Monday, October 5, 2015

You Did It!

Greetings All,

Firstly, thanks for still tuning in, for those of you who are still reading, still interested, and still on our journey.  A lot has happened in the last 6 weeks, most of all school started up again, and I entered the extremely fun, totally chaotic, and ever eventful tumble-dry year of teaching middle school.  I’m teaching a new course this year, Computer Education, and the time/attention it takes is truly overwhelming, not to mention the fact that the 7th graders that I (mostly) teach are just….  7th graders.  More on that later.

The next reason it’s been so long is that I wanted to delay the next post until our super-special reveal was ready to go. Today it is, and we can pull the curtain away on it.  More on that later.

I wanted to start by riffing a little bit on some things that have been bouncing around my head.  We started back at Ele’s Place two weeks ago, and I’ve really enjoyed the conversations going on this time.  Not sure if it’s me, if it’s the people in our group, or what…but it’s no longer as taxing to me to go to the sessions.   We’ve had several really good discussions about things over the last few weeks that I feel like I’ve been able to make valuable contributions to, and get little nuggets from. 

A woman in our group made the comment that “It never gets better”, in regards to losing a kid.  I disagreed, vehemently, but I’d never say that to her in that setting.  To me, it’s always changing, the grief, if you let it.  It’s always a different thing, week to week.  I miss Amie more than I can ever explain, but at the same time, I can hold a simultaneous thought that I’m truly glad she doesn’t have to go through the treatments anymore.  She’s free of that.  But she’s also free of being able to spend time with Shelley doing crafts at the table, and playing silly games with Anya, or riding on top of my shoulders, playing with the wispy remains of my hair.

To say that it doesn’t get any better, to me, seems to not let it change.  To not let it flow through you, and recognize all the facets, and all the variables that it can take on.  If you hold on to it so damned tight, squeezing it for all it’s worth…you don’t let it change, you don’t let it free.  I’m not saying I’m anything even close to an expert at this whole grief thing… I just know what is working for me.  Letting things happen, and trying to be totally present to the way I feel…that works for me.  Honoring the feelings I am having, and letting them happen, not fighting them…that’s what works for me.  Crying like a little baby at a movie, at a commercial, at a tv show…that works for me.

The other thing that’s been bouncing around in my skull is the idea that there is a price, and a benefit, of pain like losing Amie.  The price, of course, is the hollowing out that happens.  This is the stuff of nightmares, the anxiety in the middle of the night about what the rest of your life looks like, with this on your shoulder.  This is not good.  But it lessens.  (see above paragraphs)

But there are so many things that are happening for Shelley and I, and to Anya to a lesser extent, as a direct result of the grief, and the hollowing out.  The running is one such thing.  We’ve been actively running now for 9 weeks.  Shelley has gone from running 90 seconds the first week of August and really (REALLY) hating it, to running 40 minutes today, and really starting to enjoy it.  She ran her first 5k this weekend.   I ran my first 10k, and did it in 52:20.  I’ve dropped nearly 30 lbs. now, and have an entire area of my wardrobe available to me again.

I could go on and on about the running, but I don’t want to be annoying.  I realize that running is a lot like my other passions (Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, random RPG video games, etc), whereas it’s a small group of people who are WILDLY passionate about it, and most other people just look at it in slightly amused confusion.  I say all this just to say that it’s something that’s working for us, and never, ever would have happened had we not been given this massive kick to the soul this past year.

As a final thing, I see how much better of a teacher I am becoming because of this.  Not 100%, because I think my patience and tolerance of off-task silliness has really suffered…but my ability to work harder, work more, and push myself and my students further in pursuit of making themselves the best version of themselves….yes.  YES.  This.

I see what I’m asking them to do, and it’s so much more, and deeper, than I was doing previously.  I’m pushing them in content, yes.  But we’re also writing more.  I’m grading them for grammar and capitalization.  For reasoning, and backing up their statements with fact.  I’m pushing them to be more rational, and to be more questioning.  I want them to do more…because Amie couldn’t, and wont, and can’t….and I think that’s a net gain for them, and a net win for me.  This probably sounds self-serving or something… but it’s good to know that I can do that again, and can find the place within me to push push push, where it needs to be done.

Ok. Enough about me. 

Anya is doing fantastically, and is really growing into a “big girl”.  She’s slowly, slowly becoming her own little adultish person, in that she no longer lives for our adulation.  She just wants to read, and do it all the time, and does a fantastic amount of work to get out of doing anything but reading and dancing around the living room.  Good story:  She hid behind a piece of furniture this weekend, in her room, to get out of doing some random chore that she perceived Shelley was about to ask her to do.  It nearly worked too, until Shelley found her, and then Anya told her why she was doing it.  I wanted to laugh, but that would not have been the winning choice in that moment.  I heard her say all this, and I said to myself that her doing that was so fantastically and amazingly normal….and what else could I have asked for her to be doing 8 months after Amie’s death.  So good, in a normal, normal way.

So, the grand reveal.  Amie’s birthday is in 13 days.  October 18th.  The first birthday that she isn’t with us.  We have been pondering what we wanted Amie’s gravestone/tombstone/isthereabetternameforthis for a while.  I wanted Shelley to take the lead on what it would look like, because us having a site was her primary desire.  When we returned from out west, we began to work in earnest on what it would look like, and it wasn’t clicking.  We went in to talk to the representative from Brewer-Bouchey Monuments, and they mentioned being able to replicate pretty much anything that existed, as long as we could provide a picture.  That got Shelley thinking about Amie’s art, and her name that she loved to write so much.  So, we played around with it, and after a few trials and errors, we have this to show all of you.  We think it’s about as perfect a marker as we’d ever have hoped to have.  Without further ado…

So, for those of you who want to visit it, here are the directions on how to find it:

  • In the westernmost area of Babyland are the new sites. Amie’s gravestone is site 294.

The only thing we ask is this. Bring a rock that you think is cool.  For Jewish families, bringing a rock to a grave marker is tradition.  I just did a ton of reading on it, and there’s no definitive reason as to why.  Lots of explanations, but none of them are canon.  I liked the idea of the permanence of stone, and the idea that the memory of a person, like a rock, will persist long past their passing.  That made me exceedingly happy, and tied into our adventures out west this summer.

So.  If you visit Amie’s grave, bring a rock that you find cool, that you find beautiful, that you find….anything. 

It’s the most beautiful place in Howell, and I think that’s fitting for the girl that I find the most beautiful that the city has ever seen.

Night all.  Time to head home and get ready to teach my socks off tomorrow.