Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas Eve Eve

Last Monday, the Monday that started smacking me around at 6:58am, only offered a reprieve during the workday. Then it got mean again.

I spent most of the day trying to reach Brooke via cell phone to let her know where I parked the car and to find out when she planned to be done with work. She had indicated to me earlier in the day that she would work late if they were willing to take her. Enjoying money as I do, I had no problem with this. I just wanted to know what to expect. I called her once when I got into work, once around lunch, and once around 4pm. She was due to be done at 4, and I was surprised I hadn’t heard from her. I stuck around at work, thinking how silly it would be for both of us to try to get the car, not show up simultaneously, and then not be able to reach the other person. So very silly.

I called again around 6. It was dark, and the temperature was dropping a few degrees every hour. One of us was going to have to bus to the car, and it might as well be me. At 6:20, I called one last time to say I was leaving, and I headed out to catch the 6:27 bus. As I approached the bus stop, I watched the end of a bus go around the corner. I couldn’t read the sign on it, so I just crossed my fingers that it was a different bus. There are many, many buses at that corner. Later on, I hear the bell tower chime 45 minutes past the hour. Yes, I had missed it.

That made three buses missed that day. I’m brilliant, I tell you.

I climbed on the bus that came by at 6:57. Thanks to Brooke’s bonking into me earlier in the day, my hatlessness, and the need to stand in the wind for half an hour, I was migrainey. The bus route has changed in the last three years since I rode on it with any regularity. Now, it pulls into a different commuter lot first. The commuter lot where I had parked is so big that there are three (3!) bus stops inside it. At the time, I had no idea how many stops there were within the lot, and the windows of the bus were so dirty that I couldn’t see much of anything out of them, so I gambled and got off at one unfamiliar stop that gave off good Corolla vibes. I was right.

That was actually the first thing that had gone right that day.

I was icy cold from standing outside for half an hour, and I had to brush off the car. I headed home, stepped over the horizontal, bailed Christmas tree, and piled myself and my belongings into the house. It was warm. I turned on the heat. It was warmer.

It was now 7:30, and Brooke had not called home or my voicemail at work. I called the cell again. I told the voicemail that I was going to lie down. I lied. I read the paper and called her again at 8:30, at this point totally convinced that she was frozen and bloody in a gutter somewhere near the mall. The main story in the paper was about an unsolved murder—unsolved because they hadn’t found the body.

I called at 8:45. It rang and went to voicemail. I called at 8:46. Same thing. At 8:47, someone picked up, and I heard men laughing and talking in the background. One mentioned Brooke’s favorite thing ever: ice cream. I yelled, “HELLO?!” into the phone. It disconnected.

At this point, I couldn’t decide whether to burst into tears or shit my pants. I tried back immediately, and the voicemail picked up right away. The same thing happened a second time. On my third call, Brooke answered. She was sheepish. “I’m done. Can you pick me up?” In my PJs, I picked her up.

The only other point of note of the evening is that when we had snuggled into bed with Muggle lying at Brooke’s feet, we heard a hacking, coughing sound coming from the kitchen. Quid had barfed. Muggle saw this as a fantastic opportunity to have a snack and dove off the bed. I got up, kicked (gently, of course) Muggle away from the pile, and cleaned it up. Minutes later, Quid came into the bedroom and started digging at the window. The condensation made his paws squeak against the glass, and he enjoyed this. He would not stop, even despite threats of having his optically impaired mommies chuck things across the room at him.

The cats have new nicknames, now:
Quid = Neurotic Hamster Cat, thanks to his relentless and frantic pawing at the glass
Muggle = Vomit-Eating Weasle Kitty, which doesn’t need an explanation

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

der Weihnachtsbaum ist nude

This week, my excuse for not writing is that I’m busy as all get out. It’s true, actually. Between work and home obligations, I’m swamped. I’ve been productive, though, and we got the Christmas tree up and sent out all of our Christmas cards on Monday night after arriving home at 8:45.

For work, I’ve been involved in the project they actually hired me to do 20 months ago. It’s fantastic, but many of my obligations are kind of new. Like today’s assignment: Write a narrative on the purpose, methods, and findings of the data. See, I’ve never actually written anything like that before. Literally, 99% of what I write consists of self-absorbed navel grazing. The leftover bit is emails for work.

I need to get this to him today. I’m in Eastern Standard Time. That’s three hours. It’s pressing because next week is the academic holiday break, and Mr. Boss Man is leaving for Costa Rica on Friday. It’s pressing because our collaborators in China are being goaded by their superiors to start the publishing process. I’ve had the data since Monday (Monday!), and one of my neuroses is that I’ll do something so horrible that they’ll laugh at me and then fire me. Yet, on I write.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Impending grief

A close family friend, someone I've known since birth, is in the cardiac ICU in Gainesville, Florida. I actually have no idea how old he is, but the range of possibilities is somewhere from 65 to 75. I think. They (he and his wife, another lifelong family friend) live in Port Saint Lucie. He played 18 holes of golf Wednesday morning, then came home, had lunch, and took a nap. He was playing in a 9-hole tournament that afternoon, but he had a sharp pain in his chest and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. The hospital did CT scans and found some difficult kind of aortal something and had to call around to the area hospitals to find someone who could do the necessary surgery.

