Monday, December 9, 2013

Goodbyes are hard to do

"My Mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it."  -- Mark Twain

The week of Tyler's funeral was a blur, but at the same time, there are things seared into my consciousness.  I know there were dozens of phone calls, people stopping by with some food, anonymous do gooders that cleaned my horrendous house, teenage girls that looked after my kids and made sure Maddie's hair was done.  One of my very best friends showed up every morning, bringing breakfast, washing dishes, and there was always milk in my fridge.  After the funeral, I called her one day, lamenting that the milk had stopped coming and I wasn't sure what to do:) More support came in the forms of cards, money, flowers, plants, gummy bears, prayers and tears.  So many acts of kindness and love were sent our way, that I hope I will be able to do the same for someone else when they need it.
I remember it was nearly impossible to make decisions, and it was Christmastime, so all festivities seemed so trivial, and celebrations got whisked aside.  We went shopping for clothes for the funeral and that was so hard to do.  We wanted to look nice, but didn't want to put too much time or energy into shopping.  The worst for me was trying to find shoes that went with my dress.  What a stupid thing to worry about, but it was so important for me to look nice.  I was actually defensive when someone questioned why I was going to so much effort for a funeral.  WHY?  I would not be able to host a wedding reception for him.  I wouldn't ever be able to spoil his future children or go on another vacation with him.  I wouldn't be able to slip him some money to help him with groceries ever again.  THIS was my final send off of him.  This occasion deserved reverence for his life, sorrow for his lost future.  For our lost future with him in it.  I don't regret for one minute buying suits for my boys and husband or dresses for myself and Maddie, even though I haven't worn the dress since.  It's the same as not using paper plates for Thanksgiving.  Sometimes certain occasions deserve the best you can give.

At one point during the first viewing, I noticed 4 of the "Fabs" (My dearest and longest group of friends) sitting in the center of the room.  Occasionally, I would look up and they were still there.  They sat throughout the entire event, and when I asked why, they said, "For you."  I will forever love them for that act of friendship and love toward me.  I know that through everything I have gone through or may yet have to go through, it's just a given that I know who my people are.
We had a very nice service and I couldn't tell you who was there, but I can tell you that there were a lot of people there supporting us.  I sat on the front row and held Kim's hand throughout.  I truly love Tyler's mom and James' ex-wife.  She has supported me in my role from the beginning, and I was glad to know we could lean on each other.
We were given an opportunity to speak at the burial, and I used the Mark Twain quote.  It was true.  He had helped age me prematurely.  He had caused so much unwanted stress, but even with all of that, I enjoyed his mischievous nature.  I enjoyed his teasing and sometimes ... sometimes!  his stubbornness.  The truth is, he drove me just as nuts as the other kids.  I yelled at him, I grounded him, sometimes I ignored him.  He didn't just give me frogs-in-the-pockets trouble, he gave me real, lucky-that-didn't-start-a-forest-fire-trouble or stand-in-front-of-a-judge trouble.  He wasn't a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but man was he a kind person.  That boy knew how to answer a phone politely, he knew how to carry on a conversation with all different types of people and make them feel comfortable.  He knew how to hold your confidence and he didn't betray those to other people.  One day when we were grocery shopping, it was so cold and snowy and windy, so we hurried to get the bags loaded up and get on our way.  He returned the cart for me while I got kids buckled in and tried to warm up the car.  He hadn't returned and I was stumped as to where he could be.  I got out and looked around the parking lot and finally spotted him walking an elderly lady with her shopping cart across the icy parking lot.  He patiently helped her to her car and was loading her groceries for her.  Seeing something like that lets you know that some things are sinking in!
He was smart.  He caught on to school work pretty easily, so if he got bad grades, it was usually because he wasn't trying.  That's what was so hard for him after his accident.  He hated the fact that things didn't come as easily to him, or that he couldn't remember the way he could before.  He had a hard time really grasping action/consequences after that as well, and I think that's why he kept finding himself in the same predicaments and not knowing how to work his way through them.  In hindsight, I wish I had realized the extent of his frustration.
He was funny!  Just like his dad, he had a quick wit.  At times when you were at your maddest, he could disarm you with a comment or his smile.  He had a fun laugh, and I loved to hear it.One time on our way through Yellowstone, he sang along with Four Non Blonde's at 5 years old and we cracked up as we drove through the park.  Some of his funniest moments were actually when he was talking in his sleep, so he would dispute our accounts of things, but we learned that he had a great pig snort when prompted in his sleep.  I still crack up over that!
He liked to cook and try out new recipes.  One day he gave me such a great compliment, "Mom, you and Grandma Walters are the best cooks in the world."  I felt a little relief hearing that because my mother in law is the best cook I know, so I knew I had learned something myself if he was impressed.  Sometimes he would make something up and ask us to be guinea pigs.  I wrote down a couple of his recipes myself.
He didn't enjoy hard work.  If there was a job to be done, you can be sure he would be missing!  I won't lie and make things seem rosier than they were.  He thought the entrepreneurial way was to pay someone else to do the job you don't want to.  He passed that legacy on to his siblings, unfortunately:)  I had to bribe quite a bit after he moved into his own place to get him to do things for me.  Having a full pantry was quite the commodity!
But he was generous.  He wasn't stingy with his possessions.  He really did think about others at holidays , and he still posed in his Christmas Eve p.j.'s with all of his younger cousins and siblings.  He enjoyed helping me fill stockings once he got too old for me to pretend anymore.  We once got into a fight with our neighbors after they allowed him to plow out their driveway for free in the wintertime and he accidentally knocked a brick out of a pillar.  He gave them money for the replacement.  He was only a freshman, I think.
When the Rexburg Temple was built, they had an open house that we were all going to attend on Aaron's birthday.  I invited Ty and reminded him a couple of times, but figured it was up to him whether he wanted to go or not.  We had driven out earlier in the day and he had to work.  Our family was sitting in the chapel, getting ready to go on the tour and I saw him in the crowd, searching for us.  I waved my hand and he came up and hugged me.  I said, " I didn't think you were going to come.  I'm glad you did."  He looked at me and said, "Why wouldn't I?  You asked me to."  I also asked him to hang his towel up after showering and he never seemed to be able to master that, but this...I was glad he did this.

