June 2009


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Getting ready for the wedding

Getting ready for the wedding

Yesterday I attended a wedding with The Boy. There were a few firsts associated with this particular wedding.

It was the first time I had been to a wedding since my mom died.

It was the first time I had been to a wedding with a boyfriend.

It was the first time I attended a wedding where I didn’t know a single person but the bride and groom (both of whom I had met once).

As I mentioned in my last couple of posts, I have been pretty down lately, for all kinds of reasons, and for no reason at all. I wasn’t so much in the mood for a wedding (where I knew no one), but figured, hey, free alcohol.

(Not really)

(Well, sorta.)

Thing is, yesterday was also supposed to be my parents’ 34th wedding anniversary. I, of course, knew immediately when The Boy told me about the wedding that it fell on my parents’ anniversary. It’s not like my family was going to be celebrating it anyway, but it felt a bit weird knowing I was going to be going to a wedding that day.

Though, come to think of it, maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing after all – my parents had a great marriage that would have definitely been celebrated yesterday had it not been cut short by glioblastoma. So, to me, the date is blessed. I only hope the couple who married yesterday will have as much love in their home as my parents had in theirs.

The ceremony was beautiful, and I’m not into the corny wedding thing at all. The bride was beautiful (in Israeli weddings the reception is before the ceremony, and the bride and groom arrive together and great the guests as they arrive), the music was nice, it wasn’t too humid (though my hair begs to differ), and the rabbi was funny.

I found myself, as the bride’s parents walked down the isle, forcing myself not to think about the situation I was in. Every time my brain had the audacity to shift over to less-than-pleasant thoughts, I internally beat myself up and literally blanked out my brain. I don’t quite know how to explain it, maybe it’s something similar to the meditation I learned back when I was taking martial arts classes, but I literally cleared my brain of everything.

Because if I wouldn’t, instead of seeing the ceremony itself, I would think of the fact that my mother won’t be there if I get married. And that would make me think of other related issues, such as wedding invitations. Wedding invitations list the parents of the bride and the parents of the groom. Would only my father’s name appear on the invite? Would my mom’s too? Would it be following by z”l (RIP in Hebrew)? If he remarries at some point, would her name be on the invite? Is there even a correct answer?

I actually had a lot of fun, once the actual ceremony was over and I could concentrate on eating (I was done drinking since I was driving). I danced my first slow dance since 8th grade (I’m almost 32) and found out that you can, indeed, forget how to dance.

And I dance ballet.

We did the eat, drink, dance, and socialize thing, and it was actually tons of fun, especially given the state we were both in last week. Other than watching the bride and groom’s parents dance on the dance floor (another reminder of something we’ll miss), my mom’s absence from the rest of my life, including a wedding that I may one day have, was not as felt as it was during the ceremony.

It’s a good thing I’m all for eloping.

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The Boy texted me on Sunday night to tell me his grandfather had just died (unexpectedly).

My heart dropped.

My first thought was “Poor Boy.”

My second thought was “Poor Boy’s Mother” who I love dearly (his family is amazing).

My third thought was “I’m not sure I’m ready to enter a cemetery again.”

My fourth thought was “I am so selfish.”

I called The Boy immediately when I saw the text message (I was in a ballet class so he knew my phone would be on silent mode). He was on his way to his grandfather’s house, and I had no idea what to say. All I could think of were all of the annoying things people would say to me when my mom was dying (and after she died) that never made me feel better and would only anger me. I told him that I’d like to come if he wants me there, but if he would rather be alone, I would completely understand. That’s all I could think of that wouldn’t piss me off.

Which only pissed me off.

Why was I taking my pain and deflecting it off of him? What if he needed to hear the things that I couldn’t hear?

I wasn’t sure how I would handle seeing his family in that situation. I had already met with his parents and siblings many times, so there wasn’t any discomfort of not knowing them, just not knowing how to help.

Thankfully, my instincts to help and impart my knowledge (otherwise known as efficiency derived from personal experience) kicked in, and when I arrived, all I could think of was helping them take care of what needed to be taken care of and help them organize (and hug them, because they are such great people). I was secretly thankful for the dark humor that had already become¬† a part of the situation, if only in that I could see that, much like my family, they use humor to deal with grief. Since I was the Queen of Dark Humor in the weeks leading up to my mother’s death, and the weeks following it, I was by no means uncomfortable (and able to add some of my own).

