Posted in Death

Without words

This week, the lovely Varda, from The Squashed Bologna: a slice of life in the sandwich generation, takes center stage here on Small Moments Mondays.

I could go on and on about what a beautiful writer Varda is, but I will keep my words brief, because I want to ask a favor. Please go visit Varda, read her writing, writing that manages to make deep wounds beautiful.  Her strength is extraordinary and her honesty is paramount to her writing.

I’m pointing you to more posts than usual, but trust me, they are all worth the read and each sheds light onto the magic that is Varda.

Thank you, Varda…I am truly appreciative of this story of small moments.

Okay, I kept it short.  So, please go and read What’s the word?, Nearly Finished Business, From Autist to Artist, Regarding a Table Half Full, and A little Respect.

Without Words — by Varda

I was completely thrilled when Nichole asked me to be a guest for her Small Moments Mondays series of guest posts.  Actually in the nature of true disclosure here, I asked  and then she told me she had been planning on asking me, so it was kind of a mutual decision to dance together.

I love Nichole’s blog, her voice gentle and strong at the same time.  And her guests are awesome, my blogging heroes, I’m blushing at the company I’m now keeping.

I thought: “This will be easy, I live for the small moments.”  In fact, I had asked Nichole because at the time I was writing a post that felt like a SMM post to me, and the light bulb had gone off that maybe I could ask her if she would have me.

But then I ran into a world of trouble, because while I may live for the small moments, I tend to blog about big ones.  Every post I started, including the one I’d thought “perfect” blossomed into a big sprawling mess that ended up encompassing life, the universe and everything before it was done.

Pretty much the polar opposite of a small moment.

This is my perverse brain at work.  What was I thinking?  Me?  A small moment person?  I stared my blog to avoid being crushed between my father’s impending death and my son’s autism.  Big topics, capitol letter topics: Autism and Death.

But I so didn’t want to disappoint Nichole, to leave her high and dry.  (Boating metaphor here people, get your minds out of the gutter.)

So then I thought: why don’t I see if I can get my perverse brain to work in reverse, go for the opposite?  I’m going to try to write a big universal, philosophical piece, and maybe it will turn out to be about a small moment.

I would love to tell you that’s how I got to this post, because that would be so poetically perfect, but unfortunately, I can’t say that’s the case. That particular post is still evolving, turning into a really interesting musing upon what our society will look like in 20 years when all these kids on the spectrum are adults, how our world will have to change to embrace and accommodate them.

I’m very excited about seeing where it will lead me.  So, thank you, Nichole.  But?  Damn!  Still no perfect small moment.

And then, because it was getting to be very close to my intended Monday, I made myself just sit down, empty my mind and let it be still for a moment.  Not easy for a jumping around, ADD brain like mine.

I am a talky, wordy, word-loving person; a ruminating rambler.  Silence and stillness do not come easily to me.  Even in my still times I will be reading.  While outwardly quiet, I am filling my head with other people’s words.

But my small moments, my truly precious ones?

Often come without words.

They are my son Jacob’s weight on my shoulder as he snuggles and snoozes against me on the long subway ride home from an exhausting day at his wonderful new school, where they see his potential and gently push, push, push him.  I kiss the top of his head, inhale his sweet boy scent that will all too soon turn into something more manly.

They are when my son Ethan, always on the go, will suddenly whirl and pounce at me demanding: “Lap hug!” and fold his ever growing body into mine. He still buries his face into the crook of my neck as I wrap my arms around him, is still my little boy, for a little bit longer.

They were the way I sat in bed next to my dying father, when he was way out to sea, far beyond words, and very gently stroked his skeletal back, helping him to keep sleeping; touch his only comfort, his only tether still to this world.

I began my blog writing about my father’s impending death,

and my son’s autism.

All very big moments.

But the lessons therein?

Were about cherishing all the small, sweet moments,

that can flit by so quickly,

especially to the perpetually distracted,

like me.

Because It Was Grassy and Wanted Wear

I will never forget that sound.

The crunching of the packed snow beneath my feet, dissonant with the throbbing in my ears from my racing heart.

