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Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Cemetery

Well, we buried dad yesterday – did the interment of his ashes at Tahoma National Veteran’s Cemetery.  It was a dark and stormy day – no exaggeration – it absolutely POURED and the wind cut right through you.  Mom made a comment that we’d camped in worse weather than yesterday’s.  Poor dad, we always gave him such a hard time about the terrible camping weather we so often got stuck in – as if it was his fault.

It was a beautiful service – I was deeply touched by the fact that most of the honor guard and people who work at the cemetery are retired veterans and volunteers.  They saluted our cars as we drove to the shelter for the service.  The trumpeter played America the Beautiful and, of course, Taps, and one other song though I can’t remember what it was.  Deacon Jack and Father N were there and both spoke.  One of the Veterans gave our kids some of the empty shell casings from the Rifle Salute which was very cool.  Several of mom’s and dad’s close friends braved the elements to join us and a few came to mom’s afterwards for lunch provided by my brother and sister-in-law.

We got through it.  Kind of like the last year.  People have said that doing the cemetery service would be “good” and would bring me “closure.”  I don’t love that – I don’t see how it can bring closure – though, yes, I am thankful that there’s a place where we can go to visit dad.  There have been a couple of places during this last year that have been places like that.  I can’t drive by Father F’s house across the street from my parents’ parish without staring at the spot where my dad fell on his knees and died.  The Port Ludlow beach house was the other place where I felt so close to dad and his spirit.  Man, he loved it there. Maybe the Cemetery will bring comfort, who knows; maybe it will even bring closure.  All I know is there was such finality in their taking his urn away that I didn’t love.  That urn stayed with mom for the last year, it was always there and sure, yeah, it wasn’t DAD, but it was a very visible reminder of his presence and now that’s gone.

We came home yesterday after the cemetery and lunch and attempted to start our traditional day-after-Thankgsiving festivities: “Christmas Decorating Day.”  It was a joke.  What a flop.  What a lame-ass attempt to pretend we hadn’t actually spent the morning doing something VERY unfestive.  I laid down and took a short nap – hoping that would help.  I was an emotional hot-mess.  Zachary was cranky and had a total meltdown.  Kayli had a total meltdown.  Matthew saw their meltdowns and had a meltdown.  Mike was cranky.  We were a disaster.  We managed to rally and put up some of the decorations, but eventually gave up and watched Home Alone hoping that maybe the first Christmas movie of the season would lift our spirits.  It helped a little.  We went to bed telling ourselves today was a new day.  We would wake up ready to embrace the spirit of the season.

We woke up to a soft layer of snow on the ground and more flurries floating down.  Perfect for Christmas Decorating Day round 2.  Perfect for lifting our seasonal-spirits.     

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 26th

It was today.  It was today – November 26th.  I’ve relived every moment of that day so many times during the past year.  I’ve tried to really put myself there – for whatever reason, while it was awful – I also find some comfort in going back to when the shock and pain was so raw; it makes today’s pain still seem valid and reasonable.

I have prepared for today (as much as one can) – for the one year anniversary of dad’s death – to be really hard.  People have warned me.  What I was not at all prepared for is that maybe it’s not the number – 26, November 26th – maybe it’s more the day, as in ‘the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.’  Yesterday hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was Tuesday last year.  I’m such a creature of habit; I always go to my gym for spin class on Tuesdays.  Despite having a cold right now (that will not end and that I’ve had for 2 weeks already!), I knew that going to spin would be cathartic and good – it always is. 

I walked into the spin room and stopped abruptly.  Setting up in the front of the room was not my dear wonderful usual instructor (and friend) Heather – it was Laurie.  (Laurie teaches evening classes but on the very rare occasion subs for morning ones).  In that moment, I’m immediately transported to the last class I had with Laurie which was, of course, November 26th. (Apparently she has a regular gig teaching the Tuesday before Thanksgiving). The last time I took her class, I had no idea the news that Mike would be delivering to me over the phone when I was done with that class.  But walking into that room and seeing her and realizing all that…well, I was done.  A friend in class saw me just standing there and asked if I was OK.  I shook my head, explained the situation and said, “I can’t be here.  I just can’t do this.” I grabbed my stuff and went to the locker room before I could cause too much of a scene.