The funeral itself was OK. I could see a lot of what I felt at my mother’s funeral in The Boy and his mother (and siblings). There was one point, during the eulogies (which, thankfully, my dad didn’t allow at my mom’s funeral), where I began to cry, but I was standing behind The Boy and made a conscious effort not to sniffle, so I don’t think anyone noticed. That day and the next one, with the time I spent at the Shiva, went fairly well – his family, like mine, laughs a lot, so it wasn’t as bad as I had initially feared.

However, the past few days have been very difficult, first and foremost because of the profound affect they have had on The Boy. I’m not used to my mood being altered directly by someone else’s, but I’m told it’s natural. The knowledge that there is nothing I can do or say to help him feel better raised so many issues for me.

Other than a bit of regression back into my personal depression, for which I feel profoundly guilty as this was not my grief to hijack, I found myself thinking back to the months leading up to my mother’s death, as well as the the time immediately following it. I knew how helpless my friends felt at the lack of ability to help me, but, until this week, it was 100% knowledge, 0% experience. I could imagine it, but I couldn’t feel it, and now I could. And it sucks.

I keep finding myself thinking “What would I want to hear? What would I want people to do?” But I just don’t know. The Boy and I have known each other for over 3 years, but we have only been together for 2.5 months (more or less). I was alone when I went through the whole ordeal, and I am happy I was.

I don’t know how I would have been able to balance a relationship with my sadness. I don’t know if I would have been able to let someone be there for me.¬† I don’t know if I would have pushed him away.

So now I am faced with a new challenge, and I’m frightened of not being there enough, or being there too much. I don’t want to be pushy, but I don’t want him and his family to think I don’t care. I want to be able to help them as much as they need, but I don’t want to impose on the time that they need to be together as a family, alone. I want them to understand that I know exactly what they’re going through and how they are feeling, but I don’t want to take away from their pain and make it my own.

I don’t want to be selfish.

But I am.

Because regardless of what they are feeling and going through, and the fact that it is their mourning process and not mine, I am still going through my own, and while I can usually push it aside, I can’t help but be thrown back into my own sadness as I see them in theirs.

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Talia

It is obvious to everyone, as it was to me, that the death of my mother would bring many physical changes, such as giving away her clothes and her absence, as well as psychological changes, such as the sadness, depression, and sense of loss.

What I didn’t realize, and I think most don’t, is that the death of a parent specifically also brings another change: A change in speech.

I actually noticed this change before my mom died; It started when she was admitted to the hospice. At the time, the change in speech felt very awkward.

Was I going to my dad’s house, or my parents’? On the one hand my mother was still alive. On the other, she was no longer at home.

Did I have a parent or parents? If a parent is not able to talk to you or give you advice, are they still actively a parent?

Should I have said “his” or “theirs?” My mom was no longer living there, but she was a part of the apartment. She designed it. It’s her furniture, her look, her history. Saying “his” sounds like my mother was being deleted from the conversation, but saying “theirs” sounds irrational since she was no longer there. It no longer had her smell, so is it still her apartment? Was calling it “his” apartment being disrespectful to all the years that she was there?

Should I have spoken of my mom in the past tense or should I have remained in the present? There was no more present. The only “present” we had left was the wait. A mother who barely opened her eyes, didn’t know who we were, and didn’t understand what was going on around her. “My mom likes Fitness cereal.” Does she like Fitness cereal, or did she like it? Which speech pattern is more incorrect?

It doesn’t actually matter which tense you use, or if you use the plural or singular form, because either way it would bring you down. If you say “they” you think you should say “him.” If you say “him” you think you should say “them.”

I still have the same speech pattern issues now. It’s easier, because she is, in fact, gone. But it doesn’t make the speech changes any easier.

Do I do my laundry at my dad’s or at my parents’?

Am I going to my dad’s for dinner or my parents’?

Do my grandparents live a floor above my dad or above my parents?

Sometimes I momentarily forget. It’s not like you can do a Find-Replace in your head. I am going to Barcelona with The Boy next month, and once we had the tickets, he said he would research online and I told him, “Great! And I’ll talk to my mother, she knows where we should go.”

