It’s just me and Ella in a bathroom. I close the door and Mark appears. I say, “I knew you were gonna come. Ella, can you see him?” She says no. I tell her, “he is here” and I grab his face in my hands. She can’t see him. I ask if he’s okay. He says he’s fine (he doesn’t talk but I know his answers). I ask if he’s in pain, he says he isn’t. He is wearing a yellow shirt with red stripes. I feel elated. I am happy he has “come to me.” He starts to walk away, takes off an orange windbreaker and tosses it to me. I catch it, thankful for tangible proof of this encounter. I wake with a start.
So in the last 4 1/2 months, I have had this feeling… it’s so hard to explain, other than that I’m just “floating.” I never realized how enmeshed my life was with Mark’s until he was gone. You don’t realize the full impact of losing someone until they are no longer there next to you. Of course you can imagine the big things… but it’s not really that stuff that makes him gone. It’s all the little things. Working in one more schedule with the rest of us. Calling or texting when I’m away. Asking him to stop and pick up medicine because ‘B’ has a cough. Or emailing him at work to see what he wants for dinner. He was such a part of my everyday life, every hour, every minute. The hardest part is most of the time it feels like he could still be here. When I’m out grocery shopping during the day, when he would be at work. Or when I get in my car after work, ready to call and tell him I’m on my way home. There are still many times when I think about calling him, or thinking, “I have to tell Mark”… We were totally connected. And without that connection, I feel lost. Like I am out here floating around, with nobody to ground me. It might seem like along with that would come a sense of freedom. No more compromise, I can do whatever I want. I make ALL the decisions. I don’t have to wonder where my tweezers are or pick up his clutter. But it doesn’t. Because I still make my decisions with him in my heart (at least the big ones 😉 ) And I would take all of his annoying habits if he could come back. I do sometimes wonder why this happened… but I have always had complete faith that things happen the way they are meant to happen. I don’t know why Mark was taken from me so early, or why we all have to experience the worst heartbreak ever imaginable. But feeling like there is a power bigger than me making sure it goes the way it should brings me comfort. And knowing somehow that this was the best path my life could take, whatever that means, helps.
Clearly I am making up for lost time… with 2 posts in one day! Sidenote, for those interested, I got all my laundry done and put away! And had time to play with the kids outside for an hour. Anyways, as I was searching for Elsa costumes for Ella for her variety show (did you know people buy them so they sell out and then sell them for double/triple the cost on ebay??? So wrong!) I heard the familiar ding of a facebook message. It was from one of Mark’s co-workers.
Let me give you a little background. Mark worked as a long-term sub twice at his district before getting hired as a fifth grade teacher in 2004. Right from the start, his co-workers welcomed him. As I’m sure you can imagine, being a male teacher is pretty rare in an elementary school. For a long time it was just him and the gym teacher. But he fit right in, just shaking his head when the ladies would talk about “women” stuff. When he and I would talk about him feeling burned out, or like he might want to try something else, it always came back to staying because his co-workers were so amazing. They were so much more to him than just co-workers, they truly were like another family. He saw them as much as he saw us. We were both so thankful he had such a supportive place to go to work every day, and we talked about that fact often. He cared about them so much, he even made sure to mention them in his note to me that morning (please tell my co-workers I will miss them.)
So many of his co-workers (ie friends) have reached out to me personally, because along the way, they became MY friends as well. And they are working on a memorial run for Mark. They are planning and executing every thing about it, because I can’t and because that’s how much they love Mark. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel knowing that so many people still love Mark and think about him and miss him like I do. This run is exactly what he would have wanted, and they know it as much as I do. Because they are his family. So to Mark’s Memorial Family, Thank you. For everything you have done since 2004. This run is going to honor a man who was dedicated to his school like no other. And it is so comforting to know others recognize that, too.
