Monday, March 2, 2009

Driving downhill

I am in the car with my son. We are chatting and our conversation went from making me laugh to making me cry in about 6 blocks.

Son: Is that bird poop? (pointing at the window)

Me: Yes it is.

S: Can I touch it?

M: No.

S: Why not?

M: It has germs baby.

S: (As we drive past a dog out on a walk) Dogs can't poopy on the car.

M: No they can't.

S: No. It would make a big mess and they could fall off and get hurt.

M: They could fall off.

S: Then they'd have to go to the doggie hospital. I don't know where it is but Daddy does.

M: Really?

S: (After a pause) Is Papa still sick?

M: No, Papa isn't sick anymore.

S: Is he at Grandma's house?

M: No baby, he's in heaven.

S: Aww, but I miss him.

M: I miss him too baby.

Breaking my heart.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

One word

I attended my first book club meeting tonight. One of my friends here invited me to join and told me the first book was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had read the book about a year ago and enjoyed it but decided to reread it so it would be fresh in my head. Now, I liked Elizabeth well enough and I think her writing is well thought out and occasionally absolutely hilarious, but I don't think I'd want to be on her speed dial. I think I'd find her a little overwhelming in real life (Now, Richard from Texas could come hang out at my house any time).

There were many things I loved in the book and there were some things that really made me stop and think. I got different things out of it this reading after this last year that I have had. As I read it, I thought, "Wouldn't I love to go, by myself, and do these things?" Ground myself again. I feel like I could use some time where no one else needed anything from me, for just a little while. The idea of going to the Ashram seemed infinitely more appealing this time around. And who doesn't want to go to Rome and eat? One of my favorite things about the Italy section is when she and her friend talk about how every person and place has word. Rome was Sex, the Vatican is Power (much like DC), New York is Achieve, her friend Sofie says Stockholm is Conform (much like Japan). It takes her a while to figure out her own word (something in Sanskrit).

It was odd when I got to this part because I had been thinking along these lines myself recently. My sister had put something up on Facebook recently saying she thought everyone should write a 12 word or less description of themselves. It brought to mind those games or "group process exercises" where they have you describe yourself, or someone else, or how other would describe you in five words. And I thought, "What word describes me now?" When I think about how others view me, I always assume they think of words like "responsible" "organized" "reliable" "reasonable". Nothing sexy, nothing surprising. We all always knew I'd grow up to be responsible and sensible. But this thinking combined with the book made me think about what my word is. What is the one word that describes me, right now?

And, oddly enough, that was the last question the host asked at the book club tonight. "What is your word?" She asked if anyone knew and I volunteered that I did.


(And part of me loves that it is hyphenated, because I am too.)

They all asked me if I could explain why. I told them I didn't think that it was necessarily a good thing, or a bad thing either, but the truth. I am capable, organized, self-sustaining. My husband deploys, he returns-I keep the home fires burning. We move-I pick up, get us settled, make new friends, establish a new routine. When crisis hits, I keep everything organized and make sure everyone has what they need. But. I also just keep all of my stuff to myself and sort it out in the free moments I have late at night. Unlike Elizabeth, I don't think the world will stop spinning if I take my hand off the top. And I have stopped taking on more people who need things from me. But it's all I can do to keep up with what is on my plate now.

All through the crisis with my Dad, I felt like many people were relying on me. My Dad, my Mom, sisters, extended family, friends. My folks needed my help in day to day surviving and buffering. The extended network needed information and comforting. My husband needed me not to loose it while he was gone on his worst deployment ever with no way to get home. My son needed me to be a constant and stabilizing force for him. And I couldn't let any of them down. I never felt like it was my turn. I still don't. I'm afraid to say anything to anyone else who was close to my Dad because if they get upset, I can't. And I don't want to upset anyone. I was never alone, but I was also somehow always alone. After the funeral, my Mother-in-Law (who came for the entire week, may God bless her and keep her) said to me, "You looked so alone and strong and fragile." which may be the most accurate assessment.

It sucks being strong all the time. But the rational part of my brain wants to know what would be achieved by falling to pieces. Nothing. But I would really like to go away somewhere, alone, just for a little while, to sort out my head. Even if I just sleep and cry. In an awful sort of way, that seems marvelous to me.


