We Missed Out

This is a Really Real . . . well, a lot of things, post.

TW: Suicidal Thoughts Mentioned. Death Mentioned.

I’m sitting at an antique kitchen table, the light overhead the only one illuminating the expansive and open area.

Wonder Woman is asleep in a recliner in the connected living room. The Mountain Goats are playing quietly on the portable speaker that she was thoughtful enough to bring with us.

I almost fell asleep on the couch, cuddled up under my favorite blanket that I brought from home. Unfortunately I can’t fall asleep without my CPAP. But time slipped away as I laid there with my eyes closed.

Now the music has ended and I hear Wonder Woman snoring ever so quietly. The tap tap tap of Siah’s nails against the old linoleum floor. I wish she would relax and lay down some place, the constant noise of her nails makes me anxious.

I’ve wanted to write all day, but couldn’t quite figure out what to write about. I didn’t want to interrupt our quiet time together anyway.

My brain has been quiet for over 24 hours. The dreams and nightmares I had last night just quietly passed by, without the anxious reaction that they normally cause.

I didn’t realize how loud my brain has been since I went to my dad’s house, nearly a month ago. First there was worry about caring for him, and then there was the trauma of his death.

I mentioned to Wonder Woman earlier that I felt more connected to her than I have in awhile. Not because anything was wrong with us, or because we’ve done anything differently, but because trauma takes up so much emotional space that it’s hard to find room to truly connect.

I would notice how loud it was and how much space it was taking up when it was distressing. The times when my Facebook posts were quick and terse and scary. The times when I wasn’t sure I’d make it through this. At those times the noise is apparent.

But during the times when it’s just there, when I feel like it’s quieted down and is just gently simmering in the background, I didn’t realize how much space it was still taking up.

I suspect that some day I’ll look back on this vacation and see that it’s still taking up a lot of space.

But right now it seems quiet. It’s quiet enough that I can lay still and awake on the sofa with my eyes closed. I don’t feel the need to fill every moment with, something, until I pass out full of medications at night.

But there’s still a quiet thought in the background. Something completely unrelated to my current trauma, but a reminder that past traumas are always with me.

I walked into a game and toy store that sells wooden toys and puzzles and games. It’s a store that we came to last time we were here and I was so glad to see that they were still open, they had just moved one street over. I was talking to the owner, a woman who talks about so many different things because she’s just happy to have company for a few minutes. I told her, “My son is nearly 21 now, but this is exactly the kind of place I would have brought him to when he was a kid.”

Back when Parker was alive.

I wish we could have come to a town like this. I wish we could have experienced the long drive through the mountains to get here. I wish we could have seen the sun set over the rolling hills in the distance. I wish we could have seen how different the colors are, just from the difference in elevation.

I wish.

And I feel guilty for thinking about Parker, and thinking about old times, and thinking about how things were . . . while I’m on this amazing vacation.

But those times make me appreciate what I have now.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re still pretty poor, and it takes family help for us to experience these sorts of things, especially when it’s been a month since I last worked.

But this is a different sort of poor. This is the kind of poor where I can afford to buy something I forgot when I was packing for the trip. The kind of poor where we can stop for something to eat on the road instead of packing a cooler.

I’m sad that Parker died without experiencing this kind of poor with me.

I’m sad that Kidlet grew up without experiencing this kind of poor with me.

My bottle squeaks as I open it and Wonder Woman jumps awake to make sure I’m okay. I feel bad that I woke her up from that peaceful evening nap.

But she’s already fast asleep again.

It’s so quiet here. The music has stopped playing, the dog is finally resting on the carpet, and I can hear the bugs outside. I hear the wind gently blowing through the long grass in the field just beyond the little cottage we’re staying in.

This is a kind of peaceful that I don’t get to experience often.

And my brain is quiet.

I wonder if Wonder Woman jerked awake because she was afraid that she’d left me alone too long.

But the suicidal thoughts are quiet.

We talk of future trips and visits overseas and she says “But you have to stay alive that long.”

We’ve eaten at a restaurant within a local resort and Wonder Woman mentioned that she could see us vacationing in a place like that when we’re old and want everything close by.

“But you have to stay alive that long.”

I feel guilty that she even has to say that. I feel guilty because I know those thoughts tear us both apart. They aren’t just scary for me, they are scary for everyone around me.

