Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief

Home is Where you Hang your Amaryllis

Hubby and I locked up the house for Christmas.

That’s right, I left the rotting Thanksgiving pumpkins on the porch, not a Christmas light or wreath was to be seen from the Schichtel household. We got the heck out of Dodge.

Well, I had one Christmas decoration, a pink and white amaryllis. But it hadn’t bloomed and as we left I figured I would miss our amaryllis blossom this year.

Shooba…..but we do have rotting pumpkins in the front

We spent Christmas with hubby’s mom. It was a restful, quiet, uneventful, chilly, white Christmas in Virginia.

Perfect.

Our trip home was a little stressful. The east coast is under a blanket of snow and the earliest seat available to Denver is Thursday. People have become a bit nasty, sad and angry that they might not be home until Thursday.

And I can’t say that I blame them

I have never been so grateful for a confirmed seat and then… first class upgrade! I felt a little bourgeois boarding the plane early, enjoying a glass of wine and a warm cookie in seat 5B.

Two year ago this time, we huddled in the back of the plane with Samantha as we returned from Hubby’s dads funeral and ate sandwiches Hubby’s mom had packed in a hurry.

The movement from one type of life to another is quite overwhelming.

We got home tonight, opened mail and packages delivered while we were gone. As I opened a Christmas card, I noticed our holiday amaryllis on the table, two perfect pink and white blooms with two more one the way. The subtle pink bloom against the green stalk is fabulous, perfect.

Pink and green, Lil’ Miss’ colors, it waited until we got home to bloom.

It was a lovely welcome home present. Perhaps we were missed. I might just have to get rid of the pumpkins.

Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief

Well Hello Christmas

Hello Christmas,

I have decided that I will embrace you. This decision did not come easy. Easy would be to grumble in my hole, easy would be a grandiose pity party.

It is tempting.

But the Christmas spirit, the sense of what is important has shone through, bright as that star we see Christmas night.

Darn you Christmas spirit.

Darn you.

I have been embraced by stories of others’ hardship….stories of sickness and sadness and stories of moving on but never forgetting. I love the people you are. My gift this year is you and the raw, true emotion you have shared with me the last week.

Thank you.

Our ability to feel, to show compassion and empathy make us more human than any other trait.

This is my humble opinion.

Hubby and I celebrated Christmas yesterday, just the two of us. He gave me a ruby and diamond encrusted pendant. I pulled it out and started crying.

“The ruby is Samantha’s birthstone,” I said.

“It’s Jack’s too,” he said.

A friend of ours commented this summer, “When you two talk about your kids, it’s like they are here. You both talk about them so openly and let each other share.”

Thank you hubby for being a hubby who celebrates our family, no matter where they might be.

And thank you for the necklace. Bobbles are always lovely.

And the best present, last night I dreamt about Samantha for the first time. She was lying on the floor and I was tickling her belly. Her skin felt so soft and that cherub belly was magnificent. She would bring her hands together, tuck her chin in and smile as I tickled her. I kept thinking, Well you’re not sick, you’re not sick at all.

I have held onto that dream all day.

So darn you Christmas. Darn you for giving me a strong-as-steel support group, a hubby who embraces our family (and gives me diamonds) and for giving me the best present, a sleepy, lovely, memory of our girl. Come by and visit anytime Miss.

I am at peace, perhaps even a little grateful.

Darn it.

Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief

Did The Grinch Have it Right?

As a kid I would watch the holiday classics where Santa got sick and couldn’t fly the sleigh, or decided to cancel Christmas and the Heat Miser took over. Rudolph’s parents got deer-napped by the Adominable Snowman and I would be appalled, scared and outraged.

How could they even consider the thought of cancelling Christmas!!!???? How could they even write about it? Produce a children’s TV show? Simply awful….and terrifying.

Christmas: Santa, presents, treats, vacation, all that is good, innocent and somewhat decadent in childhood.

I am now older and search for meaning.

This year I’m wondering if the Grinch didn’t have it right. Maybe he got tired of being bombarded with tidings of comfort and joy on November 1st. Maybe he couldn’t think of anything good to say in his holiday card. Maybe his Christmas goose was cooked.

I struggle this holiday season.

And in my struggles, I have found others who are struggling too. I ran into one of Samantha’s therapists today who told me she lost her niece two years ago.

“Christmas is always a little sad,” she said.

One of hubbie’s coworkers lost her husband three weeks ago in a car accident. They have two boys. I think of her often this Christmas season.

Bah friggn’ humbug.

I wonder if they feel the same as I do when wandering through the produce aisle and listening to a scratchy rendition of “Have a holly, jolly, Christmas. It’s the best time of the year. Oh by golly, have a holly, jolly Christmas this year.”

