Friday, February 8, 2013

Back from my Break

 Mom and Dad on their wedding day, 1953

Thank you, all my sweet reader's for your kind messages while I took my little break. 

It means so much. 

The truth is, I have been dealing with a little grief. 

I wrote this one night recently when I couldn't sleep:

Grief is like a thief, sneaking up on you when you least expect it, robbing you of your peace of mind. And just like a thief, it hides behind the darkness, in the quiet hours of the night.
You must confront it and you struggle and try to push it away. But there it is and you give in and hand over your heart to this thief in the night. They say that time will heal, but while you wait, the sleepless nights take your soul and leave you wandering alone in that empty space of yearning.
Oh, for one more day, one more touch, one more time to gaze upon the loving face, to hear the sound of a beloved voice, to walk the weary road together, just once more! A fool’s dream, wake up! Wake up! You must let go, and leave the past behind to weave sweet memories around your heart to ease the lonesome pain.
Be on your way you heartless thief and leave me to my slumber. To mingle sweet and loving thoughts with dreams of peaceful memories. 


My Beautiful Mother - 1955


I started this blog just one month after my Dear Mother's death. I missed her so much; our little chats, her warm and cozy kitchen where I was welcome any time, the sharing of our day to day lives, knowing she was there if I ever needed her. 

And now the 2nd anniversary of her passing is coming up. 

I made it through the holidays. 

But now my Father's birthday is near. 

It's been only 6 months now since he passed. 

Dad's Graduation and as a freckled face boy

I thought I was doing well and getting over my grief. But just like a thief in the night, it can come upon you suddenly when you least expect it. 

Losing them both, so close together has been hard. 

Grief is something people don't like to talk about. It makes them uncomfortable and you are expected to 'move on'. 

And so you keep it close to your heart, afraid of showing your feelings, because it makes others uncomfortable. They don't know what to say, and they are surprised when after time, you are
not 'over it'. 

And yes, you do go on and get over the pain, but once in a while it comes back to hit you and you need time to deal with it. 

My Father died after a long journey into Alzheimer's. It wasn't a sudden passing, but a long and sad one, watching as he gradually lost all memory of his life, of his loved ones.

My Mother died in sorrow, with the husband she had loved for over 58 years, unable to remember who she was. 

But one month before he died, on Memorial Day, my Dear Husband and I went to visit him. And he gifted us with one last day of lucidity. Although he could no longer speak, it was clear that he recognized us and was delighted in our presence. He smiled and even laughed. He held our hands tightly and nodded his head when we spoke to him. We were so amazed, that we stayed for hours, not willing to give up this precious time with him. It was truly a special gift. 

We had no idea that this would be his last gift to us, and shortly before that visit, I had written an article about him for The News Tribune. 

Here is that article, in honor of my Father's birthday. 

And thank you, Dear Reader's for staying with me and for all of your support and encouragement over these last two years. 

I couldn't have done it without you. 


