Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ashes to Ashes

Today we scattered EG's ashes. We waited until now because Nita announced that this would be the month. I set the date with a minister friend of my sister's, who came to do the simple ceremony.

Last spring, I stood at my kitchen sink and looked out over the far back yard, and I thought, "I'd like to see yellow out there." The morning he died, EG and I again discussed our wishes for our remains. I had always wanted to be scattered out in the "far back" with our pets from over the years, and he had recently decided he wanted to be out there, too. He said, "This is home."

Earlier in the afternoon, my sister came, and in the rain, we planted fifteen forsythia, and we put in over fifty Prince Alfred daffodil bulbs. I should see some yellow out there this spring, and the plants should gradually spread. I would like to put a garden in the entire quarter acre, doing it gradually, over time, with maybe a bench so I can go and sit with him and the dogs and cats and rabbits. I might as well get used to being out there.

The scattering ceremony was nicer and easier than I expected. The girls each did a reading. I had put ashes in seven paper cups, so each person distributed part of him. Once I spread my cup, I knew this was right. I took the rest of the ashes and tossed them high, watching them soar, and knew then that he was soaring, too.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mary Library

My mother, even though she didn't finish high school, was a well-read person. She loved books and loved learning. I remember her teaching me to read before I went to school, and she passed her love for books down to me.

Mom wanted to be around kids, so when we were in school, she got a part-time job in the school cafeteria, and went back to earn her General Equivalency Diploma at night. Math was her greatest challenge, and I vividly remember standing in the kitchen, holding the phone, and listening to her share her pride with me that she had passed her test and earned her diploma so many years after leaving high school. She had actually called from a payphone rather than wait to get home to tell us, and she told me she wasn't sure while she was taking the test if she had passed that math part.

I think this was a great lesson for a young person, witnessing someone face a subject which was difficult and work at it.

Mom had a plan. She applied for, interviewed for, and got a job as a teacher's aide at another school in the system, eventually working her way back to the school in our neighborhood. Then the library aide position opened up, and she applied for that; much to her delight, she was hired.

The library was pretty sad when Mom took over. Some of the books which were on the shelves had last been checked out by me, and I was by then in my later years of high school. The room was plain and dreary. Mom had book sales and fund raisers, Buying new shelving and carpeting the space. She added to the collection, replacing John F. Kennedy's Profiles of Courage with books on dinosaurs and monsters, replacing the dusty collections of poems by Joyce Kilmer with Shel Silverstein and Maurice Sendak. He theory was that, if you could get kids to read, they would discover how wonderful it was and gradually move on to the more serious stuff, but few kids would willingly start with the droner books. Those she culled mercilessly, giving them away to rummage sales or wherever else she could send them.

While in art class in high school, my sister made a huge paper mache stork-like bird wearing crew socks and red tennis shoes. Mom took the bird to school, christened him "Word Bird," and hung him over the dictionary. Every week, she would hang a new word around Word Bird's neck, and open the dictionary to that page, and the kids would read the definition and learn to use a dictionary.

Mom's eye doctor had her trifocals special made so she could comfortably read the numbers on the books to shelve them. Her days were spent doing what she loved, working around children and books. My sister said, "She hated Fridays and loved Monday mornings." She was useful and energized and enjoyed every aspect of her job.

Dad retired, and mom would most likely still be in her library if it hadn't been for the attempt to computerize her. She retired after ten happy years, and the library was dedicated in her honor, with a plaque on the wall outside in the hall. When Mom passed away, we requested memorials be made to the school library, the place where she was most happy.

In the past year, the library was moved to a new space in the new addition to the school; it is a big room with lots of light, laminate flooring, and a computer lab. Mom would have been delighted. The current librarian (my mother would approve of her, to be sure) held on to the memorial money to use in the new space.

Last night, the school had an open house in honor of its fiftieth anniversary. It was a nice celebration. My sister and I received a special invitation from the current school librarian to view the items which were selected from Mom's memorial. There is now a welcoming corner with a pretty red and blue rug and red and blue beanbag chairs, a place for kids to relax and enjoy books. There are some new books. On the table there, was a sign describing where these items came from; Mrs. K described my mom as a "past librarian." In reality, Mom's job title was "library aide," as she did not have the paper credentials to be a librarian. However, in her heart, she was a librarian, and we appreciated her being referred to that way.

At the entrance to the library is a big rug which reads, "Welcome to our library." I like the use of "our," as Mom will always be a part of the library. But even more important, I like that a little part of Mom will be welcoming all those children to her wonderful world of books. She would be pleased.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

TMI and the Single Girl

Not too long ago, I was at the dentist's office with Kiki, and a woman who knows someone I know was there, and she asked me about dating again. Let me be clear: she did not ask me out; she simply mentioned that I would have to think about dating again.

Let me be even more clear: I would rather tear my own leg off and beat myself in the head with it. A lot. First of all, two months is a bit soon for that. Second, the guys who are my age are interested in women in their thirties, and the guys who are ten years older are also interested in women in their thirties. I guess I would have to start cruising the retirement centers to meet someone.

I have too much to process and attend to, so there is no way I want the drama and emotional chaos attached to dating right now.

I was on a widow website tonight, and there was a post by a woman advertising her book which chronicled her love (and love life) with her husband, and then addressed how she met her physical needs once he as gone. Whoa. We are talking waaayyyy too much information, here, not to mention the sheer creepiness of reading soft porn about someone who is dead. The worst part,though, was that the writing was grammatically incorrect and choppy and could have used some serious editorial intervention.

Perhaps the editor could have tossed it into the dumpster.

It was just a thought.

It Makes Me Wonder

One thing about the physical symptoms of grief is that they make you wonder if it's grief or if you're getting sick.

Or maybe you're getting sick because of grief.

I have been waking in the night and crying. I think now that it is for two reasons. First, Rocky's court issues are more or less resolved, so my energy is not devoted to worrying about the worst possible outcome. Oh, and the neighbors involved in all this are gone on a vacation, so we have some peace; I didn't realize how invasive their presence really is. But mainly my renewed grief is because this weekend we will be scattering EG's ashes out back where he wanted them, with the buried pets.

It is where I want to be put, too.

The Catholic church (or a representative in the form of a priest), informed me EG needed to be placed in one place on consecrated ground. Consequently, I found a Methodist minister who will come out and bless the ground--and I can justify him being in one place by pointing out that he is in the back quarter-acre here and not scattered throughout the neighborhood or in Lake Erie (although I could argue that Lake Erie is one place).

We will plant 15 forsythia and put in over 50 daffodils to naturalize, and we have already planted some black-eyed Susans around the pine trees out there. I have some daylilies, and I will add yellow sunflowers, which he liked, too. When I look out my kitchen window, I will see yellow, and I will put a bench out there, with some solar lighting, so I can go out there and sit.

However, it is cold comfort compared to having the real thing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Benadryl or Not, Here I Come

Last night, I took a Benadryl, and Harry woke me at 3:30 a.m. to be let out. Of course, I didn't get to sleep again right away, so when 5:20 and the alarm came around, I had a difficult time waking up. I finally turned the light on and forced myself to a sitting position, hoping that would propel me into the day.

Unfortunately, the propulsion was too low level to leave the gravitational pull of the bed. I mentally orbited there all day, all during work, vetting an injured chicken, cooking food, and driving the taxi and all else that I did.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Yesterday morning I ran Rocky over to the fire station--he was volunteering at the fundraising lunch booth for the fire department's craft fair. Then I took Kii to get her temps, ran to the store for milk, and took cider and donuts to my sisters for a visit. Or, rather, we visited, and the cider and donuts were refreshments.

On the way home, my lovely neighbor behind me called and asked if he could come over and weed whack my side of the fence at the back of his property. I, of course, said yes. When he showed up, he said he wanted to mow back there, too, and he would just use my tractor. However, we discovered that the tire on the mower had popped its seal, most likely by me smooshing into it with the bumper of the car. So, my sweet neighbor started to remove the tire, but it was stuck. I had to run kids to music lessons, so I left him there in the garage with a two-by-four and a rubber mallet, and drove off.

It turns out that he took the tire home, which is about a half mile, as he has to go by the road. Then he finagled a new seal and blew the tire up with his compressor, brought it back, put it back on the tractor, and then proceeded to, ahem, "test it out" by mowing most of the acre of lawn. He then weed whacked while I finished mowing, including every tree, flower bed, and fence on the place. The yard looks gorgeous.

While I was at the music lessons, Kiki's violin teacher told me her instrument was too big for her, and that she needed a three-quarters size violin. I priced them and nearly fainted. However, the owner of the music store (which is where EG worked), gave me a deal on the rental, extending their advertised special out indefinitely for us.

Today Nita went with her friend and his family to a fall festival, and the older two and I went on the fall foliage tour here in the county, which had been a tradition with their dad and me for the past twenty years. It was hard, as I missed their dad today and felt lonely despite the kindnesses I had experienced, and to add to the bittersweet mood, we toured the County Home, where my mother had worked before she married my father. I had never been there until today. I was pensive as we walked to the door, focusing on keeping my feelings under control. Rocky poked me several times with his finger. "Mom," he said, and nodded toward an older man in a very small pair of curve-hugging flesh-toned shorts, reclined on his stomach on the lawn, apparently sunbathing.

I stopped dead and stared, not certain what I was seeing. "Waughk," I finally croaked out. Rocky, pleased with himself at getting this reaction, smirked and said, "Well, at least he isn't on his back." I shuddered. At that point, Kiki lost it and literally choked on her own laughter. Once we were safely back in the car, the two of them hooted with laughter at my reaction to Shorts Man.

