Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Celebrating Summer

Early in June,  a dear friend invited me to her home to celebrate the awarding of tenure to a mutual dear friend of ours.  It seemed so good to be there among some of the great people who teach in the education department at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) as we joined together to toast a friend and colleague whose hard work and dedication was rewarded with tenure.  In many ways, it was a simple coming together of people I admire greatly, but it also seemed to mark an occasion when I finally felt like I was again doing the things I had always done before my daughter's death last spring.  I even remarked to my dear friend who was hosting the party that I felt as if I were coming out of a long winter and finally walking into summer for the first time in over a year.

I'll never forget the feeling I had as I stood among these friends, serving myself a bit of food.  It was an impression of feeling like myself again.  I remember saying to myself, "This feels like summer.  This feels like the life I once knew."

Sometimes, we take for granted simple get-togethers where someone hosts a barbecue and others attend to share food, drinks, good conversation and friendship.  This year, I was struck by how I had just gone through the motions of attending social functions last year.  I had attended a few social events, but I had not really been free enough in my emotions to be there completely.  I appreciated being included.  I appreciated being remembered.  I just couldn't fully participate in a sustained conversation while I was at a social affair.  My usual sociable self was greatly muted.  My friend's tenure celebration party marked a new step for me in my journey toward healing.

Despite my feeling that I was ready to step into summer's activities, initially early this summer, I had wanted to be away from home for the 4th of July.  I just didn't want to be reminded that I was going to have to go through yet another holiday.  I didn't want to have to wait to see if we had an invitation to a party.  I didn't want to go sit at a fireworks display and remember that much of my way of viewing life had had been irrevocably altered by my daughter's death.  I just wanted to get away and go someplace that was new and different.

In the end, my husband and I did not make plans to get out of town for the 4th.  There just seemed to be too many complications on too many fronts to leave town for a few days and escape into the mountains of Colorado for solitude.  We stayed home and threw ourselves into working on the yard and getting things done at home.

Last week, I called my cousin and asked if she and her daughter who was in town from Arizona would like to celebrate the 4th with us.  There was a fireworks ban in Colorado Springs, so my cousin's grandchildren were not going to be able to see a display.  In fact, because it is so hot in Arizona, they had never seen a fireworks display except at a baseball game.  They were happy to come down and join us.

Jim and I got our game plan going and put together a meal for our guests.  We even fired up the old barbecue grill.  We realized it had been at least two years since we had turned on the grill.  We also realized we had not gone to a fireworks display for at least two years.  Jim had a hip replaced during the summer of 2009 and was recovering over the 4th.  Last year, we watch various displays in the distance from our back porch since I just wasn't up for being in a crowd watching fireworks.

Again, simple things have great meaning.  I made a big potato salad yesterday.  I cried as I cut up the potatoes because I remembered the last time I had made potato salad had been Easter of 2010.  Julie had come to my side, draped her arm on my shoulder and said, "Hi Momacita.  What do you want me to do to help?"   That weekend would be the last time I saw her alive.

Despite a few sad memories, it was good to prepare food for a gathering in my home again.  It was good to look forward to having my cousin and her daughter and grandchildren coming to join us in celebrating a holiday.  It was good to fire up the grill and cook some hamburgers and hot dogs again.


After eating way too much food, we headed out to Pueblo's Riverwalk to listen to the Pueblo Sympathy Orchestra play a mix of Broadway hits and patriotic music.  It was good to see the beautiful display of fireworks light up the sky.  It was good to be a part of celebrating summer and the simple things of life again.



My cousin and her daughter and grandchildren

My cousin and I
with her grandchildren

23 comments:

Arkansas Patti said...

How wonderful that you are "feeling like summer." It seems you have made a small turn that must be such blessing.
I like that instead of waiting for an invitation, you sent out one. Being proactive is a much better place to be. Of course your memories would still be there but seeing the children so enjoy the day had to help you.
So glad you had a such a nice time.

Arkansas Patti said...

How wonderful that you are "feeling like summer." It seems you have made a small turn that must be such blessing.
I like that instead of waiting for an invitation, you sent out one. Being proactive is a much better place to be. Of course your memories would still be there but seeing the children so enjoy the day had to help you.
So glad you had a such a nice time.

KathyA said...

It is good to celebrate life and summer. Glad you could get through this surrounded by people about whom you care.

DJan said...

Time heals all wounds, but it sure takes its time, if you ask me. It's wonderful to hear about your progress, though, Sally, and it sounds like you had a great Fourth. We didn't go anywhere either, but I read a book and he puttered. It was enough for me.

