Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Home alone

I had all sorts of grand plans today. Dig through the pile of work that awaited me at home, start to clear my impossibly backlogged inbox and generally wrap my head around what I needed to do to catch up and get ahead. As soon as Debbie left for school with the kids, I turned to the dog, heard the deafening silence of the suddenly empty house and realized I was truly alone for the first time in a week. It wasn't a good start to the day.

Thankfully I got help from all sorts of surprising places. I spoke to colleagues by phone. I IMd with my brother-in-law. Friends pinged me in Skype and comments continued to pour into my Twitter and Facebook pages - and here, of course. A friend I've known almost my entire life took me out to lunch and, for a couple of hours, managed to get me to think life was normal. It wasn't, and isn't, of course, but the break was both welcome and treasured.

As the day drew to a close, I had somehow managed to corral the bulk of my out-of-control docket. I spoke to the key folks who had so graciously let me freeze everything for the week, and slowly began the process of moving my outstanding work forward. Tomorrow will be another day. As will Friday, and beyond.

It's hard. No sooner do I start reading through something than my mind drifts back to the sad reality now faced by my entire family. As much as I'd like to seek refuge in the staid, safe world of words, reality seems to intrude anytime it pleases. So I go back, and try it again. And again, until I manage to make it through without interruption or drift or tears. My head, already rattled by days on end of little sleep and endless worry, just doesn't seem as sharp as it once was. I'm told this will pass, that the brain cloud is an understandable byproduct of trauma and stress. But as a writer who's used to ripping through work with a sharp-edged pen as my weapon of choice, reversion to a dull-faced, slow-to-respond instrument is a shock to the system.

But I'll stop whining now, because my lot in life pales in comparison to my mom's. At the end of the workday, Debbie came back home with the kids. The dog, who while I was out got himself stuck on top of the kitchen table and needed to be rescued (third time this month, if you're keeping score), barked madly at the front door as the kids tried, repeatedly, to move his wiggly form aside and get into the front hall. The silent, empty house quickly filled with noise and laughter. I still have my family, my boisterous brood, my routine. I can't get it out of my head that my mother does not, and there's nothing I can do about it.

I suppose my challenge as a son is to change that as best I can. It's another form of discovery I wish none of us had to make.


kenju said...

"reality seems to intrude anytime it pleases. So I go back, and try it again....."

That's all you can do, Carmi. I can promise you the pain and concern for the future will abate, but it takes time.

After my mother died, I was horrified at having to leave my dad in their home alone, and travel 330 miles back to my home and my work. I think he handled it better than I did, so I hope your Mom is strong (mentally, if not physically) and that she has a good group of local friends on whom she can lean.

quilly said...

Carmi -- seeing past your own grief to aid your mother through hers will help heal your heart as well. When you can't physically be there, cards and letters -- drawings from your children -- things your mother can hold, will remind her she is loved and not as along as she feels.

You're a writer -- sit down and write out a precious memory that focuses around your father. Send that to your mother. Then in a few days do it again. It will comfort you both and create a legacy.

Anonymous said...

I'm sending you hugs and positivity Carmi.

Man Named Kim said...

your raw journey is conveyed beautifully in your post here. thank you for sharing your humanity.

this helped me today.

Cloudia said...

Takes time, Carmi....takes time.
Do care for yourself.

Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

lissa said...

Perhaps you did need this day to unfold the way it did. Beginning with silence, progressing with connections, interspersed with the reminders you've hoped would stay away for now...and culminating in the bittersweet dichotomy of your family's noise and thoughts of your mom's quiet house. That journey you wrote about earlier? It's one of a thousand miles that began with the single step you took today.

Each day is a new step. Each day will bring different incarnations of mixed feelings, deep emotions, and memories, both old and recent, happy and sad. This is the necessary process we all go through in different ways.

But you are a survivor; you do more for those around you who are hurting than you know - and they will do the same for you. They already do. Your dog's needing rescue is a lovely metaphor; hold onto it and smile. Soon, the smiles won't feel as tough to achieve.

PS: you aren't whining. You are emoting and you are expressing and those are gifts to yourself, and to those of us to whom you pour out your feelings.

Love and hugs to you all.

Anonymous said...

I think all you can do for your mom is be there when she needs you. She will have to move through this at her own pace, which might or might not be as quick or as slow as yours. But just calling every day or emailing or however you communicate with her to say hi will do a lot. For the both of you. I know you have heard this before so all I can do is just say it will get easier. The cloud will lift and sunshine will brighten both your days. Take care my friend. Aloha

Anonymous said...

Hi Carmi,
I've followed your blog for a good while now, even though I rarely comment. I want you to know that your writing is strong, clear, and interesting and that has not changed even though the process of getting there feels more dull to you. Thank you for writing honestly about what life has been like in the last week. I think anyone who has experienced deep grief can relate to what you are feeling. I am sorry for your loss. Also, thank you for the small glimpse of your father through your article about his laptop. I hope writing that helped you in the grieving process even as you enrich other people's perspectives.

torontopearl said...

"I can't get it out of my head that my mother does not, and there's nothing I can do about it."

I think about that a lot; my mother would spend 10 hours/day by my father's side when he was in hospital, and went home to the empty house. I would visit my dad and then go home to my husband, children, to my routine.

These days, my husband, children and routine are still there for me; my mother's house is emptier than ever.

Let your Montreal family and friends keep your mom very involved in their lives; let them visit her and have her visit them. Bring her out to London to stay with you for a while when she's ready. Help her fill that emptiness as best as you can.

"When I'm ready" is how you have to look at life these days; don't set lofty expectations for yourself; allow yourself time to ponder, to feel, to grieve. People will respect that.

Gill said...

I have been catching up on my blog reading and was so sad to hear of your father's death. Please know that you and yours will be in my thoughts in the coming weeks. {hugs}

Lori Schmidt (LoriProPhoto) said...

U are still in my thoughts Carmi and although it does get easier, the memories remain, but they are good memories, I lost my mom 29 years ago this November, my dad last September (2008) and my husband this past April. Just hold the good memories close and use those to fuel you to carry on, they are the important ones and what your Dad would want you to hold onto. (((Hugs)))


Mojo said...

Now see, this is a common error that I see happening in all kinds of manifestations. "My story's not so bad compared to [insert unfortunate one here], so what am I complaining about?"

Sure, there's truth in saying that someone else has it worse. No doubt your mom's suffering is quite different from yours, and perhaps in some ways it's worse. But I'll let you in on a secret that's not in the brochure. And if you never listen to another word I say, I hope you'll listen to these:

The fact that someone else may be worse off, does not invalidate your grief.

It is every bit as "legitimate" as anyone's, and it needs to be treated that way. By you if by no one else. Because the only way to deal with grief is to grieve. And you can't do that if you're loading yourself up with guilt for feeling it.

Your friends will see it not as whining but as coping. And if they don't, they will -- if not now, then someday when they're facing the same circumstances.

So do not for a moment, not a second, waste your energy feeling guilty about feeling grief. It's a natural outgrowth of loss, and especially loss of someone so dear to you.

You can let it go only after you let it come, my friend. And until then, we'll be here to listen to you "whine" as much as you need to. Just like you'll be there to listen to your mom when she needs you.

Count on it.

Laurie said...

Losing a parent certainly changes our perception and perspective. I lost my dad many years ago and my husband lost both his parents long ago too. My kids barely knew any of them. From my kids perspective it is difficult to miss something you barely knew you ever had. From mine it was hard to imagine not missing them even for a moment. I find that the passage of time does soften the blow of such profound loss, but the missing them never stops.