An Easter Surprise

Nitro EasterToday was an emotional Easter, the first without Grandma physically present. A friend invited me to her church.  She also had a recent loss, but didn’t cry in public like I was doing.  “My mom gave me my dad’s school ring.  That’s my way of grieving, I look at the ring and remember him.”

As I’ve been adrift in this religion-less weirdness for the past few months, I’ve been tempted to get caught up in the seriousness others have.  Regular questions of, “Have you found a church?  Or aren’t you going ANYwhere?” are usually delivered with a menacing look like they are searching for my pitchfork.  No questions about, “How are you feeling?  Are you still crying every day?  Does your mom need any help with your Grandma’s house?”  They seem to be looking for only legitimate, sanitized, non-smelly replies about denominations and us-versus-them, and did I find a church ‘family’–which I currently have none of those types of answers.

How do I explain to them that I am enjoying being in limbo.  I haven’t been this stress-free in ages, and I’m even relishing the ‘not-knowing’ of what the next step is.  Maybe that is my ‘true’ style all along, but I’ve never allowed myself to live it—until I’ve had to, because of the slow-down that grief puts on your life.  Things that used to be vital no longer are, and smaller things now have greater value.  Time, people, seasons, holidays–everything is seen with new eyes, cleared by the science of sorrow.

But today in this little country church, seeing these regular people just sitting together for Easter–I realized that maybe it’s not all that urgent.  Maybe it’s all about people sitting together on an Easter Sunday.  When my friend asked if we’re having Easter dinner, I said, “I don’t know.  I haven’t heard what we’re doing.  I think we’re all still on auto-pilot.” Previously I would have had Angst at not having the ‘right answer’ of ham and potatoes and happy people around the table and laughter.

But strangely, today, it didn’t matter that I had no answer, that I had no idea.  I was just enjoying this new experience.  And maybe I would take a nap later today, I hadn’t decided.

During Communion, the preacher gently brought over the elements to an elderly lady at the end of the pew.  He explained and presented and she seemed grateful.  Just when I was about to remind myself of my own Grandma in this scene, my friend whispered:  “I hope she doesn’t choke.  She had a stroke last year.” I started laughing.

I remembered that we don’t HAVE to think of death, loss, missing, dying, absence in such serious ways.  We do have a choice.  And some of us are lucky enough to have someone to remind us to laugh–even during these scenes that are potentially saturated with ‘meaning’.

The Randomness of Loss

Now is the time for cleaning out the house.  Our loved one is no longer there, but a lot of stuff IS.  Random stuff.  Things that don’t ‘belong’ together.  Another cue for laughter, and a further fastening of the circle of life.

I don’t know how my Grandma had so much stuff in her house.  If we gave her a book for Christmas, she’d read it.  And then give it back.  She didn’t like clutter.  Didn’t like saving a lot of things.  On the first floor.

But then there was the attic.  Mom brought a load of randomness home yesterday.  “Do you have a copy of your high school commencement program?  Grandma saved it, you can have it.  There’s also a postcard you sent her from Paris….

“And here is one of my English papers from college.”  Weird:  All about the history of Adult Education.  Weird that years later she’d have a daughter who years later would get a doctorate in Adult Education.
English I

Then there was the pink paper mache elephant–mom threw away the ears and the trunk, because when was she ever going to use those?

Elephant

But then she later became a Republican.  And now the pink body stands proudly underneath the broken sorority umbrella.  “It was a broken one; they fixed it up, decorated it for me.”  I wondered what kind of sorority it was, and wondered what other hidden gems about Mom’s life Grandma had saved in the attic.

We learn through trauma.  Not facts or answers we can pass on a test to see how intelligent we are.  We learn new impressions, make new definitions.  We outline our beliefs and replace some and rebuild some and keep some the same.  We learn from loss, about who we are, where we came from, and what’s important to keep with us so that we can be part of someone’s circle, too.

 

Just Use It

Someone told me recently, “you do have a gift….glad to see you using it…” I’m glad that I decided to DO something about it last July–when I decided I would write comedy for an hour a day, and try out new material onstage every week.

I didn’t know where it would lead, but I just DID it.
And then came another call to go onstage with Alice Cooper’s show. And then a director’s call to see if I would be in a play. And there I met the radio guy and got a weekly spot because he needed someone to fill in on Tuesdays. And then a last-minute replacement spot for a show in Warren that I was more than prepared for. And then a request for a Vaudeville spot in a Cleveland show for the Roxy Theater. And another play that needed another character. And more laughs, and more ideas, and more fun, and more new people. That is the gift. What are you doing with yours? What are you waiting for, start now.

