Monday, February 27, 2017

Curmudgeon: A Man Called Ove

Picture the crankiest man in your neighborhood.  If everyone in your neighborhood is perfect... you must live in Utah.  (Just kidding!)  Think about the crankiest man you have met in your life. 
 Got it?  

When I was growing up in Canada, we had a guy that scared the living
daylight out of me.  When I walked to the bus stop, I would give a sideways glance in the direction of his house.  I wasn't exactly sure why I was scared of him 
or why he was so cranky.  He never smiled.  He'd sit on a lawn chair on his porch 
and secretly judge every move that everyone made.
As if Monday's weren't bad enough, I knew that I would get home from school and my mother would have made several loaves of bread and it was my duty to deliver 
a warm loaf wrapped in a dish towel to the neighbor who lived all alone and rarely smiled.
It honestly terrified me!  
(If I had known about Xanax at 10 years old, I would have begged, borrowed, or stole one in anticipation of my bread bearing.)

Now that I'm grown, I realize that things are rarely what they appear to be.
I'm sure my sweet mother knew the story about Uncle Dan.
And she also knew that I needed to overcome my fears.

I just finished this book that reminded me of my neighbor of my childhood.
  Here it is: 

Meet Ove.  (Pronounced Oova) One of the crankiest characters I have encountered in my reading lifetime.  "Cranky" may not adequately cover Ove. He's more of a...


Do you know what a curmudgeon is?  According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary:
"a crusty, ill-temper and usually old man"
Yup!  That's Ove.  He's the man who enforces all the rules in the neighborhood
He's the man who goes out every morning to make sure there aren't 
cars driving down the "NO CARS" lane.
He's the man who tries hard to commit suicide but fails at every turn.
(I know, that went a little dark, really fast, sorry!)
He's the man who loses his best friend over 
Saabs vs all other cars.
He's the man with strict rules for living and smiles.

But really,
Ove was mourning.  He was mourning the death of his wife.  Through 
flashbacks, we see that the one thing he loved was his wife
She was everything he wasn't. Yet it worked for them.
Ove took fresh flowers to Sonja's grave every day... pink flowers.
He would sit by her grave and tell her how he loved her, what was going on in the neighborhood, and he would tell her that he'd be with her soon.
(hence, the suicide attempts)

This book shows what can happen when someone actually 
takes the time to show care for an old widower who appears to be the crankiest
man alive.
Parvaneh KNEW!
She, her husband and their two little girls love Ove.
They melt his curmudgeon heart.

I know how it feels to lose the love of your life.  
I know how it feels when people don't understand but think they do know 
how it feels to lose a spouse.
Ove just wanted to be with Sonja.
When something so significant (love, wife, husband, child) is taken from you, I think
it is perfectly fine to be a little cantankerous. 

I could go on and on and on about this story.
There is a movie as well, complete with subtitles (the author is Swedish).
But, read the book first if you can.


I am leaving a quote that was the most impactful paragraph in the book for me.
I can relate.
I know.

“Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it's often one of the great motivations for the living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.” 

― Fredrik BackmanA Man Called Ove


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Numb: Photoless Edition

days since the worst day. 

I have been completely overcome with emotion off and on since February began.  At times I feel guilt, regret, and weak.

Numb is the best word I can come up with.
I've questioned if I need therapy.  I've questioned if I need medication.  I have questioned if I should just shake my fist to the stars and yell, 
"You get this one God.  You win."

I looked up the stages of grief because, five years should make everything okay and make me "right" again.  Don't you think so?  I thought I could tick them off one by one to say, "see?  I've conquered them all and can move on now!"

Let me list the "stages" of grief.  And, also let me give my own uncensored interpretations of the stages. (The numbering system that shows below has nothing to do with anything.  Please ignore!)

    You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.
You will react to learning of the loss with FULL awareness that it happened... especially if you are the one who discovered the body.  There is absolutely NOTHING that you can do to "avoid the pain".   It was real... my husband was dead.

  1. PAIN & GUILT-
    As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.

    You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn't do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.
Guilty feelings? Immediately following, and ever since, for not taking him to the hospital the night before.  Even now, I can't let that guilt go. I have guilt of being angry at him for being sick and if he would have just done this or that, he'd still be here.  I have guilt for resenting the life he had before mine where he raised four beautiful children and was healthy.  Guilt, guilt, and still more guilt.  It never goes away.  This is a phase that comes and goes when you least expect it.   And, probably the worst guilt of all... sometimes, a little thought would whisper in my head that maybe it would be better for him if he did die to relieve his pain, to lessen my worries.  Now, that is selfish and greedy.  I urge anyone reading this to read or watch the movie "A Monster Calls".  I bawled through the entire thing.  I almost felt it was written for me and all those who grieve in a way that creates shame and guilt and secret thoughts.