He sought me out.  He wanted my forgiveness.  Wanted to talk to me…to see in my eyes that forgiveness was even possible.

I sought out a safe place to meet him.  Though I knew with certainty that he wouldn’t physically harm me, I feared for my emotional safety.  My aunt provided that shelter.

Fourteen years prior, he shot my father twice and killed him.

I was two.  And in an instant, fatherless.

As I reached to open my aunt’s door, I was stuck between two places.  In that moment, with my hand clenching her doorknob, I could move forward or I could retreat. There simply was no in between.

I pushed the door open and the heat from my aunt’s house engulfed me.

He was there.  Sitting at the table.  I greeted my aunt, shed my coat, and sat opposite him at the table. And I waited.

It wasn’t my turn to talk.

He apologized.  His words were much what I expected them to be.  I knew the story…the reasons for why he did what he did.  They had been the best of friends.

I can still see him, rubbing one of his hands with the other, worrying his skin raw.

But his eyes?  His eyes expressed his sorrow and remorse in a way that his words never could.

I’m not sure I have ever seen eyes as soft as his were in that moment as he sat there, stumbling over his words, looking to me for encouragement to continue speaking.

I let him speak until he was completely deflated…words expelled like air from a balloon overfilled to near bursting.

There was a familiarity about him.  Some part of my brain remembered him.

In that moment I was left to make a choice.  To forgive him or to hang onto my anger and hurt, polishing it until it gleamed with bitterness.

It was the moment to choose whether to set him free of his burden or take that opportunity to make him pay.  To crush his hopes for a release from even a small part of his guilt.

I didn’t hesitate for a moment.  I forgave him.

I made a choice that freed us both.

The easy, predicable choice would have been to hold my anger close, fueling it with thoughts of all that had been ripped from me.

The more difficult choice was to forgive him, to recognize that he was human and that relinquishing my anger would bring me peace unlike anything I had ever known.

His life was already broken.  He would never be the person he was before he killed my father.

But my forgiveness? He sat there and asked it of me.

And offering that it to him was truly the fork in my road.

The Road Not Taken — Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

*The decision to forgive this man who destroyed my family was my choice.  This was the right choice for me.  If I were my grandmother, grandfather, uncle, aunt, or mother, I can’t say that my choice would have been the same.  That is impossible to know.  I can only truly know what is best for me.  I love my family beyond words and their strength astonishes me to this day.

Mama's Losin' It

Does Google Make You Real?

I grew up in a time just prior to the Internet explosion.
If you needed to gather information, you relied upon the library, encyclopedias, and microfiche.  I was taught the Dewey Decimal System and how to use a card catalog.

Now we just Google our questions. It’s remarkable what you can find on the Internet. The most obscure information is at your fingertips. We can even Google ourselves.

There is nothing that you can’t find if you search for it.

Or so I thought.

The other night, in a moment of sadness, I Googled my father.

I typed his name in and hit enter.
Nothing.

I put his name in quotations and hit enter.
Nothing.

There was no mention of his murder.
There was no record of those he left behind.
There was no mention of  his parents’ tears, their baby boy taken from them.
There was no mention of his siblings, devastated by their loss.
There was no mention of his widow, left to raise her two-year old daughter alone.
There was mo mention of me, a fatherless child.

I spent a day when I was a young adult, reading everything I could dig up about him at the local library and newspaper.

He was real and he did exist. The articles told in great detail the story of his murder and the heartbreak of the family left behind in its wake.

I know the story.

Why does it bother me that I can’t Google him? Why do I want so badly to read it all again, whenever I need to remind myself?

Why would it make him seem more real if I could see his name returned by an Internet search?

How Do I Do This Again?

I have sat down to write no fewer than what feels like a thousand times and I can’t formulate my thoughts into a whole.  My writing has become stream-of-consciousness at best.  I sit down to write, I struggle through a few sentences, and then I walk away.

So, in an attempt to get back in the swing of things, I’m going to just go with my stream-of-consciousness writing and I’m hoping that you’ll all bear with me.

I feel like I’m betraying my mother-in-law’s memory by blogging so soon after her death.  How can I write about everyday things when I have the gravity of her death on my mind?

