My mother-in-law’s funeral was lovely. I know people say that—“Oh, wasn’t it nice!”—and it always seems weird to me because what exactly is nice about a body in a box? But it was the perfect mix of respectful and irreverent. I think she would’ve approved.
We flew home first thing on Friday morning, and drove straight from the airport to the hospital. Half an hour of paperwork later, Chickadee was free and clear. She hugged us and chatted on and on and bounced through most of the ride home. Once there, we sorted through a week’s worth of mail while Chickie began digging around in her room for… I’m not sure what, really… until I reminded her that her friends were coming.
The mess was stuffed back into her dresser and closet, and we went to the grocery store to pick out a few gallons of ice cream. The bouncing continued. Back at home, pizzas were ordered, paper plates unearthed, and not too long after, the house was filled with the shrieks of teenage girls. Otto and I withdrew to the living room while the girls swarmed the porch, the kitchen, and then later, upstairs. We let them have their time. It was only when the girl who faithfully wrote to Chickie at the hospital was in the kitchen, alone, getting more ice cream, that I dared to sneak in and murmur to her, “Have as much as you want. In fact, you ever need ice cream this year? You come on over any time. I mean it. You are always welcome here.”
When it was over, we cleaned up and I tried not to think about the fact that it may be a long time before that kind of chaos fills the house again. I tried not to think about anything except the fact that Chickadee seemed really happy, and that every one of her friends showed up and told her they will miss her. She showed me the cards and presents they’d brought her, marveling aloud at their generosity. Eventually I coaxed her into bed.
While we were gone for Otto’s mom’s funeral, my dear Kira—my comrade-in-arms, my soul-sister—sent us a box. Kira’s boys raise bees, and every summer for the last however many years, Kira has sent me some of their honey, usually for my birthday. And then partway through the year I usually buy some more from them when we run out. This year Ki didn’t send any on my birthday, and I knew it had been a rough year for honey between the fires and the weather out in Colorado, so I didn’t say anything, even though the kids (Chickie especially) absolutely LOVE honey and think it’s so cool that we know exactly where it comes from. But we came back home to a box, and the box… was oozing. I knew even before I opened it.
The card explained that it had been such a bad year for honey, the boys had none extra to sell. But, Kira added, there is always enough honey for family. Enclosed are two jars, she said, one for you to keep at home, and one for Chickadee to take to her dad’s. I opened it outside, carefully handling the sticky card; one of the jars was broken.
I extracted the intact jar and brought it inside to wash it off, while Chickie watched. “You should keep that one here,” she said. “It’s okay, I don’t need it.”
I dried off the jar and tucked it in with her things. “Kira sent it for you,” I said. “You eat more honey than the rest of us combined. Let it be a reminder of how much you are loved, and how family doesn’t necessarily have to be right there.” She nodded, maybe even smiled a little.
On Saturday we ran all of the last-minute errands. Her dad has a reputation for pretty much buying her whatever she wants, and years ago I decided it was fruitless to fight it and just let him be the Supplier Of All Cool Things. It saves me money, after all. But the idea of her heading into a new school, I don’t know, I felt like maybe it would be easier to walk in there in a pair of sneakers we bought here at home. So she picked out some Converses I’d refused to buy her before (“You have a perfectly good pair of sneakers already!”) and I even made a separate stop at the place that carries the rainbow shoelaces so that they’d be perfect.
I sat on the floor of her room and laced them up for her while she sorted through the last of her stuff. Then I took the tags off the rest of her new things and made her promise to send me a picture of her first-day-of-school outfit, saying it was because her new jeans were so cute I wanted to see them, and biting back the urge to say “because it’s the first time I won’t be there.”
She didn’t have the first bout of anxiety until Saturday night, and even though I knew it was coming, it was still a Herculean effort to stay calm. Because she realized she’d made a horrible mistake! She didn’t want to go! Couldn’t she stay here with us, WHERE SHE BELONGS?
I hugged her and wiped her tears and told her that she is stronger than she knows. That she’s ready for this; that this is a decision she needs to follow through on in order to get to a better place. That she will never be happy here until she fully explores there. (Her: “Noooooo! I will be happy here, I promise!”) I told her I would never let her go unless I knew it would be okay. I told her I will miss her terribly but we will be okay, and that this will always, ALWAYS be her home. We’ll be waiting here for her.
We went through it all again the next day, of course. But by the time her dad pulled up and Monkey said, “No, Chickie, don’t go!” she ruffled his hair and quipped, “Sorry, buddy, I already tried that. It doesn’t work.”