The only time I really felt anger was at the family gathering on the night before Terry's funeral.  My brother, Bruce (who had travelled from Vancouver, BC) and we ended up alone in the hallway together.  We chatted a bit and then I just said "I hate him!  I hate him for leaving us!"  Bruce took me in his arms... my  only sibling who could fully understand my anger and loss.  He just held me while I fell apart. It only lasted for a very short time.  Bruce has his own story to tell with it's own twists and turns.  I would let him tell his own story as it isn't mine to tell... except to note that he lost TWO of his children in the same car accident several years earlier.  One daughter, a young mother, and one son who was still in High School.  Bruce knew.  Bruce knows.

As far as "bargaining", I never did because I knew Terry wasn't ever coming back. Plus, why bargain with a God who would do something so cruel as to take away my first true love way too soon.

Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be "talked out of it" by well-meaning outsiders. Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.

During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.

Oh boy!  The one phrase that kills me over and over again is, "You will see him again!" "God needed him more than we did."  "Blah!  Blah!  Blah!"  I'm not listening to you.

This weekend, yes, I have experienced the true magnitude of my loss.  Yes, it depresses me.  Yes, I isolate myself on purpose.  And YES I reflect and reflect and reflect.  I have thousands of memories that I treasure.  Over time, I will forget them or they may become clouded.  That thought terrifies me and it's then that I mention him to real live people.  My love can't be measured or understoond.
    As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your "depression" begins to lift slight
  2.  I agree with this statement.  Life does become calmer after a while. I can look at his belongings now and can sort through what I want to keep, give away, or donate  BUT, he's still there in the back of my head telling me to "Get rid of it all.  It's just junk."  No, sorry, that's not going to happen.
    As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.
This one happened about a week after I (along with some 60 people including some I have never seen, showed up on moving day and move me to my new home.  I have nieces who send me surprises through the mail during February)  People are good... it I let them be.

Honestly, I am an optimistic person who people look at and automatically think I'm happy-go-lucky. .. balanced.  I DO look forward to seeing and doing awesome things.  I KNOW I'm okay that way. I can find joy in most situations.  

If we could just block February, that would solve my deeply emotional anxiety concerning the big fat hole Terry left in our family.

After thinking over why I feel more upset over this anniversary is (other than marking a big year... (FIVE years!)  time is that one of my most dreaded fears from the beginning are now manifesting.  

•  I'm l feel like I'm losing touch with Terry's kids.  We text, we Instagram, we group text sometimes. But it's not like before.  People have lives to live and families to raise. Life gets busy.  I get that.  But, when I'm the last to know of a suffering  grandchild, or parents and children with celebrations of promotions, and milestones accomplished... my heart hurts.

I remember after the funeral, I hugged Terry's daughter, Melissa.  I whispered in her ear, "Please don't forget me.  You are my link to him."  His children really are a part of my life and I love each and every one of them with my whole heart.  But, people move on and... I'm the step-grami and shouldn't expect to be at the top of their lists.  I understand that.  It's hard for me to remember that life moves on with or without me.  I am dispensable .  It hurts.  But I understand. (However, I refuse to turn into Grandma Neen!)

•  I worry about my own daughters and their families.  About three darling granddaughters he never met.  He would be the doting grandparent.  I can visualize him with each one.  He would love to hear Eloise read to him.  He'd enjoy cuddles from Hazel.  He'd fight people just to hold Poppy.  He would think Zoe is the funniest little kid he'd ever met and he would melt at Zoe's toothy smile!!

•  I wondered if I would make it this far.  Honestly.  I have not exercised or been at a healthy weight for a long time.  In short, I let myself go and I'm so upset with myself.

•  Considering  I believe in (sort of) an afterlife, I worry that he has found someone else to love.  That would be awesome for him... not awesome for me.  In my church is is understood that polygamy will be reinstated in the after life in order to receive "exaltation"!  If that turns out to be true, I would rather live in Hell. True or not, I still worry about it.  And I hate the notion. (Someday I will be brave enough to write a post about my feelings toward the religion in which I was raised.)

•  I worried about contact with Terry's extended family.  I haven't seen his brother, sister, nor any of their children since the funeral.  I miss them.  

So, here I sit... numb.  I'm not feeling anything good OR bad.  Just counting down until tomorrow is over.

Monday, February 13, 2017

My Muslim Friends And A Story (Warning: long)

I have a story to tell that is 32 years in the making.  That story will start and end after I post a few photos first.  32 years ago, I was living in Colombo, Sri Lanka (11 months), Singapore (1.5 months), and Malaysia (1.5 months).  I began the journey in June of 1983 and ended in November 1984.

