Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Crazy Cabin in the Woods

Sometimes I feel that as life has moved forward, I am standing still. Or that I am looking in at myself and how my world is now. I was thinking about a family that I recently heard about they live in my town and have recently and unexpectedly lost their dad and husband. I think of this young woman and how she must be feeling now that the rug has been ripped out from under her.  A friend of mine posted her story to her facebook page. I contacted my friend and asked her t pass along my info to her. Knowing full well that this new widow may not be ready to talk about her experience but that she would at least have my number.    Thinking of her as she stands in her living room wondering what she is going to do now. Although most likely she isn't thinking at all.
   Her story got me thinking about grief and grieving and how it doesn't really stop. Granted I am no longer a walking zombie with a gaping wound and crying everywhere I go. But the milestones of life don't stop. The kids still change and grow and I still have to face each one of them. Which in turn brings new grieving.  I am not who I was when Pete died, I believe she died with him. From time to time though I do catch glimpses of her. But overall I have changed and so has the grief.

My oldest just turned 12 this month. I would say that this birthday was harder than other ones. Mostly because I can't believe she is 12. I look at her and wonder where has time gone? But it feels deeper than that, it feels almost like it is a blur. I remember her turning 5 but since Pete's passing I haven't remembered much. I sat down on my bedroom floor and sobbed. I had the same wish I always had since his passing. I wished he would jump out of her birthday cake. Knowing that he couldn't stay but more that I could watch as she saw him and he saw her. And they both delighted in each other. Him because he saw how much she is like him and how beautiful she is.  I couldn't give her that, and I cried. I cried for her, for me, and for Pete.  it's in these moments I see how grief has changed. I can be overwhelmed by it, but it doesn't consume me.  Its because of grief and grieving that I have changed.

A friend sent me a blog post from a fellow widow who wrote about a comedian who had previously lost his wife and had recently gotten engaged. What I loved about her post was how she put all of his rude fans in their place about their asinine comments that he is engaged too soon after his late wife's passing. Because one should live their life in grief for ever (Insert sarcasm) but what I loved most about her post was the way she compared the heart and how it accepts new love. the heart doesn't just grow a new heart, no, it expands to let new love in.  My view has always been that the heart heals with a giant jagged scar. I have often also thought that part of my heart lives in heaven and the other part here. Its in the half of the heart that remains that while once was small and broken and has now healed, it has also expanded. which makes perfect sense. For I never thought I would ever marry again and while it ended and we have parted ways, the heart still expanded. I do believe though that my heart did shrink as I learned to grieve again and deal with all the emotional abuse but in doing so it has healed and in turn expanded again.

It is in this whole shrink and expand process that grieving still takes place for I am embarking upon another milestone journey.  I am excited to be a part of it but also completely scared as well. I am getting ready to take my family across the country on a 17 hour trip to Minnesota.  This was my last family vacation with Pete before he died. I have been going to this cabin since I was about three years old. I haven't been back since Pete died.  It has taken me almost 8 years to finally feel ready to go back and vacation again.  This cabin is like a little slice of heaven in the woods. While my parents, sisters and their families, along with my aunt and uncle and their families have continued to go, I have always stayed behind.  I just couldn't bear to go.

Last time I was there aryanna was 4 and Peter was 2 and chase leo was kicking and growing in my rather large belly. It was the last time they were there. The older two kids have pictures in their daddy books of themselves with Pete. Pictures of them picking flowers, pictures on daddy's shoulders, and pictures of them in the water while Pete held them close. .  As I sit here writing this I remember it like it was yesterday and yet its like watching a movie of another family that I used to know.  What there aren't pictures of is the way Pete held my hand or the way he laid his hand on my belly to feel Chase Leo kick. So many memories swirl around me, I can feel them, I just can't see them.

