Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tricks not Treats

So it was a year, almost to the day, between my last two posts. I can't help but wonder what it is about this time of year that makes me ready to let go of the past and of course the flip side of that is what happens to make that motivation go away? I obviously haven't dealt with it if I find myself back in nearly the same place year after year.

First I think it must have something to do with the fact that the calendar year is almost over which of course means that another anniversary of John's death is right around the corner. I also just realized that Halloween is when I first started seeing signs of how sick John was. He loved taking the kids trick-or-treating. In fact there were some years where the weather was too cold so I would stay home and pass out candy and he would be out there for as long as the kids wanted to trick-or-treat. Our last Halloween together Caitlyn was 3. She was dressed up as a cute little witch and I remember the three of us going together. The older kids were with their friends and I think my sister and nephew went for a short time but they left early. As we got towards the end of the trick-or-treating, Caitlyn started complaining about being tired. When a 3yr old is tired, they are TIRED and no amount of coaxing is going to get them to belive that there isn't much farther to go before they get home. She wanted to be carried and there was no convincing her to walk. John was always the first to pick her up, regardless if his back hurt or if he was tired, he always carried the kids, there was never a time prior to this night that I carried one of the kids if he was there as well. But that night, we were about a block and half away from home and there was no way he could carry her. His cough was so rough, his lungs hurt from what he thought was the coughing and he just didn't have the strength to carry her. I remember picking her up and joking that he must really be sick. He was quiet, I just figured he was tired but thinking about it now I wonder if deep inside he had an idea of how sick he really was.

Now that I think about it, I realize that Halloween was definitely the turning point between John being well and us finding out he had cancer. He was also sick for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Writing it down of course I can see how I should have known there was something very serious going on. But at the time, I honestly had no clue. Yes he was sick, yes he had a cough that didn't go away, and in the back of my mind I did notice some weight loss and he was definitely irritable but we all had colds at some time or another that fall, and with his smoking, him having a cough didn't seem too odd. He was always on the thin side so in my mind I just figured it was old age, his dad was on the very thin side as well and he lived past 80. As for him being crabby, well he wasn't exactly Pollyanna. He was forever seeing the gloom in things, even when he was happy he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was used to his different moods and didn't think much of it.

Besides all that, in my mind I just couldn't imagine that a thing like cancer would hit so close to our family. Yes, you hear all of the statistics, but really that happens to other people, not to us. As I think of that last Halloween and how it represents his health quickly fading, I feel my stomach clench as I picture him slowly, walking next to me as I carried Caitlyn in my arms 4 years ago. Never would I have guessed that it would be our last one together. I feel ill as I realize that I still have to live through the memories of all of the other holidays that are right around the corner.

I feel ill because in my mind I do blame myself for not asking more questions when they kept diagnosing him with bronchitis, why didn't I make them do more tests when the antibiotics obviously weren't working? He was taking his first round of medicine that Halloween, I honestly expected him to get better. I am angry because I can't perfectly picture that night, I have images of Caitlyn her little witch costume and striped tights, I can see her tripping up the stairs, her trick-or-treat bag a little too big for her to carry, but what I can't see is John. Did he talk or was he in too much pain, did he have a good night or was he hurting too much to enjoy it, was I patient with his slower pace or did I get irritated? I don't know. I will never know because we aren't always given the gift of knowing when a loved one is going to die.

We always hear that we need to treasure every moment as if it were our last, always tell your loved ones how much you care because you never know when that final goodbye might come, enjoy your children's childhood because it disappears in a second. We hear those cliches but they don't really hit home until we send our baby off to college, we bury our loved ones in the ground and we lay in our hospital beds knowing that the days truly are numbered and we are too sick to enjoy them.

Is that part of my pain? Not only saying goodbye but knowing that with each year that goes by my days here are numbered as well. I focus every holiday season on making sure the kids have the best holiday ever, I focus on making sure that I stay happy and upbeat so that they don't have bad holiday memories of their mom who was always sad or crying, I focus on buying, buying, buying because after all retail therapy is a good temporary fix. And then New Years comes and I do my best to escape my house, go to a hotel with the kids so that I don't have to lay in my room and remember the very last time we ushered in a New Year together. I don't have to start counting down the days until we find out how sick he really is. But that escape can only last so long and despite my best intentions for THIS year to be the one when I finally get my shit together I eventually can't hold up the facade that all is well and I crash.

I can't fall apart, I can't cry, I can't scream or yell.... I hold it in. Bury the pain in mindless tasks and food. And just when I think I can't take it anymore, I finally am able to distract myself from the pain when the cold, gloomy weather turns warm and sunny. I can focus on summer vacations, swimming with the kids, camping, roadtrips, they are all a nice temporary fix until fall rolls around and the pain starts creeping into my mind and I find myself here desperately trying to pour the pain out through my fingers as they click and clack against the keyboard.

I don't want to continue this cycle again. I want to be done with mourning, I want to be done being sad, I want to be done with the guilt and anger and hate. Hopefully I am finally turning that corner. I have never put the pieces together in quite this way. As I write it, I find myself having a "duh" moment, why didn't I realize all of this before? Maybe I wasn't ready, maybe I am just stupid, all I know is that I am not going to stop. I am not going to stop writing until I have emptied every last sad, crappy, negative thought. And when I am done doing that I am going to get rid of the anger and the hate and every other energy draining feeling. I am tired of letting these sad and depressing memories live in my head. I am strong, there is no doubt that I am strong but now it is time to use that strength to deal with the pain, and it is far beyond time that I use that strength to finally start living. Living in the present and not in the past.

So from here on out, I will work through the lifes' "tricks" and will truly make time for the "treats" that my life has to offer.

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