with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: grieving

2016: The year that was…sucky…and great…and a good set-up for something better

by SweetMidlife
Keep on rocking in the new year!

Keep on rocking in the new year!

This is Leslie, who does not write nearly as much as she should on this blog. My previous excuse has been that I write full-time as a newspaper columnist so I don’t always want to sit down and write some more, but time is money, and as a single mother I can tell you that making money is worth my time. So even though we don’t really make any money on this labor of love because we don’t write enough, we certainly won’t make any if we don’t write. Synergy and stuff.

So this is why I’m up at 1-ish a.m. on the last day of 2016, briefly writing about how even though this year sucked for so many reasons, it was OK or even transcendent in some cases. Yes, yes, I’m talking about the same year that killed Prince, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds, Glenn Frey and George Michael, among others. (Hide, Betty White!) And then there’s the fact of some major nastiness, racism and ugliness that seems to be bolder about showing itself. It was always there,  but now it’s just braver and not hiding (and if you’re attempting to blame racism on people who note that there is racism, this blog is not for you and you can go now, seriously. Get out of here with that mess.)

But bad and good things happen in every year – 2015 was the year I lost my husband, and 2016 was the year that the adoption of our son became final. So I’m a bigger fan of 2016. I am sure that in all of your lives, there are highs and lows in any 12-month period. I can’t speak for you, but here is a list of the reasons that 2017 might be better than 2016:

1) If 2016 did not kill you, you can make 2017 better.

Yep, that’s it. That’s my list. If you are still breathing, you have the opportunity to find something about 2017 to like. I am not attempting to downplay the very real pain that you may have about politics, or that rise in nastiness and sharp drop in courtesy and civility. It sucks. It’s real. And it might get worse before it gets better. (Again, go hide somewhere, Betty White, until the smoke clears.)

But let me lay something real on you – in 2015 I got the wind kicked out of me. In an instant I was a widow, a single mom, the primary breadwinner and a matriarch. Stuff got real. I was doubled over. And then I crawled to my feet and kept moving. I am not a hero. I am not special. I am not Beyonce. I’m a person who had to keep breathing, broken heart and all. For a while, I was just treading water. But now I’m doing something approximating thriving. It’s not the way I would have defined that before, but I now have some joy. And a new beginning. 2016 was a new beginning for my family – actually, everything that came after my husband’s death in July 2015 was a new beginning. And this year represents another one.

It is another year to fight the injustice we see, to slap down ignorance and buffalo racism, sexism, homophobia and other isms and phobias till they run screaming. It’s another year to lick our wounds, to regroup, It’s another year to hug your babies, to kiss your partner, to fall in love. To love on your mama and your grandma, or, if you don’t have one of those, to hold close whoever you have. It is a year to be better.

Because we are still here. Which is better than the alternative. Happy 2017, guys. It might not be the most awesome new year, but it’s awesome because it’s a new year we have.


Moving house: Or why I hope to never have to leave my new house

by SweetMidlife
Our new living room, mid-box.

Our new living room, mid-box.

To review: Last summer, I (being Leslie) unexpectedly started a new chapter of my life when my lovey-dove Scott passed away unexpectedly. Obviously, that was a world-rocker, but that world refused to stop spinning so I had to start rolling with changes, mostly just continuing to live the life I already had but without my Scotty. Which sucks because it took so long for me to find a good guy in a grab bag of losers, and I only got to keep him 6 1/2 years. That was a lot of work. I’m exhausted.

Meanwhile, there was one change he and I had already planned, which was to leave our lovely South Florida rental home, where we moved in 2013, sometime in the first part of this year. The landlords were looking to sell it and we decided, as much as we loved it, not to buy it because we wanted an extra bathroom. So we’d started just doing random searches – I wanted to stay in the little town we lived in and Scott wanted to move across the canal into West Palm Beach, for school district and prettiness purposes. After he died, and my mom the queen of the universe, moved in with me and the little one I live with, she and I started tentatively looking close by, to check out prices and different areas, but weren’t set on a date…

…Until our landlords decided to sell our house, like, immediately, and at the beginning of February we found ourselves on a ticking moving clock with 30 days and a suddenly short supply of available homes anywhere we wanted to be. Of course. We looked out of our target area, even, and then made an offer on a nice house in the right neighborhood that we didn’t love, but that was better than living in a van down by the river. We had hoped to find a miracle, but were willing just not to be homeless.

“Do houses just show up at the last minute?” we asked our realtor, who shook his head about 24 hours before calling us to say that a lovely place around the corner from he and his family had a brand new “For Rent” sign on the front lawn. Miracles, anyone? The moment we walked in that afternoon, we were in love – high wooden ceilings, a Florida room that’s all windows, and an over-sized master suite for me. Although I did offer it to my mother, of course.

“doyoumaybewannatakethebigroomiwillsleepouttherenexttotheboydontyouworryaboutit” I said, hoping she would pick up on “My goodness I want that room.” She did. I am so glad she did because I super wanted that room.