Tonight I took the kids out to eat at a Chinese restaurant. The food was mediocre, but we all sat in the booth and talked comfortably with one another, and I felt less lonely. I realized that I really do like my children, and I think they like me, too.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Milestone number two

Today Kiki passed the written test for her temporary learner's driver's license.

Another thing her daddy missed witnessing.

Friday, October 7, 2011

He is only away

One of my least favorite expressions about grief is "he is only away."

Yeah, like in another dimension? This is supposed to give me comfort? Apparently, this maudlin expression was written by some sap who didn't have a clue about loss.

Kiki has been struggling the most with the loss. She alternates between screaming and being hateful and lecturing all of us in the nicey-nice, insincere tone of voice used by my neighbor who professes to be Christian but lied outright to my face. Three times.

Anyway, either mode is accompanied by incessant, head pounding chatter.

Last night, she exploded again just as I was leaving for yoga with her staying home to be in charge. I told the younger two that I would take Kiki with me, but if they did ANYTHING they weren't supposed to do, I would leave there alone with them the next time she was like this.

They were amazingly good.

While we were in the car, once Kiki stopped shrieking at me, I had a revelation. "You have been in denial about Dad being dead, haven't you," I asked.

She told me she had been telling herself that he was just away on a long trip, and he would be coming home eventually. We talked about how that was harmful, and she cried and cried. I told her about how she had to move through the grief, no matter how much it hurt, but that she could control the rate and intensity. This morning, she woke up bleary eyed and puffy faced, but I think she feels more hopeful about her journey.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


According to the experts, I am doing everything right, I have the right perspective, and I have found outlets for this grief.

However, it is like a feral creature, apparently domesticated, but still skulking around the house. Instead of it learning to live in the presence of humans, we have learned to live with it.

I know it can't kill me, but it has left scars. Right now, though, I fear for my children.

One sleeps a lot, staying where it is safe and denying the creature is out there; one talks incessantly to keep the creature at bay; and one becomes aggressive out of defense.

Everyone is still vigilant about the next attack.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Um, now that you mention it...

Now I am getting the thoughtless comments.

A friend called me and complained about her husband for twenty minutes. After she had wound down, I said, "To put things in perspective, I am sitting in the parking lot of the funeral home; I have just finished making a payment on EG's cremation."


The woman who talks incessantly about her husband found out that I sleep in the same room and in the same bed EG and I shared. "Oh," she said, "I don't think I could do that after all that has happened. I'd have to find somewhere different to sleep."

Like where? The dog's bed? The neighbors' house? Some other man? Seriously?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The door

Rocky's grief counselor gave him an assignment last week to take a picture of a doorway.

I kind of like the message of a door, opening to another place or dimension, one where we can find those we have lost.

Tonight, I was washing my face, when one of the bunnies started banging around in his cage. From where I was, the noise was exactly like EG unlocking the door at the end of the day, coming home. It was about the time he would normally be coming home, too. Harry must have agreed, as his ears pricked up, and he trotted toward the sound. For just the slightest portion of a nanosecond, I believed it really was EG coming through that door, and all this had just never happened. I was not alone to take care of the house and the kids, Rocky's situation with the neighbors and court never happened, and it would all be as it was.

But of course the feeling passed. Harry started sniffing the floor, the rabbits started moving around again, and I started brushing my teeth. Maybe, just maybe though, the door had opened to another dimension.

Grief plunge

For me, grieving is like I am one of those cartoon characters who went off a cliff.

First, I padded the air with my feet, thinking I was going to be fine and this was all a bad dream. When I realized that I really was going to have to plunge to the ground below, I began grabbing at branches, rocks, large blades of grass, whatever I could get.

I periodically can find a branch which will hold me for a while, and while it gives me respite from the terrifying plunge I am taking, it also delays the inevitable. Sometimes people will reach out to me, too, and I grasp their hands, relieved to feel safe or protected but also loathe to wear them out or, worse yet, pull them down with me. Of course, they don't want to take that plunge either, so they pull away. While it is understandable, I feel deserted and less safe.

So I bounce from rock to rock, becoming more battered as I continue down to the inevitable. I am getting used to the wounds, but they still happen.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The New Normal

I love words, love crafting them into sentences and thoughts, making people think or laugh.

However, some words or expressions simply annoy me. For example, this weekend, Kiki was babbling, which she does when she has something on her mind which she is processing or trying to suppress. We were in the store, and she was looking at snowpants. She kept talking about the snowpants, and I tuned her out, but the word snowpants kept drilling itself into my subconscious. It went like this, "Blah blah blah blah snowpants. Blah snowpants blah blah blah blah, and snowpants blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah, snowpants blah. Blah, snowpants, blah, blah, and blah." I said, "If you say snowpants one more time, I think I will cry." Of course, she didn't hear me.

Nita turned to her and said, "Say snowpants."

"Snowpants," Kiki said. "Blah blah blah blah blah."

I pretended to sob, much to Nita's amusement.

When it comes to annoying expressions, "we are praying for you" can have a double intent. Some people, graciously, have told me that in an effort to make me stronger by having God really paying attention to my situation. Please let me add that I have been demanding so much from God lately that perhaps praying for those whom I have shoved to the intervention sidelines might be better for those who are praying. What annoys me about the "we are praying for you" statement is when it is used in an effort to make a person see the errors of their ways. My neighbor, one evening, told me, "My entire family prays for you every night." Visions of cult-like behavior notwithstanding, I think I dumbfounded her by saying, "Thank you. We can use all the prayers we can get."

I then added, "We pray for you every night, too." She was offended. I think that she would have been more offended to know that we didn't pray FOR her, but instead prayed ABOUT her--more specifically, that she would move away. I figured while I will likely have double penance for double lying about prayer, it was totally worth it.

And, before I leave this subject, let me add that, in my opinion, the most gracious way to handle this is to simply pray for people and not advertise it.

Anyway, my latest detested expression is "the new normal." Around here, with adopted kids and their issues, my parent's sequential battles with Alzheimer's, and my brother-in-law's grace-filled fight with a terminal illness and subsequent death, there was never any "old normal." We have had an ever-evolving normal. And I am tired of adjusting, adjusting, adjusting. It would be really sad but also a relief if this "new normal" stayed consistent, but somehow I have the feeling that we're not done here.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hard to be around me

I imagine it is hard to be around me.

Some people feel like they need to tiptoe, probably, for saying the wrong thing and causing me pain.

Some people feel like they need to be kind, to make sure I'm okay, to say the right thing to make me feel better. (News flash--there is no right thing to make me feel better. It's okay. It's not your job to take care of that pain for me.)

Some people don't want to be around me because this makes them aware of the potential for their own pain.

Some people don't want to be around pain because they just want nothing to do with it. (That would be my choice right now, too.)

Sometimes this loss seems so unreal. I think that I'm going to wake up and it will be a bad dream, and I'll tell EG all about it, and he'll commiserate and maybe comment that he feels like I'm trying to kill him off and get up and let the dogs out and make me coffee like he used to do.

Yesterday was a hard day. First, it was so incredibly dreary. Then, it rained, just a steady, dumping, ground saturating rain so insistent that I never let the chickens out into their run. Nita had spent the night with a friend, Rocky was hiding out in his room, Kiki did homework, and I made 20 pounds of apples (which had been unsprayed and therefored needed to be trimmed) into a big pot of applesauce. We ran over to music lessons, I stopped for dog food and groceries, and then I came home to thoroughly clean the refrigerator and prepare a big spaghetti dinner, complete with meatballs.

Just as I was preparing to serve, Rocky, who was pretty droopy, showed up and parked himself at the table, waiting to be served. I said, OH, NO, and sent him to feed the dogs. This became a ten-minute production of the Frantic Barking Dog Chorus while Rocky blundered around with the container while looking for food bowls. He then spilled five pounds of dog food all over the kitchen, including into the refrigerator and freezer. I had him clean counters, wipe the stove, and sweep up the food on the floor and pick through it to remove the floor debris. Meanwhile, Kiki "accidentally" glanced into Nita's purse to discover a lip gloss which the two girls proceeded to argue belonged to each of them. Kiki started screaming, slamming kitchen chairs, and flinging her textbooks. I sent her to bed without supper. That left Nita and Rocky and I with the spaghetti dinner. I told Nita that she needed to return the lip gloss and apologize, and she backtalked me, so off she went, too. Rocky started to gobble his food, noodles flapping on his chin; I guess he figured the odds were against him. In five minutes, he left the table, putting a food covered plate into the fresh dishwater and not asking to be excused. Kiki reappeared, saying that she needed a Pamprin (I wisely refrained from suggesting she take the rest of the bottle) and muttered about her sister until I told her to stop and go upstairs. She voiced her opinion of my parenting (sotto voce, but, from what I could/was supposed to glean from her comments, apparently she has the meanest, least understanding mom of anyone she knows and she hates me) and stormed back to her room, where she did a forte reprise of the past few minutes. I changed the dishwater, cleaned the kitchen while drinking a glass of wine, and mopped the floor. It was then 7:30, and everyone was in bed, asleep.

