Ghosts & Graduation

The era of family graduations has begun. My oldest niece graduated from high school last weekend.

I have eight nieces and nephews; four in my husband’s family, four in mine. Next year will be another niece, then a nephew the year after, then two more nephews the next year. After that, we’ll have a small break in high school graduations, which is perfect, as we’ll start to celebrate the college grads at that point. Then, over the next few years, there’ll be three more nieces and my daughter.

It’s pretty cool how little has changed about the ceremony itself. Although the one thing I found fascinating about this graduation that I don’t recall from my own was the trend of decorating the tops of the caps. Many proclaimed the logo of the college they would be attending in the fall; some wrote funny or sentimental sayings, while a few simply pasted sparkling gems to add a bit of bling.

Everything else was pretty much the same. Including how looooooooong the ceremony was. How hot it became with so many people packed into the facility for all those hours. By the time it was over, it felt like the air hadn’t even been on, yet when we arrived it had been almost cold in the building.

The pics with family were the same as they had been back in the day, too. And we managed to capture one of all the grandkids; a rare occurrence, actually.

Well, almost all the grandkids.

While we sat at dinner afterward, my father-in-law said, “Five more to go.” And then he paused. “Well, four. Should be five, though.”

Yeah, it should be. And if I could pinpoint one aspect of this grieving process that sucks beyond all others, it’s that my son’s ghost now puts a damper on every event in our lives. Moments that should be full of joy are tampered by the fact that there will be no more memories with him in them.

This was the second event recently where I noticed that sensation, that frustration because I couldn’t simply enjoy the moment. Where he hovered in the background, reminding me of what I lost, and not allowing me to simply revel, live my life.

A couple weeks ago, there was an awards ceremony at my daughter’s school. She’s at a new school this year, her first year of middle school. And she managed to make First Honor Roll, as well as was one of only two kids in the whole school with perfect attendance. We were so freaking proud.

And the next day, as I drove to the day job, I started crying. It was one of those moments where it hit with no forewarning. Because two years prior, we’d attended a similar awards ceremony for my son. The one and only one we’d ever attend for him, because he was gone before the end of his seventh grade year.

Now, the school year is almost over, and my daughter will be a seventh grader. I’ll live the entire year in fear, no doubt. His ghost hovering in the shadows, eclipsing everything that happens. It makes me so angry because I don’t want to detract from her successes, from the fact that she’s still here with us, living, moving forward every single day. Growing. Flourishing. Being happy.

That’s what my husband said the other day. “The biggest difference between him and her is she’s always happy.”

Just like I want to be.

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Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and award winner. Despite the sometimes depressing blog posts she writes, her books all have happy endings. Because that’s how it should be. Check out her website at: http://tamilund.com

Mind Over Matter with Tami Lund

Participated in my first 5k marathon this past weekend. No, no I didn’t run—don’t be silly. I did walk fast, though, and that counts for something, right?

It was the annual Mind Over Matter Marathon, or better known as “MOM.” It’s been around for a while, twelve years, actually. The goal is to raise funds and awareness for the prevention of, and to erase the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide. A cause that’s pretty near and dear to my heart, as you know.

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I did it. The race is over and I crossed the finish line.

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But I didn’t participate in any of the activities they had planned for afterward, didn’t stay to listen to the live band or enter to win any of the raffle drawings for some really cool prizes. I didn’t pick up one of the colored bracelets—each one signifying exactly how your life has been touched by suicide—either. Didn’t write my son’s name on any of the banners or the big paper hearts people were carrying around. Didn’t write a note and stick it to the giant M-O-M set up near the registration booth. I didn’t tell anyone my story; no one knew why I was there, other than to support a worthy cause.

I couldn’t. For one thing, I don’t want a badge that proclaims me as the mother of a suicide victim. I don’t want strangers to talk to me about it, even if they have had the same experience. Not because of the stigma, but because I don’t want to.

I don’t want to deal with that reality. I can’t stand the fact that other mothers have gone through what I went through—am going through. It makes my heart hurt knowing there are so many people suffering in this world.

