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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Looking for signs

Hard to believe my Mother will be gone a year in February. It’s hard because it doesn’t seem like she is gone at all!

Here’s what I’ve discovered about the grieving process… it’s not what you think.

I always thought when my Mother died I would never get out of bed again. I thought I would never be able to stop crying and the grief would be a black cloud over my head forever. But that’s not what happened.

The first couple of weeks were hard… getting through the wake and funeral, going through her personal items, figuring out who gets what and what to send to Goodwill. It’s hard to pack up your Mother’s stuff and send it in a box to a charity. The funny things you think about when doing that. I had this vision that I would be driving down Water Street and I would stop at a crosswalk to let a homeless lady cross the street and she would be wearing one of my Mother’s sweaters…. And that would be a sign from my Mother to me, to tell me that she was ok.

But it never happened. I never saw the homeless lady wearing my Mother’s sweater. She never appeared by the side of my bed, even when I thought for sure if I opened my eyes she would be there. I never caught a glimpse of her standing behind me in a mirror or saw her ghost when I turned off all the lights downstairs before I went to bed.

She just never came back to me… I think it is because she never left me.

We think we are going to grieve like it is portrayed in a Hollywood movie. We have all seen those movies where the grieving widow throws herself on top of the casket as it is lowered in the ground, or when Patrick Swayze comes back to Demi Moore in Ghost to warn her that she is in danger, or like Norman Bates who kills his Mother in Psycho and keeps her corpse in the house with him because he can’t get past the guilt.

That’s not how it happens in real life. No one threw themselves on my Mother’s casket, I don’t own a pottery wheel and my Mother’s body is safely planted in a graveyard.

The truth is, life goes on. You have to return to work. There is laundry to be done. Dogs to be walked. Kids to be fed. Life to be lived. That’s life!
A friend of mine (who is a psychologist) pointed out to me that there is healthy and unhealthy grieving. It’s healthy to cry during a funeral, periodically over the next few weeks, marking holidays and events (birthdays, Christmas) etc. It’s not healthy if three months later you still can’t get out of bed or get back to life. She also pointed out that if you have no regrets, it is easy to move on. People who can’t move on are stuck because they have regrets. I made sure before my Mother died that I thanked her for everything she did for me. I apologized for all the times we fought. She did the same.

The one thing she did do for me, which helped me to move on, is she set me free. She told me not to feel obligated to stay in touch with people I feel no connection to. Without getting into details she said, “Be happy. That’s all I wanted for you. If you didn’t get along with someone when I was alive, you won’t get along with them after I am dead.” It was the best gift she ever gave me.

I had no regrets. I went on living while still looking for signs that she was with me.

I rarely go to the graveyard. I don’t feel her there. It doesn’t do anything for me.

This past summer I looked out in my garden and to my surprise a carpet of blue Forget-Me-Nots had grown throughout my yard. She had planted them there a few years before. I took my tea and went out and sat down on the deck. I could smell her perfume in the air and I could feel her in the garden.

Just before Christmas I searched frantically for weeks for a X-Box One for my son. There wasn’t one to be had in the province. One morning I dropped into Future Shop just as it opened. I had checked the web site and it said they had one in stock. The young sales girl assured me it was a mistake. As she went off to the back room to check I whispered “Please Mom, find that X-Box for Daniel. He’s going to be so disappointed if I don’t get one.” The sales girl came through the door holding the last X-Box One in the Province and handed to me. She said “You must have someone watching over you today. I don’t know where this one came from.”

Was it Mom? She always delighted in spoiling Daniel.

It’s almost a year later and every night when I come home the first thing I do is check to see if the message light is blinking on the phone. If it’s not, my first thought is “Mom forgot to call me today.”

This is the first Christmas I didn’t buy her a gift. It was always a dilemma anyway. What do you buy a Woman who has everything, doesn’t need anything and don’t want nothing? I used to put together a gift box of items; Oil of Olay products, a new lipstick, a sweater and an Azaleas flower.

