Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Static on the wires

When life gives you lemons, grind them the fuck up add some sugar and voila all is good. Well what if you are on a desert island with one lemon tree and you're thirsty as hell?

During  my short span of life on this spinning blue dot I have come to learn a thing or two." I didn't just fall off the turnip truck", does this mean I did at one time? When I fell, did I look for someone to help me back on it? We reach out for that helping hand, a little help from our friends.  If we are lucky and blessed we find that and we learn to stay on board, even through the bumpy ride in the back 40 as we plow ahead to get the harvest in. I got to thinking what if nobody saw you fall off the truck and the harvest continued? That is a long walk back to the farmhouse. Maybe it's hot out and you get sun burnt, as you walk you rage about how the fuck?  When you get home you ask why didn't you notice me, how could you have not seen me? This begs the question what lesson did you learn?

"Like a baby stillborn........ who has tried in his way to be free"......is he?   Like the abused child who doesn't have that one good influence to plant the seed of resilience, who then brings to his or her world hate and more abuse, are they to blame? "When I knew better, I did better" can one die before they know? Can one never learn when they are alive? What about the person who never sees the stars or the milky way because they pass out drunk before it gets dark; those who never caught that sunrise or sunset because they had to work in a factory 14 hours a day. The eleven year old prostitute who doesn't get to go for forest walks or hug a tree and feel the life force rejuvenate their sorry soul. The three year old boy of drug addicted parents doesn't get fed or changed when he needs to. The loved child with terminal cancer. The child molester who lives until he is 95. The political prisoner who gets stoned or hanged before they can tell their side of the story. The grandmother who raised her child right, waiting her whole life to pour her love out to her grand babies, and her children must move far away for work.

Is life meaningless? Because it is not for others, does that make it untrue?  Because it is for many does that make it true? These are heady questions, ones that make people very uncomfortable. Viktor Frankl found meaning in the concentration camp with murder all around him. Do you know a Viktor? Did they mentor you? Or did you lose your faith?

After Joan Gideon suddenly lost her husband she wrote about her experience in her book, The year of magical thinking. This talented writer said:
"When we anticipate the funeral we wonder about failing to “get through it,” rise to the occasion, exhibit the “strength” that invariably gets mentioned as the correct response to death. We anticipate needing to steel ourselves for the moment: will I be able to greet people, will I be able to leave the scene, will I be able even to get dressed that day? We have no way of knowing that this will not be the issue. We have no way of knowing that the funeral itself will be anodyne, a kind of narcotic regression in which we are wrapped in the care of others and the gravity and meaning of the occasion. Nor can we know ahead of the fact (and here lies the heart of the difference between grief as we imagine it and grief as it is) the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaninglessness itself."

Although I could never express it so eloquently and correctly, I too have come to know this in my journey. I get stuck in the meaninglessness of life, this void that is all encompassing, so scary and consuming that I will do anything to get out from it. That I will sacrifice all I love and care about and know is right to not feel it. I will search for the meaning in all the wrong ways...all the possible hurtful and damaging ways in order to just not feel it. I wonder now at the stupidity and purposelessness of this useless quest. Is this too meaningless?  Does this and all it has encompassed this last 1000 plus days have meaning? Is it just a space and time on this spinning blue dot where I am off the turnip truck and can't find my way back home? Will I tell my grand babies the lessons I learned from it or will I just get run over by the truck before I learn them? Is it all just static on the wires and I can't hear the message yet?


