Thoughts on my youngest son’s 18th birthday.

Today my youngest son turns 18. I was putting together a collage of photos from over the years and I began to feel a little melancholy. Time has gone by so so fast. It floors me.

There are so many things I would like to to do again and many things I would do differently if I could. I like to spend short periods of time in the past. But when they begin to make me sad I know I need to pull back to the present.

To stay in the past can make us miss the joys of the present time. I don’t want to get caught in a cycle of sadness over things I can’t go back to nor change. But it’s ok to step back for a moment and it’s ok to feel the joys in the memories and the sadness over the quick passage of time. I don’t want to forgo looking back in the past because it’s is the framework of what has been my life. I just don’t want to get lost there.

I know today with my youngest son turning 18 – who also was my first child (I know puzzling- but we adopted out of birth order)- there will be memories that will bring laughter and some tears. To just hold that little boy one more time – I know he’s still here to hug but it’s not the same. His hugs are quick and awkward. Appropriate and expected for a teenage guy. I am not the one he would run to for a hug anymore after scoring a soccer goal (he used to)- and good lord he shouldn’t be! But that is why sometimes it’s just nice to remember those times where you were their world.

And truthfully I hope my now adult children have the opportunity to look back someday and feel the same. Because that means they have had love in their lives and that above all else is what I want for them.

Right now I’m am writing this while sitting on the beach in Delaware. Nice start to a day. I’m looking forward to seeing my son tonight for dinner. I figure he may be looking forward to seeing us but probably is more excited to see his dog who we brought with us this weekend. That’s ok. I know we come in second or third to the dog.

I’ll take some photos and someday – yet again – I’ll look back on them and have similar feelings that I have today. Then I will make more and more memories .

It’s the circle of life. And what that means is that I’ve had love.

And that’s what matters most.

Harley alone- maybe not for long…

Airy has been gone four days now. Things are quieter. Things still feel off.

Though he has quieted down a lot since Monday, Harley my Tennessee Walker was very upset the day we put Airy down. We had the vet img_5705give him a sedative and he saw Airy’s body. It didn’t settle him down too much. He pranced around the paddock calling to her. He got no answer. He was pushing up against the fencing trying to get to where he last saw her. I feared for his safety – I feared the fencing might give. So we opened the pasture gate- the one furthest away from her body and hoped he would graze.

He would run in and out of the pasture calling to her. Not gonna lie – my heart was breaking for Harley too. He was confused and stressed and I had no way to take it away. The first night was hard on everyone. My initial shock wore off and the dam of tears came flooding out. I could not stop crying. I cried for the loss and the trauma my horse went through leading to her death and I cried for my living horse who was calling periodically throughout the night for a friend who would never answer.

I could not sleep in my bed that first night. I took to the family room couch – it faces the front and side of the property and is furthest from our paddock. I couldn’t bare to hear Harley calling to her. I put earphones in and listened to the oceans waves and read my book and must have dozed for a few hours.  I woke at six and it was quiet. I hoped it would be a better day for Harley.

The truck came to take Airy’s body away. I could not stand to go out so my ever strong husband went.  Sadly Harley became very upset when he saw the truck. I could hear him from inside. There was no way to block his view and I am not sure he knew what was happening or if he just knew someone was near where he last saw his friend. When the truck pulled away Harley went on calling her.

I knew he was under duress and I wanted badly to help him. I had little I could do though. I went to the feed store and got some natural calming paste and I got some probiotics. In times of stress Probiotics are helpful to help alleviate ulcers. Thankfully Harley has been eating and drinking just fine.  I gave him half the paste in the tube and hoped it might help a little. I brushed him and pet him and talked to him.

Wednesday he was much more quiet. He called a couple times and was much more vocal at my approach to the barn. I have been watching him. And he mostly sticks to his stall. Thursday we opened the pasture gate closest to my neighbors horses and I was hoping he would feel some comfort in seeing them- if they venture out in this heat. I normally do night turn out in summer but now I will do whatever I can to make Harley less stressed.

We had six horses and two donkeys between four small farms on my side of the road. All of our pastures close together. Now only three of those horses remain as one of my neighbors lost two of her horses suddenly on the same day a few weeks ago. So it is a quieter place these days. I miss my neighbors horses too as I was “friends” with her equine boys.

Horses are natural herd animals and I feel they need companionship. That is not to say they can’t be alone – I have seen it before and even the vet said Harley may settle in and do fine as a lone horse. But would he miss having a buddy? I am not sure I should put the human term lonely onto an equine- do they get lonely? Is he grieving? I am not sure what it is but herd animals depend on each other for safety, companionship, and even to help keep the flies at bay (horse will stand near each other and swish their tails to keep the flies off each other!). There is a need there.

