It’s the Little Things

This morning I awoke with anticipation of a decent day. My boy started 5th grade today and like most first days of school, he was looking forward to it. (Sadly, that excitement typically ends by week 2, but we hold onto the good as long as we can.)  My husband made me a lobster omelet for breakfast, the kid was smiling as he entered the school and I was off to work.

Typically driving makes my mind wander and during those moments, my mind always goes to my brother. Either to good memories or questions I want to ask him or I relive that last visit with him. I always end up in tears, no matter what my thoughts. But this morning, my mind didn’t wander. I kept it focused on my driving and on the radio. Nothing else.

But the day would not be a tear-free day, nor would it let me put my brother aside. I had a visit from my brother’s partner early in my work day. We had to discuss legal issues about my brother’s estate. This was not an unpleasant conversation, but just having to do paperwork for this kind of thing is not fun. It’s much worse for my brother’s partner, but we are all trying to make this as easy as possible for him. If that really is possible.

Later in the day, a book title nearly sent me into tears. “So Much I Want to Tell You.” It’s a book by Anna Akana to her younger sister who committed suicide ten years ago.  Every day I not only want to tell my brother something, but want to ask him so many questions. Like, aren’t you pissed you couldn’t see the new Planet of the Apes movie? Or the fact that Lego Batman came in the mail after you died? Or the fucking fact that you were listening to an audio book but you were only on disc three? Doesn’t that make you angry?!?

It makes *me* angry. It makes me really fucking angry. And unbelievably sad.

But you know what broke me today? Even after the paperwork and the book title, I pretty much kept my shit together. I went home early to be with the boy after his first day of school. It’s a tradition I’ve been able to keep up through all his school years so far, and I look forward to being the first one he tells his day to. As usual, he gave me a pile of papers I had to look through and sign and all that jazz. We call it “Mom’s homework”. So after he told me about his day and had a snack, he asked to veg for a few minutes with a YouTube video. I obliged so I could fill out all the paperwork and get started on dinner. I sifted through the papers, signed where I needed to, recycled what didn’t pertain to us. And then I got to the emergency contacts.

Since Kindergarten, my brother has been my son’s number one emergency contact.

But I forgot.

I wasn’t expecting to see his name and phone number listed in this pile of papers.

It stopped me cold. I just sat staring at his name, knowing I had to cross it out.

That’s when I cried.

I crossed my brother’s name from our emergency contact list and it felt like our lives got so much smaller.

I felt much lonelier than I had a few minutes before.

I felt…guilty….lost….defeated.

And sad. Always so fucking sad.

Grief

 

 

 

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So Many Words

They say actions speak louder than words. I suppose that’s true in most situations, but what if words are all you have? What if what you say and how you say it is the only action you can take?

We’ve had lots of discussions in our household lately about words and phrases you’re allowed to use at home but not at school or at work or even around friends. My son got in trouble at school for using words like “freakin'” and “bullcrap” because they were too much like actual swear words. We had a chat about it and I reassured him that he was not in trouble at home but would need to use other words at school. The very next day he used “freakin'” again and although he apologized and is trying to change, he was sent to the principal’s office and I got a phone call.

You may be thinking, “Well, of course he got in trouble. Kids should not be using those types of words!” And you’re right, sort of. I don’t think kids should use those words in school, just like I can’t swear at work (except in the back room where my boss lets me spout off at whatever is ailing me). There is an appropriate time for certain types of language. I try not to use the phrase, “Oh my god!” around some of my friends. I think it offends them and I have no desire to do that. I feel like being sensitive to what others may feel when you use particular words is a part of growing and evolving. I’m still trying to teach my 9-year-old some of that sensitivity but I think he’ll  learn it. It can take time and many mistakes, but it’s doable.

At home, though, I think you should say what you feel. When I get angry or frustrated, I will use words that can make your ears burst into flames. Sometimes I’m muttering and other times I’m yelling. But as a person who ate all of her anger since the age of 7, I like to get all of my anger out before it becomes rage and consumes me. I can run out my frustration at times, but words are typically what purges my body of all the anger or hatred I may have. (And after being bulimic for a time, let me tell you that this type of purging is much more satisfying and so, so much better for me!)

After receiving the second phone call about my boy’s language and feeling scolded for allowing him to use certain words at home, I thought it was time to use my own words to express how I felt. I couldn’t do it over the phone because I knew I’d get upset and say things I shouldn’t. So I sent an email to both the teacher and principal, thanking them for alerting me of my son’s use of language. But I also explained that he is allowed to use those words at home because I don’t want him to eat his anger or punch the wall in frustration or hit someone because they ticked him off. I don’t want him to say nothing and push his feelings deep down until a little nuisance becomes fury. Using words is what we’re taught to do, right? In school, we’re taught to express how we feel by what we say, *not* what we do. And that’s exactly what he’s doing. He knows he shouldn’t use those words at school and he’s trying not to, but it will take time. (I suggested to my son that he use the word “fishcakes” like my 85-year-old colleague from the Blue Hill Library used to use. She used “fuck” when no one else was around. My boy has decided to try the word “flipping” instead, because a girl in his class uses it and she doesn’t get in trouble. I think this might end up being an experiment in gender studies.)

In my email, I also explained that in our home, we really do love words. We compliment each other if we use a good word or phrase. For instance, instead of saying, “That’s not what I was talking about,” my boy says, “No, Mom, that’s not what I was referring to.” AWESOME! Or we talk about words that we enjoy saying because of how it feels in our mouths, like “Mozambique” or “planetarium” or “hullabaloo.” Maybe instead of using boring words like “freakin'”, I can teach my boy to use Shakespearean phrases like, “Thou art like a toad!” or maybe “Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage!” Well, he might not be able to remember that one.  We’ve been trying out other words like “wretched” or “crikey” or “dang nab it.” Something funny or clever that won’t get him into trouble.

shakespearecat

As we continue to discuss the power of words, do you ever find yourself having difficulty in saying certain words that should be simple to say like “I’m sorry” or “I love you” or even just “No”?  I know I do. Currently I have a tough time saying “My mother has Alzheimer’s Disease.”  I can say she has dementia just fine, but something about the word “Alzheimer’s” makes me stutter. The word gets caught in my throat. I think it brings so many depressing images to mind that it’s hard to spit it out. Or it feels like admitting defeat.

However, saying “I love you” to those that I do love or “Thank you” to those that have helped me or been a good friend to me, brings me joy and makes me feel all warm and squishy inside….

…as does saying “fluffernutter.” Seriously. It’s a great word, isn’t it? It uses your tongue and teeth and lips and it’s delicious! Oh and “delicious!” I love that word, too.

What about you? What words bring you joy or make your blood boil?

Let’s have an orgy of words!