:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.




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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Inertia. (Katie)

The inertia of today - of this week - is breathtaking. It is an absolutely amazing day outside. 73 degrees with sunshine and the pleasant noises associated with peaceful, happy, kids-are-in-school neighborhoods. A dog is barking, a lawn mower has just started down the block, and I can hear the murmur of two women through my open windows as they walk together, crunching through dried leaves. I do not know what to do with this day. It defeats me. I've already done the things you are supposed to do to maintain your home; I've cleaned the kitchen, started the laundry, changed the sheets on the bed, unpacked from our abrupt trip to Kentucky and clipped the dogs' nails. My husband wants to rake leaves tonight when he gets home. I should start ahead of time so we do not have as much to do. But I probably won't, and I'm not really sure why. All those things took me until noon. I have wasted the afternoon and now it is 3:18 pm. And I'm in front of my computer writing about how I'm not doing anything.

It's been a strange week. Unexpectedly my uncle died on Monday, a week ago today, as I write this. For a week I had a reason for my attention to wander at work. To forget to give Bella, my darling incontinent great Dane, her medication so she had accidents in the house again. I didn't exercise, in any way. The spare time when not at work was consumed by trying to find flights to Louisville, talking to my parents who had already made it down there, calling my brother and sister, trying to find a house sitter for the dogs. I understand this is just what you do when something unexpected happens. But to have so completely dumped every other obligation to concentrate on this event, even when there was nothing I could do but pace, did not speak to me of clarity of mind. I do find this troubling.

My uncle was more of a grandfather than an uncle. He always made me feel special, and pretty, and loved. He had a voice rubbed rough by whisky and cigarettes, and huge hands with giant callouses from his job as an electrician and from his hobby of rebuilding motor engines. He made southern noises that I can't replicate and every time he saw me would say, "there's that sweet thang! C'mere sugar!" The southern accent is a comforting thing.

I'm trying not to make this a eulogy to my uncle, because there already have been several, all done by people who knew him better than me. But to see all those people brought together by his death was a place we had not been before. We have been an extraordinarily lucky family, in that the only family death I remember - ever - was my grandmother's 10 years ago. She was elderly, and ill, and it was not unexpected. This is new.

So, because this is new, watching the people in my family navigate this was educational. My cousin, the son of my uncle, is younger than me. But he was an old soul this week and gave me a blueprint on what this might have looked like had this been my father. I got to see how my mother might cope with this. Because this is a huge fear for me. Losing my parents. I know this happens to everyone at some point, but I have discovered that the thought makes me quake to my core in fear. I don't take them for granted, but they have always been there. This is probably not a fear that you can take on as a challenge, but it has been reassuring to see that it is survivable. However it's not a fear that I can sustain for very long. It rears up with a vengeance when I hear that my dad has a coronary angiogram appointment in Iowa City, or when my mom has to have an MRI for unexplained back pain. Or when my uncle dies. But then those fears fade into the background of my day to day life and become dormant until the next thing happens to poke them. This I find amazing. That the biggest fears are ones that don't occupy most of our mind's time. Or at least mine - I imagine that parents must live there on average more than I do. What is that? Trust? Trust that the systems in place and our loved ones' good judgement will keep everything running smoothly until it doesn't? Does the mind become too overwhelmed at the thought of losing the people we love that it has to relegate it to "emergency fear" so we can concentrate on what to have for lunch, or where to get gas, or what type of laundry detergent to use?

My husband and I got back from Kentucky last night. I couldn't face the thought of work today, so I took it off. Tomorrow I have to do a day-long observation in a kindergarten room. This always gives me a heachache. I think that to be a pre-school or kindergarten teacher one has to have the prescience and intuition of an air-traffic controller. I do not, and so they are exhausting to watch. And then tomorrow night is my scheduled swim practice that I avoided last week because it was Too Much. And, funnily enough, my husband just called with an ETA time to commence leaf-raking.

I think my obligations are returning to consciousness, and dragging my feet feels irresponsible. So, tomorrow will be busy. And probably the next day too. I hear my husband now in the driveway. The dogs are barking. Any second, the rest of my life will burst through the door. And the next time I post, it will be about normal things like exercise, anxiety, work, angst, blah. But today feels like a threshold, where I can use the past tense to say that my uncle's death was difficult. His death also showed me again what I already knew. That my family is one to lean on if I need it. They can take it. And that even the biggest fears will retreat in the presence of well-meaning people bearing homemade lasagna and hot dishes.

In a side note. My husband, upon hearing that I was in a group of strong women, now calls this my "post-feminism-call-to-arms-group." And he just asked me if I was going to burn my bra.

Here's to Deetsie.

9 comments:

Ann said...

