Yesterday, the first day back from Christmas holidays, was a snow day. More accurately a rain and freezing day. The thought of a quiet house had grown to full blown longing when we saw the notice that the busses weren’t running. Alas.
Monday was also death day. I love the farm. I believe in animals that are happy and well cared for. It matters to us to know where the meat on our kids plates came from and what kind of quality of life those animals had. That doesn’t make the day the lambs go to the butcher any easier.
Everything about the send off was complicated on the icy narrow path that is our driveway at present. It wasn’t possible to get a truck out to the barn like usual. It wasn’t possible to do it all while the kids were at school. We worked together to make the driveway navigable. We worked together to get the sheep in the trailer. And we hissed and spat and growled at each other.
Afterwards I went to my room to plan boy one’s execution and to figure out how to get the house partitioned so that none of us had to live together. Eventually common sense and mercy found a crack large enough to get through. None of us had handled it perfectly, but we weren’t mad, we were sad. The first time I remember figuring this out, I was 18. It was a strange revelation. I felt like someone had struck me dumb. Sssso nnnnow what? I wanted to stammer. If it’s not sarcasm and rage that’s dying to get out, what then? If I’m sad and not mad, exactly am I supposed to do? Just sit here and cry?
I thought I’d already learned that lesson, but yesterday I learned it again . . . and helped my son figure it out too. Naming things correctly doesn’t change them, except it does. Understanding what I’m dealing with changes how I treat the people in my life, including me. Understanding what’s underneath somebody else’s mad, changes how I feel about them.
Sometimes being sad means you don’t do anything except let yourself be it for a little while. It feels like getting out of prison again.
photo compliments of morguefile.com
In the spring, I had a miscarriage that went beyond sad, straight past to scary. My then nine year old was home sick from school. Sick, but quite recovered enough to be enjoying his first Indiana Jones movie while I was passing out on the bathroom floor. Everything was trending with a distinct downward trajectory, so I eventually made him stop the movie and call his father, who could not be reached. Against boy’s strong wishes, but saving him from finding me unconscious and unable to be revived later, I made him call 911. (I would have gotten the phone myself, but the inability to stand and remain conscious was challenging me at the time.)
Son relayed when a police car arrived in the driveway. I had to argue him into answering the door. The ambulance came followed at last by my husband. I worried about my son, but there wasn’t anything to say other than please not to worry, and the ambulance people would make everything better.
In the days that followed, we said thank you. We told him we were proud of him. In the quiet spaces, I tried to check in.
“How are you doing about when you were home with me that day?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I just didn’t want to talk to the 911 people.”
“So really, you’re ok?”
“Yeah. I really liked that movie.”
A check in a week or so later yielded similar results. I decided not to push the point. If he wasn’t traumatized because he didn’t understand how serious things has been, I didn’t see anything good about changing that. And if he was upset, he wasn’t ready to talk yet.
Last week, a little more than six months since that day, we were sorting through his clothes.
“What’s with these shorts?” I ask. “You never wear them.”
“Give them to charity. I hate them.”
“They don’t fit or you don’t like them? What’s wrong with them?”
“I hate them. They fit but I’ll never wear them. You were wearing shorts just like that the day the ambulance came.”
“You don’t wear these shorts because I was wearing shorts like this the day I went to the hospital?”
“Yeah. I’m never wearing those shorts. ”
“So you were scared that day?”
“I was so scared. I didn’t even know what would happen. And then they took you in the ambulance. It was a really bad day.”
“I’m sorry all that happened.”
“Are you ok now?”
“Yeah, but I hate those shorts. Give them to charity.”
“They sound like pretty lousy shorts. Maybe we should burn them.”
Boy slowly grins. The thought of the shorts on fire is in his eyes.
“Maybe, I’ll burn mine too,” I say. “I don’t really like the shorts I wore that day either.”
“Yeah, we can burn them both.” Boy laughs, then looks me in the eye. “We can just give them away. It’s ok, Mom.”
My heart lets go a little more, because finally, I believe him.