Since I can’t know what he feels because I am not a horse I can only go by my observations. I think Harley was confused and stressed that his companion was gone. If we had a third horse maybe I would not have seen the same level of stress. Horses do bond and I think when they are separated whether by one horse being moved to another farm, or herd, or through death it can cause stress. But something in Harley’s behavior leading up to Airy’s passing and after leads me to believe he knew it was a permanent parting. Horses may not understand death fully but I believe they feel something that lets them know that something more serious is up.

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Harley and Airy in the pasture

So I am sure Harley is confused- he’s always been in a herd. Maybe he is lonely or whatever a herd animal feels when it is now a herd of one. As the days move forward he will settle down and perhaps he could be ok as a lone horse but I am not sure it would be the best thing for him- and lets face it if I feel this way then it causes me stress so its not the best thing for me. Looking outside and seeing just one horse seems off to me.

So right after Airy died my concern shifted to Harley being alone. What were we going to do?  If Harley were being boarded with other horses or if we had a third i would not get another horse. Part of me doesn’t want another horse. There is the expense and there is the fact that physically I am not the same person I was when I bought my horses years ago. I have limited use of my one arm and at this point I can’t ride.  So I don’t want a horse that requires being ridden – if I can ride Harley again that would be so great but two needing to be ridden would be too much for me. We also considered having a boarder here. We could get some help maybe in exchange for board – but there is liability in this and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take that on.

I know there are tons and tons of horses out there in need of homes and I know there are plenty of horses just looking to be companions to other horses. Ones that can’t be ridden due to health issues or age. But I still don’t want to own one. The other day soon after Airy died I began my search to see if my needs for a horse could be met so I could meet Harley’s need for a companion. There are a vast number of horse rescues in Maryland but there is one in particular that I was pretty familiar with. I looked on their website – Days End Farm Horse Rescue  – and I saw what I was looking for – a guardian program! Ingenious really.

With the Guardian program a person take possession of the horse – typically these horses are not ridable but can be great companions “pasture pals” to other horses-  and Days End retains ownership of the horse. As guardian we would provide for all the horses needs but these expenses can be written off on the our taxes.  We could return the horse to the rescue if the need arose. This sounds like it could be a good fit for us.

Saturday we will go out to visit a prospective Guardian Program horse named Yukon. A quarter horse Gelding about 18 years old. Chestnut in color (coincidentally the same as Airy was). He is said to have a great temperament and gets along well with his current pasture mates.  We have to have a couple visits with him and one of the trainers at the rescue. If we all think he could be a fit for our farm then he will come here soon after.

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Harley and me- selfie

We need to restore some balance here. I am still grieving the sudden loss of my horse and that will ebb in time but life has to move on and the focus must be on the needs of the creatures that are still living here.

Maybe Yukon will be one of those creatures.  I will let you know how our meeting goes!

 

 

 

 

On the loss of a horse

 

 

Airy 2012

Arizon – or Airy – Arab – she was 26 years old. This is one of my favorite photos of her.

There is a time for everything

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance…..

Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

Authors Note- I want to thank every person who messaged me, commented on my Facebook post about Airy- your support and care means so much….. and thank you Kirsten W. for the muffins ❤

 

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This past Monday  I had plans to go out to Tractor Supply with my son Luke to grab some needed feed and bedding for the animals.  I was ready to go – purse on the counter- I was filling up my water cup..one of the ones that keep your water cool all day. It was a regular day. Then it wasn’t

We had returned from the beach the evening before. -we had been gone for almost a week. When we went down to the barn to check the horses  we found some things that were not done the way we would have wanted them. It seemed like our caretaker cut some corners. We fixed the mistakes. I put the horses out on pasture. They seemed fine- no worse for wear. We headed back to the house.

So back to Monday. Earlier in the morning Kevin brought the horses in and grained them and set out hay for them .  Later as I was readying to go to Tractor Supply and I was filling up that water cup  Kevin was looking out of the back slider at the barn. I asked him what he was looking at. I thought the cats. We have one elusive kitty we only see from a distance. Kevin said , “Airy was just rolling, then she got up and pooped but now she is down rolling again.”  For some reason my internal alarm went off. I just had a bad feeling. You just know your horses and mine will roll but they never roll get up and then go down right away to roll again. We needed to get down to the barn.

Our day just went from normal to super stressful in 30 seconds.

