Friday, July 27, 2018

So, here we are

I wander the halls of this big, stupid house in the middle of the night wondering how the fuck I got here. Not just here at this address, but HERE. This isn't my life. My life wasn't supposed to be my life, but after 20+ years of loving the cute chicks, it became my life. And I loved it.

Twenty-five years ago, if you'd asked me, I'd be looking at early retirement after 25 years teaching, my children would be grown and off to college/married/starting their own lives, and I would be starting my second go at life. Maybe traveling. Maybe going after that law degree I deferred. Maybe just sleeping in and being a bum. But life is what happens when you're busy making plans. I had Sarah, who wasn't the child I imagined having, and I had to adjust. I actually mourned her the first time when she was a baby. I had to be able to let go of the child I had imagined and all the things I had planned in order to truly love and appreciate the beautiful soul God gifted me. I went through all the stages of grief after getting her Autism diagnosis ~ denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. It was easier for Jaylee, I had the feeling she was different from the moment I held her in the hospital. And I had experience. But my life trajectory changed dramatically. Instead of a working professional who had children, I was a Special Needs Mom ~ advocate, researcher, teacher, therapist, guardian, full-time MOM. Sarah and Jaylee were my life. Jay still is, she's really the only reason that I get up and dressed most days.

And now, my sweet silly Sarah is gone, and to be brutally honest, folks, I'm not doing well. At all. I can maintain a calm, capable fa├žade when I'm in public, with family who need me to be strong for them, but it's exhausting. To my soul. After Sarah's memorial, two weeks were spent moving and settling Jaylee in. Then she dislocated her kneecap and was in an immobilization brace for two months. During that time, I had to whip the Panhandle house in shape and get it on the market for the Spring housing market. From March to mid-May, I basically remodeled a 1400-sq ft house. Every wall was painted. New wood laminate laid in the living/dining/kitchen/breakfast/utility room. New carpet in the bedrooms. New cabinets and countertops in the kitchen. New refrigerator and stove. My total budget was $7800, I came in just about $10 under. But it was something to focus my mind and energy on. The hardest part was actually being there. Every time I walk into that house I relive February 1, 2018 9:18 am. It sucks. I got to where I could numb myself, feel nothing, think nothing, see nothing but the task in front of me. I had a job and a deadline, and it kept me sane. I'd work from 8 in the morning to almost dark, go home, take care of Jay, take a shower, pass out, get up and do it again. I finished on a Wednesday, we signed with a realtor on Friday, she listed on Realtor.com on Saturday, and showed it 4 times on Sunday. Four days later, one of the ladies who saw it on Sunday made a full-price cash offer contingent on the sale of her house. I know what you're thinking, but I had faith. Long story short, we close August 9. Closing that chapter of our lives. We moved to that address when Sarah was 3 and Jay was 1, it was really the only home they'd ever known. It was Sarah's only home. Her last home. Sometimes I felt changing everything in the house, I was erasing her. Those were the times I ended up outside on the deck sobbing for an hour. I guess the approaching end is spiking my anxiety and depression. I don't know, I just feel like I'm in quicksand and the harder I struggle the faster I sink.

Which brings me to why I'm writing this. My grief counselor wants me to write down as many happy memories of Sarah as I can think of, sharing them helps me keep her close. It's a double-edged sword, it also hurts to remember. So we're going back to her last Prom. You've heard the story of her actual Prom, this is the story BEFORE the Prom. The Preparations.

One of the biggest things about Prom is the dress. Shopping. Sarah, while she loves the dresses, has a very low tolerance for shopping and trying on clothes. Most of her dresses were purchased online with her picking them out. But this time she wanted the whole experience. She wanted to Say Yes to the Dress. It had become a favorite show for her, and she wanted it. So I called David's Bridal in Amarillo and explained the situation. She needed a time that was slow if not completely empty, I'd like to come in and pre-select several dresses for her to choose from so that she's not barraged by satin and bangles, and we need a really patient consultant. Not a problem, they'll be happy to work with us. I really can't say enough about the ladies at David's Bridal, they were all super-sweet.

By this time in her life, Sarah's weight had really gotten out of control, and there weren't that many options that came in her size, but I managed to pull ten choices, all of them available in her preferred hot pink. We went in on a Thursday morning, thinking we'd be the only ones there. Um, no. We were in kind of a semi-circle of dressing rooms with a big stage surrounded by mirrors in the mirror. We were on one end, and four other girl-mom combos were stationed down the line. Sarah was the first one out, in a bright pink flowing chiffon strapless. And sneakers. While she was standing there getting fussed over by grandma and Angela, the young lady two doors down came out. She was wearing a long gold sparkly fitted dress. Sarah, being Sarah, calls out across the unnaturally quiet store, "Oh my! You look lovely! And so grown-up too!" (line from Aladdin King of Thieves) "Hi, I'm Sarah!" The young lady looked over, startled, and stammered a quiet "Thank you" before turning to her mom. Sarah wasn't having it. "I'm a Panhandle Panther. What are you?" Her way of making small talk. "Um, I'm a Randall Raider." "Is that a cat or a dog?" "I think it's kind of like a pirate."
"Oooooo, Pirates." That got a grin.

