Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Untitled

If you compare our lives to how they were a little more than a year ago, there is so much that is different. Nearly unrecognizable, even though our faces and our clothes and cars are the same. You could be saying, "No Shit, Sherlock, your son is gone. Of course everything is different!" and that would be true. But I guess I just did not know what to expect, so I am continually surprised.

You know those annoying books, "What to Expect When You're Expecting"? Even if I'd read about all the potential changes we could experience with grief, I don't think I'd have been able to process the information. At the time of Jack's accident, the smaller changes, or collateral losses, wouldn't have mattered to me anyway. The only thing that mattered was not knowing what his last seconds were like. Not being there to hold him when he died. Never snuggling with him again. Okay, maybe there are a lot of "only things."

In general, I'm not all that comfortable with change. It doesn't energize or excite me. If my steady-Eddie personality hasn't sunk in with you by now, let me give you a few illustrations. I'm 43 and live in my hometown. When I finished grad school I returned to teach 10th grade in my old 10th grade English classroom. I attend the church where I was baptized and confirmed. Jack played with the same Fisher Price toys in the church nursery that I did.

I wanted to buy back my family home someday so I could raise my kids there. I even wrote a letter to the new owners asking them to please contact me if they would be willing to sell.  I wanted my kids to climb the tall trees dubbed "The Titanic" and "The 3-Double Tree" in the back yard and bury their goldfish in the "pet cemetery" by the fence. They could pick tiny wild violets out of the grass and bring them to me as a gift and suck that one sweet drop of honey off of each honeysuckle blossom in the side yard. I wanted them to walk to school across the street, and go to the pool down the block, hiding their snack money under the folded corner of their towels.

I guess you could say I like to bloom where I'm planted and my roots run deep. It gives me pleasure to be the steady one. The one with institutional knowledge. The one to make people feel comfortable and safe.

Ha.

On the surface, many things do still look the same around here. I still wear my blue fleece bathrobe and penguin pj's from the thrift store--  the banana clip in my hair predating my 1991 college graduation. I still come up empty when I need lunch packing ideas in the mornings and dinner every single relentless night. Margaret still sits in "her" seat in the car. Shadow ignores my commands. We arrive bickering at 9:45 for the 9:30 church service. We still eat ice cream every night.

But our friendships have changed. Some friends have retreated in their own pain, while others have drawn closer to us. It is often hard to be in groups because loss hangs heavy over us. We no longer dwell in the world of both boys and girls. We feel like misfits.We do not have a middle school child, about to head to high school. When talk turns to dating and Algebra and droves of kids loitering at Chipotle or walking into town, our heart stings, and we come up empty.

We drive through town, and there are more changes to see.

The independent toy store closes. Then the pet shop where I used to take the kids to see the tropical fish. We hear our favorite Mexican restaurant might be next. We fiddle with our iPhones at stoplights, unable to sit with the silence and boredom that would have seemed normal just 2 or 3 years ago.

I think of the elderly, and all the change they have seen in their lifetimes. So much change; so much loss. I am amazed at their resilience. What about my grandparents who have seen so much change at such dizzying speed? How do they do it? How do they adapt and keep moving forward?

Because I'm tired of adapting. I don't want a damn thing to change ever again.

Or maybe I don't really care, because for all the changes we are going through, and for how frustrating they are, change might piss me off, but it certainly doesn't scare me anymore. I think I would be unfazed if you told me we were moving to Jakarta next week. Or that we'd been selected to colonize the moon.

Whereas in years past I would consider losing a friendship, changing churches, switching jobs, or moving away from my hometown to be tragic and terrifying, driving me to obsessive rumination, I think now they would just leave me saying....meh.

As my sister said this summer, upon learning she and her family would be moving on very short notice, leaving a town town they loved, "Anna, I used to think moving would be the end of the world. We've seen the end of the world, and this ain't it."

70 comments:

the mama bird diaries said...

Always thinking and praying for you. xo

lostandforgotten said...