I am sorry to hear about the lose fo your uncle. It is never easy and seems to always be harder when a death is unexpected. For me, the strangeness of actually being a grown up came when one of our close friends lost their father last year. Our parents are getting older, how can that be? Anyway, you are my thoughts and prayers that each day you remember the warmth of your uncle's southern charm and that the mourning is less and less!

T-Free said...

I am so sorry to hear about your uncle. There is nothing like a warm, comforting Southerner. Nothing.

It's funny how life sometimes grabs the best laid plans and runs away with them, giggling maniacally, isn't it? I hope your busy day or so of obligations mellows out into a week of comfortable routine very quickly. I bet the swim practice will be surprisingly cathartic for you.

Your husband sounds funny. When my husband mocks my strong woman/feminist side, I like to reply with a sarcastically dismissive, "Whatever, Oppressor." He always laughs. :)

Hang in there, brave COFFEE warrior. xoxo.

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

I too am very sorry to hear about your dear uncle. Those bonds never leave us, and I'm sure you impacted your sweet uncle's life no less than he did yours.

The best to you and all the days of muck as well as excitement ahead. Maybe when we all meet one day, we can roast marshmallows and burn underwire bras. :)

patresa said...

katie katie.

moonshine toast to uncle jack.

big peace and healing to the whole bunch.

and also: this is just beautiful. beautiful beautiful and real writing, and i think more people should read what you have to say, fine friend.

amy said...

Oh Ms. Katie. So sad. I can relate, in so many ways (which would make this comment exactly 10 pages long).

As someone who unexpectedly (and a tad traumatically, because I found him in his far too late to help) has lost her dad, I will just say: whenever anyone we love goes to the Great Beyond, Life eventually goes on with great happy joys, but at the same time we're left with tiny little holes in our hearts that never really fill.

Death is one of Life's great dividers, and it's taught me to say what I need to say to someone as much as possible, whenever the moment strikes. (And it's also left me with a transient sense of impermanence, and I have to work really really hard now not to become a helicopter mom because of this.)

I am sending you and your family great big hugs of light and love, and wishes for peace and grace, and lots of good thoughts to your rough-voiced, callous-handed uncle, wherever he is right now (which, I like to believe, is very close to the people he loved best and who miss him deeply right now).

Your husband is a comedian. A COMEDIAN! (Our husbands must never meet. It would be dangerous, and we would have to burn all our bras, and THEN what would we do? Huh??) :-)

amy said...

...in case you were wondering what "his" I found my dad in, it was his bed. Not some bordello or anything. Although that certainly might have made it a far juicier story, 10 years later. :-)

Wendy Jans said...

Oh Katie, my heart hurts for you. Even though you are physically back home in your regular environment doesn't mean that mentally you should have returned. This is a big deal that will take time to process, so give yourself that time to be still, with no apologies.
I agree with Patresa, this was such a beautiful post. So sorry it stemmed from your loss. You and your family are in my prayers.

That husband of yours cracked me up. I'm in for the bra-burning, who's with me?! haha.

Katie said...

Hi ladies! So sorry for my tardy reply, I have been reading and treasuring your responses yesterday and today, and only now have had a chance to properly write my thank you.

For your condolances and thoughts, I really do appreciate them. Thank you. It means a lot to put something like this out there and feel it land gently.

Ann, thanks for the warm thoughts and prayers!

The swim WAS cathartic! Good call Tawni! And I do love "whatever, Oppressor." I'm a-gonna steal it.

Tanya, marshmallows and melted bra parts sound like a perfect evening to me. Maybe we can make a sculpture out of the underwire?

Thanks P, for the writing compliment - it means a lot coming from someone who's writing I respect as much as yours. And the moonshine toast is well received :)

And Amy - thanks for sharing a (I'm sure small) part of your story. I can only imagine how hard that time must have been, and you have my belated sympathies. And even though I imagine some cataclysmic avalanche would begin somewhere as soon as the twain should meet, I think it would be hilarious to watch our husbands attempt small talk. I'd buy tickets and bring popcorn.

Wendy, thanks for the support also, and I'd sign up for the bra burning in a second! Although I think I might need SOME support for my ta-tas. I wonder if Madonna's cones are still available?

Katie's Daily Random Moment:
Axel says out of the blue while reading Psychology Today (I can't explain this): "I have such a renaissance personality."

Steph said...

Katie, I read this post the day you posted it. I couldn't comment. I'm so sorry. Your post was so beautiful, so poignant, so... perfect. I had to sit on it awhile, and I'd guess I've read it at least 11 times since you posted it.
I know that feeling of "any second, the rest of my life will burst through the door." It's surreal, comforting and cruel all at the same time. In the midst of the pain and sadness is the knowledge that life does continue, but there's also that need to just feel what you feel until you're ready not to feel it again. The "rest of" Life crashing in on that is a brutal reality...
As I have since reading, I'll continue praying for you and for your family. Much love to you, and thank you for sharing.