Sunday, March 29, 2009
Getting Through the First Week
The last few days have been hard. On Friday, we donated Dad's medical equipment to Care Chest; that felt good, but was also much more emotional and difficult than I'd expected. The friend who used his truck to transport Dad's scooter, etc., also moved some of the bigger stuff we wanted (a bookcase and a medical scale) to our house.
I'd started Friday in an absolutely foul mood, no doubt in part because I'd forgotten to take my antidepressant the evening before. In the afternoon, I went for a long walk, which helped. Then I went to school for the first time all week to pick up mail and haul home piles of grading. I had some lovely condolence notes from students and colleagues, and also a long, comforting phone message from the nursing-home doctor, who told me I'd been a good daughter and made all the right decisions.
When I got home, Gary asked if we could eat out, since we were low on groceries. We ultimately decided to do our fancy-meal-on-Dad that evening, and, wonder of wonders, managed to get a last-minute reservation at the most expensive of our favorite restaurants. I dressed up in a black skirt, a red blouse -- since red was Dad's favorite color -- and the gold necklace he gave me when I graduated from college. Fittingly enough, we were led to a table with three chairs, not two, so we decided that Dad was there with us. We toasted him, and treated ourselves to the most extravagant things on the menu, and had a great time. It was really fun, and it felt like something Dad would have enjoyed and would have wanted us to enjoy (and it actually wound up being less expensive than we'd expected).
Yesterday was hard, though, because it was the one-week anniversary of his death. I got through it, and even got a little work done -- although the remaining amount is truly scary -- but it wasn't fun. Saturdays will be hard for a while.
This morning I went to church and got a lot of hugs. Now I'm waiting for a friend who'll be dropping by with food; her mother died right before Christmas, and we had a long talk on the phone last night about how disorienting it is to lose a parent, and about how much we wish our culture still gave people space for a year of mourning, instead of expecting them to be functional and competent after two weeks.
I don't expect to be functional and competent for a while. This is a problem, given those piles of grading.
People keep telling me to "be strong," which has become my new least favorite meaningless phrase. What does strong mean in this situation? What would weak mean? Is strong code for, "Don't be visibly upset, because then you'll upset the rest of us?" Can I still be strong when I feel like each limb weighs 150 pounds, the way I do today? (My sister feels the same way, and she has to take care of my mother, on top of everything else.) My body is having physical responses to grief over which I have no control, although I'm trying to be good about exercise. And then there are the people who say, "I hope you feel better soon," as if I have a cold.
Everyone means well. I know that. Nobody knows what to say; I know that too. When in doubt, don't say anything: give the person a hug.
My new favorite saying comes from one of our deacons, who wrote an article for our church newsletter that includes a quotation from Winston Churchill: "When you're going through hell, keep going."
I spoke to my mother today. She told me she no longer enjoys or wants anything. She's no longer interested in the cats or in television, her two mainstays as long as I can remember. My heart aches for her, and for my sister who's working so hard to care for her. My mom's brother is helping out with expenses, luckily. I wish I could be there, but I hope I won't have to be there too soon. I'd like to be able to get through the end of the semester without more upheavals.
But I'll do my best to keep going, whatever happens, as long as I can go very slowly, and limp a lot, and take plenty of naps along the way.