Monthly Archives: June 2013

Perfect Moment – Road Trip

Better late than never.  At least that is what I am hoping.  The last week of the month and Lori at LavenderLuz.com calls us to reflect on a moment, big or small, when all our stars aligned and all was perfect in our corner of the universe.

It has been a busy few weeks in my little piece of the universe.  The Brothers finishing school for the summer and me doing the unspeakable…RETURNING TO SCHOOL!  That’s right, I’m doing it, officially, going back to that one place every sane person swears they will never again darken the doorstep.  No, not Wal-Mart…MIDDLE SCHOOL!!!!!!  Say it isn’t so!  I can hear my Dad laughing from heaven as I type.

Middle School was not a great time for me.  And, I realize, that makes me different from absolutely NO ONE!  It is an awkward time in too many ways to count.  Self-esteem is fragile, teeth are crooked, skin is bad, friends are fickle and no one seems to feel right in their own skin.  So what do I say, SIGN ME UP!

Better yet, let me spend a lot of money to take a class that is  going to make me even MORE popular and desirable than I ever dreamed possible.  Please God, make me a Middle School Teacher!  Yes, you read correctly, teacher.  I am going to teach reading to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.  And it gets better…I AM REALLY EXCITED!  To fuel this momentum I have been taking a class this week in Young Adult Literature.  A little refresher you might say.

It is a scenario close to “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled.”  Sounds more poetic than I think I have lost my mind and there is no turning back now.  Life is funny like that.  I have been on my path for a while.

My full-time job was here at home and I have been very happy that way.  But now, I am a bit restless.  When the Brothers are at school the quiet is too much.  In the silence I can hear the monitors and other durable medical equipment that filled our home.  I can smell the boutique lotion my friend spoiled her with and in that alone time, I am now lonely.  My plan was never to work full-time outside my house but plans have a way of changing and new roads sometimes need to be built.

As I drove to my first day of class yesterday, I thought how this is a new chapter, a new road.  A book I did not want to read and a road I did not want to build but I fell in a pothole along the way while reading the worst horror story ever.  I now find myself starting a new book, a different genre with a new cast of characters.

The past two and a half years have been a time of building and paving this new road.   I have a long way to go but as I drove I thought…what a long way I have traveled.

 

You’ve Got a Friend

What are the odds?  When we first learned that Madeline would have Down Syndrome, I remember thinking that we would be all alone, the only ones.  Why?  I guess from all the stats I heard about pregnancies being terminated after a diagnosis of Down Syndrome.

I have said many a time that the day I learned Madeline would have Down Syndrome I broke down in a puddle of tears and a heap of fear.  “I swore I saw the sky turn a different color of blue that day.”  Perhaps this moment was the foreshadowing of things to come.  The new sky a vibrant blue for the joy we would  know.

When Madeline was six weeks old in September of 2009, her and I boarded a plane to Virginia to settle into our new life and learn our lessons about joy.  We spent much of this time in somewhat of an isolated state due to multiple surgeries and hospital stays.  Aside from Doctors and Nurses, I was not exactly making new friends.  And with all that we had going on with surgeries, cross-country move, new job, new schools and a side of Autism, you could say it wasn’t my focus.

Finally, in the Spring of  2010, we were able to get out a bit more and I began to take Madeline up to The Brother’s school for different occasions and I began to meet other families.  It was there that I learned that not only was I not alone in my new world but I indeed had someone who lived under the same vibrant blue sky of joy.  Her name was Linda and her joy came in a little package of sass named Olivia.

Ms. Olivia and Ms. Madeline were born just months apart and both had the same golden hair and heart melting smiles.  My conversations with Linda became more frequent as we discussed everything from Down Syndrome, navigating the military Exceptional Family Member program, Navy life and a common interest in running.

Our goal was to get Ms. O and Ms. M together for a little battle of the sass but crazy schedules and Madeline’s fragile health didn’t seem to leave time.  And then, like that, it was too late and we were out of time.  God called Madeline home one November morning in 2010 and my sky went from vibrant blue to a haze void of color.

In my raw pain and grief I recall saying, “I can never see Linda and Olivia again, it is too much, I can’t take it.”  “I won’t be able to take it.”

Word must have gotten to Linda and I’m not sure but I think she said, “it is too much, and I won’t let you live under a new sky void of color, you must visit often under this vibrant blue sky because once you know this joy it must be shared.”

Why do I think this?  Because the morning after Madeline’s death, my doorbell rang at 7:30 a.m. on a stormy November morning and there was Linda to wrap me in a hug, let me know I would not be alone and with her quiet strength has remained by my side.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s not all warm fuzzies, who do you think is part responsible for my Cafeteria Lady Gig.  She was also the one to ask me if I ever would be interested in running a half-marathon.  I said, “maybe,” and the next day she handed me my training schedule and we were off and running, literally.  Four half-marathons later and we never learned our lesson.  Except the lesson on friendship.  That lesson I think we’ve got.