Shands Medical Center in Gainesville was the closest they found, and they took him by helicopter, a 200 mile flight. They did an "ascending aortic arch repair, type I," and although the folks at the hospital in PSL were quite concerned about his prognosis, the surgeons at Shands were hopeful. Or that was what I heard on Friday. This morning, I find an email from his wife that says that "surgeon told [her] today that [her husband] was in very bad shape when he arrived at the OR." But whatever they think after surgery is better than what they say before surgery, right? He'll be in the hospital for at least a month, and it will probably be a week before he makes it out of the ICU.

I didn't feel like this when my grandfather got sick. My grandfather was an asshole, so that may have something to do with it. What men in my life have I lost? Bob, my swim coach, died in a car accident when I was 16 and he 33. Jon, a fellow camp counselor, died from a recurrence of his brain tumor when we were 19. Later that summer, I lost Ben and Kevin, high school classmates in the same car accident. A few years later, Brad, another classmate, died at the World Trade Center. A year before Mom died, her father died, but his death had little emotional impact on me. Last year, my uncle George died suddenly while traveling in Switzerland. I was pained for his wife, my aunt, but his death was quick and he was old. Just a few months ago, my recently discovered great uncle Don died after a long illness. While sad, his death was almost a relief.

But this family friend... I don't know. I don't know what to think or feel, just that I'm scared and sad and try to be hopeful. I'm afraid that my hope hasn't yet returned.

Monday, December 13, 2004

And to think my mother called me "sunshine"

My Morning
by Emilin

6:58 -- Brooke reminds me that we have to leave the house in half an hour.
7:02 -- I get out of bed.
7:15 -- I realize while showering that the Christmas tree is no longer leaning against the bathroom window. "How odd," I think to myself.
7:16 -- I realize I forgot to buy my secret santa present for work for today's lunch.
7:35 -- We stumble out of the house, and I start the car.
7:37 -- B gets in the car, sort of falling into the seat, and slams her shoulder into the top of my head, as I am leaning over in the seat to reach for the snow brush.
7:39 -- B gets back in the car after scraping it off and tells me that she picked up the Christmas tree and discovered that it had fallen into a plant stand, knocked the plant and plant stand over, and turned on the outside water faucet. We have no idea what kind of shape the basement is in, but we know that it's probably wet. We look up to see that the tree has again fallen over. We leave anyway.
7:55 -- I drop B off at work.
8:02 -- I pull into the Blah Blah Shopping Center to hit JoAnn's for the SS present and Target for some Q-tips because we have exactly two Q-tips left.
8:35 -- I leave the shopping Center.
8:45 -- I pull into the commuter lot right after the commuter bus. I decide to pack the SS present and sign the other cards.
9:00 -- I look up to see the next bus pulling away.
9:10 -- While standing in the bus shelter, I realize I left my hat in the pocket of my other coat. The sky is spitting icy crap at me.
9:30 -- I'm the first one in the office.

Impressive, only not

I was so thrilled with my blog's popularity when I realized I was showing up on the first page of Google hits for any number of Barak Obama + [something else] searches. It turns out that Barak Obama is actually spelled Barack Obama. The searchers didn't know this, nor did I, and we were so pleased to find me.

I hope Illinois doesn't retract that invitation for us to move there...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A week late and a hundred bucks short

Last week, before I was tackled by that chest cold with the mass of a NCAA linebacker and subsequently flat on my back for five days, I started to write about how inadequate I’ve been feeling lately. I started and then got distracted and then Brooke came and picked me up, so I wasn’t even able to finish it. **rimshot**

For some reason, baring these inadequacies is beyond all of the grief I’ve laid out on the World Wide Web in the last year or so. Everything about me lately just isn’t enough. It makes me anxious and sad. It makes me unproductive. It makes me feel lonely, and yet I can’t quite reach out to tell anyone the whats and whys of the situation. I haven’t been up to answering any email for a long time, so if I owe you a personal email, I’m really sorry. Something in the last couple of months just struck me, and intimacy isn’t something I can do very well right now.

Thanksgiving went well, all things considered. Hannah and Brock both had colds and so generously shared them with me. We kept Hannah dosed up on cough syrup by sneaking it into Quik strawberry milk. My brother was anxious and alternately tense and overly enthusiastic. Hope was doing fabulously, and Brooke kept things moving so that we actually sat down with all of our food at the proper time. My domineering cousin spent five minutes berating her boyfriend’s 12-year-old daughter for not calling trump in a game of euchre. Hannah belched loud and proud during dinner, and I think my cousin laughed for the first time all day.

Call it luck, but I woke up on Thanksgiving morning with a migraine. It made the day less pleasant that it might have otherwise been, but I had the fabulous excuse of going home early to icepack my head.

Completely unrelated: The next day, Hannah kicked me in the head when we went to pick out Christmas cards. I think that was an accident, just part of her midair tantrum over not being allowed back down that oh-so-fun ramp into the Department of Very Breakable Things.

Friday, December 03, 2004

We interrupt this blog--

Okay, so I've been sick and there's not really anything to interrupt, but I have to scream and jump and dance with glee that my very first essay has finally been published. Email me at emilin (at) gmail (dot) com if you want to read it.


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