I Will Choose Interesting.

My body seems to be relaxing into 33.

Things are starting to droop, sag, exhale, round, and lean in different directions than the compass together we once knew.

But, honestly, is there anything less interesting than a woman consumed with the flatness of her stomach?

I choose a polite “no, thank you.  I will not be that girl.”

I will choose interesting.
I will be healthy.
I will be confident.
I will wear clothes that fit –
my measurements and my age.

And beyond this, I will not give it another thought.

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On Second Thought

On second thought (or insert whatever cardinal number you choose for how many times I have rethought this), I’m not finished grieving.

Remember that day when I thought I was? When my tears dried up right in the middle of my twelfth anniversary and I declared myself free?

(Oh, Tricia. Your naïveté is so darling.)

It was a milestone, that day. It was a turning point. And the emotions I have felt and carried and processed in the weeks since then have been different from the emotions prior to that day.

But I’m not done. Nope.

Grief is perhaps a stone I carry in my pocket.

And sometimes it grows legs and chases me down. And sometimes it wraps its iron chain around my neck.

And sometimes it just sits, smooth as a worry stone, silent as a memory, along for the ride.

But gone? No. Not gone.

I give myself extra points for being able to say, publicly, “‘Member that thing I said? I was wrong.”

Thank you for not saying, Yeah, I totally wondered about that. I didn’t think you were done.

“Mommy, Can You Tell Me What Happened?”

“Mommy, are you crying?”

“Yes.”

“Did you just now start crying because you miss daddy?”

“Yes, buddy.  I want people to remember him.”

“I remember him.”

“Yeah, Mommy.  I remember him, too.”

“I’m so thankful you do, boys.  You are a most wonderful gift to me.”

“Because we make you think of Daddy?”

“And because you remember him.  And because you are you.”

“He had a mustache.”
“And he played horsey with us.”
“And he died.  I remember that, too, Mommy.”
“He died so a new baby could be born.”

“No, no, that’s not why he died.  Babies are born all the time, but people don’t have to die for babies to be born.  People die when it’s time, and babies are born when it’s time.”

“Why did he die, Mommy?  He wasn’t even old.”

“I don’t know why, lovey.  He got sick really fast, and the doctors couldn’t help him.  He lived all the days God gave him.”

“But can you tell me how?  What happened?”

There it is.  This day has come.  Their cognition grows with each day, and with understanding comes questions. They seek to make sense of the insensible.

My little boys asked me to tell them how their dad died.

I watched them in the rearview mirror, and I told them the whole story.  They were patient when I paused to cry.

“Daddy didn’t have a spleen, and you need a spleen to fight infections.  He didn’t have his, so when his body got the infection, it couldn’t fight for him.  The good news is that you have a spleen, though.  So you don’t need to worry – your bodies can fight infection really well.”

“So, did Daddy’s fall out of him?”

“No, he was in an accident when he was fourteen.  He was sledding down a hill, and he ran into a tree.  His spleen broke apart inside him, and the doctors had to do surgery to take out all the pieces.”

“Why didn’t he turn his sled?  I wish he had looked up and turned his sled instead of running into the tree.  Because I’m in first grade now.  I play football.  He should be here.”

“I know, buddy.  He should be here.  But I really think he can see you.  I really think God lets him watch.”

“Do you think he can see us right now, Mommy?”

“You know what?  I really feel like he can.”

“I don’t know, Mommy.  The windows in the van are dark.  He might not be able to see through.”

“If God lets him watch us sometimes, then I’m sure nothing gets in his way.  Not even tinted windows.  I think he watches you sometimes, and I think he probably tells everyone in heaven about you.  I think he says, ‘Look!  That’s my boy, Tucker, the quarterback!  Watch – he’s about to throw the ball!’

And I think he says, ‘Look!  That’s my boy, Tyler.  He’s an artist.  Watch what he can make!’

‘Look!  Those are my boys.  Look how they love each other.  Look how they love their mom.  Look how they love God.’

I think he says those things to everybody in heaven.”

“Mommy, does his soul say those words, since he left his body here?”

Oh, these questions… “Yes, baby.  I believe that’s what happens.”

“Was Daddy sitting or standing when he died?  Where was he?”

“He was sitting on the floor in our bedroom, right under the window.”

“Were you there?”

“Yes, I was there.”

“What did you do? What did you say?”

“I worked so hard to help him stay alive.  I breathed my air into him, and I pushed on his chest to help his lungs keep working.”

