Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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He WAS there!

It’s funny how sometimes the “facts” of your life can change as your perspective and experience grows. Maybe a little growing up too. I remember when I was initially immersed in therapy in my 20’s and I was doing the whole evaluating my family of origin thing. Mom and I were in a lot of conflict at the time. I had this “aha” moment when I realized that I disagreed with her a lot, but it was because she was “there.” Dad just wasn’t. At least that is how it felt at the time.

I’ve mentioned before that Dad was a good, stoic German. He was not very demonstrative with his emotions or affection. It made him uncomfortable. That’s why there are lots of pictures of me sitting on his lap or my sister and I kissing him when we were older because we just kind of forced it on him (lovingly). You see his smile though, he liked it!

Progressive-Lisa, Dad, Darcy

But I was laying in bed the other night and one memory after another popped into my mind. I am rewriting my story. Dad WAS there.

The first time that comes to mind, I’m not really sure how old I was. Maybe five or six? Dad played softball at the fire hall. I think he was the pitcher. I was sitting on a blanket on the sidelines. Don’t know what family I was with but it wasn’t my family. All of a sudden I got hit hard in the head with a baseball. I was dazed. My vision was blurry but I looked and saw Dad running to me. He was there. I remember being home that night with ice on my face and Mom saying, “Poor baby.” But Dad came running, literally, when I needed him.

Next, fast forward to fourth grade. My grandma died. She and I shared a bedroom so I was very close to her. We had this ugly, brown, upholstered rocking chair, but we had it for years and years. I remember being curled up in Daddy’s lap in that chair and just crying. He didn’t say anything, just held me. He was there.

Right after I graduated high school I went on a mission trip to Europe for six weeks. I was in the driveway saying goodbye to mom and dad and we were hugging. I remember looking up and being shocked to see Dad crying. I mean tears, streaming down his face. He didn’t say a word but he didn’t have to.

In 1990, we had a huge tragedy in our family. My niece was killed in a car accident at only 10 years old. Dad was directing traffic as a firefighter and had no idea who was in the car. That tore him up. I remember him talking about it. And I remember our family going to the private viewing at the funeral home before everyone else arrived from the public. I am pretty sure it was him that stood next to me with his arm around me as we all sobbed.

In 2010, Tim was diagnosed with cancer. Our cat was too. Oreo was put on steroids and had another month where he functioned normally. Then the day came when he couldn’t walk and we knew what had to happen. Of course, the irony of knowing what lay ahead for Tim didn’t escape any of us. We were all in the bathroom as that was where we found Oreo unable to walk. It was Tim, David, Dad and me. All four of us cried. Dad was right there with us. No words were necessary.

I will never forget October 14, 2010 as long as I live. After his five month battle with cancer, Tim died at the Hospice facility. The room was full of loved ones, but it was Dad that stood next to me as the nurse examined him and looked up at us to tell us he was gone. Crazy thing about a terminal illness. You know the end is coming. You wait for it. You plan for it. But when it happens, you are shocked anyway. My knees literally buckled underneath me. Dad caught me. He literally held me up because my body wasn’t capable of it.

My story is rewritten. I had two amazing parents. As we all kept vigil as Dad was living out his last two weeks, my boyfriend Tim carved out some time alone with Dad. He told him that I wouldn’t be alone anymore. He promised to take care of me. He promised to take care of David. Even though he wouldn’t articulate it to me, I know that helped Dad to let go more peacefully.

As I had foot surgery this week and have had to sit still (which is almost impossible for me), Tim has kept his word. He has held me up, literally and figuratively. I remember him telling me that he knew he would never replace Dad, but he would do his best to be there for me.

Thank you, Dad. Thank you, Tim. And thank you God for all of them.

Graduation June 22, 1985 (3).jpg


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Screwed Up Priorities

Frankie is an avid athlete. He gives 110% for any sport he plays. Currently, he is a cross-country runner and a hockey player. You can see his effort and passion just by looking at him.

DSC_5798.JPGI have been making sure lately that I am thanking his coaches. When I go to meets or games, I am often appalled by the behavior of other coaches and parents. We have truly been lucky to have had great role models 90% of the time.

