Unscheduled Grief

I thought I’d be writing about my sister next Tuesday, the second anniversary of her passing, but apparently grief doesn’t adhere to schedules. I didn’t expect today to be so hard. I find myself preoccupied thinking about how two years ago she was still alive, granted she was in the hospital very ill but that had become her routine during the last year and a half of her life: hospital, rehab (to regain her strength), then back home. Then a couple weeks later she’d be back in the hospital again. This happened so many times I just expected her to go home again. But her body had just had enough. The truth is that my sister drank herself to death over the course of five or six years. We tried everything we could to save her. To make her see reason but she was in such denial, that it wasn’t the drinking that was making her ill. She could always find an excuse how it wasn’t that. In short, she just didn’t want to save herself so there was no way we could save her. That’s what the disease of alcoholism does, it robs you of the ability to see the world clearly. All it wants is for you to feed it and to make sure you do so in isolation. Alcoholism robbed my family of the beauty and radiance that was her. She was the most creative, kindest, and she always had a positive outlook on life that was infectious. Then life dealt her several hard blows that she just was unable to recover from mentally or psychologically. Alcoholism saw the cracks and like a weed it began to grow through those cracks and split her apart. Watching her crumble under the weight of everything was heartbreaking. I wish the doctors and nurses who treated her those last weeks could have known the true her. I wish we could have found a way to turn her around and see what was happening. Instead, I’m sitting here writing this with a pile of tissues beside me wishing I still had my sister in my life. I’m my mother’s caregiver and she was the only one of my siblings who would reach out to me, on a regular basis, just to see how I was doing. I would give anything to get just one more text from her. Just one more kind word from her. I miss her so much, my heart still feels like it is breaking.

When she first passed, the grief was overwhelming but soon subsided enough for me to breathe again. However, over the ensuing months, I’ve been surprised by what will trigger my grief and plunge me again into deep sadness and loss.  Last summer I was shopping and saw this necklace that she would have loved and I was half way to the cashier to buy it for her when my brain caught up to my excitement and cruelly reminded me that she was gone. I don’t know how long I stood there in the middle of the store just holding this piece of jewelry my mind focused on the effort of not completely breaking down in public. It felt like I had just lost her again. It was 17 months after her passing and it felt like a Band-Aid had been ripped off again. The wound of her loss felt so raw it took my breath away. That has happened several times. I’ll be doing fine and then an odd thought will cross my mind and all those emotions just come back to me. That’s how grief works though, and for me it’s been helpful to not fight it when I don’t have to. It helps to feel the pain and loss because she did mean so much to me. Don’t push it out of your mind. Don’t try to control it. It’s a natural process that everyone feels differently.  I’ve had people ask me “Aren’t you over it yet? It happened two years ago.” I tell them grief has no timetable, it’s a process that lasts the rest of your life. I’ll feel it when her children get married, when they have children. The hardest part of losing her wasn’t losing her exactly, it was losing all the future events without her, all the memories she should be a part of that she won’t be. There will always be an empty space in family photos where she should be.

Idyllic

Lying on the dock, back warmed by the summer sun.

Hands dangling in the cool water I watch through slats.

The water is clear and the world below is a mottled green.

Sunlit and glittering.

Mesmerized I watch the minnows darting around in play

The breeze blows strands of hair into my face

Tickling my nose.

Scheming Cats

Cats are the greatest schemers in the animal kingdom. I have two cats, Patches and Felix and I have seen the most amazing thinking go on in their brains. When Patches was an outdoor cat, he would go out on rainy days but want to come in a short time later. I would dry him off and put him down and he would go to another door wanting to go out. I always assumed his thinking was that sure it was raining outside the other door but maybe it won’t be raining outside this door. I’d eventually open the other door, he’d stick his head out and then retreat to my bed after deciding it was, indeed, nicer inside than outside. Needless to say, I always found hilarious to watch.

Another time Patches got stuck in our barn overnight. My mom and I had no idea he was in there but the next morning I saw him sitting in the barn’s upstairs window where he knew someone would see him. It blew our minds that he could realize that if he sat there the probability of him being seen was pretty good. I went out and opened the barn door and he came trotting out and into the house where he meowed loudly for his breakfast.

It wasn’t until we got our second cat Felix that I bore witness to just how much of a schemer Patches was. I give my cats a few treats in the evening. One night Patches wanted more than his share and I told him “No.” He went upstairs and I thought the matter was settled. A few minutes later though, he comes back downstairs with Felix in tow. The little goober figured that if Felix was downstairs he would get treats so then Patches would get a few more too, which he did.

I could tell stories for hours about my boys, who continue to surprise me with the way they are able to think things through and scheme to get their way on such a continuous basis.

Civil Discourse

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Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash

“United we stand, divided we fall. Let us not split into factions which must destroy the union upon which our existence hangs.” Patrick Henry 1799

The heads on the television are talking over each other again. It seems to have become a staple of cable news stations today. They come in with their talking points ready to express their views but not ready to listen to the other side. This is the situation the media shows us over and over. People arguing over issues rather than listening to each other and maybe learning. Maybe even realizing that they agree on more than they could have ever imagined. It seems like the society the media shows has become one where if someone disagrees with you they are the enemy and have to be ridiculed and insulted until they go away. For example I responded to a tweet on Twitter regarding the removal of Confederate statues in the United States. Almost immediately I was attacked by a guy I didn’t even know who called me a “traitor.” I responded with respectful responses and he eventually gave up when he couldn’t outwardly rattle me. I’ve only recently begun to voice my opinion online and to have a total stranger go from zero to sixty on me was an eye-opening experience to say the least. But that’s what we keep seeing happening over and over again. If you don’t agree with someone you use schoolyard tactics such as name-calling and bullying.  Even the President of the United States behaves this way towards those who criticize or speak out against him. How are our children supposed to learn to be civilized and active listeners if the people they are supposed to look up to can’t do it?  Shouldn’t he, at least, be held to a higher standard? As you may have noticed, I keep putting the focus on the media because they choose to show society in this light. Confrontation makes for higher ratings. But is it an accurate vision of the majority of the citizenry in this country?  I believe there are countless people out there who are capable of civil discourse. They strive to practice this because it’s the only way our country can survive is by working together towards a common goal. We have become a country divided by “us” and “them” in an alarmingly short period of time. I realize there has always been an undercurrent of this, but it seems like recently it has become a very sharp divide. It’s easier to hold onto one’s beliefs than learn about others, and I get that. We live in the information age where there is so much information out there it is overwhelming. The work that needs to be done in order to understand other opinions on subjects seems daunting. And it is, but our country’s future hinges on our dedication to be united or at least more united than we have been in recent years. And that is going to happen when we take the time to learn about our supposed opponents and find a way to treat each other’s opinions with respect and compassion.