When I got to the barn Airy was down.  Sweating, covered in dust and mud. Her eyes were far away. We tried to get her up but couldn’t. I could see she was very bloated. Oh crap…

I said or maybe yelled “Call the vet – she has colic – hurry”. Kevin ran to get my phone in the house – neither of us grabbed ours as we went out the door. When Kevin went in Airy got up walked a ways. I could not get to her fast enough before she went down again. Rolling….

I should explain what it means when horse colics. I have heard colic as being called  a horse stomach ache – and I guess it is that because there is pain – but it can turn to a deadly situation when the intestines twist causing a blockage that can only be fixed through surgery. It is very painful even in a less serious case. Horses cant vomit- they have a one way in and out system.

Wikipedia describes colic as” abdominal pain, but it is a clinical sign rather than a diagnosis. The term colic can encompass all forms of gastrointestinal conditions which cause pain as well as other causes of abdominal pain not involving the gastrointestinal tract. The most common forms of colic are gastrointestinal in nature and are most often related to colonic disturbance. There are a variety of different causes of colic, some of which can prove fatal without surgical intervention.”

During signs of colic, I have been taught try to get a horse up and walk them around and not let the horse roll. As it can make the gut twist up (but I was told differently after the vet got there.). So we had to try to get her up. At one point -when Kevin ran in to grab the phone- I was holding the lead rope that connected to her halter and i was pulling on her with all my might (with my one good arm)as she lay on the ground trying to writhe from my grasp. I screamed “Stop you are going to kill yourself…stop stop! ” But somewhere inside I wondered if it was already too late. But I couldn’t go there. She had gotten colic maybe five years before this episode and we had the vet out and she was good as gold after they put a tube up her nose and put oil into her stomach. Oh and they gave her pain meds too. Surely they could get her straight again. But this time she seemed so much worse than before.

I was in utter panic inside but I was trying to keep my mind straight. I called the vet and tried to talk as Kevin and I worked on getting her up. If anything we wanted to move her from the hot sun. But if we could get her up we could get her walking.

Thankfully they said the vet was able to come right away but it would take time. We were able to get Airy up but she was not happy about it. We kept her walking in the shade and put wet towels on her. Kevin leading me following behind with a crop. I texted my neighbors to see if they had any pain meds. My neighbor, Nora, gave us oral Banamine- an NSAID.  I gave it to her as best I could and we kept walking and walking. My son Luke helped by bringing us water and watching for the vet. Airy is normally somewhat feisty and there was none of her spirit there as we walked on and on.

Walking and walking

We thought the banamine was working because she pooped and passed gas. Later we came to find out thats not a sign of improvement. She seemed to pick up her gait. But soon she was slow and hoping to be able to get down and roll.

It seemed like hours that we walked her around. It was likely only 30-40 minutes. The vet – Dr. Engle – pulled in and immediately he told us to stop making her walk.  Thats when I learned that we didnt need to make her walk and later I googled about it and found this.  Walking can be good but in other situations you are just tiring everyone out. How do you know when then to walk? In our case we all were exhausted. Now I know in her case it wasnt making a difference and now I know to stop walking a horse that is so tired.  I now feel very regretful that in her last minutes of life I was making her maybe more stressed. It hurts my heart.

After Dr. Engle gave Airy pain medicine by injection he then examined her and listened to her stomach sounds he said it was” quiet in there”. So he did a rectal exam and that is when he gave us the news I had not wanted to hear..maybe somewhere I knew what he was going to say but I had packed it away in some far reached area of my brain. He said her intestine was turned some. Not all the way. He didn’t look hopeful. I asked him the question. “Does that mean we have to put her down?”

“It looks that way…but we aren’t there quite yet” He said.  What options did we have? There was surgery  10k.  It doesn’t make sense on a 26 year old horse and he wasn’t recommending it.They also said they could find tumors during surgery and still she might not make it. I knew that wasn’t an option for us – for her.  I began to cry. I tried to hold i together but it wasn’t working.

Tubing Airy – I was in the stall with Harley.

We went on to talk a bit further about trying to stick a tube up her nose and send some mineral oil through her to see if that might help. This is what they did when she had colic before and it worked. So we decided to try this as a last ditch effort on saving her life. I stepped away to try to compose myself.  I went into the gym  which is attached to the barn and  our young friend Kirsten was there  – she was so sweet trying to comfort this very sad lady.  I grabbed kleenex. I headed back out.

My son Luke was running all over the place trying to help. Moving Harley out of the way, grabbing me more water. I can imagine how stressed he was. I could see it on his face. He felt for me and for the horse. Part of the time I didn’t even register he was there but then I would need him and he would be nearby. I am so thankful for him. And there is my husband – Kevin- who is always ready and willing to take on the hardest tasks form cleaning up the grossest of messes to leading a dying horse around in circles hoping she might recover so his wife wouldn’t be heartbroken. He is always amazing but in these situations he is stellar.

