Confronting grief, again

It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.
– Rose Kennedy, matriarch of the Kennedy family

As I headed into 2014 I had high hopes for and a high level of energy to tackle all the things I was looking forward to accomplishing this year. As the month comes to a close, I find myself bewildered to be in a place of stasis – as in motionlessness. Where did all the energy go and why am I not where I thought I would be?

I have been preoccupied with getting a lot of work-related projects through and worrying about them, and as we all know stress can strip one’s energy. I find myself falling asleep around 8:30 in the evenings, without the benefit of a glass of wine at dinnertime to induce drowsiness. I started feeling exhausted again, which has been driven by other culprits such as a soft bed that needs to be replaced, snoring (not mine, though I will admit to snoring), and a sleek new bike seat that I have finally admitted after two weeks that I cannot get used to what feels like sitting on a brick. It makes sense that when you’re wincing on your bike and making adjustments to save your behind, the rest of your body becomes unbalanced, which results in pain – in my case, the whole lower half of my body feels like it belongs to an 80-year-old woman.

Bailey's last day with us, January 17, 2011.

Bailey’s last day with us, January 17, 2011.

Physical ailments aside, as I walked our dog Rex the other morning, I asked myself why I am feeling so aimless when there is so much to do and see. I started thinking about how in the past weeks I have been more attentive to Rex, who recently turned 13, is going deaf, and is part German Shepherd. For the last few years, I have been watching for his tremulous hind legs to start slipping and dragging, and while I see his hind legs buckle ever so slightly, every great once in a while, he has shown remarkable resiliency, likely because he is walked daily and gets exercise going up and down the stairs multiple times a day. He’s on thyroid meds and eats non-grain dog food. He receives a lot of attention from all family members, goes on car rides when I run errands, which he loves, and happily sleeps for hours on his dog bed in the library, next to my home-office desk.

Still in good shape as Rex goes for a late-afternoon backyard search for squirrels.

Still in good shape with rabbit-soft fur, golden in the late afternoon light: Rex in the backyard, searching for squirrels.

Our dog, Bailey, at age 12, passed away three years ago on the Monday night of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Whenever I dote on Rex, I am reminded of her passing, of not giving the attention she craved, which is one of the reasons I’m mindful of giving Rex a lot of love. In that quiet moment of crossing the street with Rex on his walk the other day, I fessed up to feeling quite sad that she is gone. Three years later!

One of my favorite photos of my mom and Jacob, summer 2000.

One of my favorite photos of my mom and Jacob, summer 2000. Relaxed and contented, she reclined on the sofa, holding her grandson, who rested his little fingers on her chin.

And then I admitted to myself that I have been thinking a lot of my mother, whose second anniversary of leaving us passed on January 3rd. I had scolded myself after that date this year because I didn’t do anything to remember her. I had a head cold and was working that day. I’m sure there was a part of me that didn’t want to remember anything from that early morning two years ago. For some unknown reason, I have found myself these last couple of weeks turning around, stopping what I was doing and listening, staring out the windows, peering over the divide between the kitchen and family room – looking for, I realized, a sign from my mother. Or actually, expecting my mother, for instance, to be sitting on the family room sofa, as if nothing had changed.

Big smiles for birthday milestones of one and 75, June 2001.

Big smiles for birthday milestones of one and 75, June 2001.

I don’t know if every January will be like this for me. I only recently realized what I was doing and what I was feeling. Bereft. Confused. Once I named my feelings and understood the source, the sadness seemed to grow and become a cloak to me. How one throws off that cloak and carefully folds it and puts it in one’s drawer is different for everyone – as it should be.

Now we are two and 76, with my nephew Joshua, June 2002.

Now we are two and 76, with my nephew Joshua, June 2002.

For me, I asked myself: What would my mother want me to be doing? How best can I honor her memory, honor everything that she had done for me? I told myself: Give myself a hug as if she were hugging me. Keep writing. Get that novel out into the world and get going on the second one. The novel is done, but it’s being carefully and lovingly, I might add, read through by my dear friend, Kathy, who has seen every draft of this novel throughout its 16-plus-year life thus far. So once that task is completed, out it goes into the world. And then on to the second novel. For her. For my beautiful mother.

Another Jacob and Lola birthday celebration, June 2005.

Another Jacob and Lola birthday celebration, June 2005, with Joshua and Isabella.

How I want to remember my mom: Vibrant and happy. With Auntie Rose in their traditional costumes for their dance presentation at the San Esteban Circle Labor Day Weekend festivities, 1995.

How I want to remember my mom: Vibrant and happy. With Auntie Rose, on her left, in their traditional Filipino costumes for their dance presentation at the festivities of the 40th anniversary of the San Esteban Circle, Veterans Memorial Building, Terra Bella, CA, Labor Day Weekend, 1995.