The Three Years Tree

Rule of three tries…

Approach the task with good humor and humility. Presume things will go wrong. Resolve to be patient about it. Presume, but don’t believe, because you got this. Third time’s a charm, Right?

Third time without him, that is.

Set specific time to depart for the local big box hardware store where we always buy the tree. Wear Santa hats.

Strap tree to top of car, rather than stuffing it in the car to provide a year’s worth of needles to vacuum from various crevices for the year.

Get home without tree falling off top of car. Leave tree in cold garage for lunch break.

And now….

Tree stand.

Complimenting yourself for being clever enough to leave the stand on the work shelf in the garage since last year, rather than high and unreachable in the rafters where Mike used to put it, pick up stand.

Discover that unspecified rodent has purloined substantial amounts of insulation (must be from the bathroom in the breezeway that connects to the garage – the one that is now so cold) to construct cozy nest in the tree stand base. Eww.

Don gloves. Remove insulation. Wipe with disinfecting wipes.

Place protective plastic on floor in front of bay window (that Mike meticulously re-puttied when he was so sick, taking breaks to sit down, over three days), for inevitable spillage of water when attempting to nourish tree.

Attach base that looks oddly like a giant cervical cap (ewww) to fresh-cut base of trunk. Place in larger base, that has a foot pedal that is supposed to allow you to waggle the tree around until it is straight, upright and stable, and then lock it there.

Angelic daughter holds tree strait. Perfect! Lock.

Let go.

Tree immediately lists sideways.

Try again.

Tree lists again.

Remove tree with giant cervical cap from larger base.  Notice puddles, resulting from brilliant inspiration to put water in the stand before you put the tree in, on the plastic intended to protect wood floor, running inexorably toward said wood. Dash to kitchen for paper towels.

Angelic daughter decamps to watch TV when Mom’s swearin….erm, expressions of frustration, become a bit overwhelming.

Notice that in your efforts to place and lock tree, plastic has skidded on the floor, shifting tree way off center in front of bay window.

Sigh.

Try again.

Breathe. Employ observation, reason and calculation. Realize giant cervical cap thing needs to be snugger on trunk, and needs to sit lower in base.

Use garden loppers to remove low branches interfering with giant thorn-looking thingees that have to be screwed in tight to tree trunk.

Screw in giant thorn looking thingees.

Sit back in satisfaction. Nice and tight.

Time to try again.

Third time’s a charm, right?

Lift tree with giant cervical cap thing into larger base, and feel the satisfying click as it settles in to the correct spot. Feels stable. Step back to look.

Looks straight.

Praying (because God really cares about whether my Christmas tree is straight and stable, right?), shove foot pedal intended to allow waggling-around into lock position, and stomp down.

Holy crap. Maybe God does care that it is straight!

(No, dumbass, God cares that you get this done so you can calm down and stop swearin…expressing frustration, and move on to the decorating part which allows you to involve angelic daughter, retrieved from her retreat to the TV).

Praying more (hey, it worked), every-so-gently drag plastic back to center tree in front of window.

It worked again.

Lights!

Having been brilliant enough to buy two extra sets of lights last year, in anticipation of the future inevitable malfunction of lights that worked perfectly before, begin stringing lights – smugly, because you checked, to be sure the star that will go on the top gets the female end it needs to plug into.

Carefully distribute two strings of 300 lights in tiers around tree. Pick up third and final string.

Realize that final string will have a female end where it needs to plug into the wall.

Swea…Sigh. Breathe.

I put 600 lights on the tree, backwards. Used the female end that also has a male end at the top instead of the one with just the female end.

Unwrap lights. Rewrap lights. Decide 600 is enough. Last year’s tree, which had 900, was bigger.

Plug in.

Looks good!

Angelic daughter, creeping back in from TV room, proceeds with garlands and chains, and we (ok, I) only break four ornaments in the process of getting them out of their nests in the Christmas boxes and up on the tree.

