A Monochromatic Kaleidoscope

Sunlight filters through the trees

Mottling green on green

In the soft grass that

Carpets the yard.

When the summer zephyr blows

The ground becomes

A monochromatic kaleidoscope.

My dog is a reddish blur

As he chases his ball.

Turning to look at me, dropping the ball

He is the picture of happiness.

And I find myself smiling

Even with the heaviness in my chest.

The healing has just started

It’s in its infancy still.

But it is welcome.

The Gardener

My mom loved gardening. I vividly remember playing outside, as a child, during summer weekends, watching my mom hunched over her various flower beds with her blue and white cowboy-style bandanna tied around her head. She would be weeding or transplanting new flowers. There would be containers of near fluorescent marigolds, pansies or some other colorful summer flower. One house we lived in there was a stone wall in front of our house and my mom and planted rows of bright orange tiger lilies all along it. When I got home from riding my bike somewhere I could see the brightness from way down the street. Those flowers were like a landing strip for my bike.  Out of all the flowers my mom loved though, the one she had to buy every year were geraniums. Early summer always meant there would be pots of red blooms decorating our porch or front steps. It couldn’t be white or pink. They always had to be a deep rich red color. I must admit I’ve always loved the contrast between the red flowers and the verdant green stems and leaves.

So, the other day I was missing her like crazy so I decided to go to Wentworth Gardens in Rollinsford, New Hampshire. It is a massive complex with endlessly long greenhouses and a gorgeous outdoor space filled with bushes, trees, and other flowering plants. My mom and I went there the first spring we lived in Maine and she loved it. It’s such a wonderful memory I have of her, seeing that gardening spark come alive again in her eyes again. I spent a good amount of time just walking around looking at all the flowering plants. Then I spotted the geraniums and a lump immediately formed in my throat. I made my way towards them and as I touched one of the blooms I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and I swallowed hard and took some deep breaths trying to compose myself. I didn’t want to have a full-on meltdown in public. I knew what I had to do though, and I’m sure you have figured it out as well. I bought three deep red geraniums and planted them in a large pot that sits on my porch. Sitting on the porch and transplanting them to their new home gave me a moment where I felt close to my mom again. That was a nice feeling to have when, for the most part, she feels so far away from me. Now, throughout the summer, when I see those flowers, I’ll smile because I know she’ll have the same look on her face when she looks down and sees them.

geraniums

Hollowed Out

I feel hollow.

The foundation of my life is gone.

Unstable ground is what I

Tremble on.

Unsure of who I am.

Unsure of where to go.

Unsure of everything.

I try to move forward,

But my gait is unsteady

And I fear falling

With no one here to catch me

Before I hit the ground.

At some point forward movement

Will become necessary.

I know it is what she

Would want for me.

But for now, I sit trying to

Fill this aching emptiness

With memories of happier times

With my mother.

Empty Spaces

The cat having given up on

His former napping spot

Cuddles up to me

As I write.

Grief has given me

Tunnel vision.

I find myself obsessed

Over the now empty spaces

Where my mom sat.

Her kitchen chair.

Her place on the sofa

Her napping chair

All now filled

With pink elephants

I try not to look at them

But there’s a gravitational pull

To what is no longer there.

Swimming Down

“…the moments when you’re in so deep it feels easier to just swim down.”

-It’s Quiet Uptown from “Hamilton: An American Musical”

It’s been two weeks since my mom passed away and for the first time today I felt like giving into the grief and depression that’s been burbling under the surface of my consciousness. It was so strange, in the quiet moments, I almost felt like something kept brushing against my feet threatening to grab my ankles and pull me under. It must sound insane and that’s how it felt. I have been treading water since my mom left us just waiting to drown in the grief I thought I’d feel. But it hasn’t happened yet and I’m puzzled by that. And yet, I can’t stop fighting the urge to sink. My arms won’t stop paddling to keep my head up. Why am I so afraid to really let myself feel my mom’s loss? That’s what I find myself asking myself. And yet I know the answer. I’m afraid if I let myself feel it I’ll get lost in it. I’ll lose myself in the power of it all. Then I have to remind myself that it has only been two weeks and I have the rest of my life to grieve. I don’t have to feel it all at once. I will grieve in my own time and my own space.

My Confession

I have a confession to make. Before my mom went into the hospital, I was tired. Tired of being her caregiver. Tired of not having a life of my own. Tired of feeling like life was passing me by while everyone else got to move along with the traffic of their lives. I was her caregiver full time for twelve years and part-time for eight years before that. Twenty years I spent helping her out while putting my hopes and dreams on hold. While she was in the hospital and her condition was declining I hate to admit that part of me felt like a horse at the starting gate of a race. Chomping at the bit of what was to come. Those feelings made me feel so incredibly guilty but there they were. I was ready to move forward with my life and enthusiastic about what would happen after the inevitable happened.

Then my mom passed and the racing gate burst opened and nothing happened. I couldn’t move. The days just crept by and I didn’t want to move or do anything without my mom. My identity had become so intertwined with hers that I just don’t know who I am now. It’s a strange feeling, to say the least, to be in my mid-40s and have no clue who I am. It is so strange seeing things that were my mom’s leave the house. Last Wednesday her oxygen compressor that whined and wheezed 24/7 was picked up by the company and I had the most dreadful feeling that it couldn’t go because she needed it to breathe. Then the realization hit and the dam cracked, but didn’t completely break, and I cried. I put the tubing that came with the machine, in the trash and I walked back to the house shaking so hard I could hardly take a step. I feel the pull of her still and I need to break away from that. I need to move toward a future without her but I don’t know how to. I try to take steps and feel this gravitational pull backwards to a past that no long exists. I keep listening to a song called “Never Lookin Back” by the husband and wife duo of Pear. There’s a line in the chorus, “….no future in the rearview mirror” that is resonating a great deal with me these days. I can’t keep being pulled back by the past. I need to move forward towards a future of my own. I’m just not sure how to do that at the moment, but taking one baby step at a time I know I can. It’s just going to be the hardest journey I will ever make in my life.

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley Aaron Burden

My mother’s favorite flower was Lily of the Valley. The small white blooms hold so much fragrance they’ve always seemed otherworldly to me. On our property we’ve had a few plants here and there but nothing like we had at our last house. At the last house we lived in, we had a whole bed of them that bloomed every spring and filled the air around our house with sweetness. On Tuesday night, the one week anniversary of my mom’s death, I was walking my dog out in front of the house when a smell hit my nose. I shined the flashlight along the ground and there they were, more Lily of the Valley than I have ever seen here. A little grove of them all blooming in the nighttime. My knees buckled and I found myself sitting there looking at them with tears streaming down my face. My dog, who unfortunately is becoming all too used to my random sobbing, came over and started licking my face and pressing himself against me to comfort me. I ran a shaking finger along one leaf and swear I felt my mom there with me at that moment. Of course, I couldn’t see her but in my heart I know she was there. After a while I stood back up and went back into the house and went to bed and, for the first time since she passed away, I felt comforted knowing that there was some part of her watching over me.

Self Implosion

It’s gathering,

Just below the surface

Of my knowing.

Bits of magnetized grief

Attracted to other fragments

Of what was blown apart

When she left us.

It is growing exponentially

Expanding in size and weight

Sitting densely on my heart.

Threatening to pull me inwards

On myself.

A fetal position curling my back

To the world.

I will implode at some point.

This grief will overwhelm and drown me

And the flotsam that is left

Within my soul

Will be the building blocks

Of who I am to become without her.