Monday, April 30, 2007

The unbearable cuteness of being

Today consisted mostly of errands, homework and visitors, with only minor irrational anger and impatience at random moments.

Once I got home, my friend J brought her 9 week old kitten Simon over to visit.

It's pretty much impossible to be sad with that much cuteness displaying itself in front of you. In fact, it's a good thing that we had to give Simon back or he would probably significantly hold up my grief process. He's *that* cute. Several times when he was laying in my lap and tilted his little head back to look at me, I thought I just might die of the cuteness. Seriously.

J left him with us while she went out for dinner so he was here for six hours. In addition to cheering me up, we also wanted to see how Willow would react to a kitten who presumably would be willing to play with her. Things went well for about 47 seconds and then it was all hissing and crying from there. Simon was completely unfazed by these antics but I was devastated--my kitty is a totally hypocrite! She's been chasing 14 year old Idge around all this time like if ONLY Idge would play with her, her life would be complete. And then she turns around and disses Simon, who's only crime is being adorable.

Ah well. Guess we probably won't be getting a kitten of our own any time soon.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

It's always darkest before the dawn...

The house is a wreck, but there's some progress. Tina has been coming over to help and today she brought along some cheap labor (her kids) too. They finished the upstairs and have made several trips to Goodwill.

Traci nearly has all her things she wants to keep and soon we can take it all to storage. And we got the pantry cleared out, which prompted us to wonder, how many croutons does one person need?

I don't think I need to mention what a poor substitute free popcorn and maple syrup are for, you know, a mom who's alive.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Even though I know better, I find myself feeling as if whatever I'm feeling at this moment, is how I'm going to feel for, well, if not forever, at least the foreseeable future.

That means, if I'm having a good day, I think, 'cool, this grief thing isn't so bad.' And if I'm having a bad day I think, 'OMG, I can't believe how much this sucks, I'm never going to survive it.' OK, maybe slightly less dramatic than that, but you get the general idea.

So it's not surprising really, that the speed with which I can go from 'having a good day' to 'uncontrollable crying' leaves me stunned every time.

Today I went to a conference on women's health put on by OHSU. A fellow Jefferson HS grad who spoke at mom's funeral offered me free tickets so I called up Danette and Maureen and off we went.

I'm not sure how much we learned, but we certainly had a good time and enjoyed most of the speakers. For me it was more validation than anything. It's not like D, M & I really need to be told about the power & health benefits of women's friendships (our first workshop session), cause we definitely already know. But the speaker was entertaining and fun.

Likewise, I know how to use laughter in times of stress. While mom was in the ER, confused and replying "Uh huh! OK!" to everything anyone said to her, I thought it might be a good time to ask for a pony. If I can make jokes in the ER as my mom's life is beginning to end, I think I can pretty much handle anything.

Three people during the day came up to offer condolences. This is a new wrinkle, I hadn't considered, but I'm sure will be happening for a while now. Four people if you count the woman who was unlocking her bike at the same time as us and asked about my "I Hate Tumors" T-shirt. She asked how long ago mom died and when I said, "two weeks," she got 'the look' and came over to hug me. She lost her mom to lung cancer many years ago. It was such a Portland moment.

I had to call two people this week and tell them that mom died. One was her old boyfriend, a musician from the band Confunktion that she talked about several times over the years. I found his business card while going through her stuff and the number was still good. He had no idea of course and it was really a bummer to have to make the call. At first I thought he didn't remember her and then I remembered to say her maiden name, at which point he lit up (which only made the end message harder to say).

And today I called someone who knew mom from bringing her books at SEI. She'd left a recent message on the home phone, saying she was just checking in.

I hate making those calls.

Another weird thing when I'm having a pretty good day and I run into people who already know, but that I haven't seen since. They get that universal, 'yourmomdiedthatssoawful!' look and want to hug me. And sometimes I want to say, "Thanks but I'm having a pretty good day today, so let's not go there OK?" Of course I don't. And besides, good days can go so very bad, so very quickly.