Time was standing still or it was my brain – I didn’t want to know what was going to happen next.

I stood with Harley in the stall hugging on his neck. I knew if Airy didn’t pull out of this colic and we put her down he would suffer too. Horses are herd animals and Airy and Harley were very bonded. I hurt for him.

After the vets (there were two of them here now- another showed up while I was somewhere in the barn) finished giving Airy her intubation of mineral oil I walked out and waited with them to see if she perked up. Kevin walked her around the paddock and I asked the vets what were we looking for with her. They said just any change in demeanor. Which mean she needed to perk way up. Her eyes were listless, her demeanor was not good.

I then began to ask the tougher questions because I knew we were at the end of a rope. I wasnt going to let her suffer any longer. What do we do with her body? How do you euthanize a horse? I got the answers as I watched this lovely beautiful animal struggle. She had been such a good horse. A companion to Harley and friend to us. It was my duty to not let her suffer any longer.

Kevin with Airy some years back.

…I had tried to ride Airy years ago. She was all Arab- proud and sleek.  She had a wonderful gait. Nice trot you could sit easily to. But we would get only so far in her training and she would spook or be “on her toes” too much and I became nervous to ride her- I feel off her once but I got back on but it scared me – I didn’t feel experienced enough to handle her –  and then I got Harley.   Airy’s training was put on the back burner. At that time the horses were boarded at Windsong Arabians not far from where we lived back then.  So sometimes I’d tack her up and ride but most often I rode Harley. Then in 2010 we moved them here to our farm and she became the pasture pal that we needed for Harley. I worked with her some while she was here but I never rode her – and I think she was just fine with that. She was the beauty in the field.

I think you know how the story ends here…once we saw no improvement in her demeanor and Dr. Engle did a rectal exam and found that he no longer could get  in as far as he had when he arrived which means things were not getting better and I could see that she continued to be in pain…I called time. It was her time. We took her out of the paddock to a place where she could lay down on grass – out of Harley’s site – and so the person who would pick up her remains could get to her easily.  She did lay down on her own which was better I think. She took a bite of grass- how fitting- she loved her grass. They gave her more sedative and I said my goodbyes. But there are no words that seem enough. I told her it was ok to go. She was a good girl. But the words are flat… but the hearts… they connect. She knew what I felt.

I left Kevin with her and I went into the gym. I wasn’t sure I could see her slip away. I didn’t want to see her if she was afraid…I didn’t want to convey any of my distress to her in what should be a peaceful passing for her. After she was gone I went to her. I knew her spirit was gone – I could feel that-but I pet and kissed her a final time.  She still had some grass in her mouth.We covered her with a sheet and towels and Kevin snipped some of her tail hair for me to keep. She had the most beautiful mane and tail.

The vet checked out Harley as he was distressed even though he couldn’t see Airy. They gave him a sedative. They led him over to see her.  They hoped it might help him to see her. He sniffed her body and then began eating grass. They led him back. Later he began to call for her….that has been hard.

In the end it is a blessing that we can be merciful to our animals. We can hasten their deaths- we can keep them from suffering. We have to make hard choices. In this case the choice was clear…but it was hard.  As my friend Jon Katz writes often- we have to be stewards to our animals.

A farm has a heartbeat of its own made up of all the beings that live here and for the moment the heartbeat is off.  Airy’s death doesn’t just make me sad it effects my other horse as well – which I will write about later. Everything just feels off. One less horse to feed. One less soul to connect with. There is an emptiness- I feel it..Kevin does too.

I am crying my tears now- many of them. My heart hurts but it will heal. I have my regrets. Why did I let her out into the pasture that night when we got back?  Did anything that was off from when the caretakers were here effect this? Should I have been on the lookout for more signs she wasn’t right? She seemed good Sunday night.  Did she just eat too much grass? But hindsight won’t help. She is gone. I just have to process this and grieve. The vet said this is just a case of bad luck. Her age- 26- the fact she had colic before- all were things against her. Dr. Engle did not want me to beat myself up.

After Airy died, Kevin came into the gym and he told me she was gone. We both cried a bit but then he showed me a picture. It was of a beautiful butterfly on Airy’s leg. He told me the butterfly was there through the entire process of her being euthanized. The vet said he had seen spirits leave before but never through a butterfly.

Well Miss Airy you flew away on butterfly wings….Fly free girl … and thank you….it was wonderful knowing you….