Mosaic Minute

“You have a really nice, fast, peppy delivery. It reflects how fast the audience can think and get it. I’m in awe of that. It’s kind of like they used to say, Robin Williams was one of the few people that could speak as fast as he thinks. You respect the intelligence of the audience. The intelligence it takes to keep up with your jokes–
You’re forcing your audience to be sharp, to be smart. I really like your angles. Beautiful, it’s great, keep it up. Your WRITING is so good, that’s what I like.”

Thanks to everyone at tonight’s set at Mosaic Cafe, including this visitor from Chicago. I didn’t tell him that’s what happens when it’s 6:50 and you have another rehearsal across the street at 7:00…

Angel Trees

Loss is weird, like the weather today.  Yesterday was nearly 70 degrees F.  Today we hit 28 degrees.  Yes, Fahrenheit.
Like the weather, loss is unpredictable.  Like the weather, it affects us in ways we don’t think it will:  physically, emotionally, spiritually.

Today I went running with my dog Nitro.  Through our little woods path.  Rainy, wet leaves were surrounded by snow patches here and there.  As we got further into the woods, I noted the little airy pine trees far in the woods.  All their branches were sprinkled with white.

Angel Trees

I thought of the “If a tree falls in the woods…” motto and also of the idea of beauty happening even in the midst of ugliness (wet leaves, cold wind, even though it’s the middle of April…).

Then I just smiled.  These little resilient bursts of beauty were comforting.  Cheerfully reminding me that today IS a great day, no matter what happens.

As we turned around and headed out of the woods again, I noticed an entire row of these little trees.  I don’t think anyone would have planted them randomly here.  But they were standing protectively, almost in an embrace.         Angel Trees

I turned around and stared.  I couldn’t stop looking at them.  I remembered that’s the way it was when I saw the white cliffs of Dover.  Maybe it was something with the white color?  Or the unlikeliness of seeing something like that today–snow again after so many weeks of snow-less-ness.

And I kept staring and smiling.
And then I started to cry.
I didn’t know why.  Didn’t know what those trees “meant”, or what they symbolized.  Maybe my mind wasn’t supposed to “know”.  And so I just kept crying.
I  didn’t want to leave this scene.

Angel Trees

Suddenly I thought of my friend Todd who just lost his own grandmother in the past few days.  Maybe these trees were my grandma’s welcoming of his grandma to their new dimension.

Who knows.
But I felt better.  And then I kept smiling, even now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Angel Trees

How to know if your hosting site will change everything

Hi everyone, I am transferring everything here to a hosted site.  So, if you don’t hear anything more from me, I will be at the other site.  It is through godaddy, so I’m not sure yet if this will stay the same web address or something different, or if this site here will disappear.  Does anyone know?

I am doing this myself, so I am not sure what’s going to happen.  It has been nice knowing you…

How to Not Look Like a Grieving Bag Lady

“You don’t want to look like a bag lady.  Spend the money.”  I imagined that’s what Grandma would have said about my thrift store vintage coat with the mega-tattered lining.  When the dry cleaner told me the cost of getting a new lining, she whispered, “Too bad you don’t know someone who sews from their home!”  I didn’t cry, only made a decision to go ahead and spend the money.  I also didn’t (couldn’t) tell the dry cleaner that I USED to have someone who sewed from her house…

That’s what we do:  we create meaning in our relationships—whether we’re aware of it or not.  It’s the reason I can’t (yet) buy anyone else’s crochet.  But if my aunt makes something for me, that’s different.  She’s “one of us,” she was involved in our common loss.  What’s the big deal, other loss-less people would say.  It’s “just” a coat, it’s “just” a pair of crochet mittens.  But it’s not.

Just like my asking Mrs. B, “are you going to the benefit dinner?  It’s free, and Montana’s is catering it!”  I was excited.  She wasn’t.  “No, Mr. B and I used to go there.  There are too many people I know there.  It’s too hard.”  And it has been three years since Mr. B is gone.  That is her meaning-making.  Church.  Food.  Community dinners.  Too hard to do that without Mr. B.

When we lose someone, we change our patterns.  We HAVE to.
Because things don’t mean the same anymore.  We need new meaning-making schemes, and lucky for us, we do this automatically within our sadness.  We create new meanings, new traditions.  Maybe we’re just chicken-shit and don’t want to cry in front of others.  Or maybe we are honoring our loved ones’ memories by letting them be and moving on to other, newer memories.

The good new is that there is no ‘wrong’ way to do it.  You get to decide what is meaningful, out of what used to be meaningful.  You get to decide what meaning you will attach—or withdraw—from your usual routine.  But the key is you have to decide it from a place of tears.  If it’s from a place of tears-avoidance, everything goes awry and your information is faulty.