After placing all her own handmade ornaments and garlands from school years, especially anything that has a picture of her on it, and the one with her Dad’s name on it, daughter decamps to take another break and watch more TV.

Which leaves me to hang the significant ornaments.

Listening to Vince Gill, “Breath of Heaven.” Hold me together.

The one with the little mouse at the front door, welcoming us to our new house nearly 20 years ago. House had LOTS of mice, we discovered.

Sniff.

The one of the little snowman with a shovel, that symbolized that year that Mike shoveled every two hours, seemingly for weeks on end. Big snow that year.

Tears.

I didn’t expect the one that really got me, though – a little bear dressed as Santa.

“Bear” was my pet name for Mike.

More tears.

“Can we have our quiet time now?

Breathe. Dry up.

Of course, sweetheart.

Regard the tree.

Oops, forgot the star.

Managing not to break anything (third time, anyway), clip top of tree with garden loppers. Pop star on top, held by treetop twig through the arms of the star.

Plug in.

Ta-da!

I really should have put that third string of lights on.  The lowest branches have none.

Abandon perfectionist tendencies.  Decide this is good enough.

Because, however imperfect, to me, there really isn’t anything as lovely, peaceful, and comforting as a Christmas tree.

Angelic daughter is tired. Sit with her upstairs until she falls deep asleep.  Return downstairs for more “tree regarding” time.

Play Christmas choral music, volume very low, by some Englishy choir, recorded in an echoey-Englishy-medeival stone cathedral.

Lo, how a rose ere blooming.

Smile.

Wishing you a beautiful tree, or Menorah, or whatever brings you peace and light this time of year, and hoping to get over this cough in time to sing Englishy carols in a big stone church, I remain,

Your tree-regarding, Santa-hat wearing, soon-to-be-cookie-baking,

Ridiculouswoman

The Sideways Hourglass

How’d my hourglass fall over?

Back when Mike would drive me to the train station for my commute to my high-stress job, we’d sometimes arrive early enough to see the train before mine go by – it was an express, and our daughter loved the thrill of watching it blast through the station (from the safety of the car, of course.)

We came to call these express trains “whoosh” trains, because they’d “whoosh” by.

Every once in a while, she still asks to drive over to the station, to see a whoosh train.

Whoosh trains define my relationship to time, now – time that is whooshing by like a train I’m not on.

I feel like I should be “better” by now. It’s been over two years and we’re coming up on our third Christmas season without Mike. I finished my book and I’m working up the courage to start sending out my query letters about it. I’ve painted rooms, given away almost all his clothes, including, finally, the barn coat and boots. I’m still working on figuring out what to do with his collection of war games, and the telescope and the tandem are still in the garage. But still.

I’ve had days when I felt happy. Days when I didn’t think about Mike, and then felt guilty about it. I’m surprised by this new wave of grief that has hit me, now, at the start of the season of joy.

The train whooshes by. I’m supposed to be trying to live with love and laughter, and right now, I suck at it. I’m doing OK with the love part, I guess, except it feels like it is coming from a still, quiet place that just sits there – it isn’t an active kind of love. It’s an, “OK, get up, one foot in front of the other, let’s try to be a decent person today” kind of love, and I still fail at it regularly.

I feel an odd sort of responsibility to “make progress,” and I feel like I haven’t made any. I keep getting older and I’m every bit as alone. I keep losing and regaining the same three pounds.

The panicky anxiety is back. Mike could fix that. One hug from him and I was OK. I felt safe.

I don’t feel safe. I feel exposed. Unlocked. Threatened and afraid.

I sure as hell don’t feel like I’m “making progress.”

I feel like someone knocked the my hourglass over sideways.

Everyone else’s hourglass is efficiently sifting its sand, and when it is just about done, they’ll just “strike the bell and turn the glass” and start a new day.