What's your word?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I have been moving and unpacking for, seemingly, weeks now. The hustle and bustle of the upcoming move over the holidays kept me somewhat distracted and gave me something to focus on. Driving across the country with my husband and three year old without killing either one of them or running for the hills took just about all of my concentration. Plus I got sick. But I found that, once the house was mostly settled and my mind was, once again, free to drift, all of that grief resurfaced.

It waxes and wanes. I find some days it depends upon how tired I am. How well I'm feeling. What I have been unpacking. My son is testing his limtis, and thus, testing me. I have les patience than usual with him. I'm finding it difficult. My husband took extra time off to help get settled but I felt more like he was in my way and that I was constantly refereeing between him and the boy. I played buffer and referee all the way across the country. It's exhausting.

I joined the YMCA here. I've already been working out. That helps somewhat. Not running for three weeks was awful. No stress relief. But since it was cold out, I had an awful cold and couldn't breathe, there weren't really any options.

I'm hoping that I can begin to establish a routine now. We all know how I love a routine. And then maybe I'll be able to get my head together or at least find someone to help me do it. It's time. Living like this is exhausting and I'm burning out. It's time to put this load down.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


We were at our farewell party and I was catching up with friends after the holidays. One of my friends is engaged and as she talked about her wedding I said, "Oh, have you set a date?" and she replied, "Yeah, June 27." I managed not to blurt out, "That's the day my father died." I smiled and nodded and continued our conversation, but it was rattling around in my head.

My husband and I are are talking about his new assignment. He talked to someone in his new office and they were discussing how soon he'd start actual "work" after checking in and what the process entails. My husband asked if February looks like a busy month and he was told no, but that he'd have his first business trip in March. And he tells me, "I'll probably be gone for my birthday. We'll leave on the 17th." I don't think he realizes that the 17th is the day they found Dad's tumor. The day the whole nightmare start for me. I suspect if he stopped to think about it, he'd realize the association since it was locked into the flurry of his deployment departure last year.

I am dreading the period from March 17 to June 27 this year. I also don't delude myself that the whole thing will magically feel better to me after the first anniversary. I feel like that three month time period is looming on my horizon like a nasty storm front. It was waiting for me last year but I didn't see it coming. But forwarned is not necessarily forearmed. I have no idea how to prerpare, what supplies and reserves I will need. Although I'll emerge on the other side, battered but moving forward, I am not looking forward to the journey.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year

I thought I'd be so happy to see this year end. It was an awful year of pain and suffering and loss. I thought I'd be the first to cheer. But as the day grew closer, I realized I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready to move into a new year in which my Dad would never be. I'm not ready to let go of the last year he was in our lives. I'm not sure I'm ready to face a whole new year of milestones and events that will not include him. New house, my husband's possible promotions, my son's latest and greatest. A whole year full that he won't share.

I'm mere months away from the first anniversary of the whole saga. They found the tumor on St Patrick's Day. I can't believe we are so close to a year later. I'll be moving into my new house 6 months, almost to the day, of losing Dad. We were so excited to be moving closer to home. We were going to see so much more of my family, of Dad. My son was going to get to spend more time with Papa. When he got sick, they told us, a year, a year plus with treatment. We got three months. Mentally, I'm still in that year time frame. He should still be here. We were supposed to have more time.

So I'm not really ready for 2009. I don't feel much like celebrating. I'm hoping for a better 2009. This one didn't lack for love, but I'm hoping for more joy.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Room is Spinning

I think I'm dealing with missing my Dad much the way I try to deal with having far too much to drink. I walk around trying to pretend that I'm fine, everything is okay. Nothing to see here. I don't like being vulnerable and I don't like making mistakes, so I move very carefully. But, eventually, I start to get overwhelmed. Like when you get to the point where you know, eventually, you're going to be sick. But you try to stave it off. You try to breathe through it. You try to distract yourself. Unfortunately, it is inevitable. You will be sick, you will start to cry. And in both cases, you are afraid to start because you know it is going to hurt, and you don't know if you are going to be able to stop. And you know that, if you don't feel better when you do, finally, stop, it is just going to happen again.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Theoretical Money

My husband is in charge of our investments. He likes money, he'd like to have more money. He also understands and enjoys reading a prospectus. Whereas my eyes glaze over three sentences in-and forget the charts. So I let him investigate, then he gives me the possible plans, pros and cons, and we make a decision.

