Thursday, October 4, 2007

Of Christmas Photos and Umbilical Cords

I have been thinking about Christmas. Christmas in October?, you may ask. Yes, because this is the time of year when I begin gathering ideas for gifts, and more fun than that, I go through the photos of the past year in search of a great one for our Christmas card. Sometimes it doesn't get taken until November, as a number of them were: we would take a photo in Palm Desert during the Thanksgiving holiday with Grandma and Kappa.

This was a challenge last year, as we were in the hospital with Katie and at Ronald McDonald House. The kids were heartbroken to miss the annual trip to the Desert. Getting a good photo of the four of us was impossible, since Katie had lost her hair and refused to cooperate with any family photo. Instead, I went to a file of photos that had been taken by a professional in May, 2006, before Katie got sick, when the kids were hoping to start modeling/acting. I chose one of David and Katie, and made it into a sort of "thank you-Merry Christmas" card.

This year, it is a heartbreak. We have one really good photo of the four of us, taken at Andrea and Mike's wedding, 2 weeks to the day before Katie passed away. It's the only family shot that we have from 2007. The problem is, Katie doesn't look as pretty as I KNOW she would want to in the picture, and I think it would make her mad if we use it. On the other hand, this is the last year that we will have a shot of the four of us, so it seems stupid to skip it over some vanity. On the OTHER hand, we have some good photos of just the three of us from our trip to Canada last month, which would show how life is now. And we might get a good shot in the Desert this year. Then again, I can't imagine our Christmas photo without Katie...and around and around I go, on the little hamster-wheel in my mind.

Another thing: if attachment is a source of pain and trouble in our lives, especially our spiritual lives (check your Buddhist writings), why are we mothers hard-wired for attachment? Look at your umbilical cord, as an example; everyone gets one. That cord sustains life for months, as your mother gives you some of everything she has in order to help you grow. When you are born, it gets discarded, but do you ever wonder about how the thing grows, without any effort on your part, or your mother's? It is just THERE when it is needed. So tell me, how are we mothers supposed to face the permanent absence of our child? How would I stop feeling that there has been an amputation where Katie is supposed to be? I am all for children growing up, individuating, moving forward into their own lives, fulfilling their dreams and the design of their own being. Going to college in another state is fine with me; dying is not. It's a violation of nature, and everything in me just screams that it is wrong. It IS wrong, but look: it has happened.

Oh, and another thing: I had one of those Peter-Rabbit-in-Mr.-MacGregor's-Garden moments yesterday, at the grocery store. You know, the moments that you hear about, but cannot imagine yourself being part of...I was pushing my cart full of groceries into the frozen-food aisle, going for the waffles that David prefers for breakfast. Standing right in front of those waffles were two lovely ladies I know. They were so sweet, and happy to see me. But I wanted to run the other way. I actually considered leaving without the waffles, in order to avoid any social contact. It wasn't personal; it was just social contact, in which socially normal behaviour is required/expected. I didn't feel normal; I felt stripped and vulnerable. I felt like a hermit, who doesn't remember how to behave around people. It was the first time that it's happened when I have been alone. I did the best I could, but I feel sorry about my response to the lovely ladies; I know they meant well. How odd, when a mere offer of a hug, and a "How are you?" feels like jungle warfare. Perhaps there is something a bit "off" in me. Hmm...


Karla W. said...

It sounds to me like you are prefectly normal...trying to cope with something that in your wildest nightmares would never had happened. Something that a mother should never have to deal with.

I do feel that mothers are hard wired, our kids come first in our lives and there is nothing we wouldn't do to protect them. So what happens when we can't?

I'm proud of you that you stayed to get the waffles. You would have had every right to turn the other way and get them later.

I was raised to care about what other people think and how they feel...sometimes it's hard to give myself permission to not worry about them and just worry about myself and my family.

Sheri said...

So normal hon. The connundrum about the Xmas card, the feelings in the grocery aisle...the social withdrawal. Be gentle with yourself. Grief is not the same as being "ill" somehow...I know you know this already.

It is still very early after her death. Joseph died nine months ago next week...and I am just now starting to conceptualize that perhaps the attachment has not been severed..that it perhaps has just evolved to a higher life form. I am not overly religious...more this makes sense to me but I realize may not be in keeping with your own pathway to peace. I know you will find it. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself.