Autumn Reprise

Well, lookit you, November. Didn’t know you had it in ya. Very nicely done.

That slant of afternoon light is there, the bright blue of the sky and a blanket of gold on the lawn from leaves brought down by the weight of snow, now melted. My phone’s camera just can’t do it justice.

I got the fire started, and the S’mores made. Lit the Jack-o-Lanters for a few extra nights, until they took their place in the new compost heap that used to be the chicken run.

Mine is the only lawn on the block still covered with leaves, but I don’t care. The lawn guy suddenly seems to expect me to pay him in advance, before any work is done for the month.  Electric mowers are getting cheaper, and I had fun raking up a few bags of leaves to start the chicken-run compost. So maybe I’ll just handle it myself next year.

Angelic Daughter and I are gearing up for big changes; my going back to work full-time will mean she has to step up, step out and deal with new transportation, new people and new activities. I’ve been amazed and grateful and what a positive attitude she’s shown about it.

Anytime we have to change something that affects how she lives, what she does, where she goes and with whom she spends her time, it rattles me to the core. But I’ve got to suck it up and trust her. And trust God, who seems to keep throwing just what we need in our path just when we need it.

It’s concert week, and the choir I sing with is doing some incredibly beautiful, comforting music.  When the sound melds into one from out of the many and becomes a thing in itself, a perfect merger of text and music that swells or hushes with the promise of “lux aeterna” or the plea of “dona eis requiem,” I still get goosebumps.

I thought I’d be scrambling, but within the past two weeks everything came together to make sure Angelic Daughter has a companion while I’m at the rehearsals and performances we didn’t have covered yet, and even that she will be able to attend the concert. I can function when I know she is safe and well cared for.

Which is why this going back to work thing, as necessary and welcome as it is, still feels daunting. This has to work this time – I just can’t be interrupted with phone calls or texts constantly (while I simultaneously worry about why I’m not being interrupted with phone calls or texts constantly).

If you’re a parent you’ll never forget the first day of school, that autumn when you had to turn around and go, leaving your child in kindergarten. Maybe yours took it in stride (as did Angelic Daughter) but it didn’t stop the tears from forming, even if you were trying to hide them.

Fast forward through twenty years, and imagine having that experience over and over again, with each change of teacher, aide, school building or enrichment program. Will she be safe? Will she be happy? Will they understand her? Will she get any benefit out of this?

And now it’s happening again.

I’m counting on deep breathing, the kindness of people in our (relatively) small community, and help that keeps showing up unexpectedly, right on time.

So I’ll pack lunches the night before, (who am I kidding, I’ll do it in a mad rush in the morning) like I used to do. I’ll make laminated schedules and 3″ x 5″ card reminders and tape them to doors and put them in purses; I’ll add a few additional emergency contacts to her phone while also trying to teach her not to bother them unless it is a real emergency.

Tomorrow we find out if we’re set with the new program she tried out today, to fill her most of her day when I’m at work. I can’t imagine they won’t take her. She liked it and seemed really happy. I hope they don’t pull that rug, and leave us scrambling again.

Breathe.

I don’t want the lawn guys to come, yet. I want to savor this day, with the golden blanket of leaves, that remind me that beauty can come even when you thought the chance had passed.

I’m looking out the window through that gorgeous slant of sunlight, at the new chicken run compost heap with the Jack-o-Lanterns half buried in leaves, thinking about phases of life and how things that pass can transform into things that nourish the future.

Hoping I’ll catch the lawn guys when they do come, to ask them to empty the leaves and grass clippings into the chicken run compost, I remain,

Your happy, hopeful and still anxious as usual,

Ridiculouswoman

Tandem and Telescope: A Father’s Day Lament

The tandem is gone. I finally sold it, at a garage sale, for a tenth of what it originally cost.

The telescope, too. Sold on Letgo, for a third of a tenth of what it originally cost. It sat in the garage for more than 15 years; he stopped using it when something went awry with the star-finder thing; IMG_20190602_133923769_HDR~3.jpghe wasn’t much for spending time trying to figure out how to fix things, even if it was just how to recharge or replace a battery. He lost his astronomical mo.

Or maybe it was just that I had chosen the wrong kind of scope, or didn’t get the right filters or something, and he didn’t want to hurt my feelings so he used it for a little while and then retired it to the garage, where it stayed gathering dust for years. I was glad to see it go.

The tandem is another story. That was hard. It went to someone down the street and around the corner, but I’m guessing it isn’t going to stay there – probably will get resold for more than I got for it.  So though I told the buyer I was happy it would stay in the neighborhood, I cried when it was rolled away.

Mike transported our daughter all over the place on that thing, from the time she was in elementary school through half of high school, when she had gotten big enough to make her difficulty with pedaling with any force, a problem.

The diagnosis came a year or so after that.

So off to a corner by the wall in the garage it went, to gather dust itself, forlorn.the tandem

People in town who never met or spoke to Mike, knew him by that bike. They saw him riding her to school, then home by himself (a total distance of 5 miles), then back to school to pick her up and home again.

They saw them riding together on the bike paths, through the forest preserves and to the pool in the summer.

