4.16.2009

April Something, 1983

I'm finding myself a little bit blue this week, down with a case of melancholy with a side effect of mopey. Thinking back, these feelings took root Sunday evening when I was at my dad and Peggy's house surrounded by her family. Which is now my family, sort of. Some of which I met for the first time that afternoon.

I stepped outside for a while to sit in the swing and started thinking about the changes to my family over the years. My mom and dad, my grandparents, my mom's death, my dad's marriage to Ruby, family functions with her children and grandchildren, her passing, seeing her family less and less, and then I was back to where I started on the swing watching Peggy's grandchildren play basketball. Family, at least in my case, fluctuates. Don't get me wrong, I am thankful my dad married Peggy and for what she (and her family) brings to our lives. And yet.

I miss my mom. I'm forty years old, my mom died 26 years ago, and I still miss her.

This is my remember week, the week my 14 year old's world turned upside down so many years ago. My mom was 42 when she died on April something, 1983. I say something because I can never exactly remember the date she died and the date of the funeral. Believe me, it was a blur. I do remember it all happened quickly, around Income Tax Day.

My mom, Joan, had always been very thin, small-framed, even skinny. She had health issues over the years like hyper thyroidism and colitis, which kept her thin. Looking back, maybe there was more to it, but this was what we knew. February 28, 1982, on my grandparents' 51st anniversary, my grandmother had a heart attack and died the next morning while in the hospital. Our little family was in shock as we struggled with the sudden absence of our family cornerstone. I remember the whirlwind of family and church friends offering so much love and support those first few weeks, especially to my grandfather, Archie. He seemed so lost without his bride beside him. After a while though life appears to go on and you attempt to go with it. We all missed Sue so much, but didn't talk about her too much because the hurt was still raw.

I carried on with my 8th grade life, the dramas of junior high, the ups and downs of friends and of course, the pursuit of boys (totally the stuff of notes passed back and forth, in the vein of "Do you like so and so, check yes or no"). The fall of 82 I started high school. Being a teenager and therefore quite self-absorbed, it took a while to fully notice the decline of my mom. We were used to her health concerns and spells over the years, we, and most likely she, thought this was another spell. What we did not realize until too late, was how depressed she really was. She began to see a psychiatrist, who not only prescribed several loopy inducing drugs, he diagnosed her with Anorexia. Remember, this was the early 80s, we didn't know that much about it except for the Karen Carpenter made for TV movie. My mom told us that she didn't agree with the diagnosis, she wasn't really anorexic.

We believed her.

Looking back, I think she was in denial and had been for years. I will never know for sure, but I think she was anorexic most of her life, it just never had a name back in the 60s and 70s. I think her grief over the death of her mother sent her denied disease spiraling out of control. Over the course of 1982-1983 she was hospitalized several times in an effort to help her gain weight, even to the point of a feeding tube through her neck. She would make some progress, but then relapse, until her body just couldn't function any more. I guess we were all in a form of denial, because we did not grasp how serious her condition truly was. In April 1983 she went in to the hospital for further diagnostic measures, except this time she never came home. I remember going in with my dad to talk with the doctor and hearing the words "multiple organ failure" and "needs to be transferred to Methodist". I remember visiting her that evening in her hospital room, the nurses preparing her to be transferred later that night and talking with her for a little while, though she was weak and groggy. I remember her telling me she loved me as I left. The next few days in my memory are quite blurry. ICU visits (though I elected to stay in the waiting room, not wanting to see her connected to all kinds of tubes and machines, though now I wonder if I made the right decision), phone calls and visits from family at home, selfishly regretting missing the drill team try-outs I had practiced for the week before, staying home from school the next day, and hearing the phrase "She's gone." The viewing, the funeral, the finality of it all soon followed. Like I said, it's something of a blur. I remember pieces, snippets almost like photographs, some vivid and sharp, others smudged and faded.

No matter what I remember, I was definitely changed. I remember going back to school and sitting in my freshman typing class and the silence that followed when the girl that sat beside me asked why I had been absent for a week or so. I remember trying to find the right words to tell her, but really, how do you say, "My mom died ", except just to say it. So I did, and she just stared at me in disbelief. I felt like telling her it's okay, I don't believe it either. Eventually word spread and I didn't have to tell too many people, but it was still awkward. I was paranoid my classmates were staring at The Girl Whose Mom Died, and whispering about me. Being teenagers, and just as self-absorbed as I was, they probably weren't, but I imagined they were.