I can't begin to say that I know what you mean. I think I know what you mean. I have an idea of what the shallow end looks like. When you feel like you've lost everything and so change becomes easy because everything is so upside down already. And sometimes change feels like running away, and you just want to run. I have never been one to sit still though.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

You never cease to surprise me with your excellent posts. This one is amazing Anna. Your book can't come soon enough for me! When I went through my divorce 30 years ago it was painful. I was broken. When I finally started living again I knew at that time that I could face anything in my life except the loss of a child.
Here you are living through the loss of your son Jack and it breaks my heart. I know pain, I don't know your pain. Thank you for sharing your heart here for us to get inside your thoughts. I really do care for you and please know that I am always praying for you. ((HUGS))

Sybil said...

Perspective. Thank you.

Sharmaine said...

Hi Anna,

I just wanted to say that you are very talented in expressing all of the changes - no matter how unwelcome. I hope you find these posts as therapeutic as we do. Thank you for gifting us with your words. Your blog posts are always very inspiring to me, from appreciating little wonders to not letting fear make my decisions. I will definitely get your book when it comes out.

Best wishes,
Sharmaine from Sydney, Australia

Anonymous said...

Margaret still in "her" seat. Oh, my goodness...

It makes sense that this post is "Untitled," because you've been through so much, and you're still going through so much.

God bless you.

Nomads By Nature said...

Rock your world change is so hard, but it does but a lot into perspective. Love that you still use a banana clip (I thought I was the only one) and that you know the expression, "No Shit, Sherlock." I thought it was a midwest expression only, up there along with "S/he's got a corn cob stuck up their ass". You made me smile again, through the tears that still come when I think about you and your family and your loss. Sending virtual hugs to you as you all navigate this new reality. Wishing, like so many, that I could do something more.

MicheleW said...

Anna, your posts continue to simultaneously bring me to tears, make me think deeply and examine myself, and fill me with hope about life and humanity. Thank you. I think of you, Tim, and Margaret every day. XoXo

Fiona, LilyfieldLife said...

oh Anna - this post has made me really cry tears falling down my face; not just for you and your family losing Jack but for all the families the world over who have lost their beloved children. I don't even have words to comfort you but please know that my heart goes out to you, Tim and Margaret.
Fiona xx

helpforhealing said...

You're my hero.

I have been trying to blog for a few months now. I lost my husband in October of 2010, and now I'm attempting to write a book about the experience.

Losing a child? Can't fathom it. I know its the top of the stress scales. But we can only try to understand. You can't fully unless you've been through it. And even then things are still individual to your own situation.

Thanks for your honesty, for just saying what it is that is inside. And thanks for your courage- been willing to share it. With your out loud voice. You inspire me to keep greiving and keep writing about it.

I appreciate you!!

Japolina said...

All of your writing is paying off. This is a great post. xoxo

Kara said...

Your post has wrecked me this morning. Still, I am grateful you share. I often wonder how you can stay in the same house, the same town; but then how could you leave? I am so glad you are writing a book. Your gift of authentically sharing is a balm in this confusing, wonderful world.

Suburban Correspondent said...

It's painful to think of the world moving on and changing without Jack in it. As if it is erasing your memories with him step by step...

Right now you are still lingering in the room of your grief; you have no choice. At some point, I promise you, it will be as if you finally stepped through some door and closed it shut behind you. Some weird sort of acceptance of the status quo occurs in your psyche and allows you to truly move on. Even when you don't want to...

Lisa said...

Thinking of you, Tim and Maragret. Loving you every day.

Lisa C said...

Your perspective and your strength never fail to inspire me. I've looked closer at my joys and glossed more over the petty things in my life.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post. You *so* have a book to write. Love from Long Island.

Princess Kate said...

I have no idea the pain that surrounds you or the unwanted change that continually lingers. I remember when my dad passed away, I wished so hard that just for a minute the world would STOP so I could grieve. But it didn't. It kept moving forward and frankly it pissed me off at the time. Now I see that it needed to move forward and I needed to move forward with it.

