The Sad Season

The holidays are winding down. Lots of folks get depressed after the holidays…Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or just plain old sadness that the holidays are over. And then there are people like me who have experienced loss…and the unfortunate few of us who have actually experienced loss during the holidays.

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of my mother’s passing…two years without my mother. She fell ill on Christmas Eve 2017, and I received a phone call at 8:30 that night…she was in the hospital in Alabama. My little family rushed through opening gifts in Charlotte that night, and before the crack of dawn on Christmas Day, I left to go be with my mother. As I drove to Alabama, I was thinking of how I was going to tell my mother that she was coming back to Charlotte with me. I was thinking of how angry she would be that I wanted her to leave her house. But I never got to tell her she was coming home with me. The doctor made it clear to me on December 26 that she would not recover, and since both my grandmothers had died on December 26 in different years (eerie, right?) I needed Mother to make it past that day. I asked the doctor if she was likely to make it to the 27th, explaining why I was asking, and he assured me she would…but not much longer. I didn’t want her to die at all, but if she had died on the 26th, every year after that, I would have been waiting for something to happen to me on the 26th. We needed to break the cycle. She made it to the 30th.

Last year, the first anniversary, was a terrible day…terrible. I didn’t sleep at all the night before, and it was just a terrible day. But this year, I am bound and determined to make it a happier day. Of course, I’m still sad my mother isn’t here, but instead of crying all day, I hope to be celebrating her life…drinking a toast to her memory.

In fact, as I type, I’m on a plane to Los Angeles…a vacation with my daughter, her friend, and my nephew and his friend. Mother would have loved knowing my nephew is vacationing with us. We have a lunch reservation tomorrow at a fabulous restaurant, where we will remember Mother. We might even order a Bailey’s and coffee, her favorite, after lunch.

And as hard as I will try to be happy, positive, and upbeat, I know a little sadness will creep in. I know that, because I just tried to read a piece by Sean Dietrich (see Sean of the South on Facebook here), and I couldn’t get past the first couple paragraphs about his dad, who he lost years ago.

So right now, for this second anniversary, I’ll take “mostly happy with a little sadness creeping in.”

All this is my way of reminding everyone that some people are sad right now. Some are suffering. Some are just trying to push through the season. And then some will be even more sad at the thought of starting a new year without a loved one. I hope I will show mercy and offer courteous goodwill to those who need it. I hope I will try to help my friends and family into 2020…with some love, patience, hope, and clarity. And I hope they will do the same for me.

Let’s make 2020 a good year.

 

If Only I Could Call Them

When Daddy was dying, it seemed the thing he hated most about dying was thinking about what he was going to miss. He said he wasn’t afraid of what would happen to him, but he was sad he would miss his family, and he would miss some of the big moments.

I think, we, the ones left behind, often feel the same thing. There are lots of times I think, “I wish Daddy were here to see this.” And since December, I often think, “I wish I could call Mother and tell her about this.”

In the last few weeks, I’ve found myself wishing they were here more than usual. I always miss them, but situations arise that I would love to share with them, and that’s when I really wish they were here.

In May, I wrote a piece titled Behind That White Picket Fence (click here to see it) about how we never know what’s going on in someone’s private life. A friend from college commented on my post, making me think of Mother and something that happened twenty years ago.

When I was about 30, a friend was diagnosed with colon cancer. Her name is Susan, and I think she was 28 or 29 at the time. She was/is married (in fact, I introduced her to her husband) and while her husband was supportive, her parents jumped right in to help. Her husband needed to work and couldn’t be there all the time, so her parents took turns spending the night at the hospital with her and stayed during the day, as well. She had  complications after surgery, but they were there to advocate for her. If I remember correctly, she was in the hospital for months.

During this time, my maternal grandmother and a friend of hers were breezing through Mobile on a trip and stopped in to visit Mother. We will call the friend Gladys. Mother had never met Gladys and frankly, found her to be rather harsh. They were there for a few hours, so Mother didn’t jump to that conclusion quickly.

