Time to Shift

Gosh. It has been ages since I have written. I have had a number of things I have thought about writing about. But then life distracted me. And I think that is ok. Actually, I think that is a good sign.

I remember once, a dear friend showed up at my house, and I was wearing my mom’s sweater. I said to her, “I just need to be near her.” That was when her death still defined me. And later my friend commented on it. It has been a long time since I wore her sweater. And I am sure I will do it again. But it will have a different meaning to me.

Now, instead of me grasping onto her, I have learned that she is just part of me. Whether I am wearing her sweater or not. And I love these realizations. And here are two that I noted recently.

  1. How I Shift My Gearshift – I realized the other week, that sometimes, I give my gearshift a little tap, even though I know it is in gear because I am driving. And I thought, “Why am I doing this?” Then I remembered – my mom did the same thing.
  2. Starting to Time – My mom liked to time how long it took her to do things. Like how long to sew a dress, or make a certain craft or refinish a piece of furniture. The other day, I timed how long it would take me to weed one of my front flower beds. Why? I guess cause my mom did.

And recently, I have been reunited with an old friend from junior high. My mother taught him, and we always had a friendship that stood apart from others I had. I sent him a text, telling him he could “effing wait” about something, all in good fun, and he sent me this message back: “Yep, same Merle. You probably have some wisdom and elegance from your mom by now, but the Merle I remember would tell me I could effing wait.” And I thought that was the most lovely compliment.

So as for when am I going to write again? You can all just effing wait.

6:30am

Last night when I closed my eyes, this thought came to my mind: I am going to wake up the hour that she died.

And I did. At 6:30am, with no alarm, I was awake. Immediately. I checked my phone for the time. But I already knew what it would say. 6:30am. Then I rolled over, gave sleeping Arrine a kiss on her full cheeks, and went back to sleep.

Last night had many similarities in significantly different ways. Oh how life changes in 6 years. 6 years ago, Nick and I shared a very uncomfortable, small cot in my mother’s hospital room. We knew her journey with us on earth was soon closing, and we had begun to spend the night at the hospital too. And I remember listening to my mother’s breaths through the darkness. Shallow. Spaced out. Soft. Wondering if I would actually hear her last breath while I lay listening. Last night, again in the darkness, I listened to the breaths of who I love the most. Arrine wanted to sleep with me and I allowed it. It was a night where I welcomed the kicks to my ribs and twisting of covers of a 5 year old. And I fell asleep to the sound of her raspy, nasally sleepy breaths. Again, uncomfortable in my bed, but cherishing the moment of it.

Arrine and I slept in, by her standards, and then we got ready for the day. In the car, we listened to ABBA, because we had declared it “Grandma Anne-Marie Day”. Which I really like. I had a few talks with Arrine this year about what today meant to me. And this morning she said to me, “I wish Grandma Anne-Marie wasn’t dead so she could celebrate Grandma Anne-Marie Day with us.” Oh, my dear girl.

These days of remembrance for me are much better than years past. I actually look forward to them now, because they have really morphed into a day that I just do whatever the heck I want that makes me happy. So after dropping Arrine off at daycare, I headed to a craft store and stocked up on supplies for project I have been thinking about. Then it was onto the gym to meet my trainers – something my mom would have never done. She wasn’t gym person. But she was dedicated to her long walks and Jazzercise and stretching. I had a really good session at the gym and it was good for my psyche.

From there I met my dear friend in Starbucks at the Chapters on Whyte Ave. I told her before that I wanted us to sit for 30 minutes and read Women Who Run With Wolves and then talk about what we read. We both showed up with our books and then chatted until we decided to go shoe shopping. We never even mentioned our books on the table. It was perfect. I have been wanting to find some summer wedges and earlier at the gym, saw some really cute ones on a girl in the change room. We chatted about them and I decided I would find them. And we did! And then I ended up buying different ones. I would have never chose to try them on, but T did and then I did, and she tried the ones I originally chose and I am sure the sales guy loved us. :) In the end I chose the ones that have this funky pattern. A “beadwork” pattern, that T pointed out, even though she hesitated to mention it as she didn’t want to influence my decision. I decided it was meant to be. And they gave me a few more years extension on my assignment to learn beading. Right mom?

