Mom's March Madness

Everyone loves this time of year, but it’s not so much my favorite. My father died in March of 2003 and as much as I don’t want to be the sulky drama queen, attaching sad faces to every interpersonal interaction, I struggle. I remember one particularly horrible evening when he was still alive and suffering, I drove down a dark road SCREAMING and sobbing. I’m sure that if I saw a recording of myself, I’d bust out laughing at the sounds I was making. I shrieked and yelled and bawled and repeatedly bashed the steering wheel of my car, realizing that if I didn’t pull over, I’d crash and quite possibly beat my father to the grave.

It was the first time I’ve experienced a grief that raw, real and heartbreakingly painful. I’m sure it isn’t the last time.

And so March REALLY comes in like a motherfucking LION for me, pouncing on my spirit and roaring through my soul, weakening my ability to appreciate the warmth and brightness of the increasing sunshine.

FUCK YOU, CANCER.

I recognized this pattern of March madness when my youngest child was still in diapers. Of course she was in diapers until she was five years old, but the point I’m trying to make is that being aware that this time of year tends to create a shit storm of emotional wreckage in my life is a GOOD thing. I know the black wave of dark and twisty is heading in my direction so I am able to get my metaphorical surfboard ready for the rough ride. This year the gloom didn’t even sneak up on me. I started anticipating the predictable bag of crappy grief that burns on my front porch MONTHS ago. So I decided that I’d do some stuff different this year because having a depressed and irritable momma is NOT so much the favorite part of this time of year for my kids either. They deserve better and quite frankly, so do I.

I started today, early in the morning when I decided to dedicate the entire day to nurturing ME. I started by doing:

FASHION PLATES

I sharpened up all my daughter’s colored pencils and got to work as my coffee was dripping into the pot. I imagined myself still a kid, free to waste countless hours in the pursuit of the perfect combo of plates, trying to think back to a time when messing up a design would be the worst problem I’d have all day –possibly all week. It felt awesome! If my dad was still here, he would be lathered in bliss, knowing that I was enjoying myself. The thing I know best about my dad is that his entire life revolved around making sure that my brother and I were happy, safe and well cared for.

The next think I did was watch:

BREAKING DAWN

Because I love sparkly fucking vampires and shape shifters with ripped abs. Like I said before, the drama queen in me is temporarily in charge. I went full on fantasy today for a good 4 hours while eating this:


MARSHMALLOW FLUFF

I ate this puffy goodness straight out of the jar, occasionally dipping it in my coffee so that I could get every last bit of the sticky plastic stuff off the spoon. I’m not a fan of wasting food and neither was my dad. I’m sure he’d approve. We had many a discussion about our mutual frustration deciding whether to use chunky or creamy peanut butter on a sandwich. WHY IS IT SO HARD TO DECIDE? My beautiful father no longer has to decide anything other than to be at rest and at peace, wherever he may be.

However, if he were still here, I’m sure we’d be discussing all things mysterious and serious. Every day since he’s been gone I think of something I want to ask him or tell him or show him, but with each passing year I’ve found that the intensity of my longing for him is less. Today I merely have a lump in my throat, thinking about how proud he would be of my husband today, taking our daughter to the “Daddy-Daughter Dance,” at school.

That knob that bulges in my throat on occasion is a miserable feeling, but nothing like the agony of reality that ripped through my soul that night in the car when I realized that my father was really dying. Preparing to tolerate the lumps makes me feel connected to him, because when I’m a strong and stable force in the lives of my children, I’m doing exactly what would make him proud of me. I’m being there for my kids by taking care of myself.


ME. I felt THIS good after taking some time for healing.

I’m lucky. Lucky that even when I grew up and became a mother, I felt protected and comforted knowing that my parents were still alive and willing to provide me with conversation, comfort and even cash at times. I leaned on them during difficult times, not realizing how un-grown up it was to let them baby me. My “babies” are now too old for me to be allowed this type of luxury. They NEED to see me weather any storm. They NEED to see me take responsibility for my actions and words and for THEM, even when I am grieving.

And I need them to see that I do grieve, that it’s a natural and important part of life. We will all grieve at some point and during those times I want them to know that it’s perfectly okay to ride the wave of gloom, even choke on the overwhelming surges as long as them don’t let the torrent pull them under.

So that’s why I spent my day in middle of the road melancholy, yearning a bit for the past when nothing but me mattered with a guilt –free float in my own little sea of happiness. I drifted all day while they were at school, letting the tears flow while creating fantastic fashions with my old toy and feeling glad to have marshmallow fluff instead of blood to eat. I had SIX WHOLE HOURS alone today to grieve in my own way without having to be brave or parental. I needed it.

However I was very ready and extremely happy to see their faces when they walked in the door, reminding me that life DOES go on. I have so much joy to celebrate in my life. It reminds me that the pain passes. Time goes on. My children and I talked about what we did all day, and I let them know how I spent mine and why.  Giving myself the day off gave me the energy I needed to turn ON for them the rest of the day. They still need me to be super-mom, able to handle any problem and to always make them feel safe and cared for.  I am creating a relationship with them that matters, full of love and trust that will someday be something worthy of their grief when I am gone.

Of course I’m also using this as an excuse for having a metric fuck-ton of toys packed away in storage containers in my crawl space.  I don’t sort it out or clean it up. Hell to the N O P E! I just shove it in a 15 gallon tub and make it disappear under the house. The way I see it, I’m doing them a favor by hoarding all this crap, squirreling it away for the future when they inevitably ride the waves of grief themselves.

