Comfort

In sixth grade, I strode into your bedroom to find you situated on your bed with your Stephen King book in hand. Eyes almost closed, but not quite.

Settled.

Still.

Scruffy flannel pajamas snuggled your body. Antique quilts swaddled the bed. Your glasses had slipped to the bottom of your nose, like always, and you hadn’t yet shoved them back up.

Snug.

Safe.

Soft white light whispered to the shadows in your corner of the room. I didn’t say anything. Didn’t have to. But I needed to be close to you. At your side. A daughter needs her mother.

So I slid into your bed. Opened my R.L. Stine book. Exhaled.

It would have been different had we known what was to come; cancer.

Chaos.

Chemotherapy.

At that moment, we would’ve had conversations about life. About close family I never had the chance to meet. About what you were like as a child.

You’d show your candor, your true colors. But that knowledge, that experience, would’ve come at a cost.

No quiet.

No calm.

No comfort.

But we didn’t know. Not yet. Instead, only our steady sighs and the shooshing of turning pages swept against our ears. Everything else turned silent because it was our space, our time.

Serene.

Sound.

Had we known, we would have gained something. But we would have lost so much, only to watch the clock.

Photo by Umberto Del Piano on Unsplash

First Breath Without Her (YeahWrite Microstory #262)

FlowerShe closes her eyes, drawing breath deep into her lungs.

The aroma of fresh cut grass touches her nose, a reminder that life doesn’t end with death.

A solitary tear escapes her eyes as her cheeks tingle with warmth from the sun.

And She said to Follow my Dreams.

I can remember it like it was yesterday.  I was sitting with my mom in white plastic chairs on her front porch talking about life.  I was roughly 21, so my true sense of life had literally barely begun to show itself.  I was probably more  worried about getting to the bar to play some Golden Tee with my brand new boyfriend, Justin, than to sit there and fully grasp the conversation she was trying to have with me.

“Don’t do what I did, Danielle,” she said, shaking her head slowly.  She took a long hit off of her menthol light 100 before finishing.  She exhaled and a cloud of smoke drifted over the porch railing, blue paint chipping of from bad weather over the winter.  “Don’t wait until you’re forty to figure out what makes you happy.”

“But I am happy,” I said.  And I was, or at least I was a superficial version of happy.  One where my judgement was both blissfully ignorant of how cruel the world can be and also clouded from too many late nights at Club Sin where I danced my troubles away over loud music and Jager Bombs.

“I’m serious, Danielle.  Find what makes you happy and do it.  But don’t just do it; do it with your whole heart.”  I rolled my eyes at her for trying to be way too serious.

But my mom was such an intelligent woman who only ever wanted the very best for my sister and me.  And she was often ‘way too serious’ in her conversations, but she was also full of wisdom and life lessons.

This happened to be one of those lessons.

You see, my mom decided when she was in her forties that she wanted to be a nurse. Helping people had always been her passion and it took her forty long years to realize her dreams.

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After she graduated, she worked in hospice and loved every moment of it.  I had never seen her happier.  She would go to work and come home with a smile on her face.  She was happy like that until the day she found out she had cancer, at which time she was no longer able to be around her sick patients.  Having to quit being a nurse made my mom incredibly sad.  Her dream had been crushed by cancer.

Last week, on the four year anniversary of her death, that conversation from her front porch crossed my mind and I literally had a come-to-Jesus moment.

We need to do what makes us happy, no matter what that is, because we have no idea what tomorrow holds.  If we hold off on our dreams they will only ever be just dreams.  And I don’t know about you, but I have big things in store for my dreams, so not going after them TODAY isn’t an option.

<a href=”http://yeahwrite.me/moonshine/”><img src=”http://yeahwrite.me/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/moonshine.png”></a&gt;

Gizzie, the Dog

The first dog that I can ever remember having was Gizmo, a pomeranian-pekingnese mutt.  She was the biggest ball of fur I’d ever seen and looked just like a gremlin, which is how we came up with the name.

I remember my parents found her in a K-mart parking lot, or something to that effect.  They tried to find the owners, but never did, so we kept her as our own.

I was around the age of five when we got her, or at least that’s how I remember it anyway.  I loved that dog so much, but put her through the wringer, let me tell you.

I used to dress her up in doll clothes and push her around in my baby doll stroller.  My mom said it terrified the poor dog, but I swear she loved it.  She would just lay so still, enjoying the ride (haha!).

I also would play hide and seek with her, meaning I would hide the dog, then try to find her.  Only I was little and would often forget where I hid the small, fuzzy thing.  My mom would find her in the towel cabinet, behind furniture and in various closets on a daily basis.

However; I think my most favorite thing to do with tiny Gizzie was to tie her up with my pink and yellow jump rope and “invite” her to watch me dance.  She was a gracious audience member, never barking or whining through the whole performance.