 

 

choices and boundaries

Sometimes the wind gets knocked out of us. Sometimes literally like when we take a sudden fall – then you get that awful feeling that you cannot take a breath in for what seems like an eternity. Then you gasp and take the sweet air into your lungs- things begin to seem more clear  – less frightening.  Then sometimes the wind gets knocked out of us figuratively – some news or event might trigger this syndrome – while your breath is really there you still feel like you are drowning. You don’t know when you can come up for that deep breathe.

Sometimes I feel like I am in waves getting pummeled and then getting up and drawing breath in only to be pummeled again. 

Its been a time- feeling like the wind is constantly being knocked out of me- me trying to come up for air. Me wanting to write about things but feeling like I can’t or shouldn’t or both. But I think I can write now- but should I ?  I need to.


Sometimes people you love make terrible choices. People you love ignore your advice and offers to help.  Sometimes it is just too hard to watch.

Thats where I am. I can’t watch.  Someone in my family has made some very bad and risky choices.  I have confronted this person and they don’t want to stop and they don’t want help. They want me to accept their choices and I can’t – they are not safe choices.

In this “you do you” society (which has been created by the millennial genre) we are called upon to accept everyones choices.  Hey if you are into it then it’s ok.  To a degree I love this philosophy – I want people to feel empowered to reach for the stars, find your voice, live your truth. But the philosophy gets dicey to me if it becomes a way to enable bad choices. Hey if you are into it then its ok. Nobody is supposed to question anyone or warn them if their choices seem to be dangerous of even illegal.  We don’t want to hurt anyones feelings.  You Do You can be taken too far.

And I am not a person to enable anyone when I know their choice is harmful to them or illegal.  But what do you do when someone doesn’t want to hear your advice or offers for help?

I think there are as many answers as their are situations that we may encounter. It depends on the nature of the relationship  and I suppose the degree to which we each are able to watch things take a tail spin.

I just cannot watch.  I realize how little I know this person. That saddens me.

In light of the risky choices being made I had to create a boundary to not only draw my line in the sand but to also help save my sanity.  I knew I could not live day to day chatting with this person knowing what I knew.  Getting together and sharing space would just be too awkward now.  And they liked their choices and found nothing wrong with them. That is their prerogative I guess.  Sadly, they did not want to stop the behavior even in the wake of not being in contact with me and as it turns out other members of the family. I couldn’t watch the train going down the wrong tracks. I don’t want to see it crash.

What is left is heartbreak. I call it collateral damage. The family member assures us that there was no intent on hurting us. But sometimes our choices bring on damage that you can’t imagine.

The breath is knocked out of me. I am sad and angry. I promise myself I wont let this persons choices wreck my day. But it permeates it when I allow it too. It has effected our family unit. What a heartbreak.

I keep asking why? Why these choices? I have always been a why person. I have been to therapy and I have been told that sometimes there isn’t an answer to a why that makes any sense. And I suppose that is true.  I know this person has some buried sadness and pain. But even with all this I can’t figure out why these risky behaviors were chosen.

I know this person needs help but they have to really want it. When they shut out that possibility its so defeating for those who want to help. I want to shake them, I want to hug them, I want to scream….I want to help – but I can’t – not now.

For now,  I am not engaging in contact with this family member. I have made it clear that I need a break. I cant have daily interactions with this person knowing what I know – and frankly I think they feel the same.  A boundary is a consequence and a choice. Its my choice to set the boundary.  It is what I need in order to try to cope with this hurt.

I am sure some people reading this can relate- they may have been on one side or the other of this wall.  I know there will be a time where I can check in with this person but not now.  My open hand is always there if they want to accept help.  Always. Anytime.  I haven’t shut my phone off or blocked this persons number.

When you love someone it is so hard to see the person choose something that can hurt them and even others. It is hard to see the wall go up when they feel their choices are being questioned.  It is hard to not want to try to control it all. It is hard to know you have no control.  I know that the consequence of my boundary isn’t enough to make this person stop their behaviors and I am afraid of the the real consequences that may await them.

So I try to let go and live my life. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever forgive this person for the collateral damage they have caused.  The air of sadness that has permeated us. The feeling of rejection. That we aren’t important enough – that their bad choices are better and more important than the family that loves them. It hurts a lot and it angers me too… and then there is the need to help them that pulls at me – nags at me like itchy wool. Sometimes it all blows my mind and thats when it feels like the wind is knocked out of me.

But I get up again- brace myself and wait for the next wave.

 

 

 

 

Those little empty spaces- leaving them be.

I haven’t been to the barn since our barn cat Mango was hit and killed by a car last Wednesday. I’ve been recuperating from surgery. Sadly I can already feel in my heart what it will be like when I go down there -and Kevin has corroborated my thoughts -there’s an emptiness. He said it. This little cats death left an empty space.