Sunday, 25 June 2017

The royal road to the unconcious


Did you ever wake up from a dream that was vivid and long and told a whole unique story and you remembered it? This happened to me this morning. It took awhile for all the pieces of it to fit together into the knowing you have when it gels. It could make for a new reality show. It may sound scattered as I try to describe it but it all makes sense in my head. There was a whole group of people, me included who were in a airport type setting, a lounge of some kind where they were holding us before an international flight we were all to take to ?  There was a diplomat type women (pretty, young) her body guard and driver, (you know how pieces of dreams are there because of events or conversations you had earlier in the day, week or month? well, this was in here because about two weeks ago I had spoken to someone with a diplomatic passport).  Okay, gotta hurry with the telling before I lose pieces which I feel I already am. So my old boss was there (I spoke to a friend of her last night). There was a whole host of other people and it was very clever in my dream that all of them were "like" other people I knew and met, but not them (with one exception).  For instance they had the same stature, personality ect. but were not them. I recognized these people in I guess their "essence", not their looks. For example, a couple I met in Italy (who I also spoke of last night) were there but looked totally different, yet I knew it was them. Sadly, and as per usual, Terry was not there, nor was there a facsimile of him. So we are waiting and waiting and the flight is delayed, this flight to who knows where, I think it was overseas (at this point a piece of another actual dream I had had probably years ago sneaks in, it's me on a overseas bumpy flight in a big open cabin with no seats and all the visuals and emotions of that dream). I know, weird - you can even day dream imagine and drift off to another real dream you'd had previously while in a dream, go figure. I wasn't scared of this upcoming "flight" we were delayed from like I had been in that previous dream, I was just recalling that at one time I had been afraid on an overseas dream flight.

So next we are all boarding into one of those carts they shuttle elderly people around in the airport with, but ours is bigger, closed in with glass and more like a mini train. Some of all the people in that big holding area are now gone, and maybe 10 are left with me. One is the diplomat and her entourage. She wants to go do some shopping, there is time and it is allowed of course because she is a diplomat and they would hold the plane for her if need be. So us 10 or 7 or so remaining people are left to wait in this desolate type airport. It is like the airport I was in once in Guyana, South America in that you can see beautiful tropics outside, some far off distant mountains are there in my dream and some wide open runways. The airport is much more modern and larger than Guyana's. It comes to pass as things do in dreams that a lot of time has flown by, the diplomat is not back, we are all in waiting mode. And surprisingly for me I do not seem to care, others are freaking about this unplanned wait and want answers. I drift off by the window and look out at the environment and could care less about our flight, no longer afraid to fly (also in my last night's discussion).

Then the diplomat returns (lets call her Johanna) her bodyguard is Steve (our restaurant host last night) and very handsome,  he was the same, not a facsimile.  Johanna's driver is off to the side with another person playing poker they both look like mafiosa.  Other officials arrive with a knowing on my part that in the background the essence of all the others to take this flight are there now as well.  This is when we are told by said officials that there is no flight right now, and a vague discussion that we are to hang tight for a month. (I will skip ahead to reveal that what is to happen is an experiment to see can your small groups coexist for the next month together here without anything except food, and also like weird and twisted dreams  this was not revealed until the end of the dream, so at this time of being told the delay we do not know this, stay with me if you can)  Well fuck me! I was surprised but also not, because even though this was a huge change in the whole dynamic and plan and course of action I was taking, I easily (and here is why I love dreams) I easily adapted and thought ok, hey no problemo. Then, as dreams do, they skip around, there is a conversation I am having with my old boss about the whole thing, and I am showing her how to use her camera settings ect (obviously we were allowed the things we carried on us at the time) our electronic devices could not be used, I tried but got the clear message "no internet connection". There was a older couple (not the ones I knew from Italy) who were very cranky and upset and obviously not going to make the month together with just each other and us to talk to and interact with. The diplomat's bodyguard Steve and I had a grand conversation about his family, how sad he felt about missing them, but an acceptance of this as part of the job, "I have to protect Johanna at all costs, even though my pregnant wife is due with my twin girls soon and I am not there". I was in awe at his sacrifice, at his selflessness. I had no sacrifice to make, I did not have to be selfless for anyone, hence why I could accept this game. I had no one to return to (jobs were taken care of and time off prearranged). I came to not resent Johanna -in the beginning of our month I did- she had more privilege (and people in her life I wanted ). I understood later that this privilege meant nothing at all if you can't interact with another human on the most basic level. That you have to know people first in order to know what you do and don't want. And so good for her let her have what she has, I will too one day when I learn my lesson.