I have heard from other family members that this will be such a positive experience. I told someone once that I had a fear of walking into the cabin and then falling into a puddle of tears. This person said to me, Well I think it is up to YOU how you respond. The way she looked at me with such disbelief that I would intentionally make it a dramatic and bad experience left me with rage. I could do nothing but sit in silence. What I wanted to say was clearly you have not lost your spouse. Its not like I can control the grief in my body. There is a very real possibility that when I walk into that cabin my knees just might give out and I will fall to the floor. This was the last place I saw myself young and happy. The past place before my dream evaporated. Four months after we got home from Minnesota, Pete was gone. Gone! He didn't run away, he didn't leave me for another woman he was gone from my whole existence. My whole world, he was gone never ever to be seen, or touched, or hugged, or kissed, or held again. This place with so many memories. This place that was once awful and anxiety provoking for me as a child. I hated going, i didn't mind once I got there. But the nights were awful. The anxiety that gripped at me and made everyone in that tiny cabin want to put me on a boat and float me out to the middle of the lake just so they didn't have to deal with my stress. This place that turned from being emotionally hard to joyful was because of Pete. It wasn't until I went to this cabin at the ripe old age of 23 and newly engaged to Pete did I feel safe and happy. I finally learned to see the beauty and magic of this cabin that so many had seen before. I felt this place with completely new energy because of him. I healed my past with him. And together we brought our children here. I washed aryanna's tiny baby feet in the cold water of the lake. It was here that I also washed Peteys tiny baby feet in the cold West Bearskin Lake. And I have waited 7 years to wash Chase Leo's small school aged feet in this water only this time I have to do it without him. How can that be, and how is that ok? I don't want to do it without him. This place was mine and his and he is gone. His breath, his laugh, his smile, the way he held our babies is gone. So  to those friends and family that think they mean well clearly don't know the extent of this journey. And what it means to walk into this cabin of so many memories and have them wash over me, in this moment, the thought of it makes me think that I might just drown. There aren't enough words to express the angst and yet excitement I feel to have the courage and the strength to go back to this magical place.

I have watched and I have waited until my heart felt ready. But in all honesty I will never be ready. Its like waiting until the perfect moment to have a baby.  You can never save enough money, or have the perfect job and stability to have a baby. It everyone waited until they were ready there wouldn't be as many people on the planet as their are now. you can never be prepared enough. I will never be prepared enough to go back. So, I could sit by and continue to wait and watch my family and their extended family come and go from there. to listen to stories and memories made as my children listen to their cousins talk about how much fun they had. And I could watch the sadness in aryanna's eyes as she listened to the adventures they had. Because she too remembers the magic she felt when she was there. While young, Aryanna has the memory of an elephant and she remembers being there with her daddy.  So I could wait but I don't want to wait anymore. I am ready. I have the need so deep in my body this beautiful place in minnesota runs through my veins. The invigorating water taught me to swim , taught me to swim faster and it would get better. The trees speak to me and the wind whispers to me that it is time to come home.

I have my lists made, and my stacks of sheets and towels, ziploc bags, totes and duffle bags. After all one has to pack clothes for all four season for one week but I wouldn't trade it. I have been told the cabin is different. I am sad about that. No more bags of empty cottage cheese containers behind the fridge, no more slop bucket to take to the top of the hill all the while singing loudly while stomping through the woods up a steep hill so bears wouldn't come and check out my bucket first hand. No more squeegee in the shower to wipe down the walls so the water doesn't rust the tiny shower. There's now a garbage disposal and an actual shower. But probably one of the hardest things is that, there is no more green couch. This couch was hard as a rock and the most uncomfortable couch to sleep on let alone just sitting on, is gone. It was something that was always there. I was looking forward to seeing it there. I wanted to sit on it in that cabin and hold the hard plastic and nylon cushion to my chest. Granted the cushion was so dense it would be impossible to squeeze it but it would be there. For it is this couch that I have a picture of. A picture of tiny Petey sitting in blue footie pajamas with his daddy. They both have sketch pads in their laps. Pete is looking down at whatever Petey is drawing. Petey has a charcoal pencil in his right hand just like his daddy did. I saw this couch sitting not where it should have been.  They got a new soft couch that is more functional with its queen hideabed tucked inside. I cried when I saw it sitting in my dads dusty garage. And while they didn't see my tears, they kept saying what a positive trip this was going to be, and it will be, but not without its moments.

Grieving. It never stops or slows down and it never ends. Its always changing, and in it so does the person experiencing it. While in these moments I feel that I might just drown in my tears and memories as I cross the threshold of that tiny cabin, there is one thing that keeps me going, one thing that keeps me packing and checking things off my list,  the one thing is, that I don't have to do it alone. I will have my amazing and beautiful children, along with strong arms with a gentle heart who understands my crazy better than I do at times, holding my hand and my heart should I fall. I will have Pete with his smile and glorious angel wings, but most importantly I will have myself and my scarred expanded heart. I have overcome many moments that seemed impossible, however I have always found my courage and now my voice to do so. My hope for this trip that is so badly needed, not just for me but for my little yet strong family is to feel the loss and the tears, but also to feel the joy as it bubbles up inside me and laughter spills out that we made it back. I hope to feel my grandmother and grandpa's spirit around me for they built this cabin together, but mostly, I hope to hear Pete's laughter on the breeze as it floats out across the lake, for this too was his happy place.