At a recent hockey game, I was sitting near a kid who looked like he was in sixth or seventh grade. He yelled on and off during the entire 75 minutes of the game. His mother sat next to him not responding in the slightest. He was belittling the referees by calling them “zebras” and “blind zebras” over and over again. At some point, everyone gets frustrated with refs and yells out, but there is a difference when you are denigrating them. If for no other reason, this young kid should show respect to them simply because they are adults. What is this kid’s future going to look like?

Cross country showed some unsavory characters as well. One coach was screaming at the guys, “You are running against these guys. They are not your friends. Stop running with them.” I can’t give you the intonation in written word, but it was awful. Frankie’s team supports each other and have each other’s backs. They cheer each other on and want everyone to be successful.

The worst was when I was talking to the girls after their race. They were talking about the moms from one of the other teams. She said one mom yelled out to her daughter, “At least you can burn off those calories you ate last night at dinner.” I was proud of our girls for realizing that was inappropriate. Plus, they had seen how that girl reacted to her mom and it wasn’t good. All I could think about was how she was a shoe-in for developing an eating disorder.

Competition is good for us. It motivates us and challenges us. Not everyone can have a trophy. But what I adamantly believe, is that my son needs to be a great human being first, and a great athlete second. Winning is NOT everything. Character IS everything. I’m extremely grateful for the coaches and parents we are surrounded by that seem to agree with that.

By the way, I’m pretty damn proud of Frankie- his skills as well as his sportsmanship. Well done!


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ZZZZip it!

You know how when you are saying something that others don’t want to hear, they look at you and say, “zzzzzz” while acting like they are closing a zipper? I get that done to me every now and then. I did it to myself though this week and it worked out rather well.

Dave- Cross Country

Frankie runs with cross-country which is just amazing to me because I can’t run to the end of my driveway. I’ve been complaining this summer though because he practices Monday through Saturday which means waking up at 6 or so. What about summer break? Then I remind myself that soon he will be off to college and then I will singing the blues because he isn’t here to ask for rides anymore.

One day this week it was pouring out. I mean really, really pouring. I woke Frankie up and asked him if he was still running. Yep. The other carpool mom took him and it was my job to pick the boys up afterward. He called me to get them and asked me to bring as many towels as I could.

Whining in my mind again. Of course I can but they are all in the gazebo which means getting soaked myself to go get them. I grabbed four, figuring two each. While I was driving there, you should have heard what was going on in my head.

This is utterly ridiculous. They aren’t training for the Olympics or anything. Can’t they skip days when it’s pouring out?  I mean they run six days a week.  They take this too seriously. Besides, it’s no wonder that Frankie’s $80 sneakers only last a couple of months. You aren’t supposed to run in a flood. I’m going to tell them how silly this is and hope they make a better decision next time.

(Oh yeah, I don’t have much time left to be “inconvenienced” and then I’ll be sad. Besides, they ARE teenagers. They probably think this is fun. This is my much smaller voice.)

I pull in next to another vehicle. I recognize the grandma that usually picks up her grandson. She’s driven my kid about a thousand times too. She rolls down her window and says, “Those crazy kids!” You said it Grandma.

Frankie runs over with a smile on his face and grabs the towels. I then watch with pride as he gives the other towels to all his teammates. They were so appreciative and I could tell he was thrilled to be the thoughtful hero.

He and his buddy get in the car and I can’t resist saying, “Maybe you guys should skip rainy days?” Frankie replied with, “MOM! You don’t understand the grind.” His friend chuckled in the backseat and then, of course, the radio was turned on and blaring.

Frankie was in rare form. He was singing and dancing with gusto and silliness that had me and his friend cracking up. I realized he was high on life. Honestly, sometimes I am such a dope.

The next morning the weather was great again and I woke up at 6:30 am without the alarm and panicked. I woke Frankie who said, “Nah,  I’m not running today.” Go figure.

Please feel free to comment or tell one of your own stories!


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Ya Never Know

Frankie and I used to be super close. He has my emotional makeup so I really understood him when others didn’t at times. Slowly we have separated over the years to the point that I hardly recognized who he even was sometimes. Now we are slowly, ever so slowly, finding ways to re-connect.

