Tax Day

I am an Olympic level procrastinator.  I attained my 3rd degree black-belt in procrastination when I was in elementary school.  Which is pretty much why I didn’t file my taxes until yesterday.

Also, I itemize my taxes and that’s another reason I was so late.  I didn’t want to face the dates on my receipts and statements.  I didn’t want to dig the happy times out of my receipt box and compare them to now.

Write-offs for June when we were planning what Z would take to college and what would stay at home.  Write-offs for July when Z was happily taking care of her charges as a nanny.  Write-offs for early August when the start of the next part of life was looming for both my girls.

I stopped keeping track of my receipts in August.  Alex’s college plans got derailed for a while.   Neither daughter started their respective colleges that fall.

I really detest the minefield of looking back at dates and remembering what was going on in the months prior to Z’s passing.  Right now, all of those memories are ticked with a sense of lugubriousness rather than a feeling of gratefulness for the the good times we had that summer.  Up until mid-August, it really was a good summer.

One of the things those of us that have suffered traumatic loss strive for is the sense of gratefulness.  Even though they are gone, I am happy I got the time I did.  I am happy for this and I am happy that happened. (lies I tell myself)

I was there regarding my time with Joe.  It’s gotten a little off track in the past months, but I am so, so happy I had him in my life for those years.  When I remember him, I don’t immediately remember how sick he was.  I don’t remember his death or funeral.  I don’t rush to anything sad.  Instead, my memories flood in with everything happy.  Our travels, our shenanigans, our budding life.  I am grateful.  I am grateful I was able to feel that profound and deep love for him.  And I’m  grateful I had the privilege of taking care of him from health through to death.

I’ve always felt much more at ease helping others rather than accepting help.  I am in the camp that leans toward the idea that true and deep love is displayed in accepting help rather than giving it.  Accepting help (in my mind) displays personal vulnerability.  I am only vulnerable in the company those I love.

Joe gave his care fully to me.  I was in charge of all angles of his treatment and care.  The whole shebang.  The only thing I didn’t do was actually ingest any medication on his behalf.  I’ve always felt that was his ultimate display of love for me.  Letting me take care of him in such a personal and defenseless way.  I am grateful for everything about our relationship.  Even the shitty parts.

I’m not there yet with Z.  I just can’t get a handle of being grateful for the time I did get with her over my feelings of the un-fairness of her loss.  I mean I am happy and proud she was my daughter.  And I’m proud of the woman she (nearly) was.  But more than that I feel defrauded by the universe.  I really don’t want that to be my first emotion.

I suppose that’s part of the process.  And I hope it wanes into the same sort of gratefulness I feel when I think of my late husband.  I know it will.  I know I will come to be grateful before I am angry.  It’s just not right now.

My taxes are submitted.  I’ve navigated the angry waters of last year’s calendar.  I look forward to the future and keep hope that my frustration will subside into peace.  I know peace can come.  I’ve looked it in the face.

It is part of the process.

This process sucks.  0 stars.  Would not recommend.

A second post about teeth.

This morning I needed a q-tip after my shower.  I actually don’t use them that often, so I had to go on a short hunt. I opened the bathroom drawer that had been assigned to Z.  It was stuck shut.  I reached in to clear the obstruction and found it was being held shut by the industrial sized q-tip box I’d gotten from Costco.

I honestly am not sure when I purchased that box.  It is possible that I purchased them when Joe was alive.  It’s also possible I purchased it right after we got to Grand Rapids.  I mean, we really don’t use q-tips at an industrial sized pace.  Either way, I know I’ve owned this particular package for a really, really long time since I distinctly remember moving it to the house with the rest of our bathroom stuff.

After I jimmied the drawer open, I did a sweep of the back of her drawer to pull everything forward so the box would sit properly.  One of the items recovered in the sweep was the case that contained her retainers.

I decided to get the girl’s teeth fixed when they were really young. I think Z was in 3rd grade when she got them.  Teeth move fast when they are young, so braces aren’t as traumatic on the mouth.  The bummer of that situation is that if teeth are fixed that early, consistent and constant retainer use is crucial.  Otherwise teeth go back to whence they came in very short order.

