It's been quite a busy few days this past week, with all of the Offspring home and requiring trips to the dentist and extra food shopping/meal preparation, together with Christmas festivities and several obligatory family gatherings, plus a rather unpleasant cold virus that waltzed through the household. Herself is relieved that the holiday season is coming to a close, and that she can attempt to get into a more regular schedule. She needs routine.
She is still working to find a new kind of normalcy in which Cherished Friend is not as frequent a fixture, and with the busy running-around of the holidays, it has been difficult to find any kind of rhythm. She did enjoy a reflection of her previous routine while Cherished Friend was in town for a couple of days; they ran errands together, and he joined the family for dinner and games. It was a slightly bittersweet echo of days past -- such a thorough lesson in learning to enjoy the moment. She's learning to do so. Always a work in progress, she is.
Yesterday, Herself and Beloved Husband hosted Long-term Acquaintance and Acquaintance's Spouse for tea. Herself always feels on tenterhooks when Acquaintance visits; although the social calls can be pleasant, it invariably happens that there is some pointed statement, some backhanded compliment, some veiled criticism that surfaces. (We've provided a several examples previously.) Yesterday was no exception.
Beloved Husband was demonstrating to Acquaintance's Spouse a magnifying sheet that Herself had given Beloved Husband for Christmas. He mentioned that it would be particularly useful for a particular task Herself has, and complimented Herself on her skills in that particular task. Acquaintance stated, nearly scoffing at Beloved Husband's compliment: "Well, of course, I told you years ago that [Herself] can do all kinds of things well."
Herself thought: that almost sounds like a compliment from Acquaintance, even though it was couched in a way that made it sound as though Acquaintance was ever so slightly berating Beloved Husband for not accepting Acquaintance's superior knowledge regarding Herself's abilities.
Then Acquaintance went on: "She's almost perfect. (Pause.) ALMOST."
Ah, the pregnant pause, and the careful emphasis on almost. So innuendo-laden.
This is not the first time Acquaintance has used this language, complete with insinuation. Herself wearies of this passive-aggressive game.
So Herself replied: "When you say it that way, it sounds like there's some big imperfection underlying that."
Acquaintance responded in turn: "I'll never tell - except for the right price."
It's a double-edged sword, the "almost perfect" statement: first, it holds Herself to unattainable high standards of achievement; and simultaneously, it spotlights some kind of mysterious glaring defect that is clearly obvious to Acquaintance (and presumably thus to others), yet about which Herself is unfortunately unaware. Though apparently, that knowledge can be bought. Herself idly wonders what the price would be. And also what Acquaintance believes is Herself's terrible flaw.
There's too much cost to Herself in playing that game.
Herself is quite cognizant of her imperfections. She works daily to better herself. Sometimes, she succeeds. Other times, she has to try again tomorrow. As we said: a work in progress. One thing Herself knows for certain, though: she will love those whom she loves in their entirety, with all their facets both good and bad, perfect and imperfect.
You are loved, just as you are. Without question. And without price.
To love another another human in all of her splendor and imperfect perfection, it is a magnificent task... tremendous and foolish and human. ― Louise Erdrich, The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
Today while Herself was at work, waiting for the computer to compile a set of documents, she found herself thinking about enantiomers, and contemplated getting out her old organic chemistry textbook (which resides on the bottom shelf in the study) to do a little light reading.
Clearly, she needs a bit more science on a daily basis.
Offspring the First arrived home yesterday, and we all are delighted to see her. She and her brothers sat down to watch a bit of television together. It's just lovely to have the three of them under the roof for a little while.
Herself has been watching Dr. Who while using the elliptical trainer. She has just two more episodes to go. It's been an excellent show -- clever, sad, occasionally silly -- and she will regret coming to the end of the series. (Perhaps she'll just have to go back and watch the very early seasons, with Doctors one through eight. We shall see.)
Today's episode was "Name of the Doctor." Towards the end, there was an exchange between River Song and The Doctor that brought to Herself's mind the post of yesterday about Next Time. (We've edited it ever so slightly below to remove a potential spoiler. Spoilers! You can read the full transcript here.)
RIVER: It's hard to leave when you haven't said goodbye. DOCTOR: Then tell me, because I don't know. How do I say it? RIVER: ..... Say it like you're going to come back. DOCTOR: Well, then. See you around, Professor River Song. RIVER: Till the next time, Doctor.
