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Posts Tagged ‘grief’

001I lost my temper today. I haven’t lost my temper in ages. It felt so odd, to be angry. So out of the blue. The situation was justified: I confronted a jack-ass who thought he could just park his semi truck across all four of the parking spaces in front of my office while he ran into the fast-food place across the parking lot to eat. He didn’t even apologize, but he did move it.

Then I snapped at an innocent broker before I’d calmed down from the confrontation.

What is wrong with me? This is the old me. The me when I was when buried under stress. The me before antidepressants.

I decided perhaps I had not been meditating and praying enough (you know, we all fall out of habit, and we all blame guilt for our actions). I reasoned that I would come home tonight and plant all the flowers I bought since the weather is cool and will remain cool for the next 10 days, at least. Gardening always relaxes me. Gardening is wonderful therapy.

Except… it wasn’t. I snapped at both of the dogs, for being dogs. I almost snapped at my husband. I just felt so… so… angry.

Gardening may be therapy, but it is muddy, dirty, work, and by the time I climbed into the shower, I was wondering how high my blood pressure was. And then I cried. Big sobs. Real tears.

I don’t cry. Antidepressants dull that reaction, and I don’t like to cry. But I couldn’t stop it, and I didn’t want to – because, suddenly, I understood.

I am getting on an airplane Saturday to fly to Reno. From Reno, I will make my way to Ely. 21 years of grief just washed over me – everything I lost that lived in that little, dusty, town. My mother. My sister. My father.

The trip this time is a trip to celebrate a milestone, but that milestone is, in itself, a contributor to the circle of grieving. My sister’s youngest child is graduating from high school and turning 18. She was almost 3 when her mother died, and has no recollection of her mother. None. She barely remembers my father, her grandfather.

I am dreading this trip, but I don’t want my niece to feel that it is because of her – it isn’t. She is outside of the equation and is the reason I want to go. I want to be there for her, and for my sister. She’s blood. She’s family. And I will be there to see her receive her high school diploma.

But – God. Why can’t my sister be there? I would have taken this girl on, if I could have, but she had a birth father somewhere and her stepfather was extremely leery of me after I took Chrystal on (we sort of kidnapped her when she was 10).* My father, while he was living, feared the birth father would try something. Moreover, we did not want to alert Child Services to the status of any of my sister’s children, throwing them into foster families. So, my niece stayed with her step-dad and his new wife.

That’s her story to tell, and she did tell me. She’s a smart girl. She’s got her mother’s moxie. She’s in a good place right now.

Going back to me and the lashing out.

I counseled a young woman in my office the other day. She recently lost her father, suddenly, and it has thrown her for a loop. I advised her that it never ends. You just learn to work around it. You won’t know what triggers it. Suddenly, you’ll be standing in the middle of a grocery store, crying. You’ll smell something. You’ll have a mood change and then you’ll look at the calendar and realize what your spiritual body already knew: it’s the week of an anniversary.

I’m going back to Ely, and it is the fifth anniversary of the week we held my father’s memorial service. My sister’s 57th birthday was Sunday. I’m watching my orphaned niece graduate from high school and turn 18. I’m loading up a truck and bringing the rest of my inheritance home, specifically the furniture items. Visual items.

And I’m lashing out in anger, but it’s the grief that is talking. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I’m more likely to write out what is going on inside of me than talking about it – or than most people will confess to feeling. I’m writing this, not to hash out my sorrow and grief, and to play “poor pitiful me”, but to tell you – the reader of this blog post – that it is OK. It’s natural. It’s grief. It’s a circle that will never be broken as long as you live and feel deeply.

Wish my mom was here tonight so I could talk to her about this over a bottle of cheap red wine. We used to change the world with a couple glasses of wine. God, I miss her so very much. 21 years.

21 years of dreading a trip to Ely.

*I need to clarify this. Chrystal was the only one of my sister’s children that was a true orphan, in that her birth father was dead also. Originally, we left her with her step father, with her sister, because my father didn’t want to break up the family. I think he was reeling from the fact that my sister’s son’s father came and picked him up from the reception following the funeral without any notice. It was his right: his son. But it was very clear within a few months that Chrystal was miserable. She was going on 10. So my dad arranged a vacation trip for her to come to visit me, and for me to go to a lawyer and get custody of her. Meanwhile, Chrystal determined that if she was coming to visit me, she would request that she stay with us. So, somehow, she both ran way and we kidnapped her. It was a mutual agreement between us and a ten year old girl who decided the first day that she would call us “Mom” and “Dad”.