My heart still aches, thinking about that time.  Every year, I try to power up to get through, and I end up feeling exhausted and defeated.  I cry over the loneliness I felt then and how defensive I was over my role in his life.  I cry because I miss him.  I cry because I couldn't take the pain away from my kids.  I cry because I'm sometimes still angry with him, and because it's really hard to know that we had to bury him in the ground one day before we were supposed to celebrate his birth.  I think when I get to see him again, God will understand when I have to give Tyler one of my famous rants, and he will give me a moment...Right after I hug him hello.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sleepless Nights

I couldn't sleep for a couple of weeks.  Not just had a hard time sleeping, I COULDN'T SLEEP!  I would stir all night long, toss and turn, beg for mercy, make muffins, curse, sing.  You name it, I tried it.  I understood how sleep deprivation could break a person down, and I was broken down.  I would have spit out any secrets I knew if it would help me fall asleep.  I started to get anxiety around bed time, so that added to the problem, and pretty soon I was so sorry I had ever wished for more time in the day to get things done.  I started taking some herbal pills and that helped slightly, but I wasn't functioning well during the day, and I was so zoned out and tired that I'd jack myself up on caffeine to muddle through, only making it worse for evening.

A group of us went to the opening night of one of the Twilight movies in Idaho Falls and got a room for the night.  We were going to go shopping the next day and live it up as much as you can at craft fairs.  On the way home, our discussions got kind of deep about losing loved ones.  I had been feeling for the months following receiving my endowments in the Rexburg Temple that maybe I was preparing myself for something big.  I had worried endlessly about planning a funeral.  Whose... I wasn't sure.  I couldn't differentiate between true preparations and my fearful mind, but this time I wasn't panicky, just matter of fact.  I went through the different scenarios and tried to get a few things in order, just in case.  We talked about this and I remember saying, "If something happens to one of our kids, I know that our marriage won't survive.  It just won't."
I went home and didn't sleep.

We did every day normal things.  James went to work, kids went to school, I cleaned the house.  We put up a Christmas tree and everyone abandoned me when they lost interest because the lights took too long.  We did homework, argued, made our lists to Santa.  We went to a birthday party for my niece, Hailey.  That night, I laughed and told Tyler that he was getting piano lessons for Christmas.  It was a joke referencing a time that I had him on a waiting list for lessons and the day the teacher had an opening, he just shrugged his shoulders and said, "I'm not all that interested anymore."  He was 14 and there was no way I could force a teenage boy to start piano lessons and actually do it, so I passed the lesson on to Aaron since I had worked so hard for a spot.  He would always joke with me about how he could have been a great piano player if only...  
So I told him it had caused a good amount of contention and that's what he was getting this year.  He looked a little panicky and told me he forgave me, but he wouldn't if I actually gave that to him as a gift at almost age 20.  He grabbed me and hugged me tight and told me that he loved me.  I rolled my eyes (because my kids always told me they loved me right before they wanted something!), but I hugged him back and told him I loved him so much I wanted him to be an accomplished pianist.  We both laughed.  He went to his home and we left for ours.  He called me later that night to ask me about a recipe, I talked to him about Christmas Eve and told him how the kids were so excited for their tradition of all sleeping together and having him stay with us. He warned me that I'd better have enough huckleberries for Christmas morning, and had given me a gift to put under the tree for one of his brothers that he got early.
He was always such a thoughtful gift giver.  He was endlessly broke, but he always planned ahead when it came time for something special.  He had given me a gift certificate the year before for a massage and he even asked me 2 days after Christmas if I had used it yet.  I told him I hadn't, so he said he would watch the kids without any complaints but I had to do it now.
He took Aaron to a Brian Reagan performance as his Christmas gift one year.  Aaron was in HEAVEN!  He loved speeding down the road with his cool big brother, going to dinner and laughing over someone Aaron thought was hilarious.
I'm a little embarrassed as I write this to say how in tune he was with my moods.  He could tell when a bad day was a little more than bad, and he would do what he could to make it better.  One pretty September day in 2009, apparently Aaron had called Ty that morning telling him I'd "lost it."  Haha.  It's funny how differently kids see things.  Tyler tried calling all morning, but I really was having a bad day and I wasn't in the mood to talk to anybody, so I let the phone ring. Finally, I answered and he said he wanted to take me to lunch.  I accepted his invitation, and the two of us spent his lunch hour eating Mexican food outside, and just talking.  I cried, describing my bad day and my bad attitude, and he just listened.  He opened up to me about similar frustrations and decisions he was trying to make.  We ended up having a really great lunch and he told me that he was glad I was his mom.  For all the times I felt like such a screw up at this parenting thing, I knew he was sincere, and that made it easier to go home to the other ones instead of running away like I had debated.