“But then his heart just stopped, right?”

“Right.”

“And his lungs just stopped, right?”

“Right.  I heard his very last breath.  I was right there, buddy.  I listened to Daddy breathe his last breath.”

“What did you say?”

Oh, God.  Help me.  I wept as I answered my son.

“I held his face, and I grabbed his shirt, and I said, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you,’ and those are the words he took with him to heaven.”

“What does it feel like to die, Mommy?”

“Well, I don’t know for sure, because I have never died.  But you know what I think?  I think an angel came to our house that night, or maybe many angels.  Daddy tried so hard to stay alive – I watched him trying so hard to stay with us.  And then I think an angel whispered to him, ‘It’s okay, Robb.  Tucker is okay, and Tyler is okay, and Tricia is okay.  And you can come to heaven now.  It’s time to go.’  And that’s when I think his soul left his body and he went to heaven.”

“Did he go through outer space to get there?”

“No, the Bible says that as soon as we leave our bodies, we are with Jesus, so I don’t think Daddy had very far to travel.  I think maybe it’s like he stepped into a new room he had never seen before.”

I parked the car in the lot at the grocery store.

“Mommy?  I can help you find the root beer for our floats.”

“Thank you, lovey.”

They unfastened their seatbelts. Tyler climbed into my lap, and Tucker stood behind the driver’s seat, smoothing my ponytail.

“Good Mommy.  Good Mommy.”  He petted my head, like a puppy.

Tyler jumped to the defense.  “Tucker, that doesn’t help her when you do that.  Don’t pet her. Don’t say, ‘Good Mommy.'”

“Actually, buddy.  That’s okay. He’s fine.”

“We can say that?  We can say ‘Good Mommy’?”

“Sure.”

He pet my nose.  (I’m okay with that, just this once.)

Tucker said, “Do you think Daddy can see you?”

“I think he can.”

“Do you think he knows you’re crying?”

“You know, buddy, I feel like maybe he does today.”

Tucker opened the van door and stepped out onto the sidewalk.  He leaned his head back, looked up at the sky, threw his arms wide, and said, “Good Daddy.  Good Daddy.”

A Word to Farmers Insurance

Dear Beloved Family of Farmers Insurance:

You are one gracious institution comprised of gracious, giving people.  From the day of Robb’s death, you have swallowed our family in the nearby miles, from surrounding states, on the west coast, and always over the miles of cyberspace.

I wrote yesterday that I wanted to bring cookies, that I stopped short when it seemed nobody remembered my husband.  In saying this, I fear I misrepresented you: the truth is – I gave up before I could get to any of you. I called the wrong number, and I gave my emotional energy to people who never knew him, us, our story, to begin with.

But if I had found you… oh, if I had found you.

Thank you for the memories you hold of him in Denver, for naming your training conference room after him.  He loved to teach in that space.

Thank you for your plaque on the wall in California, for remembering that he was an all-around great guy.

Thank you for the book your graphics team created for me, a compilation of pictures and stories from people all over the country.

Many, many a widow discovers horrific truths about her husband after he has died – secrets, infidelities, lies, dualities.  In your gifts to me, I have learned much about him; he was a mentor, a friend, a leader, investing in his community in ways he never told me.  In your gifts, I have learned that he was an even better man than I thought he was.

And I thought he hung the moon.

Thank you for remembering him.  I would love to bring cookies to you.  Let’s work on that reunion.  :)

“We are Farmers.”

So much love,
t

If I Liked Something

I read about an artist who teaches art appreciation by asking students to engage a piece with this mentality:

If I liked something about this, what would I like?

I’m trying to ask myself this question – about anything at all. Immediately, it shifts my focus.

If I liked something about this, I’d like that my son can think outside of the box and discover creative uses for Vaseline.

If I liked something about this, I’d like that my son is supersocial and makes friends easily while his teacher is talking.

If I liked something about this, I’d like that my child is an independent thinker and does not respond blindly to authority.

If I liked something about this, I’d like the grey of the day.

If I liked something about this, I’d like that I appreciate my husband more than ever before, and somehow I know him better than when I sat across the dinner table from him every night.

If I liked something about this, I would like this holy courtship with a very patient, listening, gentle, persistent and poetic carpenter from Nazareth. Not in the weird “Jesus is my boyfriend” way, but in the sacred conversations recorded on my iPod and the pages of my journal.

If I liked something about this, I’d like who I have become.