Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Most Exquisite Joy and Pain

When people talk about their children, then often say that their most exquisite joys AND pains in life come from dealing with their children and their problems. As this month and year draws to a close, I can attest to this.

I had a feeling that December would be dangerous. But I thought it would be because of the candy, chocolate and sweets and all the negative things that result from making merry with food over the holidays. It wasn't that at all.

It's been a ________ month. I leave the space blank because there are too many adjectives to choose just one. It's been a month of stark contrasts. Ups and downs, highs and lows, despair and joy, anxiety and contentment. To pick even a few descriptive words would not do this month justice.

I know it's been insane because I haven't done half the stuff I usually do in December. I only realized this on Christmas Day, after it was far to late to engage in any traditional, nostalgic activities. I just kind of sat there, stunned by how different this year had been.

There was no baking or treat-making. I didn't read "The House Without a Christmas Tree," a book I've read every year of my life since I was 12 or so. I didn't check out any Christmas books at the library for the kids. We barely made a dent in any of our own huge stash of holiday books.

I didn't watch "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" or "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," my two favorite Christmas classics. I got to the part in "Christmas Story" where Ralphie has just shattered his glasses shooting his new BB gun. Then something else got in the way. So I missed the "Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra" part. Bummer.

The thing was, I didn't even care. Really. I was sad about those things for about one second, and then I realized the beautiful gift I'd been given instead.

It started with my shoulder surgery on December 9. I spent about three days in a pain med fog. I don't remember much of what anyone said or did during that time. I don't remember anything that my daughter Adrienne told me during those few days. Could I have done anything to help her if I had registered what was going on? She wasn't feeling well and was trying to study for finals and was agitated and anxious.

By the 15th I was feeling good and I was up and around, but then Adrienne snapped, broke down, and crashed, and our whole family was shaken in the aftershocks. Thus began the sleepless nights, the intense worry, and hours of conversations between Darren and me where we sat, sifting, sorting and asking questions.

It is interesting how men and women differ in their approach to crisis. Darren responded by actively trying to define and explain our daughter's problems through research and talking to people. Let's take care of the problem. Let's solve it. Let's get through this.

I would talk to people and then would feel completely overwhelmed by the enormity and complexity of the issues. The more talking I did, the more muddled and foggy I felt. Ideas and thoughts bounced around in my head like a pinball, back and forth, over, under, through, and then around all over again. EXQUISITE PAIN.

And like many women might, I wondered how a mother could miss such an elephant in her daughter's closet and proceeded to flog myself with a guilt-infused whip.

Our one commonality was deep love for our daughter, and our desires to make everything better. This time it would take much more than a Band Aid and a kiss. I couldn't pull her into my lap and help her fall to sleep nor could I even be with her for a period of days.

There were the two nights of valium that shut my brain off. It couldn't take being awake anymore.

And the day when she was home with us, back in our house. EXQUISITE JOY. All within a week.

Then Christmas came. We were together. I didn't care about anything other than that.



Macy said...

I'm sorry for all the crap that hit the fan this month. (How's that for poetic?) I am glad that Adrienne is home and with those that love her the most! I was glad to see her this week at church. You all are in my prayers and I hope things smooth out for an easier January. :)

Cathy said...

Ellen, I love you all and I'm so glad that you were all together for a wonderful Christmas. Like you said, that's what it's all about. Forget the goodies and the movies, we have many blessings to celebrate!