Category Archives: General Sadness

What happens when a(n adoptive) parent dies?

It sucks. That’s what happens.

Dad’s accident occurred at his work. Much of that day is seared in my mind. Each month after the accident and after his passing, I would get super anxious near and on those dates. I kept thinking, it’s been two months since that date. It’s been five months since that date. After a year, I finally quit marking the month.

I often relived the phone call that changed my life. I felt like revisiting the trauma was the closest I could get to him being here still. That’s terrifying and so sad. My foundation had been totally shattered. All the things I thought I could count on in life suddenly felt like a crumbled house of cards. Nothing felt stable. I remember wanting to keep my mom and Brother in a room with me. Where I could see them. And NO ONE was allowed to be on a ladder. (Dad fell from a tall agricultural tank.)

A few things really helped me through the first year. A few weeks after Dad passed, I found out that the local hospice center was hosting a grief group one night a week for seven weeks. I signed up. I was pretty nervous driving to the meeting place that first night, but I’ve gotten much braver in the past 10 years. I knew it was what I needed. We got a binder with handouts for journaling, quotes, and articles to read. We discussed our loved ones and processed grief out loud together. It was a safe place to cry and do the hard work of grieving, away from my family for whom I was trying to be strong(ish). I was also (oddly) blessed to have a couple close friends who had suffered similar grief in their lives. My one friend and I would call or text each other for support on days that were particularly hard or triggering. I called her my grief buddy, not a very poetic term, but descriptive nonetheless. We still check in now and then.

That first year…I never felt like I wanted to die exactly, it’s just that I didn’t want to live. I wanted to hop off the ride for awhile. Just go away, no one expecting anything from me. I just wanted to sleep. And wake up to either my dad back, safe and sound, or to the absence of the pain. So I found a therapist close to my hometown. He was qualified to do EMDR, of which I’m a huge fan. He helped me a lot. I started to come out of the fog.

I plan to do several more posts about my grief journey. Being a pretty emotional adoptee, grieving for Dad got complicated…

You’re *still* crying? What happened??

(I started writing this post a month ago, the last week of November.  I still wanted to post it though, b/c my Grandma deserves to be remembered here on my blog. – AO)

Yeah, still crying.  Or not.  It’s been a tough two weeks.  My grandma passed away about 10 days ago.  We’ve had the visitation and the funeral already.  Thank you cards are on their way out, and the potato salad leftovers are almost gone.  Now begins the real work – life without Grandma.

It should be easy.  Grandma’s been in care facilities for the last ten years or so.  She’s sort of been…away from home, from me, and it seemed like she was always there…down the road.  Maybe that’s why it doesn’t feel real yet that she’s gone.  Even this Thursday, when our family gathers to eat and laugh, it won’t seem real.  She hasn’t been able to travel for our holiday celebrations for a year or so, so her presence won’t be missed like it might have been.  Let me start over though.  And tell you about my grandma.  Her life and story are worth sharing because she’s had such an influence on my life, and it’s my blog, so there!

Grandma was born in rural Iowa in her parents’ home.  The family doctor who delivered her put her on the scale.  When the needle went as far as it could go, at 13 pounds, he said, “That’s enough.  No baby should have to weigh more than that.”  Classic!  She spent the next 5-7 years playing outside with her older brothers and younger sister when she came long.  One day, at her country school, Grandma was on the end of a Crack-the-Whip line.  Well, they whipped, and she cracked.  She broke a collarbone, poor thing!  Shortly after that year, her family moved to the town where she’d get married, have children, and spend her retirement years with her true love.

I forget the exact timeline, but Grandma once told me that she was a synchronized swimmer.  One of these days I’m gonna do some research into that to see if I can find a photo…I think this must have been while she still lived at home…?

Again, I’m estimating here, but probably in 1945 she met my Grandpa at a historic location in our town.  They loved dancing together and spending time with their friends.  It didn’t take them long to decide that they wanted to spend their lives together.  They married in July 1946 and started their family pretty soon after that.  My uncle was born the next year, and five years later my Mom came along.  My aunt came three years later and the little brother finished out the family nine years after that.  So my grandpa drove a bakery bread truck for the local bakery for 40 years.  For the kids’ birthdays, they’d get a yellow cake with chocolate frosting from the bakery.  At some point, they quit making those cakes, so Grandma continued the tradition on her own.  Mom remembers a seven layer yellow cake with chocolate frosting for several years’ birthdays.  Sounds amazing!  My uncle remembers that cookies were *always* in the freezer or on the kitchen counter.