No more will she come trotting down from the hayloft -her voice preceding her. Nor will she play chase with my horse crop as I flick it along the cement floor of the barn aisle. Nor will she try to bite me if I wanted to stop petting her (she wasn’t perfect:)). It’s just a dusty mess of emptiness. The barn is little more hollow. There’s a vacancy.

This isn’t a post about our little cat that we lost. I’ve posted many pictures of her and shared her over the years. She was a great barn cat. Freedom was hers and sadly that freedom is what also left her with more risks like busy roads. But what this post is about is those sad little empty spaces that beings that we love leave when they die.

We’ve had a number of those empty spaces this last year. They hurt. They make us feel off kilter. While there is -for me -no comparing the losses of my beloved humans to our loved cat- it is a loss. Human loss for me sweeps itself under my feet and pulls me up over myself and then scorches my heart. The loss of beloved pets scorch my heart but don’t render me as dislocated as human loss. But they are still losses that leave empty spaces.

I am so uncomfortable in this emptiness. My first inclination is to fill it up. Because to try to fill it up is easier than facing the sad empty spot head on. With my loss of Mango I’ve sped through the thoughts of “let’s get another cat” to “I’m never going to have another barn cat.” I’ve learned not to listen to any of these thoughts in the wake of loss. I’ve learned that you just have to visit the empty space and eventually in time it won’t be so uncomfortable.

With human loss it is the same but on a way bigger scale. We can’t replace the person we lost with another. Some will try. Some of us will attempt to replace that chasm with anything that can make that space seem so much less empty. But inevitably there isn’t anything to fill those spaces. They never close but they become less sad and uncomfortable.

Kevin said he thinks if we are supposed to get another barn cat it will happen. We will know. And I like that thought. It allows me to face head on the discomforting empty spot Mango left.

I am learning. I don’t always have to try to quell my discomfort. I can learn to just let it be. I can let myself feel what I need to in the time that I need to.

So when I get to the barn in the next few days I think I’ll stand and listen not for what Mango took with her -the little steps and the loud meows- but instead I’ll listen to the silence that she left in her wake and I’ll be thankful that I knew a being like her that left that empty space. Bc those empty spaces we feel really come from loving another – and how scary can something that came from love be?

Happy Birthday Dad


Today would have been my dad’s 82nd birthday. I still can’t believe he isn’t alive. He planned on living a long time. He never would have been ready to go I don’t think. In a way I’m glad his death was fast and he didn’t see it coming. Here then gone. 

I miss my dad and have grieved him plenty over this last tough year. I sometimes felt that I didn’t know how to navigate with him gone. It’s that loss of connection that leaves a hole.  That person I have never not known isn’t existent on this planet anymore. It’s still sometimes throws me for a loop. 

I think I’m to a point where I can sort through some of the boxes I was sent by my brother who went through his effects (aka stuff) and sent me things he thought I might want. That includes many photos. I have purchased albums for them and may sort through them in the fall. Some of his clothing was used to cushion the boxes and that was the hardest thing for me to deal with when I first opened the boxes. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. 

Grief needs to be felt in order to move on I think. I don’t enjoy it. I lost three people who were very important to me in a short time. It’s been rocky. But I see that the only healthy way is to trudge through it. But we all deal with grief in our own way. We let a little in at a time. Otherwise it’s like a landslide that can knock us over and cover us and keep us from moving at all. 

I think when we lose someone we feel like we are the only ones who feel that loss. It’s because grief is a personal thing. It’s lonely.  We can talk out our feelings some and sit with others feeling the loss as welll but -for me at least -grief is deeply personal. Some days it’s lonely. But with my dad’s loss I’m processing it and I’m moving forward. 

In a tough year I have been blessed as well. I went from needing to be in bed bc of severe chronic pain to being able to move again. That thanks to a surgeon who listened and cared. I’ve been able to buy a beach house for my family. That thanks to my brother who agreed to buy me out of my dads Florida condo (and it is on Marco Island and it did survive Hurricane Irma ). My kids are doing pretty well. All working and one in community college and the other two getting ready to apply. Things are good. 

Amidst grief and loss there is so much sadness but there is joy. Lately I’ve struggled some with my feelings about many things and I’ve gone to see a threpist that I really like. This a safe place where I can open up about conflicted feelings and just vent about the last four years and get it all out. It’s a process. 

I’m sitting on the beach as I wrote this.  Something my dad would have done today I’m sure. I’m looking at the Atlantic and he likely would have been looking at the Gulf of Mexico. But we both shared a huge love of the beach. 