The bike, and how Mike used it to get her from place to place, become a sort of living “meme” of  fatherly devotion around here. Mike simultaneously got our daughter some fresh air and exercise (her legs had to go up an down, even if she couldn’t pedal very hard) while also giving her a view beyond the boundaries of our home and her school. Kids with developmental differences are often isolated, kept in their “special” classrooms for more than half the day, then transported to some kind of program filled with more kids with differences, to spend time until a parent could pick them up.

Mike didn’t let that happen to her.

Even though he chose to spend a lot of time alone, imposing a lot of isolation on himself, and by extension on our daughter, they were a very happy team, and under his protection, on the back of that bike, she got a broader view of the world and its possibilities.

Mike also got time away from the routine – the frequent drudgery – of being the stay-at-home parent.

But he made sure we knew that he loved his job.

And the bike was very much a symbol of that. Not just to me.

So if you happen to come across a big blue tandem on E-bay or some other online marketplace, please show it some respect. It might have been ridden by a World’s Greatest Dad.

I never got him that t-shirt. He wouldn’t have worn it, anyway, and he didn’t need a t-shirt for everyone to see what a great Dad he was. All he had to do was get on that bike.

There are two women, myself and our daughter, who have shed more tears today over that bike, and the Dad who rode it with such strength, love and devotion.

May happy memories, and maybe a good bike ride, comfort those who are missing their Dads today, and strengthen bereaved Moms who have to tell their kids that it is OK to cry.

And listen, helpless, when they do.

Trying to decide whether today’s cold drizzly mist is a blessing or an excuse, I remain,

Your thinking of buying a “World’s Greatest Dad” balloon to tie to the shepherd’s crook at Mike’s gravesite,

Ridiculouswoman

Thaw Gets Raw

You thought I was joking, about that snow pile, didn’t you.

Well, there it is. Coffee cup, plastic bottle and all, having begun its transformation into – a big, nasty, filthy pile of crap.

It has been well above freezing for three days running, and it has been raining most of the day.

And there it sits, getting filthier and gathering more crap.

How did something once so pristine get so nasty so fast?

And how did I go back to being a quivering blob of nerves, a self-doubting, fearful, pull-the-covers-over-my-head-and-hide, weak, weepy wimp?

I wasn’t expecting this. I thought I had snapped out of it.

Was it that my daughter decided it was time to “graduate” from her weekly art therapy session? She’d been going for at 7 or 8 years.  Suddenly decided she was done. (I asked her and she said it was OK if I wrote about that.)

OK, fine. That’s a mature, adult decision. You’ve gotten all you could out of it, so time to move on.

So why, after weeks where I thought the waterworks were finally shut off,  did I break down, just by saying thanks and good-bye to the art therapist? It’s not like we won’t see her around.

Was it the sense that something was exhausted? Empty? That my daughter had talked as much as she could and made as much art as was in her about her grief?

I don’t know and I still can’t say – but tears are coming as I write about it.

To top it off, we got in the car to head home and “Wind Beneath My Wings” came on the radio when the car started.

My late mother-in-law, whom we hadn’t seen in more than a decade, and whose death Mike learned of a year after the fact by Googling (long story) used to say, “I don’t want anyone crying at my funeral. Just play that Wind Beneath My Wings song.”

Yeah, right, Rose. That one won’t send anyone to the tissue box.

So blubbering turned into sobs, right there in the car, right in front of my sweet, angelic daughter.  Car crying used to be private, so I could get it out while neither of them could see me. But now she’s right next to me, digging around for tissues, handing them to me.

When the blubbering started,  I was thinking about Mike, and how our daughter had been talking herself through living each day without him, trying so hard not to be sad but to remember the happy times. I’m so proud of her.

Me? Not so much. I was thinking about how inadequate I felt and all the things I could have done better and about how much I miss him, too. And something about our daughter taking this step, away from one form of help, ending a routine that started when Mike was still with us, just hit me hard.

And then that song –

“Thank you, thank you, thank God for you….”

Was Rose thanking me?

I hadn’t thought of that.

Did I need to be thanked? For sticking with him and taking care of him? Not just when he was sick, but for our entire marriage?

Decades ago, she thanked me for that, when she came to help during one of the several occasions he “ran away from home.”

Did I need to be acknowledged for how hard it was then and and is now? “Single parenting” in the most extreme possible way?

“When people go to spirit heaven, they can’t come back.”

“No, sweetheart, they can’t. But their love is always with us.”

Grief doesn’t end. It resides. It is the house guest who never leaves, slouching on the couch, barely picking up its feet when you vacuum around it.

I have tried to freeze it over as much as I can. Bury it in projects, activity, busywork.

But the wind will blow, the rain will fall, the thaw will come, and expose all the crap. The raw, untidy baggage – pain, need, loneliness, inadequacy, weakness.

Despair. Bleakness. Gray days passing, one after the other, where my greatest accomplishment is not backing into the five-foot snow pile at the end of the driveway.

I heard this Leonard Bernstein song on the radio for the first time ever a few days ago: (the video might start with an ad, sorry, but the soprano is so good, it’s worth it):

“Still, we know that someday soon, spring will come again.
Summer has to follow.
Birds will come again, nesting in the hollow.
Once again, we’ll know all we know, that after winter, comes spring.”

Counting on it, and hanging on, I remain,

Your cracked, broken, hoping for kintsukuroi,

Ridiculouswoman