Back to reality today. One big perk of being on vacation all last week, kids sleep in! E and B are still asleep (it’s 8:30am, unheard of in this house!) And my early riser ‘S’ even slept until almost 7. They clearly do not get their sleeping habits from me. Yet another piece of daddy they share with me every morning 🙂 Thankful I follow my sister’s neurotic habit of cleaning the house before leaving for vacation. So truly the only thing I HAVE to do today is laundry. But BOY OH BOY, is there laundry! 8 days of pajamas, shorts, shirts, and bathing suits filled with sand for 4 people… it’s gonna be a process.
I thought today I would share a few memorable moments from our vacation. Like I said in my last post, it was bittersweet. It was amazing to have this time with my family and just get to enjoy time with the kids. Last time we went, ‘S’ was almost 2 1/2, and what a difference that year and 3 months makes! All of the kids were SO good and had such a great time together. They even made two new friends from Minnesota! It really made me see how much easier it will get with time. The kids are getting more and more independent, as you will see in some of my “moments” below 😉
Highlights of our Trip:
- ‘S’ going to the bar (by himself) to get everyone drinks (“Mom, want me to get you a diet pepsi?”)
- ‘E’ and I sitting on the top deck of the boat in the middle of the ocean looking at all the stars. Her telling me she misses daddy, and me telling her “He is up there in the stars.”
- ‘B’ waking up with eyes so puffy from a full day of swimming and sun the day before.
- ‘S’ going down the slide “all by himself”
- ‘E’ telling me her favorite part was the “red flag days” (when it was “swim at your own risk” and the biggest waves!)
- ‘B’ watching the Michael Jackson show on Uncle Timmy’s lap because he was scared.
- (Okay, clearly, the best parts of the trip had to do with my kids!)
- My turn… ordering Pina Coladas at 10am because I could!
- Splashing in the ocean with my kids, sisters, brother-in-laws, parents, nieces and nephews.
- Having that special connection with my KK.
- Girls party in our room.
- Dinner as a family of 15 every night.
I know every single person missed Mark on this trip (and many people said it)… One night at dinner, we had 2 tables of 8 instead of one big table. Mom said, “Who’s missing?” because there was an empty chair. We did a count and realized everyone was there. Except everyone wasn’t there. I almost said, “Mark is missing” but I didn’t want to ruin our nice evening. But I think it. Every minute. “Who’s missing?”… from everything. And I hate to think about what he is missing. It makes me so sad that he didn’t get to see the kids’ faces on this vacation. Or see ‘B’ learn to swim without floaties. Or see ‘S’ jumping in the pool. Or see ‘E’ dancing on the stage at the kid’s show. I think about all the things he is missing and I just feel so bad. And I think, if he thought about all of THOSE things that morning, he would still be here. Because I know he wouldn’t want to miss this.
So, I am back from our first vacation without Mark. The kids and I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a week over Spring Break with my parents, sisters/husbands, and all the kids. It was surely bittersweet. It was so fun, and I loved seeing the kids smile and laugh and just have FUN. But at the same time, it’s so hard to know we are creating new memories without Mark. I thought about him everyday, everywhere we went. Mark would have loved this, or Mark would have taken the kids to this. E had a few rough times, missing daddy as usual. I sure did too. I know we have to go on with our lives, and we need to enjoy the times we have together, but I hate that right now it’s still so hard. It is so “there” in my mind. I think, “that guy over there with his family, he’s happy… or so I think” or “all those people in the buffet line, they don’t know that I’m a single mom whose husband recently died.” It’s so annoying… I wish I could just BE in the moment. I guess it will come with time.