In the end Johanna in her beautiful white car was driven into the final set of this dream (that is too crazy visually to describe  albeit to say a grand entrance indeed). I noted that many of us were missing because there seemed to be only about 5 or 6 that gathered now - my boss, my Italy friends and Johanna's entourage. Our friends and family showed up to greet us now that we were back to "civilization". Here is when we were told this was all an experiment to see could you last a month knowing people without anything coming between the relationships like internet, distractions, sex,  family members, work, etc. Could you do it and not go crazy, fight, hurt other people, give up, storm off? I remember in this part of the dream being really pleased with myself that I had, that I did it, that I observed these people talked to them, interacted with them, got to know them, without any trappings of the world except our connection as humans and conversation.

Now I am a firm believer that dream are very important, especially vivid ones we remember. On this I agree with Freud, dreams are the royal road to the unconscious. If you can decipher the message, the teaching is there, your truth is all within you, just like I was told by my dear friend last night, and shown in this wacky dream. I could analyze so many aspects of this dream, that might not make any sense to you dear reader, but it does to me. Oh boy it does. My relationship with Johanna, yup, my need to connect without any technology with people and take a month to know them, yup. My awe at another person's selflessness, yup, my not seeing my husband, oh yes!!! My winning in the end?

We will see, the truth is in you Sussey.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Contrast



When I was young I had a lot of faith, a lot. The Catholic church was the church I was brought up in. I used to go every Sunday, whether I wanted to or not. My parents of the old school belief that a Sunday mass missed on purpose was a mortal sin, and if you died with a mortal sin on your soul you went straight to hell, unless you said your act of contrition first. I often worried would I have time or remember the words when I was in the process and work of dying to say it right? Would my intention be enough? Silly I know but for a young impressionable mind like mine, well let's just say, it was a life and beyond death matter. The purpose of such dogma I will not get into - (we all know how rich the coffers of the church are and why they need the money now); and for fuck's sake that and the anger associated with it is the last place I need to go now dear writer.  I am more concerned about examination of my take on things I was to learn and later discard. The church taught me a lot I no longer believe, and I marvel at how much I believed without question yet no longer do. How does this contrast of beliefs get reckoned with? Through time? Life shitting on you enough? Science? Other influential teachings? Lack of evidence? Growing the fuck up?  Maybe all of this is true for me.

I no longer can say I have faith, not in the catholic church at least. I have faith in my friends, my dog, myself (half the time- see yesterdays post), and for the time being wine, but not in the church. I have gone from a young mom bringing my baby to daily mass to only attending funerals and weddings inside it's doors. I will say having no faith in an after life (because lets admit it that ultimately is what the church is selling) is shaky territory for me. Like standing in a kayak on the sea, it's precarious. I used to feel sorry for people who had no faith in an afterlife, who did not believe, now I am that person. But I really really goddamn it don't want to be some days. Days like today when I am full of sorrow and grief and longing. Days when I want my old life back with a vengeance. When I really want to believe in a god I can curse and cry to and yell at and then feel comforted by when I have ranted and raved through my fit.

Instead I walked in the woods and told a tree, I told my husband's grave and ashes in it how sorry I was that I didn't believe I would see him again even though I know he believed, "I just don't know honey I just know nothing now". I told a leaf how much I hated being here and how sad I was there was nowhere to go to for everlasting redemption and peace. I told the moss and the lady slippers how I wanted my husband back so my children could shower him with gifts and hugs and kisses on this father's day. My tears did not soothe me today, instead nature did, she took it.  I used to believe, now I don't.