Or so I thought. I fed the rabbits, got them and the dogs water, cleaned the bathroom, and then went into my room, and finally started to relax. About nine, Kiki, who doesn't know how to turn a doorknob, began prowling around upstairs, opening and closing the closet, her bedroom, and bathroom doors. Repeatedly. I hollered at her to settle, and she came down and reported to me that she was missing six of the candy bars which she was selling for orchestra and had hidden in her drawer. After a loud dissertation about how there was a thief in this house, and my cross examination of her sister, Kiki explained her bookkeeping system, which was so convoluted that I finally just told her that she had to suck it up and pay the missing funds, as who could tell how much she should have had. Of course, that went over well and she graciously acquiesced and apologized. Not.

When Rocky came home from the hospital, his psychiatrist gave him a prognosis of "fair." My sister pointed out that "fair" would be a pretty accurate diagnosis for most teens, as many parents consider killing them. I would say after last night, that the prognosis for all of us would be fair.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Primal Wound

Having raised other mothers' kids, I understand the primal wound of being ripped from the one who carried you, to know that this person didn't/couldn't love you enough to care for herself and/or you well enough that you could stay, and to realize that you weren't really, truly loved or protected because of the mother's issues--in fact, sometimes mothers chose themselves or their boyfriends over a child.

To know that your "real" mother wasn't your real mother after all is an awful way to start a life.

This wound is more subtle than what we experienced here this summer. It seems funny to look at EG's sudden death in the past, but that is where it is slowly sliding. What the kids and I (and EG) had happen was so sudden, so intense, that it left us raw.

And we reacted to that trauma. There's the word I wanted--trauma. I never realized how that shock, that trauma, could affect people. However, time and space are giving me a little perspective, so I can see where I was.

Nash is a funny dog. He has a thing for chairs and prefers to sit in them over the sofa or floor or even a bed. He sits in lawn chairs, folding chairs, even kitchen chairs. When he was a pup, he loved to sit in one of the Adirondack chairs in the back yard. One afternoon, he got his paw stuck between the slats of the chair and screamed. I went to rescue him, and he bit me, operating from that place of pain and sheer terror at what had suddenly happened to him. I took a bath towel, put it over his head, and pulled his foot loose. He shook for the rest of the day and cried in his sleep that night. The next week, he avoided the chair.

This morning, I woke up to the realization that I have been in that place of terror and pain. I was worried about our finances, and I was terrified about raising these kids alone: would I have enough time, resources, and wisdom to get them to adulthood. I also didn't want to go on without my partner--after having the richness of his companionship, support, love, and protection, I had a huge, gaping wound in me. Like Nash, I was coming from a place of fear and agony.

People mean well, but those who have not experienced this primal wound cannot understand the mental state of someone who has. Even though I have had this experience, I cannot speak for others who have lost their spouse, as each situation is different. What I can do is realize that I can't relate and not try. Even our priest doesn't get it--I went to him for guidance about an insipid letter which was sent to my children, and he said, "That's the one thing about mail. You can throw it away." He didn't understand that I wanted these people to know that they were behaving thoughtlessly and that they shouldn't do it again to anyone and to tell them that they did not have all the answers where they were in their safe lives, intact marriage, safe kids.

In fact, they had no clue that there were questions. I have come to the conclusion that these people have so removed themselves from the possibility that this might happen to them that they can't even begin to entertain how they might feel or react.

What impresses me are the people who do understand. I have a co-worker who is a very, very nice woman. I am training her for her new job, and this woman talks incessantly about her husband. Initially, it hurt, but I have become numb to it. Thursday, a male co-worker, who is single and not even thirty yet, mentioned to me that he noticed that this woman does this. He said, "I want to say to her, 'Hey! She's just lost her own husband. Don't you think talking about your husband all the time might hurt her?'" I told him that I wanted to say something, too, but I didn't want this woman to apologize for two hours. It was easier to shut down emotionally and get through it. I did add that I was so touched and impressed: this man accepts he doesn't have any answers, knows he doesn't know all the questions, and is willing to see the pain someone else is feeling.

That can't be easy. I can see that now.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Glimmer of Hope

Sometimes, sometimes, there is a glimmer of hope in even the worst situations.

My neighbor, she who made our lives miserable when we were trying to cope after EG's death, sent a letter to the court asking that Rocky not be prosecuted. That would have been a nice gesture, if only she had let it stop at that. Unfortunately, she editorialized for about 250 words in the middle of the letter about how they still didn't know Rocky's intent, how they were still so traumatized about what happened that the children wouldn't sleep in their rooms, and how Rocky still hadn't apologized.

(There's a story there, as the neighbor called me up, told me I was to bring Rocky over to their house so he could sit down with them and explain what had happened and then apologize. She and her family would offer him their forgiveness, and then "there are some things he needs to be told." Right after that, when I reminded her that Rocky had lost four of the six adults in his life over the last five years, she informed me that "this type of loss is normal in adolescents." Let's just say I was unpleasant, but one of my employees, who had been scheduled for an evaluation that day but had been rescheduled, commented that she was delighted that her appointment had been changed.)

Anyway, we have court on Monday, so I drove to the psych hospital and asked for copies of Rocky's admission and discharge documents. There, on page 3 of the discharge summary, the doctor commented that my neighbor was exhibiting "irrational behavior," and it was "causing him to be concerned for his safety." Plus, (and this is where I was trying to think of something just this side of self-sacrifice to show how grateful I was), the doctor added that the neighbor had called the facility to speak with the doctor about her concerns, which he added was "certainly inappropriate."

And the best part is that this document has future treatment recommendations, so it will most likely be admitted into evidence. Including page 3.

This whole time, I have tried to take the high road and be gracious and try to understand how this woman's own issues were affecting her behavior. However, I was frustrated at how she had made herself the victim and center of all the controversy, portraying herself as a sympathetic character to the neighbors, the court, and all who would entertain her drama. Today, though, I have documentation from a professional as to how erratic this woman can be, including his own experience with her. Hallelujah. Maybe what goes around eventually will come around.

And when I told Rocky, he smiled for the first time in weeks.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Suspenders and a Belt

My uncle used to wear suspenders and an belt; my sister commented that he was a "safety man."

Since EG had lost weight, his jeans had a tendency to slip down too far. The belt was going with them, so he moved on to suspenders. However, he still wore a belt with shorts. The belt he wore most commonly was made of thick, soft leather, and it had a simple buckle which made its own distinctive sound when he put it on or took it off. I heard that sound at least twice a day.

I always teased him about wearing suspenders and Chuck Taylor All-Stars, but at least he didn't wear suspenders and a belt.

The other night, I was sorting through the hamper, and I found the shorts he had worn before he went out to mow, with the belt still attached. The belt made that familiar sound, and it was like a stab to the chest. I put the belt and shorts back into the hamper.

For the next couple of weeks, I would go through the dirty clothes and hear the sound of the belt, not wanting to make a commitment about one more thing of his, so leaving the belt there in the hamper still attached to the shorts. Finally, I took the belt out of the loops and washed the shorts.

I don't want to get rid of the belt, as the sound is such a familiar one, one which I heard morning and evening, but I can't bear to keep it around, either. The same with the suspenders. They were such a part of him, yet it hurts too much to know they are still around.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Were you thinking?

Today we got a letter from a couple who attend our church. The couple wanted the children to know some things about Dads and God. They told the children "God was so pleased with what EG had accomplished in his life and with his family that dad could serve Him better and serve you better by being with Him in heaven, and more over (sic) deserved to be with Him."

Really? So their point is God felt EG deserved being in Heaven so much that He was going to take EG in a violent manner while the kids were there? A benevolent God couldn't find a kinder, gentler way to take someone to their eternal reward?

I have issues with the fact that this is a couple, part of an intact family, who is delivering platitudes to a no longer intact family. I have issues with the husband deciding he could speak for EG (who is probably banging around in that plastic box on my closet shelf), based on how much they had in common because they were both dads. And I have issues with them telling the children that their dad would be their guardian angel, then telling the children that their son's grandfather was his guardian angel, but they suspected that Grandpa was distracted at times playing cards or bowling up there because periodically their son will run into things. Oh, that's comforting--Dad will watch over you unless he has something fun to do.

I read the letter to Nita, in all her eleven-going-on-thirty wisdom. She leveled her gaze at me. "Were they thinking when they wrote this," she asked. Um.

So, I wrote a long, angry letter to this couple. I cried out of anger. I went to the church and talked to the priest, who said, "You can throw it away--that's the joy of mail."

I realized then that I didn't want to let it go. These people needed to pay for their sanctimonious, we-have-all-the-answers attitude. They needed to be told that they weren't so wonderful.

But I needed to take the high road. So I sent a short letter stating, "While I am sure that you had the best intentions when you sent your letter, but I will not be sharing it with the children. Please continue to pray for them if you feel the need, but do not try to contact them again."

Let them wonder.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Black-eyed Susans

My sister called me yesterday and told me she had some plants for me, and asked if she should bring them over. I told her yes and invited her to stay for soup and muffins for supper.

We have a near back yard here, which is about sixty or seventy feet, then a middle back, and then a bit of a crest and the "far back" slopes gently downhill. Last spring, long before anything had started blooming, I decided I wanted to put forsythia in the far back. The tree outside the kitchen sink window usually covers much of the view, but in early spring when there are no leaves, I look out at a dull, brown vista, so I decided some early blooming yellow would make me feel hopeful.

EG wanted his ashes scattered here at home, so we decided to put them in the "far back." I then made up my mind that we would supplement the forsythia with some daffodils, which my sister suggested letting naturalize. The yellow flower project expanded to include some day lilies and some black-eyed Susans. My sister was thinning hers yesterday; thus, the arrival of our first plants.