Well, anyways, I am going to get back on the challenge until Monday… then I guess I will just post as I feel like it… Is anybody out there actually reading this? Comment below if you enjoy reading my blog… I know pre-vacation I was really liking writing what was going on in my head 🙂
So, this may be my last post for a little while… Spring Break is upon us and I will be relaxing and enjoying some family time! Kids are at school today (last day until March 31st!) so I started my usual rounds… clean up kitchen, pick up laundry that is strewn about the house, check kids’ rooms. When I went into the boys’ room last night, I saw 2 pieces of paper on the floor. My 6 year old had written 2 notes. I should mention, a few weeks ago, the kids and I started writing notes back and forth. I thought it might help since ‘B’ isn’t too keen on “talking about feelings” and I was hoping it would be a way he’d be more comfortable expressing himself. Anyways, this led to ‘E’ and ‘B’ writing to each other too. One note was to ‘E’… tell her she was his favorite family member (hmmmm…) But the other just tugged at my heart.
Let me back up. The few days following Mark’s death were absolute chaos. When an unexpected death occurs, it turns your whole world upside-down. It is crazy that all these pretty important decisions need to be made in a time of crisis. Thankfully, I had a good idea of what Mark wanted, but it wasn’t REALLY something we talked about in depth. On top of that, the shock and grief was really taking hold in those first few days. I couldn’t stay at my house… I was so scared. Of what, I don’t know. But I clearly remember the first few weeks feeling just terrified. So after 3 nights of a sleepover at my sister’s, my parents asked what I wanted. I told them I wanted them to stay with me. I knew the hardest time for all of us would be bedtime. That was Mark’s time with the kids. He was really good at it… giving baths, brushing teeth… and spending TOO much time on stories/snuggles. He could easily spend and hour and 1/2 on bedtime.
So, that Monday morning my parents were at the mattress store. ‘E’s bed was moved into the boys’ room (thankful for a big bedroom!) And after the memorial service, my parents moved in. They would stay during the week, and my sisters would stay on the weekends. I just wasn’t ready to be in the house alone. My parents stayed for about 2 1/2 months. They continue to come around 4 nights a week to help with bedtime. And the nights they aren’t here, the kids ask for them. We have “Taco Tuesdays” and they help out when I need someone to watch the kids… like ALL the time. I know it has been a huge comfort to the kids to know there are other people out there supporting them, too. And of course, it is a huge comfort to me that the kids are adjusting.
Back to the note… well, I will let you see for yourself. THANK YOU Mom & Dad. You have helped us more than you will ever know. We love you.
When we moved into this house 8 1/2 years ago, it had this big beautiful tree in the front yard. It was the biggest tree on the block and was one of my favorite things about this house. Last Friday, they cut the tree down because of the ash borers. It has been diseased/dying for the past few years. When the told us last fall they would be removing the trees, I remember feeling glad. Who wants to look at a dead tree in their front yard? But on Friday, when the men came and took that chainsaw to my tree, I was incredibly sad. In a lot of ways, it felt symbolic. One last string tying me to this house cut down. Watching it reminded me of when we moved in… and the hope and joy we felt (I was 7 months pregnant with ‘E’). Maybe that’s why it made me so sad. Realizing that in a way that “innocence” is gone… the carefree attitude I always carried with me, living a life free of worry… that is gone. Mark took it with him. And that tree is just another reminder of the fact that, as deep as our roots might be, nothing in life is permanent.
This morning began as usual… with a little 3 year-old face in mine, “I love you mom.” (what’s missing, Mark saying, “Come on, S, what do you want for breakfast?”) 6:46, alarm goes off (S is watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse so I can get an extra 10 minutes of sleep)… I enter ‘B’s room, singing, “it’s time to get up, it’s time to wake up, it’s time to get up, ‘B'” Lights on full blast. Groans. Onto ‘E’s room, singing again… blanket over head, turn off her alarm. Singing, “throw open the shade, hey we got it made. God gave us a brand new day” as I open her blinds. More groans. Down to make breakfast (what’s missing? Mark making minis or waffles, asking the kids what they want for lunch). I make lunches the night before because those precious minutes are needed for making my cup of coconut mocha coffee. “Get dressed. Brush your teeth. Comb your hair. Do you have on your shoes and coats? Don’t forget your backpack. Here comes the bus, let’s go!” (what’s missing? Mark walking the kids to the bus stop before heading into work.)