"God is a concept
By which we measure
Our pain
I'll say it again
God is a concept
By which we measure
Our pain
I don't believe in magic
I don't believe in I-Ching
I don't believe in Bible
I don't believe in tarot
I don't believe in Hitler
I don't believe in Jesus
I don't believe in Kennedy
I don't believe in Buddha
I don't believe in mantra
I don't believe in Gita
I don't believe in yoga
I don't believe in kings
I don't believe in Elvis
I don't believe in Zimmerman
I don't believe in Beatles
I just believe in me"    John Lennon

I used to believe I knew things I no longer know.  This contrast of belief and disbelief, knowing and  not knowing- in my personality I show the world -to who I am at the core of my being- has rocked my foundation. It has me off my moorings and I am unsure of everything. I have lost trust in myself to believe anything. All is to be questioned. I am never to commit to anything that matters. They say do not make any major decisions within the first year of a major loss, ha! I am just seeing three years later why. I always was a little slow on the uptake. The older I get the less I know, even your steadfast childish faith is not with you now because all is fleeting, nothing forever. Remember that Sussey.

Maybe today all you can do about this contrast of self and life is to go to bed and see if there is a better day tomorrow.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

I'd rather go blind

New phases in life show up when I am least ready for them. I anticipate them or listen as my friends tell me about them but they still catch me by surprise. Initially I am never ready for change, my first reaction is always to balk it. I groan and fret and ruminate about the upheaval. But eventually adapt and even thrive with it. I have come to see myself as a resilient women. I have weathered many major life changes and done quite well with them overall. I remember when my eldest son Jeremy, who was 18 at the time, went off to basic training. Terry and I drove him from the cottage to the bus depot in Antigonish. I remember my underlying anxiety on the way there, that 50 km drive to drop him off. The flood of memories that swirled in my head from when he was quickly born that sunny fall morning, to his birthdays, his first girlfriend, the stupid and silly shit he pulled over the years. It was like a life review of our relationship, like the one people say you have when you are drowning or dying. Round and round it went in my head along with the thought - how the hell am I going to say goodbye? You see I knew this was it, the start of the loss of my children, of my loss of them  and their taking on the world as young adults in their own right. It was starting with him and I wasn't ready. And the goodbye was as painful as I thought, I would have rather gone blind than to see him walking away, to misquote a song. I remember crying the whole way home, that sobbing that gets hysterical at times. I remember Terry pulling over and hugging me on the side of the road to comfort me. Such bittersweet leaving.  My intuition was correct that day in knowing he was moving to a new different phase in his life that would include never living with us again. He never returned home to Nova Scotia to live again in his spot as eldest son in our family, he visits, but doesn't stay. He has his own family now. This is good, but wasn't then.

When Sam and Mary moved out it was like two doors down, I knew it wasn't permanent, rather just a test of them spreading their wings and flying out the nest, and I was right- they both moved back and forth numerous times until the permanent one. The coming and going lessened the pain and made the transition easier for all of us. When my sweet Candice moved it was to the big smoke, downtown in a highrise by her school. My girl all alone, minimal money, half blind and on her own. My anxiety over that so profound I buried it, stuffed the feelings and minimized the whole thing. I was not very supportive,  I see now (as I do many things in hindsight) my self protective unhealthy mechanisms to deal with this was a huge mistake. One I still profoundly regret and live with. I have sincerely apologized with tears in my eyes to her but wonder if that is enough (probably not). Or maybe I just think it wouldn't be for me if the shoe was on the other foot- and I need to give this sweet child of mine more credit, maybe she did forgive me. (perhaps I will save this examination for another post).