I thought putting the flowers under one of the trees out there would be nice. Eventually they could choke out the buckthorn which grows under there by default, and I would have less to trim under the trees. We dug the wet earth, and then I tenderly tucked the plants into the soil.

Then we discussed other plans for the planting, and I mentioned that the one apple tree back there was slowly dying, mostly due to the deer. I said it was going to have to go in the future. My sister started to rock the tree, and next thing we knew, we were ripping it out of the ground, leaving one large root intact. Rocky, intrigued by all that "girl power," apparently, ran back to us, and we sent him for a series of tools. Pretty soon, he was providing muscle power, and the tree was out. Rocky and my sister sawed parts of the tree off to provide manageable portions, and we dragged them off into the wood stack EG had started in the weeds.

Then, since we were on a roll, my sister took a shovel and smacked the tenderly placed black-eyed Susans into the ground. "Now their roots will take," she explained. "They're pretty hardy."

This morning, I reflected on two things. First, there is a certain irony in these plants being called "black-eyed Susans." And second, I guess we're pretty hardy, too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I have been to a couple widow/widower websites in the past few weeks. First, let me point out that I have issues with the term "widow," as it brings to mind some wizened, old, dried up crone or someone like Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies. Or, perhaps, someone like Grandma Mazur in the Stephanie Plum novels.

Now that I think about it, it is rather depressing to be closer to Grandma Mazur than the young bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum.

Anyway, when I go to these boards, I feel deeply sad. Not for me, but for some of the people who post on there. I read posts which say, "It has been one year, three months, six days, five hours, twenty-two minutes and four seconds since he left me." Imagine wanting to know that, let alone having the time to figure out where to get that information. I also read posts by people who report that it has been nearly a year, and they just want to curl up in a ball and stay in bed all day.

My sister pointed out to me that we were fortunate that we were at the age where our bladders didn't allow us to sleep in too late each day, and once we were vertical, the dogs would ask to have their bladders attended to, and by then, we were moving anyway, so why not just get on with it and get the kids up and off to school and go to work.

I have more non-crying days than crying days lately. I have turned that corner. I miss him, his touch, the companionship, his conversation, his support. I am sad sometimes at what we will miss. However, the pain is not so searing as it was, even a week ago, and I know I can go on. In fact, the one thing I can do is keep on going, and I know now I can handle whatever happens. I may not want to handle it, but I can.

So I will.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Today I finished the thank you notes from the funeral and calling hours. Under the stack of envelopes and little notes was a card which provided etiquette guidelines for writing these notes. Why the card was on the bottom is beyond me, as I found it AFTER I was finished with the notes.

One of the first points on the card was that the thank you notes should be written and sent within two weeks of the funeral. Seriously? Find nice paper with matching envelopes, buy stamps, locate addresses (or at least be cognizant of the fact that the addresses should be in the guest book), compose complete, coherent sentences, and remember to mail the things, within two weeks of the funeral?

Two weeks after the funeral, I was still doing things like walking out of Walgreens to find that I had parked the van eight feet from the curb, with the back end hanging out in traffic. Or I start supper and heat the green beans and make the mashed potatoes, only to discover that I had forgotten to cook the chicken.

So, the thank you notes are done, but they aren't timely. However, I wrote clear messages, addressed the envelopes, remembered the stamps, and actually took the notes to the post office, so I would think that should count for something.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Right now I hate everybody. I'm not weepy or sad, nor do I have PMS.

I just hate everyone.

What kind of God would trust me so much with these three hormone-riddled teens, two of whom are special needs, let alone turn them loose on me when they are grieving at the same time I am.

Once I bought a plaque with a saying by Mother Theresa: "I know God won't give me more than I can handle. I just wish he didn't trust me so much."

If Mother Theresa were still alive, I would most likely hop a plan to Calcutta, risk leprosy, be detained because I had no luggage and an immediate return ticket, take transportation to Mother Theresa's convent, and smack the living snot out of her. Hard. Then I would come home and burn the plaque.

So don't feel bad if I am angry with you--I'm angry with Mother Theresa and God, too.

You're in good company.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The kindness of strangers

What has amazed and touched me through this grief journey was the kindness of strangers. One woman who goes to my sister's church made us a meal, including lunchbox treats for the kids. Nita's teachers, Kiki's friends from church group, the kids' music teachers, former girl scout friends, and some of my former employees showed up at the calling hours. And we received sympathy cards and notes from our vet, the bank, the orthodontist, the pharmacy at the corner, and the "girls" (as they called themselves) who cut our hair. My friend Kevin sent a Honeybaked Ham. People brought meals, including the wife of our handyman, neighbors, Kiki's confirmation sponsor, and one dear friend of mine who made a breakfast casserole.

However, one woman apparently read the obituaries and then sent a form letter stating that her church's Bible study could provide me with the answers I've been seeking. (I didn't know that churches answered "What the Hell?" I was offended, as the obituary clearly stated that EG was a man of strong faith and that there was going to be a funeral Mass. However, this woman apparently believed that the Jehovah's Witnesses had the corner on healing.

After a while, once the shock of the whole situation had mostly subsided, I wrote back to this misguided woman, telling her that I understood that she most likely saw this as a mission, but she didn't know where people were in their grief, and she might cause more pain with her letter-writing campaign. I ended the letter by telling her that I was going to have a Mass said for her soul. I figure that she would most likely be somewhat taken aback at that, and maybe it would help her related to how others might feel.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Mall

Saturday, Nita had a party at a mall, with every guest getting a gift card so she could shop, followed by cookies and then a movie at the mall theater.

I drove her there, and I waited with her for the other guests to arrive. I remembered EG and I going to the mall one night on a "date," and both of us wondering what all those other couples were doing there, walking around. Probably the same thing we were: just getting out of the house.

Unfortunately, those other couples were again walking around the mall, holding hands, looking happy, and chatting with one another. Yet another gut punch.

Then on Sunday, we went to church early because the two younger kids were serving. For some reason, every kid participating in CYO was in attendance, along with the cheerleaders, coaches, and parents. I sat by myself, and I was okay until the man in front of me put his arm around his wife's shoulders, a simple gesture EG used to make every church service. I started to cry. I asked for so little, yet I was blessed with so much, and for whatever reason, it was taken away. And I had no chance to prepare.

Someone said, "It is all part of God's plan." I don't agree with that. What God would play such a cruel prank on my sister and me after the onslaught of our parents' Alzheimer's disease taking first one and then the other?

It happened. I may never know why. And again I am challenged to rise up and meet my remaining days with grace. So I will.

And, in case this is some part of a great karmic plan, so there.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Forty days and forty nights

It has been six weeks since EG died, and I spent forty days and forty nights in the wilderness of grief, with pain so raw that I struggled to get through the days, let alone function with any semblance of "normal." I felt like that scene in Alien--shock and grief were a monster which burst from my vital organs and took over my entire life.

The photographer at graduation last weekend took a shot of me standing against a wall, waiting for the processional, having a quiet moment after getting my students prepared to process in to the ceremony. My features looked like they were all huddled together in the middle of my face, trying to stay safe. I thought I looked pretty good, but the effects of the stress are there.

After the family drama Friday night, with all its attendant backlash here, I was surprised that I felt different on Saturday. The rawness was gone. I was still sad, especially when I went to the mall to drop Nita off for a birthday party and saw couples holding hands and spending time together or when I started up the VW and drove it to keep it running, but it was like a turned a corner in my grieving. My perspective had shifted somehow.

However, I doubt that alien grief has gotten very far. There's the potential for a sequel, I am sure. But for now, I will enjoy the relative peace.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The upstairs bathroom

We have a half bathroom upstairs in this house; since the girls' rooms are up there, they used that bathroom, and EG and Rocky and I used the one downstairs.

However, everyone has moved into the downstairs bathroom now. It wasn't bad enough that I had to share with two males--now I have the girls and all their accessories and lotions and hair stuff and accoutrements of femaleness in my bathroom, and meanwhile the cats are enjoying their own personal salle de bains up there. And all I do is clean up after everyone, constantly tidying and wiping and scrubbing and picking up glasses with soaking retainers.

I have always been someone who tried to be nice, thinking that everyone had some pain or issue in their life which caused them to hurt and perhaps explained their behavior. Even with my neighbor, she who is self-centered, judgmental, and just plain obnoxious, I have tried to be fair and pleasant. However, when neighbor told me that "this type of loss is pretty normal for adolescents," something in me snapped, and I told her off so thoroughly and so directly that an employee who was sitting in my office waiting for a review asked if we could reschedule for another time.

Last night, I got an email from a family member who told me that she was hurt that Kiki had asked another family member to not text or call. This person had never been in our lives, through his own choice, and then had been here for the funeral and was so difficult, needy, self-centered, dramatic, and just plain weird and was burning up Kiki's prized cell phone use to meet his own needs; so, she asked for some space. I responded nicely, omitting the parts about Family Member making a scene at the funeral, running out not once, but twice, draping over the box with the ashes and sobbing, and never shutting up, not for two seconds, using Dude or Man every other word, and just generally sucking all the air and energy out of the room. I didn't mention how he made himself the center of attention at the calling hours, to the point where other family members were monitoring him to make sure he stayed appropriate and wondering if he was on something. I also did not mention that I sat in a restaurant with this person, who talked manically about inappropriate things in front of the kids, and popped Xanax just to get through the meal, thinking that it was sad that a bad situation was being made worse by someone focusing on their own needs and not on the kids who had lost not only their dad, but a sense of safety and innocence in one hour on a Saturday afternoon.

