Home

Our condo has been on the market for about a month now, and we’re still a couple weeks out from the spring buying market…even so, I’ve already been thinking about the prospect of calling another place home. It leaves me melancholy: this has been my home for the majority of my adult life. Actually, it’s more—it has been the only living space that has felt like home in my adult life.

I learned so many hard truths inside these walls…I cried to them when my bravado failed, and I trusted them to keep me safe as I recuperated from illness and surgery. How strange that I should think of a simple structure as a friend…

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my dad’s birthday. I had to do some quick math just now to figure how old young he is today: 58.

Summer 2005

This picture is a bit old…almost eight years to be exact. I am posting it because:

  1. The picture clearly shows his glacial Norwegian blues (he is 100% Norwegian).
    • He did not donate them to my gene set (still bitter…they are mighty pretty eyes).
  2. I clearly remember posting about his 50th birthday (the age he was in this picture)…remember as in, “Wasn’t that just last week?”
    • I’ve actually been blogging for almost a decade—that’s nuts.
  3. I really hope I inherited his “aging genes”—the man looks the same.

I love my father. Whatever can be said about our relationship, the love is always there…and I know completely that it is mutual. His heart is big and vulnerable; he is brave because he displays it for the world to see. I am proud of the person he is, and the truth is that I wouldn’t be “me” without him.

Happy birthday, Dad!

The weekly check-in

One post-per-week seems to be all that I am capable of producing lately, so I’m going to steal it for myself instead of dedicating it to Sophie even though it’s Sunday and all—call me a bad cat-mom, I know I deserve it. I’ve actually been trying to think of ways to keep this site updated regardless of the time (or lack-thereof) I have available to write. Maybe a weekly summary is the way until life calms down a bit.

So, last week was crazy.


Mom

Shortly after I moved back from NC
(I know I’m cut off in this one, but Mom’s smile is just so contagious.)

I did not write anything regarding the seventh anniversary of my mom’s passing on January 26th. I knew the seven year mark was approaching at Christmastime (of course), and I had hoped in that capricious part of my soul that she’d visit me à la Jacob Marley. Alas, the visit did not come to pass—besides, I don’t think she’s carrying around any chains for the way she lived her life…daisy chains, maybe.

I was silent on the day partly because I felt anger and frustration that I still fall into that vortex of sadness on the anniversary. I can’t stop myself from remembering those final, awful days of the Cancer…the way she looked…the delirium…the end. I am mad that those memories come to mind first while all the healthy years follow much later.

The morning started out hectic. I was keeping myself busy by polishing every wooden surface in our home. I hit the shower mid-morning and we went to a basketball game. I was still okay, still not thinking about it…except, when we arrived at the Kohl Center to watch the basketball game, every chair was draped with a Coaches vs. Cancer shirt. I stared at the ceiling, willing the tears not to fall.

Nick was making conversation with the people sitting next to him, but he turned to me (looking like I was about to lose it) a couple of times to say, “Don’t think about it…you’re thinking about the day…don’t.” Easier said than done, my friend. I continued to look to the ceiling and concentrate on my breath. I told myself to think of something, anything else—I failed miserably, but I was okay once the game was underway because I had a distraction. Afterward, Nick and I stopped for a drink to let the parking garage empty instead of entering into the fray. The bartender served our beers and Nick toasted me, “To your mom.”

Damn it.

There it was again, that fist squeezing my heart. I swallowed hard and sucked in deep breaths before taking a sip. Meanwhile, Nick noticed my reaction and had that “Crap, crap, crap!” look plastered all over his face. I didn’t sleep that night, but stayed up to organize the kitchen cupboards because I was afraid to let my thoughts wander unoccupied.

It’s like my surgical scars…the cuts heal and I become whole enough to live my life, but I never really stop hurting.

The Condo

Homey

As I mentioned in last week’s Sophie Sunday, Nick and I are in the process of selling our condo to buy a house. The realtor took pictures last Monday, hosted a broker open-house on Tuesday, and the listing was published on Wednesday. Someone booked a showing on Tuesday night, but then south-central Wisconsin had a snow storm and all frenzy calmed.

Sophie went over to her grandma’s house on Monday night so she wouldn’t be afraid with strangers walking around the condo without one of us at home. It isn’t easy for our cat to adapt to new surroundings…Sophie and her delicate emotional state were on my mind the rest of the week. Nick’s mom left for Florida on Thursday (for the next few weeks), and we started squatting at her house that night (for Sophie…and for us).

It’s seriously stressful knowing that every time I leave my home, I need to leave it show-ready. People, I have diagnosed OCD (or CDO as I like to call it…that’s OCD but in alphabetical order). This did a number on me (us). Every speck on the floor, spot on the mirrors, and smudge on the coffee table gave me a minor anxiety attack…and I was constantly frustrated with my husband who just didn’t see to the same level of detail that I did (i.e. his brain works NORMALLY).

I’m still trying to figure out which light switches work which set of lights, but otherwise I am settling in nicely at Joan’s house. We’ve scheduled an open house for the condo next Sunday, and realtors are now (well, as of tomorrow) able to show the space without confirming a time with us first. Why the sense of urgency? We’ve found a house that we really (really, really, really) like in a beautiful neighborhood. The sooner we can sell our condo, the sooner we can put in our offer.

