The Dress

sister_dressI am a bridesmaid.  For the first time.  I’m more of a boy’s girl than a girl’s girl.  Hence, I’ve never been in a wedding.  I’m sure all of you know this, but weddings are a butt-ton of work.  I sort of knew this, but now I really know this…and I’m only really involved in planning the pre-wedding events.

Anyway, wedding craziness is not the point of this post…but the bridesmaid dress I chose is.  I went dress shopping with the future Mrs. to try on dresses in the color scheme of the wedding (weddings have color schemes, if you did not know this).  In this particular dress store, the different styles are named…well, names.  Normal people names.

I try on a few but only one really looks good on me…it even goes with the cowboy boots I’m wearing (this is a very important qualification of any dress I own).  As I’m wearing it, staring in the mirror, my friend asks if I noticed the name of the dress.

I had not.

It’s my sister’s name.

Dress. Sold.

Fifty Shades of Guilt

 

sis and mom bw2I went back to my hometown a few weeks ago for a friend’s birthday and stayed at my mom’s fancy schmancy new condo.  The second night there, I got home kind of late, got all ready, and put myself to bed as us adults do.  Right as I was about to drift away to dreamland, I hear my mom come home (she seems to have more of a life than I do). About ten minutes later, I hear her clear out sobbing in the kitchen.  I mean body-heaving, gut-wrenching sounds are traveling through these obviously thin walls right into the spare bedroom.  She might as well have been crying in the corner.

And, I freak.

A normal human being would have immediately gotten out of bed to go console their mother.  I have long given up any claim of being normal.  I can however claim at least partial forgiveness, because my mom used to be the family rock.  She was the frickin’ “Great Stone Face” of our time – the woman could be in an argument with my father, wouldn’t have a clue. She could be making life/death decisions about my sister – you’d never have known.  The woman was a private fortress of emotional solitude.  I didn’t even hear my parents argue until right before they got a divorce (I was twenty).  Ever-so-slowly after that, though, my mom began to show her emotions little by little.  But, to hear her all out breaking down?

Like I said, I freaked.

After about ten minutes, I convinced myself that I should get up and go talk to her, as much as I may dread it.  Because, along with not being normal, I’m also super awkward.  I know I’m bound to not do the right thing…piece of evidence numero uno…I walk into the kitchen and say: Hey.  Soooooooo…sounds like you may be a little upset?  …in a tentative yet joking voice.  Luckily, the woman has known me for some time and she does look up, smile, and say: I didn’t think you could hear me.

We talk for over an hour – really I just lean against a kitchen cabinet and listen while she sits on a step stool in the corner and tells me about the 5,233,489 ways that she feels guilty.  Eskimo, snow. My mom, guilt.

(1) She feels guilty when she’s not sad.  She hasn’t been sad for a while, she said.  But, not being sad, makes her sad.  Feeling “okay” for a couple of weeks, makes her feel horrible.  And that night, she walked through the door and just was overwhelmed with guilt and then, sadness that her baby was gone.  That her sick kid who used to always be on the couch in the evenings wasn’t home when she walked through the door.  That she now comes home to an empty house.

(2) She feels guilty because for the last year of my sister’s life, my sister must have felt so devastatingly, unimaginably alone.  My mom was tired.  She was understandably tired of sacrificing her life to stay home and be best buddies with my sister, so she had started going out on the weekends to do normal life things.  I think it would have probably been different if my sister hadn’t been so damn difficult, but my sister was damn difficult.  And not only that, but my sister had been making bad choices…choices that don’t lead to the hope of a healthier life but toward a quicker death.  That’s not easy to watch… But in hindsight, it’s hard not to hate yourself for every moment you didn’t spend with her.

(3) She feels guilty for pushing my dad to be involved more with the doctor/medical side of my sister’s life in the last few years.  My mom had a job…my dad didn’t for some time.  So, my mom thought it made sense for my dad to go to the appointments, so she wouldn’t have to take off work.  …but my dad didn’t know the nitty-gritty of that world so my mom thinks that some crucial decisions were not made correctly……

(4) And on the flip side, my mom feels guilty for a bunch of decisions that she did make.  She even questioned whether she made the correct first choice…I guess there was a moment in the very beginning of all of the hospital nonsense when my mom asked the doctors to save my sister, instead of letting her go. My mom wonders if that was selfish….would it have been better to have let her go right then at the beginning than to have held on to her and watch her suffer for so many years?  My mom told a rather heartbreaking story of how she came to the realization that my sister really only lived for her.  That my sister only pushed through some of what she did because my mom asked her to…..