As per kid-life, she was terribly bad about wearing her retainers.  She lost the first set.  When I purchased a second set I threatened the rest of her Christmas mornings should she not wear them.

Even under the threat of disappointing gifts, she maintained a strong record of spotty use.

I’m actually pretty sure that she “lost” these retainers in middle school.  Maybe they were left somewhere?  Maybe they were at a friend’s house?  Who knows? She didn’t know. I told her this would be one of the biggest regrets of her adult life as I wouldn’t be a patron of constant retainer replacement.

One of the things that bereaved parents and widow/ers have in common is a fear of losing sharp memory.  I’ve talked about this ad nauseum because it’s a big deal.  Losing the concise image is a huge weight on the lives of those left behind.  We don’t want the memory of our beloved to dim or fall out of focus.

How high was her pip-squeak voice?  Sometimes I have a hard time recalling his voice.  Was it gravely?  It wasn’t that deep, but it was definitely a man’s voice.  He sang sometimes.  Rockstar ambitions ran out on family life and mortgage payments.

I remember so many things they said to me, I remember the proclamations of “I love you” and the funny conversations, (and some of the not-so-great times as well), but my memory stores these things more as transcript rather than recording.

Z and Joe were both thin.  But how thin, exactly?  How tight could I squeeze my arms?  I have a general idea, but without the physical resistance of flesh, their memories can be hugged with no hindrance or limits.

She was taller than my ears, but shorter than the top of my head.  I could look him dead in the eyes.

I hate that I can’t recall every detail and curve and line of their bodies. I hate that my facsimiles of them created in my mind are always going to be imprecise.

But her teeth?  I will always have the exact size, shape, spacing, and contour of every orthodontically curated tooth in her head.

 

Finding her retainers is a weird sort of blessing.   I have a thing that is a faithful reproduction of her physical being, but old retainers are empirically kind of gross.  3 stars.

 

At least my teeth are clean

Yesterday I had my teeth cleaned.  Like a great deal of productive adults, I go every six months.  I don’t miss appointments.   Except for when Joe passed and my living arrangements were *in flux* and we weren’t in one city long enough to find a new dentist.  That was just a blip in my otherwise solid record of cleanings since 2004.

Before I was with Joe, my professional cleanings weren’t the strict march they are now.  Don’t get me wrong, I went to the dentist.  I just didn’t sweat it if I went 8 or 10 or 12 months between cleanings.  I had many other things in my life that were more fleeting than the dentist.

Joe made me regimented.  He NEVER missed an appointment.  Ever.  Professionally cleaned teeth were his jam.  It rubbed off on me.

Yesterday’s appointment was my second cleaning since Z passed.  And, in my estimation, my 14th cleaning since Joe passed.

The longer I live with these losses, the more sentimental (?) I get about mundane chores.  It’s absurdly disorienting.  It’s in the dental chair I remember there are fewer appointments I need to keep track of.  It’s the grocery store that reminds me to purchase less food.  It’s the bank balance that reminds me I don’t need to give anyone money for teenage brie-a-bract*.

A couple of years ago, Jay and I took the girls to Flogging Molly for their first rowdy concert.  They both fell in love, but Z was smitten for life.  She became an undying fan of the Dropkicks, Flogging Molly, ETH, and all manner of celtic folk punk.  We spent lots of hours listening to their collective recordings on road trips up north.

Last week I purchased tickets to the Flogging Molly/Dropkick Murphys show in Detroit.**  It was a swift kick to my guts when I purchased tickets without calling her and getting giddy about the concert.  There aren’t a whole lot of people in my life that feel the same way about this genre of music as I do.  Z shared my love; truly and deeply.

In the year after Joe passed and this current year of Z’s, I prep for the hard days.  Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries.  I stand in my power pose and brace for the headwinds.   I can handle those days like a champ.  I take the grief and stand in it like a pig in mud.

But man, those mundane tasks?  That’s the real thick of the pain.  Mundane tasks are the black ice of life; Underfoot without notice until I have completed a root cause analysis on why I fell down.

I have freshly polished teeth and tickets to see two of my all-time favorite bands and Christmas doesn’t seem so difficult a day.