First, let me raise my hand high that I have, indeed, talked to a Muslim face to face.  In fact, I've spoken to many, many Muslims and have close friendships with a few.  I have visited their beautiful mosques, seen them pray (at all hours of the day... seven times, in fact).  Imagine ME!  A little Mormon girl from Cardston, Alberta Canada, strolling through a mosque, teaching English to many Islamic people, feeling the reverence as they pray, admiring their dedication to their religion by wearing sacred pieces of clothing that show reverence for their god.  

You may think I was freaked out.  NOT for one second.  I was wide-eyed, yes, to see new culture and religion but... it was the most incredible experience of my young life.  How lucky I am to have had that wonderful experience.  But, my memory is long and keen and I remember how it looked, smelled, and felt to be in the presence of so many different cultural and religious lifestyles.  

Let's take a look, then on with my promised story...

 The most beautiful mosque (and the tallest) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

 Same mosque on the inside.  These halls were silent.  The most silent moments I had ever experienced in my life.  Soft sounds could be heard in the distance of Muslims in prayer to Allah.

The Muslim women pray on long white sheets about 3/4 of the distance from the wall where the men pray. 

When entering a mosque, shoes are left at the door and all women must cover their heads.  Here's proof I obeyed all the rules and felt honored.  It was peaceful and beautiful.

 Outside the mosque with six lovely ladies.  There was a language barrier but the eyes can speak volumes.  I was so blown away to be standing there with them. I wanted to
hear their stories... every one.

 These three school girls were headed to their studies, at the same school.  All were Muslim.  All dressed according to their particular orthodoxy.  They each spoke English and told us about their studies in Malaysia.

Sri Lanka

 This is one of my all-time favorite photos.  This beautiful woman is Zaira!  She was in my 6-month Spoken English class.  She is a Muslim.  Her wedding was incredible. 
 Look at the love.  

This is a page from my scrapbook.  The top left is an actual "Prayer cap" purchased on the street from the men in the photo next to it.
Those cute boys were at the only "hamburger" restaurant in the city! 

I was invited to the wedding of my friends Nuzath and Amal.  It was THE most incredible wedding I have or have to date EVER been to.  They served us an entire meal of chicken biryani (all 400+ of us).  We watched the Muslim wedding rituals (which were beautiful).  So very memorable!

SO... Who is Nuzath?  
Nuzath is a jeweler.
He is the son of Zubair.
They pray in their small closet at their jewelry store SEVEN times a day on their prayer rugs.
They were the jewelers I purchased many beautiful pieces for my mother, my sister-in-law, and her mother.
They were the jewelers I took any couple or tourist stopping through on their way to India. 

They invited us to their home to feed us.
They were kind.
They were extremely warm.
They were generous...

Here they are... son with his father. 
My friends.
My friends who are Muslim.

My friends who, on one of my last days in Sri Lanka, as I was making my rounds and saying my "good-byes", they were at the top of my list.
As I tearfully said goodbye and thanked them for always welcoming me to their shop and taking such good care of my friends I had brought in over the fifteen months I was there...
Zubair asked me to sit down.
He pulled out a large ledger (no computers at this point) and turned to a page
(apparently, my  page)
He ran his finger down the figures then asked me to wait a moment and he disappeared into the back of his shop.

When he returned he had two beautiful Ceylon sapphire gems that were over a carat a piece.  He said:
"THIS is your commission for bringing us so many customers!"

I was shocked!  I had no idea, nor did I expect anything.
Just as I said... generous.
He wouldn't take no for an answer and so I took home the two stones and have looked at them in their little original box for the past 32 years!!!

This past Christmas, I decided to do something with the sapphires.
I have two lovely daughters who are now mothers and I wanted something extra special for them this year.
I searched for a local jeweler and found this guy:

Mr. John Beesly.
I LOVED his small, messy office.
His "cash only" policy.
His advice about life:  "Keep a stash of cash between your mattresses!" 
And, I loved what he did with my precious jewels for 
MY precious jewels. (awwwwwe!)

I decided on pendant necklaces with beautiful gold chains.
I hoped my dear girls understood what a long, long, journey of love these beauties have been through.
The stones traveled over 8,265 miles...
from Sri Lanka to Canada to the US then back to Canada and then back to the US.

I loved them all my life.
But when I found something I loved more, 
Melissa and Erika,
my daughters,
I was finally able to pass them on.

All thanks to my amazing Muslim friends in a little shop, in Colombo, Sri Lanka,
in 1985!

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