Monday, April 3, 2017

Gordon turns four and has questions

Gordon wanted to know where mommy went.

Not what happened to her body, but where SHE went.

We celebrated his fourth birthday this weekend with three gatherings. One at our house with his little friends. One at nana and grampa's house. One in Stratford with the Simpson clan.

Four years of birthday parties

The big party for the kids was a success. I'd never planned such an event. Thank goodness for the Internet, where I found a Martha Stewart article that laid out the basics. And thank goodness for Party City, which had a ton of Transformers party stuff ready to buy. I wasn't feeling well, but managed to pull it off. Thanks to sister Shannon and SIL Amy for being the Designated Adults who helped in wrangling and last-minute logistics. G thought the whole event was kind of loud, but he really enjoyed it. And I feel like a winner for making it happen -- some of the other parents even chimed in that they now know what goes into a kid's party, since they were as clueless as me! Great!

Great time at nana's, too, with corn chip casserole, family, and G got a bike (!!) to enjoy this summer!

Sunday, we made an attempt to catch the Swan Parade in Stratford, but were unable to find parking and missed the whole thing. I was still feeling rotten. But, we had a fine time at granny and papa's. Well, aside from when he started coughing on his own saliva and ended up barfing a little. I caught it in my hand and ushered him from the carpet to the tile. Gross. But I prevented a spill. Years of having cats have served me well.

G fell asleep on the drive home. It was a long, busy weekend for him. Me too. When we got home, I brought out his present from me: Buzz Lightyear. He watches one of the Toy Story movies about three times a week, so he was very excited. He loves ALL the gifts he got. He knows he's a very lucky boy.

But at bedtime, things got a little weird. We watched a show and read a story, as usual. Brushed teeth. Then it came time for me to tell him an improvised story.

He asked me to cradle him like a baby and rock him. The story he wanted was: how mommy died.

He wanted details. He asked specific questions. Questions he never specifically asked before, about details I never shared before.

What exactly happened? What killed her? What did she look like dead? Were her eyes open? Did she turn brown? Did all of her blood come out? Where did they take her body? What happened to it? Why didn't you tell me she was going to die? I wish you had. When exactly did she die? How did you know?

And where did she go? Not her body -- he understands that some people are buried underground and in her case, she was cremated (I dumbed it down). He thinks it's mean to do that to someone, so I'll need to revisit that. But where did *she* go? Mommy, the person, not mommy, the body?

I wasn't sure how to answer. Someone at daycare recently told him she's always there, that she's "up there." Now Gordon thinks mommy is in the drop ceiling at daycare. Not cool.

I didn't have a great answer for him. I said, "Gordon, when you turn off the light, where does the light go?" Nowhere, he says, it just turns off. "And when you shut off the TV, where does the TV show go?" Nowhere, he says. It just stops. I left it there.

There's a program in London called PATCH -- Parents And Their Children Healing -- offered through the Good Grief Resource Centre. I've known about it for a while, but Gordon seemed to be handling things very well, so didn't connect with them. But I asked him during our conversation if he'd like to meet with people whose job it is to talk to kids about people dying. He was all for it. So, we'll explore that.

I shouldn't be surprised that he came out with all of this all of a sudden. He's been making slight allusions to death and dying lately, and has been close to tears from time to time when talking about mommy. He's even used it to try to manipulate me at bedtime, "crying" about wanting mommy, then telling me what would cheer him up would be to play a while longer. Not nice.

But really, it's been on my mind, too.

His fourth birthday is also the fourth anniversary of Amanda's cancer being discovered. Four years, in life, is not that long. But it's been a roller-coaster ride through hell. It's been long and short. It's been an endurance challenge and a joy. It's been the greatest and worst times of my life. And I'm sure he notices her absence.

His first birthday was in Halifax with friends and family with the famous cake-smash. His second was in London with another of mommy's banana cakes. His third, last year, was cupcakes in hospital with mommy and a trip to the indoor playground with me. This year, mommy's not here. He's getting enough perspective to look back and see what's changed.

Sometimes he's such a sophisticated little dude!

Me, I'm starting to realize how awful things were. I think this'll be worth a whole separate post, but I'm having short peeks of clarity where I can look back at the past four years and see how horrifically bad some of the times were. In the moment, it was about just going on. It's cancer? Gotta keep going. Treatment is hard? Gotta keep going. Cancer's back? Gotta keep going. Moving? Keep going. Amanda's cut wide open and has feces leaking into her insides and being sucked through the surgical wound with a vacuum pump? Gotta keep going. She died? Gotta keep going.