0 stars.  Would not recommend.

*Not a typo.  I made this up.

**Seriously.  Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys at the same show is just… no words… be still my heart.  Probably one of the most bittersweet things I will ever do.

 

The Two Hearted Bear

Z loved Build-A-Bear. As an older teen. With a job.

Other than a wide array of accessories, I’m not entirely sure why she like it so much. I distinctly remember her coming home from Build-A-Bear one day telling me it was ridiculous the bear stuffing personnel made her kiss the stuffed hearts they put into the bears. She didn’t need the gimmick they dubbed magic.

She did need the bears though. I don’t know why.

On one bear-making trip, she’d decided to make herself a custom “Dr. Who” themed bear (The Doctor). She came home very proud because she’d put two hearts into the bear fluff before it was sewn shut. Which she found both clever and hilarious. She’d also managed to find bear outfits that could be rearranged to be character specific. She was impressed with herself.

Overall, Z fancied herself a Time Lord much the same way I fancy myself Mary Poppins. It was her Halloween costume a couple of years ago. As a 17 year old, she insisted on buying herself a plastic sonic screwdriver (sadly, it’s powers were limited to lighting up and making sounds). She kept an emergency bow-tie in her car. Although the emergency bow-tie was for multiple emergency scenarios.

The doctors of “Dr. Who” have two hearts. It’s part of the back-story/history that’s been building since the British 1950’s.

Her heart(s?) beat to a very specific fandom.

Today it struck me that perhaps it did work out for her on a more cosmic level – maybe she is the Time Lord she wanted to be. I mean, she does have two hearts. One was in her physical body and the other was her character and spirit and shine. One gave out at a fixed point in space and time and the other is still moving along as a Time Lord would.

It’s a good thing she loved Dr. Who – otherwise she wouldn’t have talked incessantly about it or made me watch her shows.

Had she not loved “Dr. Who” I wouldn’t have known about the two-hearted Time Lords.

Had she not loved that weird fandom, she wouldn’t have put two hearts in the bear she made that day.

Had she not loved the way she did, I wouldn’t have the weird comfort I get knowing that (for her) there is the second heart still beating.

Having two hearts is an excellent plan. 5 stars. Would recommend.

***

Bonus adjacent thought:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
— e e cummings (truncated)

What a friend we have in cheeses

As with most humans, I love cheese.  Love. Cheese.  All dairy, really.  Cold milk?  yum. Sour cream?  Yes, please.  Yogurt?  I think I will.

For my birthday last year, a friend of mine (the mother of my God son) got me an array of fancy cheese.  I work on my night cheese.  I never (ever) turn down cheese.

Over the last 3 or 4 years, I’ve developed lactose intolerance.  I knew it made me gassy, so I just limited myself.  Then the gassy uncomfortable suddenly and abruptly crossed a line.

A week and a half ago I had to call in sick to work because I’d eaten too much cheese the night before.  This past Friday, I couldn’t tolerate the little bit of cheese on my pizza.  Tonight, I had a small glass of Irish Cream and I am writing this post with a terrible stomach ache and cold sweats and I will probably have to throw up soon.

I am certainly trading in my old lactose intolerance for a brand new dairy allergy.

Why have you forsaken me, cheeses?

Normally, a lactose intolerance and sudden (serious) milk issue would be really hard for me to take.  But I would have bucked-up and understood that eating the sweet-sweet semi-soft gift to humans was going to be horrible for my body.

These are not normal times and I am taking this personally.  It’s not an evolution of age,  It’s a personal affront to me and everything I love.

Next year, I’ll probably have to move on from gin, whiskey, and wine too.  And then the year after that I’ll for sure have a sudden cotton allergy.

Probably I’ll always be able to tolerate cleaning products.  Because this is my life now.

[RAGE!]

Actually, I’m only half joking around about how I feel the universe and all of it’s limitless possibilities are stacked against me.  I kind of am taking this personally.  I really did cry a little when the realization hit that I legit can’t eat any dairy anymore without cold sweats and ripped apart guts.