By this time, Ladies #3 and 4 were out, one in red sequins of which mom clearly didn't approve and the other in a midnight blue ballgown. Same greeting from Sarah, same compliments on their gowns, and same question, "What are you?" We had a Panther, a Raider, two Eagles, and #5 came out in pale pink satin and tulle to announce she was a Bulldog. Ice broken, they started chatting, asking Sarah about her Prom, talking about sports and band (two of them had gone to the same basketball camp), and boys. Sarah was always sad about not having a boyfriend or a date. She might have been challenged in some areas, but she was all girl in others. And a hopeless romantic. None of the girls had boyfriends, all were going stag, and they all assured Sarah that it was perfectly fine. Boys were mean and stinky. Sarah wasn't buying it.

More dresses were tried on, more giggles and lively chatter, Sarah helped blue ballgown find a tiara, white satin with cabbage roses helped Sarah find her Elvis belt. As each girl made her selection and mom went to settle up, they came over to Sarah, told her how beautiful she was, and how much they hoped she had a great Prom She threw her arms open and declared "Big Arm Hug", and each young lady got a hug. Angela, our consultant, rang up our dress and belt, bejeweled flipflops, and hot pink jeweled butterfly headband, shaking her head and grinning. She told us she'd never seen anything like that, that most of the appointments are really quiet, almost church-quiet, and that she'd really had fun with us that day. All in all, Sarah was there just over two hours, well beyond her stress threshold. And not even a hint of stress or meltdown. I had never been more proud of her.

What brought this memory to mind? Over the 4th of July, mom and I were at the craft fair on the Square in Canyon when a young lady approached us. She said hi and asked if we remembered her, um, no, sorry, were you a classmate of Sarah's? No, she was one of the young ladies at David's that day and was wondering how Sarah's Prom went? Did she have fun? Was she with us? Mom is still struggling to talk about Sarah without crying, so I told her that she had died last February. She hugged me and told me how sorry she was to hear about her passing. Sarah's happiness and friendliness had inspired her to look into special education as a major. She had always wanted to be a teacher, but after meeting Sarah, she decided she might want to teach special needs kids. She'll be attending WTAMU in the Fall. She just wanted us to know what a special blessing Sarah was and that she had a legacy. Mom's in tears sobbing by now, and I'm struggling to talk past the lump in my throat. I thanked her for letting us know and told her we were really proud of her. She'll make an excellent spec ed teacher. She left and we went back to mom and Poppy's house and just sat quietly for a while before either of us could speak. Our girl had a legacy.

57 comments:

Beans said...

Thank you for sharing. The young lady is right. Sarah is a gift that you gave us, and she's given all who dealt with her a legacy.

Your life has led in such strange and wondrous directions. And you've inspired me in my life.

Hang in there, harass Wirecutter if you need to (preferably where we can watch him squirm,) whatever you need to get through all of this.

And remember, we, your blog-fans, are out there rooting for you.

wirecutter said...

Wow. Just wow.

Cederq said...

Angel, I am so glad you are sharing these memories with us. You became special to us and your daughters became special to us. You brighten my day when I see your byline on Kenny's blog, you touched a lot of hearts and through you your daughters touched our hearts. I have joy you are poking your head out and letting us know you are still there and want to keep us in your life. May God Bless you, keep you close and heal your heart.

Anonymous said...

Ok i think i got something in my eyes, not sure what but there trying to flush something out.

Exile1981

Judy said...

More hugs and prayers for you and your family.

Just keep remembering the good times...As one mother to another, it takes a lot of time but eventually, it doesn't hurt so much.

Anonymous said...

I love you and your family, and I wish you nothing but great blessings.

Thanks to you all for coming into my life, you enrich it.

Kind regards
Lofty.

crow said...

We don't know each other, but I've enjoyed your writing over the last couple years.
In all honesty, you'll never get over this hurt but it WILL get better. Hang in there. You've got a lot of un-met friends who appreciate what you do & how you express it. Know that there's a back rub & hand hold being beamed your way.

J Bogan said...