I feel stuck in a place where time passes, I get older, but things don’t get better. Just dustier, greyer, yellowed. Old. Dried up.

chess and hourglass still life

I kept one of his many chessboards, the one he won as an elementary school champion. I still have his hats, though the smell of him is fading from them. I have too many dried up roses around the house. Feng shui, or something like it, says not to keep those, and to throw away the chipped dishes and cracked glassware. Working on it.

I haven’t been reading anything other than the deluge of catalogs that come this time of year, which I find oppressive. Maybe this year I’ll just do one of those, “Anne has made a donation in your name to…(insert laudable charitable organization doing the good in the world that I don’t seem to have the will or gumption or energy or courage to do.)

From darkness riseth light, right? Right?

Each year my church has a “longest night” service for people like me – people who need comfort because they feel left out of the joy.

That’s the message, though, isn’t it? He came in our darkest hour – never mind that we appropriated a pagan midwinter festival designed to address fears that the dark of winter would last forever and light would not come again. He came to bring hope to the hopeless and light to the darkness.

And to unburden us of our sins.

I feel like failing to be happy is a sin. I feel like I shouldn’t have to work so hard to feel grateful for the life I have and I don’t understand why I keep thinking about the life I never had instead of the one I do have, now. I don’t understand why I keep making the same mistakes, over and over again.

I’ve been slipping in my observation of the Middle Aged Woman rules. I’m in danger of giving up, drying up, sinking into a cronehood made up of joint pain and thinning hair and sagging spirit…well, let’s be honest here, sagging everything.

I have to go wash my hair, put on some lipstick, and take my daughter to see the holiday model train display. I’ll try to be quiet, and let her just enjoy it.

And maybe when they start sprinkling the fake snow from the ceiling, I’ll look out the window at the specks of real snow that is falling, and remember that spring will come.

From darkness riseth light.

In the bleak midwinter.

Time to buy a tree, and smell the piney-ness of it, and find the joy, even if it is small, and deeply buried.

Until then I remain,

Your humble, flawed, struggling, hanging on to hope by a thread,

Ridiculouswoman

Gowf

How I feel about golf, in one photo…

As I was leaving total body fitness class a few days ago, I was greeted with the above pictured troop of frozen golf carts.

(Or “gowf carts,” as those who play this spectacularly dull sport usually say it – especially the TV commentators. Mike used to watch “gowf” on TV – which, for me, is somewhere between watching paint dry and sticking knitting needles in my eyes. Suffice it to say, I was always able to find myself something else to do until the “gowf” was over, which often was somewhere between six and ten hours in).

So the sight of frozen “gowf” carts?

Oh, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, HA!

Just sayin’

Preferring brisk walks not involving attempts “to place a small ball in a smaller hole with weapons ill-designed for that purpose,” (Churchill),

I remain,

Your loyal, non-conforming because non-gowfer, but hoping the fitness class can get me skiing again someday,

Ridiculouswoman

Resilience, or, Time to Turn Off the Water

I realized there was one faucet I hadn’t turned off…

“Do not go gentle into that good night,…
Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”

 – Dylan Thomas

It was 20 degrees (Farenheit) this morning. Some of the first snow still has not melted.

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A few weeks ago I remembered to shut off the water to the outside faucets, and to unscrew the hoses – which I left (not neatly coiled) on the ground. The hoses might freeze but HA! the pipes won’t.

I’m the last house on the block with a lawn completely blanketed in golden leaves, because my day for the lawn guys was Friday, and Friday was the day it snowed. They’ll come this week for the last round of lawn maintenance (“Fall clean-up”) this year, and they’ll do the gutters too.

Mike used to do the gutters, and insisted on going up on top of the house even when he could barely stand up for more than 5 minutes. It’s a guy thing, I guess. Like shoveling snow. He did that too, until he nearly fainted again.

I must have been thinking about that when I was puttering around in my flannel nightgown  on this cold, (but sunny and lovely, in that low-slanty-light, late autumn way) morning, when I wandered into the downstairs bathroom, off the kitchen, to ponder the state of the peeling wallpaper.

