grief


My father’s dog Oscar, who helped him get through the two years and two months so far without Mom, was hit by a car last night. My initial thought is that I should be sad but still okay, because Osky had a good life if too short. At least Dad was able to say goodbye to him, and the little guy went as peacefully as he probably could have, for the kind of trauma something like this could cause. But in reality, I’m broken up about it. Perhaps it’s because I loved Osky. Not only was he an all-around fantastic dog, but he was there for Dad in a way I could not be, right after Mom died. Or maybe it’s because now that we have our own furry children, I’m not sure what I’ll do if and when we lose one of them. Or maybe it’s just the bizarre timing of the whole thing.

My brother gave Oscar to my parents about six months before Mom died. They didn’t want another dog, but Josh and Denae surprised them anyway with a happy golden retriever/lab mix, only this puppy had a bit of a boxer snout, and he was a puppy. The sweetest little guy you’d ever seen. And while neither Dad or Mom were initially thrilled about a 8-month old puppy to take care of, Osky turned into the greatest gift in the world when Mom died, with his joy and bouncing and furry face, and just the sweetest personality. He went everywhere with Dad, sleeping under his desk in the clinic office on the weekends, waiting patiently in the car after driving together into town to visit the bookstore and the bank and the hardware store, sleeping all stretched out across the back seat when he wasn’t allowed to come inside. Most of Dad’s regular patients had met Osky at least once, if not a dozen times, and Osky loved to kiss all the nurses at the office.

And now, a month before Dad gets married again, Osky’s gone. He was so clearly meant to help my dad through his grief, through the last two years and two months without Mom.

I really believe Osky saved Dad from losing his mind those first few months, and somehow managed to bring him crazy joy through the grieving process. And I see every day how happy Buddy and Nellie are when John and I come home, how they live their furry little doggy lives in anticipation of the garage door opening, bouncing like deer up and down the hallway, the way Osky did through the fields at home.

Osky, you were one of the best, and you will be dearly, dearly missed.

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>I went, like usual, to the coffee shop over lunch to read, where to my great relief I finally finished Eating Animals (and started something which proves to be dramatically different – Amanda Downum’s The Bone Palace), as there’s not much more I can handle of reading about the sheer for-profitness of factory farms. It’s pretty obvious there’s a problem when the animals available to us for consumption are so genetically altered that they can’t reproduce – and this is the case with a lot of organic and “no drugs-added” meat, too, whatever “happier” means. Still altered, still neutered (and not just in a castrated way, but in a pumped full of shit way; if not that animal, then its parents) in a very wrong way. The book is a must read, at least for education purposes. The author makes an argument that we’re not ignorant, we’re choosing this – the facts are right in front of us. But I don’t think that’s completely true; I’ve never read a lot of this before, even though factory farms aren’t anything new; they go back a lot further than ten years, and they just keep getting worse.

Anyway. Although it wasn’t my intention, I’m well on my way to being vegan, too. I’m just not interested in participating in the madness. Shocking stuff.

Plus, I had almond milk for the first time this morning, with some gluten-free cocoa plus goodies granola, and it was ASTOUNDINGLY good. So now I just need to figure out a way around ice-cream (since I’m not quite up for indulging in soy non-stop.) Maybe sorbet.

***

There was an elderly woman with her daughter (who was maybe 45-50 years old) at the coffee shop over lunch today. The elderly woman was maybe 75 or so, with lots of white hair permed high on her head, and very pale skin, and unfashionable glasses. Not really one of the adorable grandmother types, but then she brought herself over a large mocha with frothy whip cream (that looked and smelled so good over my drip coffee), and I got up so she and her daughter could sit together, to which they were really, really grateful. I made some sort of pleasant-sounding excuse, and then quickly left because of the sudden wrenching grief that I would never go to a stupid coffee shop with Mom again. And how I should have 25 more years of her in my life. But instead, I got thirty-one, which isn’t even close to enough, not when twenty-four or so of those were spent with me trying to figure out both myself and life, and not really understanding anything about it, or about her, or about the precious precocity of a mother-daughter relationship, especially a mother-middle-daughter relationship.

Earlier today I got an email from Dad about how the grief occasionally lessens, but never really goes away. I understand that completely – I can’t compare my experience to his of losing the woman you’ve been married to for 40 years and 2.5 months, although mine feels similar, in a different way. Mom should have seen John and I get married, for so many reasons, and maybe because I was the last unmarried kid I feel really strongly about that. And she should have gotten to hold her grandbabies (if any of the four of us ever end up having kids…doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon, so even Dad dotes everything on his dog because of that), and see where we live, and read my writing. She never got to read my published writing. She doesn’t know about Lightspeed, which happened after she died. She doesn’t know Becky and Neal have beautiful baby Karsten (Becky and Neal were the only married friends of mine whose names she could remember, because of Alaska), or about our little Nellie, or that I got a promotion at work a few months ago. And occasionally, the flash of grief is so strong that I’m breathless, like I was just kicked in the gut really, really hard.

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Some terrific food in the last two days. Unfortunately, the pictures aren’t very appealing, but I’m posting them anyway.

What you can’t see clearly in the above is the amazing Bhutanese rice, from the Appetite for Reduction cookbook (naturally), with cilantro on top. I used Moroccan red rice as the base, and added all the ingredients to that, which included coconut milk and fresh pineapple (I had a Harry & David pineapple perfectly ripened!), as well as red curry paste and onion and garlic and I can’t remember what else. Then I marinated some portabello mushrooms, which were even more tender and juicy than steak, and some cabbage.