My beautiful blue Jack ribbon is still wrapped around our tree in the front yard (that won't change) and when I walk the children to school in the morning, I say a little prayer and remember. I hope you guys can feel that.

Always remembering. Stay strong Anna & Co.

Stimey said...

Love you.

Lady Jennie said...

I feel very sad.

I love you.

faithc said...

If there ever was a testament to "living in the moment", it is in your writing. I pray for peace for you.

Anonymous said...

I'm about to uproot my family deliberately - moving overseas. Anna, as much as you hate change, your writing helps me understand ways to respond to it, and, maybe oddly, gives me hope we can weather this change we're walking into. Love, your cousin Emily

Meredith Self said...

Thank you for helping make walking through change easier....and walking through the present more full.

LOVE.

DawnGes said...

LOVE and PRAYERS, Anna. Profound words to ponder...

mollysmith222 said...

I didn't know you grew up here, so did I. I live in the same neighborhood but not house we lived in when I was a kid. My kids go to the same school that I did. I love our town Anna. I see so many blue magnets in honor of Jack on cars and see the ribbons on your road, and think of how loved you are and how this whole town that knows your story, grieves with you. Still. I also think "I don't know how she gets up in the morning" I know that isn't the best thing to say and obviously you have to get up and carry on with your life and be there for Margaret. I don't know your pain and hope I never do, but you are amazing. I don't have anything comforting to say but I will say, thank you for sharing. You are amazing and I know your Jack is so proud of you as you are of him. I think of you daily in our town. XO

Theresa O said...

I remember when I lost a close friend of mine in my 20's .... I was so saddened by his death - and pissed off at the world because everyone went on like nothing happened...as I drove the streets past where he use to live, hoping he would still be there - I got pissed at all the people walking around, frolicking outside, like nothing had happened. My life had completely changed - their lives had not. I went through the same thing when my grandparents passed. What I would give to have them back. Change sucks. And the change you experienced is one that a parents should NEVER EVER have to go through...And although words of friends, family can't take away this pain, we do feel it. Not like you, but we feel it...and we pray for you continously... I can't look at Zach without thinking of Jack. He is small, 51 inches, weighs 62 lbs. Age 11. He is wearing his hair flipped up in the front and reminds me of Jack's hair :) I hug him and I hug him EXTRA long for you and Jack. Praying for strength for you dear Anna.

Mediterrangirl said...

My heart aches for you and your family Anna! Words fail me but please know that I think of you every day. I also live in Vienna and see signs of Jack everywhere I go. Thanks for sharing through your beautiful writing. You are an inspiration!

Kimberley said...

Anna, your posts are heartwrenchingly beautiful. You always put things into perspective for me. Always. I am just so sorry that it took something so horrific to make you write these beautiful posts for us and you. Cling to the things that will not change. Love. Love is always the same. Huge hug from Purcellville.

Anonymous said...

You are wonderful. Of course, that may be because I think you are so much like me:).

Your description of yourself is uncanny. I am 42 and live very close to the NoVa neighborhood where I grew up. Everything you write resonates deeply with me. My pajamas are Paul Frank monkey ones, not penguins though. I work from home so I often am in wooly socks and flannel pj bottoms. I am the one with a 'younger Jack' that sounds so much like your Jack.

Finding your blog has moved me so much. Your writing is superb. I think about you and your family very often. I notice the 'Blue Jays' and the signs everywhere. I'll admit-sometimes coming here scares me. Like you have written you are 'living my worst nightmare'. It does give me profound hope and comfort though. It also has forced me to live in the moment more with my own kids.

I am not usually a 'commenter' on blogs. However, I can't help myself when I come here. I sincerely wish you all the best and you have made it so I feel like I know your Jack. Hugs- NoVa mom Jen

Anonymous said...

Yes. Just yes.

Skye Harmony said...

Oh, this post was achingly beautiful. Especially the lost dream of your kids growing up in your childhood home. I'm sorry all the changes in town remind you of how Jack isn't here. I didn't know the toy store closed. That's so sad, I used to go there when I was little! (I am local.) Sending your family much love!

