Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Next Thing

These days I'm having trouble writing. Sure, I can write about four kinds of chicken for work and a matching number of cheesecakes and get it all done by 5, but I can't just write. Nothing seems important, yet everything feels too sensitive.

Driving home from Birmingham yesterday I was thinking of a few moments I wanted to remember from the past few weeks, and now I can't think of them to write down. I'm forgetting.

Just now I turned on the TV, background noise for my chicken and cheesecake programming, and landed on, first, the SC governor's press conference (negative) and then I Dream of Jeannie on TV Land. Suddenly, tears were in my eyes. When I was in high school, Dad and I watched TV Land at night, and he loved the foibles of Major Nelson and Jeannie. Or maybe he didn't, but knew I'd watch with him and maybe stay for I Love Lucy, which came on right after.

Right now, life is hard. I feel totally robbed of my joy, an overdramatic and overarching statement that I know means I'm letting my joy go willingly, but it's true. I'm sad and upset and I don't know when it's ok to be those things and when it isn't. B's aunt sent me a book about grieving and it says it's ok to tell people when days are hard, that we've lessened grieving from what was once a year-long commitment of memory and celebration of a loved one's life to a neat-and-tidy three day event of death, visitation, and funeral. The odd thing is that the family plans those things, so those three days weren't spent grieving, but more planning and arranging. The fact is that my to-do list during those days looked heartbreakingly similar to the one that remains on my calendar from before the wedding. It's enough to make you want to sit shiva.

I'm torn. So much of me wants people to move on and not give me that look of pity or, worse, fear, as if losing a parent could be catching, but another part of me just wants to stand in the middle of a crowded room and scream that the world shouldn't go on like nothing has changed because for me, everything has.

It's hard to find the motivation to move forward, to see the importance in once everyday tasks. I see now why people get puppies and rejoice in babies during times like these-- they need you. You have to get up and care for them. The next thing is no long optional. They're helpless. It may be a band aid, but you can redirect some of your angst and worries, setting it aside for the time being, because someone needs a walk, someone needs a bottle, and someone needs bedtime prayers.

I hate not remembering what I want to put on here, this place that is my memory in these vast days of thoughtlessness. Already it's fading.

I want so badly to write of happy things, but feel like I'd be cheating them right now. I'm not the girl that's upset that her post-wedding bliss was interrupted by something, but I am the girl that desperately wants to both grieve and rejoice with a whole heart, an impossible task when one's heart isn't whole the begin with.

I started reading The Red Tent, and got to a passage today where a woman's husband was murdered at the same time as the girl's father-in-law and, for the first time reading a book, I felt her pain and longed for the days of the Old Testament where you could simply lose yourself in your grief and not be considered insane but rather mournful.

The hardest thing, for me, is knowing how to respond to people. I feel as though I make them uncomfortable, those who read my cries here or know my heart, so I joke to relieve the tension and release them from their worried gazes. The truth is that I have no idea what I need or how to feel better, or if I even want to yet.

Tomorrow we're sorting out Dad's estate and will with the lawyers. I want so badly to be helpful, even if it's simply being there to keep Mom's spirits up, but I fear that I'll end up in a puddle of quiet tears with looks shooting over my head forgiving me for being the youngest one in the family.

B offered to come with me, but I know he needs to be in the office, especially because they're at trial this week. The truth is, I may need those hours alone in the car to get the tears out, whether before or after the meeting. Besides, he's always good for a hug, so I know he'll take good care of me when I get home.

For now, I sit in my home office sniffling at the credits of I Dream of Jeannie and remembering Dad and his love of TV Land. He always told me these shows were too recent to be on there. Now that they're showing The Cosby Show and Full House, I totally agree. I miss you, Dad.


We are BLESSED. said...

Ashley - please call me if you ever just need to talk/vent/cry/laugh/whatever. You know I am here. Please let your mom know I am thinking of her tomorrow (which is their anniversary, right?) Bless her heart. Love you... and PLEASE, don't hesitate to call.

Kristi said...