I simply said we were all fragile right now, and I was sorry if she could not respect that.

I realized I really didn't care if these people severed the relationship--in fact, it would make our lives so much more pleasant and serene if they did go away, or at least operate from a distance. Kind of like the upstairs bathroom situation--some space would be nice.

Friday, September 16, 2011

A little piece of me, a little piece of you

We donated EG's organs at the time of his death. It was what he wanted.

However, I didn't consider the outcome. We got a letter from Lifebanc, telling us how the harvested parts of him would be used. Kiki said, "I found that comforting." I had more of a mixed reaction--glad that someone else could benefit, but frustrated that we had to do this because of a loss.

Kiki said, "It's like there will be little bits of Daddy in other people."

Now that parts of him are still going to be walking around on this planet, I find that I look at everyone differently, as EG could be a part of anyone right now. I am more patient, let people pull out in front of me, even if I don't have to, hold doors even if it means a few more seconds of delay, speak kindly to someone who appears to be annoyed or overwhelmed.

It seems the least I can do.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Not in bed yet

It is 9:24, and I am still up, sitting in the kitchen and drinking a glass of water. This is highly remarkable. Not for the water, which I tend to drink quite often, but for the scheduling.

For the past five weeks, I have been in bed no later than 9:00, and I wake up at 3:00 a.m., fire up the computer, and watch Law and Order reruns on Netflix. EG and I used to call the program "Law and Snorer," as we invariably went to sleep before the end, waking up to the news and heading to bed, having no resolution to the show. I'm watching the episodes again because they can still lull me to sleep. Who would think that murder, sodomy, molestation, and the like would be so restful.

For several seasons, we would have a discussion whenever the show would come on the air with a rerun.

Person A: We've seen this.

Person B: But did we finish it?

Person A: Yes. This is the one where the killer ended up being __________ and so the police _______________.

Person B: But did we see the courtroom part?

Person A: I guess not.

Then, we would watch the show. Sometimes we would finish it, and sometimes we would fall asleep again.

So, I watch Law and Snorer reruns. However, this time, I can finish the program at a later date, so there is no doubt that I'm not missing the outcome.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Face of Grief

A quiet, well dressed widow in a serene sanctuary, sniffing delicately into a handkerchief. Um, not.

I somehow thought grief was a quiet, private, delicate suffering. When my dearest friend Bob died, I was prepared for it, so I quietly, most likely numbly, turned inward and processed his passing. Every spring for the next five years, I would be sad around the time of his birthday, but I could function. When my parents died, we were so ready for them to go, that their deaths were a relief--we had pre-grieved for each of them.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, prepared me for this time. Around here, grieving operates with a lot of barking, name-calling ("You tyrant!" "I am not a tyrant. MO-omm! She called me a tyrant! What is a tyrant, anyway?"), chores which need to be done, bills which need to be paid, homework that needs to be supervised, and the eternal, endless mounds of dog hair. Grief is not quiet and serene--in fact, it is like one of those violent juvenile offenders who just happened to move in to our house. We certainly would never have given permission for Grief to appear here, let alone stay. Yet here Grief is, and along with Grief come some of his friends, Anger, Depression, and Overwhelming Sadness. They steal our belongings, putting them places we never would have; they disrupt our normal flow of operation; they take up a lot of room and make big messes.

And I don't see them leaving any time soon.

How, exactly, do we move on from something like this? How do we incorporate our new reality of that loss? I know, I know, everyone says time will heal us. But I don't want this new reality.

EG and I always teased the kids about how, when we were little old people, we would take turns living with each of them, driving a tiny little car to church at speeds never reaching over 25 miles per hour, and then going to one of the "all you can eat" buffets for Sunday lunch. We'd hold hands and dote on one another with the tenderness sometimes seen in those gray-haired, frail couples.

We were, first and foremost, a married couple. Sometimes you see married people who are actually "married singles," who have their own lives and are married out of convenience or inertia. There are also the married couples who are Mom and Dad first, who don't know what to do when the kids move out. Getting to the "married couple" point took years of work and commitment on both our parts. And now that investment is gone, and I am a single parent of three kids, and in seven years Nita will move on to college, and I will be alone.

I wonder if Grief will still be living here with me.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Yoga for Grief Relief

I have always been interested in yoga, maybe because I am not, nor have I ever been an athlete, but I like and need to work my body. I carry my tension on my shoulders, in my neck, in my lower back and upper back, and my digestion will act up, too. However, every time I tried to meditate, I would go to sleep. In the past, I have tried periodic yoga tapes specified "for beginners," but inevitably, the teacher will get to a point where he or she will say something like, "Take your leg and put it up over your head . . ." and I will shut down. I figure if I had been meant to put my leg over my head, it would have been attached at my ears.

When I had Rocky at the therapist, I discovered a flyer for "Yoga for Grief Relief," offered through a local hospital. I figure that most people don't have a lot of grief until later in life, so maybe I was safe from the "leg over the head" part. Yesterday I called, and there were still openings, so I signed up.

It turns out there were plenty of openings--I was the only person to show up. The instructor was wonderful, keeping the class light and chatting quietly, so I wasn't intimidated by any overwhelming karmic seriousness. At one point, I started to cry, and she said, "Let out any sounds which your body wants to make." Since I had been resisting the the sounds my body wanted to make that were not a) socially appropriate, and b) not good for an enclosed, dark room, I switched to laughter.

Afterward, I was tired, but not exhausted. I slept well last night without the use of sleep aids for the first time in a long, long time. In fact, I may go back to bed after I put the kids on the bus.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A sign of hope

Last night, at the end of a long and exhausting day, I slogged out to the chicken coop to put the birds to bed. There, on the floor as I opened the door to go into the house, laying there like a gift, was our first egg. Although it was small and misshapen somewhat, it was like a sign of hope. Something which we knew was coming, which we anticipated, was quietly left for us to discover at the end of a dark day.

Now we need to get the hens to use the nest boxes.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wednesday's Child Is Full of Woe

Today was dreary, rainy, and cold. I had the pleasure of training my replacement for part of my job (the part that was originally someone else's, but which I took over for a few months)--I think she will do well, and she is an extraordinarily kind and pleasant woman.

Unfortunately, she talked about her husband incessantly. My husband tells me, my husband says, my husband is my greatest support, my husband wants me husband and I got a second honeymoon to Aruba, my husband, my husband, my husband.

I was not in the right place today to hear about someone else's husband being so great. I think I am looping in selfish right now, and I know that this lady would NEVER have said anything which she thought might have upset me. However, after four hours, I wanted to look at this sweet lady with the nice husband who is so proud of her and scream, "Shut. Up. About. Your. HUSBAND. AL. READ. Y!"

Then, to add to my already bad attitude, I read an essay by a woman who talked about how, in the first year of widowhood, she thought she was in so much pain, but then the fog lifted, and she experienced real pain. Goody. Something to look forward to, by golly.

To cope, I cried, making up for yesterday's tear-free hours, bawling and blubbering, and sobbing until my ears are now clogged up. I took Rocky to the grief counselor, and Nita and I walked around this lovely little prayer garden at the facility, and I read the bricks etched with remembrances of lost loved ones. And I realized--I am sick of loss. My sister said that there is a reason we don't watch Survivor--we appear to be living it. Hey, stay tuned--our little group is huddled here on the island, waiting to see who is next. I never wanted to enter this contest in the first place, but here I am, live and in color.

So, I guess I will have to play the game with finesse.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A first

Today I made it through my first full day without crying.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rainy Days and Sundays

The Carpenters, I believe, had a song which contained a line about, "Rainy days and Mondays always get me down."

For me, it has become rainy Sundays.

One week after EG died, a Sunday morning about midnight, there was a knock at my door. I hadn't been sleeping, so I was awake, reading, or at least pretending to read.

When I asked who it was, my neighbor asked me, "Can you come out here, please?" I opened the door to find him in the front yard, Rocky next to him, and a handgun in Neighbor's hand.

Neighbor informed me that Rocky had been in his daughter's bedroom, and sure enough, our ladder was leaning against their house, the top of the ladder about six or eight feet below the window. I asked if daughter was hurt, and her dad said no. Rocky said, "Mom, I can explain."

I looked over at his bedroom window, which had been disassembled to allow him to get out, with a contraption made of tae kwon do belts to assist him back into the house. I went Mom-ballistic, telling him that I doubted any explanation could be sufficient for that and telling him to get that ladder and put it away and we would Talk About This Later.

Neighbor said, "No. Leave the ladder there."

He called the police, and I called my sister. Rocky went to the porch and sat down, and after telling me he had been going out his window to walk for hours to get tired enough to sleep and had really been sleeping maybe 2 hours a night, and that he got confused about which house was ours, and that he had been afraid of hurting himself, I decided that, no matter what else happened, he needed to go to the hospital for a psych evaluation. Then Rocky went into what I can only describe as a near-catatonic state.

The police officer asked me if Rocky took drugs. I explained that, given his birth mom's history, I doubted it, but my sister and I tossed his room anyway. Over the years, I have gotten skilled at room tossing, but generally it was candy or snacks I was looking for, not drugs. We checked the alcohol cupboard. Blessedly, we found nothing. The police officer then asked my sister if she thought Rocky was faking. She said no, she doubted it.

Gradually, the police were more gentle with us as they learned what had transpired the previous weekend. However, they asked Rocky to make a statement, which he said he could not do at that time, and they Mirandized him. One week to the day after I lose my husband, I am standing there listening to my son being read his rights.