Everything she decided to take fit neatly into the back of her dad’s CRV without even blocking the window. I am somewhat cheered by what she left behind; she says this is temporary, and the number of treasured objects still sitting in her room helps me to believe it. And June isn’t that far away. “I’ll be back with plenty of time to relax and unwind before band camp even starts,” she said. Music to my ears.
Yesterday when she was really struggling, she sat down and wrote in her journal with great concentration for a while. Then she showed me what she’d written. An entire page dissecting the moment: I am sad because I am moving away from my mom. But I will be okay because I can use my coping mechanisms to help myself feel better. I will listen to music, journal, ask for a hug, distract myself with other activities. I am strong and I can do this. I am learning to become a more independent person. Four months ago this sort of overwhelming emotion would’ve ended with blood and bandages, and now she may be a little wobbly on her new foal legs, but she’s standing. Processing. Not hurting herself. Doing positive self-talk and moving forward.
We smiled at each other over her journal. “You’re okay,” I said. “You’re going to be fine.” She nodded. We hugged, both of us terrified it’s not true, but clinging to the hope that it is.
So my little baby bird has flown, and now all I can do is hope and pray that everything I did for her up until this point is enough to keep her aloft while she’s gone.
Otto turned to me after she left. “This sucks,” he said.
“Yep,” I said. We have a way with words, no?
We are left with a half-empty room, lingering doubts, and the hope that June comes quickly and will return a stronger Chickadee back to our nest. I worried, privately, even when I was sure we were doing the “right” thing, that she would hate me. I could stand it if I had to, but I hoped I wouldn’t have to.
My heart’s still breaking. But I think, maybe, it’s gonna be okay.
Sometimes, I think, our hearts have to break for them to grow even bigger. It took tremendous courage for all of you to take this step, and I prayed for you today.
Be strong and of good courage.
And eat some ice cream.
Sending strength, rainbows and unicorns your way today!
Oh, Mir. You have so much on your plate right now, the universe has got to give you a break at some point in all this. You’re amazing. My thoughts are going to all of you in this. To Otto for his mother, to Chickie for being strong enough to do this on her own, and to Monkey for learning to get by without his sister. And of course you, for somehow managing to juggle all of this. This was such a beautiful post… it sounds a bit like the light at the end of the tunnel now, getting out of the hospital and trying to figure out what’s going to work for the future. I pray that that process is easier than the last months have been for all of you.
Mir, I’m weeping here at my desk at your strength, chickadee’s strength, and I am hoping and praying that when chickadee returns to you that it will be as it was, that chickadee will have strong legs, good coping mechanisms, lots of stories, and will enjoy her ice cream with you on the sofa for many, many late(ish) nights.
Here is hoping June comes quickly.
Oh, now I’m crying at work. Stay strong and trust that it will be OK. You’re doing the right thing.
I can’t imagine the strength & sacrifice that took. You are my inspiration.
Your sharing this journey with us is such a blessing… prayers going out for all of you as your navigate through all of this. And all of the ice cream in the world… may it be yours, covered with chocolate (or butterscotch and salty pecans).
oh Mir. Many Many Many Many hugs for all of you. And 3x as many good thoughts.
Otto summed it up perfectly. Praying this is the beginning of an upward swing.
You are brave and strong and utterly amazing. Sending every good wish to all of you.
I think often of how many, many people you help by being open and honest and straightforward, even when you’re wounded. This sucks indeed.
Mir, you have far, far more strength than you know. I guarantee if I had been in your spot and my child had begged to stay, I would have caved. I wish nothing but the best for you and your entire family!!
(((Hugs))) to all of you. My own chickie is going through some similar things but expressing them in her own dangerous ways, and I’m hoping that I, too, can help her (or find someone who can) make better decisions and become a happy and healthy adult. Your strength–and willingness to admit it truly does suck–is helping me with our massive suckitude.
Yup, crying at work.
What a beautiful post.
Love to you all.
I have so much hope for your Chickie. I’m remembering a sweet girl who came to my school in our senior year, after she’d had a similarly tough year in another state. She had a great year, made friends, and was well-loved.
Wishing you peace, and for the rest of your year to be “settled” and so boring.
Hoping for you that this is the balm that will heal the wounds, and you will soon be reunited and full of renewed spirit.
Wiping away the tears here at Starbucks and sending thoughts of love your way.
Sending you many hugs as I sit at my desk with tears in my eyes. Mir, thank you for sharing this journey. You are a very strong person…..
You’ve got this. I am sure. And June? Is right around the corner.
I will comment or call following the passing of this ginormous lump in my throat.
In the interim, the following thoughts:
She will be fine.
So will you.
There is enough love around to get through this.
Note that in your contract to be a parent, nowhere does it say it will be easy.