I want to be able to write about the joys of summer, ice cream sandwiches, kiddie pools, and bike rides, but my mind is consumed with the fragility of life, fear of more heartache, and ways to hold my family even tighter.

I was lying in bed last night, thinking about how much fun it would be to go camping.  My mind wandered to when the kids are a little older and I had visions of them wanting to sleep in their own tent.  My heart started to race and I nearly had a panic attack lying there.  I realized that I truly doubt that I will ever be able to let them have that kind of freedom.

When we were at the dentist today for Katie’s check-up, the dental hygienist led her out of the room without me to choose a reward for being so well-behaved.  Anxiety gripped me immediately.

I’ve always struggled with anxiety, with fears of the worst possible thing happening and I’ve spent my share of hours talking to a professional about it.  But now, I am feeling that familiar panicky undercurrent, nipping at my feet and it scares me.

My mother-in-law had struggled with health problems for quite some time and I think in some strange way, we took for granted that she’d always get through her challenges.  She was so upbeat and determined.  The latest hospital stay and her subsequent death truly caught me off-guard.

Now I’m feeling afraid of my own shadow.

I want to be carefree, I want my to make my children laugh, and I want to loosen my hold on them just a bit.

I want to blog again about happy and trivial things.

I’m going to keep writing and hope that little by little, I’m able to breathe a little easier and laugh a little quicker.

Thanks for hearing me out.

A Repeat Performance and Separation Anxiety

We have always gloated about loved the fact that Katie is a champion sleeper.  If there was an Olympic event for sleeping, she would take the gold.  She goes to bed at 7:30pm and doesn’t wake until 7am.  She also still naps from 1pm-3:30/4:00pm.  We are blessed.  {Please don’t hate us–Matthew is another story entirely.}

She used to lunge for her crib at bedtime and has always put herself to sleep.  For the first couple of years of her life, we lured her into her bed by making it the only place where she could have her pacifier.  When we took her pacifier away at 21 months, we replaced it with a little pillow, her first blanket, and some stuffed kitties, all of which we allow her to have only while in bed.  Things have been smooth sailing until about a month ago.

Now there is major drama every time we put her down to sleep.  She’s doing this new thing where, when I leave the room and I am closing the door, she says, “Goodnight, Mommy.  I love you.”  I then tell her goodnight and that I love her too.  I close the door and she repeats the process.  At first I indulged her, thinking that she would tire of this routine once she knew I was on the other side of the door.  But it has completely gotten out of hand.  One night I did it nine times.  NINE!  We now tell her that we’ll say it once and then we’re going downstairs to “pick up” (code for relaxing.)

When we don’t follow the script the second, third, and fourth times, she flips out, and goes from choked up to bawling in 3.2 seconds.  While she typically only cries for five to ten minutes and then falls asleep,  nothing makes me feel worse as a parent than having her cry herself to sleep.  We’ve always tried to ensure that her bed is a safe, secure, and happy place.

She’s also showing some distress if she thinks that one of us may be leaving to run an errand or something.  She  quickly escalates from nervous to panicky.

We’ve had an emotional, chaotic past couple of weeks, with uncharacteristic breaks in our routine, but these insecurities were present prior to that.

{We have chosen not to speak with her about Craig’s mother’s death, as we don’t believe that she is emotionally mature enough to process that yet.  Since she is incredibly attentive and observant, we have been careful to shield her from our discussions.}

I distinctly remember when I was a child, I was fearful to be the last one awake.  I would call to my mother repeatedly to ensure that she hadn’t fallen asleep.  I’m still this way.  When Craig shows signs of being tired, I stop whatever I’m doing and hurry to bed.  I’ve not really analyzed why I am this way, I’ve just accepted it.

But this thing with Katie is sudden and intense.

Has anyone else gone through this?  We never saw any anxiety in her when she was younger and we thought that we might be out of the woods now that she’s three.

Help? Reassurance? Tips?

About me

Nichole Beaudry @NicholeBeaudry Location: Northern California
Each and every day, I strive to appreciate the wonder, beauty, and whimsy in the small moments, the moments that, when strung together, form a lifetime.
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