So, I stood there in the kitchen, leaning against the cabinet, feeling squirmy because on some level, I didn’t want to hear this.  Like mother, like daughter.  I have built my fortress of emotional solitude and leaving it, let alone going into someone else’s is well…kind of terrifying.  My mom just kept crying and telling me…telling me all of this and so much more. And, I understand in my own way.  I feel guilty, too…about similar things, about different things, but my mom’s guilt is unfathomable.  It is infinite and ever-expanding.  It is the mother effin’ universe of guilt.

That’s the last time I saw my mom…until tomorrow.  I invited her to visit for Mother’s Day, so she’s driving up after she gets off work for some quality mother/daughter time.  And as great as it is, as much fun as we’ll hopefully have, I know it’ll be a little painful.  Because, I’ll inevitably think about how I used to fight for time alone with my mom…used to ask and push for us to do things without my sister.  I’ll think about the times, that I now regret, when I got my way…when my sister stayed home…

…and I’ll feel guilty.

Mysterious ways…

I don’t believe in much in the way of religion and spiritualism.  I like the idea of it sometimes….I wish I had faith sometimes.  But, in the end, I think it’s more of a want to believe than an actual belief.

But then there are times when my lack of belief is called into question.  Times like a couple of days ago.

I’ve obviously been struggling with putting my dog to sleep… and the night of my last blog, I just hated myself.  It’s the closest thing I’ve had to an “out of body” experience – going through the motions of doing this, of putting him down, when deep down some little voice was yelling at me not to, not yet.  But, the little voice was little and, well, now it’s much larger, much louder…and I’ve realized that I was doing what was “right” for everyone other than myself.  I was being the “strong” one – the tough decision was somehow put on me and I did what I was expected to do and said what I was expected to say. But the truth is that I wasn’t ready.  So, yeah…been struggling…

But then, I received a message from one of my sister’s closest friends…here’s a shortened version:

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I reached out to a medium today, well it’s been planned for a couple months, hoping to connect with one of my relatives…but I had to share with you the very first thing she said.

She said that she saw a dog that just passed away.  Smaller but not as small as a chihuahua. Lighter in color, not black. Not a dog from 20 years ago but one who has passed recently.  He popped through to say he made it to the other side and: “They’re together”.

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When I read this, I broke down.  I don’t have strong beliefs in anything…but the pressure on my chest became a little lighter.  The idea that they are together now, that it is okay…helps.

Pressing down…

We put my dog to sleep today.

It was awful.

I keep trying to convince myself that it was for the best, but then, all I can remember is when the vet brought him back into the room with the catheter in his leg and set him on the table in front of me and he backed up into my arms so quickly…

…because I’m supposed to protect him and he was scared.  And he had had a good day. I had spent three days with him and this morning, this morning, he acted like himself for the first time.  The front door was open and we were sitting in the sunshine – he was panting and smiling like he used to all the time.  His tail was wagging.  He wasn’t startled when I pet him and he stayed around me.  He was happy.

But it was for the best, right?  He also made “messes” all over the house this morning and over the past three days.  He also walked around in circles all weekend because he had arthritis.  He also had a heart murmur and kidney problems.  He also was pretty much deaf and blind.

I’m trying to force myself to be glad…to be happy that his last morning was a good one, and I keep mentally listing all of the problems he had, keep telling myself that we saved him from more pain than he may have already been in, that an almost-18 year-old dog wasn’t going to survive much longer……..but I just keep crying.

And maybe before my sister died this wouldn’t tear me apart like it is…..but it is tearing me apart, it is opening up old wounds and putting salt in the ones that aren’t even healed.

And the weight – the heavy pressure…it’s pressing down, again.  It’s pressing down because all I can see…all I can think about…is him backing up into my arms.