Friday, March 26, 2010

The Tides

Last night I was very calm.  I thought to myself that maybe I should not be or maybe I would not be under different circumstances, but losing a mother at the end of a long, robust life as opposed to losing a daughter who never really got hers started is a piece of cake, or so I thought at the time.  I think back to what it was like when Dad died.  Up to that point, he was the closest family member I had ever lost.  Despite a difficult and not particularly close relationship, I was devestated.  Comparatively speaking, Mother and I were much closer, but I handled it all much better.  I am older now, of course, and wiser - or so I'll say anyway - the natural course of events related to death strike me differently than they did eighteen years ago.  But, it's really because there's just no comparing losing a parent to losing a child.

Today my calm sea had ripples on it.  I woke up at 3:00 this morning, not sure why, and that was that.  Finally, an hour later, I gave it up and got up, started the coffee, and got ready for work.  Probably not the best decision I've ever made.  Coffee and adrenaline got me through a while, but as they both drained away, so did my ability to concentrate on the mountains of paper that threatened to swallow my little work station.  Instead, my mind began to wander to unbidden memories.  Memories of growing up in Montana, truly the Big Sky Country.  Memories of my mother's laugh, low with a hint of mischief in it.  Memories of her taking care of me when I was sick.  Memories of the day she had to chase me around the kitchen table to get me to go to school after I got my first pair of glasses.  Then remembering how she patiently tossed a brightly colored ball across the room with me day after day while I had my right eye covered, trying to strengthen my lazy left eye.  (Marissa has the same condition; they no longer have parents do those exercises or humiliate the kids by making them wear those infernal patches, realizing that all those exercises really didn't do much to restore vision.)  Then I would wander off and think about how if Kelsey had just hung on for a few more months, I could have taken some of resources we were using for Mother for her.  If only.

Then I would get my focus back for a while and be fine.  For a while.  Then something someone would do or say would send me back down memory lane.  And for some reason, they were all fond little vignettes of life as a little girl.  I almost wished the memories that weren't so fond would mix themselves in there.  And trust me, they exist in droves.  I was a teenager, after all. 

This is, I remind myself, the way it is supposed to go.  Mother had a good, long run.  Trust me, she did it her way for the vast majority of her life.  She did good things in her life.  She had some fun.  She had some sorrows, but they did not defeat her.  These are things to celebrate, but it is also natural to feel a void at a parent's passing.  There is nothing wrong with any of this, but is naturally unsettling.  Driving home tonight, I had to actually remember not to automatically head to the nursing home.  There is no need to go there again.   I have to confess, as fond as I was of many of the staff and some of the residents, I won't miss it particularly, but it's a jar to a well established routine that I haven't quite reconciled myself to yet.

I finally decided that grief is like the ocean tides. It rolls in and out, highs and lows. Just part of the process. I think the seas will be calmer this go round than last June, but I still think the ups and downs will just be part of it, and I might has well hang on and try not to drown.  We'll see how I do tomorrow.


  1. It's been six years and I still miss my dad. It is like you said, something happens, or someone says something and you remember. Just a couple of days ago someone mentioned how their dad had shown them something and I responded with my dad taught me how to tie my shoes...that reminded me that he taught me how to ride a bike, hit a nail with a hammer, paint, throw a punch, shoot a gun, interact with dogs, stand up to a bully, play pool, throw a baseball, hit a golf ball, swim...I just sat there kind of stunned. How much he taught me. How much I miss him.

  2. .....still thinking about you. I've not lost a parent, well, my mom abandoned me when I was five and she's only resurfaced in the last 35 years long enough to stir me up...even as an adult she can still make me feel 12. I did lose the closest other Mom I've had, Vickie (breast cancer) and I miss her every single day of my life. Everyday.