Friday, April 21, 2017

Life Goes On

Flowers from Mom's funeral, wilting in the chaos.

Yes, life does go on, though the fact seems like a slap in the face to those who mourn.   There is no cause for sleeplessness now,  but insomnia still lingers and my nights are restless.  Failing at reforming my bad habits, I find myself putting off bedtime until exhaustion sets in; writing out funeral thank you cards until writer's cramp puts me out of commission.  

As I write each note, I stop and search for the right words, stretching my cramped hand.  How do I thank the people who have helped and are still helping me cope with my loss?  Our wonderful sons for being there when I needed them most; our family and friends who called me and listened to my repetitive worry and (shameful) complaining, buoying me up with laughter and prayers and cards; crockpots of stew and soup even before Mom passed away; help with moving Mom and our bedroom, visits to keep Mom company while I went for a walk or the grocery store; sitting with her when the end was near, comfort and care and concern and love.   What would I have done without any of you?  I found myself laughing and crying all at once, remembering Ann and me making a 2:30 AM run to the bank's ATM last Monday night, like Thelma and Louise on a tear.  

Oh, the memories, the gratitude.  The cards will be written soon; I'll find the right words.  I'm tired.  But I cannot sleep.

Still awake, I drift into the living room and end up mindlessly playing an old video game over and over until I'm nearly unable to open my hand from the cramped position on the mouse.  Hoisting myself out of my chair, I stare bleary-eyed at the clock on the table and groan...not 3 AM again....what am I doing?  And why?

Heading to the bathroom, I wash my face and try not to meet my eyes in the mirror.  I remember the first time I stared into my own eyes back on the farm as a youngster; it was the eeriest sensation to not recognize the person staring back at me; surreal.  How little I knew myself then, how little I know myself now.  

Breaking the gaze of the much older stranger which is me in the mirror, my eye falls on the little yellow dish which used to hold Mom's dentures, perched on the right side of the sink.  I haven't had the heart to remove it yet, along with her old, white comb with the missing teeth resting on the counter, ready for her touch.

Leaving the bathroom, I get ready to climb the flight of stairs to Joel's old room.  Funny how our old bedroom feels like Mom's room, even though she was only here for a few months.  I don't know when we'll move back downstairs; the hassle of moving the waterbed isn't something we need right now.  I haven't gone through her clothes yet.  All the picture boards from the funeral and her coloring books, markers, painting equipment, everything else pertaining to Mom is in that room; waiting.  

Before I go upstairs, I glance in the doorway at the happy trio of St. Bernard stuffed dogs Mom always kept on her bed, now perched in her Lazy Boy with her favorite pillow.   I washed all of her bedding this week, except for the flowered comforter which will need warmer weather to dry on the wash line. 

Has it really been two weeks since she was here?

Blinking back more tears, I go up the stairs.

 I try to carefully open our bedroom door, but it squeaks no matter how slowly I turn the knob which then rouses Carl from his well-deserved slumber.  Continuing with my annoying sleep preparations, I fumble around with the CPAP machine, filling the water chamber, plugging my cellphone in for charging, putting my spectacles on the headboard, and sticking the Farmall bandana on my hair to protect it from the harness of the CPAP mask.  Finally, I stuff neon green ear plugs in and hit the button on the CPAP and sigh as my back reacts to being horizontal. 

After all my jostling and rustling around, Carl is now wide awake and groans as he tosses back the covers and makes his way around the bed enroute to the bathroom.   

"3 AM?  What were you doing?  Why don't you come to bed earlier?" he scolds me when he returns.  

I try to answer him, but the CPAP makes conversation impossible, so I grumble something unintelligible and roll over with a sigh.  Carl falls asleep immediately.  I remain still, waiting for sleep to claim my weary mind.  When it doesn't arrive, I try the old relaxation techniques we learned in Lamaze class over thirty years ago; stretch and relax your toes, now your ankles, now your legs, now your knees, and so on and so forth until I'm all the way up to the hair on my head and I'm still wide awake, listening to my pulse in my ears.  In hindsight, I should start with relaxing my hair first.

Five AM arrives and Carl's alarm clock is screeching.  He groans again, hoisting himself out of bed one more time and heading out the door to his job of forty years.  

"I love you," he says to me, as he says every morning.  