But now my baby has told me of his leaving. Yes he is 24, not a baby, he has his own life and love, I get that, I want that for him, it's time. None of that soothes the heart because emotion has it's own logic. He is not only my baby, he is probably the child who knows me best, who has seen the most of my private life, who has seen me through the worse grieving of my spouse. The one whom I have had the deepest and most meaningful conversations with, the child with whom I have had the most growth, pain, laughs, learning and fights with. I love him no more than my other four precious children but circumstances made my relationship with him unique among them all. His absence will hurt I am sure, but here is what I now know- I will grow as a result. Despite the fact his leaving will leave the biggest void, and usher in the dreaded empty nest and despite no Terry to turn to and hug when the door shuts -the apartment empty save me and Pax- I will grow. I am resilient.

I say this because I believe that with all this experience I have had in my children's flights to freedom from mom, I can muster the courage to do this right. By that dear reader I mean and envision feeling the loss that surfaces, not feeling the need anymore to minimize, medicate or bury it. Just have the cry if need be, revel in the emptiness, daydream the youngest son's life accomplishments as you review. And also marvel at mine and Terry's job in raising five beautiful strong healthy fantastic children ready to offer the world all of their unique and wonderful gifts. We did our job well darling.

I fell in love with all my children, with my husband, knowing the pain it would bring. It's funny to admit and believe the old saying that it is so much better to have loved and lost than never loved at all. I remember being told that shortly after my husband died and I wanted to fucking gouge out the eyes of the person who said it. I remember thinking "easy for you to say you fuck, have you lost your ......?). But all that love, all that amazing family life, special occasions, pride, joy and wonder I felt over the years with these beautiful souls in my life's journey- oh yes- so much worth any pain. I would never trade it, not if you showed me all the pain and offered me a out before it even happened, never.  I would always choose them and my life with them.  Like I have said, the older I get the more I know what I didn't know.  Life is full of mini losses and big ones, it is full of joy and revelation. Embrace it all.

I, the willing pupil, fearlessly await.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Sweet summer, fear not

Today as I was walking to work, I saw a couple kissing. They were in a car, she dropping him off for work at the Maritime Center. I was walking up the street and caught them in the act. They were leaning in together making it last, a really nice goodbye kiss, the sun shining on them through the windshield. The kind of kiss the researcher would have marked as among the 124 (see my post titled the art of kissing and https://www.seeker.com/kissings-long-history-a-timeline-1767196852.html . )
Anyway it was a nice sight for sore eyes. I was close to the man when he got out of the car and wanted to say to him, "that's how its done, spread that love to her". But I just smiled and walked on to work. Again never saying what I really want to, fear holding me back.

I see a lot of couples, a lot. It's like when you get a hair cut or want a certain one and you see it everywhere, or you buy a new car and all of a sudden you notice them all over the road when you hadn't before. This is called the frequency illusion or the baader-meinhof-phenomenon. Now you are going to run into that name again soon guaranteed, like a literary version of a earworm. Anyhoo, so I see them everywhere, I sit on my balcony and couples walk by all the time holding hands, some talking, others not. Invading my single life like a deep cut when you step on a clam shell sticking up from the warm sandy beach and it slices your instep to shreds. Yeah like that. Summer is hard, and it has been hard since Terry died. It's when I get frightened. Weird I know, but it's my scary season now. Because life is in your face. You can't hide behind the drawn drapes and in the warm blankets on the couch in the dark at 6pm. You need to get out and cool off in public, encounter other humans doing their business, like kissing and holding hands and going for that fucking walk I used to with my guy.

When I was really young before I met Terry I remember a few trysts with guys, Timmy Derbashire in the park, David ?  down by the lake making out and never wanting the warm nights to end. I felt so alive in summer, so part of the world and at one with everything. Any wonder it scares me now. It's constant in-your-face aliveness. Maybe it is more about middle age and not wanting life to end, not wanting to become my old boring parents whom I felt so sorry for when I was young and running out the door for fun as they stayed in their house watching TV. Maybe it is about fear I am missing out on something.