And now I’m in it, surrounded by more boxes and stuff than I knew I had. The move was a monster nightmare and I am never doing it again.

But I am so happy. I feel weird about not being in this house with Scott, and I would be lying if I didn’t feel a little guilty to know that I am in a much nicer house and that my life and the Kid’s are going on without him. But he would want me to. We can’t live in a van, we couldn’t live in the old house, and we, again, would not fit in a van. It is normal to miss him and wonder what he’d have thought of the place, which is in the school district he wanted and is probably the result of some heavenly maneuvering (OK SCOTT YOU WON.) But it is also normal for happy things to make you happy, and this new place is happy. We are happy. We are not quite complete. But we are happy.

And I hope we can one day buy this house and live here forever because I hate moving and am never doing it again.


Fake it till you make it: Creative widowing, one day at a time

by SweetMidlife

 

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I think you guys know that I (I, being Leslie) lost my husband at the end of July, a phrase that, as I’m writing it, doesn’t make me seize into sobs and hurl the computer across the room, so progress, right? My sister has held down the blogging fort, for real, even though she’s been dealing with her own grief over Scott’s death, cuz her was awesome. So today, for the first time since that horrible stupid thing happened, I’m back blogging. And I promise not to make you cry..

…much.

I am new at this craft I’m having to master involuntarily, because it’s either figure it out or Brian Wilson-ing it in bed for the rest of the year. I’m still working it out, and I got through last week’s challenge of coming back to work. And guess what? It was kinda crappy, mostly because I had to come home and have my husband not be there, and realize that he never is going to be again, but that this is the deal, so I’ve got plug through. I like my job, and also my paycheck, so I’m going back again today, with a made-up face, a smile, and these bits of knowledge I Forrest Gumped my way into:

– Sometimes you have to fake it: The above picture was taken on Friday, which was pretty awful. I actually cried in front of people, which is not a thing I do, and the looming task of going home…again…to start this hamster wheel all over felt like a giant hamster was running the wheel over my head. But you know what? I pulled myself together, wiped my face off, touched up that lipstick and smiled. Always smile. It freaks the hamster out.

– Let people help you: I am bad at accepting help, sometimes taking it as some sort of affront to my strength. This is stupid. I need help, I’m lucky enough to have people who want to help, so I welcome it. Sometimes people are trying to lift you up because you really are sinking, and sometimes because you’re skimming along but they can see the rock ahead better than you can.

– It’s OK to cry. Rosey Grier said so.

I have no doubt that Week 2’s gonna have its own potholes, and I’m gonna run right into them. But I’ll have to dig out of those, too. I can’t get cable in a pothole and “Dancing With The Stars” is on tonight.


Grief and Grace and Gravy

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here, and this rambles a bit.

Palm Beach

It’s been said somewhere that there are lessons in everything if you look for them, and I have been finding that this is true as we grieve Scott, Leslie’s husband and my brother in law. I would rather have learned this lesson some other way and not have had us, especially Leslie,  go through this loss, but I have found something out.

There are people who ask inappropriate questions, and loved ones don’t always see eye to eye about everything. And we are all hurting. And that is what I feel God has whispered in my ear.

That everybody hurts. Everybody grieves. They just do it differently.

Some of them do it by needing to be around people. Some do it by wanting to be alone and not talk to anyone. Some want to help by doing things, like bringing you food, or making you gravy, like our friend Melanie did for Leslie (and it was really good gravy, y’all), or organizing your refrigerator, or taking you to get your nails done. Other people want to watch sad things on television, and others need to watch “Last Comic Standing” on repeat. Some do all of these all in the same day. And that’s the thing. There is no right way to do it. There are probably many wrong ways to do it if they involve making other people feel crappy so that you can feel better. Because that doesn’t really help, and involves more hurt, and as my toddler says, “Dat’s not good. Dat’s not good AT ALL.”

Which leads me back to what God is showing me. He is showing me that even if we are all grieving the same person, we don’t arrive at it from the same place. Maybe you’ve had a lot of loss lately, or maybe you’ve never lost someone close before. Your job might suck, and you had a fight with your boyfriend last night. But here we are all together with a loss, and we might react differently to it.

And there should be grace for that. People have shown us so much grace and kindness and love this past week that I can’t even sum it up. And it’s made me see through to people’s hearts and to stop making their stuff about me, and to really see THEM. It’s made me want to focus on the good things and wonderful people in my life. It’s made me want more than ever to be present in my life and to put my phone down and turn the TV off. I am still not for people who are deliberately out to hurt people. But we all hurt. It’s part of life. And if that hurt makes the good things shine brighter because they contrast so loudly with the pain, then I am going to see the good. It doesn’t make the bad go away. But it makes you remember why you risked opening your heart in a way that lets pain in. Because the happy is worth it.

I told you that it rambled. But that’s where I am. Sadness will come. It sucks. I hate it. But the happy is worth it.


The impending end of “Parenthood,” grief and “appropriateness”

by SweetMidlife

images

This is Leslie, and both my sister and I are dreading the end of our frustrating, exhilarating and ultimately emotionally binding stint as quasi-members of talky-talky fictional Bay area family the Bravermans, of NBC’s “Parenthood” (or as my husband calls it, ‘I just hate those people.’)