I think he is so unbelievably resilient. Even though I get frustrated, I can’t believe that he is the way he is with all the losses he has suffered from age four on. He is funny, popular and smart. Then the social worker part of me worries. He must be suffering underneath it all, right? Is he just holding it off until he is 30 when he is in some therapist’s office spilling how much he hated his life?

I remember when he was about 10. He had been in the peer support group at school for two years that focused on kids with loss. Out of the blue he got in the car one day and said matter-of-factly with maturity that shouldn’t be possible, “Mom, I’ve been in grief group for two years. I think it’s time to move on.” And that was that, he was done.

When I look at pictures of him when he was only eight, the age when his father died, I can hardly bear it. The grief comes back like it was yesterday. He looks so tiny. Just so damn little. I don’t remember at the time thinking he was so small. How the hell did a little boy deal with all that?

Tim has never been a taboo topic in our house, nor with our friends and family. But I can’t say it comes up all that often either.

This week, out of the blue, I’m in the car with Frankie and I stumbled upon the right question by fluke and I find out he has a friend whose mom died three years ago. He says they talk about it sometimes. I’m surprised, but very glad that he talks about it. Then he says, “Remember that song ‘Save a Place for Me’ that was in Dad’s funeral?”

I’m stunned again. Of course I do. I had no idea HE even had an inkling. Turns out his friend had the same song played at her mom’s funeral. What a coincidence. And how the heck did that even come up in conversation between two teens?

Final shocker. “Yeah. I’m surprised you’ve never said anything to me when I play it on the piano now.” Frankie has been teaching himself how to play the piano for a couple of years. He’s so talented. He mostly plays pop songs from the radio. He took (well, I say stole) the piano upstairs a couple of months ago so I can only hear through the walls. Usually it’s late at night and if I listen closely I can hear him play and sing before I fall asleep.

Holy crap. He knew the song, looked it up and learned it. I never knew.

I get tingles when I think about it. I shouldn’t worry so much. He remembers and he’s processing. He’s talking. He’s working it out. Knock me over with a feather.

The only thing more mind-boggling is that in a month he will be 16 and driving a car. How did THAT happen?

(Here’s the song by Matthew West  https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=zbsBUf9VKyc  if you want to cut and paste the link)


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Pit Bulls and Hockey Moms

I have a sign in my basement that says, “The only difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom is lipstick.” It reminds me of that NHL commercial that used to be on. Two men get on an elevator wearing rival team jerseys. The next time the door opens they both come out looking beaten up. The line is something like, “hockey fans are a different breed” or some similar sentiment.

I get it, but I have to admit I haven’t fully acclimated and I probably never will. Frankie got into his first real hockey fight last weekend and ended up suspended for three games. People of all ages and genders congratulated him for a defense man’s job well done. Even my counselor said that it was good that he was such a tough player. It’s needed in a sport like that.

I repeat, I get it. But I had a stomach ache driving home from that game. While I can mentally wrap around it, every time he checks hard or looks like he might scrap, I stand on the bench, frozen with my hand over my mouth. I will never get used to watching my son in those situations. I figure everyone else can high-five him, but I just can’t. I wouldn’t scold him, but I just can’t bring myself to cheer him on. I worry to death about him.

At another game this week, I was hanging out with a bunch of parents. Frankie had told me they were playing a team that hadn’t won all season. I felt bad for them before I even got there. I remember the year Frankie was on a team like that. It was torture to go to the games. This night, the opposing team was short players too which meant the kids on the ice were utterly exhausted. I kept watching the goalie and seeing his head hang low every time our team scored against him.

Finally, I couldn’t help myself and just blurted out how sad the goalie looked. The parents started to chuckle and one of them turned and said, “Spoken like a true counselor.” That did it. Everyone cracked up, even me. I really am the social work type without even thinking about it. The jokes just piled on after that. They suggested I go over to the glass and try to talk to the poor kid. Maybe I could offer him my card and a free session. I could say things about his self-worth. You get the gist of it. It was all in good fun and I had to laugh with them and even played along with it.

