Monthly Archives: April 2014

Fruits of Life

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Today is my 10th wedding anniversary and the day when I celebrate the life of my grandmother who sadly passed away on Monday morning. It is comforting that my Grandma was with me as I began my new life as Mrs. Cline on the same date that I now celebrate her life a decade later. My grandmothers life was lived with fierce independence and energy. I looked at her, widowed in her 50’s and took hope and faith in the life she created after my Papa passed away. I too could live a life of honor and enthusiasm and I am blessed that she showed me that lesson. It is one I will have forever and a way that she lives on in me.

Wesley and I talked at length about our 10 year anniversary and how we would celebrate. It was the first real milestone we would come to in our marriage and we imagined it not so far in the distance that we could not feel it just beyond our sight. Wesley died before we reached that date but I still feel as married today as I was a little more than a year ago. He is not with me in the flesh, but he is with me in my heart and spirit. We had agreed that since on our wedding day I had for the most part everything the way I wanted, that for our 10 year anniversary we would have a party. A festive reception that could bring together once more the friends and family who were there on April 24, 2004, and incorporate new friends made in the subsequent decade. Friends from law school, friends from new jobs, new babies born to those we love and Wesley could have it all his way. A caricature of his face from his days as a journalist in college on the cake? Sure. A buffet of his favorite foods? Absolutely. It would be a true and heartfelt celebration of our union. And finally Wesley would get something that had had wanted for a decade.

When we got married Wesley and I disagreed on our formal china pattern; I wanted Lenox Solitaire, he wanted Lenox Fruits of Life. Ultimately, as in most disagreements, I got my way but our secret pact was that for our 10 year anniversary he could finally get the china he wanted. Now most men would not give a damn about that type of thing, but Wesley took enormous pride and care with our home and that included making a home as a couple with OUR things. I agreed that for our 10th anniversary he would have his wish, he would get HIS china. Traditionally the 10th anniversary gift is tin, but we were never one to stick to the rules.

So I have decided each year on our anniversary to buy a piece of the Fruits of Life china pattern. In Julia’s words, as a way “to remember of daddy” This first year I bought a Christmas ornament to put on our tree, to talk with Julia about why I have this precious ivory sphere with beautiful apples and grapes adorning it. Because it was what her Daddy wanted and never lived long enough to have. Ultimately I would like her to have a complete set like we undoubtably would have had if Wesley had lived. It is a legacy and a way of keeping Wesley present for her and for me.

I have felt loss too deeply in the past year, too many people that I love have passed away and it seems my tears will never stop flowing. I feel like a giantess Alice in Wonderland after partaking of the cake bearing the words “Eat me.” I feel my tears will wash me away as they pool at my ankles.

Last night I sat in my uncles house surrounded by family to come together and celebrate my grandmother. I like to think Wesley and my grandmother were with us, drinks in hand, laughing along with us. A decade ago I sat around a kitchen table to talk and laugh on my last night as Katherine Colombo. In what feels like a blink of an eye the little boys who were there at my wedding are now grown men and we have added spouses, children and friends to our life. Today I face my anniversary without Wesley, but not alone. I’m surrounded by love for those seen and unseen and my heart is filled.

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Sibling Revelry

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Wesley celebrating Christmas with his two younger siblings; Katherine marveling at something Paul received in his Easter basket

Last week we celebrated National Sibling Day here in the US and I found Facebook and other social media abuzz with pictures of brothers and sisters, often posed by Christmas trees or blowing out birthday candles…all testaments to sibling closeness captured on film. The matching Santa shirts, Easter dresses and shirts in coordinating hues and standard poses with arms around each others shoulder is as common as the rivalry that often accompanies having a brother or sister.

