Saturday, July 24, 2010

Musings on the Ever After

Most nights Chappy and I spend some time in the pool.  He has this game he loves to play.  He runs round and round the pool with a tennis ball (that he has thoroughly demolished) in his mouth, and I'm supposed to swim from one side to the other and try to catch him.  Every once in a while, if it looks like my attention is wandering, or I've meandered too far away from where he wants me positioned, he'll jump in, swim towards me and, not so gently, force me back into place.  He can play this game for hours, and it's cooler for both of us than dragging his 85 pounds around on a leash to get him sufficient exercise.  Yet, it's not very taxing on the brain functions, so as I cut across the water, clear as glass that's been littered with diamonds, my thoughts bounce around.  Most of the time, I begin with the thought that this should be a good life.  I should be happy with what I have.  I don't have the nicest of homes, by it's pretty cool.  I'm not the richest person, but if Greg had remained working, we would have been comfortable enough.  My house isn't nestled in the mountains, but one lesson I've learned in traveling around taking first this daughter than that one to various treatments is that there are ups and downs to any location, and I'm finally mature enough, at this not so tender age, to realize you take your problems with you wherever you go; a place doesn't fix what's broken.

So, why did I take you on that meandering journey through Pennsylvania and back?  Because, despite all of that, I cannot wait to get away from here.  I feel an ache in my bones to begin packing boxes and get the hell away from here.  And the only questions I had left with was where and when.

Why?  Because every where I go, there are reminders of Kelsey, mingled in with reminders of Mother's last struggles, which are painful.  I knew, long ago, that I would suffer some guilt over Mother.  I knew that, after she was gone, I would feel badly for the resentment I often felt during our last three years together.  She was a challenge at times long before that (her hoarding caused some real uncomfortable moments over the years, some of which I've learned to laugh at a bit, but some I never will).  But, it was when her dementia really took over, and I was slow to understand it for what it was, that the proverbial chip on my shoulder grew to a boulder, and I have some regrets that I didn't handle that better and more compassionately.  I did more than some children, maybe even a lot of children, but less than others and less than I should have, in my own estimation, and that flashes in my mind whenever we pass her old apartment complex or, far worse, when I'm there, since Greg's mom lives there too.  But, bottom line is that she lived a long life, mainly on her own terms - particularly the years after Dad died.  And, in the end, as much as it became a horrible uphill battle, I stepped up and made sure she had the care she needed.  So, in time, I'd work through that and all would be well.

Can I ever do the same for the feelings I have over losing my daughter?  Despite my bravado in blogging about reclaiming the upper half of our house, I was working in the study to glean out some old stuff and came across a note she artfully did for me after a fight we had.  She had drawn in Calligraphy a note to say she was sorry, then matted that on a purple background that she scrolled around.  I had it in my office, so I found it packed in a box of things I had brought home from when I resigned.  I stared at the note for a long while, set it down and have only been upstairs in brief spurts when I absolutely had to since.  Greg and Amazing Handy Man have been working on the upstairs bathroom, I haven't even gone up there to look at what they've done.  But, that's just a note; it's the stains on the carpet that I can't get rid of, it's driving past the places she worked or the music venues she preferred, or just sitting in the dining room, replaying some of the horrible nights we had when she was out of control, and then playing with Chappy in the pool and remembering some of the good times we shared as a family there.  Painful counterpoints to the lives we've led in this house.

I remember what I said earlier.  You take your problems with you wherever you go.  I'm also aware that, depending upon where you go, you can make those problems worse (more on that later) or create new ones, and I'm really not trying to run from the memories.  I need them, all of them, good and bad, to try and make sense of my life and give it purpose, which I can only do I think if I can help someone, anyone, not have to relive the nightmare we went through.  But, do I really have to be slapped in the face everyday with reminders of the struggle?  Even under my own roof?