I also can’t talk about it. I’m not there yet. Hell, I spend half my sessions with my therapist dancing around the subject because I hate it. I hate talking about it because that makes it even more real, brings it to the surface, forces me to acknowledge it. And acknowledging it generally makes me cry, and I don’t like crying and certainly not in public.

And ultimately, talking about it makes me wish for something I can’t have: My son.

Despite all this, I’m glad I participated. There’s a definite sense of accomplishment to completing a 5k, even if you’re a walker. And this organization promotes a worthy cause. Maybe, just maybe, the work they do will save a life or a few. Maybe another family will be made aware early enough, and someone else’s son will live out his life the way he’s supposed to. Maybe. I hope so.

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Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, award winner, and now, apparently, marathon walker. She also believes in supporting worthy causes because if they can save even one life, it’s worth it.

Check out her website for other stuff she writes. You know, like books: http://tamilund.com

Today’s the Anniversary by Tami Lund

It’s an anniversary today. One year ago, my son died, and my life was turned upside, forever altered in a way I could never have imagined, not even in the deepest, darkest part of my overactive imagination.

This date has been hanging over our heads since March first, a depressing sort of anticipation building as each square on the calendar was crossed off. I’ve dreaded it for two reasons: 1) because, well, it’s The Day and this date will suck for the rest of my life; and 2) because this means beginning tomorrow we will enter Year Two of Life Without My Son, this new reality I neither wanted nor expected to be forced to live.

So what does one do on the first anniversary of one’s son’s death?

Well, my husband and I both took the day off work. I did because I wanted to have the inevitable emotional breakdown in the privacy of my own home (or at his graveside, as it were) and not in front of my co-workers, even as supportive as they all have been. My husband did it because he feels this overwhelming need to be there for me.

As I drove my daughter to school this morning, I asked if she wanted to visit her brother’s grave with us. She looked at me and said, “Why are you visiting today?”

“Well, it’s the day this all happened, so it seems appropriate.”

“It is? Huh. I thought it was later in the month.” She paused and said, “Is that why you and Dad both took the day off work?”

“Yes.”

“Awe, how come I don’t get to take the day off school?”

“You didn’t even know what day it was. How can I justify you taking a day off?”

We both chuckled, a nice deviation from the usual half-awake state she’s normally in each morning as we head toward school.

I spent the morning writing. If you’re a fan of Sexy Bad Neighbor, you’ll be pleased to know we’re up to chapter nine of Sexy Bad Daddy (and hoping to release it in June). My husband, I don’t know what he did. I was too busy getting lost in a reality in which I know without a single doubt there will be a happy ending.

I took the dog for a walk. The poor thing hadn’t had one in two days, thanks to crazy weather and my emotional breakdown last night.

We checked up on the grandparents, made sure they were making it through this horrible day.

And then, around noon, we headed out to run errands, including an amusing stop at the drug store to buy the necessary supplies to prepare for a colonoscopy (not me—him, although I’m sure the experience will be part of a future blog post—never fear).

And then we headed out to the cemetery, to visit my son. The temperature was in the twenties, with a bitter wind that made it feel more like single digits. The sun was shining, and there were sandhill cranes slowly wandering about, which my husband informed me are the ‘filet mignon of the sky’ and whoever manages that sort of thing is considering allowing people to legally hunt them. Yes, this was a conversation we had while standing over my son’s grave.

And then we talked about depression and mental health and the frustrations we have as the ones who were left behind; the ones who didn’t know anything was wrong until it was too late. The state of mind neither of us can imagine, that leads someone to convince themselves death is the optimal solution to making the demons in their head stop screaming.

We talked about my daughter, my sadness over the fact that she doesn’t have a brother anymore, that her future children won’t know their Uncle Brady; that she now goes to a Catholic school and that it’s entirely likely she’s the only kid there without a sibling. We gratefully acknowledged that she is generally happy, a glass-half-full kind of kid, and that we do not have to worry about any demons in her head. My son, on the other hand, had been largely miserable for the last year or so of his life, and we’d attributed it to “typical” teenage angst, when in fact, it was much, much more than that.