Mariann alicea said...

Dearest Anna,

Yes. That's it.

I wish you never had to carry such wisdom.

Love and prayers, Mariann Alicea

Sara said...

It's so true, all of it, the hating change and the realization that when you've seen the end of the world, not too much else can compare. It's surreal to me that since my younger sister died in an accident at age 28, I've given birth to two children,changed jobs, moved... so much change, and yet I feel like that horrible day when we lost her just happened yesterday. People wonder how one "can go on" and my answer is that we have no other choice. Peace and blessings.

A Speckled Trout said...

You write so pure of heart.

All that change, but the loss of friends who cannot face your reality made me especially sad.

You have many friends here, and though it's not the same, we will stay beside you and go wherever you take us.

Anonymous said...

If the Mexican place goes, I will be totally bummed. And your sister is moving? The one with the house that we saw? Jack's special cousin--that sister? I don't like this, not any of it, not one little bit. Unless she is moving closer to you, that is.

jbhat

Amanda said...

Are you talking about the Purple Pet Store? They didn't close down, they just moved to Leesburg! It brought me such joy seeing the pet store I grew up with as I drove through town a few weeks ago. It's still called Vienna Aquarium and Pets, too! You can come visit the tropical fish here! And stop for tea anytime at my house!

The Empress said...

Yes.

How life changes us, how we don't even recognize who we once were.

So very true.

I love you, ANna.

xo

ashley said...

Again, Anna, beautiful and poignant post. I shared it with my husband so that we could both just stop for a minute and be thankful. Like many of my fellow readers, I feel as if you and I are kindred spirits. I returned to my hometown after 15 years away. My children were baptized in the church I was baptized in, and when my parents talk of selling our childhood home (which they've been doing!), I get a pit in my stomach. Keep writing, Anna. You (and Jack and Margaret and Tim) are touching so many people.

~Ashley in Louisiana

OSMA said...

the new perspective grief brings is such a double edged sword. What seemed so awful before losing Jack pales in comparison now. I never even met Jack but so many things pale is comparison now that my heart is on your team. I ache along with so many others who read about all the "after" changes and can only offer one thing. The fact that you have experienced the end of the world might now give you the cojones (nice, right?) to do things that would've seemed major before. Bravery is super shitty consolation prize but it might serve as a good place to throw pain when your body cannot possibly store another ounce. Throw it, kick it, write it, say it, send it forward. In the direction you are meant to go. Toward Jack. xoxoxo

SheriJane said...

i had some of these same thoughts, about the changes and loss that elderly have seen in their lives a few Sundays ago in church.... I was sitting in the very back, of a room full of women of all ages, but mostly elderly. I don't know these women real well, but yet have known of most of them all my life. I just started thinking about hard things that life had thrown at these women, and I thought of something for almost EVERY SINGLE WOMAN sitting in that room, then I just got to wondering what life has in store for this 30 year old....guess there's a reason this life is a 'test', so that we will have a chance to really prove ourselves not only when times are easy, but when they are so very VERY hard! hugs to you today!!

SheriJane said...

i had some of these same thoughts, about the changes and loss that elderly have seen in their lives a few Sundays ago in church.... I was sitting in the very back, of a room full of women of all ages, but mostly elderly. I don't know these women real well, but yet have known of most of them all my life. I just started thinking about hard things that life had thrown at these women, and I thought of something for almost EVERY SINGLE WOMAN sitting in that room, then I just got to wondering what life has in store for this 30 year old....guess there's a reason this life is a 'test', so that we will have a chance to really prove ourselves not only when times are easy, but when they are so very VERY hard! hugs to you today!!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

Ah - another thing we have in common. I don't like change either. I'm not going anywhere anytime soon - so that's one thing that won't change!

Jenny said...

I feel this as well. After losing my daughter a year ago, everything else seems like small stuff. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. From a fellow nova mom.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry for all the losses mentioned in the coments, whether of a very young daughter, spouse or sibling....

