Tag: grief

Mental Health, Grief, and the Hole in My Nose

Mental Health, Grief, and the Hole in My Nose

Well, hello! It’s good to see you again! It’s a gorgeous day here in my tiny part of Pennsylvania. It truly feels like fall: the air is quiet now that the birds have moved on. The sun is low. I’m sitting on the front porch 

The Escape Before the (I’m Sorry, What?!) Quarantine

The Escape Before the (I’m Sorry, What?!) Quarantine

It’s Wednesday of last week, and I’m writing this to you from a pool deck along the ocean in North Carolina. We’ve turned an idea to get away over Columbus Day weekend into a week-long stay in an oceanfront home in Corolla. We took the 

Grief, and When Our Children Show Us the Way Out

Grief, and When Our Children Show Us the Way Out

As I type this, there is an estate sale company in my mother’s house, sorting through her belongings. The estate manager called me from where she stood in my parents’ dining room this morning to ask me some questions, and when she looked outside, she paused our conversation. “It’s just beautiful here!” she said. “This is a lovely home.”

I hung up and cried.

I need to tell you about this past weekend. We’d decided to do some sort of Fun Family Fall Activity, and Quinlan really wanted to go to a place with a corn maze, so after we finished cleaning the house Saturday morning (Cian: “Why do we hafta keep cleaning the house all the time? It’s just going to have to get cleaned AGAIN.”), we drove to an apple orchard about thirty minutes south of us. We handed over the bonkers-expensive entrance fee, donned our masks, and made our way to the corn maze after dodging a small handful of social media influencers in their Instagram Hats as they teetered out of a pumpkin patch.

All Quinlan wanted to do was this corn maze, right? Forget apple picking. Forget pumpkin patch-scouring. The corn maze was the Fun Fall Activity she’d asked to do–but it only took her five minutes of watching us twist and turn and get us lost and backtrack through this thing to decide a) she’s claustrophobic, b) corn mazes are the worst idea on earth, and c) if she left it up to us knuckleheads, we’d be stuck in this thing either forever, or at least until the coyotes came to eat us.

She watched us bumble around some more before she decided she was fed up. Without another word, and in Full Quinlan Mode, she charged off at a clip, leaving us to follow her. She marched, turning this corner and that, while the rest of us scrambled over dried corn stalks and stones to keep up with her. I had to ask her to slow down once, when we lost sight of her around a bend. But if you know this daughter of ours, you also know that none of us thought for a minute to question if she knew where she was going–this is The Mighty Quinn we’re talking about. You’ve heard the stories. Let me tell you: this maze was supposed to take us forty-five minutes to navigate. With Quinn leading the way, it only took us fifteen minutes before we tumbled off the end of the path and out of the maze behind her. We emerged, a little of out of breath, to see this ten-year-old standing with her fists clenched, glaring at the maze’s entrance like it’d personally offended her.

This kid. She stays even-keeled, usually. But when she does get upset, or thinks something is ridiculous, or feels anxious about something, it’ll bubble under the surface, tormenting her, until she simply decides she’s had enough and, well, charges off to do something about it.

David has stories of coming home from school to see his mom single-handedly ripping up all the carpet in their home because she’d finally had enough of it. I’ve done this, too, actually: ripped up carpet (I swear I knew there were hardwood floors underneath). I’ve also moved cities on a whim, repainted rooms on a lark, and, just last week, asked my hairdresser to chop off six or eight inches of hair the day after I decided I just didn’t like detangling it anymore:I see Quinlan operating the same way: overthinking and overthinking, followed by snap–the point where she just breaks and does something about it. I hate this in myself, but admire it so much in her.

A forty-five-minute-long maze, conquered in fifteen.

There’s an estate sale company in my mother’s house right now. I’ve just received another phone call, this one from our real estate agent to discuss the listing. I hate all of this so much. This is the corn maze–the grief and the quiet and the noise of wondering what turn is next, and why nobody seems to know how to get out of here. I feel quiet, but my head is noisy.

And then there’s my Quinlan, who finds herself in the maze full of dead-ends and looming stalks and allows herself to get overwhelmed just long enough for it to become determination.

