Today I drug a big box of my mother’s keepsakes out of the closet and sat down with that to finally sort through it all and decide what to do with it. After a few hours of making piles to pass on to either my son or the grandchildren and reading old newspapers, funeral notices and letters and both laughing and crying over photos most of it went back in the box to try again tomorrow. It’s possible that the kids will find some of this stuff interesting and want to keep it for a while, but it is more likely that my memories will leave this world when I do with only the rare exception.
I just can’t toss it all out yet. My mom kept her grandmother’s hair, carefully labeled and wrapped in tissue paper for more than seventy years. It feels like a betrayal not to keep that, but what exactly do I do with it? I don’t really want to display it or even pull it out to look at now and then, but I stuck it back in the box for later anyway. My younger sister’s ponytail is there in a box that once held a necklace. My sister does not want it and neither does anyone else. The kids think all this dead hair is creepy. Maybe it is creepy. Okay, I can toss that.
There are newspapers with engagement and wedding announcements, my dad’s successes, including a record high bowling score as well as his letters to the editor defending labor unions and all the grandparents and great grandparents obituaries and even local birthday celebrations and high school sports events. Maybe I will keep those around to browse over when I am even older than I am now.
I found letters and telegrams my parents wrote each other when dad was away in the army and lots of birthday, anniversary and Valentines cards that my siblings and I gave our parents. There are even letters exchanged by my grandparents. Sitting on the floor reading these felt a little like sitting with them again and hearing family stories. There is a package of report cards from my when my mother attended a Catholic school for girls in 1935 along with letters from her friends and teachers there. Mom’s report cards from the academy and back at our hometown public school were average. But my father and grandparents were mostly A students and my great aunts seemed to be top of their class, one even acquiring a Masters Degree in music. It’s nice to think there are some good genes in the background.
I am getting a bit of a kick out of all this junk. Maybe I will indulge this nostalgia for a while until I tire of it. And then, maybe, just stuff that box in a closed or under a bed for someone else to decide what to do with when I am either dead or too demented to bother. It seems I have a plan.
It has been months since I could put together a thought and hold it long enough to write it down. Sometimes I think everything is getting better and I can be myself again, but when I get still the grief and fear jump up and smack me down, back to holding back tears and faking strength while I wait for it to be real. It will be a year next month since my daughter died. Every day that passes I dread and hope for that anniversary. I am afraid that I might crash and burn and I hope that once that day passes I can believe in strength enough to get through one more, maybe more than that.
There is a support group on-line that I turn to for understanding that only other grieving parents belong to. It helps some, but it seems we are all so lost that guiding each other is difficult at best. There is empathy in this group that I find no where else. For that I am grateful. My problem here is that I am not a person of faith and most of the others are. The better place and someday we’ll be together again comments do not comfort me. At the same time I have no desire to object to whatever gets these others through their days so I keep my heathenness to myself with them.
I find my comfort in the living. I am fortunate to have a loving husband who, even though his heart is also shattered, stays strong enough for me to lean on. He still makes me laugh and we laugh together at our sometimes pitiful selves. My daughter gave us the gift of her grown son and daughter who have been a joy from the day of their birth and still warm my heart with every moment I have with them. Our granddaughter gave birth to our special, extra gift, a beautiful and perfect great granddaughter, a few months after her mother died. Her children and grandchild are the little pieces of Teri that I can touch and feel and care for; that is my comfort.
My son, my so special son, and his wife and two boys have been the light of so many days. He loved his baby sister and misses her in that unique sibling way. He is never out of touch more than a few days even though he is far from us in distance. So often when I am struggling the phone will ring and his voice brings back the sun for me.
This is how I survive the unthinkable loss of my child. I do not offer advise to anyone else in this boat except to keep breathing and hope. Hope for whatever you need.
Long ago when my grandparents all died and then my dad far too soon I told those who expressed sympathy that I wanted to just surround myself with people who love me and soak up that love. I am doing that now the best that I can. On days like this one when my best isn’t working I curl up in my ball of hurt and just wait for something better.