K-Mom said...

"The only thing that mattered was not knowing what his last seconds were like. Not being there to hold him when he died."

Anna, I know this feeling, not from the loss of a child, but when I lost my mom. I just couldn't get over the "she was alone and likely scared, I don't know exactly what she went through, and I couldn't hold her" I took care of her for the last 3 years of her life, much like a child. Still not the same, but I know that feeling. When I expressed this nagging concern about the above, one of my good friends asked me how I could be so morbid to even think of such things, and eventually we drifted apart. Eventually, these thoughts became less prominent, but they are still there and probably always will be - my own guilt over not being there with her or the ability to do anything to save her will never completely go away. Then a very special friend explained it this way - "You weren't there because you weren't supposed to be there. You couldn't have changed the outcome and you needed to be spared those details." It helped - a little... Wishing you, Tim and Margaret peace and comfort every day.

Jamie said...

yes, yes, yes and yes! absolutely

Anonymous said...

"If you want to make GOD LAUGH, make plans,"

is what I was told after experiencing a series of sudden deaths, including that of my father at a young age. My plans of him walking me down the aisle on my future wedding day was just not in the cards. It reminded me that God has the ultimate master plan and being comfortable and afraid of change is NOT one of them.

"God's ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development." Rick Warren

Stay strong.

Anonymous said...

I, too, dislike change Anna but am beginning to be more accepting. I think that life moves too fast these days and we just want things to slow down or be as they were. This would be even more true if we've lost a loved one. What we would give if we could turn back the time...
I feel some comfort though when I listen to music that I grew up with in the 80's or watch an old movie. Catching up with old friends does the same. In this way I know that things have changed and to some extent I have too through life experiences but at the same time life is also still the same.
Always thinking of you Anna...

Anonymous said...

Anna, this should be a chapter in your book. Beautiful post, well written, and very deeply touching and thought provoking.

Praying for you guys always! xoxo Jen

Marissa said...

I am in your if things are fine why should we change camp, even though on the surface I appear to be one of those people who loves change (moves to new states, going back to school more than once, etc). Why fix something that isn't broken?
I say a prayer daily for you and your family--you are stronger than I ever could be in your shoes, and I look forward to reading your book.

E. said...

You think about these things at a very high level -- and yet you never fail to leave out the all-important visceral details, the tangible stuff. Your book is going to be great. Can I recommend a book ABOUT writing of memoir that I think you would love and greatly benefit from?
Tell Me True: Memoir, History, and Writing a Life Edited by Patricia Hampl and Elaine Tyler May.

the ::packs:: said...

Love this post. Hate that you are going through this. xoxo

PeachPrenni said...

Anna,
I am a creature of habit too. I don't like change--never have. It makes me anxious! But you're right--I can imagine that change doesn't feel so scary when you've lost a child. What bigger "change" could one face? You still inspire and amaze me every day. You make me get out of bed in the morning and face the world. Thank you for all that you share and all that you are!
Love you,
Annie

Em said...

I've been reading here for awhile...I totally get what you mean about everything else being, well...meh.

Nothing compares to the loss of our precious children.

I also want to add that I've often looked into Jack's face and his beautiful brown eyes. He looks so much like my oldest son, Samuel. Samuel is just 6 now but I can see him looking just like Jack as he grows. Samuel also loves Lego.

I'm only mentioning that because I know how much it means to me when someone has a personal,special connection to my daughter. Whatever that may look like.

Anonymous said...

Oh Anna.

We all need perspective don't we? But I feel so choked at what you've been through, what you've lost to acquire it...

I'm so sorry for your terrible loss and so sorry that constant change around you is not giving you a break.

You deserve peace.

Wishing you all the best, with all my power.

Love
K x

chris from midwest cottage and finds said...

