Another Goodbye

Last year around this time I experienced the loss of a loved one after his battle with cancer. I had time to prepare for this loss, to say my goodbyes.

This weekend my family experienced another loss. This time there was no warning, and I am reminded of how quickly everything about this life can change, and how little control I have over anything.

My cousin’s daughters were in a car accident on Friday night. Hannah, age 14, died, and her sister Bethany, age 16, is traumatically injured. Bethany’s eye socket is smashed, she has several skull fractures, her jaw is broken, and she suffered a deep gash that severed facial nerves. She has already undergone 14 hours of surgery to repair the damage.

As my sister, Jody, and I talked last night when she called to tell me the news, we lamented at the reality of grieving the loss of one while holding onto the hope of another. How do you make such critical medical decisions, how do you interpret all the information being given to you, how do you let go of one while at the same time fighting to save another? How does one grieve when still faced with so many uncertainties?

I often have nightmares of losing my children – mostly of losing my Ruthie. I wake up with a feeling of dread, horrified for a moment that it may have actually happened. Even after I’m fully awake I still fixate on the possibility of losing her, and the fear of such a loss knocks the wind out of me.

Please pray for my cousin, Bruce, his wife, Sharon, their daughter in recovery, Bethany, and their son, Ben, as Bethany recovers and as they mourn the loss of Hannah.

I’ve been absent from posting again.

It’s a busy time of year, but mostly it’s because I have a lot on my mind that I’m not ready to talk about yet.

My mother gets worried about me when I stop returning phone calls or emails. Now that I’m not posting consistently I bet she’s REALLY in a tizzy.


The Missing Piece

I picked a fight with Bryan last night, and quite honestly I can’t even remember what my point was. I don’t think I had one. I think I was just being dumb.

As I was processing through said stupidity, though, I had an epiphany.

There are a variety of things Bryan tells me that I don’t believe. I don’t trust what he says, or I question that he really knows what he’s talking about.

When he says to me that the rules have changed and one is no longer required to put two spaces after a period, I ask him to site his sources.

When he assures me he doesn’t think I’m stupid, I repeat back to him my twisted version of what he said to make me feel stupid.

When he says I’m a good writer, I make him list the specific good things he liked, just to be sure he’s not floating me platitudes.

I honestly wish I could trust him more when he tells me things – not that he’s not trustworthy, but I am not trusting.

Today I realized that THIS is my baggage. THIS is the legacy handed to me by events of my childhood.

As a child of divorce I may not have the side effect of wondering when Bryan’s going to leave me for another woman – I have always trusted him in this way and have no fear or jealousy of his relationships with women – but I DO have the side effect of wondering whether he’s telling me the truth or blowing smoke up my ass.

Is he telling me what I want to hear? Is he speaking one thing with his words and displaying the opposite thing with his actions? Is he smoothing things over? Does he speak in platitudes?

I spent my whole life deciphering my father’s words, trying to distinguish their meaning and his intent. I felt guarded around him. Even as a young child I sensed the difference between words and actions, even if I didn’t have the maturity to understand it.

How does one trust a father who says he’s always there for you, when he says this to you over the phone from another state?

My head hurts just thinking about all that this means to me, how it sheds light on so much of my dysfunction, how it clouds so much of my communication with Bryan.

I love my father. Eight years ago he moved closer to me, and a couple years ago he retired. We see each other more than just on holidays, now. We have lunch, he plays with his grandkids.

Despite the past, despite his limitations, despite his failure to live up to what I expected of a father, I love him dearly. This has not always been the case. I have been bitter, I have been angry, I have wished he never existed. But I can honestly say that by the grace of God I am over that, and I truly love him for the father he is.

I feel relieved to have this piece of the puzzle, this piece that was missing, that fell under the table. I found it – or rather, God showed it to me – and I worked it into all the other pieces I’ve been putting together in my mind, the pieces that show me who I am.

I know, now, why I doubt everything, and because I know this, I can start to believe again.

The Fall of Remembering

It’s been cool and dark in the mornings this week, making it more difficult to crawl out of my cozy bed as early as I usually do. This morning it is raining, and we have been without rain for so long I actually did a happy little rain dance in front of my tomato plants as they drank it in.

[I was wearing my bubble gum pink bathrobe with embroidered cocktails as I did this, and all I can say is, Praise Jesus for tall fences!]

The house is quiet, except for Thomas’ cooing, and I have the urge to play Christmas music.

I love the fall, wearing jeans again, lighting candles and creating atmosphere in my home, making dinners that slowly roast in the oven, meals with soups and sauces.

This fall I enter into a season of remembrance. It was this time last year we learned that Gordy would not be getting better, which set a chain reaction of denial, acceptance, and last goodbyes.

I was talking to my mom the other day about her upcoming trip to the Minnesota State Fair. It’s one of the largest and best fairs in the country, and I’ve actually planned trips home to coincide with the fair because I miss it so much.

Gordy loved the fair, so I asked my mom what his favorite attractions were. She mentioned machinery hill where the farm equipment was on display, the dairy barn where he always had a malt, the pronto pups, watching the live TV broadcasts from the network booths, and then there were the years Gordy entered his photography into the art competitions.

We both began to cry as we remembered.

But as my mom sobbed, she said that she worried about forgetting things – his smell, the sound of his voice, significant events, everyday things.

I know this feeling of wanting to hang onto everything, I think that’s why I take so many pictures and display them in photo albums and scrapbooks. Years ago I filled up an entire photo album with pictures from just one quarter of college because I wanted to document EVERYTHING.

Last week when I got together with some girlfriends, and don’t even remember what we were talking about, but Alecia quoted a line from the movie Clue about the “flames burning on the side of my face!”

As she said this, she glanced sideways at me with a knowing smirk on her face, and my eyes went wide as I shot straight up in my seat.

“OH MY LORD!” I exclaimed in my usual drama “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU REMEMBERED THAT!”

We both laughed at this inside joke as the other gals looked on without a clue.

One line quoted from one movie we saw fifteen years ago brought back to me more than just the movie. It flooded all my senses with smells of popcorn, the sight of the bunch of us cozied on the sectional in the dorm lounge like newborn puppies, the nausea of staying up until 5:30am watching the same funny movie over and over again, only it’s not so much that the movie is funny, but that the people you are watching it with are ridiculously silly.

I took a picture of that night, never wanting to forget it.

But still, I forgot.

Until Alecia reached down into the recesses of my mind and pulled out one phrase from that evening, and all was remembered.

I told my mom this story, hoping to comfort her. I reassured her that even if some things slipped from the front of her mind, her memories would always be stored deep inside. One day someone will say a word, or she’ll see something, or smell something, and it will remind her of something she hadn’t thought of for a long time.

And she will simultaneously laugh and cry as she remembers, aching in her loss, but joyous in the memories.

Technology 101

My mother is good at a lot of things.

She’s a great teacher, a loyal friend, kind to strangers, and she’s the YOUNGEST seventy-year-old I know.

A computer whiz, she is not.

“Jennifer, I’m just SICK about this, but I think I erased all those pictures you sent me!”

“What pictures? I didn’t send you any pictures.”

“You emailed all those cute pictures of Ruthie and Thomas, and I just can’t find where they are on my computer.”

“I didn’t email you the pictures, mom. I sent you a link to my website. You were looking at the pictures on the internet, not on your computer.”

“Well I tried typing that website into my email but I couldn’t get it to work.”

“Into your email?”

“Oh, I suppose I would have to put that on the internet, wouldn’t I?”