One day blended into the next and time bravely marched on as it is apt to do. I marched along with it. I had a couple of really close friends that helped me stay sane, along with a friend that was a boy and was kind of my boyfriend so I was caught up in typical young teenage stuff like hair, make-up, clothes and Kevin Bacon. As I look back I wish I had talked about it more, but I guess my way of dealing with her death was to file it away under Painful Awkward Subject instead of working through all the grief and related feelings. My dad is a big Move On kind of guy along with being rather stoic, losing my mom ripped him up and it hurt him to talk about it, so we didn't. We should have, but we didn't.

I feel like a part of me was lost back on April something, 1983. I was forever changed, not necessarily in a bad way, but still different. While I am grateful for my dad's remarriage to Ruby, then after her death, to Peggy, I still feel like a spoiled two-year old having a tantrum wanting something that I can't have and not understanding why. I play the what if game a lot, wondering what my life would be like now if my mom was still here, wondering what kind of relationship we would have, etc. I still struggle with jealous feelings when I see families, still with the blessings of many generations being together. The rational side of me knows that those families have their own set of issues, but I still feel a longing for that type of constant. The rational side of me also knows that in this life I will face trials that will make me stronger, that will teach me a lesson, that will serve a purpose even if I don't understand it. But there is the emotional side of me as well.

I am 40 years old and I want my mom.

27 comments:

  1. I wish I had a magic wand for you to get your wish.
    Holly, thanks for this beautiful and brave post.

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  2. Oh, Holly. I wish there was something I could say to make this easier on you. This was a beautiful, heartfelt post. Know that I'm sending you a hug from a few states away.

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  3. Yes, what a heavy week for you as you remember and reflect. Thank you for pouring your heart out in this post.

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  4. ((((((( hugs for you, Holly))))))))

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  5. With tears in my eyes Holly, I can just say I'm sorry. I'm so sorry you lost your mom at such a young, impressionable age. The same thing happened to my best friend although she was in 6th grade. It's something that neither of you will ever forget, nor ever get over. The "what ifs" are constant...but one day you will see your mom again and you will have all the answers.

    You'll be in my heart and my prayers these days!

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  6. Holly, I really don't have any words. I just wanted to let you know that I read your post and my heart goes out to you. (((hugs)))

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  7. holly, i had to read this twice- hoping that somehow i'd come up with something that might ease your pain. i'm sorry. i wish i was there and could give you a hug. what a lot for you to deal with at such an age- and what a lot to deal with since.

    wow. i have so much i would love to talk to you about if we were in person. for now, i hope this week brings peace to you in some measure. and know that you are being thought of and prayed for.

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  8. I'm so sorry, Holly. Big HUGS...

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  9. Holly, as I sit here teary eyes I know without a shadow of a doubt that your mom is looking down at you so proud of the woman you are today. You are a wise, gentle, tender hearted, kind compassionate, loving, always knowing what to say and always being there for others. You are the type of mom that I strive to be...I love you and am so sorry you have to go through this. I know you miss your mom so much...I want you to know I am here for you...always.

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  10. Oh, Holly. I am so sorry. What a young, tender age to lose your mom. I miss my mom too. It's hard. Those moments are painful. I hope you can find strength during this difficult month for you.

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  11. Love you.

    I hurt because you hurt.

    (Speechless)...I will pray for you now.



    Love,
    Lacie

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  12. WOW! That was beautiful. I really can't imagine, but you did a very good job of trying to help me to. I'm so sorry that you don't have her.

    I'm so glad you have Annelise.

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  13. I would love to send hugs your way. That was such a raw, brave, and powerful post...thank you for sharing it with all of us.

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  14. Holly,
    This is beautifully written and brought me to tears. I lost my mom 7 years ago and I miss her every single day. I can not imagine how tought it was for you at such a young age.

    My dad recently started dating again and although I love her dearly and am so happy he has someone to spend time with- it's hard, so very hard to be around her and her family and not miss my mother so terribly.