When Herself says goodnight to the Offspring who are in the house at any given time, she says, "See you in the morning." When she drops them off, at school or some other appointed venue, she says, "See you this afternoon/this evening/[whenever she will return to fetch them]." This custom likely began when they were very wee and had separation anxiety: Herself would comfort them by affirming the Next Time. It became a tradition and a habit, and is now part of her routine with them. She does the same with Beloved Husband, too. When he leaves for work -- "See you at the office." If he works late after she leaves -- "See you at home." If he's away -- "Talk to you tomorrow morning." It's reassuring to her, to know when she will next have contact with him and with the Offspring.
Her first encounters with the Unknown Next Time were eons ago, when she and Beloved Husband (then fiance) had a long-distance relationship and only saw each other every three to four months. In those days before Skype and cell phones and texting and such, it was extraordinarily painful. She chooses not to recall those times now - best to let go of the difficulties of the past.
More recently, she has experienced the Unknown Next Time with Offspring the First and Offspring the Second. When Herself and Beloved Husband delivered them to college, she did not know exactly when the Next Time would be. It brought a pang to Herself's heart. Even now, when she will wave goodbye to Offspring the First at the airport, or when she will send Offspring the Second off to the train station, Herself will be unable to say when Next Time will be. She can only say: "See you soon." Alas. Time marches on.
Herself has realized that she also performs the Next Time ritual with Cherished Friend. At the conclusion of a walk, she would say, "See you [next walking day];" if she knew he'd stop by over the weekend, she'd affirm, "See you Saturday." If they were running errands, she'd establish that they'd meet at the grocery store or another place. It was always reassuring. Now that he is settling a bit into his new corner of the desert and Herself is adapting her routines to his absence, she has become very aware that her usual conclusion for any interaction cannot be used. Alas. The best she can do is: "Soon."
Soon -- the Unknown Next Time. It is saddening, indeed.
We can play a chosen song, or watch a favorite movie, over and over again. Bringing a smell to mind, however, is much more difficult. We can catch a hint of an aroma, or try to recreate one with a candle or a cookie in the oven or a stick of incense, but it is never quite the same. If we close our eyes, though, we can almost imagine a scent. Sniff.
On her way home from work, Herself drives by the small building that houses the veterinarian to whom she has taken all of the dogs. She sometimes feels a bit as the dogs must feel about that building: it's a place where one doesn't always know whether entering the door is for a quick visit, or for a lengthy stay, a more dire situation. It's a little frightening, no matter how kind the people are there.
This afternoon on the way past, she saw two people in front of the building with a makeshift stretcher made out of a blanket, a large and clearly immobile dog tucked inside. Alas. That cannot be good.
As she offered up her thoughts for them, her mind stretched back to the day -- nearly a year ago now -- when she and Beloved Husband brought ancient and decrepit dog to the building to send her over the bridge. Brave old dog, she had been looking off into the distance, hearing things that no one else could hear, seeing things that no one else could see. Perhaps it was ottoman-shaped dog calling her home. She was ready.
Beloved Daisy. If you can, watch over that dog in the stretcher -- he or she might need a guardian angel, or a warm welcome into the beyond.
If I listen closely, I can almost hear your giant wagging tail thumping. You are missed, sweet girl. Thank you for your time with us.
Offspring the Second is home. He wonderfully conversational and it's clear that he is as marvelous as ever, with a tad more wisdom and independence that he has gained from being away at college for the past semester. It is heartwarming to have him here. And best of all, we know he's feeling cheerful because he is playing his drums.
I never thought that drumming would be a happy noise - and yet, it most clearly is.
When Herself was a sophomore in college, she had a single dorm room. Her only roommate was the ancient goldfish, Mr. Fish, who resided in a rectangular tank on her desk. He would blow bubbles at the corners of the tank, making a loud *POP* on occasion. He was annoying, but companionable.
The room was a small space, comfortable and quiet. The ceiling was an odd waffle-pattern design, resembling the square spaces into which one would pour syrup or watch butter melt. The room had the basics - desk, bed, dresser, wardrobe - and a very nice window shelf which allowed in the afternoon sunlight. It appealed to her sense of minimalism.