And was stopped in my tracks by that cutesy turkey towel, and the little scarecrow-in-a-jar Mike and I bought on some long-ago fall excursion, staring at me. I got them out right after Halloween, in accordance with the Thanksgiving Rules (no Christmas decorations, or Christmas music, until the day AFTER Thanksgiving. Over the River and Through the Woods, Now Thank We All Our God, We Gather Together: GOT IT?)

Oh dear. It appears there’s a faucet I haven’t quite managed to turn off.

Tears.

Not sweet, sentimental, “aww, remember? Isn’t that cute?” tears – these were real tears, coming from sudden, unexpected burst of despair.

Oh-oh.

I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, “Anne, maybe it is finally time to see someone (“see someone” being that dodgy euphemism for “get a therapist.”)”

I’m one of those people who thinks I should be able to snap out of it on my own. Figure out what’s setting me off and fix it, right? Have some backbone, clean something, paint something, get crackin’ cutting those logs in half –  you’ll need them for the fireplace soon. Feeling sick? Blue? Get your ass outdoors and go for a brisk walk.

Or, at least, head over to the fitness center and work it out.

Which I did, and I feel better. Much better.

I also figured out what hit me this morning, and why seeing that towel, and the gorgeous gold leaf-blanket all over the lawn, turned the tear-faucet on. It’s the same thing that happens every year when autumn slips away.

Not that I don’t love what’s coming next, ho, ho, hark the herald and all that, but I always feel cheated – I want more of these crisp, blue sky, golden fall days.

The best seasons are always the shortest.

That must have gotten wrapped up in my subconscious with losing Mike too soon.

He wanted to make it to October, so he could die under a bright blue October sky, but it didn’t work out that way. He died on a hot August night, almost exactly at the halfway point between the 18 and 24 months of time the oncologist had estimated he would have.

His birthday is in October, and now both he and October are gone, and the last blaze of autumn is frozen in the yard, the trees are bare and the gutters need cleaning, to keep the ice dams of winter at bay.

I pulled myself together before I came out of that bathroom, so my daughter wouldn’t see I’d been crying again, and noticed that my favorite grass in the front garden, IMG_20181113_130206.jpgwhich had been completely flattened by the wet snow, had bounced back.

It bloomed very late, the last week of October, with pretty pinkish tufts of fluff at the top.

Then, almost as quickly as it had bloomed, it dried up, but still stood there, adding structure and height where other flowering plants and shrubs had drooped or died back completely.

And there it was this morning, revived, out from under that hummock of wet, heavy snow, standing tall again. All by itself.

The lawn guys whacked it off very early last spring, when I wanted to enjoy it’s structure for longer, but it came all the way back.

Well, dammit, I thought – if the grass can do it, so can I.

I’ll enjoy that tuft of grass until it gets flattened by snow again, and then I’ll enjoy it in the spring until it gets cut back again, and I’ll delight in it when it comes back and blooms late again. World without end, amen.

That beautiful slanty-light sunshine is supposed to last through Friday, so maybe there will be a few more brisk walks before the cold and snow set in for real.

Until then, I remain,

Your spine-stiffened, spigot-stopping, about-to-embark-on-another-paint-job,

Ridiculouswoman

 

 

First Snow

Muffle my fears, please…not my heart…

Late this year. Usually comes before Halloween.

Heavy, wet, sticky – the whipped-cream, white-frosting kind, that will likely melt away by tomorrow, I hope without taking a few branches down with it, when the wind blows.

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I love the muffled, muting effect of snow. Calming.

I need that today.

Yesterday, the early dark seemed menacing. More than two years on, there are still times when Mike’s absence, and the accompanying not-having-a-man-in-the-house feeling, gives me the creeps. Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong, independent woman and always have been. I can handle things, and pretty much have handled them for myself since I was 18 – and for my late husband from the day we were married until all the arrangements were finished after he died, and for my daughter since she was born.

