On a recent traipse through a cow pasture, (a story for a different blog) I went down in a mix of mud and cow manure. I didn’t know that my boots would stay behind and I would end up on my hands and knees – sinking in the mess. Oh, and laughing too. This happened a few weeks ago, before the winter temperatures froze the ground. Optimistically, I thought I could get through that mess without going down. Wrong.
Luckily, strong hands pulled me up.
But I knew I would sink a bit in January. I tried to be prepared. The holidays coincide with the anniversary of my late husband’s death and it is a messy time of good memories, excruciating flashbacks, joyful comings, and tender goings. I predicted I would get stuck in the mud a bit. I was right.
Sometimes I feel like I am living in parallel worlds. In one, I am a weary widow and the mother of three kids who carry this heavy burden of loss. And someone is always missing. In the other, I am loved, happy, and the mother of kids who have so much joy in their lives (like this puppy and kitten who always join you on the couch, for example). And there is abundance. I keep trying to zip the two worlds together. I want to feel whole. But it’s messy and grief, love, fear, gratitude, and all that stuff of life, can really grab you.
You can walk right out of your boots and end up on your knees.
But I knew this was coming. Unlike last year when there was no comfort in sight, see my post from last year – Comfort And Joy – this year I will get up. I will laugh. If you are grieving, or love someone who is grieving, reach for or be those strong hands.
I don’t know how to describe it – but grief can catch you like a web. It can pop up anywhere, any time. It’s sneaky that way. I wrote this poem two years ago. It might help explain it. Looking back and rereading these words I can see how pervasive my sorrow was. I am sure I wondered then if it would ever lift. I know I couldn’t imagine that there would come a day when I would put cream in my coffee, clean his clothes out of the closet, pull the wallpaper down, and more.
(I think I will write a poem soon called Love and the opening line will be I have been waiting for you….)
I have been waiting for you.
Here when you woke,
before your feet found your slippers,
I was the chilly morning air and
damp pillow against your cheek.
(Truth is I was there all night too,
I know where the shadows are).
I was the milk in your coffee
and your view out the window.
I see you will your day to start,
with toast and peanut butter,
you feed me too – only his mug will do.
I was there. Did you see me?
I waited for you in the closet
as you selected your clothes,
ignored his ties.
I was the sweater,
yes the one in the back, black and green,
your first Christmas gift to him.
You looked away and closed the door,
I know, I know, but I slipped out too,
as the lining in your pocket,
and something stuck to your shoe.
I was the sigh of the waking teenager down the hall,
the rush out the door as you lost track of time,
and the resolve of the kitten watching you leave.
I met you in the garage,
followed you up the driveway and down the road.
Waiting at work, I lurked by the coffee maker,
remember, he worked here first.
I tried to be quiet and still for hours,
thinking maybe you forget for a while,
I come up for air and find you breathless too.
Heading back home I sing out from the stereo,
you play me, that song, over and over.
Some days I turn all the traffic lights red.
I am the tired teenager retrieved from school
and the request for French fries for dinner.
You are weary, I am cranky,
the day insists on becoming night again and again.
So I meet you in the kitchen,
I am the food you don’t buy,
the place you don’t set, the new routine, that is me.
I am the cabinets he hung
and the wallpaper too. Me, me.
You see, I have been waiting for you
to write me, shape me into a poem,
think only about me – grief is my name.
Caroline L. Fish