Dear Boots

It’s your birthday.

You would have been 45.

In my head, your birthdays look like this:

Why did I wear a halter top if I felt compelled to fold my arms across my stomach?  I look uncomfortable.  You look beautiful, as always.

Do you remember that Halloween that we put on costumes and went to the new mall?  Lisa dressed like a reindeer.

Halfway through the afternoon, we ran into some boys you knew from school.  I felt important to be noticed by them.  Looking back, I know they weren’t noticing me.  They were noticing you.  And maybe the reindeer.

When my dad came to pick us up, we each gave those boys a quick kiss.  I had never kissed anyone before and, more importantly, my dad had never seen me kiss anyone before.  I can only imagine the conversation between him and my mom that night.

Conversation.  😐

I’d love to have a conversation with you.

Shhhh.  Don’t tell anybody, but sometimes I talk to you anyway.  I figure it’s worth it, because maybe you can hear me from wherever you are.  Maybe you even have some way to respond.

Today, I told you that I feel overwhelmed by the challenges with my son.  He is home from school again and I am teary and mad and teary and mad and teary again and madder still.  And sad.  Maybe you would listen to that.

Maybe you would also babysit now and then to help me keep my sanity.  I could use that today.  A lot.

A lot.

“Lot” is one of my son’s high frequency vocabulary words this week.  I can’t get school off my brain.  There’s always some dilemma with school.

Yesterday, there was a series of minor mishaps in the classroom.  My son was not to blame, but I guess his routine was a bit derailed by it.  Today, he doesn’t want to go back.

Talking about it distressed him so immediately and completely, that I couldn’t even stay in the room.  I went to the garage and cried in the dark.  I needed him to go today.

I needed him to go because this post was supposed to be about you, not him.

When I had stopped crying enough to think for a moment, I decided that home needed to be as boring as I could possibly make it.  I came in from the garage and wrote some rules.

If he stayed here, there would be no television, no toys, no legos, no computer, no open snack choices, no store, no friends, no outside.  There would be nothing fun.  I would bore him out of staying.

He would sit on the couch all day and eat only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for his lunch and all snacks.  Surely he would choose to go to school, right?

Wrong.  He is home and we’re both going crazy.  And your lovely birthday post has been hijacked.

I have successfully managed to keep the child on the couch with no real activity for about an hour.  He is bored out of his mind and he wants something to eat that isn’t pb&j.  What do I do?  Is this what I wanted?  I hate it.  What would you tell me?

A few minutes ago, he got up from the couch and just as I was about to direct him back again, he said “Thomas hug a Mama?”  Of course we hugged.  And now I am possessed by guilt.  And tears.  Great.

Another hour has passed and we have gone to my friend’s house to walk her dog.  I mean your friend’s house.  I inherited her from you.  That was a very nice gift to leave behind.   Thank you.

Now the little boy is doing everything he can to push the boundaries of his circumstances.  I am standing firm to the rules I wrote out for him this morning.  But he is getting agitated, so what do I do?  What would you tell me to do?

Maybe I wouldn’t listen to you.  Maybe I would even get annoyed if you threw in your two cents before it was solicited.  Maybe.

He wants to play on the computer.  He sees me in my computer chair.  He sees that I am typing something and he wants to do that too.

He doesn’t know that I’m having a chat with my departed friend.  He thinks I’m playing.  He doesn’t know that it isn’t the least bit fun for me to only wonder what you’d think.

I can’t make my autistic child sit on the couch all day.  Heading for Plan B.  Are you coming with me?

Okay, crisis averted.  Crisis of autistic behaviors.  Crisis of conscience.  Crisis of parenting without my friend to see me though it.

Back to you.  And me.  And us.

Do you remember when nerf balls first appeared and the only thing we ever thought to do with them was stuff a couple under our shirts and pretend to be Dolly Parton?  Here’s you with two:

Everything was funny to us.  There was a shorthand to our humor.  I miss that so much sometimes.  It’s not just anybody’s broken bone boredom that could get me to do this:

Happy Birthday, my beautiful friend.

I love you.

♥♥

You both were there.

Dear Pop,

I went to the Deseret Thrift store today, but you know that, because you did too.

I held the door so you could get through and I paused by a rack of clothes to wait for your wheelchair to come down the ramp.

I tried to focus on a row of housewares, but I couldn’t, because this was our favorite store.  You and me.  Together.

You left when I did, but you didn’t get into my van.  The seat was much too high.  I knew I should have bought something lower for you.

