Sunday, June 10, 2007

Polishing a future memory

This afternoon i went to Em's school and helped with the reception for graduating seniors and their families.

A lot of balloons and plants and table cloths had gone into decorating the gym so that it would not look like a gym. But it still looked, and smelled, like a gym.

There were lots of hugs and high fives and whooping and picture taking and "dude"ing. The kids are so full of themselves right now, they are the heroes of the hour. All eyes upon them.

I can't help but think that in a year's time, i will be the family member of a graduating senior. The years have both flown and crawled by, but gone they are, and next year a whole era in my life, and Em's will be gone. *Poof*

One of my faults is that i am excellent at "anticipatory grief." I see potential pain a mile, no, two miles away and take it into myself and remember it before it happens, then polish it until it glows all shiny and reflects back my image to me. I want to make it familiar so as to remove its sting. Even though the polishing never works, i still do it. While i am polishing the grief that i might have, some other grief may sneak up on me and smack me right between the eyes. And that hurts, so i keep a sharp eye out for any approaching grief, ready to defend myself.

I am unable to tell what kind of grief, or relief, i might/should/will feel when Em moves away. I cannot find the right kind of polishing cloth right now for that future memory.

Odd that.

32 comments:

Lynn said...

What you are describing sounds like me in a few years. I am such a nutcase that last year when Ten had a basketball practice, at the High School, the same day as the High School graduation, I sat in my car, in the parking lot, watching the graduates walking by in their caps and gowns, and cried my eyes out. I think that sometimes the anticipation may be worse than the actual reality...however, I think that this reality bites!

flutter said...

Oh I can't even begin to imagine...

Nancy Dancehall said...

So is it a relief NOT to be polishing that particular grief yet?

mrschili said...

Isn't parenting - or, at least, mothering; I can't speak to the experience dads may have - essentially just a series of childbirths?

There's the first one, of course, and all of us who gave birth to our children from our bodies can well remember the quiet moments of pre-birth, singular two-ness just as well as we can remember the utterly indescribable pain of the first separation.

From then on, our lives - both ours and our childrens' - are punctuated by little (or not-so-little) moments of separation. We labor to teach them to talk, to walk, to read, to function in school, to take care of their bodies, to stand up for themselves, to apologize when they're wrong, to recognize what they need and then negotiate for it, to drive - the list never ends - and then, we let them go.

Meno, you can do this, and you can do it joyfully, because you've been practicing for Em's whole life. I challenge you to think of it not with anticipatory grief, but with anticipatory JOY. You - and she - have SO much to be proud of. You've raised a smart, thoughtful, SOLID girl who's taken that training and love and is making herself into an exemplary woman. There's a future ahead of you that may not involve a little girl anymore, but will be all the richer for the woman she's become. Your relationship with her is going to change, of course, but you'll still have a relationship. Try to shift your thinking away from what you're "losing," and consider celebrating the wonderful work you and Em have done together.

With love,

Chili

QT said...

I do the same thing - I try to hide it now b/c it really annoys people that I am thinking depressing thoughts before I actually need to.

Sanjay said...

Maybe somethings are best handled when they come to you, rather being anticipated and planned for?
And I loved the hands picture and the story behind it.

ms chica said...

You're not alone in your anticipatory grief. I wonder if that's the cerebral version of premature ejaculation?

The parent child relationship is characterized by bittersweet moments. Regardless of age, you will always be Em's mother. If your relationships is strong, it will continue to grow stronger as she enters adulthood. It's understandable to long for the lost days of innocence. While you might not actively seek a sense of accomplishment, nothing gives us the feeling of purpose like protecting and nurturing.

Bob said...

Zack is still living at home, but with working swings we might or might not see him during the week - and weekends is a crap shoot too as he tends to keep his weekday schedule then too. Kris (during the semester) comes home at least every other weekend, so the pain of separation is being teased out, a little at a time.

I am finding that the quiet during the week when both are gone is nice and that Laura and I are adjusting to having the house to our selves.