By golly my right ear. Don’t you tell me to have a holly, jolly Christmas Mr. Sinatra, don’t even try.

You’re a vile one, Mr. Grinch.
You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness, Of a seasick crocodile, Mr. Grinch.

Given the choice between the two of you. I’d take the seasick crocodile.

I have not written a Christmas card. It seems trite. I glance at cards with sweet angels singing, Santas stuck in the chimney, puppies in a stocking…..bleech. You all know how we’re doing. You know what we’re up against. We don’t need a card to connect.

I know you know because you drop angel bags off on our front porch. You hand me cards of holiday encouragement in the midst of parties. You send us notes that make me smile. You hold my hand a little tighter when we are saying goodbye. You look me in the eye.

This means much more than a fruitcake.

So please excuse my bout of holiday disdain. This year is about survival, about not throwing the TV through the window when seeing another miracle child from St. Jude, about searching deeply to find the meaning of the season and this year is about missing our girl.

Today I saw my sister-in-law who is having an awful week.

“Hold my hand,” she said, “hold it tightly.”

“Thank you,” I said squeezing her hand, “I just don’t feel the spirit of the season.”

“This is our spirit,” she said, “right here, right now, holding each others’ hand.”

I took her hand and kissed it.

Merry Christmas my wandering, searching souls. My we all find some peace.

Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief

My Spanx Set Off the Security Scanner

Today I found myself in Tulsa catching a flight for Denver and yet again facing the body scanner.

I thought I was a Pro by now. I stepped into my little pod, put my hands above my head and waited while they checked out anything and everything that could be on my person.

“Step to the side please ma’am,” TSA said, which I quietly and compliantly did. “Does your skirt have pockets?”

Well I don’t think so. As a general rule I try to avoid pencil skirts with pockets, I think they make me look too hippy. But I ran my hands around my skirt just to make sure.

“No,” I said, “No pockets.”

“Well I need to do a pat down. Would you like me to do it here or would you like to go to a private place?”

I smiled at this question. Would you rather have a bikini wax or your nose hairs plucked out? Either way, it’s gonna hurt and I’m gonna be red….one half dozen to the other.

So she starts patting me down. “I need to feel up your leg,” she said inching my non-hippy, no-pocket pencil skirt a little higher. “I thought I saw something metal around your hips.” Her hand continued to move up my leg. “If I can even get up there!”

If I can even get up there….any higher up my conservative, black, Nordstrom suit and I could ask the security line for dollars.

“Hmmmmm,” she stood back and looked at me perplexed. “Well there’s nothing, you can go.”

Well now hold on a second Honey, let me put myself back together. I pulled my jacket down, smoothed my skirt and felt my no-fail, holder of loose rolls, and container of that which cannot be contained…..my Spanx undergarments ….

….the one thing sitting right at my hips.

Could that be it? Could it have been the Spanx? It’s not metal but maybe my magic hold-your-tummy-in with-copious- amount-of-elastic-and-lycra-wonder-slip was just enough packaging to set the machine off.

That was the only thing at my hips.

This is my theory, the scanner does not like my spanx.

Any more spanx induced pat-downs and I might have get rid of my super tummy slip and start doing sit-ups instead.

Now that’s just crazy talk.

Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief

Rusty, crusty, banana, fana, fo, fusty

One word accurately describes my current travel expertise.

Rusty.

My road-warriorness needs a little polishing.

This week finds me in Ohio, driving to West Virginia. It is cold, frigid and icy with a lovely wind that freezes my nose hairs.

It is so cold and icy that my manager and I upgrade to a four-wheel drive vehicle, the Ford Expedition, not an Explorer, an Expedition. It is huge, bigger than my first apartment. I found a family of four living in the back. And since I’m staying in the mid-west a little longer, it is in my name. I’m driving.

It’s a far cry from the Malibu Max with no seat warmers. My tushie is still cold.

I dropped my manager off at the airport yesterday afternoon. His last words to me were, “Don’t forget to fill up the car before you drop it off tomorrow. This thing’s a beast. I can’t imagine what Avis would charge us for gas.”

I laughed. Of course I would remember to fill it up! I’m an ex-road warrior driving an Expedition from Ohio to West Virginia and back again. Of course I’ll get gas, Really, what kind of rookie does he think I am?

I took my time getting ready this morning. I had a two mile drive to the airport, my flight was at 10:00, all the time in the world, easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.

8:50 I pull the behemoth Expedition into the Avis lot and jump out. I have enough time to get a latte’ before the flight

As soon as the attendant got into the car to check the mileage, it hit me. I never filled up the Expedition.

A couple of choice words filled my head. “I forgot to fill it up,” I said to the attendant, “how much do you charge for gas?”

“$7.50 a gallon.”