But knowing I can handle it doesn’t keep me from sometimes doubting I can handle it, especially when I’m feeling inadequate – the too-frequent, bleak feeling of being only half, and the lesser half at that, of what our daughter needs.

She misses him so much. Two years and she only now has begun to repeat, “when a person goes to heaven, they can’t come back. Dad’s not coming back.”

And the only response I can offer is the same as I have been saying all along, that while he can’t be here with us in a way where we can hug him and talk to him, we can always feel his love with us

“Dad’s love never ends.”

I remind her of those times when we’re driving somewhere, and she suddenly changes the radio station and the song that she lands on is one that was special to us, or better, one that was special to just the two of them.

They used to drive around listening to music, sometimes just to drive around, listening to music.

I’ve invited her to bring her CD’s into the car with me, but it is not the same car and he’s not driving it. She just relies on the radio, now.

I keep thinking we’re getting better, that we’re learning how to move on, and then I’ll have a night like last night and a morning like today, where each moment of hope is countered by a moment of fear, guilt, shame or anger. The four horsemen of “this-is-not-who-I-want-to-be.”

There is no love without forgiveness. Why can’t I forgive myself? Why do I magnify every lapse of parental patience into a major, soul-crushing crisis of inadequacy?

Because Mike’s not here to tell me to snap out of it and stop being such a drama queen?

She gets over it before I do.

Way to go, Mom. Some Mom.

BAD MOM.

Am I doing anything right?

This third Thanksgiving without him, I agreed to take our daughter to dinner at my brother’s in-laws. They eat much earlier in the day than we usually do, but it is a chance for my daughter to finally have a family holiday with a lot more family – I’m nostalgic for the big family holiday meals we had when I was a child, with grandpa and the uncle or the cousins. She’s never really had one like that. Grandpa died long before she was born, the cousins moved away, and Mike wouldn’t go, so for years it was just the two of us and my parents. Then just the three of us, at home. Now just the two of us, alone – but I keep the empty third chair at the table. That’s probably not healthy, anymore.

I hope the change will be good for her — she’ll get to meet some cousins-in-law that have only been mythical to her so far.

And I hope it will be good for me, to be around more people – other adults – and to be forced by social convention and good manners to get out of my own head for a while.

By the end of today, my daughter will have new carpeting in her room. Carpeting called “party” from a series called “joy.” Appropriate for her beautiful, joyful, resilient spirit.

The new carpeting for my room and the hall won’t come until January, but I don’t mind waiting. Next year, 2019, is a Big One for me, birthday-wise. Might as well start with new carpet and go from there.

For today, though, I’m just going to look at the snow, eat some soup, be still, and try to “get back to just right,” as we say in our house.

Hoping that the muffling effect of the snow will muffle my fears and my self-doubt, but not my heart, I remain,

Your jittery, inadequate, unexpectedly blue but believing

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the sun will come out soon,

Ridiculouswoman

“There Came a Still, Small Voice”

That buck stopped me in my tracks, and reminded me to be still….and grateful

“…and in that still voice, onward came the Lord…”

-from Mendelssohn’s “Elijah”

I just wanted to grab a little fresh air on what, if the weather nerds were to be trusted, was to be the last sunny (or at least partly sunny) day of October.

I headed out on my usual route at the forest preserve savannah, but noticed a little yellow sign tacked to a post. “New Trail,” it said.

Cool, I’ll try a new path – it headed off in a direction I’d always wanted to explore, but couldn’t because of swampy patches and tall grass.

But now a path had been mowed that way, so off I went.

Within five strides I caught my left walking boot on a small stump sticking up right in the middle of this “new trail,” felt myself go horizontal, and WHUMP, fell face first on the damp grass.