I think about the up and downs of our relationship and the hurts. It was quite a ride. You always want your dad to get you and if doesn’t get you then he supports your dreams. My dad didn’t always get me. I think it was easier with him to relate to guys. He was a guys guy. 

When I began my love of baseball we had lots of conversations about our teams. It was a way to bond more with him. I’m glad for that added bonus of baseball becoming my go to sport. It helped when conversations became awkward or tense. 

I began the process of forgiving my dad years ago. We were always waxing and waning. I always wanted him to just see me for me. And maybe finally he did. 

He became enamored with my photography a couple years ago after I gave him a canvas of a little mountain called Sugarloaf that was near our home in Maryland. We hiked there a few times. I think he even went there alone sometimes. I’m so glad he thought I had talent. No matter your age most of us want our parents to be proud of us. 

There are many things about my dad I don’t know. He struggled with alcohol use and it seemed he was happiest when he was buzzed. Well maybe we all are. But he loved his alcohol too much and he would never admit that it had a hold on him and as he got older I decided maybe it didn’t really matter. Let him just have fun. 

And he did have fun. He had friends and he travelled. I’m so glad for that. He even married his long time love a few years ago. That didn’t end well and it’s not a story I choose to tell now. 

My dad is buried about 45 minutes from my home. In a Catholic cemetery- next to his second wife Jean.   She passed away from Cancer in 1994 at the age of 51. His first wife is my mom. She lives with me now. He definitely wanted to have a partner. I’m not sure he ever mastered being a great husband but I know he loved all of his spouses. I’ve found my dad loved people the best way he knew how. Don’t we all try to love the best way we know how? I think it’s never perfect because we aren’t God. 

Everyone has a story. I know my dads story is deeper than I’ll ever know here on earth. But as conflicted as our relationship could be at times I am so glad he was part of my life.  He was funny and charming. He cared and I know he loved me.

 Since he has been gone I come to see how much alike we really are. My impatience and tendcies toward moodiness and my quick temper are all him.  Though I don’t often show my temper like he could. 

My dad was as big as life itself. A huge precense when he was in a room not only in stature (he was 6’4″) but also in personality.  He was more outgoing than I am and he kept up with friends better than i did. Though I am trying to be better at that.

 Stan Wilson was something. And he was my dad. 

So I’m sitting here in the beach on a beautiful day on Sept 23 remembering my dad on his birthday. I thought I could get through this without tears. But I am not. And that is ok. I cry because I loved. 

Later today I will take some of his ashes and scatter them in the bay just near our beach cottage. I want to release him into the water which he so loved. Later when the gardens are done being put in at our cottage I will scatter some of his ashes there- so he is part of Cool Breeze Cottage. I can just hear him saying “Cool Breeze! Here comes Cool Breeze!”  My high school nickname -he loved nicknames. I hated that name then but now I have three teens and I so get it! 

So happy Birthday Dad. I’d like to think you are with loved ones -your dad, Nana, Jean , keenie. And Ernie , the haleys,and mr Deveraux, mr Vogelsinger and many more. 

Happy Birthday. Your daughter here on  earth misses you so much and will love you always. 

Faces on Paper 

The thing about feelings are they ebb and flow like the tides. One moment I’m ok. Having a good day. Doing fun things. The next I’m just something else. 

I wrote the post below in one sitting. After the purge I felt better went out had a great day with my family. We are down on the shore at our new cottage. I Sat on the calm bay during an eclipse that was anti-climatic here on our longitude and latitude but the serenity in the bay was medicinal as always. 

I’m trying to piece my way through these shift that I am experiencing. During the “normal” times where things feel more I balance I wonder if I am being over sensitive to the feelings I’m having.  But that’s the point my senses feel what they feel when they feel it. Body and soul. We have to honor what we are feeling. It’s so easy to push it away. I want to. But I’m also aware that this is a season of change and I will have to navigate it and face it   .  

So below is what I wrote two days ago and there has been an ebb and a flow again and again.  At some point maybe I will feel on a more even keel again. It been a long four years.

……

I sat crying in the shower -it’s a good place to cry. Hopefully nobody hears you. 

My sense of a numbness and a loneliness began about four weeks ago. It had be creeping up before that but it reared its ugly head in mid-July. A sense I wasn’t living my life, like I am living outside it it sometimes – a sense things have changed. I felt everything  is off kilter. Would it right itself? Will it? 

In the shower I felt the need to write. My words always form in the shower. Then I have to jump out dripping wet and run to type it all out. My words are never as eloquent as they are in the shower. The shower breaks me open sometimes. A cleaning of the body and opening up the soul. 