And then she charges out of it. Without thinking, she finds a way. Without worry, she knows where she’s doing. She acts on instinct (and, okay, a little bit of rage) and finds her way out.

When Paul and I were about Quinn’s age, a couple of years after my grandfather died, I used to catch my mom watching us, often when we were seated across from each other at a table, with her chin on a hand. She’d just watch us when we were doing something simple, drawing or talking, just being us, and there’d be this look on her face. My brother will make fun of me for describing this–I wonder if he remembers it–but there were moments growing up, when our relationship got tough, or I was at wit’s end, and I’d remember that look. It was more than love–it felt like, in that moment in a booth at Little John’s Restaurant on York Road, she couldn’t believe her good luck in what sat across that table from her.

I say all the time that I want to be more like Quinlan: affectionate but fierce, sensitive but strong, full of integrity but completely compassionate. The corn maze, my sadness, this business of grieving and estate-settling and patching a new kind of life together over the hole of what we’ve lost–it’s all layers of the same issue. And, as always, the children show us to handle them.

My mom knew. And now it’s my turn to watch and learn, too.

 

Onward, with Jazz Hands

Onward, with Jazz Hands

The kids have told me that my half-jokey-but-really-I-was-seriousness declaration of “Onward, with joy!” as our family motto is basically the un-coolest thing I have ever done in their entire lifetimes, so just imagine their (implied) glee when our friend David texted me the Latin translation 

We’re Gonna Have to Build Our Own Raft

We’re Gonna Have to Build Our Own Raft

It appears I’m in that stage of grieving wherein I wear all of my mother’s jewelry. (I think it’s Grief Level 6. We’re also moving into Grief Level 7, which is when we begin cleaning out her house and start co-opting pieces of her furniture 

Twenty-Two Months

Twenty-Two Months

My mom has died. I’ll probably fill you in a bit more further down the road (almost as fun as a birth story, I’m sure), but for now just know this: she passed away Tuesday afternoon, almost a week after she started to really shift and we came together to keep vigil. She died at home, in her living room, with us by her side and a favorite young caregiver who knew exactly how to guide us through it. It was no easier after almost two years of knowing it would happen this way. My mother is gone.

Yesterday, David and I stopped by Wegmans to get some groceries after a long day spent funeral arranging with Paul and Sarah. I need to stay away from stores for a while, I think, because here’s what happened every single time I passed an older person: “Oh, you’re alive!” I’d think. “Good for you.” Or, “Ah! Still alive for your kids? Must be nice!”

I doubt that’s healthy.

I took the girls shopping today for dresses to wear next week. It was a sweet mother-and-daughters day, and their first time in stores since coronavirus moved into Central PA. But as we parked in the shopping center, a woman about my age and another lady who was presumably her mother walked in front of our car, chatting closely. I looked at them and felt angry.

Maybe I shouldn’t?

This afternoon I picked up the phone to call my mom. It was sheer habit: my days revolved around the medication updates, the visits, the every-couple-hours phone calls. Except, you know, I don’t do any of that anymore. So I called my brother instead.

I think that part’s good, at least.

I am so, so sad. It’s all I can really say right now. We’d grown up a lot together as mother and daughter these past twelve years or so, and I was really looking forward to seeing what could happen next. But I’m on my own now, parent-wise, and I’m to raise my own children without her guidance or ear or one-liners (or, um, Netflix password). This is going to be hard, you guys.

We are going to miss her so much.

Memorial Day 2020: The Family Gathers, an F150, and I Yelp about Social Distancing

Memorial Day 2020: The Family Gathers, an F150, and I Yelp about Social Distancing

Hey. It’s the Tuesday after what has probably been a quiet Memorial Day weekend for many of us (if you, though, are reading this not from your living room couch but from a crowded beach, please know a] I’m mad at you because SOCIAL DISTANCING, 

Rest in the Time of Coronavirus (and, um, Brain Cancer)

Rest in the Time of Coronavirus (and, um, Brain Cancer)

I was talking with my brother, Paul, sister-in-law Sarah, and David this week, when Sarah and I got to chatting about writing. She’s diligent, writing 500 words every morning at her computer before starting her work day, and it impresses me. (She also walks miles