The rest of the day was just sorta downhill from there.  I gave into it, I embraced the pain.  I was a hot mess.

So, I’m hoping that maybe yesterday was the worst of it.  But who knows…

I heard, yesterday morning, for the first time this season, the line that will never be the same to me ever again: “Fall on your knees and hear the angel voices…”  And this morning, the quote at the beginning of my daily meditation (For Working Through Grief), “So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side,” – John Bunyan.  There seems to be a theme: angelic choirs and orchestras just totally rocked out when dad arrived.  I’m sure they’re still jamming now.  I’m sure it’s amazing.  But I sure just wish he was still here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Growing up

You know it’s coming – it’s happening all of the time – but it still sneaks up on you.  They grow up.  Each of our three children did a little extra growing up this past week and, quite frankly, I’m not a huge fan.  Sure, you’re excited when they reach a new maturity, when they know more stuff, can do more things on their own, but still.  I’m. Not. Ready.

Kayliana turned four on Saturday 4!  How is THAT possible?  Our little baby girl is a full-on KID.  She’ll tell ya, too.  She’s told nearly everyone we’ve interacted with, “I’m four!”  And, if they’re lucky she’ll sometimes add this anecdote that I – maybe made the mistake and – told her recently. “When birth mom Mia, put me in mommy’s arms for the first time, I TOOTED!”  (True story).

We celebrated Kayli’s birthday with an ocean/under the sea-themed music party.  I did a bunch of my music class/party fun – singing, dancing, instruments, scarves, parachute and bubbles.  It was good times!

Two children who were not present for most of the music mania were our two eldest – Matthew is just way too cool (and shy) to be seen shaking shakers and dancing with scarves.  Zachary, on the other hand, watched from upstairs – pretending to mock us, but secretly loving it and just couldn’t resist joining us for the bubbles at the end.

So, they’re all growing up, but yesterday, I had one of the moments that I’ve been dreading more than any other moment in parenting growing-up kiddos. 

Matthew and I had ‘The Talk.’

Now, perhaps you’ll recall we had ‘The Talk’ – the sex/where-do-babies-come-from version a couple of summers ago.  So, this was a different The Talk – the one I dreaded more than any other.

Matthew asked about Santa.  I mean, he’s asked about Santa before, but I was able to pull it off, but he recently lost his last tooth and point blank asked me, “You’re the Tooth Fairy, aren’t you?”  I thought for sure that would be the gate-way talk to Santa, but he left it at just knowing the truth about the Tooth Fairy.  But, last night, he just had to know.

I said all the right stuff, but the whole time my heart was breaking so much.  Why?!  Why did it have to be right before Christmas?  I wanted one last Christmas knowing that all three of our kids are still innocent, wide-eyed believers.  I was so sad, but held it together while Matthew fell apart and cried over his lost childhood.  (I’m not exaggerating, he cried, “I don’t want to grow up.  I don’t want to know stuff.  I wish I’d never asked.”  I wished he hadn’t either). 

But here’s the thing, I feel like, as Catholics, we kind of extra rock Santa.  I mean, he is Saint Nicholas.  Santa’s Catholic, for crying out loud!

I explained how we keep the magic of Santa alive by continuing the tradition just as the generations before us did.  He’s now a part of Saint Nicholas’ work – spreading joy at Christmas to celebrate Jesus’ birthday – and how that means keeping the secret and encouraging the magic.  (And obviously, with two younger siblings and lots of younger friends, I VERY MUCH STRESSED not sharing this knowledge with anyone.  He argued that I wanted him to lie, and I explained that no, it’s not a lie saying, “Yes, I believe in Santa” or “Yes, Santa is real” because the spirit of it, the magic of it is.) 