But they are quiet right now.

I shiver slightly as the cool night air blows through one of the still open windows. I don’t want to get up and close it because I don’t want to disturb her again.

We’re both experiencing a sort of peace here that we rarely get.

I know there’s always the possibility that the peace will be broken before we leave. I don’t get to decide when trauma will speak up and remind me that it still exists.

But right now I’m going to sit here and enjoy the sound of the bugs, and the feel of the cool breeze coming in the window. And I’m going to listen to Wonder Woman peacefully sleeping.

And I’ll deal with everything else, when it gets here.

Tacos

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.
And also a Really Real Aging Parents post.

The two are so intertwined right now, which makes sense, my mental health weaves its way in and out of all areas of my life.

I just cooked Tacos at my dads house.

I think it’s the first time I’ve ever cooked in his house, I even avoided it when I lived with him as a teen. I don’t particularly love the food he cooks for me when I visit (well done boiled steak anyone?) but I’ve never cooked for myself during any of those visits.

I don’t cook because Dad may see the taco seasoning that sprinkled on the stove top and yell because I’m making a mess. Or he might smell the tacos cooking and yell because it’s too spicy. Or he might see which pan I chose to use, and yell because it’s not the one he would have chosen.

Every step in his presence was made with extreme caution.

The littlest things would cause the loudest yell.

But he doesn’t yell anymore. He’s a shell of the man he once was. Old and withering away to nothing. His thoughts jumbled and speech difficult. Standing on weak legs that no longer hold his weight.

And I just cooked tacos.

I also touched the thermostat, I’m sure, even without yelling, he’ll have something to say about that, when he comes home in 2 days.

When we start caring for him around the clock, in 2 days.

When I scold him for trying to stand up unassisted, in 2 days.

When he falls on the floor because he tries to walk alone, in 2 days.

I drove his truck today, moved it around so that a neighbor could build a ramp up to his front door. I had the thought that he’ll never drive again. Did he realize, the last time he drove, that he’d never be behind the wheel again?

I went to Walmart today, picked up some things I needed for myself, as well as things I needed to care for him. Did he realize, the last time he walked into a store, that he’d never be in a store again?

I cooked tacos tonight. Did he realize, the last time he cooked, that he’d never cook for himself again?

Did he realize when he took his last shower, that he’d never shower alone again?

Did he realize that the last time he slept it in his bed, that he would never sleep in that bed again?

Do we ever realize when something will be done for the last time?

He wants to be home so so badly.

I heard him cry tonight, for the first time since his Mother died. When I told him that Friday was 2 days away, and not tomorrow, he cried, and begged me to get him out of that hell hole.

But this is just a trial run.

This is just an attempt.

An attempt that we aren’t convinced will be successful.

He’s very strong willed, very independent, and I can only pick him up off of the floor so many times.

And then what?

And then I will get to tell him that he will never be in his house again.

That he will live out the rest of his life in a facility.

These 2 days, in his house without him here, I’m building up my courage. I’m comforting 5 year old me, who comes out whenever I’m around him, and letting her know that he isn’t in charge anymore. I’m letting her know that it’s safe to let me handle this, as the adult.

I’m reminding myself that it’s okay to stand up to him.

I’m rehearsing the different things I’ll need to say to him. I’m rehearsing strong solid boundaries. I’m rehearsing firm but loving reminders about him following the rules.

I’m rehearsing for that pivotal moment, when I tell him he has to go back.

Because even if it isn’t this week or next, he will eventually have to go back, if he lives that long.

This week I’ve made calls to arrange a hospital bed, and wheelchairs, and home health, and, and, and.

I’m setting things up so that my son and I can take turns living with him. So that we can fly away from our lives, for 2 weeks at a time, and let him live out as much of his life as possible, at home.

And,

I just cooked tacos at my dad’s house.

I just cooked tacos at my part time home.

They grow up

This is a Really Real Parenting post.

I’ve been sitting on this one for awhile.

Mulling it over and under and around. Letting it float in my head. Taking undefined thoughts and turning them into words and sentences, so that I can put fingers to keys.

I miss my son.

Not just because I haven’t seen him, but also because he’s growing up, and growing more distant.