Then it was off to get Arrine. I had some good cries while listening to Dancing Queen in the car. And once Arrine and I were home, we were quick to start baking. We decided to make strawberry shortcake, mostly because Arrine has a Strawberry Shortcake game where you bake a cake, but I spun it to be for Grandma, using a recipe from Canadian Living. Nick and my dad came over and we all had dessert before our supper.

I was then on my own for the evening, and my plan was to finish a pair of bathing suit bottoms I had started a few weeks prior and then ran out of elastic. It was a pattern I was just figuring out on my own and I spent hours on it. HOURS. And was not pleased with the finished product one bit. I stitched and then seam ripped and cut and readjusted and on and on and on. And I finally told myself to stop. I remember my mom telling me again and again how much she hated having to seam rip, and I felt I was doing it more than sewing! Giving up is hard for me. And I need to work on not looking at tonight as a waste of time or a failure. I need to view it as an attempt and a lesson learned and take from it. And that I enjoyed two white wine spritzers while sewing, and that is a successful evening right there.

I’ve cried throughout today. And have been very appreciative of the messages I received from those with kind words to share. I miss her terribly. And how my sadness is mostly derived from the loss she herself experienced. I am sad for her. And her life being taken away from all the joy she had yet to experience.

Today someone said to me, “Hopefully each year it’s not as sad for you.” And my response was, “It never gets less sad. It will always be the same amount of sadness. Just because time passes doesn’t change the situation and the sadness connected to it. I just get better processing the sadness and learning from it.”

Because I miss her like no one will ever understand. Nor do I ever wish they do.

Today I celebrate the woman who taught me how to earn respect quietly, and how books are passages to deeper understanding, and how to type so fricking fast (I am a fast typer) and how to level baking powder out in a measuring spoon and how to do the things you need to do to make your soul happy. True happiness. I celebrate the woman who raised me to do the right thing not out of fear of her reaction to my actions, but because I didn’t want to disappoint her. I celebrate womanhood. I celebrate red. I celebrate who I have become from her death.

And I fucking miss her.

   
   

It’s That Time Of the Month (I Mean Year)

Last week I was hypersensitive and didn’t know why. When I shared my struggles with a dear friend, she reminded me that this time of year is hard for me. And my response? I hadn’t even realized it. She explained that sometimes, one will distract themselves with other emotions, to avoid the real ones that you are feeling. So now I have chosen to embrace them instead.

On Friday, Arrine and I had a wonderful day together. And then at bedtime, she chose to stall. I do need to clarify, that bedtime is not horrible. It is actually quite an ok time for us. Just sometimes, she struggles falling asleep, as we all do. And then the stalling happens. But I was tired. And distracted by my sadness, and once she was asleep, I felt guilty for how I parented. Even though, I really know I did a good job for the emotional state I am in. I was just over sensitive and critical of my choices.

So when I got into bed, I brought Arrine along with me. I needed to be close to her. And hearing her deep, stuffy breaths next to me was the comfort I was looking for.

In the morning, she woke me up and asked, “Mommy, how did I get into your bed?” And I explained to her and was honest. I told her that I am really missing Grandma Anne-Marie and that I wasn’t the best mommy I could be the night before and I wanted to apologize. And to that she wrapped her still pudgy arms around me and said, “Oh mommy. You are the bestest mommy ever!” And I squeezed her right back.

It was comforting knowing that even though I was so hard on myself for how I was as a mother, she still saw me as doing an ok job. And it made me reflect on the memories of my mom. I cannot remember times when I thought she was doing a bad job. I definitely didn’t agree with all her decisions for me, but it wasn’t like I ever felt she was failing.