I guess we have the best of both worlds, life with and without the kids. I think we will be ready when they are really gone.

deb said...

She may leave but you'll always be her mom, that won't change.

Mama P said...

"I see potential pain a mile, no, two miles away and take it into myself and remember it before it happens, then polish it until it glows all shiny and reflects back my image to me." One of your most beautifully written posts. Thanks for making me cry my eyes out. And I still have 14 years until graduation! (Do they make 15 mile polish cloths? I'm gonna need some extra)

thailandchani said...

I'm thinking most of us do that very same thing ~ whether we acknowledge it or not.. as though somehow the act of it will make it go away.


Peace,


~Chani

jen said...

that's the hard part about planning for grief...so much goes into the planning and then it's generally not what we expected anyways.

we will be here to support you all the way.

meno said...

lynn, i think the anticipation is always worse than the grief, and by then we still have the grief left to feel. Silly us!

flutter, i can only begin, and i am not sure what feeling i have from it. This bothers me as i don't like surprises.

nancy, so far it's a puzzlement. Maybe i'll just feel proud and happy. Although that doesn't sound like me, it's possible. :)

mrs.chili, yes, the relationship with a child is really one long series of separation. In fact, separation is the ultimate goal. And hopefully coming back together to continue the relationship on an adult level. I'm just funny about it because i have the knowledge that with my mother and i, the coming back together never happened. I really don't believe that this will happen with Em and i, as i have not been the same mother that i had, but i still have that image....

qt, i know, we are such a pain in the ass. How about we work on developing the skill for anticipatory joy?

sanjay, of course it would be better. It's not a trait that i am proud of. And thank you!

ms.chica, 1) you are funny. 2) you are smart 3) Are you sure you've never had kids?

bob, that sounds like a good way to ease into it. I just don't know if Em will go off to college and never come back. Actually, that's not true, i know she will come back, that's just the fear talking.

mamap, thank you. Maybe we should start looking on ebay for the right cloth. :)

chani, we must think alot of our cognitive skills then. I wonder if this has ever worked. I doubt it.

jen, i know that it's a waste of energy, and i'm trying to stop. And thank you for the support, i appreciate it a lot.

Ortizzle said...

I do that, too. Anticipate possible bad stuff so I am ready for it, so maybe it won't hurt so bad when it happens. But some things, even though you know they will happen, are just too tough to look at. And why cloud the present with sadness that is to come? Plenty of time for that later. I totally understand your tactic, and also why it doesn't always work.

Lee said...

One day at a time...one day at a time.

Maggie said...

I found myself overwhelmed with sentamentality and a sadness last night when I looked at your photo of your hands together. I think I may have been feeling this same pre-emptive grief attack about my children and me. Your hands are so lovely together. I look at mine and wonder if my and my children's will remain so close - figuratively of course. Everywhere we look there are mile markers coming and going. But, maybe after the initial grief, the mile marker will signal something new and fun. I hope so.

Dick said...

It really is a bitter sweat event as our kids grow up. You hate to give them up and yet you really do want them to be off having their own lives. And hopefully grandkids. One of the Starbucks coffee cup sayings talks about a sign that you did good in parenting is when your kids have left home but still do want to come visit and spend some time with you. I think there is a lot of truth to that.

sari said...

I just had another in an ongoing series of fights with my five year old over eating and I'm just wondering if I can do the parenting right in the first place to get him to the point HE needs to be.

So in other words, still crying now that I've read this.

Jeremiah said...

I've come to live with my own ability to polish my grief. It's just a "feature" of my personality. For added internal strife, I also like to polish up my positive anticipations to the point that what they reflect is just way too ideal for the actual event to ever play out as well as I imagine it will. And, it never does. You should've seen the image I polished up for my son's championship baseball game. I had him hitting the game-winning homer in slow motion and the whole team rushing out to hug him, and parents hugging each other---geesh!