Dammit, that was beautiful. And it sure got dusty in here all of a sudden.
Hugs, praying for you and your family.
Wish there was more I could do.

Chris said...

As much as it may hurt right now, take a lot of pictures of the house, inside and outside, this will help you focus on the good memories. That might sound backwards, but it will help. She will always be with you, and putting words here will keep her memory close.

Hugs.

Anonymous said...

Grief has its own time line, but the good memories will eventually come to the foreground. Love makes the good memories so much better and stronger.
Keep hanging in there until then.

fjord said...

"And though she be but little, she is fierce." - Shakespeare

Thank you for sharing your daughter's life with us, You will never know how many lives she and you have touched.

57790 said...

Thank you for that great story.

If I may offer my $ 0.02 worth:

As someone else said, take lots of pictures of the house and neighborhood, with time you will be able to look at them more and more and re-live the good memories.

"It may not get 'better', but it WILL get a bit easier as time passes."

Steve Wright said...

God Bless you Angel. God made you for a purpose. Thank you for sharing you with us. I may never meet you, but know you have made a difference in lives you will never see.

Steve in KY

p kerit said...

Painting and new carpet is NOT remodeling. Even changing the cabinets doesnt count as a remodel. The 'model' is the floor plan. A Re-model means relocating walls, doors and windows.

James said...

May God bless you and may Sarah's memory always bring a smile.

Paulie said...

Angel,

God bless you and your family. Please keep writing; the world (well, we, at least) needs to read your stuff.

Paulie

JeremyR said...

p kerit, common usage, you can't cook a roast in a pipe of vegetable matter emitting an odor which causes an altered mental state, but it is still called pot.

Angel, you are in my prayers. I know how hard it is, and whether it is an accident or illness, expected or unexpected, the loss of a child is not easy.
People like the plattitude that a parent should never bury a child, bu that ignores reality. We are perhaps the first generation in which the death of a child is almost unheard of.
Above all, be there for Jaylee. You don't need to be strong for her, just a place she can turn as she also grieves the loss of big sis. I still mourn the loss of my sister who died 41 years ago.

Fatman said...

P kerit you should be ashamed of yourself. If you aren't ashamed then you're just a common asshole. Seriously? Angel pours out her heart and you correct her choice of vocabulary? What is wrong with you? Angel, I'm certain that you'll be able to ignore this moron. I've been blessed with the strength you have exhibited through this trial in your life. I cannot imagine or truly understand your pain. I will pray that God upholds you and increases your strength as time passes. I pray that the recurring memories will make you smile even in your pain.
God Bless You Always.

Lisa said...

Amazing story Angel. Keep writing, keep sharing. Sarah's spirit lives on in that young lady's heart. I'm sure she will be asked many times why she chose special ed, and each time she will retell the day of preparation for Sarah's prom.
Grief changes, but its seems to always be there. I lost my beloved stepson 1.3 years ago and I have a 12 yr boy with severe high functioning autism.
All my love to you Angel

Sanders said...

Dang allergies, made the page blurry to me.

John Deaux said...

Times will get better and memories easier, god bless.

tripseven said...

Sorry but I did not take offense to P kerit's post and I hope you didn't either Angel. It seems to me that P kerit wanted you to know that the house is still intact as Sarah knew it. Like we all do in the morning, I think I will wear this or today I'm going to try that...everything is constantly changing yet the heart of that home is still beating and is just not going to change!

God, family, good friends and time are your rescuers Angel! Thanks for sharing!

Farm.Dad said...

Damn dusty round here today , i seem to have gotten something in my eyes .

Anonymous said...

my dear little sister... as always, you touch my heart. and from what I see in comments, mine isn't the only one. You are still in my prayers, time does heal somewhat, and God does give comfort. And your friends are 'here' for you always. Kenny has my contact info if you lost it and ever want to write. - Grandpa

oldawg said...

Thank you Angel. As an old man and a great grandfather three times over now it's important that I see you, a mother, begin to smile through the tears.Keep us posted on how you and Jay are doing. Oldawg

Keith said...

I was told, overheard, read, something, that we are all put on this earth for a purpose. And if we are still on this earth, we haven’t done it yet. Sounds like Sarah was put In your charge for several purposes. Maybe the last of these was inspiring a young lady to work with people with special needs. One of the reasons you were put here was to raise Sarah, make her who she was, so she could inspire others. You’re not done yet. The simple little things we do in our lives affect others. Sometimes in ways we would never dream of.
Bless You

AbbyS said...

Dearest Angel, You are never far from my heart. Thoughts & prayers always. I am so very glad you are getting grief counseling. Listen to him/her. This is what they do. I am so glad the young lady remembered you and Sarah. I am also glad the young lady has been given a mission. Sarah will live on in every life this young lady touches. God bless you all.