All signs and stories point to Grandma loving her life as a mother.  But Mom says that once in awhile Grandma would get an “itch” to work outside the home.  She and her sister took classes at the local beauty school.  They learned to do hair and other things.  Grandma never took the test, but Mom’s younger brother definitely took the brunt of Grandma’s practicing haircuts.  After my uncle graduated high school, my grandparents started traveling a bit.  They went to Hawaii with Grandpa’s sisters and their spouses.  They spent some time on a tour of European countries and took lots of photos…that we found last week.  Us kids started coming along starting in the late 1970s and Grandma loved being a grandma!

One of my favorite memories of my time with Grandma was when she’d pick me up from Friday morning kindergarten and take me to lunch at Arby’s.  We got vanilla shakes.  We’d cruise in her red Honda and listen to Kenny Rogers.  I’ll remember so many cute things about her.  She always had tissues, Tic Tacs, and a pick in her purse.  I’ll never forget how she put her lipstick on.  Or how she put her socks on.  That she always looked nice.  Always had her hair and makeup done.  How she smelled.  How tasty her cookies were.  How delicious her potato salad was, and how almost no one can duplicate it.  She was exactly the kind of grandma everyone deserves.  And she influenced my mom to be the best kind of mom for me.  I said at her service that if nothing else, teaching my mom how to be an amazing mom is enough for me to love her forever.  I’m so very thankful for all the vacations, day trips, and sitting around watching tv moments I had with my grandma.

Why are you crying, Angela?

Dear Tickles,

I love you, baby.  I’m so sorry this happened to you.  And I’m sorry to make the decision that I did.  I hope you forgive me.  I couldn’t be guaranteed you’d get better, and I didn’t want you to suffer through a winter outside.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the last three months outside.  I think you did.  I watched you from my bedroom window, curled up in the grass, watching the birds.  Your tail twitching.  Those birds could have been toast if you’d have wanted to chase them!  And that mouse I found near my car this summer – that was you, wasn’t it?  Silly girl.  You were the BEST mouser ever!  We’ll never forget the night that you caught the mouse in the kitchen.  Mom and Dad were making supper, and you were super focused on one of the cupboards.  Somehow you got hold of the mouse, then Dad scooped it up, then he dropped it, then you caught it, then he caught it, and dropped it again!  He should have let you take care of it.  haha

I remember the day you came to us.  Someone found you wandering around their neighborhood in town.  We said you could come here and live outside.  So you came here.  And we found out that you were declawed in the front.  No outsiding for you.  Plus, I loved you instantly and wasn’t gonna let you out of my sight.  So we fattened you up a little.  But you just kept getting fatter.  When it looked like you’d swallowed a ball, we decided you must be preggers!  Silly goose!  Stupid owners though – didn’t spay you when they declawed you.  Anyway, you had two beautiful little munchkins.  And we gave them to a friend.  And then we spayed you.

And you became my best friend.  I went off to college but missed you everyday.  When I came home for a year after graduation, you slept at my feet almost every night.  Sometimes you’d follow me around the house, and sometimes you’d hole up in a closet somewhere.  And when I lived on the rez for a year, you were there for me.  You didn’t care if I’d been humiliated by my boss, or if one of the elders who was taking wacko medication made lewd comments at me, or if I’d actually had a good and productive day – when I got home, you expected kibbles and snuggles.  You didn’t judge me when I cried of loneliness.  In fact you often jumped on my bed and laid on my tummy.  You made me laugh with your nightly “zooms” – that five minutes of whipping all over the apartment like a maniac, just before bedtime.  And remember that night I didn’t feel good and rolled my back on a tennis ball on the floor, and you came up behind me and BIT my head!  And drew BLOOD!!!  Little shit.  I constantly had to wipe off the counter b/c I gave up on trying to keep your fours on the floor.  You could be such a troublemaker!  You really could bite ya know that?  Damn.  I’m scarred for life!  haha  But I know I wouldn’t have survived that year without you.  Coming home to you every night was the best part of my day.