This time I murmured my choice words. It was 8:55, I had an hour, could I do it? I couldn’t turn in a receipt for $200 in gas, I just couldn’t.

I zoomed back out of the Columbus Airport, the Expedition in full speed, searching for a gas station. 20 gallons later, I triumphantly hit the button for a receipt.

The machine mocked me “Please see attendant for receipt.”

NOOOOOOOO. I became one of those rude, business travel people barging into the Conoco, requesting a reciept. I needed an ass pass. Sorry World

9:10, back in Avis lot. “Hello Miss. You made it back!”

I grinned at the attendant and rushed to Security.

I’ve heard a lot about the new scanners at Security and haven’t given them a whole lot of thought. I now think they are awful. You stand in front of the machine for 70 seconds with your hands above your head while your body is being scanned. You are then escorted to a ‘holding area’ while they review the scan.

You can only imagine what this does to the security line.

My precious minutes slipped away. What would be worse, I didn’t get gas or I missed my flight because I did get gas? Neither option was appealing.

I made it to the plane, boots still in hand as they were loading seating section 4. I thanked the travel gods for giving this rusty flyer a break.

In the plane, I asked a man if I could move his jacket over a bit to fit my bag. He didn’t say a word looked at me like he would rather kick me in shins and took his jacket out of the overhead.

“Oh thank you so very much sir. I really appreciate your help.” I said to him giving him my best syrupy smile.

He said nothing but continued to glare at me, perhaps hoping I would self-combust.

I gave him a wink and thought bite me.

I sat back and felt the plane heaving into the air, catapulting 120 souls off to Chicago.

What a funny, funny world.

Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief

The Search for the Good

It has been almost a week since I posted.

A week and I have been too busy to write. And I find myself a bit pessimistic, searching, and focusing on the silly and mundane.

I am also on a bumpy plane to Ohio next to the lavatory.

Of course.

When I don’t write, I forget to focus, to find the good. I miss looking for the little things. With Samantha, everyday, no matter how bad had sprinklings of good.

The joy of lifting her out of her car seat and carrying her into the house, her head resting on my shoulder.

Walking into her bedroom every morning just to watch her sleep.

Little sprinkles…

I now look harder but am so relieved when I do find them.

Today my husband playfully gave me a pat on the bum while I brushed my teeth.

His goodbye hug was a little longer as I would be gone for the duration of week.

He told me to tell the pilot he was carrying precious cargo.

Today I read an email from a high school senior who talked to her principal about doing a fundraiser for Miracles for Mito. She wants to help out anyway she can. She also asked if I planned on going down to Children’s over the holidays to make Christmas crafts with the kids.

The last statement still makes me grin. It also makes me consider that I should take a group of high school students to Children’s over Valentine’s Day to make Valentines because a group of high school students want to be involved.

Samantha taught me how to find the joy and it would be tragic to leave that gift behind. Every time I sit down to reflect and write, I am reminded to look for that gift.

Some days it’s a little easier with a pat on the bum and a high school student who took the time to talk to her principal about our cause.

I talked to our principal once. It wasn’t about fundraising, more about silly string in the senior lounge.

Nitty Gritty Dirty Grief

What is your legacy?

A couple weeks ago a couple of couples sat around a couple bottles of wine and discussed the meaning of our lives.

“I don’t think I have any regrets in my life,” I said. “Okay, slight regrets where my mouth got ahead of my brain but no big regrets…..nothing that I would change.”

Oh wait…..

I stopped myself. “I will forever regret it if I don’t finish the book.”

The book…..that daunting, unfinished piece of my life.

“The book is your legacy,” A friend of mine said to me today. “Samantha is your legacy. You, have a legacy to live up to.”

Well that’s almost as daunting as the unfinished book. I feel like Harry Potter whose calling is to defeat Voldemort, Bilbo Baggins and the ring.

I have a legacy to fulfill.

PHHHHFFFFFFF……

Last week we had our first board meeting of Miracles for Mito and it was really outstanding. We decided on a logo (to be posted soon) and met with Dr. Van Hove who gave us many, many ideas on how our foundation can be impactful.

We have quite a lot of work to do.

Driving home I developed a legacy stomach ache……an impactful, legacy stomach ache. Perhaps it was the pepperoni pizza , perhaps it was that last cup of Starbucks, perhaps I felt a bit daunted, uncomfortable in this new skin….regardless, I found myself driving home without my work pants.

That’s right, the wool gabardine just wasn’t working with my crampy, overwhelmed, twitchy self, so I pulled over on exit 235, took my pants off and drove home sans trousers…..I have to say it’s quite pleasant, especially if you turn the seat warmer on high.

And my crampy tummy felt much better.

Sometimes you take yourself a little too seriously when you start talking legacies. That’s when it’s time to drive home in your big-girl undies.