We heard crickets.

At least I don’t have to worry about deciding if I should talk about her in the past or present.

Disengagement

Disengagement

When my mother was initially diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, in a move that is very uncharacteristic of me, I chose not to Google the disease. I chose not to look up treatment information and survival statistics. The reasoning behind this, other than my complete lack of desire to face the truth, was that I felt like this would be giving in to the disease. Admitting it has taken over our lives. And my mother wouldn’t have it.

After a while, I couldn’t put it off any longer: I had to find out the survival rates, if only so I could make sure I knew how long I had with my mother, if we were lucky. For those of you who read my blog regularly, you already know that even if something is going to hurt me, once I get it in my head, I have to do it (such was the case with reading my mom’s blog several weeks after she died).

On the one hand, I had a couple coworkers whose fathers also had brain cancer, both of whom had outlived the 3 year statistic. On the other hand, I had all the information online that said survival rates are 3 years at best. While I’d like to say I’m an optimist, I’m not. Maybe a bit more nowadays, but generally speaking, I’m not. But I at least pretended to be with my mom.

I’m not sure exactly what it is that the doctors told her when she was initially diagnosed, but as far as survival rates were concerned, she did not share information with us. The surgeon was very upfront, however: He did tell us that there is no way to be sure the tumor was completely removed, and that it’s an aggressive form of cancer that would definitely grow back.

Thus began my personal disegagement.

Whenever I would see a bride/wedding/whatever with both parents, I would tell myself, “I won’t have that.” Now it’s something that can make me cry.

Whenever I would see a young woman with her mother and child, I would tell myself, “I won’t have that.” Now it’s something that can make me cry.

Whenever I would pass a grandmother with her grandchild, I would tell myself, “My kids won’t have that.” Now it’s something that can make me cry.

Whenever I would pass an elderly couple walking together, I would tell myself, “My parents won’t have that.” Now it’s something that can make me cry.

Whenever I would see my dad taking amazing care of my mom, with so much patience and love, I would tell myself, “I hope one day my dad finds someone to share his life with.” Now the thought of it can make me cry.

The worst, probably, was before she died, when I was already saying in my head “My mom died.” As if I were getting used to saying it and hearing it. Which, of course, made me feel incredibly guilty since she had not yet died, even if she was basically gone.

I haven’t discussed any of this with my family; I’m not sure if they had disengagement plans going on as well. I can only imagine my dad began “disengaging” before my mom had died, and my sisters probably did, too. My sister gave birth 2 or 3 days after my mom’s second brain surgery (tomorrow is my niece’s 1st birthday), so my mom’s absence as a hands-on grandparent was definitely felt by her when compred to my nephew’s birth and first years.

Though at least she got to have our mom at her wedding, and she got to have our mom teach her how to be a mom herself.

My dad had already been alone for quite a while before my mom died, if nothing more than the fact that she hadn’t been home for the two months leading up to her death. I don’t know if he had prepared himself ahead of time, but I do know how hard this was on him. My parents were best friends for a year before they ever became a couple, so I can only imagine how profound his personal loss was.

I have no idea how my grandparents prepared for the loss of their daughter. I am too scared to find out. As it is, my grandfather’s health hasn’t been great since my mom died, and surely his lack of will to really get better is directly related to the loss of my mother. The thought of losing him any time soon is something I am not even remotely prepared to deal with right now, regardless of the support I have.

And still, despite my long mental preperation (and I apologize if this offends anyone), I don’t feel like I was truly prepared. I still cry at the drop of a hat. Sometimes I am in situations where I look in from the outside and can’t believe that we are even dealing with circumstances that we shouldn’t even have to deal with.

My dad having a new girlfriend? That girlfriend having a family? Step siblings? The concept is totally foreign and beyond me. Don’t get me wrong – I want my dad to be happy, we all do. But the fact that we even need to think about him finding someone else is so ridiculous that I find it, at times, laughable.

I do know that my sister (the mother) feels similarly to me. She told me about a month ago that it doesn’t feel like our mom had died; It feels like she’s been on vacation. We’ve gone 3 months without seeing our mom, so it’s not hard to “deny” it has happened, even though it has. So I guess we’re still waiting for the other shoe to drop.