Just more fun on this wacky grief trip I'm on.

Tonight I was feeling pretty good and offered to make Jess dinner since she worked a 12 hours shift and is always tired when she gets home. Nothing epic, just putting in the frozen pizza and sauteing a little spinach. Easy right?

Well, she came downstairs and found out the pizza was on a cookie sheet and wanted to take it off so the crust would get crispy. So we did that and she set the cookie sheet on the counter, then said, "Honey, don't touch that, it's hot." In normal times, I may have felt the comment to be a little condescending, but now, it's pretty much a good precautionary measure.

And it didn't even work. Not 2 minutes later, I put my hand right on the cookie sheet. I jerked it back immediately, even before the heat could register on my hand. Jess, concerned (and probably apalled) asked if I was OK.

"Yes, I'm not burned, I'm just stupid."

At that point, she kicked me out of the kitchen and said she'd finish cooking.

It was of course, the right call, but I immediately felt angry, upset, sad pathetic. I thought I was having a good day. I thought I could finally do one small thing to take care of my girlfriend, who has been supporting me unwaveringly for months now. But no, I'm just a danger to myself and others (and pizza).

Hello tears, where have been all this week?

And then I felt bad that her pizza was getting cold while she was busy comforting me. It's astonishing how much bad feeling there is to be found at every turn!

I also take the time to note how much work it is not to apologize all the time. It's one of my pet peeves, people who apologize when it's not warranted. And crying over your dead mother definitely falls into the category of things that don't require an apology. And yet I'm just so ingrained and trained that I have to actively stop myself from saying things like, "Sorry I'm such a basket case." DUH! Of course I'm a basket case.

It cracks me up that my brain finds the time to note these kinds of details in the middle of total trauma, but once a multitasker, always a multitasker I guess.

Tomorrow, I spend my first full day going through the house. No telling what shape I'll be in by the end of it...and it's only the beginning. If you have kids, do them a favor and don't be a pack rat.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Welcome home

Yesterday we went over to the funeral home to pick up mom's ashes. Yeah, the urn at the memorial service was empty, but that was our little secret.

She was a lot heavier than I expected. The urn is mostly white with some really pretty purple flowers on it. I'm not sure how accurate it is, but mom's tendency to wear pink in the last few months of her life really made an impression on lots of people. Therefore pinks and purples tended to get high priority when making decisions for the services.

Traci and I also got little keepsake mini-urns in the shape of hearts. They're just the right size to fit in the palm of my hand and have a comforting weight to them. Traci got pink and she was wearing her pink sweatshirt when we picked them up. I got blue with birds on it (representing those 'wings' she tried to give us) and I was wearing my customary 3-4 shades of blue that day, so I guess we picked the right things.

Our mantle at home is already kind of full and I really wasn't sure I wanted to look at the urn all the time so instead I put it on the bookshelf in my office, which seems pretty fitting. I'm really glad she didn't opt to get stuck in a box in the ground. I like having her around a lot better.

Traci got started on the house this week. We're not exactly sure what's going to happen with it, but either way, all the stuff has to be gone through and moved. Traci is taking most of the furniture with her to D.C. to furnish her new apartment.

After two days, we're not even through going through the clothes. I get tired just walking through the front door, thinking of all the stuff that has to be done. And of course, I can't help thinking that I'd much rather still have a mom, than all this stuff.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wisdom from an unexpected source

"It's too high to get over
it's too low to get under
you're stuck in the middle
and the pain is thunder"

Michael Jackson

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Barely functional

Things I managed to do today:

1. Go to math
2. eat breakfast at 1pm
3. clean cat litter
4. take out garbage

Other than that it's pretty much been crying and legos.

I tried to watch my Battlestar Galactica DVD but it broke in half when I put it in the dvd player.

Jess went back to work today, but she came home and made dinner and emergency brownies, of which I only ate some of the batter.

And then we watched another episode of Oz on DVD and one of the character's mom died--proving once and for all that there's no escape in fiction. You'd think I would just give up watching Grey's Anatomy...