The Azaleas flower comes in a box. You put the bulb in a small planter, put some dirt on it and it grows three feet tall and flowers. It never worked for me but she could make that thing flower three or four times before it died. I bought one at Dominion just before Christmas and followed the instructions on the box. I put the planter on top of the kitchen counter and wished it luck, warning it that I probably wouldn’t remember to give it any water.

To my surprise, it grew and grew and grew. Then Christmas morning I was so happy to find eight big red flowers had bloomed on it. It bloomed right into the New Year. Me growing anything was nothing short of a Christmas miracle. I was so pleased with it I took a picture and put it on Facebook. A friend commented on it and sent me a link to a story about “signs from beyond.” I took a closer look at the picture I had posted and noticed my Mother’s sweater hanging over the chair next to the flower. The only thing I had taken from her house.

It was a sign. A sign from her that this wasn’t my first Christmas without her. It was my first Christmas with her… in a new form. I’ve discovered that the “Feeling of peace” people talk about really does exist. When I think about her, I do get a calm feeling of peace. It feels like a warm blanket or a hug.
I hope I never run into her ghost in the living room after I turn the lights off but I do hope I see her work in my garden this Spring. The blue Forget-Me-Nots will be my sign that she wants me to keep moving forward, keep being happy.

Merry Christmas Mom and Daniel says thanks for the X-Box One.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Around the World

How better to get the Christmas spirit than catch it from The Spirit of Newfoundland?

Their Christmas Around the World show is exactly what you need to get your Christmas spirit soaring. This year’s show has two new members, Michael Power and Keith Power. Both are well versed entertainers.

Michael is a graduate of the Musical Theatre Performance Program at Sheridan Collage and is a well-seasoned performer. He is cute enough to play Jake Doyle’s little brother and displays an amazing talent whether he is singing, dancing or making the audience laugh.

Keith is a graduate of Sir Wilfred Grenfell College with a Bachelor in Fine Arts in Acting and it shows. This guy was born for Broadway! He can sing, dance and make you burst out laughing with just a facial expression.

Christmas Around the World also features two of my favourites, Shelia Williams and Dana Parson. Both well-known entertainers that can make any show.

I’ve often described Shelia as Newfoundland’s Lucille Ball and she does not disappoint. I would love to know how much she ad-libs and how much is from script. I can’t image she sticks to the script much because her one-liners can even break up her cast members.

Dana has this God-given voice that she uses to bring the audience to fits of laughter or causes shivers down your spine. She easily switches from her comedic talent to a trained opera voice that leaves you speechless.

Christmas Around the World is exactly what your family needs to find the Christmas Spirit. From the traditional Christmas songs to a moving soliloquy from Michael Power, the show will quickly bring you from laughter to tears back to laughter again.

On the night that we attended, we were lucky enough to have the one and only, Shelley Neville, in the audience and at the end she gave the audience the best Christmas gift ever, her rendition of O Holy Night. We left the Masonic Temple filled with love, peace and joy.

Do yourself and your family a favour, bring them to Christmas Around the World at Spirit of Newfoundland and remind them what the season is really about… spending time together, remembering old times and laughing out loud.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Boy's Cat

It's the insatiable crying that drives me mad.

Every night, she walks from room to room searching and crying. It's like she knows when I am just about to doze off. She sits by the side of my bed. She knows I let one hand hang over the side and she arches her back until my fingers are running through her fur. She turns around and puts her head under my hand forcing me to scratch her behind the ears.

She came to us by accident. My Mother's cat had kittens. My son was almost three at the time. He fell in love with the long-haired ginger curled up in the cardboard box. Nan said he could have her.

She slept on his bed. As he grew, she grew. She followed him around the house and waited for him to come home from school each day. She went to bed when he did. Snuggling into his back or stretched out on top of him. Leaving a trail of fur all over his bedspread.