And then we had a late lunch, ate at a small sports bar that we didn’t start frequenting until after my son’s death. I commented that I liked this place because it was a new fave for us, and I’m a big fan of starting new traditions instead of holding onto the old. My husband pointed out that the first time we went to this place was the day we picked out our own gravestone, at which point I’d commented, “This feels more binding than even getting married did.”

After that, we picked up my daughter from school. She was thrilled to see us and chatted all the way home, exchanging snarky comments with my husband and laughing each time, even telling us a bit about her day in between. That seven minute ride was the highlight of my day thus far.

Now we’re off to dinner, going back to an old tradition. My therapist suggested we do something to honor Brady on this day, perhaps make his favorite meal. Instead, we decided to go to his favorite restaurant. Hopefully, we’ll have a nice, relaxing dinner and we’ll laugh through the tears.

And tomorrow, we go back to reality, this new reality that, while it was forced upon us, we’re doing our best to make as happy and satisfying as we can.

Tami Lund Talks Dragons & Loss

Almost a year after his death, we’re slowly beginning to use my son’s bedroom again. Not surprisingly, it’s being taken over by my daughter. Her Lego dragons are on the shelves; there are pictures next to the computer monitor. We’ve moved the dog’s crate in there, too, which is nice if only to get it out of the living room.

We offered to move her in there entirely (it’s bigger than her bedroom), but she declined. I think it’s a combination of it being “his” room and the fact that she isn’t keen on change. Moving her bed is one thing; firing up the computer in there is entirely another. And the dragons are there because she’s run out of room in her own bedroom.

My husband and I refer to it as the “annex” now. My daughter recently said, “Why do you call it that? It’s Brady’s room.”

I replied, “Because honestly, saying his name hurts. It’s easier this way.”

And she said, “Why can’t you remember the good times? Why can’t you enjoy the time we had with him, instead of wishing it never happened?”

That hurt, because I admit, sometimes I wish he never had been born, but only because that way I’d never have had to suffer this immense pain that never quite goes away, now that he’s dead, far, far too soon.

When I think that way, my overactive mind goes a few steps further, and tries to analyze what the world would be like if my husband and I had not tried to get pregnant for those six months; if I had not gone to my gynecologist and she had not prescribed a pill that would (finally) make me ovulate. If we had not had sex on that specific day, at that specific moment.

My daughter came around when she did because of the timing of my son’s birth; we wanted them roughly three years apart, and we got lucky because they were two years and nine months apart. It was Halloween, eleven days after his second birthday, when I found out I was pregnant with her.

If we had not had him, would we still have her? We never intended to only have one. If it had taken us another six months to get pregnant, we might have had an entirely different kid. Maybe even a girl first. And then we probably would have waited another six months to try to get pregnant with number two. And maybe she would have been a boy. And since I cannot fathom my life without my daughter in it, I suppose I cannot say I wish my son had never been born, because then I might not have her, too.

So after a few moments, I responded, and I said, “I don’t wish it had never happened. I wish it were still happening.”

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund writes funny, award-winning books and depressing blog posts. But the blogging helps her deal, so she can do everything else in life–like write more books for your reading pleasure. Check out her books here: https://www.amazon.com/Tami-Lund/e/B00AXJH5MY/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_2

Tami Lund Talks Babies

I’ve been thinking about having another baby.

Okay, relax. I said thinking about, not I’m taking my temperature daily and purchasing a giant bottle of pre-natal vitamins and new lingerie (sorry, honey). And when I say thinking about, what I really mean is, Oh my God, look at that adorable baby! Oh, look at that sweet little toddler. Oh, that chubby cheeked smile. Oh, that little-kid voice. Oh, they’re all so darn adorable when they’re somewhere between utterly and completely helpless and, say, middle school.

Let’s be real here, though. As much as I try to deny it, the cold, hard reality is, I’ve passed my fortieth birthday. More than a year ago. More than a couple years ago. Hell, I don’t even know if my ovaries still work. I didn’t ovulate often when I was in my prime, and I’m pretty sure I’m peri-menopausal.