As of right this very moment, I can’t think of another space in the condo to organize, polish, or scrub. I’ve been working at project: total organization for several weeks now, and I am tired. Our realtor says he likes the space and thinks it will sell quickly, but we aren’t sure if he’s just telling us what he thinks we want to hear (he’s a pretty nice guy that way).


I think those are my two main topics. As for the rest…

  • Sophie has been so clingy that I’ve started humming “Me and My Shadow” when I see her at my heel.
  • Nick thinks he’s getting sick…awesome—I’m sure to be next.
  • The Super Bowl is on as I type; I’m pulling for the (doomed, I fear) 49ers.
  • I want May to hurry up and get here.

There you go: my week in a single exhalation.

Silent Night

The lights dimmed and silence descended upon the congregation. One by one, we lit small white candles, creating a glowing blanket of light to warm away the chill. The music started playing, and I sat mouthing the words to Silent Night like I do every year at the Christmas Eve service because I do not trust the strength of my voice. The cap on my emotions is loosened this time of year. What is it about Christmas?

Next month will mark seven years since I last held my mother’s hand, but this Christmas without her feels just as raw as the first. I have thought of her often throughout this year. She has been my inspiration on a lot of those days when I’m sick and my body hurts.

It would be so easy to give into it…to surrender to the feelings of weakness and depression. Then she’s there in the corner of my memory, soldiering through something much worse, and I take on the day with a smile pasted to my face. She’s always there when I think of her, and that should give me peace…but what I would like more than anything in the world is her hug.

To lose someone you love is to alter your life forever…The pain stops, there are new people, but the gap never closes…This hole that you have is the shape of the one you lost, no one else can fit it.
-Jeanette Winterson

In the last couple of years I experienced a lightness of heart over the holidays, and I thought it was a sign of moving on. I know now that I’ve just been trying not to think about it, essentially blocking out anything that taps into my tears. My grasp on nonchalance was shaky by the second bar of the song, and I hoped that I wouldn’t drop my candle.

When I looked over at Joan (my mother-in-law), who was sitting next to me, I saw the same pain: her husband passed away unexpectedly just last January. Seeing the tears in her eyes broke my control, and we cried together while everyone around us sang. I had to pull away or I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop. I’m sorry for that. After Mom died, my life did not return to sanity until I learned how to manage my emotions. I couldn’t afford to lose the control that I traveled so far to find.

I picked up where I left off once I was home for the night. I needed my cry, and I needed privacy. I believe there is strength in showing your vulnerability…I’m just not strong enough with this hurt. So, in the silent night, I cried alone for every time that I wanted to but didn’t.

I wish I had a happy twist waiting in the wings, but I don’t. I cried myself to sleep on the couch and woke with gritty eyes. I washed my face, pulled on clothes, and steeled myself to go round two for Christmas with Dad.

I don’t consider Christmas a bitter or even a sad time of year…not at all. I love Christmas.

But it overwhelms me.

(at Dad's house)

Time

The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom—I actually finished reading this book a few months ago. I usually read Albom in one sitting, but this book wasn’t easy for me to read. It sat staring at me from the coffee table for weeks before I finally worked up the courage to open the cover.

You see, I know what his books do to me. I find them cathartic—and in the end it’s great because I feel cleansed by my tears and so much more at peace with sad things—but the journey itself often feels like medieval torture. The concept of time is fascinating, wonderful, and terrible all in one. On this subject, I think I have a tendency to feel too much. My emotions run the gamut from awe to anguish.

So, after several stops and starts, I reached the point in the story that compelled me to finish.

This is the story of Father Time. As a man, he was first to quantify the moments that make a life…and when his wife was near death, he wanted time to stop. For both the measuring and the wanting, he was locked away in a cave, ageless, and made to hear “…every plea from every soul who desired more of the thing he had first identified, the thing that moved man further from the simple light of existence and deeper into the darkness of his own obsessions. Time.”

We think of time as a currency to spend when really every second is invaluable.

The man is given, after several centuries, a task to return to Earth. He is to find and help two souls: one who wants too much time and one who wants too little. He is to share what he has learned over the last 6,000 years. He is told that by the end of his journey he will understand why God limits man’s days.

The two souls are an outcast teenage girl and a terminally ill old man. She wants to die; he wants to cheat death.

To the girl, he teaches that time cannot be given back. “The very next moment may be an answer to your prayer.” To the man, he teaches that time cannot be taken where it is not given. “With endless time, nothing is special.” The man who became Father Time had already lived for an eternity. Only after the lessons were complete did he comprehend for himself why God limits man’s days: to make each one precious.

I spent too long wishing away my mother’s Cancer. I spent too long wishing we could reverse time so she wouldn’t be sick anymore. I spent too long wishing time would slow so that I could have more time with her. After she died, I spent too long wishing time would just stop because moving on hurt…really hurt.

How arrogant of me to think that I should have such power.

This story was strongly reminiscent of that period in my life. The pain, the loneliness, the lessons…and in the end, the understanding. Each day really is precious.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Kahil Gibran