Oh, sweetie. I’m crying for you all. But, mostly crying hopeful tears that going to be with her dad will be good for Chickie. Maybe this is what she needs? I’m so hopeful it is. Blessings, hugs, and best wishes.
Well, June is in 2013, which is going to be a much better year (damnit), so I have very high expectations for how it’s all going to go.
So much love and hope your way, Mir. We’re all rooting for you.
No words feel good enough here… But just want you to know you are amazing and loved. Hoping for the best for you all!
One thing she knows for sure? Her mama’s got her back and would move mountains for her (while making cinnamon rolls). And that is priceless.
I can’t say anything better than what’s already been said, but I send love, hugs, hope and faith to all of you. This does totally suck!
This is so overwhelming to even read that I am high-fiving you for living through it upright. But I know the superhuman strength of my own mother when it comes to me in what are still hard times sometimes, so I know that certain among you just…have it.
I’m so heartened by her ability to process this with you, and I’m crying with these other people. Good travels to her. She’ll always know what kind of home she’s got waiting. Best gift in the world.
you’ve done a grand job of raising a wee girl who’s nearly ready to be a woman (even with the last few months of difficulty). Well done Mir!
One day at a time, both for you and for Chickadee. It sounds like she is well on the road to recovery and that is wonderful! I hope that she finds what she needs at (and with) her dad’s and that she will appreciate you and Otto all the more for it.
With the comment on band camp, does that mean she is planning on coming back home with you for next school year? I hope that Chickee finds a good group of kids at her dads.
Hugs to you all.
Sometimes you have to explore what might be wrong for you before you recognize what’s right.
That said, you are a brave and wonderful mama. Hoping hard that all goes well.
You are a fantstic mother. Am hoping that a corner has been turned, that even though being away from her will be hard , the way forward will become easier. I said it before – I think it would be difficult for all of you to pick up where you left off. This gives you all an interim. Am hoping June comes very quickly for you (even if I take it slow over here. Kindergarten is traumatic enough without it being over, too.)
Hugs to you. So happy that Chickie’s out of the hospital and hoping that this leads to a happier 2013.
Mir, I hope you are telling yourself all the same things – you are strong enough to get through this. It is something which has to be done. You should get some of YOUR girlfriends round to have an ice cream party. Let me know when, I’ll be there in spirit, while eating a real tub of Ben & Jerrys!
Reading that back, I’m not sure I’ve worded it correctly. Maybe I should just have said:
Hugs to you all xx
Sending lots of love and warm thoughts to all of you.
Wrenching. I wouldn’t blame you for spending the rest of the week in your pajamas, eating ice cream and watching reruns of Downton Abbey. In fact, that is exactly what I would prescribe. These decisions are so hard to make when you really don’t know how things will turn out.
I thought she was leaving on Saturday and I prayed for all of you several times throughout the day. Come to find out, that’s not the day she left, but it sounds like the day you needed the extra prayers. Funny how that works :).
I love her journal entry. Wow. I know adults who can’t articulate their feelings like that.
Keeping all of you in my thoughts and prayers. And *hugs* for you, Mir.
Wow! So hopeful! I think being away will be good for her. I hope in June you’ll look back amazed at the past year and all of the good that has happened from today forward. Good luck to EVERYONE on this new adventure.
Oh Mir! Tears are rolling down my face as I read this!
Hugs to you, Otto, Monkey and especially Chickadee!
You are amazingly strong…an inspiration….hugs to all of you….
((hugs)) to you all…
Amazing. Both of you. I can’t believe the strength & grace that you possess, to reason with her and stick to the plan when she was changing her mind. You have obviously passed that on to her–she’s on the right track thanks to you. Good job. No, awesome job. Hang in there. I can’t imagine how tough it is, but your dad has very wise words. There is plenty of love around. Lean on each other. Know that you have a huge network of people you don’t even know pulling for you all.
Wow. I don’t know what to say except you continue to amaze me with your strength and grace under pressure. I hope Chickadee has a fabulous school year and that June comes oh-so-very-quickly. I have a feeling those foal legs are going to be winning races :)
No words today.
I am honestly in tears. I’m so sorry it has to be this way. Sending you strength, courage and love from across the internet.
You’ll post the pic of her first day of school, right? The shoes I mean.
Making me cry at work.
Many hugs to all of you. You’re an amazing mom.
You and your family are amazing. Hugs and love to you all.
Damn. Crying at work, too. Good thing you’re pretty.
I just wanted to say that I could not even finish reading this because of the tears. You are a strong woman, Mir, and you are raising a strong daughter.