Time for laundry, dishes, cleaning up the kitchen. ‘S’ needs to get dressed, we have company today! Oh wait, I should get dressed too… nah, she won’t mind. Chores (mostly) done, in walks donuts and coffee, along with a friendly smile. ‘S’ plays on the ipad or watches Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. We look for baby bedding on the internet. Let’s meet my sister for lunch! Home in time to switch laundry again, prepare for the arrival of the bus. Get homework area ready for ‘E’ and ‘B’ as today is Ballet day and ‘E’ has an eye dr. appt. (what’s missing? an email or phone call from Mark, me reminding him about ‘E’s appointment, and he needs to make sure he’s home in time so I don’t have to bring the boys, it’s going to be a LONG appointment.)
Homework (groans), “E, you didn’t finish #2!” “B, you need to read your baggy book with Grandma tonight!”… “E, get dressed for ballet and grab your dance bag!”…Get into the car and buckle up! (what’s missing? A phone call, “are you on your way home?”) Drop off boys at Grandma & Grandpa’s, watch ‘E’ at dance, head to eye doctor. Dilation… we are there for 2 hours! New glasses and only 6 more months of the dreaded patch. (what’s missing? A phone call, “Ugh, longest appointment ever. ‘E’ is so excited she is almost done with her patch. Did the boys eat? I will just stop and pick up something for me and ‘E.’ See you soon.”)
Home at 7pm, bedtime. Scarf down dinner. Boys come home from Grandma & Grandpa’s. (what’s missing? Mark giving the boys baths and listening to music in the bathroom with them. Letting them play in the tub for much longer than I do.) “E, take your shower.” So glad she had all that time to get her reading done while waiting at the doctor’s office. Brushing teeth, going potty… get into bed! ‘B’ reads his Junie B Jones book and ‘S’ reads his “Tap, Tap, Tap” and “The Salad.”… Turn out the lights, turn on the Ninja Turtle Dreamlites. Kisses to ‘S’… “I love you and Daddy loves you. Good night, I’ll see you in the morning.” Give him his picture of Mark. Over to ‘B’… kisses and snuggles, “I love you and Daddy loves you. I will tell you every night because he can’t, okay?” Yep. “See you in the morning.” (what’s missing? 30-45 minutes of goofing with the boys that ends with either Mark falling asleep or me going in and telling him they need to go to bed.)
‘E’ ever the negotiator squeezes an extra 1/2 hour out of me… I give in because she did spend 2 hours at the eye doctor today. We continue watching “Frozen” with Grandma. Now it’s time for bed. Kisses for ‘E’, “Good night. I love you and Daddy loves you. See you in the morning.” Time for Grandpa stories (undoubtedly her favorite part of the night). (what’s missing? Me going in to find ‘E’ massaging Mark’s feet or scratching his back. “She needs to go to sleep.” “But it’s daddy’s turn to scratch ME now!” Okay, 5 more minutes. 20 minutes later they are both asleep.)
Time for an episode of Downton Abbey Season 1 with mom and dad. I eat an ice cream cone. It’s over and they leave. I am left in an quiet house without the noise of 6 little feet running around. Even though the kids are here, I feel alone. (what’s missing? Mark at the computer working on something for work. Or sitting at the table grading papers. Or asking me which movie from the library I want to watch with him.)
Continue packing… oh shoot, I never wrote in my blog today! I don’t know if I have anything to write about. Turn on the TV (HGTV of course, house hunters is on). Sit on my bed and power up the laptop. (what’s missing? Mark.)
Two six year old boys.
Just finished somersaults & cartwheels.
Sitting in the back back.
Pharrell Williams “Happy.”
Big baby teeth grins.
Shouting the words they know.
“Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.”
Love those boys.