AbbyS

Anonymous said...

Dear Angel- Thank you for sharing this.
I feel your grief and pray for your peace and healing. I know you have the strength to carry on.
Please stay in touch. We all miss you.

=TW=

Anonymous said...

"It’s OK to not be OK. If your life has exploded into a million little bits, you don’t need platitudes. You don’t need cheerleading. You don’t need to be told this all happened for a reason. You certainly don’t need to be told that you needed your pain in order to learn something about life. Some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried."

pigpen51 said...

You must know that you are never far from the thoughts of those of us who had followed you for so long. And your loss will always affect us as well. That is just how it is with family. And as scary as the thought is, if you never are able to somehow " get over" your loss, we understand, and do not judge nor condemn you for it. I cannot even imagine the loss of my child. My brother experienced this, from a car accident, with his child at the age of 21. Though many years ago, it is never far from their memory.

I have held you and your loved ones up in prayer on many occasions that you might experience God's love and grace. All the lofty platitudes that I could give you will never make things "normal" again. Your normal is new, and you have to prepare yourself for life, the best that you can do. And memory is not an enemy, but rather a kind, gentle friend, always ready to bring you back to celebrating your time with your baby.
My wife and I wish you to continue healing, and to grow ever stronger as a each day passes.

Anonymous said...

Thank You.
jack

Unknown said...

This touched me as my Dad is dying. Grief is a physical pain. No bone to set, no stomach to be pumped, no surgery to relieve the pressure in my head. The tears even hurt, but I am blessed to have had him this long.

Sandra J. Brown said...

This is written with tears in my eyes for your pain and also the lovely story of the Teen Queen. Sara, you will always be with us in one way or another.
The waves of grief will get smaller and no longer feel like a Tsunami.

Everett R Littlefield said...

Hi Sarah, So sorry to hear that Sarah is gone. I know it has been a long hard journey for you both. I DO know just exactly how you are feeling as I just lost my 22 year old granddaughter two months ago today to the ravages of Lyme disease and it's many offshoot problems. She has had it since she was two years old!

Toward the end she could not even remember what she had done the day before. Kidneys and liver finally shut down all at once, and she was gone. Look at her picture everyday and still have a bawling fit. Cannot even talk to anybody without starting to cry. Done that more in the last 60 days than I have in my entire life, even after losing my sister and brother a couple of years ago two weeks apart.

Hang in there young lady, I'm told it does get better in time, but it must be a LONG time as I am leaking for both of us right now!! Take care, Everett R Littlefield Sr.ADCM, FE, AC, NO, USN Retired. Long time reader but first time commenter.

hiswiserangel said...

To each and every one of you, thank you so much for walking with me down this path. It’s a little less cold and lonely with your friendship and prayers.

Everett R Littlefield said...

Angel, Don't know how I got Sarah's name up there where yours should have been! 80 YO and
just getting stupider by the day!

hiswiserangel said...

Nonsense, read all the typos and mistakes in my story. Just damned hard to type through tears.

Old NFO said...

Thank you for sharing that story. Awfully dusty in here right now.

R&M said...

Angel, I cannot imagine your pain right now. I do, however, understand the changing of life plans when your child comes along and isn't "right". Of course they are right, it's just that different behavior is not always accepted. My son was diagnosed with Asperger's. I may not have had it as difficult in the same way as you through the years, but I do understand the struggle. Your counselor is right that remembering the good times and putting them in writing is therapeutic. Whether you share them with us or keep them in a private diary, bring them to the forefront. I feel privileged to be able to share with you. I know that you are in a dark place, but I would ask a question; if you are able, please share with us your daily life with Jaylee. There are those of us out here that appreciate knowing we are not alone when days go uncomfortable.

emtgene said...

Thank you, Dear Lady, for sharing that with us. I've not lost a child, so I won't pretend to know how you feel, but I lost my wife of 24 years in January, and I too have/am having a very rough time dealing with it. My prayers are for God to give you strength, and healing as time passes. It is a slow process. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

Don't really know what else to say Angel, except that I'll keep on thinking of you and praying for you.
-Bacon

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that G-d gives the greatest challenges to those He deems worthy of them.
-Bacon

Anonymous said...

Angel, I lost my only child a few years ago. Very different circumstances, but the loss is the same heartbreak for all of us. Know very well the either frantic activities to keep your mind off of things, or the almost not-being-able-to-get-out-of-bed feeling.

For months, the best part of my day was the about 5-10 seconds when I woke up, before I realized that he was really gone.