It’s developmentally appropriate of course.

“This is developmentally appropriate behavior.”

That was my mantra while he was growing up. As frustrating and annoying and difficult he could be, his behavior was always exactly what it should have been, even when I didn’t like it. (My son?!? Noooooo, not my son! He was a constant pleasure to be around, of course.)

And now is no different.

I was incredibly lucky that for his first 2 years living so far away, we talked almost daily via Messenger. He called me every week, often reminding me that it has been a whole week since we talked last.

We were close before he left (even though we fought horribly) and we were closer after he left.

But time has passed, the world has changed, and he’s settled into his life out there.

And it felt like overnight we went from chatting daily, to chatting every week or two. From weekly phone calls, to monthly phone calls.

This is developmentally appropriate behavior.

And still, that doesn’t make it easier.

I had a dream last night, that I was in the basement where I lived pre-parenthood. I remember how fun it was to live my life without the constant oversight and judgement that came from my parents.

Of course, I got pregnant, and there went the carefree life of early adulthood. (Don’t worry, I’m making up for it now.)

He’s living out that time in his life. That carefree life of early adulthood.

And I have no interest in holding him back.

It’s hard though. I’m always afraid that he’s realizing how much I fucked up while he was growing up, and that he’s distancing himself from me because of it. I worry that I’m becoming that obligatory phone call that he dreads.

I don’t believe that he owes me phone calls. I don’t believe that he owes me anything, honestly, because I brought him into this world and it was my job to raise him. He doesn’t owe me because I put that time into raising him.

It’s a type of grief, a type of loss, as he grows up and our relationship changes.

This is developmentally appropriate behavior.

He doesn’t need me in the same way anymore, and that’s good stuff right there.

I raised an adultier adult.

And when this is all weighing heavily on me, and I miss him so much that it hurts . . . I get a random text message. . .

A song that made him think of me.

A song that brings tears to both of our eyes.

He ends the message with, “I love you, Mom.”

Of course, I respond, and he never replies, but . . .

This is developmentally appropriate behavior.

Parenting is hard when they’re little. It’s hard when they’re growing up and fighting against you with everything they have.

But I feel like it’s a different kind of hard when they are grown.

And I guess my feelings are developmentally appropriate too.

I Lived

This is a Really Real Widow post.

With some mental health thrown in, because they are completely entwined.

This time of year is incredibly hard.

Yesterday was the 7 year anniversary of a major accident that Kidlet and Parker were in. The pictures show up every year, reminding me of the horror of that day. Deep open wounds and the two people I loved most in the world strapped to stretchers. The screams I heard coming from my son in the ambulance that day are sounds I will never forget.

Sounds I never want to forget for the same reason I let the pictures show up in memories every year.

We survived that shit. Parker took a motorcycle to the head and Kidlet caught it, and they lived.

The reminders of Parker’s ankle surgery a few years back show up this time every year, too. It’s the beginning of the countdown to the day she died. That surgery and the restrictions after it were the final straw that broke her. Her death date is now less than 2 weeks away.

The last video I took just went through my memories the other day. The last photos will be any day now. The post where I tell everyone she died will be a few days after that.

I could delete them, block them from my Timehop memories. But I don’t.

We survived that shit. Kidlet and I lost one of the most important people in our worlds, and we lived.

I recently saw my first firefly of the year. The first was in Florida and I’ve seen one since coming home as well. It’s another reminder that it’s this time of year. A bittersweet thing as she was my firefly, it’s nice to have that reminder of her, but also, it means that day is coming.

Each year this time passes with a different set of feelings. The first year was a sense of urgency, a sense of needing to get to that one year anniversary so that it can just be over and done with. The lead up is always worse than the actual day.

Each year the pain has lessened. In earlier years I’ve felt the need to do something to remember her. A trip to the beach, normally. I’m not sure that’s so necessary anymore.

This year the reminders are there, but the feelings are different, yet again.

I’ve been trying to figure out what’s different, why does it feel so different.

And then it came to me. It feels less traumatizing this year. That’s the difference.

In the past it was a punch to the gut with each picture or facebook post, or even a just a general look at the calendar to see the date. This year it just is. It’s a calm, gentle reminder that it is part of my story. Part of my life.

Part of what got me to this point.