Cut the meat of my left hand on the zipper tab of the little wallet-purse I was carrying (lock in the glove box next time, dumbass!), muddied my black jeans and jammed my wrist in a futile attempt to stop a hard face plant. Bruised my right hip which landed hard on the little lipstick compact I had in my coat pocket (even out here, the middle-aged woman rules apply.)

Up slow. Nothing broken, it seems. The cut, while ugly and bleeding, was small and not deep. The black jeans would survive.

Cursing, dropping “F” bombs loudly, out there where cyclists and joggers and other walkers were no doubt trying to grab their few remaining minutes of October glory (oh, nice) I stood up and kept going, bitching about how I had been lured onto a “new trail” that clearly wasn’t ready for use – more stumps and sticks and logs and branches all over the place. I didn’t want to have to walk looking down just to keep myself from falling again.  So I consciously began picking my feet up higher, in a silly-walk-looking kind of march, and pressed on. Came to a little bridge over the swampy part and took a photo of a stand of russet oaks:IMG_20181029_162322442.jpg

And just after I did, walking on a bit, still cursing, I saw him. A buck, with a small but impressive rack of antlers, looking right back at me. Can you find him in the photo at the top of this post? He’s there, just right of center.

“Oh!” I stopped. I stood still. I slowly drew my camera back out from my rear pocket (grateful that I keep in back there, instead of in the front pocket, where the already cracked face of it would no doubt have shattered for good from the impact of the fall.)

I slowly took a few pics, hoping that cropping or zooming might capture him.

As I put my phone away, it occurred to me that in all the times I had seen deer around here, I had never before seen a buck with antlers.

I tried to move closer, slowly and quietly, but the buck took a step toward me, as if to say, “Hey! I’m eating here! Pipe down and shove off!”

Though the deer near here are used to people, I figured it wouldn’t be totally out of the realm of possibility to get gored by a buck who was irritated that I’d interrupted his grazing.

So I turned around and slowly walked away.

And another, smaller buck with smaller antlers, but antlers just the same, came blasting across from my left, toward the buck I was now calling “Big Daddy.”

Wow.

I had only planned to walk for about half an hour anyway, because I had to get home to prep dinner, greet the companion/caregiver and head off to rehearsal. Cleaned and bandaged the hand, no time to change the jeans.

Before being admitted to the Chicago Master Singers, I had never sung “Elijah.” It has been challenging and wonderful to learn the it. Like all of Mendelssohn is to me, it is a beautiful, moving piece.

In the text, when the Lord at last responds to Elijah’s prayers, after a mighty wind (but the Lord was not in the tempest) after the sea was upheaved, after the fire (but the Lord was not in the fire) – “there came a “still, small voice.”

“And in that small voice, onward came the Lord.”

And above him were seraphim, begun with a soft soprano solo, “holy, holy, holy…”

And the heaven’s were filled with his glory.

I looked up Mendelssohn, to make sure I spelled it correctly, and found that it means, “son of Mendel,” and “Mendel” is probably derived from  “Menachem,” which, if Wikipedia is correct,  means, “one who consoles.”

I found consolation for my minor scrapes and bruises when I saw that buck, and when I sang that chorus at rehearsal, I was reminded that God’s amazing creative glory often comes in moments of stillness, like when that buck and I stood looking at each other, dissipating my little pain and my petty little frustration and my cursing and bringing me back to beauty and peace.

And reminding me of recent, seemingly daily reports of inexplicable tragedies and inconceivable losses of breathtaking magnitude. Feeling simultaneously ashamed (for being so upset about my minor, transitory physical scrapes) and grateful, for how lucky I am, to have another day to walk in the woods.

For those whose grief is fresh, whose pain feels insurmountable, for whom the senselessness of this vale of tears is relentless, may you hear that still, small voice, and be consoled.

I’ll be thinking of  you at this weekend’s performances.

Until then, trying to be still, listening for that small voice, hoping for consolation for all those who grieve,

I remain, your sore, humbled, grateful,

Ridiculouswoman

 

 

 

 

Door Between Worlds

Once a year, the veil thins….

