Well, it’s Wednesday so it’s time to add to our collaborative community story.
We’re following a flashback of our main character, Samantha. The story thus far is on the blog under “Story.”
Here’s where we left off.
I started crying whenever anything triggered a memory … and almost everything did …
I picked up the kids in mid-August.
When I got to Mom and Dad’s house, Mom greeted me with, “Samantha, you look like shit!” Thanks, Mom. I feel like shit, but I was hoping for a better greeting than that.
JR and Kate-D ran up to me with a big “Mommy” and a hug. That was better.
When Dad got home from work, he cradled me in his arms like he used to do when I was a little girl. “Love you, Pumpkin,” he whispered, causing my eyes to flood … and his too.
When I went to Mom Watt’s home, she greeted me warmly and started to lecture me over tea about taking care of myself. I love my mother-in-law, but all I heard was “Blah blah blah blah blah de blah.”
I went to lunch with Bernie and Lynn and the two of them tried so desperately to get me to go down to the shore over the weekend “just like we used to do.” I declined. “There’s too many memories,” I told them. I don’t think they understood but they respected my decision although Bernie stopped by Mom and Dad’s a couple of times. She sure has been a good, close, let’s talk over coffee type friend for so many years.
I only stayed for a couple of days before we headed home. The kids had to get ready for school. It was a quiet ride home, none of us really talking or playing license plate bingo or I spy like we generally did on car rides.
I don’t know why I rushed home. It wasn’t a home anymore, just bricks and mortar, wood and nails, a house. Even the normal commotion of two young kids couldn’t penetrate the eerie silence within the walls.
I still wasn’t sleeping well and I know we weren’t eating right. It wasn’t unusual for either JR or Kate-D to find me crying. I still couldn’t watch television at night and wasn’t focused enough to even read. So I would just pace or putter around the house or sit there in a darkened living room doing nothing … nothing, which would get me to thinking about Chad and all we did and all we planned to do, which drove me deeper into my despair.
That all changed on Sept. 12 — three months to the day after Chad died.
The night before was like so many others. For whatever reason, instead of my pajamas, I had on one of Chad’s old shirts — I just couldn’t get rid of them. I couldn’t sleep. After tossing and turning for hours, I made my way to the couch and curled up in the fetal position, covered by the Cincinnati Bengals blanket that usually was on the back of Chad’s recliner.
I must have actually dozed off, and in that suspended state, I heard JR telling Kate-D to be quiet. Without opening my eyes, I could hear him pouring cereal for his sister in the kitchen. She asked who was going to brush her hair. He told her he would do it and I could hear a muffled “Ow” followed by a whispered “I’m sorry!” as he apparently discovered a knot. Kate-D said just as quietly, “That’s okay.” They came over by me and blew me kisses as they headed for the door, but I was incapable of responding. I tried, but my eyes and mouth and body remained motionless.
I was in that same fetal position when they came home. I didn’t hear them come in, but felt JR gently stroking my arm. “Mom? Mom? Are you okay?” he said quietly but with a tinge of fear in his voice. As I finally opened my eyes, I saw Kate-D standing next to him with tears streaming from her eyes. “Mom?” he asked again as I managed to pull my arm from under the blanket. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, sweetie, I’m okay,” I said.
“You scared us Mommy,” he said, with Kate-D parroting him, “You scared us Mommy. We thought we lost you too.”
That woke me up. I gathered them up like a mother hen with her chicks under her wing. “I’m okay. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you,” I assured them.
With JR hugging me from my left and Kate-D from my right and me embracing both of them in a group hug, all I could say was “I love you. I love you” as I kissed each of them on their head. I could have lived in that moment forever.
“Give me a couple of minutes to get dressed,” I told them, “then we’ll go out for dinner. Where do you want to go?”
Without hesitation and with gigantic smiles on their faces, they said “IHOP!” Kate-D added, “Yeah, IHOP. Can I have pancakes?” she asked. When I said “Sure,” Kate-D responded, “Yeah! Just like when we go with Da…”
She stopped in mid-word, realizing what she was about to say. JR turned with a stern “Kate!”
“It’s okay,” I said. “Yeah, just like when we went with Daddy. Give me a couple minutes to get dressed and we’ll go to IHOP … just like the old days.”
That’s what we did. Breakfast for dinner. Over the pancakes and sausage, I realized how I failed to let the kids talk about how they were feeling about Chad’s death. I was so wrapped up in me, I forgot about them and their hurt and their grief. We talked about the happy times with Chad. “Remember when …” was a preface to a story each of them shared.
When we got home, we gathered around the table and talked some more. When it started getting too melancholic, I packed them up and we walked down the street for some ice cream. We got home and I told them to get into their PJs and brush their teeth. I had another surprise for them. As they were getting ready for bed, I got into my pajamas as well. When they came to kiss me goodnight, I told them we were sleeping together in my bed. “We can talk about Daddy, about how you’re feeling, about school, about anything you want,” I told them. “Tonight is for you. Okay?”
They loved the idea. They snuggled with me — it felt good — and we shared our feelings. There were plenty of tears, but there was plenty of laughter. I got a front row seat into what they were going through … and how I contributed to their angst. It wasn’t always pretty. For the first time in three months, they had an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings.
We talked for hours. Kate-D gave in first, falling asleep around 11. JR hung on for another hour or so. And despite knees in my back and an arm slung over my face, it was the best night’s sleep I had had in months…
There you go, readers. What’s next?
All you have to do is put down your thoughts and get them to me. You can post your ideas as comments on the blog – but remember everyone will see them, so the “surprise” factor might get lost – or you can e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Each Wednesday I will continue the story on the blog, along with that week’s attribution and periodically update Reveille/Between the Lakes readers. The complete story thus far is available on the blog under “Story.”
I hope we can have some fun with this.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Nothing is obvious to the uninformed.