I rode in the ambulance with the same EMTs as the previous week as Rocky was taken to the same ER where his father had been. Several of the nurses came up and spoke to me, remembering us from the prior Saturday and offering comfort. Eventually, a very calm, benign, warm physician's assistant came in to speak to Rocky, basically empathizing with him and giving him permission to feel so horrible and out of control. Within minutes of his visit, Rocky fell asleep and stayed out for four hours.

Early Sunday morning, in a cold rain, Rocky was transported to an adolescent psychiatric hospital. Of course, the ambulance broke down at the central interchange in Cleveland, and Rocky had to be shifted from one vehicle to another. Of course.

I made it home about noon on Sunday, and my sister told the girls to let me sleep a bit. It dumped rain all day, eventually flooding the back yard and overflowing the gutters. I got up in the early afternoon and heated some pasta someone had made, and the girls and I watched Bedtime for Bonzo, staring at the black and white movie rather than the shades of gray outside. I commented yesterday to Nita that this particular day was the worst day of my life. She said it was the second worst of hers--the worst was the day her daddy died. I realized then that I had the gift of the Saturday morning with her dad, running errands, doing mundane things, and discussing how happy we were with one another and our life together.

Yesterday was another gray rainy Sunday. We were going to go to the movies, but at $7.50 for matinee pricing, we decided that wasn't going to happen when we have Netflix here at home. So Rocky watched The Invisible Man and Dracula, Nita had a friend over, and Kiki did homework, while I cleaned up a little and read some of The Help. At the supper table, my strong-willed Nita brought up the scene where the victim succumbed to Dracula, even bending her head to expose her neck for him to bite. That led to a discussion about whether Dracula had such hypnotic powers to draw his victims in or whether these women were simply simpering ninnies.

After a debate about what we would watch that evening, I declared a moratorium on TV, as there was nothing on smarter than any of us. So, the kids sat around and bickered, and I intervened for a couple hours. We were all tremendously relieved when eight o'clock rolled around and we were able to head off to bed without making it look like we were sick.

So, I need to determine just what we can do on the long gray Sunday afternoons which are coming up this winter, something to distract us from the beckoning depression which would be all to easy to succumb to, much like the intense, unblinking stare from Dracula mesmerizes his victims.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Today I cleaned out EG's dresser and closet. I bagged up the clothes in some wonderful paper bags we got the last time we went to the natural foods markets, and I put them in the car and drove them to Goodwill.

No one came out to the loading area despite me driving over the ding-ding cable several times, so I put all those bags on the dock and drove off without them. It was symbolic somehow, leaving his things behind, the sport coats, the ties, his jeans which never were the right length. The suit he wore when we got married. All were setting there on the concrete as I, weeping, went on to the next thing on my to-do list.

In less than a month, I have gone from being content and really rather happy, to someone who is in huge, banging pain all the time. And most likely, who could BE a huge, banging pain as well. What amazes me is how thoughtless people are: the woman who called and then complained about her husband's lack of consideration for over thirty minutes, the people who call me up and say, "I am worried about you--you aren't yourself." And there are those who keep mentioning that they want to DO something. It seems counter-intuitive to me, verbalizing how they want to lessen my burden and "help," but meanwhile, the pressure becomes a burden in itself.

I am not myself--part of me is gone, and the other part is in shock. I know that this is the new reality and I have to live in it. Everyone has to move on with their lives: we cannot freeze ourselves here in this sadness. Otherwise, I am no different than the clothes on the loading dock, being left behind while life moves on to the next thing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Good Thing You're Strong

I swear, if one more person points out to me how strong I am, I will run shrieking into the woods and live with the deer, at least those who weren't scared off by my display of irritation. Yesterday, the guidance counselor at Rocky's school said, "Let me hug you. You are so STRONG."

I don't want to be strong. I want my best friend, my partner, my husband back here. I want this bad dream to be over, and things to go back to how they were. I want someone here to reassure me, to listen to me, to help me through the rough spots.

What do you do when your greatest source of support leaves you?

I don't want to raise these kids alone, but I must. I don't want to figure out how to get the tractor running again, to fix the ice maker, to pay bills online, to sleep alone, to do it all well enough. I don't want to face every day with chores, responsibilities, and duties and not have my own personal needs met.

I don't want to be strong, but what other choice is there? To be a blubbering mess day in and day out, hanging on people and sobbing out my misery? To stay in bed all day? To curl up in a fetal position and moan?

Not that these don't sound like viable options.

No..... I. Must. Go. On. One foot in front of the other, one more hour, one more mile, one more day. One more thing. And I have to remember this is my life, and I can spend the time I have left a slobbering mess, lying in my bedroom and staring at the ceiling, or I can get out there and do something.

I haven't even gotten out of bed this morning yet, but I hear Nita in the kitchen, most likely thinking about eggs for breakfast, Harry the dog is going to need to go outside, the chickens need to be let out of the house, and for my own sake, I need to see what this day will bring.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Open house

Last night was the first of many firsts. This time, I left the kids at home to go to Kiki's high school open house. I ran into people who had just heard (and who always ask, "Was it sudden?"), which creates the push-pull in me of giving them information vs. not talking about it yet again. I ran into people who hadn't heard and would say things like, "How's EG?" Um, dead? (Which, of course, leads to "was it sudden?") Most likely fine, but I can't say for sure? Oh, about the same as the past three weeks?

Of course, they could ask where he was, and I could honestly say, "Home." I wouldn't need to add that he was in my closet, or that he hadn't come out of the closet for two weeks now.

My sister and I ascribe to a black sense of humor, believing that laughing at something takes away the power and fear associated with it. We laughed during my parents' issues with Alzheimer's disease, and while some people were rather horrified, I think, it helped us cope when my mother announced that she was pregnant and that the baby was racially mixed (I noted to the staff that Lifetime might not be the best choice for a dementia wing).

My friend N's mother makes the absolute best potato salad on the planet. However, like most great cooks, she doesn't measure but prepares food more by instinct. For years, we have all tried replicating the recipe, which we could never get in writing. When N came home for the funeral, she had her mother walk her through the preparation so she could bring the potato salad for a meal. Afterward, N backtracked and measured all the containers and cooking spoons used in preparation to get accurate levels for the ingredients. Between sessions at the calling hours, people sat down for a meal and, as usual, raved about the potato salad. N announced that she finally had obtained the recipe, which is akin to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone. I said, "Well, we always said someone would most likely have to die to get this recipe, and poor EG was the one who had to take one for the team."

Fortunately, the people who were there got it and were not horrified.

However, right now, I am not in a place where I can laugh, where even jokes won't reduce the awfulness of what happened. I know I need to move on, that my life will pass me by if I wallow in this grief, and that EG would never, ever, ever want me to curl up in a ball and stay there. However, I need to be careful that I find that balance between grief inertia and completely ignoring my own needs.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pressure cooker

I am like a pressure cooker of grief. I can go along, hour by hour, minute by minute, and attend to the minutiae, but suddenly the pressure is too great, and I will weep for fifteen seconds or so. Then, back to our new version of normal.

My sister has pointed out to me that, after one of these outbursts, I will announce, "I'm all right." She did add that I don't have to be all right, and why would I be?

Yesterday, no one was all right. I spent the entire afternoon and early evening talking to each of the kids individually. Rocky still has his grief buried so very deep that he is alternately running away from it or picking on his sisters to make them visibly hurt. He keeps insisting he is fine.

Kiki finally melted down in geometry class yesterday, much to the distress of her teacher, who couldn't figure out how to help her and eventually sent her to the guidance counselor's office to depressurize. Kiki informed me that she later returned to the guidance office to tell them, "I'm all right."

Nita, on the other hand, is the most honest of all of us. She's angry, and by golly, we all know about it and have experienced her wrath. She's not all right, she wonders if she will ever be all right, and someone is going to pay for this Hell she is being put through.

Last night, I went to the nearby Borders store to use up a couple of gift cards and do some Christmas shopping, not to mention give everyone some space. I found all kinds of things which made me think, "Oh, EG would like that." So much he won't get to do and see here with us. So, who's going to pay for this Hell?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cartoon person

I am like one of those cartoon people, the ones who are in human form but who have a huge hole in their torsos, openings so large that we all can see through them to the other side.

EG's passing made that hole in me, but I can't see through it to the other side where he has gone. I can function quite well, despite the hole, I think, except for periodic brain lapses. I drive, I pay bills, I grocery shop, I go to work, I cook meals.

I need to be here, but I want to be there where he is. Or, more accurately, I want him back with us. I want my boring little banal life, with the slightly messy house, constant lawn chores, fighting kids, and dog hair, and I want him to be here to share in all its mundane glory and not have left me to face it all alone.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Today was the day Kiki's dad had set up for her fifteen year blessing, the marking of her transition from childhood to adult womanhood. We had agreed that this would not be the full blown quinceanara of the Mexican culture, but a blessing at Mass, followed by a family dinner.

She chose to go through with the simple blessing this morning, despite her loss less than a month ago, and instead of her father, she asked her cousin to walk her up the aisle. I felt her father's presence during the Mass, and his pride and pleasure at this event. And I cried that he wasn't there in person for us, to be a part of this rite of passage, the first of many for which he will not be physically present.