Late, after the few little superheroes and monsters and teenagers who aren’t ready to let it go have come and gone, I keep the lights off.

I relight the Jack-o-Lanterns and try to capture the look of them, in the dark,

Dressed in black (ok, black peignoir, ooh!) I listen to Hildegaard von Bingen, which, even though this is the prayerful music of a medieval nun, gives the night an appropriately eerie, otherworldy feel. Sometimes I keep the door-answering witch hat on. Go crones!

In the rare years when it has been warm enough, we’ve had that music on, with the lights out and the door open, to add a little Halloween creepiness to the proceedings.

This year, I had to go to chorus rehearsal, so my Hildegaard time happened very late at night, and the photos were taken just a few minutes before midnight. I took the witch’s hat to rehearsal with me. Kept me warm in the big drafty stone chapel, but I had to take it off so the guy behind me could see the conductor.

So Halloween this year was a little different, but it was OK.

Just to add a little more creepiness, I drove home from rehearsal with the gauge on “E” and the gas tank alert light blaring yellow on the dash. Forgot to get gas early this morning and had to stop, making my daughter a few minutes late for work. My bad.

I made it home last night in time to chat briefly with the (very kind, sweet) companion who volunteered to come over on Halloween.  I stowed the candy, got the garbage and recycling out to the end of the driveway, whispered good night to my daughter (who, according to the companion, had just gone up, but probably fell deep asleep once she heard us talking and knew I was home), and changed into that black nightgown.  I put on the Hildegaard and slipped outside.  I relit the jack-o-lanterns and stayed out there for a moment to enjoy that dark, quiet, intense, open-door-between-worlds vibe of the night, and to snap a few pics.

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And now it’s over, for the third time without Mike (who used to answer the door with our daughter, because most of the kids came and went before I got home from work). She says she’s been dreaming about him, lately. Getting up very early in the morning, actually still in the middle of the night, to “take a break.” The new mattresses, for us both, seem to help, though. When I got to bed I slept heavily and well, and she is starting to, again. But not last night.

She talks about missing  him, and repeats what I have told her about how we will carry that feeling of missing him around with us for the rest of our lives, but that we have to learn to carry it without letting it weigh us down.

“Dad wants you to have a happy life. This adulting thing is hard for everybody, but you’re doing great, sweetie. Dad’s proud of you, from heaven.”

And I’m sure he is, because she is doing well. I can see her learning to manage her sadness wisely as she goes about her day, like the gentle, kind, delightful adult she has become. I’m glad she enjoys the companionship of others, because really, what 20-something wants to spend all their time with their Mom?

She just wants to know that I’ll come back. That I’ll come home. That I’ll be there.

I remind her that I’m here. (But I don’t say, “for now.” I hope there will be decades more before I’ll have to start that conversation – time for her to gain confidence in companions, friends, younger family – and herself).

Instead, I tell her that we’re doing a good job of learning to live our lives without him, because we don’t have a choice. We have to carry on. And he sends his love, always.

Dad’s love never ends.

I heard a rustling in the leaves by the front walk, as I relit the candles. Little votive candles inside the pumpkins. We never thought of that when I was a kid, probably because trying to get a tall candle to stand up in the bottom of a carved pumpkin lengthened the whole already- elongated pumpkin-carving process – “who can scrape the insides cleanest?”-  and kept my brothers and me occupied for longer – very clever, Dad. I didn’t realize your  until tactic until I was past 40!

One of those little votives, in the pumpkin nearest the  rustling sound, stayed burning long after the others burned out. Much longer than I expected. Still burning when I finally went to bed.

I’ve decided to take that as a whisper from beyond, through the veil-between-worlds that thins to near transparency, once-a-year, on Halloween.

Wishing you a friendly rustling of leaves, and a glimpse through the occasional thinning veil, or open door between worlds,

I remain,

for one night a year, your “witchy”

Ridiculouswoman