You’re saying:  “Hey you said you didn’t cry at the dry cleaners.  So your info is faulty, too.”  But I had done the crying legwork for the past month.  That informed what I intuited Grandma would have wanted me to do.  And so…I have a new coat.  And a new direction in this one aspect of life, “what to do when my clothes are falling apart.”  Now, for all the other aspects of life, I’ll have to do the same pattern.  Apply a meaning-making schemata and create a new direction.  Not without her.  But rather integrating her:  she can still be part of my new meaning and that’s comforting to know.

Happy? Groundhog Day

How can Groundhog Day be so emotional? I’d gone to the festivities in Punxsutawney almost every year for almost 2o years. One year I said to Grandma, “You’ve been living in this town for more than fifty years, it’s about time you went to Groundhog Day!” She said, “OK, I’ll go.”

So we got dressed in the middle of the night, layer after layer, and walked out the door at 5:30 a.m. with Grandpa calling after us, “You’re BOTH crazy!” Back in those days we were allowed to park up at Gobbler’s Knob, so we did. And then stood in the packed-down snow and strewn straw until Phil was pulled from his hiding place.
In the days before he lived in the library.
In the days before the plastic Pope-shield.
In the days before “the movie”.

I think I had on leather aerobic hi-top shoes and my feet were freezing. Grandma probably was freezing, too, but she didn’t complain. She never did.

After the sun rose at 7:30 and the decision had been reached concerning the weather-future, we ran back to the car and turned on the heater.

Then went back to her house and probably made blueberry waffles to celebrate our survival. And of course we turned on the TV to see what we had just seen.

It was then we heard that Bill Murray showed up, minutes after we’d left, to research his role for the movie. We didn’t care, it was too cold to stay, and we’d seen enough.

This year I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to hear about it. I only wished two people “Happy Groundhog Day”. I didn’t watch it on TV or listen to the radio. This year I was hating Phil–for reasons other than why most people hate him. I hated him because he’s changed, because everything else has changed. Maybe one day I will be able to hear about Groundhog Day and not cry. But not this year. Not just yet.
Happy Groundhog Day, Grandma.Groundhog Day

How to Have Happier Birthdays after Grief

I’ve been thinking of what we’re going to do on Grandma’s birthday.  We should still celebrate it, even though she’s not still with us.  Yes, we like cake that much.  And it would be a good way to remind ourselves that she is still around, in spirit.  In the midst of my planning for her birthday, I celebrated my own birthday.

I didn’t expect to have a difficult day.  Until I suddenly realized:  This is the first birthday without my grandma around (physically).  And then the tears started.  I thought I’d feel better if I went running with my dog Nitro.  So I took my digital voice recorder with me to listen to the show from the night before, including our piana-poetry segment.  And then my stupid friend’s stupid poem about the stupid woods made me cry even more:

“I sat upon a stump in the forest and thought of you……
you are the dew upon the flowers and the mist in the air that I breathe…….
the cascade of rhythm in the waterfall of my heart. I sat there feeling the heartbeat of nature……
and knew that I had found myself in you.

I watched as you walked away from me and knew….
that I could forever be the wind that ruffles your hair and you could be the reason that inspires me. I have known many things in time…..
and I know from deep within the very essence of my being
That we could be each to ourselves, yet bound together like the twining of a rope forever.

Let me be part of the grass you have walked on… the breeze that cools your face at night… the shadow that encircles you, yet never obscures…. let me be part of all that you feel…. for I am with you always even if you cannot see me.

I walk into the forest, whispering that I have a love…. Can you feel it? For I am part of nature and it is within me. I sat on a stump in the forest and thought of you… Did you feel me ? For I was there… I am the wind, yet you inspire me…. kgk.”

And then it made me remember the nearness–that no one really ‘goes away’.  They are here, in our remembering of them.  That knowledge–that reminder–helped dissipate my tears.

Later, at my birthday party, I spotted my green photo album on the table.  Wait–as I looked through it, I saw that it wasn’t mine.  It was Grandma’s album.  Mom started showing me pictures, explaining all the random photos, whose parents of which grandparent.  And then there was a picture of Grandma, probably from her high school days.
And suddenly I felt better.  Comforted to know that it wasn’t just accidental that I saw that album.  I was ‘led’ to look through it, and see her picture–instead of just absentmindedly thinking about her that day.

And then amid the random pictures of 18th century relatives, Grandpa’s family, and black and white picnic pics, there was a picture of me in 5th grade.  What it was doing there I’m not sure. Mine was the most modern of all the pictures in the album, and it was from the 1970s.  Guess it’s proof that I was her favorite…?

Whatever the reason or ‘logic’ behind what I was seeing, it didn’t matter.  I smiled, seeing that we are connected, even when I forget.

Just that knowledge got me through the day.  Sometimes that’s all it takes, a reminder. But those reminders require us to be alert, open, physical cleared, and above all–able to allow the tears when necessary (which is always).