Today was a weird day. My mother-in-law’s services were yesterday and I found myself trying to play second-tier hostess (my husband and his siblings being first, of course) to so many people. Many of whom I’ve never met before … or thought I hadn’t until they awkwardly reminded me of our first meeting.
“Hi. It’s nice to m-m-meet you … again?” (I assume stupid social blunders are excused at funerals.)
I watched various relatives and old friends come to pay their respects and check in with the family, often sharing a story from her past which resulted in smiles and even laughter or the inevitable hugging and tears. Friends of mine, some of whom had never even met my mother-in-law, made the hour-and-a-half drive in to show their support to Dave. One of them even brought her son, a close personal friend of my boy, who wanted to be there for his best pal. There were pictures on display of everything from her toddlerhood to her grandmotherhood with my children and their cousins. It’s always amazing to see the family resemblances in the generations over the years.
And, through it all, I was fine. I wanted to be … for Dave, for his siblings, for my children and their cousins, and for anyone else who might need my support while I was there. My mother-in-law was a strong woman in that respect and I know she would have appreciated my efforts.
When things were finally over, the kids and I left Dave behind to help get everything finished up with his siblings. The three of us set off on the 90-minute drive back home to get them ready for bed and school tomorrow … or maybe just another day spent at home. Whatever their emotions dictated in the morning. We got home rather quickly … I honestly barely remember the drive … and all was going well until I decided to flip through my largely-ignored slew of recent emails. And I found two in my saved box that I had forgotten about from my mother-in-law. The first was from the day I learned I was to have surgery to remove my mysterious lung mass:
Hi…Dave told me about the results of your x-rays and the next steps for you. I am here for anything I can do for you. I haven’t a clue how that surgery is performed but after hanging out in medical offices a lot lately I am aware of how amazing the medical field has become. My hope for you, of course, is that you get through this with little stress and pain. I will keep up with you through ODNT. I imagine that you’ll be too busy to write specific e-mails. Take care of yourself and again let me know what I can do for you. Sending positive Karma your way.
And the second was from right after my surgery:
I’m glad your surgery went smoothly. I know Dave and the kids are as glad to have you home as you are glad to be there. I enjoyed your letter to your “thing”…Perhaps I’ll write one to my heart. It’s good to see the positives in problems especially when they help with priorities. I have a problem with that. I look forward to seeing you soon. Take care of yourself and keep on bloggin’. Love and positive Karma on their way to you.
After reading them both, I stepped away from my kids awhile and took a moment to let out some of the emotions I had been holding in since I first learned of her passing last Wednesday night. My kids didn’t catch me in the act … but, unfortunately, my puffy eyes were a dead giveaway when I finally re-entered the room determined to fool them into thinking everything was fine. Neither said a word. My daughter dropped the book she was reading and my son ran from the TV (where he was watching the last few minutes of the Giants/49ers game I might add) and they both just threw their arms around me. It was an awesome moment to be a mom. They hugged me for a while until I was smiling again (how could I not be?) and we went about our business of getting ready for bed.
My sleep wasn’t great last night but honestly it’s never really been one of my strong suits. And I was a little surprised but happy to learn that both of my kids felt like they wanted (or maybe that should read ‘were obligated’) to go to school today after missing last Friday. So, I brought them both in, very proud of their strength, and told them that they could call me on my cell at any point today if they changed their minds and wanted to come home. And then I drove back home to my empty house.
The weather was painfully dreary and threatening to rain and I did something I never allow myself to do. I climbed back into my bed in the dark with the cat. I flipped on the TV intending to watch something I missed and wanted to catch up on. (Fine. If you must know, it was Desperate Housewives. My guilty pleasure. Don’t judge.) But first, I decided I was hungry so … naturally … I finished off a box of cookies for breakfast. (I won’t say how full the box was when I started.) Then, I crawled back into bed and some friends started group texting me. We talked about the book we’re reading together and they invited me to lunch.
“Thanks. Not today for me. But soon.” was all I could muster.
Then, I started watching Desperate Housewives where I left off last night. The house phone rang. My BFF, Caller ID, told me it was a trash call so I flopped back into bed for the rest of my show. Then, the damned doorbell rang. I decided I looked far too much like shit to consider even answering it so I clicked off the TV and waited in silence for the “intruder” to go away. Fortunately, it was just the UPS guy delivering some boring tax papers which he left behind when I ignored the bell. Back to the TV. My brain was pleasantly distracted until the show’s predictable closing voice-over and then it was back to reality again. Still in the dark sanctuary of my bed, I played on my phone a little and did all of the stupid things that ‘real grown-ups’ aren’t supposed to do … like checking Facebook and Twitter. I also checked in with my ODNT page and realized that I really needed to post something again soon. But I feared that everything I could post would either be very dark or inappropriately light for the tone of my life right now.
So, I just lay in the bed starting at the ceiling for what was probably nearly a half an hour before I had a rather significant realization. My mother-in-law would not have wanted me stepping away from what’s keeping me going right now – my writing (also known as my … sometimes funny, sometimes awkward … therapy). Still, I wondered, “Yes, but what in the hell would I write about today?” And I flipped through my idea notes on my phone. It’s a long list but NONE of it seemed right.
Then, I realized that, over the years, the writing that has touched me the most has been the raw, naked, unedited truths of courageous people who wrote without fear of judgment. Today, for me, that unedited truth is the fact that I stayed in bed eating junk in the dark, watching trash television, screening phone calls, declining invitations, dodging doorbells and just staring blankly at the ceiling. Today, I am that woman staring out of the rain-drizzled window in the Cymbalta commercial. And honestly, this is not the first time she’s made an appearance in my life. Lately, I’ve read about a lot of brave people who admit to battling with bouts of depression in their lives and, while I’m not about to unearth any lifelong issues, I am willing to admit that it rears its ugly head around here from time to time. And I’ve decided that it’s normal … and that it’s okay.
And somewhere in the midst of my dark moment in my bed today, I could hear my mother-in-law (no, I am NOT crazy) telling me to write about that. I don’t need to go to the drugstore and find some other funny Bag Balm-y product as today’s subject. Rather, today’s subject can be just what it really is. A little sadness and confusion mixed with a complete lack of motivation. And when this thought entered my brain, I sat up and reached for my laptop. I decided not to belabor every word (as I always do) and just let the writing be genuine and rambling and (sorry) lengthy. ‘Cause that’s the real (loquacious) me.
I promise to get on my feet … or my fingers, as it were … again very soon and let some light in here. My mother-in-law wouldn’t have wanted me to shroud things in darkness. And neither do I.