Sharing good moments helps, I agree with your counselor. Sometimes it makes people uncomfortable when you talk about your child, like your memories or grief are some disease they might catch.

You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Jeffery in Alabama said...

Thanks for sharing Angel. I'm sure you've heard people say that "the Lord won't put on you more than you can bear". I believe this, but I can tell you there are days when I feel the Lord has more faith in me than I do myself. I wish I had some magic words that could take your burdens away, but I do not. I can tell you that prayer and time has aided me under similar circumstances. Hopefully, they will do the same for you.

https://newspring.cc/studies/1-corinthians-a-35-day-devotional/where-to-turn-when-life-is-more-than-you-can-bear

Beans said...

Stay in touch, dear lady. If you don't want to drop a note directly, at least have WireCutter give us a weekly Angel posting or something. Please?

Most people have never experienced the amount of love and dedication it takes to be a primary care giver over a long time. And all that one gives does wear one down. Take care of yourself.

tmckelve1 said...

Keep keeping on. I know its hard but Sara would want you to enjoy your life as if she was hare. I know it's hard I've suffered for some time in my life because of losses, It's always hard and I would like to tell you it gets easier but that would be a lie. You just need to remember all of the good timed and try not to concentrate on your loss. Be strong you are my and many other peoples Angel.

Pineslayer said...

Beautiful story and it helps those of us who thinks that most people are a drag. Most people just need a nudge.

Anonymous said...

"Grief has its own time line, but the good memories will eventually come to the foreground. Love makes the good memories so much better and stronger.
Keep hanging in there until then."

True words those. It'll take some time, but you will eventually smile and laugh again. Concentrate on the angel you have and you will see.

God Bless you, your family and friends.

Randy said...

Wow, thanks for sharing one of the most touching stories I have read. And thanks for being a great Mom (a great person too) to Sarah. A lot of people aren't strong enough to do what you have done.

KrazyBker said...

Thanks for posting that, ya made this grouchy old biker tear up. Just remember, as long as you're around posting these, she's alive in all of us. I've read yer blog for a long time but never commented before, you've taken me along on some nice trips. I lost a stepson I loved back in '93, never had any of my own, and it does get... if mot easier, at least better. Love ya, kid, hang in there.

Rhone Michaels said...

i'm so glad you're writing again...and, at 76 with forty years working [gratis] with cancer patients, i think i can say 'i know your pain'-one of those 'patients' was my brother...

i wanted you to know that i have kept you in my thoughts and prayers every since that day...and there you will stay, until you're "back with us" in spirit as well as flesh..

i wish i had the Words to make the pain go away...but, as you know, only *Time* lessens it, minutes and hours the small, gentle waves that gradually erode the sharpness.

Angel, in your sorrow, know that *You are Loved*, in the same way your beautiful daughter was [and *is*]; know she'll be waiting for you, as anxious to see you as you are to see her....
*Again*

Anonymous said...

It will take a couple years to work through this...

Mom was devastated, I found myself trying to fill in for a father that died at age 50...

She'd always had a man to take care of her.

Suffice it to say, she moved on and outlived two more husbands and, at 61, I still find myself trying to fulfill the promise to my father and continue taking care of an 81 year old mother whose memory is failing little by little each day.

I take her to movies each Saturday a) to get her out of the house and b) because she and my grandmother had always loved them. I listen to the same set of fond memories over and over ad infinitum...

Cherish what you have, today, while you still have it...

John Felock said...

Thank you so much for sharing what was so sad, then so positive. You've been missed by many!

Kat said...

Oh Leslie how I've missed you. I deleted my Facebook account in April; I've been out of touch with people who are dear to me. I think about you a lot and wonder how you are holding up. I think about Sarah too. Such a wonderful story that that young woman was so touched by Sarah that it inspired her to seek a career in special education. Sarah left a lasting legacy.

RebPirate said...

Thank you for sharing and I'm glad you're back, even if only intermittently. This was a nice story/remebrance and I truly hope that it was theraputic for you too. Stay strong.
By-the-way, my daughter and son-in-law moved to Canyon (I'm assuming you meant Texas) from the SF "bay area" in December. Small world.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. I hope it helps you grow past the awfulness. As I may have said before, I never had the courage to have children. I had cousins die from juvenile diabetes when I was young. From this, I thought that I was not strong enough to live through my babies dying.
I believe you are strong enough to live and grow through this horrible thing that has happened in your life.
I can't see to write any more just now.

Jean

Dan O. said...

Once again I sit here with tears reading a post about your special girl. As Wirecutter said...just wow!

Continued best wishes for your coping and strength I believe you have for dealing with your loss. I can't even imagine what it takes to go through what you have endured.