Monday, May 12, 2014

Muscle Memory

It is Monday.

The sun has gone down and the air is fresh. A gentle breeze is stirring in the trees.

I had it in me to cook the kids a nice dinner of one of our chickens, roasted, with Brussels sprouts and red peppers, a salad and toast.

We ate on the gazebo in the backyard. They all ran off their separate ways; karate, a run, work, a friend, the tv. I let the chickens out of their fenced-in yard so they could cruise around for fresh grass. Free range chickens and gardens equal tears and curse words. Unless garden grower works in garden whilst encouraging chickens to range elsewhere.

So I worked in the garden even though I was momentarily tempted by Netflix.

I planted some silver queen corn in the area where we had our compost last year. A tiny little plot, but we shall see. An experiment? Planted some green beans, cucumbers, yellow squash. A bit more okra. (the chickens ate part of the last bit I planted earlier this season.)

Pandora played on my IPhone. The Fernando Ortega channel.

Something about Fernando Ortega's music soothes me. Stirs me into worship and quiet contemplation. So I sang and planted and moved the sprinkler around and tossed stones at the errant chickens.

After a pretty painful weekend, I felt soothed. Balm of Gilead kind of soothing.

On Friday I drove to pick up Thomas from school in Roswell, NM. He has a month break. On the advice of a friend I drove the long way to Roswell, via Marfa, Valentine, Van Horn, Guadalupe National Park, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, and then up through Artesia and into Roswell.

What good advice well taken. It took me 45 minutes longer. Which I admit is pretty costly. But instead of crazy lunatic oil well truck drivers (yes, I know that most oil well truck drivers are not crazy, neither are they lunatic, but there are a few on that road who drive quite a bit over the speed limit, crowd their lanes, and are pretty dangerous) there were great big open skies, mountains, an antelope, some wildflowers, an occasional tourist, and lots of 70's rock and folk music.

After quite a long list of big city errands, Thomas and I got back home Saturday evening. On May 10th.

Which is just another day for everyone else, but for us, no matter what we do, no matter how full, or satisfying or busy the day, it still ends up being May the 10th, the birthday of Philip James Hillery, who was born on that date in 1958.

I have been told a time or two or three that we oughtn't think about Philip so much. That making such a big deal out of these days just stirs up more grief than necessary, and that we are making it harder on ourselves than it has to be. They have told me that if I would just leave well enough alone, move forward, let the past be past, etc etc etc etc etc. we would be better off.


I could say a few words about that kind of advice, but I guess it wouldn't be very gentle or kind or Christlike, would it?

No matter what, we all get a weird, raw feeling on that day. I remember the advice of Martha, our grief support counselor, who told us it was better to name it, than to stuff it. That we wouldn't get over the death of our dear loved one. We would learn to adjust and live and love our lives, but differently.

And here we are, still adjusting.

We got home and a few chores had been done. The grill was started and I gathered makings for burgers. In Carlsbad I stopped to buy one of those helium balloon tanks, because the last three years the kids have asked to release balloons as we remember Philip, and, who knew? there is a world-wide helium shortage, since helium is now being used in lots of different areas, like MRIs, aeronautics, and billions of kids' birthday parties. Helium balloons are not available in Alpine, but I had a vague inkling that my nemesis, Wal Mart, would carry the blasted stuff.

Sure enough, it was available.

The things we do for family cohesiveness.

I asked the kids to fill up some balloons.

"Mom, what?!? Do you want us to kill a bunch of birds and other wild life??? You know helium balloons are bad..." a sensitive child shouted.

"I am NOT going to sit down at the table with him/her. Do you know what he/she said to me this afternoon?"

"oh. hamburgers. I guess you forgot I hate them."

It wasn't a lovely evening. I was exhausted. Had a horrible neck and back ache from the drive. Stacks of work that were piling up, since I was out of town for a day. The house was dirty, our expectations were bouncing around all over the place, and all I wanted was some peace and family love.

I finally yelled, sent guilt inducing text messages to kids inside the house, and miraculously everyone ended up around the table in the gazebo. Burgers were grilled and grimacing (internally bleeding) people sat down and I prayed. Thanked God for the food. For our family. I begged God to meet us in the middle of the raw. And then thanked God for Philip, and for the gift of his life and influence. We talked a bit about how he loved to make us laugh. How he would suck the helium out of balloons and talk in a cartoon voice just to make us laugh. He was so easy to please. All he wanted for his birthday was a big platter of cheeseburgers to share with the kids, and then a hot date with me.

We talked about human statues and his work and about how sad it is that not all the kids have the same memories because they didn't have the same amount of time. So one child's grief is different from the others, depending on if they are grieving the actual memories, or the memories they didn't get to make.

We talked about God's grace and how Jesus did not come to earth because we were so good and deserved him.

Jesus is all about the real us. The sad, mean, mad, broken, hurting real us. The real us that needs compassion, and forgiveness and redemption.

Philip was all about all of that.

So we tried, we huddled. We all cried. Then we took our balloons out to the middle of the yard, spent a couple of moments silent, saying our personal, private words to our dear one who is no longer here in the flesh. Then let the silly balloons fly up to the sky.

It was actually pretty powerful.

Then everyone went back to bickering, to texting, to instagraming, to watching tv. We tried putting helium into the balloons with LED lights, but the light mechanism made them too heavy to float. Not too heavy to bounce around with kids on the trampoline.

So they bounced. We stayed up too late for a Sunday. Kids went to bed and I couldn't force myself to be inside so I took a blanket and my pillow to the trampoline and settled in there for a sleep. Sobbed over all the lost things. Sobbed and heaved. Then watched the stars and listened to the wind.


By the way, Mother's Day was pretty awesome. And kind of hard, too, because of all the energy spent the day before. But the kids were each amazing, and I will try to write about that loveliness later. Because it is noteworthy. And I haven't even mentioned you, Mom, but everyone knows that if it weren't for you, I would not still be standing. You gave me the example of a strong woman who could manage to maintain tenderness. You gave me the example of the importance of beauty. Of quiet. Of music. You taught me that it was okay to ask, not only ask, but to require time of solitude.

You deserve a million pages in a million books. But here it is, almost ten o'clock and kids are still up and I need to get them and me to bed!!!

So more later.

Good night.


Chris said...

Powerful! and beautiful!

Travis Haynes said...

I love , love the line "in the middle of the raw." I'm in the middle of the raw now. Not anything like yours but raw. This is book material, your story would touch so many souls. said...

Thanks for still checking in, Chris and Travis. You guys encourage me so much. As hard as it is to put out my raw stuff, I pray that it will soothe or at least let you know that you are NOT alone!!! And Travis, I pray you will be presented with plenty of beautiful moments in the middle. And that you won't quit even if you wish to. Whatever that looks like. and btw, I hate proving that I am not a robot just to leave a stupid comment. (referring to that thing we have to do just to leave our comment. Sorry. IF I knew how to delete it I would.)

Polly said...

This is so good to read because it is real--and I agree about grief. There's no point in pretending it's not there...give it that name and let it work. My own experience with grief is that I have to give it time to to do its work and that it never fully passes, at least not for the few I've lost who were closest to me. Your writing is beautiful and redemptive. said...

Thanks, Polly.