You faded when I paused to wonder why you had a wheelchair in Heaven.

Down the street, the strawberry field was green with mature plants.  Five or six workers bent over them picking the fruit.  The little wooden stand at the edge of the patch was open for business.

I had no cash in my purse, but the sound of my best friend’s voice was yelling in my head.  “Buy the strawberries.”

That’s what she said when I drove her past this field a lifetime ago.  She actually reprimanded me for daring to pass up fresh berries picked from a visible patch.

Today I kept on driving, but she was dancing and spinning there and wishing that I wouldn’t.

A few blocks east, I stopped for a light.  You drew my eye to the fruit stand across the road.  Bags of bright oranges dangled from the low roof.  You urged me to get some, but I kept on going.

I bought some lunch and came home to eat it.

I made a phone call.

I turned on the t.v.

I turned off the t.v.

The house is silent.

Except for the light swish of my best friend’s sleeve as she spins in the strawberry patch.

Except for the crunch of your wheelchair tires on the sand in the fruit stand parking lot.

Those things sound like beautiful faraway music.

I’m going back to get some fruit and hear the notes more clearly.

♥♥

Death?

Uh oh.

Found this on the driveway today, right where husband’s car tires usually go.

Sad.

Seriously.

After watching those two happy lizards sunning themselves in our backyard yesterday, I feel sad when I look at this one.

A nice little life has been snuffed out.

It reminds me that I haven’t ever attempted to teach my son about death.

I’m not even sure when you’re supposed to do that with kids.

I guess it’s important when a pet dies, but our cats always just slow down and then we take them away to say goodbye.

I’m not sure the little boy really even notices that our Burmese cat is gone.  And she was quite a presence in our house.

I know I want my son to understand what it means for something to die.  I just don’t want to scare him.

My best friend passed away when her daughters were four and six.  They got the end of life lesson way too early.

I don’t want my son to worry, but I do want him to have a frame of reference if something unthinkable happens.

Should I show him this lizard and tell him that it died?  Should I try to explain what that means?  Do I even know?

There was a dead squirrel lying on the pavement in front of the door to the school auditorium this afternoon.

It was fresh dead – still bloody, you know?  Probably dropped by a hawk or something a few minutes before I got there.  Lots of hawks out by the school.

When I went to the office to sign out my son, I told the school nurse about the squirrel.

She called the janitor and tried her best to repeat what I had said, but for some reason she had a tough time coughing it up.  She couldn’t say “roadkill.”  She couldn’t even say “blood” comfortably.  And she’s a nurse.  So odd.

I kind of half hoped the janitor wouldn’t get to the squirrel before I got to my son.

I was thinking maybe that little mangled, furry body was a sign that I should teach him about death today, while I’m thinking about it and while this squirrel is conveniently available for my lesson.  But the janitor was quick.  Squirrely was gone when we walked back to the car.

The lizard is still in my driveway though, so what should I do?  Am I thinking about this too much?

I’m good at pondering death.  If you’re a regular reader, you well know my preoccupation with the dearly departed.

I’m open to suggestions on this one though.

How, and when, do any of you recommend telling an autistic child about death?

Comment below to let me know.  Extra credit if it rhymes.  🙂

♥♥

Into The Light

The antibiotics I’m taking make me feel a little bit sick to my stomach.  When you’re in pain, there’s nothing worse than adding nausea to your list of constant delights.

Tomorrow I go to the endodontist for the last time.  After that, the appointments with the regular dentist resume and then I’ll be done with all of this tooth crap.

I hate to take pills, but I know they’re making a difference.  I can see light at the end of the discomfort tunnel.  I’ll be fine.

My best friend was sick to her stomach on chemo.  She hated that feeling, but she did it anyway.

It was difficult.  She stayed positive in the beginning because she thought for a moment that the drugs were saving her.  In hindsight, I see they may have hastened her death.

It pisses me off that she had to go through all of that for nothing.  All I have is a little tooth problem.  The pills make me feel gross, but I get to whine a lot, pop a few and I’m on the mend.  My friend had a ton of chemo and all she got was sicker.  Try as I might, I can’t stop sobbing about that when I’m down for the count myself.

My friend was a trooper.  She certainly cried to me about losing her life and having to leave her kids, but she didn’t complain.  Although she always told me how her body was changing and reacting to treatment, she wasn’t a whiner.  At least not to me.  I guess that’s why it was so easy to feel defensive of her when simple moments turned difficult.