He played X-box with her sitting in his lap or lounging next to him. He rubbed her fur without knowing it and scratched her head instinctively.

I have never had to do anything for her. She wasn't my cat. I don't know why she seeks me out at midnight every night. She stares directly into my eyes, meowing like she's asking me a question. "What do you want?" I ask her, exasperated by her relentless crying. She asks again but I don't understand. She follows me around the house all day long crying and crying. It never stops. She's not hungry, or sick. I don't know how to pacify her.

I turn the key to the front door. The sun is shining in through the foyer window on the slate floor. I open the door and she is enjoying the sun rays, stretched out like she is laying on a beach. When I come in she jumps up and swirls around my feet. I scratch her head hello and go into the kitchen. I get her food and lay it on the floor but she doesn't go near it.

I can hear the school bus stopping at the top of the street. She scratches franticly at the door to get out and I open it to let her go. I watch her cross the street and run like a cheetah to the corner. She greets the bus. The driver opens the door and the children pile out. She sits, watching each child walk by. Some stop and scratch her head and her tail sways in appreciation. The last of the children get off and the door closes. The bus pulls away. She's still sitting there. Waiting.

The last boy off the bus rubs her head then walks down the street towards his house. She follows him. He turns around and smiles. He waits for her to get near then reaches down and scoops her up in his arms. She nuzzles into his neck. The boy strokes her back and her long tail sways around his waist in glee.
He gently lays her down on the sidewalk as he gets closer to his house. She sits and watches him go inside. She gets up and meanders across the street to our house and paces in front of the door as if to say, "I am home now." I let her in and as I close the door she locks eyes with me meowing and crying all at once. Asking me the same question she asks every night when I am trying to sleep. I don't know how to get it through to her. She never gives up asking. She never stops crying.

Frustrated with my response, she bows her tail and runs to the basement. I follow her down there to see what she's doing. I don't come down here anymore. She leaps up on the couch and curls into the abandoned white hoodie bunched up in the corner. It's covered in fur. She's slept there before. I should throw it out, but I can't. She smells him on it. I sit next to her and scratch her head. She begins to cry again. Asking the same question. I tell her over and over again but she doesn't get it.

He's gone I tell her. She cries again and it sounds like "Why? Why?" She crawls onto my lap. Arching her back like a Halloween cat and then reaching her cold nose up till it touches mine. Her eyes are green and she locks them on mine. "Where is he?" She's asks. I tell her every day, "The boy is gone. You have to learn to let go."
She walks off my lap and back to the hoodie. Laying down with her back towards me. I know she's saying "I don't believe you."

Suddenly she jumps to her feet and runs up the stairs. I can hear her scratching at the front door. I chase after her. I can hear the second school bus at the top of the street. I open the door and she runs up to the bus stop. The doors open and she sits patiently. Watching the kids get off. The doors close and the bus pulls away. She gets up and begins the slow walk back to her house. Her tail is down and I can see her mouth moving. She's crying again.
I let her back in. I hate the sound of the school bus. I miss the boy too. I long to see him jump off the bus with his heavy book bag over his shoulder. Running towards home and her running after him.
She searches the house again. Looking for him. I follow her to the basement. Now an empty, hollow room filled with electronic games, a TV and couch. The walls are a shrine to his accomplishments. Certificates and trophies are everywhere.

She's crying. "Where is he?" She leaps back to the couch and curls up in the boy's hoodie. I lay on the couch and she climbs on top of me. I cry with her.

"Where is he? Where is my baby boy?" The tears sting my eyes and roll down my cheeks. She lifts her head and meows back to me "Why? Why?"

She jumps off and runs up stairs again. I go behind her. She's scratching at the door again. She wants to go out. I open the door. There's a group of boys heading to the park. She chases after them. They don't notice her trailing behind. I can hear her cry. I know what she's saying. "Do you know where my boy is?" They don't pay any attention to her.

She'll keep me up again tonight. Continuously crying. Like me. Asking "Where is my boy?"