But I think it is aptly titled this frequency illusion.  It is an illusion, couples are not everywhere and hey they might not even be happy and contented - contented like I sometimes feel as a uncoupled women. Maybe there are many many more lonelier than me people all around me, single frightened and yearning for the good old summer days just like me. I could start thinking of them and see them everywhere too. It's all what lens you want to look through, it's all the glasses you put on, the mindset you convince yourself to have on any given day. There is no magic, no conspiracy, no winter of your discontent to hide into, no summer to fear. There is only you and what you make of each day you have left.

So I am sitting outside on my deck in this warm summer like spring night with the most gorgeous sunset right now and I want to go grab my camera and capture it, the clouds are swirly and a darkish grey with white tips. The sun behind them makes the clouds glow a reddish orange especially the ones low on the horizon as they look like mountains and the sun has underlit the ones above it's setting into a dark red. Some clouds look like stream rising and are wind patterned, the whole sky turning from pale orange to dark red and violet, a real light show, it's stunning. I am fighting the urge to capture it and put the picture in this post. Instead I am letting it be there, enjoying it, just for me, no need to share, no need to try to hold on, just watch it and let the sweet summer feel of this night envelop me. It is a sunset you are experiencing and it is grand. Fear not singleton.

But damn the photographer in me is having a hissy fit.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Where did my wedding shoes go?

You can barely see them in the picture. white high heels, fake leather, open toe - bought special for my wedding. I saved the dress, the headpiece, the bouquet, but it occurred to me on my drive home from the cottage today that I did not only not have these shoes, but I don't even remember when, how or why I didn't save them. And I started to cry. Not about the shoes I am sure, it was just one of those triggers that start the cascade into the what I now call the grief guilt. A two and a half hour drive alone is a long time to think and cry it out, but I have not got to the bottom of it yet. So I write,  because I know it is so much more than the shoes. Although I would dearly like to have saved these along with those trinkets I did save from that day (paper pink bells, wedding cake pillars, pictures and napkins with notes on it he wrote me) it's more about what is behind the jolt I felt when I re-remembered I didn't have them.

And that brings me to things I do remember and to the worry about others things I don't yet. In a 32 year marriage there is a lot to regret. Words spoken in anger, words not spoken and actions not taken that should have been. This is life, the human condition. Yes it can bring a pang of guilt here and there when it bubbles to the surface, but today this is not what's fully under there. That yet to be examined muck and mire of remorse. So I searched for the feeling behind the tears. I drifted off into thoughts about how life is such a fertile ground for learning if we take notice. I wondered about why I needed to become overly acquainted with death so early in life with my son, and in midlife with my husband. What meaning in this purposelessness I can find. Why I was blessed with such extremes of sadness and joy in my life. When I was young, like in this picture, I had so much to learn. I didn't even know yet what that was. I am just 20 in this picture and have the advantage of 34 years of hindsight looking at her in the shoes she gave away or lost. She didn't know that in 2017 while driving on a highway that would cause her one powerful cry when it came back to her. At the time she just either outgrew them or didn't think they would be missed. Oh yes, so much I didn't think would be missed!

Like the shoes, I have done so many things in my life in a mindless way- without intention- without thought of consequence- that has come back to bite me and force me to take notice. Sometimes I speak without thought, I do things that hurt other people, I have bad habits that have consequences and get called out on it, I wear my heart on my sleeve too much, I step in shit without looking only to realize later I fucking stink. Yes, life. When I was married and I made mistakes I could bounce this off Terry, I could get advice, get challenged, or often just listened to with a hug. The shame receded and the hurt got mended. I can't cry and be held and apologize for losing those shoes, say I am sorry for thinking they were meaningless. I can't tell him all the ways since his death that I have changed for the worse, from the women he loved, the awful mistakes I have made, the way I lost myself. I try, I admit it, say the bad out loud to him and wonder with all my powers of imagination what he would say back. And up to now I can't for the life of me hear anything except "oh Sue".

Now it's mine, mine to feel alone. And I do, but I also have choices. I can keep doing it, I can ignore it, I can change, I can learn from it, I can be mindful and feel it. I can't get those shoes back, but I can cry over their loss and examine why the loss is so powerful now and move forward.

