Saying Goodbye

I haven’t posted for the past couple of weeks because honestly, the past couple of weeks have sucked. We lost two family members. One had been in hospice care for several weeks so it was only a matter of time. The other was more traumatic; you never expect to say goodbye to someone younger.

Image courtesy of DepositPhotos.com

Kenn’s family is quite different from mine. I grew up next door to my maternal grandmother who was one of eight kids. Aunts, uncles, great-aunts, great-uncles, and cousins galore were a big part of my life. The first time Kenn mentioned cousins, I was shocked. I had known him for years and he had never mentioned them before. I didn’t even know that his mom had three sisters.

Two of Kenn’s aunts lived up north and I never met them. I didn’t meet the remaining sister until after the death of Kenn’s father. The family was gathered at Kenn’s parents’ apartment and his aunt and uncle came to offer their condolences and Kenn introduced me. His aunt said “Oh Linda, it’s so nice to meet you. We’re so glad to have you in our family.” And she meant it. Y’all, I almost cried. At this point, I had been a part of Kenn’s family for nine years and no one had ever welcomed me. My in-laws didn’t like me and I spent my time walking on eggshells whenever I had to be around them. The fact that this woman I had never met before saw me as worthy of love and acceptance blew my mind. I hid those words in my heart for years.

I longed to tell Aunt Ellen how much her words meant to me but was hesitant to do so. I firmly believed that if I thanked her and it got back to my mother-in-law, it would just give her something else to hold against me. (I was already guilty of the heinous crimes of hanging pictures too high on our walls and having the wrong people in the background of the photos I took.🙄) My mother-in-law passed away five years ago so, when we learned that Aunt Ellen had cancer and had been placed in hospice care, I knew time was running out. With Chick-Fil-A in hand, we went and had a lovely visit. I told her how much her words meant to me and she said “I was just being sincere.” I told her that I knew she was and that made it even more special. That was the last time we saw her. It was a good day when she was still herself. Her condition deteriorated quickly over the next few weeks and she left this world on August 18th.

The second loss was my oldest niece. Ami was only 48. Not only was she my niece, but since she was only eleven years younger than me, in many ways she was like a younger sister. We shared a love of cats, books, reading, writing, color, and all things sparkly. We had actually grown closer over the last few years. When my Daddy’s health began failing in late 2015 it was hard on both of us. We began sharing memes (usually animal related) on Facebook to keep our spirits up. Six years later, we’re still doing it. At least we were. Ami had a severe peanut allergy and over the years she’s had a to make a few trips to the ER. All of those trips have ended with her returning home – except the last one. This last hospitalization resulted in her being placed on a ventilator and then an ECMO (heart/lung machine) before her wife made the difficult decision to end life support. When we got to the hospital on August 16th, Ami was non-responsive. They say that the hearing is the last thing to go so I hope that she knew we were there. But, I know that she knew that we loved her. I had hoped to visit she and her wife later this year and maybe even visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando together. (Ami had been, I hadn’t.) Now, that will never happen. I began missing her regular memes while she was hospitalized and now I have to content myself with seeing the ones from the past when they show up in my Facebook memories.

So, dear readers, hug your loved ones while you have them and tell them all of the things you need to say for you never know when that opportunity may slip away. (I promise, my next post won’t be so gloomy.)

Keep, Toss, Donate

I’m not a very sentimental person. At least, I’m not someone who gets attached to things. Fortunately, this trait comes in handy when it’s time to do a purge of “stuff” – even when the stuff isn’t mine. In 2010, we moved my parents from the house they had lived in for over 45 years to a much smaller house right across the street from us. My purging skills came in handy because my Mama was the complete opposite of me; for Mama, the memories and the items were tied together so she didn’t get rid of much. Let’s just say there was a lot of stuff to go through. We made many trips to the landfill and Goodwill. Of course, there was also a pile of things that I set aside for family as well.

Also in 2010 we moved my mother-in-law from her condominium into an Assisted Living facility. Fortunately, my in-laws had already downsized a couple of times: the first when they moved from the home where they raised their sons into an apartment, the second when my mother-in-law moved from the apartment to a condo after the death of my father-in-law. So, while we had some things to go through, it was nowhere near as much as what we dealt with when my parents moved.

The next opportunity to practice my “skills” came after my Daddy’s death. Kenn and I were still working full-time so Mama moved to North Carolina to live with my oldest sister and her husband. We tried to do some cleaning out before Mama moved but it was too hard on her so most of it took place after she left. This was the hardest one. There were a lot of items that went to friends and family but there was still a bunch left. This was the hardest purge for me. I was heartbroken and missing my Daddy and Mama’s leaving was kind of like losing her too. Yet, we needed to get the house cleaned out so that the owner could rent it out again. I did as much as I could but once I hit the I-can’t-do-this-anymore wall, we took the remaining boxes of stuff and stored them at our house. When we unexpectedly found our dream home a few months later, all of those boxes moved with us.