One step

In one and a half hours, I lost my best friend, my partner in parenting, my great love, my support, my greatest fan, and my lover and companion. All gone in one day. The person who knows me best. The one who loves me unconditionally. I appear like I am handling things well, but every once in a while, I will suddenly get the sucker punch remembrance that he is gone, and my reaction is, "Oh, my god!" Then I experience the "now what?," the panic, the great unfairness of it all once again. Over and over again.

Yesterday I took the kids to the science center because, first, they needed a distraction, and second, the membership was expiring at the end of the month. Each of the kids is handling it differently, Kiki apparently the best, but I wonder if she simply appears to be doing better than the rest of us. Rocky hasn't begun to verbalize this whole thing, and Nita has regressed a little, and is a little less fearless. She is like I am in that she will be blindsided and then cry a bit, and she is cranky, but at least she is showing some reaction.

Anyway, on the way to the science center, we were on the expressway, and I suddenly, for a brief instant, thought I could simply go into the path of a truck and end it for all of us. However, good sense (or at least social expectations) prevailed, and I recollected that we had purchased one of the highest safety ratings vehicles (a lot of good it did EG), and I realized that I could fail in my intent and survive but lose my children, too, and probably end up incarcerated and a paraplegic with no van left to adapt for hand controls. Or, worse yet, become one of those poster children for women driven over the edge (pardon the pun) by the hormonal roller coaster of menopause.

People ask, "How are you doing," but I don't know if they REALLY want to know, to listen to me rail about how much I hate this and how unfair it is, to hear about the pain and loss, or if they really care that I am having trouble breathing, thinking, eating, and making decisions. If it weren't for the kids and their schedules, and the dogs with their immediate needs, I don't know if I could or more accurately, would want to, function.

But I do.

Shortly after EG died, my sister gave me a ring which she purchased for herself. It is a simple silver band, but the shape is a mobius, so the ring draws attention to itself both from the wearer and the observer. The ring has the quote, "A journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step." And so, every day, sometimes every hour or every minute, I take one more step on the journey.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I have only two cheeks

The story of Rocky's breakdown started with him not sleeping. He then was bailing out of his window to walk up and down the street to make himself tired. Eventually, after a week of this and sleeping about two hours a night, he was so exhausted that, when he came up to the house to climb in his bedroom window, he got our house confused with the neighbors' house. Yes, the handgun people. So, then, since he thought his contraption to get back in the window was missing, he went to get the ladder next to the garage and propped it against the neighbor's house. Since the ladder was closer to the second floor, he managed to maneuver to their upper level, which happened to be their fourteen year old daughter's bedroom window. He reportedly went in, but he went right back out again.

Thinking about this objectively, I think that, if he really did get in, he realized he was in the wrong place and went back out right away. However, the woman next door, who has made it perfectly clear in person, via phone call, and by letter complaints that she doesn't want us there, and since we aren't complying with her wish that we would move, would give me parenting and life directives, has gone off the deep end. I do understand her fears--after all, her husband works every third night, and she is alone in the house with her kids. However, what I don't understand is her continuing hatred.

This woman called me on Thursday and told me there were some things she needed to feel safe. She obviously had gotten my cell phone number from the police report, and I was on the road. When I told her Rocky was scheduled to come home Friday, she about flipped. Trying to take the high road, I asked her what I could do to help her feel safe. I offered to move him to the basement, with one access, and put an alarm on the door. That wasn't enough, I guess, as she called the principal, had her daughter's schedule changed so there was no chance of passing Rocky in the halls, requested that Rocky be let out of class at a time to ensure this won't happen, have Rocky sit at a specific place at the lunch table, and wants a different bus to pick up her daughter. I offered to have Rocky sit up front with his sister, to get off first, and to have Kiki walk the kids home. So now Rocky is ostracized.

I tried to explain to her that his reaction was caused by his grief, and Neighbor, who studied social work in college and who is apparently an expert on mental health issues (in others, as she cannot recognize her own neuroses), said, "This is beyone normal grief." Some day, I would like to check in with her to determine what exactly "normal grief" is. She also refused to acknowledge that Rocky was confused about the houses by lack of sleep, saying, "That's kind of a far stretch." I tell you what, Lady, try sleeping two hours a night, for a week and tell me how you function.

The capper was that I got a call from the psychiatric hospital where Rocky was staying. Neighbor called there to talk to the staff about some concerns she had about him coming home. The therapist said, "She is overstepping some boundaries." Of course, they refused to talk with her. The scary part? Neighbor works in a medical office and should be able to understand privacy laws.

So, after five years, I am done with her. I think she'd only be happy if we'd move away, burn the house down, and cover the property with pesticide so nothing will ever flourish here again. I do understand that this death has most likely brought up issues from her past, and Rocky's alleged invasion has made her aware of how vulnerable she (and the rest of us) just might be. But I am taking care of me now. If there are concerns, she can have her husband bring them over. I have tried to work with her, I have constantly apologized, and I have offered to make restitution for real and imagined offenses. However, she operates under the "no thanks, I am going to be mad" approach to us living here. She professes to be a Christian, but I see absolutely nothing in her behavior which resembles the Jesus Christ I know.

I have only two cheeks, and since she has so little respect, understanding, and regard for anyone other than herself, I have decided she is toxic, and frankly, I am tired of letting her poison my life.

So, now, she doesn't exist. I will talk with her husband, who is trying to be kind and work with us. I will be pleasant to her children. But she can stay over there and fester in her own venom. Shoot, she can put up razor wire and searchlights, for all I care to try to keep us out. She'll have to let me know how that works out for her, but she'll have to do it by mail, as I don't want any more interaction with her.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Numb week

My tax person, whom I have known most of my life because she and her family went to the same church I attended as a child, lost her husband suddenly when her boys were relatively young.

She told me last week, "This is numb week. Next week will be paperwork week."

Okay, this week is also numb week for me, most likely because Rocky had a breakdown and had to be hospitalized over the weekend, so I still haven't really faced my sadness. About eight last night, I noticed my legs were shaky, I felt weak, and I was having serious anxiety issues. I started to think I was having a heart attack, too.

Then, of course, I couldn't get to sleep last night, and at five thirty this morning, Penny alerted to something, so I got up and turned on the outside lights, most likely to only ward off the doe and her fawns who had come up to the house to graze on my grandmother's hostas.

Today I have a few hours of work, another funeral, Nita's open house at school. What I really want to do is to crawl into bed and just curl up in the fetal position. My sister said, "Luckily, we are at an age where our bladders demand attention in the morning, and by the time we take care of that, we are already up." Between that and the dogs' bladders, and the chickens needing to be let out, I have some momentum at the start of each day.

How long it lasts will be another story.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


In the time after the death, most people have been kind and thoughtful. Rocky had a meltdown of sorts and has been hospitalized, and the girls and I are more or less huddled together like survivors in a horror movie.

I belong to a board of parents of children who have experienced trauma, and one of the moms there posted, saying that she could only partially understand my loss and then offering a series of platitudes, "God doesn't close a door but he opens a window", "everything works out the way God/the universe has it planned", and the absolute worst, "don't sweat the small stuff." She told me to take time for myself and that I should attempt to heal.

I read the post out loud to Nita, who at 11, asked, "Is she an idiot?" Um...

The next day, my sister sent me the following, which she found on the website I wish I knew the author so I could give credit.
This is intended for the people around you. Read it when you are ready. It is off of the Widownet bulletin board. I don't know who author is.

To My Friend

I have lost the one I love, the one I cherish. My lover, my best friend, my whole life.
Either you have stumbled across this because you want to find out how to help me,
or I have given this to you.

How I am Feeling
• I am numb. I am in shock. I am emotionally exhausted.
• I am in pain. A horrible, gut-wrenching, intense, unimaginable, and indescribable pain.
• My mind is totally occupied with processing my loss. I am trying to understand what has
happened. I am attempting to make sense of it all. I am trying to comprehend the incomprehensible.
• I can't sleep. I want to sleep all day. I am physically exhausted.
• I can't eat. I can't stop eating.
• I can't be bothered cooking. I can't be bothered cleaning. I don't want to go shopping.
• Everything is overwhelming. Small tasks are overwhelming. Small details are overwhelming.
I just don't want to know about it right now.
• Nothing sticks in my mind. I walk out the door without my keys. I forget what I was going to do.
I forget everything except that my love has gone.
• I am going through tidal waves of emotion. One minute I might be laughing, the next I may be
in tears.
• Sometimes I want to talk. Sometimes I need to be alone. Sometimes I need silent company.
Sometimes I need all of these things in the space of 5 minutes.
• Some days I just want to curl up in bed and do nothing. Some days I will keep myself totally
occupied in an attempt to escape.
• Sometimes I will be intense. Sometimes I will be irrational. Sometimes I will be snappy, and
often I will be totally lost in myself.
• Often I may not have a clue as to what I want, but it only takes a moment for me to realize
what I don't want.
• I am hypersensitive and will often be offended by things you say to try and make me feel better.
• I want to wail. I want to scream. I want to cry. I want to just sit.
• I have no choice how I react. This is coming from deep inside me and intelligence and self
control have no effect. It comes from the basal self.
• Sometimes it so hard for me to respond to phone calls or letters or emails, but I truly appreciate
that you are doing it, so please don't stop just because I don't respond.
• I will not be fully-functional at work for a long time. In fact, I may never work with the same
intensity again as my perspectives of what is important and what isn't has been changed permanently.
• I still want to laugh. I need to laugh. I may suddenly go quiet mid-laugh, when hit by a sudden
reminder, but I desperately need to continue to laugh.