I think maybe when we grow up we have many many moments like this. We can ignore them (as I did for years when I was super busy with kids and school) or we can take notice. Life has been trying to teach me to be present in the moment. To take notice now, to stop looking back or too far forward. Yet, I get super pissed at people who tell me not to look back this is where the life I am not yet ready in many ways to give up was. Why not spend time daydreaming of a distant future where this grief may be healed? I missed and still do a lot of life because I didn't/don't live in the moment. This causes even more regret. I suppose the good news is I am not on my death bed yet. Today is today, now is right now. I feel the sun on my legs the warm wrap over my shoulders the computer keys under my fingers, the music and wind in my ears. I can practice mindfulness in each and every moment, in each and every mistake, in each and every good and bad thing I do and learn from it.

It just came to me "Oh Sue you looked beautiful in your shoes honey, I remember you taking them off on our wedding night and how tired and sore your feet were".

Monday, 5 June 2017

Warm nights and celebrations


         It's a warm night as I sit on my balcony with a glass of vino and listen to the peepers. The clouds are black in the midnight blue sky and the red glow of the already set sun hangs on the horizon like it doesn't want to say goodnight. It's a perfect background for reflection. This past weekend I have spent a evening with family; celebrating my father's 80th birthday with a good steak, accompanied by all my children save one, and my siblings. It was very nice. The rents are aging well, they are still with us and I am grateful for that. Eighty and eighty four and they still live alone without any help or support from anyone, fifty five years married this year.  Wow.

Also this weekend my son graduated with his baccalaureate in chemistry (high honors-mom gotta brag) so at his request his siblings, their significant others and I spent two days at the cottage talking, laughing, crying, eating, and making merriment. Michael, my baby, spent the last four years (through some very tough times and major life changes) studying his heart out to achieve this goal. We are all so proud of what he has been able to do. In these last four years his father died, he fell in love and she moved in with him and we moved from his childhood home. He still managed to graduate at that caliber of achievement. I am in awe. I could not do anything these last four years save stay alive.  So this type of achievement is noteworthy for sure. And we all wanted to show him. My daughter decorated the cottage with his school colors and helium balloons, my son bought lobster for his grad supper, I ordered a cake and made a rib dinner, his sister surprised him by showing up unexpectedly. He got his first Cuban cigar and his favorite drinks. Meaningful messages came his way from those who couldn't attend. Everyone knows what this achievement means.

Especially Mike. And all it took was looking at his cake to open the floodgate. Four years of accumulated perseverance and dedication bubbled to the surface.... and of course the absence of who didn't see this day.  When Mike was in his first year university his dad was his champion. He would have tears in his eyes when Mike brought home a B- , he encouraged him, cheered him and noticed every step of his first semester as he struggled and spent endless hours in his bedroom studying. Near the end of Michael's first year Terry died unexpectedly and quickly. Mike had no time to even process the death of his dad when his first year final exams were on him. He also was the only one left in the house to attend to things like rats, floods, lawn mowing, wood to fetch through snowstorms, shoveling and general mom worrying. It was not easy. we shared many a good cry.  But he made it, he did it.

So when we all gathered and I put the cake down in front of him it all hit home. You see his dad used to do that, every year he'd make a supper of Mike's choosing for his birthday, he'd make his cake, offer it to him and light his candles. And he wasn't there to do it this time. Terry would have been over the moon about this achievement, just like he was over all the other kids graduations, from high school, from college, from the army etc. he was always there for all of them except this.  We all felt it-we all grieved it together, all of us crying over what we miss. What Mike missed.

It was weird to feel comfort in this moment of communal grieving, to not be alone in it for a change. To grieve for someone else besides me. Eventually I moved it on, we had our moment and I moved us along to the celebrations. And so we did well into the night. And it was good.