I think I am having a battle of body and soul. My body is trying to push my feelings down and my soul which usually wins is trying to push them up. The soul is protective and honest at the same time. 

I have experienced huge losses in the last two years. My father-in-law, then my dad -which was very sudden- and four weeks ago my mother-in-law. Add in the four years of dealing with the aftermaths of cancer and two major surgeries for that aftermath in six months and more to come and three teens that keep being -well , teens – my mom moving in – I guess I shouldn’t be surprised I feel the way I do.

I stood in the shower and drew a big heart on the wall and put my hand in it as I cried. Maybe I wanted to feel something familiar as I touched that wet or maybe I wanted it to heat up as a sign from someone who I loved that has crossed into the realm. I just wanted to feel something. And I felt sad so maybe that was ok. 

 I wanted something bc so many things seem shifted. 

Am I depressed? Shell shocked? Is it the meds I have to take?  Or am I just feeling the pangs of so much grief that I am holding in? 

My mother-in- law -Doris Sweeney- whom I called mom was one of my very best friends. She died July 18. She deserves a blog of her own and I will write about her when I can. I’m not ready but  I do miss her terribly. Sometimes I think maybe it’s wrong for me to grieve this loss so much bc this wasn’t my mom this was Kevin’s mom. Doesn’t he deserve to have this huge chasm of loss to himself? I feel like I am stealing his mom or the loss of her somehow. I know that’s not rational. But bc I must feel that way somewhere deep in my brain -my body is like a dam only letting bits of grief sink in. 

I think this and the fact that three people that I considered parents to me – even if two weren’t – have left this world. And crap do I miss them. 

My soul will win and require me to feel what I need to feel. It’s pushing me to deal with it all. I hope that it will get me off this rocking boat and help me to feel like I’m on dry sound land again. 

It’s lonely here. I have felt this loneliness before many years ago before I married Kevin. The alone feeling even when in a room of people. 

Kevin and his family brought so much light and balance  into my life. They have no idea. 

The other day at the memorial lunch I think I hoped it would feel like a reunion of family. That i would feel that warm feeling – like the room gets a bit warmer bc people love eachother and are happy to be together. But I just felt lonely. Nobody did anything wrong. It’s just that each of us was so sad and the part of our soul that touches each other was curled up hugging our own selves – protecting us. Or maybe it was just my soul was curled up and I couldn’t reach out. But everything was off. Sadness prevailed and was visible under the laughter and greeting of friends. Because the humans whose lives we were celebrating should have been there. 

It was a beautiful place and so many words of love were shared.  The gathering of friends was beautiful and I wanted to see my inlaws faces but all I had to look at were the many family photos we shared in collages that we all put together. 

Faces on paper were all that was left. 

I know I looked at the collages but I hardly recall any of the pictures. I even made three of the collages myself. Pinning the photos onto the framed boards one by one. I cried some. But I stealed away the feelings as best I could because other wise I couldn’t have done it. 

Faces on paper. And love and memories. I know this. But I’m not there yet. I know this is what life should be. Parents going before their children. 

Rationally I get all that. But I’m not there yet.  I’m off kilter, I feel this hole, too much has happened. 

I will begin counseling again but right now it seems too exhausting to tell someone everything that has happened.  Maybe I should give the therapist this blog post:) 

I just need a little time to see how this all processes. Writing helps. It does. It’s something that is familiar and balances me. Thank God for it. 

And God. I have written many times about my faith. I would admit  my faith has been tested sometimes in the last year especially. But in the last four I have had so many questions and some have been answered as best as they can be answered and others still flutter waiting for understanding that I might not get. But I think sitting in a church of any sort could help bc I feel a connection to God – but definitely not to a religion. I like bits and pieces of many but dislike bits and pieces too. But sometimes just sitting in a church worshipping and singing can help the soul heal. 

I sat on my horse yesterday. I longed for it. Needed it. For those few moments working with my horse some balance was in my life and that post horse buzz haloed around me for a good while.  But today that sense of unbalance of doing life but it really being part of it is back. 

I’m going out to paint some shutters for our cottage I’m hoping brush to wood will lighten this load o me at least for a while. 

There is a path that I must walk to get to a place of balance even if it is a new familiarity of my life. It’s changed the patriarchy and matriarchy that was once there is now mostly gone. What a gaping hole -albeit wound – it leaves. 

Lonely souls that have to learn to ride the rivers without a beacon ship. 

So much has happened my body and soul are trying to protect me I guess. Trying to keep the dam from breaking. In the meantime I’m floating down the river without a beacon ship  to lead me. Because now I -we- kevin and I and all my sweeney family -we- we are the new beacons  and I’m not ready to lead quite yet.