During the time she lived in that room, Herself collected and built a set of balsa wood dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. If classes (or people) were tricky, or loneliness crept nearby, or her heart ached for one of the many inexpressible reasons as it does when one is young and not yet fully formed, she would walk up campus to the main street and bring home another model to assemble. The scent, color, and texture of the bare wood of the models were very soothing. She lined the windowsill with the models. She even hung the pterodactyl from a string in one of the waffle-squares of the ceiling. It was good.
Today while out at the small hardware store with Beloved Husband (who thoroughly enjoys an opportunity to get the weekly freebies with purchase at said store), Herself looked through the balsa wood models. They really are pleasing. Perhaps, if she can find just the right windowsill in which to put them, she'll make a few again.
There's a spot in the dishwasher, towards the right in back on the bottom rack, that is just right for that blue water bottle that Herself always brought for Cherished Friend when they went for walks. Herself thinks of that water bottle each time she loads and unloads the dishwasher. She needn't leave room for it right now.
When quarter to eight rolls around, Herself recollects that at that time, she used to finalize the filling of the water bottles and the packaging up of any food, to leave the house and join Cherished Friend for walks. Now at quarter to eight, she must battle the wave of inertia that reminds her that she has no particular place to be that evening. Alas.
Herself drives along the back road, on the way to pick up Offspring the Third from an evening activity. As she heads towards the spot where she would normally park for the evening walk, she finds herself looking for Cherished Friend's vehicle. Always so timely, Cherished Friend is. It has always made her glad to know that when he has agreed to meet her someplace, he is always there. She looks forward to the time when she can anticipate him being there again -- even though she doesn't know when that will be.
The refrigerator was a tad bare, and Herself opted to go to the warehouse store to purchase the traditional large quantities of commonly-used items. It's an errand that she would usually run with Cherished Friend. This time, she pushed the cart herself, and didn't bother perusing all of the aisles. There is little pleasure in the solitary performance of errands, when one is accustomed to company.
So many small holes, like gaps in the fabric of space and time. You are missing, and missed, our Cherished Friend.
Delightful young man. Your humor and cheeriness make every day brighter. You and your tender heart are a gift to the world.
Once upon a time, all the wee children at his preschool were dressed as angels for holiday photos. When shown this picture today, Offspring the Third stated: "I remember that day. I hated it." Ah, sweet child. Never change.
Herself has used Skype on rare occasions, such as for a handful of conversations in the course of her previous employment as well as for a few Alumni Schools Committee interviews of local students applying to her alma mater. It was a novel means of communication, she thought, but not particularly noteworthy. Meh.
How different it is, though, when one knows the person at the other end.
The cheer that Herself, Beloved Husband, and Offspring the Third let out when they connected with Cherished Friend last night was one of genuine pleasure. To see his form -- albeit a tad pixelated because of a somewhat feeble internet connection -- and to hear the familiar timbre of his voice, was a wee bit magical. Herself now understands fully what Harry Potter must have felt to speak with Sirius Black in the fireplace: an effusive mixture of delight, relief, and comfort.
Thank you, technology, for bridging the miles.
Sirius was found here: http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Floo_Network.
Thanks to Rascal Flatts for My Wish, which is just right.
I hope that the days come easy and the moments pass slow, And each road leads you where you want to go, And if you're faced with a choice, and you have to choose, I hope you choose the one that means the most to you. And if one door opens to another door closed, I hope you keep on walkin' till you find the window, If it's cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile,
But more than anything, more than anything, My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to, Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small, You never need to carry more than you can hold, And while you're out there getting where you're getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too, Yeah, this, is my wish.
I hope you never look back, but ya never forget All the ones who love you in the place you left, I hope you always forgive, and you never regret, And you help somebody every chance you get, Oh, you find God's grace, in every mistake, And you always give more than you take.
But more than anything, yeah, and more than anything, My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to, Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small, You never need to carry more than you can hold, And while you're out there getting where you're getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too, Yeah, this, is my wish.
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to, Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small, You never need to carry more than you can hold, And while you're out there getting where you're getting to, I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too, Yeah, this, is my wish.
Herself waved Cherished Friend goodbye just before dawn this morning. When the moment arrived, her heart was calm and at peace. Knowing the many wonderful possibilities that the future holds for him, she could only be happy for him. Grief cannot keep a foothold where happiness takes root.
Goodspeed, our magnificent friend. New adventures await.