    Praying for you,
    Shannon

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  15. What a beautiful post straight from your heart. Thank you for bringing me to tears and making me realize I need to love my mother for who she is. We all have issues with something. Thank you again for helping me to see more clearly. God bless you and I pray for your heavy heart during this difficult month.

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  16. love, hugs, and prayers....

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  17. This is amazingly told. You should have it published. It is obvious that it came straight from your heart. A heart which is obviously tender, wise, and compassionate. I don't think you should ever quit missing your mom. I think that is a testament to the kind of woman she was and you are because of her. Her illness didn't define the impression she left on your heart. For that reason, I know she was a wonderful woman just like you!

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  18. oh Holly, thank you so much for sharing this. You were able to write so clearly & beautifully about something that feels anything but. I want your mom for you, too. xx

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  19. I sit here with tears streaming down my cheeks, mourning for you, my internet friend that I've never met. I am so sorry. Thank you for putting it all out there. You are so strong, and I admire you so much.

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  20. I ran a mile for you today Holly. Thanks for your honesty. You've touched a lot of people by being so honest and open.

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  21. I think I've read this post 5 times...

    My heart aches for you. I'm so glad she got to say it- I love you one last time.

    thank you for sharing this-

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  22. Wow Holly, thanks for sharing. I had no idea. A friend of mine lost her mom when she was in 8th grade (I knew her then too) and she still says at least once a day, "I want my mom." I'm sure it's even harder in some ways now that you are a mom yourself.
    It is amazing to me how we all have so many life stories to tell and the hurt we have all been through. I am so glad you posted this.

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  23. What a heart wrenching story...
    I was so touched and moved by your words...I'm always so intrigued by the story of people's lives--what makes them who they are and what experiences shape them...

    Thank you for sharing your memories...


    It's been so nice to get to know you through your blog...You are really a wonderful person... :)

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  24. I guess I will be about the only one to post here who remembers when that happened in your family. I remember your Grandmother passing and your Mother's health struggles and her passing. I remember Archie, he used to pay me every Sunday when I was the church secretary. :) And of course I remember Ruby. You know I loved her so much.

    I remember seeing you across the church auditorium after your Mother passed. You looked normal. I guess everyone wonders what tole it takes for a child to lose a parent. And we wonder if we can see it on the outside. Of course we can't possibly know the upheaval and pain. And I was 7 years older than you, so I didn't ever talk to you then.

    You know what else I remember? I remember going to your bridal shower, I was pregnant at the time with Nathan. And I remember seeing you bring A. to church the first time and it brought me to tears. My heart was overflowing with happiness for you and her and Scott. So happy to see your dream fulfilled.

    I think you did exactly what every 14 year old would do when they lose a parent, and your Dad probably reacted as most men would. We just do our best, don't we. And when we know better, we do better.

    You do have a history through those of us who have watched you grow up and watched your life unfold. Thank goodness no one can ever take your Mother's place, that wouldn't be fair to her. And it's only right that you should mourn her and miss her.

    Thank you so much for sharing with us. I have always wondered how you have dealt with your Mother's passing. And I know she is proud of you.

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  25. Really, we do need to go running together. In fact...one of my besties is going to be in Houston this summer and I'm going to try to come for a visit...maybe I can see you at the same time...if it works out. We have lots in common.

    I got my mom four years longer...but I still miss her, more than I think most people could ever possibly understand...at least most people who haven't lost a mom. It's sad to have never known your mother as an adult. I think about that often. And yes, there are lots of great people in our lives that make it not so bad...but it still sucks.

    The real question is how to people deal with all of this when they don't believe in God. I mean, I just don't know how I'd do it without my faith.

    Thanks for sharing! Even if it did make me cry. It helped me feel a little better on some level, too. Like, in another 10 years, it will still be okay that I miss my mom.

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  26. I'm at a loss for what to say, but think you wrote this really well. I hope it was healing to write it and put it out there.

    My mom lives 30 minutes away from me, but she has never been the mom I needed her to be. I always feel pangs for a mother.

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  27. Holly, thank you for sharing what is difficult to share. You have written honestly and openly about a subject that is difficult for grownups to understand, let alone children. We are holding you up in prayer. God will protect your tender heart and give you what you need to make it through.

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