Tradition Lives On, In Memory of Those Long Forgotten
The road to my destination only descends. I’ve just come to realize this, like some magical revelation, even though I’ve traveled this road many times before. I wind my way through forests and farmland, always downhill, until I reach the slender river valley along the bottom. The river that I follow is the same one I hear on quiet, still nights from my mountain home and we flow in the same direction. I am on my way to visit someone I love dearly, but who doesn’t know me. In many ways my long, slow descent to this little valley symbolizes my loved one’s journey to this same destination.
I’ve traveled this road many times over the long years between then and now. Those were happy journeys; Sunday drives with family, antiquing forays with a Mother now gone, and Fourth of July and Memorial Day celebrations at the very place I journey to now. These scenes flash before my eyes as I wind my way along past fields and farms and familiar landmarks, unchanged by the passing of time.
My heart expands and grows heavy as these long ago memories fill my mind, fill my eyes with the mists of time and blur the road in front of me. I force myself to take a deep breath and think of happier times; the picnics, the laughter, the joyful noise of family excursions.
I am almost there, with one last memory of how every Memorial Day since I was a child, he would place a wreath on the grave of a long forgotten soldier. As a child I would help him find that special soldier’s resting place. He kept that tradition all of his life, a tribute to those brave fallen soldiers.
I arrive at the familiar entrance; the stately old trees standing guard over the manicured grounds. I read the sign, ‘Washington State Soldier’s Home.’ I think with a stabbing pain in my heart of how we would tease about sending him here when he became an old man, when we came for holiday celebrations, back when we were all shining and young.
I see him as he was then, bright blue eyes, strong and sure. A lover of life, patient and kind, the hardest worker I ever knew. Here was a man elected President of his local Steelworker’s Union, who served on his hometown Finance Committee. The only person I knew who could solve algebraic equations in his head. He was a man who proudly served his country back when the Army and Air Force was one branch, who was married to one woman for 58 years and who raised his family of 5 daughters, never once making them feel that he ever regretted not having a boy.  This was a man who built his own home. Twice. The last one just a stone’s throw from my own.
And here I am. I walk through the familiar doors. I seek him out in the labyrinth of corridors and bright sunny rooms. I kiss his cheek, pale and soft as a baby’s. He doesn’t open his eyes. He doesn’t know me. He is my Father and he has Alzheimer’s.
The same Father who proudly looked on as I recited the poem, ‘ In Flanders Fields’ in the center of my hometown during that long ago Memorial Day, when I was in the 5th grade.  I was shy and soft spoken, but he helped me memorize the lines, project my voice, and bolstered my confidence by telling me he would be right there to cheer me on.
It was a gradual journey, this long, slow descent. Like my journey here. Past the familiar landmarks of the mind, the fertile fields of memory, down the long, slow road to forgetfulness. At first the scenery was sometimes familiar, but gradually he became lost in the fog.  He will never take the road back.
But I must make the long ascent back home, for now I am the memory keeper, the witness, the story teller.  Now it is I who hold the keys to the past.  Now it is up to me to uphold the proud tradition of placing the wreath on that long forgotten soldier’s grave. 

Happy Birthday, Dad. 

I love you both, and will always miss you.

xx

17 comments:

  1. Karen it's so good to have you back. Our thoughts are with you in your times of grief. I've always viewed grief as an evolving process rather than something that you go through and move past. We never really "get over" loss. We merely learn to move to a point of acceptance. There are always memories and triggers that can bring the grief back to the forefront. This was such a beautufully written tribute to your parents. I think I can safely speak for all your readers when I say that we're glad to have you back :)

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  2. Dearest Karen, I am so sorry that you are hurting some more with grief. My father died when I was 18, my mother when I was 31, and my stepfather when I was 38. Like you, I would go perking along, thinking I was doing alright, and then around 8 months after the death, it seemed worse than when it first happened. I still dream of my stepfather several times a month after him 20 years gone. I also found it odd-and still do- to be of the oldest living generation now. Long sighs. I send loving thoughts to you across the country.

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  3. Oh Karen I have few words as this post hits so close to my heart with familiarity. Your writing is truly a gift and your Mom and your Dad would be very proud of their little girl, their child who will be there keeping there stories alive.
    I love this beautiful tribute, thank you I am sorry I have to go now you said it perfectly. Tears in my eyes. Take care my friend. Hug B

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  4. Beautiful Karen. How you express your grief in writing is a lesson to us all. I can't even begin to imagine the pain of losing both of your parents so close together. I was touched when you talked about your chats with your mother as my mother is my dearest friend. Thank you for sharing your beautiful parents with us and for teaching us about loss..I will be praying for you.

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  5. Karen, I am so sorry again for your heartache. This past Holiday was especially difficult for some reason. Everything reminded me of my Grandmother who passed when I was just 7 months pregnant with Princess. There are many days I sit and wish I could touch her hand or hear her sarcastic "you're so beautiful from the boobs up" voice and listen to why she believed so much why walking 3 miles a day had saved her life on several occasions. She had zero filter and I am reminded each day of where I get that from, not always a good thing but she was one firecracker that's for sure. My Mother made me a tapestry of all her old silk tops she wore so faithfully that I have hanging in my bedroom, I sit and stare at it each night as everyone sleeps. Trying to imagine what our conversation would be like at that exact moment. Just last night, I came home to find an album my Grandmother had made just after the passing of my Grandfather, that my Mother had left for me. I couldn't help but cry as I read her handwritten words of appreciation for my Mother in helping her each day throughout her chemo treatments. It reminded me of the relationship I share with my Mother, but also sent a fearful sensation through my body for when its time I have to say goodbye to her. Losing loved ones is never easy and I hope your journey gets a little easier with each new day.
    Enjoy your weekend Karen, so glad you are back!