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  • fb_avatar

    One thing I'm learning from undoing years of being reactive rather than proactive with regard to my emotions is that it's super important to teach healthy coping skills. We don't come with them, they are 100% learned, and even if we only do so by example, teaching some tips on not only grief management but anger, hurt, and the good stuff, too - healthy shows of love, support, and empathy - is one of the most important jobs we've got. Keep up the stellar work, especially the self-care.

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    Time does lessen the intensity of grief but it doesn't mean that we EVER forget them! My dad has been gone almost 21 years...I STILL find myself wanting to share with him...so I take a pause and SHARE with him. This was an awesome post!!!

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    I've never replied to a blog before but I had to today. That was me last night, driving and screaming and crying, on my way home from the hospital, where my husband and my daughter's father is slowly dying from acute leukemia.
    I never knew what it was like to have a father's love - my father never bothered to show or tell us he loved us, even when he was around - so the bond between my daughter and her father has been as healing for me as it is bracing and nourishing for her.

    If I believed in God, I would have been screaming "Fuck you, God! In both eyes!" Instead, I curse cancer for what it's doing to my partner of 26 years and his 12 year old daughter, who should not have to witness this kind of suffering.

    She saw me grieving last night and it scared her. As I fell asleep, I doubled down on my promise to be stronger, for her sake.

    Reading your blog made me question that. Maybe it's better to see raw grief from the supposedly "strong" parent. Maybe it would help her to see that no one is a robot, and that her father is worth grieving over, and his suffering is worth screaming about. She already knows how unfair the world can be. Maybe she should see that I rage against the dying of the light, too. We kinda have to, I we are human beings with beating hearts.

    So today, I invite my daughter Annie Rose, and everyone out there who has lost or is losing a loved one, or watching them suffer, to scream it with me at top decibel:

    UP YOURS CANCER, YOU FILTH THIEF! Why don't you pick on someone your own size, you cowardly piece of shit disease.

    Now where is my mu-fuckin bourbon and EZ Bake oven? I am gonna need them every March from this one forward.

    Love
    Erin

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    In reply to Erin Crook:

    Erin,
    I've never replied to a blog before, either, but I just had to stop and send some love your way. I was in your position 2 years and 1 week ago today, as I said goodbye to the love of my life and father of my 2 girls (11 & 12 at the time), NO thanks to lymphoma. Today would have been his 45th birthday.

    Having been there, I can tell you that when your daughter sees you fall apart, it's OK. She'll also see you pull yourself together and continue to live. She may see you at your worst in grief, but she'll also see you at your best in survival. Wishing you strength and peace in the times to come.

    My heart breaks for you today...

  • I want to respond, but I don't even know where to start. It was my father I watched die back in '99 from lymphona over three long (and incredibly quick) years. My heart goes out to you and your daughter. I don't know you at all, but I KNOW you are a strong woman just from your words. And you will get through this. It sucks shit. There's no doubt about it. My prayers are with you. And to you Kara.

  • I'm so with you, Nicole. My dad's birthday was March 11th, and we lost him to pancreatic cancer 25 years ago on March 22nd. March fuckin' sucks. Life does go on, but good for you for taking a mental health day. No one else in my current life really understands why I suck myself into a black hole for a day or two mid-March, but I know that it's really best for all involved. Thanks for sharing something so personal. Know that there are other foul-mouthed, martini-swilling gals out here who understand.

  • Hey,
    I've been thinking about something for quite some time now. As I' ve grappled with how harsh the world is right now and raise compassionate, kind young men who long to change the world with their art, I ask myself, "why can't it be different?"

    "I leaned on them during difficult times, not realizing how un-grown up it was to let them baby me."

    Is it un-grown up to be babied by our parents? Is it un-parent-like to nurture our young adult (hell, even fully adult) children? Or do we become better adults by surrendering occasionally to the comfort that only our parents can bestow upon us and in turn become better human beings by refusing to turn off the nurturing at 18 because that's what we've been told to do?

    I'm beginning to think that we can indeed raise independent, self-sufficient adults who are also deeply rooted in their families. Now more than ever I have a deeply seated compulsion to return to an extended family where we care for and take care of each other. It's not because I don't want my children to grow up----I love who they are as adults and in no way am I nostalgic for their dependence upon me. It's because I believe that our interconnectedness and our love for each other is what it's all about.

    Nikki, you told me one that all any of us really wants is a "soft place to land"---we can offer this as parents without diminishing their adulthood for in trusting us to do so they venture out into the world on solid footing. Their occasional return brings us full circle, as it is always meant to do.

    So I say revel in your indulgence---whether you are giving or receiving---it's all good.

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    Thank you for this post. My mom died in 2008 from pancreatic and liver cancer, and everything you said is how I feel & have felt. It's been a hard 4 years for me but I'm now at a point where I no longer long for my mom the way I used to. And that is a good thing. I'm still incredibly sad and miss her everyday but I'm stronger now. I'm becoming someone I know she would be proud of. And I agree, our kids need to us go through grief so they can understand it's ok for them to go through it too. Because they will, no matter how much we don't want them to, ever, it happens for us all. I too have my own madness time of year. June 28 is when my mom died and each year this time of year has become more tolerable. But I do go back to that day in 2008 every year when that day rolls around and can remember every single detail about it. I miss my momma so much and it's comforting to know other people understand how it feels.

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    I LOVE this one!!! My mom died when I was only 25 (which now that I'm 41 with a 5 year old son seems so young) and I Still find myself needing/wanting to talk to her. We ARE all in this together aren't we?

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