Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Devin's Way, May 8: Another dream, and another person saved

May 8, 2012
            Nine months and a day.
            That’s how long it’s been since Devin was killed.
            It didn’t hit me until last night about 9 p.m., as I was ironing my clothes. I said something to Ruth about it.
            “I know,” she said quietly.
            And for the nine-month anniversary of his death, Devin came to me in a dream last night. Don’t know if I can call these kinds of dreams a vision like the one on 80th Street. That night, and the feeling of Devin being with us on Thanksgiving remain the strongest form of a connection I’ve had with him since his death. They were beyond mere dreams or coincidences.
            In last night’s dream, I found myself in Devin’s room, the way it looked when we were stationed in Germany, but the bed was pulled to the middle of the room so I could stand on one side and Ruth on the other. She came into the room in her nursing scrubs ready to go to work and wanted to say goodbye. I was on the other side. Devin, as a grown adult – or close to it – was lying in bed resting.
            We both reached down to touch him. To hug him.
            “Oh sweetie, we miss you so much,” Ruth told him. “We love you and miss you.”
            My head brushed his. I could feel the wiry hair that could only belong to Devin. I could smell his brown, wiry hair as it brushed my nose and forehead. I could smell his breath.
            “Devin,” I said. “We love you so much. We miss you.”
            He returned the hug and smiled at us both.
            “I miss you guys. I love you, too.”
            Ruth and I looked at each other with a bit of a smile, both knowing it was a dream and when we’d look again, Devin would be gone.
            But he didn’t leave.
            “He’s still here!” I said.
            We knew, intrinsically, this was a blessing, and hugged him once more. And once more he returned the hug. We smiled at each other. We had him back, for just a few moments.
            And then the moment was gone. It was no longer Devin lying in bed.
            I woke up and it was 4:14 a.m.
            What a dream.
            I live for moments like that.

            Pulled into the parking lot at work today, and as I pulled into my spot,  saw the driver behind me,  talking on her cell phone.
            I had one more bracelet in my car.
            Months earlier I had stopped someone in the same lot for talking on her cell phone and driving. She took great offense, and even reported it to Great Powers here, who asked me if I did that, and I admitted I had. Nothing came of it.
            But I made Devin a promise. I made myself a promise. I followed through on that promise today.
            I waited for her to get out of her car. Her eyes met mine and she smiled.
            “Excuse me,” I said. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to scare you … ”
            “One second, Mom,” she said.
            It got her attention as she put down the phone and listened.
            “My son was killed by a driver on a cell phone,” I continued with a kind smile. “Again, I’m not trying to scare you, but it just makes me cringe when I see someone do that. If you could please try to break that habit, I would really appreciate it.”
            She smiled back.
            “I am so sorry,” she said.
            “It’s OK, I’m just trying to let people know.”
            “I am sorry, I will try to break the habit for you.”
            “Thank you,” I said. “That means a lot.”
            Mission accomplished.
            I looked up to the sky.
            “That’s one more person, Devin.”

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Trying to make puppies with nothing at all

Shadow desperately wants to become a father.

But since he doesn't have opposable thumbs to search the Internet for foreign offspring, it's doubtful he'll be adopting puppies from China anytime soon.

And, sad to say for Shadow, having offspring of his own the old-fashioned way isn't going to happen since we, ahem, took him to that trip to Disneyland a few years ago. It's just that nobody told him.

So he tries. Everyday. With our other dog, Sandy. Who also won't ever be having puppies. We get our dogs from the shelter, and it's a prerequisite when you take one out of one of those cages, you don't set them up for a litter of six or seven puppies to get thrown back in when a family gets tired of them.

She gets it. "You're spayed," and "Stay," sound alike to her, and she's never had an interest in becoming a Mommy, which just makes her bitchy and pissed off when Shadow tries to change her mind. Even if Shadow tried to be romantic and light some candles, play a little Barry White and give her a copy of "50 Shades of Grey," she'd think it's just a book about her vision.

Shadow understands simple commands like, "Stay," and "Play dead," but apparently the phrase, "You were neutered and don't have any ability to make puppies, so for the love of God will you please quit humping Sandy!" is totally lost on him.

I'm not even sure he did well in sex ed. Usually he's happy to be trying this in the vicinity of Sandy. Other times, it's just with the air and she's in another room or walking away. Maybe it would help if he learned how to brush his teeth. Shadow ...  dude ... your breath is atrocious. Maybe that's the problem she walks away. I know, again, with the lack of opposable thumbs. Sorry, bud.