Lynilu said...

I'm glad to hear you're re-inventing summer. I know the last year has been tough. It is good to know you're finding new light in your life.

I see a family resemblance in that photo with your cousin! Lovely ladies, cute kids, great fun!

Sightings said...

Hi, I've been out of contact for a while. I've actually been working ... for money!

Love your poignant post. I'm probably way behind the curve on this, but did you ever try a bereavement group? I know B did one after she lost her husband, and it helped her to some extent. And my dad (the LEAST likely person to take part in any sort of counseling or group therapy) did some after my mother died, and it helped him quite a bit. I dunno. I have a friend who lost his daughter, and I know it's a whole different thing. But still ...

Ah, potato salad. Maybe there's a whole subgroup of people who remember their loved ones thru potato salad. For me, it's my mom's recipe, one of her signature dishes (she didn't have many, she wasn't much of a cook). But every time we make potato salad at home, it brings her back just a little bit.

Those major holidays -- they can be a bitch. But I'm glad you had a happy 4th.

Olga said...

Some of your steps are small and some are huge, but you keep moving in a positive direction. I almost wrote "forward" but that seems the wrong word as we don't really forget the past. A wonderful post.

Deb Shucka said...

I'm so happy for you, Sally. And encouraged by where you are now. Blessings to you.

rosaria said...

Time is a marvelous healer! So good to see your transformation, though I'm sure it was a long and arduous journey nevertheless. Are you still working?

Grandmother said...

Must feel good to realize you've turned an important corner in your journey. My memories of summer and fourth of July are wrapped up in my mother's potato salad. I loved it and it's still the way I prefer it.

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Beautiful post, Sally. So good to see that healing has allowed you to enjoy and immerse yourself in activities with friends and colleagues and the traditions of summer. I know you'll miss Julie forever and memories will come back at many times and in many places. But how wonderful that you're able to celebrate summer and life once again.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Looks like loads of fun, Sally---and I'm glad to see you putting one foot forward.. There truly is so much joy in this life--but we have to look for it and search it out.... Congrats!!!
Hugs,
Betsy

Maggie May said...

I am so pleased that you have sensed that you are turning a corner on your grief.
It is a wonderful feeling when you realise that you are getting stronger and allow yourself to having a good time.
Not easy at first and its something you have to go through and I suppose its different for everyone.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

I Wonder Wye said...

I love the wisdom of this post, and I am so glad you shared it with us. I am also happy you are once again feeling more alive and able to savor the simple pleasures of family and friends. Your daughter's lovingly tended flowers and vegetable gardens are awesome...does her family keep them up now? It was unique to remain so connected to her life -- and her neighbor being the dr who welcomed her into the world is rare...you remain in my thoughts...

Terry said...

How wonderful that you are beginning to experience this again, albeit slowly. Time heals, although never erases the memories of our loved ones. I'm glad you took it slowly and had family to share the day with. We did nothing special. DH worked most of the day, DD brought our 11 mos. old grandson to play in the little pool in our backyard, we made burgers...in the evening DH and I went to watch fireworks nearby...it was quiet but relaxing. I'm glad you had a good day.

Kay said...

Sally, I just loved reading this. It made me feel like summer too. Somehow I can picture Julie smiling and feeling good that your spirits are lifting. I'm glad you're feeling like you're connecting with the world again. I'm sending you a huge cyber hug.

Linda Myers said...

It's all about time, I think. So glad your 4th was a good one.

Mare said...

Hills and valleys...good to read about your progress. I can relate to the holiday avoidance. Certainly not for your reasons, none the less, it is hard to be upbeat on holidays when you don't have a whole lot of 'upbeat' within.
God bless ya, and keep moving.

Barb said...

I'm glad that your healing continues, that you can shed tears but cherish the fond memories, that you can look forward to sharing happiness with others. Welcome to summer, Sally!

LC said...

Thank you for sharing about these healing moments in your life. And it is so inspiring that you contributed to the joy of others in the process.

Jen (emeraldsunshine.org) said...

What a poignant blend of memories. I hope that potato salad tasted wonderful and fresh and that everyone had a good time.

troutbirder said...

Very nice. Your #1 sounds very much like mine. My second son and family just moved from Colorado to Mesa Arizona. It's surely a long way from Minnesota but we'll do the best we can with it. :)

Jeanie said...

Sally, it sounds wonderful. I've often thought that the simplest things are the most lasting, and once again that thought is reinforced.

How delightful to share fireworks!