I'm continually amazed at how much this sucks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

We're back...

...from the beach. Had a lovely time. More later.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Back to life

I got to help make breakfast today. Hashbrowns and scrambled eggs with veggies. Got frustrated with all the interruptions while trying to finish my last announcement email. Took Traci to the airport. Went to Extracto Coffee where I finally finished the email and put up some pictures from the memorial reception.

Aquaintances are a real problem in situations like these. I'm grateful that I'm able to function in public and don't feel the need to unburden onto everyone with a familiar face (or grocery clerks who ask "How's life treating you?" But it's still hard. I ran into someone I've known since my Eugene days at New Seasons last night and at the coffee shop today. I envision them slowly walking towards a trap door over a deep hole as they wave and then get close enough for conversation:

"Hey, how's it going?"
"Crappy, my mom died last week, how are you?"

Yeah, see how that doesn't really go over? I have enough outlets for processing, I've decided to just refrain unless things are actually steered in that direction. Seems better for everyone that way.

It's probably worse for the people who already know, but I haven't seen them since. They feel awkward, want to say something but don't know what...worse for them than for me really.

I went to Moms' (that's my grandmother on my dad's side, not to be confused with mom, the departed) house for a little ice cream n cake celebration of her birthday today. Ironically, this
will be the first year I've actually remembered her birthday and gotten a card on time. I heard some great stories while I was there including one about me and my great grandmother that I can neither confirm nor deny.

Apparently when I was little, I went to stay with Granana and in an impatient moment had the great folly to choose to hit her. Naturally she tanned my hide to within and inch of my life. The next day when I arrived, I said, "Hi Granana." She said, "Hi K." And then I said, "Now, we're not going to hit each other today, are we?" She had to go in the other room and laugh. But like I said, I don't remember this, so we just have my grandmother's word on it. :)

Tonight I went to my first fun outing in the new world, a Dirty Martini show at the Doug Fir. I couldn't think of a nicer way to reenter the 'real world.' A nice group of friends showed up, and we had a great time. McKinley dedicated a song for me, which was totally sweet. A little rockin' out and head banging is good for the soul.

Tomorrow, we're off to the beach.

Hidden disability

I've decided that grieving is like having a hidden disability. Except it's not just hidden from the public, it's hidden from the person grieving too. I can go hours (not yet days, not even close) without any 'symptoms' and then without warning it'll just strike.

Today was a really good day. We got up early because Roxanne came over at 8am with baked treats. Jess made coffee and we dished about real estate clients and stuff.

After she left, we eventually got ourselves together and headed out on our bikes for a bunch of errands. It was a gorgeous sunny day, a little chilly but we had a great time biking about 20 miles around town for errands. Since I got my financial aid money today, I indulged in a rare bit of retail therapy at REI. Got a new helmet (long overdue), some socks, and a couple of bras, also long overdue.

Then over to see Traci and visit with my cousin and lastly to the grocery store and home with our loaded bags.

After all the driving I've been doing the last several months, it was great to work my muscles again. And work, they did. Although I'm usually the stronger biker, Jess was feeling good and she made me work. When she knew she had me on the ropes, we turned the corner from Skidmore to Grand and she cut to the inside and powered up the hill. I had to put my foot down on that though--I do have a reputation to maintain. :)

When we got home, I took my new helmet to the table to make some final adjustments and put the new light I bought on the back of it. (And yes, it's the same helmet that Jess has and the same light and we already have the same bikes, making us officially the biggest dorks of all time).

The last thing I did was fill out the sticker that goes inside the helmet with my personal information, blood type and emergency contact.

I paused. Mom was always my emergency contact. Now I've got an emergency all right--my mom is dead and I can't call her to tell her about it. "Honey, you're my new emergency contact." I said, right before I totally lost it. Probably jinxed myself putting the box of tissues back in the bathroom.

When the wave comes, there's nothing to do but ride it out. After a while Jess distracted me with embarrassing pictures from her childhood and the wave passed. Till the next one.

Grief sucks.