I’m super down on myself right now because I feel like I’ve undone years worth of work. Years of work that were so important as I tried to live in ways that Parker couldn’t anymore. I had to get better, I had to save myself, or losing her was in vain.

But this is part of my story as well. And that’s okay.

This is okay.

I’ll survive this shit. Life has thrown me curve ball after curve ball, and I lived.

I lived.

I still get mad.

This is a Really Real Mental Health post.

I still get really, fucking, angry sometimes.

The rage building up over the stupidest things.

The fucking Tupperware cabinet.

That, fucking, Tupperware cabinet.

Some back story here.  Back when Parker was alive I physically couldn’t get down on the ground (or I wouldn’t get back up) and therefore it was almost impossible for me to organize the Tupperware cabinet.  I asked Kidlet and Parker to keep up with it. They didn’t.

I did the dishes a lot of the time (from what my memory recalls at least) and I’d go to put Tupperware away and it would all fall out at me, and I’d throw a temper tantrum.

I’m sure most of you have a cabinet like that. At least I hope it’s not just me.

Parker and I used to play video games and use voice chat to talk to our friends, and one day she was on the group chat, and I was putting away dishes, and that fucking cabinet attacked me.

And I went off.

Throwing things, screaming, yelling, cussing, generally acting ridiculous.

And our friends heard most of it.

Whoops.

For at least 3 years after that they would send me every damn Tupperware meme they could find.  They were even making their own memes to send me.  They would yell “fucking Tupperware” whenever they died in game.  It was the biggest (most embarrassing) joke we had in that guild, for a really long time. I still have one friend from that group who sends me a meme once a year or so.

Fast forward to today.

I can get on the floor to organize the Tupperware cabinet, but I be damned if I feel like doing it.

So today the Tupperware attacked me.

A few things had happened before it (can’t remember what) and I was just grumpy.

But grumpy turned to Really Really Pissed.

I may have cussed a little.  I may have repeatedly thrown lids and containers back into that cabinet with something falling back out at me a few times.  I may have slammed the door shut.

But it lasted all of 30 seconds.

I’m sad that I reacted that way, but I’m glad it’s not the norm anymore, and I’m glad it doesn’t last like it used to.

I’m glad I don’t treat people like that anymore.

I’ll apologize to Wonder Woman when she gets home, not because I directed anything at her, but because it wasn’t right for me to put that sort of anger and tension in a space we share.

Anger is fine, frustration is fine, but throwing and slamming shit isn’t fine.

I’m a lot better than I used to be. I have a lot of skills that I didn’t have then and generally, less frustration in my life overall.

I think I’m going to go organize that cabinet now.

Vacation

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

But also a bit of Mental Health thrown in there.

We never took vacations.

It’s one of my big regrets from Parker and I, but also from Kidlet’s childhood.

There was the year we traveled from Maryland to Florida to see our families.  That was our only family vacation in the 8 years we were together.

I think once we came from Florida, to Maryland, tagging along with my mom.  I guess that was a vacation. During that trip we managed to go over to DC for part of a day. Parker had never been to D.C. and she absolutely loved it.

A few years later when we were living in the homeless shelter up here, we met her family in D.C. for the day while they were on their vacation.

But vacations weren’t really on our radar.

Keeping the lights on, paying off the rent before the eviction notice expired, stretching the food stamps by making it to the food pantries on time. Making it to countless doctors appointments.

Those were the things we worried about.

But not vacations.

Wonder Woman and I leave for vacation tonight. I can’t count the number of overnight trips and vacations we’ve had in the 2 years we’ve been together. This is a belated anniversary trip, something we wanted to do, but couldn’t quite afford to do in September, so we were able to put aside some money and make it happen a bit late.

We’re going to a cabin in the mountains. The mountains are Wonder Woman’s place, she loves the cold. Mine is the beach and the warmth.

We’ve done lots of beach trips, it’s time to hit the mountains. I guess I can bundle up for a few days.

We have a fireplace in our cabin, and there are fire pits in the resort.

I guess I can handle that.

I still have great memories of going to the beach over Christmas on our first vacation. Hanging out in front of the fire together.

I look forward to repeating that.

I still feel weird taking vacations. I still have to remind myself that I deserve nice things. That I deserve happiness. That I deserve to travel and have these experiences.