I think I rocked the talk.  But I hated every second of it and it was so stinkin’ sucky.  I hope to, somehow, make this Christmas even more magical for Matthew…’cuz otherwise it’s just sucky.  (I mean, I cried two years ago when talking about how bummed I am that Santa isn’t an actual live person).  Matthew even said, “What’s the point in even asking for anything?  Now, I know it’s you guys and not Santa and some of the stuff costs lots of money!”

I appreciated his sentiment on this one – especially in light of our (just the day before) receiving Kayliana’s $1500 Childrens’ Hospital ER bill.  Christmas might not be too prolific for us – and really, we don’t want or need tons of stuff, but there will still be ways to make it magical.  Any ideas?!

A little while post-talk, Zach and Kayli had rejoined us downstairs and Matthew even practiced ‘walkin’ the walk and talkin’ the talk’ – we started asking Kayli about what she’s going to ask Santa for this Christmas and if she’s so excited to get to go see him.  I demonstrated how it’s easy enough to talk about Santa even being ‘in on it.’  He rocked the talk.  He’s growing up.  But man, it’s still sucky.

So, while Matthew’s doing that kind of growing up, Zachary had a big first yesterday as well.  Last night, we got a phone call from his sweet little friend Alexis.  She was worried about him because he wasn’t at school yesterday (due to his cold).  As I handed the phone off to him, he picked it up and shyly said, “Hi,” and proceeded to turn beat red.  Alexis did most of the talking – as us ladies tend to do. 

After a long pause (when I assume Alexis is talking his ear off), Zachary looks at me and in a loud whisper says, “This is SO super awkward. Neither of us are talking!”  I nearly died.  I suggested he ask how her day was and the conversation picked back up for a bit.

I’d just left the room when I heard Zach say, “Soooo, we’ve been on the phone for a while now, are we don’t yet?”  He signed off and handed me the phone shaking his head like, ‘that was so weird.’  I chatted with Alexis’ mom for a bit – who I’ve never met.  She sounds wonderful and we had a good laugh about their conversation.

My sweet, sweet kids – all of them so different – growing up.

Last night at bedtime, it’s like Matthew (just as I do) wanted to keep fighting for his youth.  He asked me to come in his room and sing him a lullaby. 

I managed to not cry…until afterwards.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

My plan

I’ve decided something.  I’m actually going to wait to listen to Christmas music until the day after Thanksgiving this year…I’m going to try anyway.  The funny thing is that this is the ‘rule’ I’m supposed to follow (gently put into place by Mike and vigorously policed by Zachary who just doesn’t appreciate my intense love for all things Christmas.)  The thing is, this year, more than any other, I probably could really use the joy and uplifting power of Christmas music pre-Thanksgiving, but I’m hoping it will work another way.  I want to use it as an award – a light at the end of the tunnel – once I’ve gotten through the most difficult days.  I also don’t want the music to be tainted – if you will – by all the other events and emotions that I’ll have going on.

The day before Thanksgiving will be the one year Anniversary of dad dying.  Then there’s Thanksgiving.  And then there’s the day after Thanksgiving which, in the Martin home, is “Christmas Decorating Day.”  Well, that may have to wait this year (at least until later in the day).  At 10:30am on Friday, November 28th, we will be at the Veteran’s Cemetery doing the interment of dad’s cremains.  (I’m mad that I even know these terms now.)  The military honor guard will play Taps and perform a rifle salute.  The Air Force honor guard will also be there.  I know it will be beautiful and moving, but holy moly, I’m dreading it.

Thus the reward of Christmas-magic as soon as it’s done.  I don’t know if this plan of mine works.  I mean, quite frankly, just thinking about all of it makes me want to run straight to my Nat King Cole Christmas music and wrap myself in it like a cozy blanket and not leave for the next three weeks…so we’ll see.