While they were there, insurance became the topic of conversation. Gladys, at some point, complained about her insurance agent, saying he had not been responsive over recent months. When she mentioned his name, Mother knew she had to say something. She responded, “Well, I’m sure you don’t know, but his young daughter has colon cancer. She’s had surgery and complications, and he has been spending days and nights at the hospital with her. If he hasn’t been responsive, that’s a good reason. God bless him.”

That evening, Mother called me to tell me what had happened, and she was a little hot under the collar. Of course, I reminded her Gladys probably had no idea, and while Mother realized that, she was miffed Gladys wasn’t giving Susan’s dad, her insurance agent for 30 years, the benefit of the doubt.

So, after Susan commented on Behind That Picket Fence, I sent her a message telling her about the exchange. She responded by telling me she was happy to hear my mother had interceded. She reminded me her daddy had stayed with her in the hospital and had even devised a way to wash her hair, simply because he knew it was something he could do that would make her feel a little better. He made some sort of “contraption” that made it possible for him to wash her hair while she was lying in bed. The nurses didn’t want him to do it, but he did, and Susan immediately felt better. Afterward, the nurses started started using the same contraption and method to wash the hair of other patients.

That exchange with my friend was one of those moments I wish Mother were here. I wanted to call and tell her I had shared the story with Susan, and in response, she told me what great things her daddy did for her. In fact, Susan told me her daddy was retired by the time she was diagnosed, so no wonder he wasn’t responsive! He was no longer the agent!

But I couldn’t call Mother. She would have loved that story.

There are also things I’d love to share with my daddy. Just this week, I had lunch with my cousin, Ardrue, who lives in Cherryville, North Carolina, about an hour away. Ardrue and I started getting together over the past couple of years. We had never met until early 2016, but I had heard about Ardrue my entire life. She is my daddy’s first cousin. Their mothers were sisters.

When I say I’d heard about Ardrue my entire life, I mean it. I remember, as a little girl, hearing Daddy and Aunt Katie talk about Ardrue. I don’t remember the stories, but who can forget a name like Ardrue? I’ve told her this, so it’s OK…I remember asking daddy, “What kind of name is Ardrue?” I remember seeing pictures of a little girl/teenage Ardrue when I would go through old pictures. Her name appeared on the backs of several pictures.  In fact, I can hardly wait to get back to Alabama to go through pictures and find some to bring back to show her.

Ardrue has told me stories about my daddy as a young man, and she has shared stories about the family, as well. When we are talking, I love when she mentions a familiar name in one of her stories. Sometimes she is even surprised I recognize a name. Most of the times, I recognize the names from stories Daddy used to tell…he was a good storyteller. She is a charming lady with a great sense of humor. I’ll have to ask her if a sense of humor runs in the family. It’s hard to tell, because in all the old pictures of my grandparents and great-grandparents, they all look so serious.

And this is one of those times I wish Daddy were here. He would be thrilled Ardrue and I  get together. Not only that, but we enjoy each other’s company! He would want to sit right there with us, laughing and talking. The two of them would be able to reminisce and remind each other of things that happened when they were children.

But I can’t call Daddy. He can’t join us for lunch. He would have loved spending time with Ardrue.

And recently, when our daughter was away for two weeks on a group trip to Iceland and not allowed to use her phone to call home, Mother and Daddy would have commiserated with me. They likely would have been calling me three times a day to ask if there had been any email updates from the group leaders.

While it’s painful immediately following the loss of a parent, there are other times that are difficult too. Interestingly, for me, it’s usually the happy times that I miss them. I wish they could see my daughter play lacrosse and field hockey. Daddy would have loved watching her play basketball too. I used to always call Mother from my car after I dropped off my daughter somewhere, and I would call her after any of my daughter’s games and give her the post-game wrap-up. That was a habit that was hard to break after Mother passed.  I wish I could just pick up the phone and call both of them to tell them funny stories, talk about trivial stuff, and brag about my daughter. They would love knowing my brother and I talk almost every day, and we still call each other to get answers to trivial questions. And they would be so happy to know we have been vacationing together.