I always thought once there was a thwacking of said parts that dogs would naturally not have an interest in procreation.  Maybe he just doesn't know. He's kind of a large, lumbering beast that is part Lab/part Shepherd. I've had male ambidextrous dogs who used to be able to do the reach and lick, but maybe he's not built like that and just can't see he doesn't have the parts.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Devin's Way: Living with grief

Instead of picking up with Chapter 8, I surprised myself by writing this. Sat down to jot down a few sentences, and this is part of what came out.
May 2, 2012
            Found some pictures of Devin on the digital camera today.
            Couldn’t help but talk to him out loud.
            “Devin, why’d you die?”
            Sometimes – no, check that, usually every night -- when I let the dogs into the backyard for their last pee of the evening, I like to stare into the yard, then stare up into space and just wonder.
            I wonder where Heaven is. I wonder if it’s all around us. I wonder what Devin is doing and how it all looks to him, far removed from this Earth. I think of regrets and I think of ... stuff. Just think.
            I’m fairly certain Sunday and Monday was a significant step forward in the grieving process, though it was a simple thing. I cleaned the kitchen.
            We needed a new refrigerator, and as we cleaned the old one out, and pulled it out from the wall, the rest of the clutter and mess came into view -- stuff that gets hidden behind refrigerators that don't get pulled out for years, and stuff in corners. It was due for a good scrubbing, which is something I really hadn’t done in eight-plus months. It’s not like I was a clean freak when I was on my game before Devin died. I’m sure if you ask my Doe-Eyed Bride, she’d tell you I’m a slob. But since Devin died, I’ve found it even hard to want to do the very basics around the house. Sure, there’s laundry, and I can shop and put away groceries and fold clothes. But there was just no desire to go beyond that. Ruth has taken care of a lot of the day-to-day cleaning.
            So anything different and better has got to be significant, right?
            If I am further ahead in my grief than most people might think I should be, or how others have grieved, I think it’s because I’ve made a conscientious and concerted effort to get better. That hasn’t made it easy, and it’s entirely possible this is all bullshit and totally wrong. I’m guessing here.
            Everyone grieves differently. I get that. I just don’t want to be the person who uses grief to curl in a ball and hide under the blankets. Don’t want to become an alcoholic. Don’t want to take my anger out on the dog and the rest of the world.
            In the first weeks after Devin’s death, I had a need to be part of grief groups. I needed to tell his story again and again. I needed reassurances and wanted to hear other tales of loss. I needed to cry with a group. Ruth wasn’t as interested in that, but supported me best she could.
            Individual therapy at the VA and family therapy, which is ongoing, have been huge. The great thing about our family therapist, Susan, is she is able to find the little problems in what look like big things, and she helps us focus on fixing those little problems, and that usually takes care of the big problem.
            The Compassionate Friends Group was OK. There were some good people there, and I needed their acceptance and love. But something really sticks out in my mind, and keeps me from going back.
            On our first visit, only three weeks into Devin's death, I recognized one of the people, but couldn't place him. As we made introductions around the table, it hit me, and I made a mental note to talk to him afterward. That never happened, because a few seconds into my introduction, he loudly crushed his plastic water bottle and angrily stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
            A couple years earlier he had come to the Kenosha News and wanted us to do a story on a painting someone did of his son, who was killed in the Middle East. I tried to help him, and tried to find a local angle, even though they did not live in Kenosha. I thought we left on good terms with a plan to do the story, and was shocked when editors got a letter from him a week later saying I was rude, dismissive and didn't care about the story. He said he wanted nothing to do with me after that. I never thought I was rude, and only wanted to do the story. I don't know how or why he took it that way, but because of his letter, I never wrote the story.
           Two years later, he hadn't forgotten. I only wanted to talk to him at the end of the meeting and share a story of our mutual loss. I talked to the group leader the next day, and even hashed it out with the guy a month later, but the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. I don't understand to this day how my meeting with him at the Kenosha News was misconstrued, but there was nothing compassionate about his actions that night at Compassionate Friends. Actually, I do know why it was misconstrued. It's because of the intense pain and anger he carries over the loss of his son. I get it. I feel it. Sometimes it throbs in your chest and other days it leaves an empty ache. I understand him. I just don't want to be that person five years from now or even today. 
           I’m just not sure that group is for me. Maybe I’ll change my mind from time to time, but I don’t want to stay in the same spot, month after month, year after year, being stuck in the thick quagmire of constant pain that some  in that group seem to experience.
            Our Great Lakes Church group on loss was amazing. Lots of people experiencing lots of different kind of loss. But by going to this group each week, forcing myself to do it, was, in a way, forcing myself to live each day.
            We tried Grief Share, another group support group at another church, and went to a few sessions. Again, some good people there, but we were one of only two parents in the group who just lost children. I’ve heard this group has helped a lot of people, but by the third week or so, it felt more like a chore and homework. It hurt my head instead of helped it.
            And, of course, I wrote.
Sometimes I wrote for hours every day. Sometimes I was so damn angry. Sometimes it was hard to see the words through the tears, and sometimes it was some happy memory that made me smile. I remember some days when the words and letters exploded out of my fingertips as I pounded the keyboard, then hit save before I could change my mind.
Together – the therapy, the support groups, the writing and the talking, talking, talking helped in all kinds of ways.
            It must have helped. Ruth says she doesn’t feel like dying every day. I’m still here.
            Devin is dead. He was dead yesterday, he is dead today and he will be dead when I wake up tomorrow. He’ll be dead next year. We have to learn – and are learning – how to live and exist in this new reality.