Emotional Things You Can Do
• Let me talk about him/her. I want to talk about our love. I want to tell you how we met, our last
days, and everything in between. I want to show you his/her picture, tell you how wonderful (s)he was.
• Let me cry. Your acceptance that I need to cry and your permission to allow me to is one of the
best gifts you can give me. Hand me a tissue, and do your best to sit quietly and let me cry.
• Once you have allowed me to open up or cry, please don't change the subject or try to stop me.
I know you feel uncomfortable that I am in pain. Don't. Changing the subject, trying to stop me
crying just makes me hold everything inside, and eats away at me.
• Tell me all your stories of when my love was sweet, courageous, rotten or funny. I need to hear
everything about him/her. If you don't know many, find out some from those who are too scared to
approach me now.
• Let me try to tell you what is going on inside me. I won't succeed, but I need to try. You don't have
to do anything. Just allowing me to do it, and allowing me to feel what I need to feel means so much.
• It is really hard for me to tell other people about my loss. I'm working full time to deal with my
emotions. Trying to deal with someone else's reaction or discomfort is the last thing I need, so if
someone needs to know it would be good if you could explain it to them.

What Not To Do
• Don't tell me you understand how I feel, or that you can imagine the pain I am going through,
unless you have lost the love of your life. Trust me, you can't. If I can't, and I am going through it,
trust me, you can't – your mind will just not let you voluntarily imagine this much pain.
• Don't try to compare my loss to the loss of a parent, or a friend, or an acquaintance or pet, it's
not the same. I understand that all of these things are painful, but it is not the same.
• Don't ask how I'm doing unless you really want to know. I am assuming that as you know, and
as you have asked, you truly want to know.
• Don't try to save me from my feelings or make me feel better. I know you can't bear to see me
in so much pain, but I need to go through all of these feelings whether I want to or not.
• Once you have "given me permission" to talk or cry, please don't try and distract me with small
talk. I know it makes you feel better if I appear happy, but my pain is ever-present and it makes
me feel like you don't care.
• Don't tell me everything will be okay.
• Don't tell me "(s)he's always with you".
• Don't tell me "(s)he's no longer in pain".
• Don't tell me "(s)he's looking down on you from heaven".
• Don't tell me "you're lucky that you had such love, some people don't".
• Don't tell me "(s)he's in a better place".
• Don't however be surprised however if I say these things…
• Don't ever tell me "you must be strong". If ever there's a time I should be permitted to be weak,
this is it. What's more, if I only "need to talk" to you once every few weeks, chances are I have
been strong and right now I really need you to understand that I am exhausted and need help.
• Whatever you do don't tell me "If I were you I'd…." Until you are in the same situation, you
have absolutely no idea what you will do. Your logical brain has absolutely no control.
• Never try telling me "life goes on", or "(s)he wouldn't want you to cry", or "God will never give
you more than you can handle" or any other meaningless platitudes.
• Don't try to solve my "problem". Unless you can bring him/her back, it can't be "solved".
• Don't feel the need to fill in silences. I know the silences are hard for you, but if you can accept
them, you are helping me immensely.
• Please don't try and help me find "closure", or tell me I need to find "closure". Closure is an
obscene word for me right now, as is "moving on"/"move on".

Practical Things You Can Do
I understand that a lot of you find it hard to cope with my emotional pain. Hate to see me
hurting so. If you can't help me emotionally, you can help me practically.
• Don't ask me what you can do to help. I have no idea, I am overwhelmed.
• Bring me some meals that I can just put in the microwave.
• Find out what sort of bread, milk, toilet paper, etc I use and bring me them to me. I have
no idea I need them until I run out, so don't bother asking me if I need anything.
• If you are an organized person offer to manage my bills. Collect the bills as they come in
and let me know when they need to be paid, and make sure I do. Time has no meaning for me
right now. It's only when the cut-off notices come that I realize I need to do something.
• Get copies of photos I don't have from family and friends and put them in an album for me.
It will be one of the most precious gifts you could give me.

Practical Things I Need To Do
• I need to surround myself with beauty.
• Sit in the sun and just soak it up.
• Enjoy nature. Look at the majesty of mountains, and enjoy the miracle of a blade of grass.
• Have a massage.
• Write in a journal.
• Cry when I need to. Tears are a release.
• Not make any big decisions for a while. A big enough life change has already taken place.

• Grief is an emotional injury that requires time to heal. Not a week, not a month, not even a year,
it takes as long as it takes. It is similar to major physical injury. You may not be able to see the
wounds on the inside, but they are there.
• Real-life is nothing like TV.
• I will not "get over it" - I will learn to live with my loss and incorporate the lessons into my life.
• I will get better over time, but I will never forget him/her. The pain ebbs and flows, but never
goes completely.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Seriously? What the hell?

On Saturday, while teaching the younger two kids to use the new mower, EG collapsed. I thought he had heat exhaustion and called the rescue squad. They raced him to the hospital, where he died of a heart attack. He was 46.

We had spent the previous day at the fair, and he had gone with me to run errands that morning. Then he had been in the yard with the kids, teaching them to use the self-propelled mower. It was normal day, and that morning, we had been talking about how things were starting to settle down over the past year and how we were just starting to enjoy life again.

Then everything became upside down again.

A friend of mine came over and said that, when she meets God, she is going to say, "Now that we have dealt with my sins and shortcomings, I have a few questions and a few things I'd like to address."

But for now, my only question is "Seriously? What the hell?"

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Not a pullet

Years ago, EG and I went camping. This was BC, before children, as taking a fifteen year old away from her electrical hair appliances and technology is punishment, both for her and for the rest of us who have to hear the editorializing. Throw in a bug-phobic fourteen year old boy who needs to justify his fears ("It's a wolf spider! It's the size of my hand!" Dude, only if your hand is the same size as Barbie's ex-boyfriend Ken's), and tent camping is not going to happen.

Anyway, we were in a crowded state park, and the place was also occupied by really rather tame skunks who swaggered around like Hell's Angels doing security at a rock concert. One of my favorite pastimes was watching the skunk go in to the restroom. When a man would go in, knowing I was nearby, he would be relatively discreet in his approach. However, the exit, while almost immediate, was quite speedy and frantic. It was the high point of the evening's entertainment. After we went to bed on the first night, some campers pulled in. There were at least ten of them, and they spoke only in Spanish. One was on crutches. They piled out of a huge old Crown Victoria and another car, and they set up camp. Pretty soon, the smells of carnitas, cumin, peppers, and onions wafted through the campground. The skunks, thinking Mexican sounded (or smelled) quite tasty, now that you mentioned it, arrived post-haste, and the biggest one parked himself under the Crown Vic.

The campers, by now enjoying their meal, noticed Pepe LePew. They started discussing his presence, using the word "perro." The guy with the crutch was attempting to chase the critter out from under the car, telling his friends that the perro was not cooperating, and deliberately stabbing at it with the pointy end of his durable medical equipment. I thought he was either very dumb or very urban, and I wondered what accident had caused him to have the crutch in the first place. Perhaps a bear attack? EG became distressed, as we had just brought our sleeping bags back from the laundromat, where we washed and dried them after the previous night's downpour. However, he could not think of the word for "skunk" in Spanish, and he didn't want to say something like "stinky kitty" or "small animal armed with napalm." So, instead, he shouted, in Spanish, "Not a dog! Not a dog!"

So, "not a dog" has become our catch phrase for a situation where someone is misinformed and doing something stupid.

Which leads me to my chickens. I bought alleged pullets from the breeder, who said his son knew how to sex chicks. Six pullets came home, but Junior has demonstrated a remarkable fifty percent accuracy. I called the breeder, and he said he'd give me replacement pullets to take the place of the mistake birds. Take a look at the picture below. I have one thing to say: Not a pullet.

Logistic regression

I have decided to analyze the data for the dissertation by using logistic regression. Usually, when I mention that, people's eyes roll up in their heads, their eyelids flutter, and they appear to be hearing a high-pitched shriek, akin to that only heard by dogs.

Basically, this is defined as the pattern of dots on a graph. For example, if height increases, chances are weight will increase in a child (this is not always true for people as they age, but I digress). If the researcher charts the height and weight of each child but putting a dot on a graph, and examines how closely the dots follow a straight uphill line, this is regression analysis. Logistic regression means that one of the factors on the graph is a yes/no, which is similar to the height/weight.

If people express an interest in the process, and I try to explain it, they tend to edge away from me.

I have to admit, I don't get the full theoretic framework of the analysis process. I thought I'd look on Wikipedia to see if this information would be dumbed down enough for me to grasp the deeper aspects. This is what Wikipedia said:

Logistic regression analyzes binomially distributed data of the form where the numbers of Bernoulli trials ni are known and the probabilities of success pi are unknown. An example of this distribution is the fraction of seeds (pi) that germinate after ni are planted.

The model proposes for each trial i there is a set of explanatory variables that might inform the final probability. These explanatory variables can be thought of as being in a k-dimensional vector Xi and the model then takes the form

...and it gets worse from there. Seriously? How did the Bernoulli effect get in there? Isn't that the explanation of flight, where air goes over a curved wing at a different rate than it goes under, causing lift? Is this a way of telling me to stop obsessing and go on faith?

If I can't trust Wikipedia to make this simple, who can I trust?

I did bring home a basic statistics text from work, and it is helping. However, at what point do I just throw in the proverbial towel and view this process like I do air travel: I have a good basic understanding of the Bernoulli effect, but I don't need to know much in order to take my journey.