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  6. To my Dear friends, Keith, Maureen, Buttons, Nicole and Sarah, Thank you for sharing your kind words and thoughts and experiences with me. You have no idea how much your kindness and understanding helps.

    Thank you. xoxo

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  7. What a heartfelt and well written post Karen. I'm so sorry for your loss and the grief you are going through. Praying that your grief will lessen a little each day.

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    1. Thank you, Barb for your kindness and friendship. xxoo

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  8. Absolutely beautiful. I know this doesn't ease the pain one bit, but you are the fortunate one, you have the happy memories, the loving parents, the good times to remember. My heart breaks for you in your sadness - and it also breaks for those of us who never knew one tiny moment of the good things you write about. Our sadness, not unlike what you have been feeling, is for the loss that we have also suffered by not living in this kind of a family - that never goes away. My heart will think of you often in these days and I will remember this post and be glad that you have the memories of all those wonderful times.

    It is hard to lose someone you love- and even harder to lose them before they depart from this earth. It thrills me to think of your last wonderful day with your father - a treat to treasure. Please know that your friends are thinking of you during this time - and thank you for a wonderful post.

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    1. Thank you, Dear JoAnn, you have reminded me that ultimately, I am very blessed. My parent's did live a long life and that is something not afforded to many. The young soldier's, the little children, the victims of disease and accidents, all of these they have avoided and for that I am truly blessed. And yes, I have many years of memories, some very wonderful and some full of strife and struggle and that is what makes a 'perfect' life - a bit of both to temper the spirit and give us courage. Your words and friendship are a true comfort to me and thank you for your caring spirit. xxoo

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  9. It is so nice to have you back with us... Dear Karen your heartfelt post is Beautiful, I am so sorry for your loss..You sound so proud of your Dad and rightly so.. he sounded like a true Gentleman, hard working, caring & loving Man.. Alzheimer's disease is wicked My Mother suffered from it too.. you are in my prayers Karen... Hugs May x x x

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  10. Thank you, May, for your Dear, Kind words and for your sweet friendship. Thank you for your prayers and your understanding. Hugs to you. xxoxo

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  11. Dear Karen...my thoughts and prayers have been with you these past few days. Grief is a living thing that does, it seems, come and go at will. Time will, eventually, help but then the dreams come. Sometimes, like last night, they're a sweet visit with those who have left us behind...sometimes we wake up sad missing our loved ones even more. Tears are ours for a reason and sometimes they really do help. After my Mom died, I wrote a cookbook of her recipes with a story in it about my parents. It was years before my beloved sister Gerry (now in Heaven) could read the story. I enjoy your blog and your friendship so much.

    Blessings to you, dear friend.
    Dianne

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    1. I knew you would understand, Dianne. Thank you for your sweet friendship and caring words. xoxo

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  12. I'm sorry that your break was because of sorrow. I was so hoping that you were on a cruise or something! I have been dealing with a grief of sorts, as you know, and I will pass to you what I've learned. I am not defined by my past. I can look backwards not only with sorrow, but with joy. And when the Shadow comes, know that there are things I can do to dispel it. (And I often refer to your post on restoration for that.)

    I'm glad you're back, my friend. I missed you. <3

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    1. Oh, that is sweet Stacy, that you wished I was on a cruise! I know you have been going through difficult times and I so love your insights on getting through it. These I will hold close to my heart, Dear Friend. Thank you. xoxo

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  13. Karen, I am so sorry for what you are going through. This post has me in tears right now. I can't even begin to imagine how hard this must be. Everyone deals with grief in their own way, so however you have to deal with it is the right way for you. Don't let anyone else make you feel like you should be "over it" by now, because of course you never will be over it. The grief will lessen with time, but there will be those days or weeks when it comes back so strong and knocks you down. And that is ok. You have lost so much and your life is totally different without your loved ones, so it's ok to grieve and feel that loss.

    Hang in there, friend, and know that you will be in my thoughts and prayers. *hugs*

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Thank you for stopping by! Your comments are important to me and are very much appreciated. xx Karen

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