J took the kids shopping for my birthday and let them pick out the presents themselves. Junior got me a Pear-Vanilla candle ("because you love pear, mom") and Bubba was very excited to present me with "steak" (beef jerky).
Today I turned 32, and I have been dreading it. I didn't stress out when I made the big switch from my 20's to my 30's. In fact, I remember welcoming it because I was so very happy with where my life was. I had a beautiful little family that I got to be a stay at home mommy to and I was married to a man I adored. We owned a house and J's own business was well under way. We were healthy, we were no longer poor and the future felt bright. 30 was great! This year, I have not thought of notching another year without a lot of dread. I just wasn't up for celebrating the launch of a year in which I was back to square one in so many ways. Single mom, emotionally damaged and considering a return to both school and ultimately, the work place. In such a short time, my future had gone from fairly predictable to not knowing how I am going to feel from one day to the next. As both my birthday and Mother's Day (which always fall within a week of each other) approached, I hit a low low. Not the collapsed on the kitchen floor kind, but a new reality, which was becoming harder and harder to either ignore or "pollyanna" away. Things are starting to come full circle. Junior started T-ball again and I didn't realize I had such painful memories of his last few games last season after the baby was born and after my heart was broken until we arrive for the first game. My daughter turns one in a few weeks, which means that a few days after that is the first anniversary of the most heartbreaking, wrenching, bereft time I have ever known. She has been picking up new things like crazy and it physically aches to not share these things with her father like I did with the boys. I have concerns about each of the kids that I wish I had another invested parent to talk over. I am on the verge of moving to another city and leaving this house is almost as hard as staying in it. Sis has caught just about every virus that has come by and for the last few weeks has been throwing up shortly after going to bed. My kitchen is still torn apart because nothing can happen until the cabinet guys get it together. I am weary and I wake up each morning with an aching jaw from clenching it in the night and aching muscles from being so strained all the time waiting for whatever emotional blow will come next. I still miss J greatly and I really wish I didn't.
On top of all that, I have been a little alarmed at how sad I still am and how unaccustomed to my new life I remain after almost a year. I have been reminded that there is no timeline on grief, but I had it in my head that I would be further along by now. I have been fairly blog silent lately. I have started to write a few times and as I got going I realized that I should probably adhere to what my father-in-law refers to as the "Thumper Rule" (if you can't say anything nice, etc. etc.) I felt like anything I had to say was too negative for even as honest as I try to keep this account. I don't like to be a burden on those I love and I am all too aware that many who love me have had quite a year worrying on my behalf, and that worries me. I can't help it, it's who I am :-) I have a fairly wide streak of what my Dad refers to as 'stubborn' but I like to think of as 'independent.'
For all these reasons, I requested to keep the holiday and my birthday low key. At best, I hoped they could pass as most days do without pomp and circumstance to remind me of the loss of the man that both made me a mother and has spent my birthday with me for the last 11 years. It just felt like celebrating required energy I couldn't muster up. I didn't expect anyone to ignore it, but I also didn't feel like blowing out candles. I just wanted it to go by. "Next year we'll go nuts" I promised all those who came forward with kind offers of how to spend the day.
I spent the morning reading birthday wishes via email and facebook and then Britny came over with a project she had been working on (that many of you reading this were a part of.) For those that don't know, she sent out a request to friends and family to write me a letter either of encouragement, reminisces (to help replace all the memorabilia that got soaked) or love. Clearly Britny knows me! I am the most sentimental person you are likely to come across and I have kept every letter anyone has ever written me. She printed all these out and put them in a binder and I spent the afternoon reading the letters and laughing and crying. It doesn't take much to make me teary anymore, but it occurred to me that my tears were the first happy ones (among thousands) I have shed since Sis was born almost a year ago. It was perfect and just right for the kind of birthday I wanted to have this year. Being at square one hasn't changed and I won't pretend that it is not something I won't struggle with still, but sometimes I get mired down a little in "poor me" and forget the vast network of amazing people God has put in my path to love me and help me cope.
To those of you who contributed, you will be getting a personal thank you before long, but I couldn't let today go by without letting you know how much your thoughts, memories and encouragement made my day. You have boosted my spirits immeasurably and I hope you all can go to sleep with warm fuzzies knowing how grateful I am for everyone who took the time to lift me. It is one of the best presents I have ever received in my life and I will always treasure it and hope it stands as a testament to my children of the kindness people can show each other as well as the immense value of family and friends.
Thank you also to everyone who contributed to the new iPod! I am so excited, but Junior is ecstatic! He has felt so bad about leaving the last one in the rental car. I will look into somehow surgically attaching this one to my hand because I swear by the Hammer of Thor that no one else will get a free iPod off of me ever!!
I had one of the most memorable birthdays I think I will ever have and it turned out to be a wonderful day. I am so touched and so grateful and I feel so very loved. Thank You!
Sis waiting patiently at Junior's T-ball game tonight (I just can't get over how beautiful she is) This picture was taken about 30 seconds before it started to rain and soaked us on our way back to the car. We wrapped up the evening at Chuck E. Cheese, which obliged by being almost deserted. Perfect!