And the above was the OMG onion rings – which were !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! UNREAL. Yes, they were. I will never have any other onion rings again. I made the hottie black-eyed greens with kale, but they weren’t quite as good as the first round, which I had made with collards. I adore kale, but the flavors didn’t sit as well this time, which I thought at lunch again when I had the leftovers. So collards in the future, with this recipe. (And veggie hot dogs in the background – which taste JUST like real hot dogs! Especially when grilled. And you actually know what they’re made of.)

Off to bill more tax returns! Less than two months of this left. I’m so relieved it’s Friday.

>A girl walked in through the front door at work last Friday, all perfumed and pretty with long, flowing hair and exotic makeup, almost like she was going out to some show or club. She was probably a few years younger than me, with a welcoming smile, and she immediately started making small talk about how nice it smelled in here (in the office??) and happy Friday to me, etc., so it was obvious she was going to try and sell something. Which she was – some new spa or salon, 90% off services that day only, etc. I said I wasn’t interested, and I was the only girl here – so goodbye, as nice as possible. I don’t have much patience for solicitation, either on the phone or in person, and cold-calling (cold-walking-in?) your salon services to a stand-alone professional firm is not appropriate, in my opinion.

She kept trying, to her credit. Oh, but what about Mother’s Day, she asked. My mother’s dead, I said, just as nicely as I had said no, thank you, to her only seconds before. I don’t need a Mother’s Day present this year.

We looked at each other. She said ‘Um, okay,’ and took a few steps back. Not an ‘um, okay, I can’t believe you really just said that’ but an ‘um, okay, was that really necessary? Couldn’t you have just said no? I was only trying to do my job; you didn’t have to say something for shock value.’ And then she left.

I hadn’t said it for shock value – I had said it because it was the first thing I thought of. I won’t need a present this year. I still need to buy a card – and it occurred to me that I should get Mom a present, too, some sort of lasting donation somewhere or something in her honor – that doesn’t mean 90% off salon services.

But every Mother’s Day anything makes me cringe a little. I didn’t think about this ‘holiday’ being more difficult than Christmas, but it is, and made twice as much so by my birthday being two days after, and the fact that we always celebrated Mother’s Day with mine & Krista’s birthdays at the same time. And I’m not going to get a card from Mom this year – usually with a picture of a cat on it – (I’m not a crazy cat person, I’m not) – nor a Border’s card, which I have gotten from her every year for as far back as I can count. It’s devastating.

It also occurred to me this morning how much trouble I have saying ‘I’m sad today’. John asks me how I am, how I’m feeling, and I can’t seem to come right out and say ‘I’m sad.” There’s this impulse to get rid of it, to hide it, that it’s wrong or inappropriate because I have so much to be grateful for. Or worse, that I should ‘Jesus it away’ by being happy in the Lord or reading enough Bible verses or holding true to some Evangelical bullshit that I’ve been taught all my life but that doesn’t really factor in the physical symptoms of grief or of normal life and being a human.

I think about how I might react if someone said that to me – ‘I’m sad today.’ I probably wouldn’t have had much patience for it before all this – which is awful for me to realize. I might hypocritically think what reason do you have to be sad, when in reality, what do I know? Nothing. I’ve never stood in that person’s shoes, been exactly where they’ve been, and chances are, I’d be a hell of a lot sadder than them if I had.

So for now, I’m going to practice saying ‘I’m sad’ to myself, and maybe it will help me accept that being sad is an okay place to be. And when someone else is sad, I can just say ‘I’m sorry,’ and try to sit with them for awhile.

Found this today – I think it’s beautiful.

Death can’t be so bad if Mom went through it.
It makes it easier for the child to follow. – Danny Aiello

>I’ve been resistant to blogging. Maybe because all that’s been on my mind lately is Mom, and I want to write about happy, happy, happy things, not grief, although I suppose that’s not fair to myself. Every time I see a Mother’s Day anything I get a little twinge inside, as if I’m bracing myself for another Christmas, another Easter, although this will be different – a day fully dedicated to one’s Mother. I can still celebrate her, of course, but it’s not the same, of course.

A dear writing friend of mine lost his mother yesterday. What terrible timing. There’s no good time, really. I wish I could say something that would help him, that might ease the loss, but there’s very little that can honestly do so. I know what not to say, though, based on so many conversations with Dad – it’s not helpful to say ‘let me know if I can do anything.’ Grief is so thorough, so surrounding, that the griever isn’t going to reach back out to that person and say ‘I need this. Remember when you offered?’ Dad’s advice was/is to just do it. Just do something for that person – don’t ask. And then if they end up not wanting it, don’t be offended. They can’t tell up from down, for the most part. It’s actually good advice in general, I believe – just do it, don’t put the responsibility on someone else’s shoulders to ‘let you know’ if and when they need something. Most people don’t like asking for help for fear of inconveniencing, or something else.

Yes, happy Wednesday! I would like my backyard to look like this, I think.

I need to pull the camera out more, and capture things like the blooming rose bushes on the path up to work. Or Kitty, watching the birds, and the way he looks up at me and meows. “Look, please let me go out and kill them? I need to kill them. I do! They want to be killed, with their fluttering wings and squawking beaks!” Then he meows again, pathetically, tail twitching. And sometimes his meows are silent, as if his little larynx stopped working, but his mouth opens, and you can see his little diaphragm work – it’s so precious. Remember his silent meows, Malia? And his baby dinosaur squeaks?

I’m going to fight with Deadbells today. I keep waiting for the cure, the magic fix that will suddenly pull this story all together, but so far it’s eluded me. Perhaps today will be that day.

*****

Wow. I want to make this. Sometimes I get so bent out of shape about my body not responding to carbs and sugar, but if I just made a little more of an effort, we can have amazing things like this! No more excuses, I think. Plus, I have everything at home but the sorghum flour. Oh, and the xanthum gum. Maybe I can use buckwheat flour instead of sorghum…

*****
John just sent this to me. The dog has worked so hard, all morning.