All joking aside, Gizmo was a great companion.  She never growled at me for all of my shenanigans.  Instead she loved me unconditionally every single day of her life.  She taught the importance of having and loving animals.  I still think of my sweet little ball of fur all the time.

Grieving to Relieve the Grief, or Something like that…

via Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve. Earl Grollman – USA — algaonline

Empty Bottle

The wine bottle is half empty,

But it still doesn’t let me

Forget the painful past.

My cup has stayed  full,

As my mind has been pulled

Back to the breath you took last.

So I poor another cup,

As I try to add up

The reasons God took you away.

I’ll keep on drinking,

Until I stop thinking

About that painful day.

My tears just keep falling,

And my life has been stalling.

Tomorrow I’ll get back on track.

But today it still pains me,

That your smile; I can’t see

I only want my mom back.

Rushing Along.

Today I found myself getting upset at my oldest daughter over the smallest things while shopping in Target.  She wanted to take some extra time to peruse the shiny, beaded headbands, but I rushed her along.  She asked to look in the dollar section and I only let her quickly scan the aisles.  I kept thinking how much I needed to hurry.  I needed to get what I needed and get outta there.  But why?

Every skip, giggle and distraction was making my temper run hotter and hotter until I had finally had enough.  I yelled.  I told her she was going to spend time in her room because she hadn’t listened to me the countless times I asked her to hurry along.

As soon as we got in the car I started to realize my behavior.  I have only been going through the motions the last two days, barely hanging on.  I am just a fragile eggshell of the mother and wife I want to be, right now.

The depression always returns during this time, despite my countless efforts to distract myself.

But my kid deserves to be able to be a kid.  She should be able to look at shiny headbands -I know my mom let me do stuff like that.  She never rushed me along the way I do with Reagan.  Getting to look at the toys and treats is part of what makes shopping fun for kids.

What am I rushing for all the time?   Why do I hurry myself through life?  I try to remind myself to live in the present, but I’ve been failing MISERABLY at that lately.  I keep thinking about the past; dwelling on my own sadness rather than focusing on my daughters’ current happiness and that’s not what I want at all.

I looked at my sweet Reagan in the rear-view, her eyes saddened because of my behavior, and knew at once it was I who needed a timeout, not her.

“I’m so sorry for rushing you Reagan and for being snippy.  Mommy is really sad right now because I miss my mommy very much.  But that’s no excuse, so again, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Mommy.  I understand.  And I’m sorry you’re mommy is in Heaven.”  R  eagan looked up at me and her eyes met mine in the mirror.

“I love you, Reagan.” I said and I could see her smile return.

Once we got home, I opened the van door on her side and gave her the biggest hug.  She put her little hands on my face and said “We should swing today, mommy.  That will take your mind off being sad.”

“That’s a great idea,” I whispered before kissing her cheek.  I smiled at her and wiped the tears from my eyes.

 

That Time of Year Again…

Mom,

I really miss you.

It’s that time of year again when sadness and loneliness begin to consume me, despite all my efforts to not let it happen.  As childish and silly as it may sound, despite being a full-grown thirty-four-year-old woman, I still want to stomp my feet and whale out, “it’s not fair!” when I think about your death.  But I don’t…  Instead I bottle up, get stressed and start taking it out on my family.  I know you’d shake your pointer finger at me and glare at me over the top of your glasses if you saw how awfully stressed I was this morning.  I definitely wasn’t being the best version of myself.

Justin was the one that actually pointed it out, helping me see what I was doing.   So, now that I see what’s going on I know I need to get it on paper.  It’s what makes me feel better.  It’s what organizes my thoughts so that I can heal.  It’s my therapy.

So let’s start with Reagan.

You would be so proud of her.  That kid is smart and sassy and probably a lot like I was at her age.  Yet despite being like me, she is still so much like Justin, too.  She is destined for amazing things.  I only wish you were here to see her in person.  I’m sure your heart would swell with pride.

And now Reagan is old enough to understand who you are and how much she meant to you, too. We talk about you every day.  I tell her how you live in heaven now, but how you still love her and watch over her, protecting her like a guardian angel.  She still reads that book you gave her (the one where you recorded your voice reading it).

But still, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that she hasn’t been hugged by her own grandma in four years.  It pains me deeply.

Then there is Ashlyn…If there was ever a kid with undeniable tenacity and perseverance, it is that child.  She will conquer the world one day, I just know it.  And my goodness, does she look like you.  She has your smile and your hair and something else I can’t quite put my finger on…but I’m guessing it’s your beautiful spirit.

And that beautiful spirit is in to EVERYTHING.  Sometimes I feel like I can’t catch my breath with her, but then I remember your best advice ever:  to just remember to love her.  To slow down, not take life so seriously and to just let Ashlyn be who Ashlyn is.

Then there are the dogs.  My dear God, how did you ever have more than one?!  Sven and Roxy conspire against us daily.  They run wild through the woods, track in dirt and mud, dig in the garbage, chew up things that are not their toys (actually this one is just Sven, because Roxy has no teeth left), and generally make me feel like a crazy person for ever wanting a second beastly animal.  But we love them and could never, ever picture life without either of them.