Linda and Ms. O

Linda and Ms. O

She has shared her bundle of Sass with me over the last 2 years and let Ms. O become a special part of my life.  That little piece of vibrant blue joy in my world.  Ms. O isn’t a push over either, and I love to  hear her little voice yell, “NO, ABY, NO!” When I come towards her with a hug.  And at times, I think she just knows I am too sad and comes at me with a hug that causes whiplash.  I crave her fiestiness and sass.  Her presence can always make me smile.  They have brought me much healing and love as I navigate this new chapter of my life without Madeline.  And now yet a new chapter must begin.

As is the downside of Navy life, the time has come that I have been dreading.  Their time in the Navy is done and they will begin a new chapter of their life in Michigan.  I will miss them all terribly and this good-bye is so hard we have avoided it…but soon we cannot.  We must give that final hug but I think I will refuse to say good-bye.  Maybe see you around.  Even though my sense of direction stinks I can get myself to Michigan and I will be pounding on her door to get a much need hug.

Someone recently told me, “you know you’ve got a real friend in Linda.”  I simply said, “I know.”

Thank you, Linda!  Thank you for sharing your love, your joy and your vibrant blue sky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Complicated – A Little Boy’s Heart

Life is messy, we would all probably agree.  Add children and it is a bit messier.  Most messes can be cleaned up, even rather quickly.  Maybe an apology, a hug, a kiss and assurance that all will be right.  Other life messes, however, are much like trying to re-finish an old bookcase that has been layered with paint.  Each time you scrap away a layer, you get a whole new mess staring right back at you.

That is how I feel about loss and grief.  As I have said before, my misery I can handle, not that it is easy, but I have no choice but to get out of bed in the morning.  Even with the constant dull ache that makes me swear there is something heavy standing on my chest, onward I go.  In the two years since Madeline’s death, I have developed a few coping skills to get through these days.  I can recognize a day that requires a good long run and those even harder days that require a good cry and nothing more strenuous then folding laundry.

My children’s grief.  A different story.  That is where the real mess is.  It is the bookcase with many layers of paint that need to be tenderly scraped away to return to a fresh surface.  Except in this case, there is quite possibly no fresh surface underneath.  Because the surface has been forever marred with the pain of a Little Boy that lost his baby sister.  A Little Boy who was called from his classroom one November morning when he was in first grade to go with his teacher to the Principal’s office.  There his Daddy was waiting to tell him that his beautiful baby sister died suddenly that morning.  I believe at that moment he lost his freshness, his innocence.

His innocence was now replaced with the pain of loss, an adult, grown up size pain, smack in the middle of a Little Boy heart.  What is a Little Boy to do?  He doesn’t know, so he hides, he runs, he cries, he crumples papers, and he smacks his head and calls himself “stupid.”  And what do us big grown ups do to help?  Tell him he is 10, he can’t do this anymore, that he is a smart Little Boy (an understatement) Why?  Because we don’t know what to do.  Because this layered mess is just that…A MESS.

We talk about his lack of maturity.  Funny that we say this when, in fact, he is dealing with all this grown up mess.  Perhaps he is acting out what all of us grown-ups stuff deep inside.  I am right there with him.  Since Madeline’s death I to want to run, cry, and throw things but I’m supposed to be more mature than that, so I suck it all in while I tell my Little Boy to let it out and tell us what is bothering him so we can help him.  But how can you help what cannot be fixed.

The Little Brother told me last week, “Mommy, sometimes I think what life would be like if Madeline hadn’t died.”  I said, “do you like to think about her?”  “Yes,” he said.  “Me to”, I said.

No one likes to see the messiest part of themselves in someone else.  I think that is what I see in this Little Boy.  Trying to keep all this pain stuffed down until the frustration becomes so great you run and cry….or write.

The teacher sent me a message one day to look in Little Brother’s folder.  That he had written something she thought I would really like.  And he did.

Listening intently to her brother.

Listening intently to her brother.

He was to write about “If you could spend the afternoon with any member of your extended family, who would it be?”  His Little Boy heart chose Madeline.

“I would spend it with Madeline because I really miss her.  We would play games like peek a boo and enjoy being with each other again.  We would hug each other for the whole time and probably relax.  It would be the best day of my life.”

Happy Together!

Happy Together!

 

Me to, Little Brother, me to.  My hearts greatest desire, just one more day with our sweet, precious Madeline.  Perhaps, Little Boy, we are more alike than not and just maybe maturity is over-rated and wisdom is less messy.