I haven’t been writing as often as I had intended to this month, and I blame all the good stuff there is out there to read. Books, essays, blog posts, newspapers. There are so many compelling words that other people write that fill me up and bring me to tears. The tears always surprise me, because after my sister died I cried daily for about five years straight and then completely stopped. The tears dried up and I could suddenly think, speak, act, breathe, and work normally in the presence of her absence.
I still felt wretched much of the time, but figured I was permanently all cried out.
Today I think the “feeling” part of my brain just needed a major rest.
I’ve also come to the understanding that grief is supposed to hurt. It’s not a gentle pat on your shoulder or a hug or a promise that things will get better one day. The pain means that grief is doing its thing, and the magic of the grieving journey is that one day you’re not crying every single night and then you actually laugh. You laugh at something someone said, or something on the radio, or even at yourself. And then you startle, because you haven’t laughed in so long that it feels uncomfortable and itchy and wrong. But then something happens, like when my mom mentioned making a donation to my sister’s scholarship fund before the end of the calendar year in order to write it off for taxes, and I thought, that is so… so…. practical.
I could just hear my sister making some smart remark about her being gone and we’re worrying about taxes? Liz was so darn practical when it came to money that I pictured her smiling at my mom while checking her bank account.
Then I remembered her hopping off a city bus in Manhattan because she spied a discount department store where she ended up buying her bridesmaid dress for my wedding for $14.99.
Anytime someone complimented her on the dress, she was all smiles as she announced that it cost fifteen dollars!
And I laughed.
Last weekend we took the boys to see Frozen, and since that day we’ve watched Elsa sing “Let It Go” a half dozen times on YouTube. If you haven’t yet seen it, the story is that this gorgeous (of course) princess is born with the power to transform everything she touches into ice. It’s a creative version of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, a fairy tale published in 1845. And every single time we’ve watched Elsa sing I’ve had to bite my lip and take a deep breath in order not to cry. I’m not sure if it’s the music or the message that makes me feel, but either way it brings me to tears.
Then it’s over and I’m fine and my youngest is fussing for one more time. I have no inclination to sink back into the land of tears (this is a post that I wrote one year ago. It’s fascinating that what I was feeling last year is so close to what I’m feeling this year, and yet different – more on that later). It’s much more entertaining to take notes on my kids then to focus on what’s going on within me, not when what’s going on within me this week mostly equals extreme soreness due to fun boot camp and lower back distress and physical therapy and desire for real pain drugs that remain sadly unprescribed.
During last night’s dinner gratitudes our eldest said he was thankful “for today, the whole day, yesterday, and tomorrow.”
Just as I was absorbing his sweet message, he managed to turn gratitudes into a detailed explanation of the Gila Monster. I had asked him to take a bigger bite of the nutritious soup I had prepared instead of just eating bread. He took a small sip, then informed me that the Gila Monster swallows eggs and small prey whole without teeth. Additionally, the Gila monster dislikes the heat, though he lives in the dessert. Who knew?
It’s amazing to me how much a six-year-old can absorb from a video, book or a lesson. He retains scientific trivia like it’s a competitive sport. His demeanor during dinner resembled a very small professor of entomology. Or maybe it’s herpetology. Perhaps one day… both.
On the other hand, he can exasperate his younger brother to no end simply by ignoring his tricks. Instead of falling apart in a full-on tantrum, however, our youngest instead called out these words after dinner:
Annie always says we include our friends! And he’s not including me! Annie says we gotta include everybody!!!!!
His teacher, Annie, taught him that we must, or should, include all of our friends in our play. Big brother (B.B.) was content playing alone, and younger brother (Y.B.) desperately wanted to engage him. What to do?
In this situation I generally let Y.B. know that B.B. is playing alone right now and needs some space. But Y.B. had used his words so beautifully that I took his side, and insisted that they attempt to play nicely together.
Nothing went really wrong with this scenario, and yet nothing was overwhelmingly right, either. I am trying to step back as referee in order to let them resolve their own problems. It’s not easy to stay in the background.
Later, I posed a question to B.B.
Do sharks cry?
He shook his head. A definite no.
Because they are the most powerful creatures in the sea and cannot be hurt.
What about if a mama shark lost her baby shark?
Well, baby sharks and grown up sharks have special rememberies. They just know how to get back.
I have special rememberies, too, I think.
What about other animals? Do they cry?
What about dogs?
Um, well, they make like (whimper, whimper) sounds when they are sad.
Then we were interrupted by L.B. when a bunch of Legos came crashing out of a box, and chaos resumed in our pretty Christmas lit home. And I laughed.