Yep, I’m not a true hockey mom. I just don’t have enough pit bull instinct.

Actually, I have to admit, I’m more than okay with that. In fact, I hope that part of me never changes. (But let’s not tell Frankie!)


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Granddaughters

This week I had one of the best weekends of my life. I was totally burned out and exhausted from everything going on around here but I came back with my heart full and ready to tackle things again.

I went to Georgia to see my daughter Emily. The occasion? The birth of my granddaughter Sabrina! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her. As you can see from the pictures I had received, she is utterly perfect and the wait to go was torture.

Presley's birth

Miss Sabrina, like most newborns, was not sleeping through the night. In fact, she was eating every 90 minutes, even though she is formula fed. Emily was as exhausted and burned out as I was. I got to spend the last couple of nights with Sabrina in the same room with me so I could get up with her. We discovered using a pacifier would hold her off and then she would eat more when it was time. One night she actually slept five hours!

I need lots of sleep. A good night for me is eight to ten hours. While I was there, I didn’t get much more than four hours of sleep and it didn’t even matter. I decided after spending the first night with her cuddled up on my chest for most of it, that we were bonded for life.

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But I got much more than I bargained for. Emily’s partner also has five children. I discovered all five of them were going to be there for the weekend as well. Aubry told them that she would share her grammy. “You can kiss my grammy if you want.” Before 24 hours was over, the younger ones were calling me Grammy. In one trip I went from two grandkids in Georgia to eight! I couldn’t help but look around their beautiful house and remember that when I was young, this what I had envisioned for myself. It’s not what happened, but this is happening now and it’s beyond lovely.

The dad would tell the girls to go chill out and give me a break. I told him that I live with all boys who hang out upstairs and don’t think it’s cool to be with me. I am often very lonely. I was loving having them fighting over my attention. I didn’t need a break!

They had to take turns, but I got my hair done, my make-up put on, and had several different nail creations. I’m not used to girls! Emily just kept telling me how brave I was. It’s true, some of the end results were a bit frightening. I decided when the bright red wouldn’t come off my nails, that I would show them off proudly as the sign of a good grammy.

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My sister and her family even came up from Tennessee for a night. That night there were nine kids! And my great-nephew is unbelievably cute. What a weekend it was. I came back and went directly to rehab to find my dad doing incredibly well. He looks like himself, is smiling and joking. We are talking about discharge next week!

Talk about blessed. What a week!


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The Real Talent

Some of you that know our family might remember when Frankie was 6 years old in kindergarten. It was his big year. He wrote a story called “The Kite and the Snowflake” and won third place in the Reading Rainbow contest out of 700 entries. (He clearly should have gotten first, of course!) It was an amazingly thoughtful and poignant story. The principal made it into an actual book and held a school-wide assembly for him to read it to the student body. He got invited to the Board of Education for the same. It put him on the map. I credit his teacher for discovering it, buried in the middle of a scribbled journal.

He is now 15 and I ask him to clean out his folders once every six weeks. He puts everything in the recycling bin and then I fish it out. I keep a few things here and there for his memory boxes. I caught this poem written on the back of a sheet of paper. I confirmed he actually wrote it and he even gave me permission to post it which surprised me. Anyway, I know I have a mother’s bias (obviously) but I think he is the real writer in the family. Let me know if you agree this is pretty great. It has the hallmarks of a teenager that make you chuckle, but overall I thinks he captures a deep understanding. The assignment was to write a poem from a Jewish perspective. (Thank God I never got assignments like that when I was in school!)

Where is my God?

My fellow Jews and I stand alone.

There’s nowhere to go or no place to call home.

My friends hidden behind ash.

Here I stand with no cash.

We are torn down by being beaten or blasted.

Maybe Hitler thinks all Jews should be trashed.

One thing that is not really cool?

All Jews are segregated from the great German schools.

Our God seems to be unreliable.

Therefore, us Jews are considered undesirable.

My depression is growing because my God isn’t near.

I can’t numb the pain because I can’t afford beer.

One thing is for sure, my God is not found.

Life is hard without Him around.

 

Yep, I’m a proud mama.