That I deserve stability.

I’m so used to struggle that it’s hard to settle into stability.

It’s hard to feel comfortable with packing for a trip. It’s hard to avoid overthinking it.

It’s hard to find the balance between “bring absolutely everything you might need” and “if you forget something you can just buy it.”

It’s hard to find the balance between over planning/letting anxiety win and waiting for the last minute/letting anxiety win.

It’s hard to find the balance between being thankful for what I have now, and grieving what I didn’t have then.

We never took vacations.

I deserve this life.

To hear her voice.

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

My son sent me some voicemails from Parker that he had saved.

I had forgotten her voice, and hearing it again, even through the low quality voicemails, brought up a mix of emotions. It was nice to know her voice is saved. It was nice to be reminded how she sounded.

It was nice to hear her voice again after over three years.

The voicemails were mostly her fussing at him for not being out of bed. There was a series of them where she got more and more frustrated because they were supposed to meet somewhere and he just wasn’t waking up.

But she says, “love you” in a few of them.

Hearing those little words again was both hard and wonderful.

I wish I had more recordings.

I wish I had more photos.

I wish she could be here to see how great life is right now.

I wish she had known how great life could be.

I wish.

It made me realize that there aren’t many recordings of my voice, I hate how I sound. I don’t have any recordings of Kidlet’s voice or Wonder Woman’s voice. How quickly would I forget if something happened to either one of them.

Such a mix of emotions when I heard those recordings. I am grateful that I was able to go curl up beside Wonder Woman for a few moments before leaving.

I miss Parker. It’s not that gut wrenching grief that will bring me to my knees, but it’s a slow and steady ache. Most of the time it’s just there, and it’s been there so long that I don’t often think about it.

But sometimes it’s brought to my attention again.

Her birthday is next month and Kidlet already asked if I wanted to do anything for it. I remember when she first died we said we’d have cake together every year. He’s too far away for that now.

Cheesecake was her favorite.

It’s one of my favorites too, but Pineapple Upside Down cake is the best. Her mother used to make me one every year for my birthday. She still sends me recipes sometimes. It’s basically our only communication anymore.

I miss her family.

I’m glad I got to hear Parker speak again, even through a voicemail left long ago.

 

It’s 3am

This is a Really Real Widow Post. With some Really Real Mental Health mixed in.

It’s 3am. Coffee too late and a touch of hypomania means I’m still awake.

I don’t want to be awake.

I have a full day tomorrow.

This morning (yesterday morning) there was a Michael’s ad in my email, and there was a pumpkin with Parker carved into it.

Parker isn’t the kind of name I normally see in random places.

I’ve been missing her today. I’m especially missing her at 3am.

I always miss her in small ways, but sometimes that comes to the forefront. Sometimes I can feel the old pain in my chest.

“I miss her tonight.” I send the text to our son.

I wish the ball in my chest would grow big enough to let me cry. Maybe then I could get some sleep.

Lack of sleep always brings a rough day. I wish I could rewind and undrink the coffee that seemed so appealing 8 hours ago. I wish I could rewind and take those pills out of her hand.

I wish I could rewind and change things so that I stop seeing that morning play out in slow motion.

I wish I could rewind so she could see my life now. I wish I could rewind so she could still be breathing.

I just wish I could rewind.

He texts back “Yeah, I do too.”

Then he asks if I’m safe. You know, because every kid has to worry that they might lose another mom that way.

It’s totally normal.

I joke because facing the reality of our fucked up life is made easier when I add some humor.

Life isn’t all that bad now. I have the space to be annoyed when I’m awake at 3 am. I have the spoons to type this out. I have a roof over my head that isn’t going anywhere.

I’m not suicidal right now. That makes life extra good.

I miss her tonight. That ball is still in the middle of my chest. Not quite large enough to let me cry this out. I want to be held and comforted, but it’s 3am, self soothing will have to do.

There’s no real point to this, no profound realization, no life lesson for me to pass on.

I can’t remember the sound of her voice anymore. Not all of the time. I was laying with Wonder Woman the other day and the thought hit me “Will I remember your voice after you die?” I’m engaged with full knowledge that I could become a widow again.

Life happens.

Death happens.

