Monthly Archives: August 2013

School Days

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This week Julia began her last year of preschool and as I packed her new pink lunchbox with a turkey and cheese sandwich and bottle of apple juice I must admit that my heart was heavy. We love her teachers, one of whom I have known since childhood, but in beginning this next chapter without Wesley I’m ever more aware of the passage of time and his pointed absence. A bright line drawn between what’s behind and what’s before us. Last year Wesley packed the lunches, took Julia to school in the morning and was a true parenting partner. I feel unqualified to be a single parent and to succeed in this daunting task. I fear I might flunk this exam but I’m committed to studying hard for this.
The two pictures above were taken exactly one year apart. I especially smile at the picture from last year and Julia’s shorter than expected haircut. Wesley was insistent that he give Julia her first haircut and we agreed that he could trim it to her shoulders. He sat her on the tall stool in the kitchen, scissors in hand while I fretted and worried behind him. Julia looked straight ahead and sat very still as Wesley made the first cut. He turned to me, smiling proudly and exclaimed, “Look, right at her shoulder!” Then Julia dropped the shoulder that she had scrunched up to her ear without us realizing it and the hair quickly transformed into more of a chin length bob. Not much room between her chin and shoulder any way, and it was especially cute. A bit of a Depression-era waif look.
Julia has grown up so much this year, in the obvious ways of lengthening limbs and expanded vocabulary but in the ways that are not so apparent. She is four, but yet she is not. Her knowledge of mortality is too concrete and in many ways the innocence and bliss that should accompany her chronological age is not as clear as it is to many of her peers. She worries that people we meet for the first time will not know her Daddy is in Heaven and wants to be sure I tell them. I am careful that if someone is sick, that I reiterate that they only have a cough and a sneeze because her Daddy got sick too and is now gone. Phones do not “die” when they lose power, they “need the battery charged.” The list of vocabulary shifts, explanations and reassurances that other children don’t need is endless. But that is our life together. We have changed and are finding our new way.
But over and again I’m drawn to the photographs we have in our home. Wesley was a prolific photographer and had a keen vision through his camera lens to capture the moments missed by many. The quiet conversation between my 95 year old grandmother and her namesake, Julia; my parent’s dog nuzzled against the grandchildren both pet and protector. I mourn that Julia will have moments not captured in such a beautiful way through Wesley’s eye. I mourn that my pictures looks forced compared to his effortless grace and beauty. I mourn that Wesley was often behind the camera, but it makes finding his smiling face in a photo that much more precious now.
In the coming months Julia will write her name with more confidence, she will start to put letters together to form words and the love of reading will take off, I pray and she will continue to add and subtract on her little fingers. I’m sad that Wesley will miss these exciting educational advances, but grateful that together we planted those seeds of learning and love. The love grows…
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Finding the Happy

Today I turn 35 years old. The day where I advance on the chronological clock, the hands of time ticking another click on face of time and I must admit I’ve been melancholy about it in the past few days. I am having a hard time finding the happy in “Happy Birthday” right now and instead have felt like it is the cruel trick of time that I will age while Wesley will not. It just seems terribly unfair.

Time marches on and in many ways I want to grab it and just hold it tightly in my fist because as each day passes I’m acutely more aware of my loss and that is a hard fact to wake up to each morning. But the sun rises, I make oatmeal, I work, I sleep. In the quiet moments when I think of my future and growing a year older I simply want Wesley beside me blowing out my candles and teasing me that I can officially not claim to be in my “early 30’s” any longer.

I am trying to find the joy in the day because honestly it is not all about me and my feelings. Julia is exceptionally excited about my birthday and planning the party tonight at my parents house. I suspect she is giving me a baby doll for my gift because as she reasons, “We live together so we can share our presents with each other” which strikes me as solid logic! I have friends and family who have been unbelievably loving, supportive and there for me in the times I want to talk about my feelings of loss and hurt and when I just want to drink a glass of red wine and eat brie in the backyard while we watch our children blissfully play. I’m immensely grateful for those friends who have not stopped calling even though I might not be up to talking or returning phone calls at the moment, they keep patiently knocking at the door knowing I will eventually answer. For those of us who loved Wesley and miss him terribly and are willing to talk and laugh about the man we loved so well. I am thankful for all of those people and tonight I am finding the people who are surrounding me as I grow another year older are even more precious.