I steadfastly ignored the stack of boxes for as long as I could but finally had to grit my teeth and start working my way through them. Some were easy such as the boxes and boxes (and boxes) of papers to shred. Fifty year old income tax returns and bank statements anyone? However, there are the things that fall into What The Fluff territory that I have no idea to what to do with; the things that seem like they would be important to someone, but who? My Daddy was into model railroading and we had several boxes of N gauge train cars and tracks, miniature buildings, etc. Kenn had a brilliant idea and contacted the local model railroading association who gladly took all of the railroading paraphernalia off our hands. I came across several metal boxes containing photographic slides among my Daddy’s things. The photos dated back to the 1940s and 50s; none of them were labeled. I didn’t know who any of the people in the pictures were and had no way of finding out. Even though it hurt my soul a little, these pictures went into the trash. Cold? Possibly. However, I just can’t bring myself to keep boxes of photos that mean nothing to me.

Now I find myself faced with items like the ones pictured: newspapers and magazines dating back to the first moonwalk and possibly other historic events. These aren’t newspapers that have been properly preserved; they are folded in half and yellowed with age. However, I can’t just toss them because of their historical significance. So, dear readers, do you have any recommendations? A Twitter friend recommended contacting local museums however, where I live there are no local museums, LOL.

Dealing with all of this stuff for so many years has made me determined to not leave our boys with a mountain of crap to deal with when Kenn and I shuffle off this mortal coil. Of course, there will be some stuff, that’s unavoidable. Sorry, not sorry, for the random rocks and baggies of shark’s teeth guys!

Until next time, happy (and hopefully uncluttered) trails!

A Cure for the February Blues

February tends to be a rough month for me. In 2010 Kenn and I moved my parents from my childhood home (their home of almost 50 years) to the house right across the street from us. They remained there until my daddy died on February 16, 2016. Daddy had been Mama’s primary caretaker until about 3 months before his death. However, Kenn and I were both still working full-time and in-home care for Mama was prohibitively expensive so she moved to North Carolina to live with my oldest sister and her husband. Daddy’s death was hard enough but Mama’s move immediately afterward felt almost like losing her. We made regular trips to NC to visit but it was obvious that Mama’s health was also failing; she died on February 24, 2017. (My sisters and I would not have been surprised if she had died on the anniversary of Daddy’s death.)

Everyone’s grief journey is different. My experience is that grief lessens over time but it doesn’t completely fade. I also don’t look at the calendar and go “Oh, wow. It’s February. I need to be sad.” Invariably what happens is that I find myself feeling blue and wondering what in the heck is going on and eventually realizing “Oh. It’s February. No wonder my heart is aching.” Kenn is a great support and is always willing to provide hugs as needed. I also turn to Mass Effect, my favorite video game, and spend time saving the galaxy with my virtual friends. (What can I say? Some people have comfort foods or books or movies. I have a comfort video game.)

Mama and Daddy

The picture above is one of my favorites of Mama and Daddy. It was taken at our local Cracker Barrel (their favorite restaurant) in February 2015.

This year, I have something new to ease the February blues. Earlier this month, our oldest son and daughter-in-law welcomed twins. Meeting (and cuddling) these new little ones has definitely brightened my life. I will always miss my parents and the anniversaries of their deaths will always be hard, but having two new lives to celebrate (year round, not just in February) will certainly make things easier going forward.

Until next time, happy trails and… take the time to hug your loved ones and tell them how you feel.

Not Your Average Grammie

I am many things: a woman of faith, a wife, a mom, a Grammie, a writer, a blogger, and much to most people’s surprise, a gamer. The long-awaited remastered version of my favorite video game series, Mass Effect, releases tomorrow and I am SO EXCITED. (For the non-gamers reading this, a remaster basically means that the graphics and game play have been tweaked and improved without making any changes to the plot/storyline.)

I’m not sure why people are always so shocked to find out that I’m a gamer. I’m an avid reader and writer and video games are just interactive stories. My favorite games are role-playing games or RPGs. RPGs give your character (or avatar) a chance to interact with the other characters and make choices relating to the storyline and/or your character’s behavior. (I can’t be mean, even in games.)

The Mass Effect series has been a part of my life since the first game released in 2007. It’s hard to explain what these games mean to me. Only another gamer can understand how I feel about these characters. Are they real? No. Are they my friends? Yes. Just like some people re-read favorite books, and re-watch favorite movies, I find myself going back to these games over and over again simply because I miss the characters.

#MyShepard

We all have our own ways of dealing with sadness and grief. When the world is too much for me to bear, I play Mass Effect. My virtual friends and I tackle saving the galaxy together until I can face reality again. Over the course of eighteen months during 2016 and 2017 my husband and I lost our three remaining parents. Mass Effect is the only thing that kept the grief from being overwhelming. I can’t even tell you how many times I played through the series. I knew I was starting to heal when I was ready to play something else.

I can’t wait to replay my favorite games and see the changes/improvements that have been made. In some ways, it will be like playing for the the first time – again. So, if you need me over the next few days, I’ll be in my basement, gaming.

Me and my N7 helmet