I’ve been watching her sleep more often lately. Making sure she’s still breathing. I even watch the cat and the dog now.

It must be on my mind how fragile life is.

Watching for the slow rise and fall of her chest. Panicked if I don’t see it right away. Relieved when she makes some small noise.

We listen to The Mountain Goats sometimes.

“I hope you die.” “I hope we both die.”

We add our own line “at the same time.”

I miss her tonight. Both of them. I miss the one who isn’t breathing anymore, and I miss the one who’s hopefully still breathing in the other room.

I need to go check again.

Maybe this time, I can fall asleep beside her.

Adultier Adult

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I had a conversation in therapy about the fact that I don’t feel like an adult.

My therapist asked why I don’t see myself as a grown up. I started listing off reasons.

I don’t have a car.

I don’t have a job.

I’ve always needed financial help.

I’m not independent.

I can’t budget my own money successfully.

I’m not successful.

I haven’t finished college.

I can’t hold a job even when I get them.

I can’t finish anything I start.

I just kept listing off one thing after another.

I told her I felt that my son was more of an adult than I am. He is truly, the adultier adult, like we always joked about needing when he was younger.

She pointed out that I raised him.

I told her that was easy, he was an easy kid to raise, mostly. He did a lot of it himself, unfortunately, while I was busy helping us survive whatever bullshit I had gotten us into that week, or month, or year.

She asked me if I’d judge anyone else so harshly.

Of course not.

But this is me, and I’m “so smart” and “so intelligent” and I “should be making more of myself” and I’m not.

So how can I really be an adult.

I can’t even keep my sink clear of dishes. I can’t even stay caught up on school work (and it’s at a community college, it’s not like I’m working a full time job at the same time, most of the students are).  I can’t even pay my bills on my own without spending too much money and needing to be bailed out again, and again, and again.

This all sounds very whiny.

I want to be so much more than I am. I want to be functional. I want to be . . . typical, for lack of a better word.

I want to be able to spend money on things I need and not get carried away by emotional spending to the point that I end up staring at a negative bank account for the third time in a month, begging for help, again. I want to be able to focus on the things I need to focus on and stop hyperfocusing on the things that don’t matter. I want a fucking car. I want to finish school. I want to be able to work and actually hold down a job.

I want to be a fucking adult.

I want to accomplish more in life then just surviving and keeping a kid alive until 18.

I want to do more.

I just want to grow up.

Give Them Wings

This is a Really Real Parenting Post.

“Landed.”

“Are you in another country now?”

“Yep”

Kidlet is 19 years old and he just took a solo trip out of the country. He planned it, got his passport, paid for the tickets, saved up the spending money, and is doing the thing.

“No time for a drink yet, the next flight boards soon.” He’s old enough to drink in Canada and is looking forward to buying his first (legal) adult beverage.

He still has 2 more flights until he arrives at his final destination, some online gaming friends he’s visiting for a few days.

And I couldn’t be prouder.

I was 21 when I made my first trip (mostly) alone, relying on some inheritance to take a road trip from Maryland to Texas. Kidlet riding along in his car seat, still in diapers. The Tarzan soundtrack kept us going through that trip. I belted out “You’ll Be In My Heart” every time it came on, singing it directly from my heart to him, unable to imagine a day that I wouldn’t be right there beside him. I couldn’t begin to see this far into the future.

But here we are.

“What’s your soundtrack for this trip?”

“Ride” (By Twenty One Pilots) “I’ve had that song playing in my head.”

I smile.

Three years ago, almost to the day, Kidlet and I took a road trip to NY. It was right after Parker died and we just needed to get away. We went to see one of my best friends, also someone I knew from online. When we started I had never heard “Ride” but we spent the trip playing music for each other and it was one that got played often. By the time we were driving back it had become one of my favorite songs. We belted out the lyrics together the whole way home.

“I love you Kidlet.”

“Love you more Mom.”

Love you more isn’t a competition, it means he loves me more than all of the miles and distance between us. It’s a reminder that no matter how far apart we are, we’re still together, we’re still close.

I realize how lucky I am to have this relationship with my son. I’m still not quite sure what I did right or how I did it in the middle of all the things that went wrong for us.

In the midst of our closeness I spent his life letting him stretch his wings whenever I could.

And he sure is using them to fly.