"M mmm mmm mmm," I say through my sleep mask, which translates to 'I love you, too,' followed by "Mmm mmmmm," which translates to, 'Be careful.'  I cannot open my mouth with the mask on because the CPAP will take my breath away, hence the mumbling.  I never fail to tell Carl to be careful; metal fabrication is dangerous work, and the huge press he operates defies description; I'm always happy to see him come home punctually at 3:30 PM like clockwork.

Shortly after Carl leaves for work, the birds begin their raucous singing long before the sun rises, giddy at the promise of a new day.  I've never been a morning person and the first robin to announce dawn is like a strident alarm clock clamoring at me to get up.  No matter how many earplugs I have crammed into my head, the chirping breaks any attempt at further sleep.  My mind is racing.
Grief is a harsh taskmaster.

But life does go on..........

I've got a lot on my plate; I'm the executor of the estate, there are bills to be paid, accounts to settle, lawyers to see, Mom's house to look after.  It's also Spring, and I have a greenhouse of annuals half-planted and shoddily attended to, hard to say how my flowers will look this year.  

 Ann helped me plant the first round of annuals on Saturday, thank goodness she did.  I wouldn't have gotten this far without her help.  I'm always grateful for the greenhouse bottom heat system Carl built;  in less than two days, the seedlings were germinated.

The back yard is still a mess from the septic installation and, of all things! we've decided (ok, taking ownership of this hare-brained idea, I've decided) to move the gazebo from the back yard to the front of the house where the Tardig stood.  Um.....I know, can I do anything else to make life more difficult?  

I came up with this idea last fall.  Carl and I started working out the kinks in March, hauling the Tardig out of the garden with neighbor Dale's help.  

The poor Tardig, napping on the lawn.......waiting for a new home around here somewhere.
Carl staking out the territory for the Gazebo.
 No, I didn't forget about Castle Aaargh, I know, I know......don't we have another iron in the fire there, too?  
Daffodils with Aaargh looming in the background.......

But in my defense, remember, the back yard is completely torn up, so we (ok, mostly me) decided this would be the perfect opportunity to make sweeping changes of an epic proportion.  Our beyond-kind neighbors own a lifting apparatus and are willing to drive over here with it and hoist the gazebo skyward for us next week which will save us from trying to move the structure with a hay wagon and a lot of luck.  Needless to say, we will still need a lot of luck; we built the silly thing in 1982 when we were twenty-four years old.  What did we know?  

Carl, April 20, setting tie downs for the base in the drizzle.
 Joel took me to a Lyme appointment the week before Mom died, and helped me purchase a used cement mixer from a Craigslist ad.  Carl put a new switch on the mixer and we're ready to roll.

   Mom had been excited about the prospect of the change, too.   After she died, the plan almost died with her, but looking back, I know she would want us to continue on in her memory.  She was always practical, always up for the next adventure.  She was very proud of this garden of ours; of hers.  She was a huge part of this garden, adding to the beauty by her painting and her diligent weeding.  Always loving.  Oh, how I miss her.......she would have been cheering us on. 

I can hear her in my mind, 'Work will never let you down. Find something to do.'

 Yes, life does go on.  I know Mom wouldn't want it any other way. 

I want to thank every one for their kind comments on Mom's passing.  I am deeply grateful to each and every one of you for your care and concern.  

Mom was always amazed at how many people we've met through the blog, she would marvel when I read your comments aloud to her every morning. Then, in turn, I would read your blog posts to her and we'd have a delightful time.  The problem was, I was using my cellphone as a browser, so commenting was difficult, but rest assured, we were reading your posts, too.

"Where are they from?  Florida?! (Dear Rainey, my lone Florida reader) Washington State?!  Australia!? Iowa?  Nebraska!  Alaska!? England!? Michigan?!" as the list of states and countries grew, Mom was stunned.  

"How did they find out about you?  You must be famous.  Look how many people commented!  How does it all work?"  

"No, we're far from famous.  But see, we bought a computer and hooked up to the internet and it's worldwide and I started this little gardening/diary blog in '08 and people started to read it and....." and Mom would glaze over.  "I don't understand the internet, it's all jibberish to me."

"That's ok, Mom.  I don't understand how the internet works either; it's complicated.  I guess you can look at it like computerized pen pals."

"Well, it's just wonderful how so many people came to be your friends from so far away. Do you think you'll ever meet any of them?"

"Yes, I have had bloggers from Iowa, Texas, Arkansas, Minnesota, and Michigan come for a visit. But even if we never meet in person, all of the bloggers I have met feel like family to me."

