road near the ‘rents house. When my parents built their little house it was in the last subdivision on the road. Now I jokingly refer to their neighborhood as the “ghetto” of one of the most expensive and exclusive bedroom communities in the state. Over the last thirty years, horse farms, old homesteads and densely wooded creek beds and a river bottom have been sacrificed for million dollar McMansions and McRanches. I am prone to sentimentality so you can only imagine the wistful feeling I have when I drive and remember the wild spaces. I’m such a sap, I can turn an errand to Walgreens into a trip down memory lane. Tonight wasn’t any different as we meandered down the roads, me lolling in how much I love this place despite the ridiculousness of the traffic, the heat and the Bubbas. The Beav didn’t even roll his eyes too much when I tried to explain DogMan to him and showed him the creek bottoms we would visit as kids trying to catchh a glimpse of the maniac who undoubtedly had a bloody hook and an appetite for teenaged girls. We drove down country roads which have blessedly missed the onslaught of nouvelle riche homes and marveled at the ground fog’s ethereal presence in the bottoms. Beautiful and eerie, I think we both expected to see the specter and Beav freely admitted it was “creepy“ at dusk with the fog hanging onto the dense canopy of trees. I wanted to walk along the creek but I’m very deathly afraid of snakes and boggy dusk is a recipe for copperheads and water snakes. So I stayed in the car on the road over the bridges, keeping the windows down so we could breath the rich air. I took us down roads I haven’t driven since I was 17. I felt a great sense of peace as I the curves and turns automatically not really sure where we were going after the DogMan Tour. But after we turned down a road partially closed due to the rain, I knew where we were going. A place I had forgotten about until tonight. The zebra at the horse farm. Why I had never taken the boys when we had visited is beyond me.

Back in the day there were several zebras at this horse farm and after we were bored with looking for Dog Man, we would stop at the side of the road, calling to them to lure them closer so we could take a good look at them. (Damn, meddling kids that we were, teasing the farm animals!) As I approached the fence I prayed tonight was NOT the night for charging and he would stay a safe distance. God agreed it would be undignified for my child to see me squealing like a girl as I flailed across the road to the car so the zebra stayed on his side of the pasture.
“Why’d you stop?“
“Wha--? Na Ah, there is NOT a zebra over there, what kind of zebra, a real zebra? Sure mom. . .“
After a minute of: “Not over there but there“ type directions he saw it, the zebra hanging out in the pasture, contemplating the grass as he munched it. Fascinated by this phenomenon in suburbia, Beav lost his teenaged veneer and composure for a few minutes as he marveled at the animal and tried to fathom how and why a rancher would keep a zebra on a horse farm a mile from his GrandDad‘s house. His enthusiasm was infectious and I became fascinated with the beast all over again. I got to catch a glimpse of my little boy tonight. For this alone, Gram would have loved sharing the zebra with him. But the boy was soon replaced by the young man texting his best friend as I pulled back onto the road and headed for home.


Patti said...

My dearest Laura Ann,
Didn't you feel it??? It was your mom willing you to take that drive down to see the zebra. It was HER!!! Her loss is your gain in relationship recovery with your dad!! She couldn't have done this without you! How blessed you are!
How I miss our growing up years together! We must get together soon--all of us! I miss your mom a lot. I miss all of you. Your are forever my cousin!
Love, Patti

EdgyJuneCleaver said...

Patti, what a wonderful way of looking at this and I feel blessed one loss has led to a tremendous amount of growth. Thanks for reading my blog. Love, Laura