I no longer hate the house.  To the contrary, I hope this noble house forgives us.  The house gave us shelter through all those years of turmoil, and continued standing as we neglected it.  I didn't realize just how run down it had become before AMH began reclaiming it.  It gives me joy to see it respond to new tile, new counter tops, some severe tree trimming, new trim and molding here and there.  Simple enough repairs that remind me why I fell in love with the place 13 years before.  I hope we leave it better than we found it.  It deserves that.  Yet, can I ever live here and not be caught in the memories of what happened here?

I've long stopped contemplating the people in the house across the street.  Now that I know a bit about their pain, I no longer have to wonder over it.  Yet, when I began really thinking about where I want my future to be, I did turn my attention back to them briefly.  They've done a lot of work on their house, as we are now to ours, to update it and improve it.  I sort of understand that on a deeper level than I would have before.  It's not just about maintaining the home value, they've changed some things up, and I think that it was to give themselves a different perspective and a fresh start in the same place.  Neither of our children died in the home.  Thankfully.  If Kelsey had died here, this would not be a blog I would be writing, I would have long ago fled this place entirely.  But, she is every where in this house, as I'm sure my neighbor's son was in theirs.  They've pushed through it.  They had a pool party on the Fourth of July, I could hear happy voices and laughter floating over from their backyard.  They've done it.  Whatever It is.  They've stayed productive, sane, and in the same house.  So, could I do it?  I don't even want to try.

There are a million reasons not to do what we're contemplating.  There aren't nearly as many for the other side of the argument.  How, therefore, can I justify it?  Because, as selfish as this sounds, we, all three of us, deserve some happiness now.  I don't know if the complicated task of picking up and moving a household with multiple pets will give it to us, but it keeps us pushing forward and at least trying.  I want a chance to start somewhere fresh and make new memories.  If we sit stagnant, our spirits will die.  Those are the things one thinks about when swimming aimlessly around a pool pretending as though you're going to grab the ball from your dog's iron grip.

Now the decision was:  where to?


  1. "But, do I really have to be slapped in the face everyday with reminders of the struggle? Even under my own roof?"

    Unfortunately, yes. Because, unfortunately, the struggle occurred, mostly, under your own roof. And as we pack, you will be slapped really, really hard.
    I abruptly stopped my moving back into my room process when I was dusting/cleaning the furniture one day and found sticky spots on the lower part of one of the desk chair's legs. They're impossible to get off. I don't know for sure since I have no proof, but at the same time I do know for sure because I just KNOW, that those sticky spots are old vomit splatters. Not so much a slap, but more so an unexpected sucker punch to my face. It's hard, it hurts, but I feel it, too.
    Granted, when we leave, when we're actually gone, those subtle reminders of the struggle that lie within the house, the stains etc., won't be there, but some kind of reminder will always be around us. It sucks, hard, but we can endure the blows together... I'd much prefer it that way, actually.
    I'm sorry, though I know it's not my fault or I hope it isn't, that you have to be slapped in the face with reminders of the bad, but try to see how many more reminders of the good are around.. the art, the old family photos, those adorable I'm-a-broke-artist cards she made for us, the love she showed through notes and puppy-eyed-smiles (though those are only available in our minds, now, unfortunately) when she couldn't bring herself to speak what she felt, which was majority of the time.
    Please believe me when I say that as we do pack this place up and come across more and more of these reminders, the good ones and the bad, we will find more good than bad, and that's what we will be packing to take with us. Both will hurt just the same, but we must let the good, the beautiful, the talent, outweigh the bad in our minds & hearts and keep them closer. Though we cannot ignore or forget the bad, because it was ever-present for so many years, we can TRY to let the greatness of your eldest, my sister, be the strongest memory we carry.
    I'm rambling. I wonder if it will let me leave all of this in a comment.
    I love you, momy. You can always talk to me. And you're wrong that no one reads your blog.. I do.

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  3. You have been talking about Montana since I have known you and you are asking "where?" Hmmmm, Colorado is beautiful and has Robert Redford, New England has the lowest crime rate, Maine is nice - I feel like I know it since I have read every Stephen King novel written, I have heard great things about Coeur d' Alene, North Idaho. I just like the name. It sounds so European.