Don't be dismayed at good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends. ― Richard Bach
In the past fifteen months, I've sent two elderly and ailing dogs over the bridge, and tended to an ancient guinea pig as he breathed his last. For numerous reasons, I had to resign from the first job I'd ever had after 23 years, and to take a new job for which I have no experience and which is not in my chosen field (though I do like my boss very much, which has helped). I ferried my second child off to college nearly 600 miles away. Now tomorrow, my Cherished Friend is moving over 300 miles away. with each new transition, I hear the echoes of the previous ones, and my heart breaks anew. So very sad.
There is a kind of crying I hope you have not experienced, and it is not just crying about something terrible that has happened, but a crying for all of the terrible things that have happened, not just to you but to everyone you know and to everyone you don’t know and even the people you don’t want to know, a crying that cannot be diluted by a brave deed or a kind word, but only by someone holding you as your shoulders shake and your tears run down your face. ― Lemony Snicket, The End
I realize, though, that the cumulative, echoing grief I carry is mine alone. No person should be asked to witness the raw emotion I bear, and I cannot request it of anyone. I shall wrap my arms around myself and move forward. And I will find comfort in my solitary bereavement, for it reminds me of the joy I have had.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. -- Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Some day, perhaps soon, I shall take my sorrow out to nature -- to the desert or the mountaintop -- and release it there. For Nature, in her eternal silent vastness, takes pity upon each minuscule evanescent human, and placidly absorbs every agony of the heart.
We mark with light in the memory the few interviews we have had with souls that made our souls wiser, that spoke what we thought, that told us what we knew, that gave us leave to be what we inly are. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Grief /ɡrēf/: the natural reaction to loss. A universal and personal experience.
Although we have been quietly mindful for years of the possibility that Cherished Friend might move away from this desert land, the actuality of his imminent leaving is still difficult to grasp completely. It is such a tangled mix of sentiments: genuine happiness for him in finding the right work, and excitement for him as he ventures out to new terrain and new people and new adventures, juxtaposed with self-pity for our loss of his company and fear of the void that will be left in our ordinary lives.
Herself knows that Beloved Husband and Offspring the Third have their own shades and shapes of grief about Cherished Friend's leaving, but has been so suffused with her own bereavement that she has been unable to determine how to assuage theirs. She is mired. She knows she is being selfish and self-centered. Look beyond yourself, child.
Yet she has had tremendous difficulty seeing past the date of his departure. A creature of habit and pattern, she is quite unsettled by the knowledge that the future crossings of their paths are unfixed and uncertain. She must now establish different daily routines, and find ways of bridging distance and time. That will take patience, and tolerance for the Unknown.
Knowing that the future is clouded by both the shifting possibilities of time and the veil of her sorrow, she momentarily opts instead to look backwards and recollect moments to strengthen her when she moves forward.
There is so much to see. She is grateful.
Her grief burns cleanly, white-hot, and the smoke clears from the road ahead.
Years and years and years ago, when Herself was working through a difficult summertime (a breakup with a college boyfriend and a tricky job, along with the strangeness of living at home after having been away at school all year), she discovered that she was unable at that time to listen to sad music. While some people relish a good emotional wallow with some soulful songs, Herself cannot do so when her heart truly aches. She resorted to listening to the pop radio station - KISS 108 FM in Boston - and it did the trick. Nothing like the top hits of 1986 interspersed with disco classics to keep her going.
Right now, as she tries to imagine how the daily and weekly routines of herself and her family will change once her Cherished Friend relocates to his new corner of the desert, she finds that once more, it is time for a certain kind of music. Right now, in addition to the relentlessly upbeat pop playlist, there's also bit of country music thrown in to the mix. Miranda Lambert, for example, fills the bill perfectly: there's the snappy Something Bad (with Carrie Underwood), and the particularly outstanding and quirky Mama's Broken Heart.
We hope you enjoy. And we would welcome any suggestions to add to our playlist as well.
NinjaHead resides with a muffin-baking woman known herein as Herself. Herself has a Beloved Husband, with whom she shares three nearly-grown Offspring. When she is not writing Things, Herself nurtures a visceral fondness for small furry creatures. The household menagerie, which has varied in size and composition over the years, presently contains a minuscule middle aged chihuahua, a most mild-mannered senior chihuahua, and a very small hamster who, due to the prominence of his gonads, seems to need trousers for decency.