You were one of the sweetest cats I’ve ever had.  You could snuggle with the best of them.  You had a knack for knowing when I needed a snuggle.  I loved when you’d go through phases of sleeping on my head.  As fun as it was to wake up choking on fur, I loved loved loved when you slept with me.  I loved when you’d crawl under the covers and sleep under my bent knees.  Your purr soothed me so many times.  And your fur was so fluffy and soft.  A few times I woke up to you stretched out, snuggled up to my side, so I put my arm around you.  I loved those moments when you’d be sitting on the edge of a table or counter, and I’d stand in front of you.  I’d start scratching behind your ears and you’d lean in and put your forehead on my tummy.  Those are the moments I knew you loved me.

Then came the Indiana Years.  School was tough sometimes, but you were always there to lift my spirits.  And then came along the Kitten.  I couldn’t blame you when you hissed and fretted over her arrival.  She was definitely gonna make our household dynamic change.  You kinda went from my baby to my friend.  It was a change we all had to adjust to – but we made it.  You soon took her in and gave her a place in your heart.  I thought you might.  I thought your mama instinct would kick in.  You’re a sweetie.  And boy did she looooove you!  haha  She followed you around and played with you as much as you’d let her!  I distinctly remember her taking a flying leap off the coffee table onto your back.  I laughed so hard!  You were such a good sport that first year.

And last year in Milwaukee, you were a trooper for traveling with me up there.  You and Tortie kept me company.  And I’m so grateful for that.  For your love.  Cats are finicky.  And you were SUCH a cat!  Your tail gave me an immediate read on your mood.  You’d whip it around when you were irritated.  It curled when you were in a good mood, up for play.  I swear you’d wrap it around my leg when you brushed past me.  Ya know that’s how you got your name?  Brother decided to call you Tickles because he thought it tickled when you rubbed up against his legs.  I wasn’t so convinced.  I thought it was a silly name.  But it turns out to have fit you perfectly.  And so the nicknames ensued – Tickles Bickles, T Bickles, TB, Miss Kitty, Silly Pants, Tickles Pants, Pants, Miss Puss, etc.  Shoot, the Pants name even extended to my friends.  Daniel Pants, Dani Pants, Amanda Pants….and my grad school boyfriend just/still called me Pants.

You’ve been SUCH a huge part of my life for the past 13 years.  I can’t thank you enough for letting me be your human.  You’re my best friend.  I’ll love you forever.  And I’ll tell all my future kitties about the standard you set for friendship.  It’s hard for me to trust people sometimes, I think that’s why we connected so well.  I always thought we were partners in crime.

Burying you last night was so hard.  I wanted to hold you again.  I swear the thought crossed my mind today – I could just dig you up and hold you one last time.  I won’t, b/c at this point it’s gross, not to mention a little crazy.  But I am going to miss you, Kitty.  I miss you already.  Just having you in the house the last two days, taking care of you.  Syringing water into your mouth.  Cleaning the blood off your paws.  Cutting away the fur that was matted.  Giving you a washcloth bath.  Listening to you purr was like music to my ears!  I want to believe that you knew I wasn’t going to hurt you, that I was trying to help you.  You’d lay back on your side and let me work.  As terrible as it was that you were injured, I’m glad that your last days were spent inside and being cared for.  I sobbed into your fur, I think I knew what was coming.  And when the vet told me what we’d have to do, just to see if you might heal, I made the difficult decision to let you go.  Maybe it was selfish on my part, but I just keep trying to remind myself that you’ve just spent the last three months in heaven on earth, playing in the grass.  That you’d been completely loved your whole life with me.  That I’d fed you well.  Kept you healthy.  Played with you.  Snuggled you.  Slipped you bits of banana…

You made me smile and laugh and cry sometimes.  My life will go on, and I’ll be fine.  But I’ll never forget you.  We buried you in the garden so maybe flowers or veggies would grow over your grave.  Something beautiful or delicious.  B/c you were beautiful.  My gorgeous girl.

I’ll love you forever and ever and ever and ever.

Angie

Ps.  Say hi to Tony in Kitty Heaven.  And if you get visiting hours with Doggy Heaven, say hi to Maddie.  Tell her I miss her.  Okay, love you.  See you in my dreams.

Tickles Bickles

Tickles Bickles