I also have a love affair with wine that I’m not keen on breaking off, even for what would amount to a short period of time. And if wine and I are calling it quits, I’d better be shedding pounds, not growing a basketball in my belly. Because let’s face it, the only reason I can’t let go of those extra ten has everything to do with that giant bottle of red on my counter. Well, actually, it’s the ones in the recycle bin that are to blame, but that one on my counter will be added to the ranks soon enough.

And let’s get even more real… I once had two kids. Now I have one. And one is so much easier than two. So much. Compound that with the fact that my husband and I feel this need to put our remaining child in a bubble, to bestow upon her all the love and attention and focus that perhaps we had not given enough of to my son.

She seems to be thriving as a result. So far, she isn’t turning into a spoiled little princess, which I admit, was a fear. Not that we’d do it consciously, of course, but I worried we would put her on a pedestal in an attempt to keep her from doubting her own self-worth, and then she’d develop an attitude or personality to match the attention showered upon her.

Lucky for us, she’s simply becoming more confident, trying a little bit harder, suffering the spotlight more than she probably ever thought she’d have to. Once upon a time, she hovered in her brother’s shadow, and she swears she was happy there. Now there is no shadow, and she’s figuring it out, one day at a time, helped along by one hundred percent of mine and my husband’s focus and love. No more sharing our time, no more hiding behind the bigger personality.

Six months after we were forced into this new, smaller family unit, I’d say we’re doing okay. We still have some lows, and actually, they feel really, really low when they hit, because there are longer periods of normalcy, even highs, in between. But we’re working through them, figuring it out, living our lives. We’ve found a comfortable place for the moment, and given the obscene amount of change that’s occurred in my life this year, I’m not overly keen on shaking things up again any time soon. Not even nine months down the road.

So yeah, when I say I’m thinking about having another baby, what I really mean is… Can I hold yours? Just for a minute? I’m more than happy to give him/her back when I’m done.

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Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, and adorer of other people’s kids. She’s written a few books, if you’re interested in checking them out HERE.

The Pros and Cons of Fall

The docks are coming out of the water.

Every day as I drive to the day job, I cruise along the western shore of a rather large lake with an active lake community. The people who live and play here take their responsibilities seriously. There have been years when they’ve put their docks out before the last snowfall, and others when there was ice on the water before all the docks were pulled in and stored away for winter. This is the time of year when the owners gradually start to call it quits on summer, and they pack away the lake toys, the boats, the docks, the sun-bleached Adirondack chairs. Each Monday, the lake feels slightly more desolate, as fewer and fewer wooden pathways stretch into its depths. Okay, yes, I’m being melodramatic, but that’s what it feels like.

It’s fall in Michigan. And I have a love/hate relationship with this season.

Although I hate giving up my cute summer skirts and sandals, I do love getting reacquainted with my sweaters and jeans and boots again. Oh how I love my boots. Undoubtedly I have too many pair but I just don’t care.

1964959_10152853724226579_4234588001598667889_nI love the pumpkins and apples and warm donuts and fresh apple cider—heated, with a healthy dose of spiced rum, please. I love the colors, driving through the country and admiring nature’s display. The decorations—aside from Christmas, there is no comparison to fall adornments. I grow corn every year in the hopes of enjoying a few delicious ears straight off the stalk, but I rarely manage to pluck it before the neighborhood deer find it. And yet I continue to grow it anyway because those stalks become natural fall decorations on my front porch.

Okay, I admit, I love the nip in the air, too. I love walking the dog without needing a shower immediately thereafter. And while you will never hear me complain about summer being too long, I admit it is nice to open the windows and enjoy the outdoors even when there isn’t a lake handy to take a dip in.

I love my flowerbeds in the fall. I have a few flowers that are absolutely in their glory in September: sedum, aster, turtleheads, perennial geraniums. My roses seem to like fall best of all, too. Even my Shasta daisies are more prolific right now than they have been all season.

1920471_10152828526401579_9123249303782586428_nThe rest put on a show, too. The leaves on my peonies turn a lovely shade of burgundy. The lilies turn bright yellow. The flowering cherry and crabapple leaves will be red soon, the fern-like leaves on my locust tree, yellow. My flowering pear is a bit of a showoff and holds out until nearly everything else is spent, and then it is like a bright flame in my front yard. The strawberries, the hydrangea, even the hostas are almost more pretty at this time of year than all summer long. Oh, and let’s not forget those glorious burning bushes, named for the ridiculous bright red color they don at this time of year.