And that’s what I hope to give Arrine too. I want her to see that I do the best I can for her, and that I am not perfect, but own my mistakes when I make them. And apologize and learn from it. And sometimes we have cookies for breakfast and that’s ok too.

Motherhood Spectrum

I have written about this time before. I was in the palliative care wing with my mother. One of my best friends was a couple floors above me, ready to delivery her first baby. We were so far apart on the spectrum of motherhood, but at the same time, so intertwined and alike. I really do feel that me caring for my mother was my introduction to being a mother myself. I had a deep sense that our roles were reversed, and I was now caring for her, as she had cared for me. My friend and I were both new mothers. Hers a great joy. Mine through a great sadness.

I will never forget going up to see her and her newborn baby, sitting beside her on the hospital bed. Us crying for welcoming her daughter and saying goodbye to my mother in the same tears. And her confession. How she longed for her daughter to not be born on the same day that my mother passed away. For her to be so vulnerable with me, connected us forever. And we cried. And hugged. And were in awe of the new life she had born.

Yesterday on her daughter’s 6th birthday, I texted her, just to say how I was thinking of her. She replied that she was having similar thoughts. And how when she looked at when I sent her the text, it was the exact time her daughter was born. And I knew it was my mom checking in on us both. Hi mom.

No More Hope For Humanity

It’s dead. The Hope for Humanity Rose Bush. This was the rose bush that was given to me on the morning of my mother’s death by three dear friends of hers. You can read more about it in this older post.

http://ammerle.ca/2011/08/31/beta-sigma-phi-rose-garden/

This rose bush has been moved almost every second year since she died. First from the little house Nick and I first bought to our newer home in the suburbs. Then it moved with me to the second property we bought together. Then to the house I bought last summer. And this year it grew no more. I patiently waited and hoped to find some sign of life from it these last few weeks, but I saw nothing. And I surprised myself for being ok with it. I made such and effort over the years to not lose that darn thing, and placed such significance on its existence. Not that I don’t still hold the meaning and act of friendship and honour that it represented. But I accepted its death. I put it through a lot over these past years, and finally it couldn’t take the moves anymore.

I remember not long after my mom died, the statue of her Virgin Mary fell from my nightstand and part of her chipped off. I texted my friend, completely frantic, because of this. At the time, I put so much importance on maintaining her physical possessions. And now I feel that my response to the dead rose bush is an indicator of my progress with my grief.

Instead of it being something I couldn’t handle on my own, my thought process was this: I am gonna dig up that dead rose bush to make room for the playhouse a dear family gave to us last fall. And then I am going to buy a new Hope For Humanity rose bush, and plant it in the little nook near the play house. Voila. Problem solved.

And that’s what I am going to do.

   
      

My Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day has changed for me over these past few years. 6 years ago I hated it. I despised the meaning and the joy others received from it and wanted to not even acknowledge the day. The next year I felt the two extremes. Hating it and being a new mother. How do you disregard a day that you are now meant to be honoured by? And then the next few years were still the same. Wanting to avoid it, but not wanting to take away from what Arrine has given me as a mother.

This year was the best Mother’s Day I have had since my own mother died. I still don’t like to think about the day and don’t spend time over-planning or thinking. And this year I knew that Arrine would be with Nick on Mother’s Day and I didn’t do anything to change it. Her daycare had a Mother’s Day Breakfast on Friday which I attended and Arrine gave me a lovely gift she made. And we spent all day together on Friday and Saturday. I didn’t need anything more. But on Saturday night when Arrine was heading home with Nick, she mentioned the “surprise picnic” the next day.