But I can’t call them.

If only I could call them…

Missing My Girl

It hasn’t even been a week since my 14-yr-old daughter left for Iceland, and I’m already missing her. I know…that’s pathetic. We received our first “email update” a couple of days ago, and it sounds like they are having a fabulous time, but it might have made me miss her more, if that is even possible. I know I’m not the only crazy parent missing a child right now, though. I’ve talked to several friends whose children are on these trips, and we all feel the same way. We miss our children! However, I feel pretty sure she isn’t thinking of us…I hope she’s not. I hope she is enjoying everything Iceland has to offer and then some!

She is traveling in a group of twelve teenagers, with two young adult leaders…a girl from North Carolina, and a guy from Louisiana. The group leaders write the updates, and they say something about each traveler. According to that first update, while they were visiting The Blue Lagoon, a well-known geothermal spa, my daughter “led the group to the smoothie bar and then to the mud mask station.” I actually laughed out loud when I read that, because my daughter loves smoothies, and she loves masks. At least I know she isn’t starving, and her skin should be glowing when she comes home!

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Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, Iceland

I’ve worried about her “starving,” because my daughter is a picky eater. I tried to expose her to lots of different flavors when she was a toddler, but she’s like her daddy…she likes bland food. She eats a lot of grilled chicken, pizza, yogurt, broccoli, fruit, potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and rice. Oh, and peanut butter. I told her before she left that she will have to eat whatever they give her. According to one of her leaders, on the last trip, they had a lot of lamb and salmon, two delicious foods I’ve never been able to get my daughter to eat. My fingers are crossed that she will expand her palate on this trip. I did stick a few snacks in her bag, but she likely has gone through them by now. She doesn’t get that picky-eating gene from me. I will eat just about anything, except organ meat…nope, not gonna do it. My husband, on the other hand, eats nothing spicy. There are things he has declared “spicy,” and then I take a bite and laugh at him.

My sister-in-law has a 15-yr-old son on another trip offered by the same tour company. He is touring Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. We shared our updates with each other earlier today, and his trip sounds exciting too! According to his update, he “nearly had a nose to nose interaction with a baby sea lion who was looking for a buddy to swim alongside him!” Sounds like so much fun! He will get home two days before my daughter, so I will get to talk with him and hear all about his trip first. I can hardly wait, but I’ll have to wait another week.

I’m flying up to New York to meet my daughter and a couple of her friends when they arrive from Iceland. I’m thinking I need to make a gigantic WELCOME BACK sign for them. Think they’d be embarrassed? I don’t really care…I’m doing it. The only people they will know in the JFK Airport will be the people from their trip. I’m flying up a day early and staying at a hotel near the airport, and I will be so excited that I won’t sleep a wink that night. Pray for a safe return for them, and pray they are on time, so I don’t have to wait any longer than necessary.

My husband and I are meeting my brother and sister-in-law on vacation later this week. Our favorite dogsitter/housesitter arrives tomorrow night. I’m hoping the vacation will be a distraction from how much I’m missing my girl. We’ll laugh a lot, get some exercise, and lounge on the beach for a few days. I’m hoping my brother will cook dinner for us every night…he’s a great cook.

A friend’s daughter arrived home earlier this week from her tour of the Pacific Northwest. She was gone for three weeks. I called my friend, the mom, the morning the daughter was coming home and asked if she was excited that her baby girl would be coming home tonight. Of course she was! She sent me a cute picture they took of her two daughters right after the younger one arrived home safely. You can see it below. So sweet. You can tell they are so excited to see each other. I asked my friend if she cried, and she said, “We all did!”

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My friend’s daughters. The one on the right just arrived home safely from her tour of the Pacific Northwest.

I guess I need to wear waterproof mascara next week when I go to meet my daughter at the airport in New York.