"You are very fortunate," Mom said, solemnly.  

Yes, I am.  Thank you all, I've run out of words to express my gratitude.  (And we all know that doesn't happen very often.)

Thank you.  




Sue said...

I think keeping busy right now is the very best kind of thing to do. Pour your heart into that garden of yours.

Ellie's friend from canada said...

For some reason, my condolences previously were not posted. I'm not sure what the problem was. I was so sorry to read of your Mother's passing. I was so moved by your eulogy to your mother. Our mothers were born in the same year; both were children of the Depression. I am sure their great strength of character was forged by that period as was their sense of gratitude. While others had no money and no food, they were grateful for having food even if it meant very hard work.

I have been thinking of you a lot. I hope that your happy memories of your Mother will carry you through lonely moments and sad moments. You painted such a vivid image of your Mother playing with you, of you throwing the ball to her that it brings a smile to me every time I think of it.

I hope you find solace and peace in your garden this spring. My sincere condolences on your loss. You will be able to sleep soundly soon. You have been conditioned to be wakeful at night in case your Mom needed you but soon, sleep will come. It is, I believe, rare to have a Mother like yours; a strong but compassionate mother who loved her painting and her world and above all you. I used to think that everyone had such a mother but it is not so sadly. You were blessed beyond belief. Never, ever feel guilty about losing your patience that once. She knew you loved her and she loved you and as a mother, she understood. She was so lucky to have you and be with you. Your meals were truly delicious to her...because they were cooked with love and she knew it.

Bon courage. She is with you.


Indie said...

I wish you peace and solace in the gardening and the work that you know your mother would love for you to continue. Your mother was a wise woman. *hugs*

Pamela Gordon said...

Thinking of you and all that lies ahead with your mother's 'things' that need to be finished and closed. The moving of the gazebo and gardening season will surely help keep you otherwise occupied and take your mind off things. Wishing you all the best. Hugs. Pam

Garden Fancy said...

Karen, I'm so sorry to read about your mother passing away. You were so lucky to have such a wonderful woman for your mother. I hope you will find solace in your beautiful gardens, and don't worry if a few annuals don't get planted, just make the exciting changes you and your mother were looking forward to, and think of her as you do them. In sympathy, -Beth

Chand Semi said...

Nice Post. Thanks Admin
Glass works in Dubai

Sheree Shepherd said...

God bless you Karen....

Karen said...

Sue, Thank you! I'm doing my best even though all the weather wants to do right now is cry along with me.

Karen said...

Ellie's friend from Canada (Ann) Thank you. My mother was always sweet and practical. As you said, being a child of the Great Depression, they knew how to make the most (and best) of everything. I was very lucky to have had her in my life for almost sixty years, what a blessing she was. Thank you for your support. :-)

Karen said...

Indie, thank you so much. Yes, I am picking up the pieces and moving forward, just as Mom would have wanted. :-)

Karen said...

Pamela Gordon, thank you. The garden has already been a great source of distraction even with everything still in turmoil. Mom was so right; work will never let me down. :=)

Karen said...

Garden Fancy (Beth) Thank you. We're hard at work making those changes at the moment, but forward progress has been a bit slow. We're working on a Memorial Garden for Mom, I think she would have loved it. :-)

Karen said...

Chand Semi, thank you.

Karen said...

Sheree Shepherd, thank you. :-)

outlawgardener said...

Your statement about life going on being a slap in the face to those who are mourning is so true. Why doesn't the world stand still? You are in my thoughts and prayers my friend! This poem, written in Spanish, both loses and gains something in the translation but it came to mind for you.

When I die, I want your hands upon my eyes:
I want the light and the wheat of your beloved hands
to pass their freshness over me one more time
I want to feel the gentleness that changed my destiny.
I want you to live while I wait for you, asleep,
I want your ears to stiil hear the wind,
I want all that I love to keep on living,
and you whom I loved and sang above all things
To keep flowering into full bloom.
so that you can touch all that my love provides you,
so that my shadow may pass over your hair,
so that all may know the reason for my song.
--Pablo Neruda

Shirley said...

My deepest condolences on the passing of your mom. We lost my step dad last fall and my mom says time doesn't make the pain less, it just puts distance between the loss and now. Like you, she has found keeping busy helps keep her moving day by day. I hope for peace and sweet memories to be your companion.