Just wanted to say that not writing is ok. Ultimately, your writing tells a life story. Sometimes the not writing is part of the story. Also, keep in mind that your blog is not the only memory collector you have. The people you know are also memory collectors. We remember with you, and will share those memories. I will never forget that two year old Ella removed green sash from her white flower girl dress at your wedding reception because she wanted to look like a bride too. I will never forget that when you were two, dad made everyone let you score touchdowns in the front yard football games, just so you would also enjoy playing (and so he could watch you celebrate – you were so unbelievably cute!) Your writing has triggered so many memories for me (dad and those roasted nuts, for example!). Over time, our conversations will allow me to trigger more memories for you – in other words, time will increase the collection of memories in some ways, even as it diminishes the collection in others.

A few things to remember from the wedding that I haven’t seen on the blog (i.e. things I can help you remember): Gabrielle being rocked by Mo until she fell asleep in the parish house, what it felt like touching Brian’s hand around the door less than an hour before the ceremony but not being able to see him, Rick’s toast being given from the perspective of the best man and a father, Chick-Fil-A!

A few things about dad: clapping with his palms together and fingers apart, listening to talk radio on the way home from football games, the Phantom, the typing, the comforter folded just so, the diet peach tea Snapple (which turned into the diet Mt. Dew), the “we always appreciate it when you call” at the end of a phone conversation, the night you and dad (and others!) “slept” in the hospital waiting room all night waiting for Ella to be born, how great he was to his mom, plugging in your curlers (maybe that one is in the blog somewhere…)

Or a memory of dad at the wedding: texting Todd (need to tap into Todd’s memory for the details of that one)

Memories from the last few weeks aren’t just yours: Brian is paying attention. I have nothing written from the first year Tim and I spent together, but it is so much fun when a song, or a place, triggers a memory that I thought was gone. Just this weekend we walked down a street with our girls, and I was overwhelmed with a memory of that street from our newlywed days – meeting up with friends at a bar named Lucy’s to listed to a UNC radio show. Not a big deal then or now, but stored in my mind somewhere and so readily retrieved as soon as I turned onto that road… Your memories are there too and you will enjoy how they pop up, even if not all of them are recorded.

Just said to take the pressure off – not to diminish the amazingness that is your writing – because you know I love your writing!!!

(Also wanted to note that I am a big fan of the small phrase approach to memory collection, when I don’t have the time or energy to write. Every month or so, I note a few things I want to remember about the girls on a word document – small memory joggers like “Ella-green sash off!”. Then, on their birthdays I use the phrases to help jog my memory as I write each girl a letter. The letter has a more detailed
description of the moment someone else (specifically, the girls…) could read and understand. You’d be amazed how just writing a phrase, when you don’t have the energy to write a description, allows the memory to come flooding back later, when you can write it.)

I’ll end with empathy (no pity or fear here). I get it, and I miss him too.

Love you!

Katie said...

I can only imagine how you feel, but I will listen if you need an ear. I know I don't have any words that can make it better or easier, but I have lots of prayers! Don't feel like you have to "be ok" instantly. You can't, you won't. It's ok. I'll be thinking of you and your mom and your family tomorrow and praying for you all. I know it'll be a tough day. I was planning to call. In fact, I'll still call but no obligations to talk... just know I'm thinking of you.

Love you.

Katie said...

By the way... now might be the perfect time to invest in that Italian Greyhound... I'm just sayin... :)

~Z~ said...

So many of your words in this post ring true to me. I know it isn't the same, but I actually had a lot of these same feelings after getting diagnosed with RA. I had to figure out how to accept new physical limitations in my body that led me to grieve for the future I thought I would have that is now impossible.

I still struggle with this concept on a daily basis. On the one hand I don't usually want to talk about my illness because I really can't handle the pity, however well-meaning. But somehow, at the exact same time, I wish more people would recognize how much I've been struggling over the past year. Because everything has changed for me, too.

I know it can be particularly frustrating when your own head is so complicated with feelings that you don't even know what would make you feel better. Unfortunately I don't have any magic words of my own to solve this dilemma. I'm still working on it myself.

What I do have is some advice that you once gave to me after I had a particularly hard and frustrating day dealing with my RA:

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!

I love you, AJ. You can do it. I'm messed up too but I'm always here for you if you need me. ~;o)