I am not equating dairy allergy to the loss of my husband or my child.  I am equating dairy allergy to just one more thing, another stone in my shoe, one more joy that I can’t have.  The cheese issue, in and of itself, isn’t comparatively that much of game changer.  The loss of cheese is the emotional straw that I just can’t add to my load right now.

I’m sitting here without cheese and my real question isn’t about dairy.  I really want to know when this will end.  When will the pendulum swing back towards me?  Because I really do need it to come back.   I’m not sure when I will lose my balance, but eventually I will.

Crying about cheese is ridiculous.  0 stars.  Would not recommend.

 

 

 

Insulation

I’m in that peculiar space where I’ve disassociated (?) my day-to-day life from Z’s passing.  I sometimes forget I am a bereaved parent as though the entire concept is unfamiliar to my life.

Not that I’ve forgotten Z, or that I’ve forgotten that she’s gone – it’s just I’ve boxed that part of my life away from the other parts of my life.  I can’t have all that pain leaking all over everything.  I wouldn’t be able to function if I didn’t.

It’s insulation with an impressive R factor.

I know lots of bereaved parents now.  I mean not lots, but more than people should know.  They kind of start appearing in your life when you lose a child.  It’s not something that is part of idle conversation, so these intimate details don’t get shared until it becomes pertinent.

Most of the time when I talk with someone about their child’s passing my immediate internal reaction is almost always “Oh my goodness… that’s horrible.  I can’t even imagine what they are going through.  Ugh.  This is awful.”

For all of us that have lost children, we have lost them in completely unique ways.   Naturally, the circumstances of death are just as unique and individual as our children.

I ache for the parents of the lost children as though I haven’t lost my own child.   My pain is all neatly boxed up in my heart and in my life; My empathy for their loss isn’t.  It’s just all out there, running amok in space and time and if I catch part of it, my emotions get smeared all over the place.

Analogies are weird, so I’m not even going to try taking one for a spin here.  It’s way too tricky.

Of late, there have been a lot of children’s funerals noted on the news – my heart breaks for their families individually and my thoughts always lob back into the place where I can’t imagine what the parents are going through.

Except I can.  I buried my own child not that long ago.

0 stars.  Would not recommend.

The legacy of an 18 year old

When Joe passed, there wasn’t a rush to fill his void with something.  Mostly it was because he left behind his daughter Lilly.  She is his legacy.  She carries into the world what he couldn’t.

Lilly is Joe’s echo back into the universe.   That’s one of the jobs of our collective children.  They keep our DNA and our spirt chugging along even after we’re gone.   When we sit around campfires reminiscing our lives and general circumstance, we bring back our grandparents and their legacy lives in family stories and our personalities and all sorts of childhood legend.

Z left and her legacy is a little more fragile.   The natural progression through generations is gone.  She doesn’t have the advantage of long life and progeny that would keep stories of life and love alive 100+ years down the road.

I think that realization is starting to bear down on those of us she left behind.  There is a mad scramble to make sure that everyone knows who she was and what she did in our lives.

This past Saturday I wen to the first annual Izzy shoot.  It was coordinated by her archery coach and is part of the St. Mary invitational tournament.  It’s a fun shoot.  The Izzy shoot doesn’t weigh into team standings or personal stats.   Three members of each represented school shoot from each invited team, best score of a possible 120 points wins.

I sat in the bleachers watching these kids move their way through 12 mixed range targets and felt an overwhelming sense of legacy.  I was called out of the stands to give the award to a boy from Hartland, MI.  He didn’t understand the gravity of the situation for me or the St. Mary archery coaches or even the Hartland coach.

The St. Mary kids understood.  They have new uniforms this year.  Z’s name is at the top of the back of each shirt.

Z’s life will be etched into a little piece bronze colored plastic and put into the home of the best shooter at the St. Mary archery invitational for a very (very) long time.

Joe and I have both Lilly and Alex to keep our legacy moving forward.  We’re doing okay – I’m sure the girls will do a fine job understanding what we did as parents and reflecting his spirit (and eventually mine) in the good and proper focus.

I am overwhelmed with what she will continue to leave behind.  Being the winner of an official archery contest isn’t a flash in the pan.  It lasts forever.

The Izzy shoot is 5 stars.   Would recommend everyone attend next year.