(PS – I tend to post pics on my Facebook page, if you wanna have a “like.”)

Yeah, fall is certainly beautiful. But it has it’s downside. The days get shorter—quickly, it seems. Already, it’s dark when I wake up, barely light when I leave for the day job each day.

That’s another aspect I hate. Fall is ‘busy season’ at my day job, and coupled with a far-too-long commute, last minute construction projects, and back to school traffic, I spend far too much time away from my family—and my writing. It’s mid-September and I’m already resentful, and I still at least another month before life becomes reasonable again.

This year I have new reasons to dislike fall. My son, who I lost this past spring, was born in October. I was doing all right, moving along the road toward management after such a horrible, tragic situation, when back-to-school hit—and all those Facebook memories, reminding me of how utterly adorable he was on each of his first days of school. Maybe it’s the reduced sunlight, the long hours spent in the car (seriously, I have a stupid long commute), or knowing he’ll never have another first day of school again; I don’t know, but it’s been extra hard these past couple weeks.

Besides the birthday, we also have Halloween, family gatherings at Thanksgiving, and Christmas to look forward to dreading. Those who have been through it say the first year is the hardest; experiencing all those “firsts” without your loved one in your life. I’m right smack in the middle of it, and so far, I hope they’re right. I hope it gets better.

So yeah, you can see where I might be a tad conflicted about fall. Now, I think it’s time for one of those delicious freshly pressed ciders—heavy on the rum, please.

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Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, blogger, and occasional introspector. She also happens to have a book on sale right now, so if you’re interested in trying out a paranormal series about shifters and magic, give INTO THE LIGHT a try. Tami suspects you’ll like it.

More Ramblings from Tami Lund

What do you do when it’s time to write a blog post, and nothing comes to mind? I could talk about my grief, how we’re still mucking through this new life, but to be honest, for once I’m not in the mood to talk or write about it. Actually, I’m rarely in the mood to talk about it, but usually, writing about it comes easy. Except for today.

I could talk about the other things going on in my life, I suppose. I’m writing this on a Sunday, and I haven’t seen my husband and daughter for five days. They’ve been in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, partaking in the annual boys’ fishing trip.

Yep, you read that correctly: the boys’ fishing trip. Has always been my husband, his brother and brother-in-law, and their sons. My daughter, for the first time, decided she wanted to go. She’s currently going through a phase of attempting to cling to her brother’s memories by following in his footsteps in every possible way. My husband is loving it, of course, although it makes me nervous. This is my first experience dealing with this sort of grief, and I never know if we’re doing it right. I keep bringing it up to my therapist, though, and she keeps insisting it’s fine, so I’m trying to convince myself she’s the expert and I shouldn’t worry.

They’re finally heading home, should be here this evening. In the meantime, I’m packing my bags, as tomorrow morning I’ll be heading out of town for a week, thanks to the day job. Won’t be back until Thursday. That’s a long time to be away from your family for anyone, but as it’s still so new to have this smaller version of my own family, it’s even harder, I think. The good news is, two days after I return, we leave for our annual summer vacation.

One week, lounging on a beach, with no other worries except to feed ourselves and have fun. Maybe shower once in a while. It’s my favorite week of the entire year. It’s also the first time we’ll be doing it without my son, so I’m a little nervous the memories, the grief, the pain will dampen what should be a relaxing, enjoyable week. I’ve been giving myself pep talks for weeks now, trying to reassure myself it’s okay to have fun, and it’s okay to grieve, too. We’ll see how it goes, I suppose. I’ve learned a ton from this experience, including the fact that life goes on, no matter what.

Well look at that. I managed to write a blog post after all.

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Tami Lund sometimes writes seemingly pointless blog posts. She’s also an author, and one of her books happens to be on sale this week. It’s the start of a three-book series about a cursed shapeshifter and a woman who’s the last of her kind, and their oil-and-water relationship. If you’re curious, check it out here, for only 99 cents: OF LOVE AND DARKNESS.