Anna-two weeks ago my adult daughter and i just wanted to get away for a day and decided to visit a mall by chicago...as we walked in we saw a huge lego store and i went numb...i wanted to burst into tears...and actually did tear up thinking about your family and jack...my daughter asked which direction we should go and i did not hesitate--away from the lego store..as our shopping trip was winding down and we were heading out my granddaughter saw the lego store and asked to go in....it was hard for me and i decided to not try to explain to my daughter--so the 3 of us ventured in...the busy children running from display to display made me sad...i kept thinking this is where jack SHOULD be...and as i was walking out a parent was calling to her children--kevin and jack-there was a JACK in the store....she said -- it is time to go--i am in a hurry and have alot to do..come on..yes---there was a jack in the store--and his mother said his name...it was in a hurried-almost i am tired of this way----...and i thought how unfair...she needs to stop and look at her jack running from lego display to lego display...and realize how lucky she is to be able to call out his name.....and have him there to respond....it made me very sad....and when my daughter told my granddaughter come let's get going--we have a long drive--i said--give her a few more minutes....lets watch her enjoy this a bit longer....even though her name is not jack--i need to take my own advice and be happy I am there to see my granddaughter run from display to display...and for that i have to thank jack--your jack....thinking of you and your family so often....and i am so, so sorry for what you are going through...
chris

Catherine said...

Wow Anna. I've been reading your blog for a year and never responded to a post, but this one really pushed me to hit that comment button. Beautiful, touching, and brutally honest. Can't wait for that book. Smiling through the tears, as I so often am after reading your words.

Catherine said...

Wow Anna. I've been reading your blog for a year and never responded to a post, but this one really pushed me to hit that comment button. Beautiful, touching, and brutally honest. Can't wait for that book. Smiling through the tears, as I so often am after reading your words.

Catherine said...

Wow Anna. I've been reading your blog for a year and never responded to a post, but this one really pushed me to hit that comment button. Beautiful, touching, and brutally honest. Can't wait for that book. Smiling through the tears, as I so often am after reading your words.

Catherine said...

Wow Anna. I've been reading your blog for a year and never responded to a post, but this one really pushed me to hit that comment button. Beautiful, touching, and brutally honest. Can't wait for that book. Smiling through the tears, as I so often am after reading your words.

anymommy said...

You have seen the end of the world. I've learned through you what it looks like and I try to remember it when the little things hit too hard.

Leslie said...

PRAYING PRAYING PRAYING. I really mean it when I type it.

Leslie said...

PRAYING PRAYING PRAYING. I really mean it when I type it.

mosey (kim) said...

Somehow on my very random swings around the blogging universe, on my stops here I find you have written something that connects us in some way. I too am resistant to change. That said, I live on the other side of the continent from my family and married a man who likes to shake me up with requests to sleep on the other side of the bed or switch places at the kitchen table from time to time. It's very disconcerting.

Also? Just because my visits here are few and far between, you are never far from my thoughts. I hope we get to share a glass of wine at some point. xx

Julie said...

I needed to read this tonight to put everything into perspective. Thank you.

Kirsten said...

I once broke up with a man I loved dearly because he wanted to move to a different state and I could not imagine leaving my home town.

Thinking of you and wishing you peace, as always.

Pam said...

I just discovered your blog. You are a beautiful writer. My heart goes out to you.

Headless Mom said...

I can't imagine what you're going through. I've heard that 'it' comes in waves but watching it in you is heartbreaking. You are so special to so many of us. I'd love to be able to give you a hug and a glass of wine and just sit with you. Please, please know that I'm here for you. Any time. Across all of these miles, know that my heart aches for you and Tim and Margaret.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean.
Love, Sherry's mom

Stumbling Towards Perfect said...

I hate that I now understand "meh."

Courtney {a thoughtful place} said...

First of all congrats on the book. So proud of you. I am all about pushing yourself and that is really significant. Loved this post. I don't embrace change. . .but it does not phase me like it used to. I thought losing my brother would be big enough but the toll it's taken on my parents has ripped our family to pieces. They lost a son. I am losing a mom. You help me to see things through their eyes. It is different, I know. But I always gain new perspective from your posts. Thank you.