PS – I know good people who work in Child Services. But there have always been the horror stories, and we were determined that none of my sister’s children should end up in that system. They’ve suffered their own trail of grief, but none of it has been at the hands of the State. Whether you agree with that or not is irrelevant to me. I’ll suffer none of my family to go into that system so long as I have breath.

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Damn. I looked over at the calendar. Today is March 2nd. Sixteen years ago, my father called me, almost in a panic. He didn’t know what was happening, but my sister was critically ill. She was so ill, in fact, that she was in a coma and on a helicopter to Reno from Ely, Nevada. She could have gone to Las Vegas or Salt Lake City – it’s all about equi-distant from Ely: a good 5-hour drive. But my family has always gravitated to Reno.

I remember how numb I was when Dad called again on the 3rd. She didn’t make it. My little sister, the one person I had a profound love/hate relationship, was gone. The one who once bit me over who got the blankets in our shared bed (she had them all and I just wanted my share, but she rolled over and bit me). The girl who purposely mimicked my clothing choices throughout my high school years (and her junior high years), often bringing out the worst in me because I couldn’t see imitation as a sincere form of flattery. The girl who drank her way through her Freshman year in high school, often stumbling home in the wee hours of the night – she was gone.

Since her death, I have been overwhelmed by the number of kids we grew up with who have messaged me and told me how much they loved her. Her laugh. Her ability to tell a joke. Her very dry sense of irony. Her one-liners. Her way of living life for the moment. Her fierce and loyal friendship.

I held her hand from a distance when she had to give up her first born to adoption. I still have all the poems she wrote about that dark time in her life, how she didn’t want to let the baby go. We cried over the phone together.

I sensed, much later in life, that her words to me were often staged: the words of a little girl who just wanted her older sister to love her and be proud of her, unconditionally. She’d detail house plans, redecorating schemes, art projects. She wanted me to love her.

I did love her, but not. How does an older sister put that into words. I was the “good” child, the do-gooder, the A+ student, the never-does-anything-wrong kid. The unintentional suck-up. Truth was, I don’t have a daring bone in my psyche. Risk of physical pain? I’ll take the easy way out. My sister (and my brother) would face the pain head-on. I am the unabashed introvert. Brother and sister: extroverts. I am the one that takes everything into some deep place and over-analyzes. I am the clumsy one.

I remember some girls picking on my sister. I no longer remember the circumstances, just that they were to the point of physical bullying. It so happened that my best friend and I happened upon a scene of them bullying my little sister. They were big girls, much bigger than me. But that was MY little sister, goddammit, and *I* was the ONLY person allowed to give her a hard time. I’d recently found my voice in life, and I used it that day, at the mouth of an alley way, to lay into three girls who had no business being bullies. me, all 70-pounds of petite, chasing bullies with her words.

Words became my weapon. My sister learned to break beer bottles over people’s heads. Not exactly a technique I would ever be good at, but she excelled at.

Damn.

The thing is, her youngest kid is graduating from high school this year. She has no memory of her mother. A few photos. A strong resemblance to me. No idea of the teenager her mother was. Huh. Her mom was a teenager until my mother died. Deni decided then that she needed to grow up. She was probably about 23 emotionally when she died. She was chronologically 40 years old and starting to look older than I am now. Life’s a bitch.

Grief comes with layers. You grieve for the lost relationship, for the things you didn’t get to say or do, for the love of the person. When anniversaries come, I grieve for the loss of my family: Mom, Sister, Dad. There’s just the two of us left now, and all of our children (my brother’s, mine, and my sister’s). I miss the laughter. The hugs. The covert whispers after dark. The secrets we promised to never tell. The looks that passed between us. The feel of her hair in my fingers as I braided it for the last time in 1998, standing in Dad’s kitchen as he and my daughter went through a box of mementos on the sun porch.

Dad’s 70th birthday. The last time I held my sister in my hands. She had headaches, she said. I told her to try braiding her hair differently: two braids instead of one heavy one down her back. I proceeded to part her hair and braid it for her.

Sisters have complicated relationships. I desperately wanted to work through ours. I wanted to figure out where and how I’d hurt her. I knew she’d forgive me: that’s what she always did. I wasn’t ready to forgive myself. Oldest sister. The bitch. Me. It doesn’t matter now. She’s gone.

And she’s come back from the dead to let me know she forgave me long, long ago. I still see her as about 10 years old.

004The girl I see in my visions.

001Playing dress up in the basement

003“How much can I torture Jaci’s cat?”

002Always styling.

I love you and miss you, Mary Denise.

Denny.

Deni.

 

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