I’m 5 years older than my brother Paul, whose presence I was not thrilled about upon his birth. So unhappy was I at my “Big Sister” role that I once tried to sell him at a garage sale for the whopping sum of a quarter. You give me a shiny silver coin, I’ll give you a bouncing baby boy. Fair trade, right? And nobody would buy him which I took as a clear sign that he really was not a good addition to our happy family of 3.  Of course after much time and many sibling squabbles, my brother Paul and I are incredibly close. After reaching adulthood I suspect we found a respect for the things that drove us crazy like his stubbornness that serves him well as a determined adult; my goody two shoes tendencies that translate into a thoughtful sister in adulthood. Paul has become protective of me, especially in the past year; his wife is like a sister to me; his children like my own. Paul and Katie are always a ready ear for me to talk, cry or laugh to. I have needed them like I’d never dreamed I would but they are here for me; not only when I am happy and glib, but on the days that I text and say “It’s not a good day” The days when the things I say are accompanied by tears and the only answers found to unanswerable questions are to hug each other very tightly. Paul and Katie were there when I was told that Wesley had passed and in some ways have not yet left my side. That is what families do, that is what siblings do.

Wesley was one of four children and experienced the joys and challenges of simultaneously being a big and little brother. He was fiercely loyal and loving to his brothers and sisters including being convinced that when his parents came home from the hospital with his little brother, Tim, a three year old Wesley was convinced that Tim was HIS baby and I think in many ways never quite gave up on that belief. Tim and Wesley were intensely close, as was Wesley with his two sisters often worrying about their happiness above his own. He wanted nothing more that to know they were all cared for because he cared so much for them. His love was intense and I see it in Julia who loves and shows her love in such strong ways with hugs that knock you down. Wesley was more covert, but he loved his family that way as well.

It is often a fortunate blessing to have a person or people who shared your growing up experience and can intimately understand how we became the people we are now. Also, nobody else can fully appreciate how our parents completely screwed us up. Just kidding, Mom and Dad. But to have someone to share familial moments with is a blessing. Not all sibling relations are warm and not all people to who we construct as our family are related by blood. There is as much value and love in families of origin as there are in “families” that are developed throughout ones life and experiences.

Recently someone said that they do not want to bring others down by discussing Wesley and their sorrow at his loss too much. I found it interesting because I take it as part of having a relationship with me for people to know how I’m doing, REALLY doing, and that is a precursor to friendship. Wesley’s passing and the ways that Julia and I and others are coping is an enormous part of my life and I don’t really know how to sugar coat it. Days are sometimes really good, other days the clouds roll in and getting out of bed takes Herculean effort. But I tell about both days and I’m blessed to have people who want to hear. Or else they are good at faking it. Or I’m too blind to realize they don’t really want to know. I cannot guess. But I still talk because in my talking I find healing.

I mourn terribly the loss of Wesley, but for me that also encompassed the death of other dreams, namely siblings for Julia. Wesley and I very much wanted other children. A little Emerson to be the baby brother to Julia. Dark curly hair that I’d have no clue what to do with and chubby little thighs. Maybe twins, maybe not. We had so many scenarios of domestic bliss in our heads that to face the impossibility of those becoming a reality is hard to face. Others have said that I have many options if I wanted another child but it would not be Wesley’s child as well. I’d be a single mother and that is not what I imagined as I daydreamed with Wesley’s arm around my shoulder lying in bed.

Julia is surrounded by “brothers” and “sisters” who provide her with love and support even though they are not technically her siblings. She has cousins who completely smother her with love and attention and friends who play with her and accept that her Daddy will not pick her up from school or be at her dance recitals. Julia is not strange or odd, just different. I was particularly struck that one of my nephews who is 8 years old rushed to Julia’s aid after Wesley passed away. He knew that the adults would take care of Aunt Katherine, he would take care of Julia. He plays the games she wants to play and reads the books to her she wants to read. He is helping in the way he can, which helps immensely. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to tell him what his love means to me and to Julia. They comfort me. I find that through our experience our “family” grows and I have acquaintances that are now friends and family. An extended family of love and support. At its core isn’t that what a sibling is? Someone who loves you and meets you where you are. Happy Sibling Day to those who share my blood and those who share my heart.

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