How .... .......... horrible. I'm starting to wonder how much of the positivity and bravery that people have complimented me on throughout this ordeal was a tunnel-vision focus on survival and making life decent for my little boy. How much was I able to compartmentalize and shield myself from the unthinkable things I had to face each day?

If I was somehow able to seal it all off to prevent my brain and soul from shattering from the sadness and horror of it, well, I think the seal is starting to crack. I hope it drips out slowly and not in a deluge. Again, I think I'll come back to this in future.

For now, back to the positives: Gordon is four now. He's amazing. He's a wonderful person. I'm proud to be his dad. I'm privileged to share my life with him and his with me. I love him so much. And I know I need to take better care of me so I can take the best care of him.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Chugging along through a slump

Gosh, I haven't posted since before Christmas.

I got through Christmas. I put on a good Christmas for Gordon. Maybe a great Christmas. But I also got a nasty cold and came out of the holidays in a funk.

As you've seen here on the blog, I was full of HEY, LIFE! and WOW, OPPORTUNITY! and BLANK CANVAS! sentiments for months. But then I just fell flat and seemed to lose interest in everything. Social life, self-care, home improvement, good food, personal finance, hobbies. It just all went plop and I didn't really dig doing anything any more. Thank goodness for friends and family asking me to come out and do stuff.

Now, I'm not one to shirk responsibilities when others depend on me, so I'm lucky that others depend on me. Business has been picking up at work, so that's good. And Gordon is my inspiration to keep things interesting.

We got out and about to some fun stuff, including an overnight road trip to Hamilton to see Paw Patrol Live.


Something weird happened at that show. The performance began, and soon they got to the big theme song, with all the pups on stage singing the Paw Patrol song.

And I found I was crying.

WTF? Crying because it was beautiful that I was in a theatre beside my little boy, blowing his mind with a live stage show? Crying because his mommy should've been there too? Crying because I had sadness bottled up and pushed down? Crying because I was so bloody tired? I don't know. It was weird.

I also went to Toronto to see comedian Louis CK with Michael Hainsworth. What an amazing performer. He's just so good.

And, some crappy stuff happened.

One day at work, a colleague was so funny that I doubled over laughing and slammed my head into the sharp corner of a desk. Same day, Gordon got bonked in the head by a careless preschooler with a shovel.


Another day, coming back from an outing with G to the London Children's Museum, I crashed our car. Not a big collision, but it disabled the front left wheel. Repairs would cost more than the car was worth, so I donated it to a local charity. Our other vehicle also needs more work than it's worth, so we'll be car shopping.

I've had other ups and downs. Some more bloody injuries -- slicing a piece of my thumb off while unboxing a Christmas present for G, gashing my shin open on some glass in the basement. Wins include attending a Big Wreck concert with a friend, after having seen the band several times with Amanda. She would've loved it -- singer Ian Thornley's voice was the best I've ever heard. And I build a brand-new PC for video editing. This past weekend, I took G to Super Hero Day at a local mall and showed him that even if what you love is dressing up as Spider-Bat-Man, there's a whole bunch of people out there who also like what you like. Life lessons.

Still, it feels like I'm treading water.

Time continues to pass since Amanda died. I think it was last month that the 12th came and went without me realizing it was the month-anniversary. There will be more moments like that where I straddle the line between "this just happened" and "this happened some time ago."

Big things are on the horizon, I know. I've been registering G for junior kindergarten. We need a new roof on the house. A kitchen reno is possible. The yard will need to be cleaned up for spring so Amanda's garden can flourish again. And yeah, I need to buy a car.

I'm back to getting the house tidied up, bit by bit by bit. As much as I put away, gave away, threw away after Amanda died, bits and pieces of our old life are still everywhere, just everywhere. Her electric toothbrush finally went into a drawer this week. But the drawer still has her hair ties and makeup brushes. I'm finding food in the pantry that I know I'll never use. Spelt flour? Nah, not gonna happen. There's a bottle of water in the fridge from her time in the hospital one year ago. Still has the imprint of her hospital card on it.

G has been good but recently opened up about the night Amanda died. He said he knew she was dying when he heard me calling out to her and she wouldn't answer. Then he heard me call 9-1-1 and the police/fire/ambulance arrived. He said he felt sad. Until a few nights ago, we'd never talked about that.

He's confessed to having a hard time remembering mommy. He said he can remember her smile but not much else. I can't have that. So I made him a hardcover book on Shutterfly full of colour photos of the two of them together through the years. I talk to him about things they used to do together. Special things they shared. He will know that she loved him more than anything else in the whole wide world. I won't let him forget.

Tired boy after chocolaty dessert.
So, no great realizations, epiphanies or breakthroughs. Just clomp-clomp-clomping forward into the unknown, trying to pepper the greyness with moments of colour.