So today, after I slept in (as I love to do) and went to the gym, Nick invited me over to his house and then gave me strict instructions. “When you get to the house, park and then walk north until you find the gravel path. Then follow it until you find us.” And I did that just that. And at the end of the path, on a grassy hill, I found Nick and Arrine hiding under a picnic blanket. She revealed herself and yelled, “Surprise!” And I was crying good tears. We ate sandwiches and had juice boxes and Pringles. And it was absolutely perfect.

The gift I received was a picture Arrine drew. It was of me and her and two butterflies – and the butterflies were me and Grandma Anne-Marie. And I cried and I asked Arrine to give me a big hug. And I smelled her hair and I was astonished with her depth and insight and caring and thoughtfulness – even though I know all of this already.

And when we were done eating, we walked back to the house and that was it. And I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Today was also a bit different for me. Instead of focusing on the mother that I no longer have, I found myself thinking of the women who are still such wonderful mother figures for me. Marlene and Karen. These women have supported me when I have needed it the most and I am forever grateful for. And there are other friends and family members of my mother who have stayed in my life after my mother’s death – Iris, Irene, Audrey, Colleen and Linda. I am blessed to still have these strong female role models in my life.

I didn’t do anything to specifically honour my mom today, as I have felt the need to do in past years. But tonight I found myself craving a white wine spritzer – one of my mom’s favourites. And I am now on my second glass. And I just bbq’d chicken breasts that I marinated in lemon, oregano and basil for the afternoon, not even realizing it was one of my mom’s favourites to make until I sat down to write.

I now honour her by just being me. And not trying to do things “for her” or “because of her”. And I have found this shift in my execution, ever since I let go the death of my mother defining me.

Today, on Mother’s Day, I honour the mother who was such a strong presence in my life, she is still teaching me in her death. I am so proud to call her my mother. I miss her to my core. And I wish she could see what a beautiful granddaughter she has in Arrine, and the mother I have become.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom.
Love Princes Kae

   
  

        

I Am Voting For the Birthday Party

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When I was younger and an election was taking place, my parents were both very private about their political views. I would ask who they were voting for, and their answer would always be, “I am voting for the Birthday Party.” And it would infuriate me! But they explained to me, that their right as a Canadian was to vote, and to maintain privacy over who they were voting for. They even admitted to many times not even knowing who each other was voting for. But even through all this privacy, we still had the news on, each election day, watching as the polls came in.

Once I reached the age to vote, I was excited and remember that last year of high school, candidates coming and sharing their platforms. I could drive. I could now vote. And I could drive an hour and a half to the Alberta border to drink. This was what being an adult was all about.

And then university came, and my life was so focused on schooling that I never voted. I felt that I wasn’t informed enough and didn’t want to blindly vote for anyone. Looking back, I wish I never had this attitude, but I was young and naïve and absorbed in my struggles as a uni student.

Now, even though I still admit to not having a strong, detailed understanding (or even interest) in politics, my friends and my inner self have encouraged me to get back on track of voting. And I have been these last number of years. This morning, I was reminded of it even more.

I sat amongst a group of my peers. There were 7 of us. 5 all came from countries where voting was not a right. Government was decided with no input from the people. However one of these peers did not agree with the importance of voting. They expressed that there hasn’t been enough media about this election – they didn’t know if it was provincial or federal – and they didn’t know anything about the “presidency”. They also felt that the US does a much better job in the media during an election and they weren’t going to vote. And this infuriated me. Again. Like the Birthday Party response. And I wasn’t alone in the group with my reaction to their comments. We had a number of rebuttals and defenses to their ignorant comments. I went as far as to question in slightly sarcastic tone, “Don’t you have to learn this stuff before becoming a Canadian? We have a ‘premier’, not a president.”

Yes, we will always have something to complain about regarding our province and our country. But we are CANADIANS. People around the world view our county with longing and admiration. We are so blessed to call this our home. And to show our love and appreciation, we need to exercise our right to vote. Even if it not because you can, but for all those around the world who cannot.