One day, a few months before she died, my friend called to tell me about a jerk in a big pick up truck who had yelled at her for taking too long to make a turn in the supermarket parking lot.  She was shaken by it.

That day the chemo had upset her stomach, impaired her thinking and choked her confidence.  She was just trying to get home and this guy had called her a name.

I wanted to find him and kick him.  He was mean to my friend.  I wanted to kick him and punch him and key his truck.  But I didn’t get to.

Even if she knew where he had gone or who he was, she wouldn’t have told me.  She wouldn’t have let me do any of those things.  She was good and kind and she was dying.  Other stuff was more important.

Another time I went with her to a clothing store.  She got sick in the check-out line and looked at me for reassurance.  I asked what I could do, but she said “nothing” and just pushed herself to get through and out of the store.

I felt helpless watching her shake as she scribbled out her signature.  She wore a pretty black hat over her fuzzy new hair.  She was beautiful and fragile.  She used to be beautiful and hale.

I’ve had a week of physical pain and nausea, easily some of the worst of in my life.  I’ve sobbed myself to sleep and had exhausting nightmares.  I’ve tried not to chew or floss or brush my teeth too vigorously.  I’ve taken Vicodin and struggled to think clearly.  I’ve had to work hard to keep from suffering from the weight of despair.

But I’m here.

I’m here and I can’t stop thinking about my lovely friend.

I wish she were around to say “get over it!”

Why is there a watermelon there?

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Today I noticed a piece of Cap’n Crunch on the floor behind the toilet in our powder room.  My logical mind can understand how it got there.  Probably the cats batted it in.  But my emotional mind got me thinking about all of the things I’ve seen in my life that were blatantly out of place, like the pack of hotdogs in the grape bin at the supermarket yesterday.  Or the drill bits on our china hutch this morning.  Or my tall nephew, looking terribly small in a hospital bed when his appendix burst.  Or my 38-year-old best friend, lying in a casket.

When her daughters were still very young, my friend and I took them to the mall one day.  She left her driver’s license in exchange for a big double stroller shaped like a car.  It was hard to maneuver through the teeny aisles of JC Penney, but we persevered.  Finally the girls grew tired of being confined and insisted on climbing out to walk.  It was difficult to hold hands and packages and sweaters and also control the giant buggy, even with two of us.

When my friend’s youngest daughter grabbed a pretty pump from the women’s shoe department and took off toward the door, we had a rough time catching up with her.  She tore fast on her little legs and was outrunning us both.  The shoe was security tagged.  We knew that the alarm would sound if she took it out of the store, so with one grand and flustered burst of mommy energy, my friend raced forward to stop the potential crime.  In exasperation, she reached her daughter’s hand, plopped the pump on the closest surface and led the girls out into the mall once more.

I remember looking back to see the shoe.  It was sitting on a stack of brightly colored, perfectly folded towels, seemingly miles from its rightful place.   Suddenly, spaghetti sauce in the cereal aisle and cocktail dresses in the menswear made sense to me.  In that moment with the shoe, I understood a lot.

I know my friend got cancer.  I know her body couldn’t handle the chemo very well and that she died from the disease.  She just did.  She died.  That’s the part I can wrap my brain around.  I get the logic of that.  She got sick, they couldn’t cure her, so she died.  Logical.

What I don’t get is why.  Why her?  Why then?  Her girls were tiny.  Our friendship was only halfway through.  What is the deal with that?  I’ve told myself that she has evolved to pure joy.  I believe it, I do, but I sometimes think she would have preferred to stay a while, you know?   August 24 is her birthday.  She would have been 44.  I am 44 without her.

Our friendship had high peaks and deep, vast valleys.  We weren’t always nice to each other and we weren’t always there when the other needed us to be, but in the long run none of that mattered.  We said what we had to say and I’m at peace with how we ended things between us, but I didn’t really expect her to go.  I looked into her eyes and I didn’t expect that…until she actually left.  And then came the pain.  And now I see things out of place and I am reminded that she is not where she should be either.

I don’t make appointments with grief.  I really don’t.  I don’t believe that on a given day I’m supposed to be sad just because of whatever date is on my calendar.  I’ve never bought into that crap, but for some reason this time it is getting to me most unexpectedly.  Her birthday.  Good God.  My best friend died and I feel oddly out of place myself.  I miss her pretty face.  And her laugh.  I really miss her laugh.

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