Learning our fall lines

You know when you get a Slurpee from 7-Eleven and it’s a little too much for the regular straw? That’s my snow report for today. Dirt Slurpee.

There were people snowboarding in t-shirts with their jackets tied around their waists just so they still had their lift tickets that were attached.

We went down “the long slope” to the bigger chair lift once. That was all I needed as the conditions were pretty awful. It felt like a slog for me, though Ian never fell on that section today. We shared a chair ride with one of the snow patrol dudes. He asked how we liked the snow and I politely said, “It’s ok. We’re having fun.”

Ian said, “Well ... yesterday was a lot better but today it looks more like salt than snow and I don’t think that’s as good.” I pointed out that this was his second day on skis ever and we come from tidal Virginia so we’re not snow connoisseurs.

Patrol dude said, “I’ll be honest with ya, this isn’t very good snow. So if you can ski in this, you can ski in anything.”

We went down “the short slope” next, my taking the lead so Ian could follow me. After a bit, I realized he’d fallen. I stopped. I tried to side step up the hill. I took one ski off and tried to side step that way. Nope. My skis sank into at least 6” of Slurpee. I was nearly that horse stuck in the mud from Neverending Story.

So I just stood and waited. Ian tried to push himself up but ... Slurpee. So he took off both his skis, got to his feet, repositioned his skis, clipped back in and rejoined me. We continued to the small chair lift.

He looked a little sullen so I asked about it. “I can’t believe you didn’t realize I had fallen!”

“Dude! I’m a novice skier too. I’m doing my own ski. I can’t look back for you every two feet. When I realized you were gone, I stopped. I tried to get to you but it was really hard. And you weren’t in distress. So I just stood witness. You didn’t cry for help. You figured it all out and made great decisions. I’m proud of you. Do you want me to follow you next time?”

He nodded.

So we took turns that way. When I fell on the long slope he stopped and waited for me. He said, “Good job!” when I was able to stand back up in Slurpee. And I said, “Yes! Go you!” when he made a great recovery.

That’s how grief is for us. We have to take turns. We have to wait for each other. And if we can make it through this dirt Slurpee, we can make it through anything.


Deliver us

As we sat down to dinner last night, Ian said, "I miss Daddy. I feel like I didn't do enough for him and his cancer. I feel like I should have done more to help him and I didn't do anything to help him!" He started crying.

I reminded him that he was seven when his father died. He was two years old when his father was diagnosed. We didn't expect him to change ostomy bags. I told him that Daddy was not very good at asking for help from anyone, certainly not a little boy. What Daddy wanted more than anything was to pretend that cancer didn't exist. Every moment he spent with Ian, watching TV, playing, or cuddling, allowed him to pretend cancer wasn't there and he had his old life back. So Ian did everything he was supposed to do.

You know how you talk about some product and then it's showing up on your Facebook ads? Just the other day, I was talking to a friend about how some people say I didn't do enough for Rich. It broke my heart to hear my sweet boy cry that he didn't do enough for his father.

Things looked great for Team Stryker until 2016. That last year was a doozie. Not all of us made it out alive and there were many wounded. I can't make that clear enough that it was touch-and-go there for several of us. Calling me human garbage also doesn't bring Rich back, but you do you. One of the good things to come from the crucible of caregiving and widowhood is I don't care what most people think anymore.

Yesterday morning I noticed Ian had texted Rich's number a few times. The messages failed at first but in the middle of December one went through. "I'm sad that you died daddy." That had to be one of the worst wrong numbers a person could get. I'm grateful they don't have read receipts turned on. It just said "delivered." I think they changed numbers since then since my message today went as a text versus iMessage. Maybe they didn’t want a dead man’s phone.

I tend to talk to Rich in the car versus texting him. Days before the check engine light came up on the Suburban and I bought a brand new car, I was talking to him about our vehicle options. I don’t even mind that he doesn’t respond much.

You should be able to memorialize a phone number, so texts don't fail but don't go anywhere. Just let the messages keep saying "delivered."


When you say nothing at all

Ian is learning how to apologize.

I got a phone call from his art teacher yesterday. I've never met her but she sounded like a quirky, frazzled art teacher. She said that she was concerned about Ian's behavior. That he was loud and if she told him to lower his voice, he just laughed. She also specifically said that after he finished his project yesterday he chose to paint the entirety of his hands blue, "which, as I'm sure you know, is not part of the lesson."

I talked to Ian when he got home and told him what she had told me. He said that he must have been laughing at what someone told him while she was talking to him. I reminded him that it indicates he wasn't listening to her and that had to make her feel frustrated. Then I told him to go write her a letter. I didn't specify what should be in the letter, letting him work that out on his own. His first version said:

“apology” version one

“apology” version one

Dear Miss Mozafarye (sic),

I'm sorry I talked loudly. I'm sorry I painted my hands and I'll try not to do it. You told my mom I painted my hands, that was *true*. You told my mom I talked loudly, that was *true*. But you told my mom that you told me to talk quieter and I *laughed* at you, that was a *lie*.

I never remember laughing at you when you told me to be quieter. If I'm gonna stand up for my actions then you might as well not tell my mom stuff I didn't do. I might've done it and I don't know but I don't remember doing it.

- My sincere apologies, Ian.

I got to the underlined "lie" and threw the paper on the kitchen floor. I told him that was bullshit. That wasn't an apology or a genuine statement in any way. If I read that as his teacher it would not make me feel heard or understood or respected. Try again. Fix it.

This was his revised version:

apology revision

apology revision

Dear Ms. Mozafari (sic),

I'm really sorry that I painted my hands and that I made you feel disrespected. I didn't mean to make you feel disrespected on purpose. I'm really sorry I made you feel like I was laughing at you. I don't remember laughing at you but if I did I'm sorry I did that and I didn't do that on purpose.

You are a great teacher and I'm sorry I made you feel disrespected. You don't deserve to take care of over 100 students and be disrespected by them. You are a good art teacher and should not have to be talked over and laughed at. I will do better next week. I promise.

- My sincere apologies, Ian

It reminded me of the situation where Person A gets upset by something Person B did or said and Person B tries to convince Person A that they're wrong for being upset. As if that were going to make anything better.

I told him to put himself in her shoes. Think back to the way she acts in class. Does she seem happy? Calm? And are there things he and the other kids are doing that are contributing to her mood? Are there things they could do to help her versus make her day harder? It takes so little on the part of Person B to dramatically improve the experience for Person A.

So yeah, I made him write a letter. And I made him write a new one after the first one was awful. But I'm pretty sure he figured it out himself. I’m proud of him.

Our evening continued in a lovely fashion. We made dinner and delivered leftovers to Grandma. We bought science project supplies. We got Starbucks treats. We read Christmas books. We snuggled. Ian didn't have to give up any part of himself to be good to his art teacher.