So tonight I will have a birthday party with some of those that I love at my parent’s home. There will be fried shrimp from Coosh’s, children playing loudly and splashing wildly in my parent’s pool and birthday cake from Tasty Pastry. It will be a party Wesley would have loved and he hopefully is looking at us and enjoying it from afar. I know he is wishing me a Happy Birthday and smiling as I blow out candles for another year.

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Birthday plate that I have eaten cake off of since my first birthday. Mom takes good care of her china!

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Life Unimagined

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Not quite a preteen yet, but still a young sun kissed Katherine

Over coffee last week I was talking with a friend about the joyous summer days that made up my sunny summer as a child and pre-teen. Long languid afternoons that were structured by riding my turquoise Huffy bike, white streamers flying down the “huge” hill by the neighborhood pool, lobbing tennis balls back and forth over a worn net with my friend Lindsay while talking about who reigned supreme, Debbie Gibson or Tiffany. Debbie did have Electric Youth cologne that I bought at Eckards Drugstore and wore religiously so I’m fairly certain she had my vote. And the pool. Oh the pool, which had the constant overpowering smell of chlorine and Coppertone Dry Oil that we liberally smeared on our young skin. The lower the SPF the better as our goal was to get as tan as possible as quickly as possible. I also applied that same brilliant logic to using lemon juice to lighten my brown hair, using bottles of pure lemon juice or Sun-In. I had orange hair as a result which was lovely. These were days that stretched for a full 24 hours with as much activity and motion as could be squeezed into the time where the light shone.

At that age I could not imagine my life as an adult. I would bitterly complain of unfairness when my parents asked, or rather demanded for me to do some mundane chore such as room cleaning, floor sweeping or some other activity I thought a waste of valuable time. MY valuable time. I huffily thought, “When I’m an adult I can do as I want and be my own boss.” My childish idea of adulthood was mostly a life where you could eat Little Debbie snack cakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner; you could stay up as late as you wanted reading books without anyone telling you to turn off the light and GO TO BED; and you had control over your own life. It was a hazy vision and I waited for that glorious day.

Of course adulthood is not like that. It is a life for me filled with looking at Little Debbie cakes and gagging at the amount of preservatives, working at night on my laptop after Julia goes to bed and wishing that I could read just ONE chapter of the novel it has taken me months to read and feeling in control is the last word I would use for my life as an adult, especially now. I wait eagerly now for the rare day where I can swim in a pool and have not held a tennis racket or ridden a bike in ages. That feeling of freedom, wind that smells of fresh cut grass rushing past me as I speed down a hill, legs pumping my bike are a memory.

I think my experience with widowhood is similar. I have been torn lately between feeling like my life before Wesley died was frivolous and silly and fretting that it is unfair and a disservice to our life together to feel like the moments that filled our lives were anything but important to us. My mind used to be filled with what now seem such trivial concerns and pettiness over whose turn it was to unload the dishwasher or finger pointing over if TomTom was giving us the right directions on a road trip but that was my life. Our life. A shared love that was filled with funny inside jokes, made up names for people and animals that span over a decade with a story behind each one that are precious to only us and the nagging and picking at one another that craft the fabric that made our live together. But that life and the now seemingly minute details of it are memories.

Much as I could not imagine adult life as a child, I could not have imagined widowhood because it was never in my mind before March 30th. A flitting thought like a bird landing and lighting off of my consciousness, but never something that I devoted much thought because it was unimaginable. We would grow old because that is what generations before us did. There was no thought given to any other future than the one we dreamed of. This reality is not what I imagined, but it is what I’ve got. And the memories are what sustain and allow me to smile at a life that now seems distant and far away, like those dreams and illusions of my childhood days. Perhaps it was. Maybe in this experience I have finally grown up.

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