A year or so ago, an opportunity presented itself in the form of a former military colleague. This was someone we considered a friend and we'd kept in general touch with him after he left the service. We have lots of common friends from our former station together and we were all currently living in the same area. This guy was now working for a venture capitalist and he had an opportunity for us and our friends to get in on the ground floor as a group (the guys actually basically formed up a trifecta) on a large investment that would normally be out of reach. The guys, who are admittedly more well-versed in finance than I, felt it was a great opportunity and a good risk. When my husband presented it to me he was enthusiastic. It was a significant amount of money for us, but it would come out of what we considered "investment accounts" and not our daily household operating money. I asked him, "What if we loose it all?" He told me that we would remake the amount of money into those accounts during his deployment with his extra pays (ie. hazardous duty pay). He thought it was a fairly safe calculated risk. I was a little nervous about mixing friendships and money, but I agreed and kept largely out of it.

Money changed hands and our trifecta was having trouble getting the documentation they wanted about where the money was and what their stake was. Then my husband deployed and my Dad got sick and I forgot all about it.

Fast forward to this October. Hubby and I both return home with a housekeeping list. He had been trying, throughout deployment, to get in touch with our friend and the main investment guy to get answers, to no avail. Once he was back in town, he teamed up with the other trifecta members and they began to push in concert. Now, as a side note, none of these men in the trifecta are the type of guys you would immediately describe as "easy-going", you'd be more likely to say they are great guys, "but..." and there would be a qualifier about anger management or not wanting to be on their bad side. So there was a long meeting and some pointed phone calls and threats of the activation of lawyers. And then there were more promises of paperwork and clarification. But they got nowhere. Money was not where it was supposed to be. They were invested with people who didn't know the money was from them, in other cases. Licenses were questioned. There was much confusion and unpleasantness.

So a lawyer was retained. And she sent some scathing letters that resulted in more promises of restitution and paperwork by certain deadlines. The deadline came but only brought a rebuttal letter from yet another attorney for the other side. By now, my husband is not sleeping and is working up a good ulcer and snapping at the boy and I. He has no desire to enter into a protracted and expensive legal battle, throwing good money after bad. One member of the trifecta agrees but the other wants to go after the venture capitalist and choke him with his last nickel, if necessary. More long talks ensue and the husband grows ever more testy. I tell him, listen, the money is gone. If we get some back, great, but make peace with the fact that it is gone and make your decisions from there.

The next morning, amidst trying to get paperwork put together for a rental application across the country, he ran home to sign things and ended up shouting at our son and being very short with me. He went back to work and I went to the gym. I was not happy and basically worked up what I was going to say to him that night while I was running on the treadmill. Then he left me a message apologizing, which took some of the wind out of my sails, but didn't mean I didn't have something to say later. The boy and I got a full apology later that night and he explained that the perfect storm of investment stress, work stupidity and moving stress all converged moments before he left to run home that morning. It was not his finest hour. But later that day, he had a long talk with the more reasonable member of the trifecta and gained some perspective and peace.

And then I had my say. I told him:
-The money is gone. It sucks, but it's gone. But it was only theoretical money anyway. It was never in our hands. He still has his job, we have a home. We won't have to live on Top Ramen. Nothing really bad has happened to us.

-All he's been guilty of so far is a poor character judgement call. He thought he could trust our friend and trusted his judgement about the venture capitalist. I told him he did know what to do, despite his protests otherwise. He wasn't going to get into a protracted legal battle and waste more money and energy. I told him I thought this was as much about his pride as it was about the money. I told him not to let hubris cloud his judgement.

-I told him that when it comes right down to it, it's just money. It doesn't really matter in the end. When my Dad was so sick, I would have hocked all my jewelry and cashed out my IRA if that was what it took to get Dad to Vermont one last time. But whether I had $2000, $40,000 or $800,000, it didn't matter. Dad was too sick to go anywhere. No amount of money could make that wish come true and it certainly couldn't save his life. The money isn't important.

And he agreed. In fact, he'd been thinking of my Dad earlier that afternoon and realized the same thing after his calming chat. And so, we're going to see what the lawyer can settle for us, and we're walking away.

And the sky won't fall.

And we won't starve.

And we're still going to be better off than more than half the people in this country who are struggling so much this year.

And it isn't the end of the world.

It was only theoretical money anyway.