They did win, but, it didn't quite happen that way...and if it did, I'd probably yawn since I'd seen it a hundred times in my head already!

meno said...

ortizzle, it is a tactic isn't it? I'll just have to take it as it comes. Damn!

lee, oh no! Do i have to quit drinking too?

maggie, that is my hope too, that the mile marker will signal progress, not distance. :)

dick, you spend a lot of time at Starbucks i think! :) I hope that Em will always look forward to coming home.

sari, you will, you will. Eating is just one of those things that kids like to control. Annoying and upsetting as it is.

AC said...

Polishing Grief is the best and most poetic description of horribilizing ever. For a moment, I was almost glad to have the ability myself!

the moose buyer said...

I sat and cried through my grandson's Jr High graduation last Thursday night, I cannot imagine his graduation from High School.

Of course if he doesn't apply himself better my daughter isn't sure he will even get through high school.

Sally Forth said...

That was a beautiful post meno.

liv said...

as a fellow "worst-case-scenario-Mary," I feel you. I do find that there are only so many things that can get me pre-grieving or worrying in advance. This is a blessing and a curse---I might be worried about something while getting smacked with another thing I didn't even see coming!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

It hurts when your child moves away.

There. I've said it. I can't take it back.

To some degree, it will always hurt, even though baby Em was replaced by high school Em and college Em. They are all wonderful, but in a tiny corner of your heart, you will always be waiting for the day she decides to stop this adult Em nonsense and come home to Mommy.

At least, that is how it's been for me.

All you can really do is try to enjoy the time you have with her and to set aside, as much as possible, your anticipatory grief because it dilutes your now, even though it also heightens your awareness that now is really all we ever have. And our memories.

meno said...

jeremiah, so you have the polishing gene too. At least you get to polish happy memories too, even if they didn't happen.

ac, it sure sounds nicer doesn't it? My marketing department came up with that term for me. :)

moose buyer, awwww. How sweet. Of my two nephews who are no longer in high school, one managed to graduate by the skin of his teeth, and the other didn't make it, yet.

sally, thank you, that's nice of you to say.

liv, i know that feeling. How could this have smacked me when i was so worried about that other thing? It's not fair!

hearts, thank you for that. No one wants to say it, just talk about how happy we will be. And in some regards i will be happy, but i will miss her something awful too.

TaraDharma said...

great photo of mamma and daughter hands.

the anticipatory grief - so human, meno! You describe it exquistely well. It will help shorten the post-graduation grief, trust me. I did the same thing, and now I feel such freedom. She's home temporarily and I can't WAIT for her to do her 19 yr old drama in her own home again.....

Mother of Invention said...

I anticipate grief and loss way before it actually happens and for me, it may be a good thing to prepare me. It makes sense that you don't have the right cloth..this is your first time with this type of situation. If Em were the fourth kid, you'd just be grabbing the old familiar college cloth!
You'll adapt after the weirdness subsides.

Biscotto said...

My neighbor is taking her daughter to college at the end of the summer. She has friends who told her what to do. They said that she has to start some gigantic house project as soon as her daughter is gone. Then she can channel her anxiety towards something productive. I think that is how it is supposed to work. So to weather the grief now, you've got to start planning The Project.

I had to shut down the Diary. Will post later this week on my new blog, The Panhedonist Explains. Thought you'd want to know. I told Luckyzmom, too, I have gotten attached to you both. Don't know what to do about the folks who read but never wrote.

Oh, one last thing. Other people tell me that it isn't all grief when the go. Some good bit of relief, too.

meno said...

tara, you must be wrong. I KNOW all the drama will be over by age 19.......Why are you laughing. STOP LAUGHING!

moi, i know i will adapt. But i wonder exactly how. I guess i will figure that out.

biscotto, i really appreciate you letting me know. I'll add the URL to my reader so i'll know when you do post. I think instead of a project, i'll plan the Trip. Maybe Greece, maybe Peru.....

Jennifer said...

I think some times are better left to living in the moment.

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