Lastly, there is me and Justin.  You never have to worry about the two of us, because we are the one constant.  Justin keeps me grounded and I keep him moving – it’s always been that way and always will.  He is the yin to my yang, or however that saying goes…And speaking of moving, I really wish you could see our house.  You’d love the land and the peacefulness – our neighbor has cows!  Who seriously would have ever thought that would live by someone with actual real live cows?  Not me! However, I could really use your gardening expertise, because I’m in the weeds (literally!)

Well now that I’m feeling better, I guess I’ll wrap this up.  I love you, Mom.  And not a day goes by that I don’t think of you.

Wish you were here,

Danielle

Unbroken

I am going to be completely candid here, because I am trying to grow and become a better person and without being totally honest with myself, my family and my friends I won’t be able to grow to my full potential.

Crap…  Here goes nothing.

You see, I am a loving, caring, hardworking, honest, good person.  I love with my whole heart, am incredibly emotional (in a good way), passionate, empathetic and I have a dry, geeky sense of humor.  I also have a hot Irish temper.

Today, I am working on embracing myself for who I am and loving me for me.  I am growing more and more with each passing day, but six months ago this was not the case.

Six months ago I was TOTALLY broken.

I don’t know what it was that pushed me over the edge.  Was it the lack of sleep?  The moving with a newborn?  The stress of trying to figure out how to mother two small children simultaneously?  Was it that I was still not totally dealing with my mom’s passing?  The crazy dogs?  I really have know idea, but what I do know is that one day it all piled on top of me like a ton of bricks and I snapped.  I could no longer be the loving, vibrant mother/wife/person that I wanted to be.  I was a fragile mess and I really didn’t know how to fix it.

I think I literally had a nervous breakdown.

My husband tried to help, but he couldn’t.  I tried to fix myself, but in my state of mind I didn’t possess the right tools to get me mentally where I needed to be.  I didn’t know what else to do, so reluctantly I started researching life counselors.  I was really hesitant to talk to a stranger about my problems, but I decided to give it a shot.  I had nothing left, mentally, so what did I have to lose?

The first time I went to my counselor I sat down and she asked me what brought me in and the words and tears just started falling out of my face like a volcano erupting.  It was completely and totally liberating,but also super scary.  However, after I walked away from that session I felt better than I had in a long time.

I still see her once a month.

Today, through my conversations with her, I have come to realize that I have always held so much back for fear of failure.  My self worth was low from a whole slew of events, but now it’s on the mend.  All of this, plus lack of sleep and the incredible pressure I placed on myself to remember and do everything probably led to my emotional collapse.

Since that day she has helped me get to this place where I am able to tell this story without  feeling ashamed.  What I went through was totally normal and I was STRONG by seeking help.  Not weak.

Today I sit here HAPPY knowing that each day I’m getting better.  Each day I’m growing, becoming that much better of a person.

Each day I become a little more UNbroken.

Goodbye, Friend.

Between the holidays, getting ready for baby Ashlyn’s arrival and helping to plan my baby shower, time has once again gotten away from me. I barely have time to breath, let alone find time to write.

However, with that being said, something happened recently that has been plaguing my mind. I know of no better way to sort it all out than to get it out of my head and onto the paper in front of me, so here I am…

A high school friend of mine recently passed away; someone who, fifteen years ago was part of my closest circle of friends. Time and life has taken our group in various directions and unfortunately I hadn’t talked to this friend much after graduation.

His birthday was four short days after mine. Strange, huh?

Finding out about his passing was, for lack of a better word, shocking. He was young. Too young, in my opinion, to be taken from our green Earth. Instantly it reminded me of a sort of convoluted conversation I had with my mom while standing in her kitchen back in high school. For some reason she sat me down to tell me that friends would die and I would have to learn to cope with it on my own. I was confused at the time, so shrugged my shoulders and let it go in one ear and out the other. Looking back on that she must have been dealing with her own sadness. My mother was wise and tried her best to prepare me for life’s curveballs even at a young age. Even though I didn’t always understand the purpose of her lessons, they always had meaning.

Today, I think about my friend’s passing and how he was both a father and a son. My heart weeps most for his parents and child, because I know that they are the ones hurting most. I pray that God will give them the strength to make it through this.

I could sit here and say that I wish I would have reached out to say hello, because obviously that is in the back of my mind, but of course cursing the things we didn’t do never get us anywhere. Instead, I will vow to do my part to make sure his death was not in vain. I will remember, going forward, to say something if it needs to be said and to hold onto friendships that are important. I will hug my daughter tighter, kiss my husband harder, smile more easily and not hold onto grudges, because life is just too damn short. I will, as my mother said, learn to cope with it.

Rest in peace, Keven. May your family and close friends find happiness and love in the memories you have left behind.