I don’t hate the Bravermans, a multi-generational, sometimes too-close band of brothers, sisters, parents, cousins, nieces, uncles, aunts, nephews, aunt’s boyfriends, niece’s rage-happy boyfriends and whatnot. I love them. And I include all of those relationships to point out the complicated and very realistic way in which the scripted family is connected, and how the actions and affections of someone you didn’t even consider yourself all that close to can impact your life, particularly if, like the Bravermans, you’re all up under each other all the time and don’t seem to have enough friends you aren’t related to.

Those sometimes painful but unbreakable ties, as in life, sometimes exhibit themselves in times of stress, as in last Thursday’s episode, when the Bravermans are gathered in what Lynne and I can tell you is the unhappiest place on earth – a hospital waiting room at some Godforsaken hour waiting to hear if your father’s going to live or not. And in that moment of overwhelming fear and dread – their father Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) has probably just had a heart attack – any other emotion that manages to edge its way into the room is welcome, at least for a couple of seconds before the clouds come crashing down when the doors swing open.

So as they’re sitting there, trying not to cry, sister Julia (Erika Christiansen) walks in obviously dressed in the outfit she was wearing the night before (She’s…reacquainting herself with her ex-husband. Without her pants.)  Her sisters and niece rib her about it, which to me seemed not only completely natural – these people are all up in each other’s business, after all, so of course they’d comment – but healthy, because it’s normal to not want to talk about your father possibly dying several hundred feet away.

So normal did it seem that the moment sort of went over my head, until I read the recap on EW.com, which I read faithfully. The writer, Michelle Newman, liked the episode but was bothered by the mid-tragedy jocularity – ” I get that it’s a natural instinct in times like this to try to deflect the enormity of the situation, but the gossipy nature of their conversation seemed inappropriate, no matter how much I wanted to know all the deets,” she writes.

I read that passage over three or four times, and then called my sister and paraphrased it for her. And as good a writer as Newman is, this made us wonder if she’s ever been in that waiting room, if she’s ever lost someone. If she has, and she grieves differently, no judgement. I hope that her method got her through, and that she is doing well. But we wholeheartedly disagree, like, a lot, that appropriateness has anything whatsoever to do with that moment. Not in the thick of things.

Look: An unscheduled walk of shame to focus on is a gift in this situation. Lynne and I are part of the sad Parental Loss club, but since childhood have been going to funerals, sitting vigil in waiting rooms and at bedsides, and, as of the death of my mother-in-law almost five years ago, sitting shiva.

And while I believe that it’s inappropriate to start stuff with your family in a moment of weakness, like, unrelated stuff that could wait, life continues even as Death prepares to ring the doorbell (Lord, I wish you could yell “We aren’t here!” and turn the porch light off until it goes dejectedly back to its car and goes away.) Babies will pee in the pew at the funeral. The florist will mistakenly but beautifully decorate the wreath from your cousin Chick and family “Chicken Family,” and everyone you are related to will laugh so hard that it’s painful, even as the rest of the mourners look at you like you crazy. Your father will miss Gladys Knight’s performance on “Dancing With The Stars” because he’s on his way to dialysis, and even though he needs the dialysis to live, he will grumble about it, because he was only watching this stupid show for Gladys.

Every single one of those things has happened in the past 30 years to us and I can tell you this – You do not stop loving, eating, peeing, laughing or being human in the middle of tragedy. Humanity is a gift in these cases, in those rooms. Humanity keeps you sane, or as sane as you can be kept, because you’re trying to scratch your brain out of your skull trying to keep it from chanting “He’s gonna die. He’s gonna die. Hey, Hoda’s hair looks nice! He’s gonna die.”

The Bravermans are not perfect. I do not understand some of their romantic or parenting choices, or entirely where their money comes from, or how moving from a giant rambling house with land in the expensive Bay area to an expensive big Victorian in a nice neighborhood in San Francisco is considered downsizing. I think, again, that they’d all benefit from having friends they aren’t sleeping with whose last names are not and have never been “Braverman.”

But I understand their passionate devotion, how they have never loved anyone more than each other while considering each the burr under their collective saddles. I understand how hard it is to extricate yourself from your family, even if you wanted to, and how sometimes you get all tossed together like an artisanal cranberry and feta salad, bumping against each other, and don’t even realize how good you go together until the spinning stops.

And I know that in those moments, I would not dare tell someone not to crack on their sister’s presumed previous activities, or their hair, or Hoda’s hair, or what’s on the front of the paper, or whatever worms its way into the room. Because I have been in that room, and know this: The pain that might be coming? THAT IS WHAT IS INAPPROPRIATE. It’s evil. It’s the Devil. It’s inevitable, maybe, but it sucks and it just feels wrong. Pain is interrupting your walk of shame, and Gladys Knight, and life, not the other way around. So if being a little tacky gets you through? You get a pass.


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