So today, I am going to vote for the Birthday Party. Who are you voting for?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I find myself reading through the journals that I wrote during my mom’s illness when I least expect it. Like tonight. I came home after a long dance rehearsal and went to my bedside table to pull out a notebook to make some notes. But once I see those journals, I can never resist taking one out and reading. And the having a hard cry. A cry so hard that there is no sound.

Tonight I flipped to this entry:

“Thursday, April 16, 2009

Today when I got to the hospital, mom wasn’t able to show any facial recognition of me.”

And I thought, “That would have been tomorrow, 6 years ago. And isn’t that a shitty entry.”

I Was So Messed Up

I remember the first time seeing my therapist after my mom died. And I distinctly remember saying to him, “I should be more messed up than I am. Shouldn’t I be? I’m not messed up enough.” I wasn’t clinically depressed – I still got up each day and did normal expected things, like showering and eating and getting through the day. I returned to work and there weren’t any concerns with my performance. Nick and I found out we were going to be parents. Life was moving on…

But now that I am through it and can look back on those early years after her passing, I think to myself, “Holy fuck. I was messed up.” I was so broken that I didn’t even know I was. I was so consumed by it, I couldn’t even see it. I didn’t know how to be on my own without my mom. And I was searching to replace that role she was for me by something else. Anything. I kept searching, trying to find the source, and each time I thought I found it, I was disappointed when it didn’t give me what I thought it would.

My grief process had many steps to it, and I will always be grieving in some form, but it took many hard lessons for me to get to the point of being able to let my mother’s death go. And to not let her death define me anymore. And that’s when I truly understood what I needed to do. I needed to learn how to be on my own, without my mother. I needed to not search for something to fill the void of what she used to provide me with – I needed to find that within myself. And I have. In many different ways. I will always be learning how to do this and adapt to my ever-changing life, but the realization and acceptance is the hardest thing to do, and that I can check-off as complete.

I remember two close friends, separately, telling me how they could see how much I was struggling, but there was nothing they could do or say to make me see it and bring me out of it. I am so grateful and appreciative of their patience with me. And willingness to not give up on me and their faith that one day I would return to them. We have had conversations about this and me questioning the “What-ifs”. “What if” that didn’t happen, that didn’t cause that, that didn’t make me realize that? Would I still be stuck in that place? I am so thankful that I am not. And I do feel that my mom helped me out of it. Because she raised me to be independent and strong-willed and understanding of what life has to offer me and what I have to offer and be deserving of. She taught me how to eat at a restaurant alone and love books and eat popcorn for supper. All things I needed to find the enlightenment I now cherish. It took a very long time for me to get here, but I did. And I consider myself so blessed to be in this place now. And so appreciate for all of those friends and family that had the patience with me while I was in it.

I’m OUT! (Well, not like that. I am still straight.)

Unconditional Support

Something that I am very blessed to have had, and still have, is unconditional support from my parents. 

They showed me this by not interfering or pressing their opinions on me throughout my life’s decisions. They showed me this by saying the words to me, that they will always support me, even if they don’t agree with me. They showed me this by making me feel at a young age that I had control over my own life, but with that control came responsibility with those decisions. And I know I will one day be faced with the excruciating temptation to tell Arrine when I think she is making a poor decision. Or that I don’t agree with her and she should do something else. Just as I am sure my parents withheld, many, many, many times. Because it is her life, and she is in charge of the decisions she makes herself. And she needs to learn the consequences from those decisions, whether they are positive or negative. That is how you grow, become a strong individual, and can face further struggles when they are presented to you.

The other day when my dad and I went for lunch, we were talking about the upcoming burlesque show I will be in at the end of the month. He is of a “more mature” generation, and doesn’t understand my love of it, but he expressed how he wanted to come. Not because he loves burlesque (well, he is a man), or because he supports my decision to bare myself on stage, but because he supports me. Just me. That’s it. Whether he agrees with it or not. 

And for that, I am truely grateful. Love ya dad!!

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