Sunday, November 30, 2014

The First of the Firsts

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving.

My life had gotten so busy that Thanksgiving kind of sneaked up on me. And the week before it I realized this was the first of the firsts. The first big holiday without Grandpa. And I started to panic. The last 5 years or so we have been spending Thanksgiving with my grandparents. Prior to that we always spent it with my dad's side of the family and a lot of the time, my grandparents would come join us.

I'm CONSTANTLY looking into the past. I discovered that AOL doesn't delete any e-mail, so rather than working one day, I started going through old e-mails from my Grandpa.



 
It's weird how just the mundane things that you don't even realize are traditions become the things that you really miss and wish you could do again. 

The Friday before Thanksgiving I came down with the stomach flu and called in sick to work for the 2nd time in my life. I actually was still going to try to go to work until I vomited my brains out (TMI? sorry) and then collapsed in my bathroom. 3 days in bed gave me lots of time to catch up on sleep, but once I was feeling better and it was just days before Thanksgiving I really started to worry. I wasn't sure how I was going to react to the first Thanksgiving without Grandpa. It was one of his favorites. He loved to eat, I loved to make food for him, we loved to spend time together and then spend time lounging in the TV room. This year it wouldn't be at his house so I guess that was different. I also learned that my cousin, his wife and 3 sons would be there as well. And I started to worry about what if I couldn't keep my emotions in check. What if I started crying in front of everyone? What if I just couldn't handle it?

I HATE to cry. Even more, I HATE to cry in front of other people. Very few people have seen me cry. In fact, my counselor has only seen it once and it was at the very end of a session, right before I made a quick escape. I don't know why I'm like this. I just am. And it's funny because I was so paranoid about crying in front of my family. I say funny because as a young child I had the reputation of ALWAYS crying at family functions. Being the youngest and only girl, I was always getting left out and therefore crying. Maybe that's why I have this aversion to crying in front of family. At any rate, I was nervous. I voiced these concerns to my counselor and we talked about "worst case scenario" vs "best case scenario" and decided that even if I was a hot mess (worst case scenario) my family would probably understand, I could excuse myself to another room, etc. 

Thanksgiving Eve came and I started to get pretty sad. I was feeling better by then and I think everything was starting to set in. Thursday morning, I got up and got ready but it seemed like everything was going in slow motion. I drove down to Aurora to pick up my dad and was quiet the whole way there (usually I sing in my car like it's my own personal stage) and the car ride to my aunt's house was silent. We got to my aunt's house and I was quiet and awkward. It's hard to explain. I guess I just didn't know what to say to people. Maybe I thought that there was a stigma attached to me, since I've been so open about my depression and struggles. 

Right before dinner, there was a conversation about who would do the prayer. With my grandpa being the resident Reverend, he always offered the prayer. None of the kids wanted to do it, my mom tried to get me to do it (calling me Rev Jess) but I didn't want to, having just done that Veteran's Day thing so we had her do it. We circled up and my mom led us in prayer and talked about how Grandpa was in the circle with us. 

Before we ate, my aunt had us perform a ritual. She brought out mini muffin cups that were each filled with stuffing. She said how Grandpa's favorite part of the meal was stuffing and so we were all having "stuffing shots" as our first bite in memory of him. (If I had known we were doing that, I would have taken pictures of them. Sorry friends haha) This made me happy... and made me smile because stuffing is MY favorite part too! 

Dinner went fine. I had a good time with my family and then after dinner we watched football and laughed a little bit. 

I survived. I didn't cry, but the whole day did seem to go in slow motion. And I just didn't really know how to act. I didn't know what to say. But I didn't cry. 

I imagine Christmas will be similar. I imagine the next year is going to be similar. I only hope it gets better. 

As Christmas approaches, people keep asking me what I want for Christmas. And I can't think of anything because there is only one thing I want and I can't have it. (Bargaining phase of grief) So if you have any suggestions of what I should put on my list or how to deal with that, they would be greatly appreciated. 

December is an INSANE month for me (I'm working 95 hours this WEEK) and I know it's going to be a struggle to maintain balance... Finding time to take care of me while still getting all my shopping and work finished. And finding time to reach out and be social. I'll just have to prioritize and keep on top of everything. 

To better days
~Jessica 


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Filling In For Grandpa

Happy Veteran's Day. A little background. For years (we think about 30 or so?) my grandpa has helped with the Veteran's Day Service at the Veterans Home in Florence. My family has always gone to it, though I could never take time off work to go. :( This year I decided I needed to take time off to be with my family and go to the service.

A few weeks ago my Aunt Laura called me and told me that she had contacted the Veteran's Home and asked if someone from the family could step in for my grandpa and that she wanted to ask me to do it. I thought about it and decided to do it.

So my task was this: To write and give the invocation, help read names of the veterans who had passed in the last year, and also write and give the benediction. I was nervous but hoped my grandpa would help guide me.

I had kind of formed a few things in my head, but hadn't really written it and decided the perfect place to do that would be my grandpa's desk (where I am sitting now actually). I got it written, spent some time with my family and had a nice little break from life.
Working at Grandpa's desk
I got up and got ready this morning and with each minute that got closer to the service, the more nervous I got. So many people have said nothing but wonderful things about my grandpa, but also that I had some big shoes to fill and that added to my nerves. 

We got the Veteran's Home, I got everything in order and sat down. Music was playing. In fact the first song that was playing when we got there was "My Way" by Frank Sinatra. Thanks for the sign Grandpa. 

As I sat in my chair I started thinking. I kept seeing his name in the program and praying that he would be with me and my eyes started to well up with tears. I told myself to be strong but my emotions would have none of that and the tears began to fall. I managed to stop crying by the time the service started, but my voice was still shaky during my Invocation. 

I also got to go up there and read the names of those who had passed within the last year and got to say my grandpa's name. 
There was a balloon release that my grandma, mom and aunts participated in. Grandpa's balloon got caught and wouldn't fly away at first. He still doesn't want to go. 

Right before my benediction, the director announced to the group who I was, who my grandpa was and a little bit about our relationship. 

As scary as it was and as much as I would have given anything to have him be there to take his role, I feel honored and blessed to have been able to take his place. 

To my favorite Veteran, I miss you and love you and thank you for setting such an amazing example to our family. Each day I will strive to live up to your legacy. 

I love my family


Thank you to all who made this possible, who supported and encouraged me. I'm sure this will be helpful in my healing. 

To better days
~Jessica