Sending you a huge hug from across the Atlantic Ocean. You are so strong and brave just like chickadee.
you are also strong and can do this.
but it does suck.
i’m so sorry. xoxo
Hugs Mir, you have an amazing dad, I am sas it feels like it is my own since I’ve know Chickie since birth. U are strong and so is she. We will get to the other side.
Sending a big Texas hug to you guys. :)
Hugs and good thoughts and prayers going out to you. Happy she is out of the hospital and learning new ways to cope and that a new school will help in her journey. Here’s to June coming quickly and a better end to 2012.
Oh my God, that note! Those checked boxes! She gets it – somewhere inside she gets it. She knows how much you love her, and that’s just what it’s all about, isn’t it?
This just slayed me. Gotta go wash my face. Well done, mama.
Beautiful post. Lump in throat.
Otto really has a way with words
Thinking of you all.
I have a lump in my throat and can’t eat my lunch. Happy and sad all at once. Love and hugs to you all. May this be the beginning of better times.
Thinking of you all. This is scary, big important stuff, but in seeing the progress that’s already come about, I know that you’ll all be able to make it. Here’s to lots of love and support while it’s happening.
My heart is breaking too for you and your family, but I love the note that she left (seems worthy of a frame). June will be here before you know it.
When I was in middle school I started heading down the wrong path. By the time high school started, I was pretty far gone. At the time my mom’s only options were to send me to live with my dad or to send me to boarding school. She sent me to my dad’s where I lived for two years. It was the best decision for all of us. I hope everything goes well for Chickie, and that you can both heal and this will bring you even closer.
Hugs. I hope chickie finds what she needs and comes back to you healthier and stronger. I can’t talk about band camp because I can’t say or think those words without hearing THIS ONE TIME? AT BAND CAMP? in my head, but if that’s her goal I wish her success.
Can I just say I love Otto and your dad? Not in any weird way or anything, but they are just so awesome. You hit the jackpot there.
Take Monkey out for mexican tonight, my (virtual) treat.
My heart is breaking for you. But, yes, it does sound like maybe things will be okay. Big hugs and love heading to you all.
my heart breaks and soars to read this.
you’re going to be okay. you’re all going to be okay. i look forward to seeing a picture of rainbow shoelaces on her first day at her new school. :)
Hugs, hugs, hugs.
Praying for you guys.
A gazillion hugs for you my friend. Here’s to hoping that Chickie continues to find the wonderful resilience she has shown in the past few days. Praying for all to go swimmingly well and also for her to be very happy to come home in June for good.
This made me cry so i can’t even imagine what it’s doing to you despite reading the very real emotions you spill onto these pages explaining that very thing.
If a mother’s love can make things happen than you have just put miracles into motion.
I let my kids stay for a year with my sister – one of the hardest things I’ve done, ever. I STILL judge myself for having to do that and I STILL spend wee sma’s thinking about the pros and cons, but it was right at the time, it was what needed to happen, and we all grew from it.
Good for you and Chickie for being strong enough and brave enough to do this.
Sniff. Crying and hoping I’ll be as strong as you’ve been though this situation when the need arises. Sniff.
I counted the months til June on my fingers and cried. Right certainly doesn’t mean easy. I am sorry for the loss of your daughter and the change it will bring in your family, the empty space that she will leave. I hope though with all of you that this will be the beginning of her path to wholeness and health. That it saves her life will make it all worth it. I pray that God comforts you.
I can’t even imagine, Mir. I’m crying with you and hoping it’s not as hard as you’re afraid it will be. I’m glad you have Monkey to help distract you. No matter what, she’ll always be your little girl and she’ll love you all the more for what you’re doing by letting her go. I don’t know if these are helpful words, but know they come straight from my momma’s heart.
I’ve been thinking of you all weekend. I will continue to send the warm thoughts until all is right in your world again…
Everything that can be said has been said.
Know that you are loved. Chickadee is loved. That while all journeys have a beginning, they all have an end, and the end always happens before we know it.
Mir, I know it sounds clichÃ© but I’m thinking of you. I really am.
I am hoping so hard that this moment is the one you and your family look back on, years from now, and say..”That’s when it started getting better.”
And then you will hug Monkey and Chickadee and their spouses and their kids. And you and Otto will hug each other and marvel at how long ago it all seems.
I feel for you. My daughter left home when she was just 12. My heart broke.
I hope things work out for all of you
I didn’t cry until I read your Dad’s post but I felt the pain and a glimmer of hope in your post. I am not so eloquent as the two of you but I hope it helps to have the best wishes of the internet for you, Chickadee, Otto and Monkey in these challenging times.
Year is almost over for sure…. Hang in there
I don’t know how you are doing this. Your girl has a lot of you in her, I think. I hope your heart mends as best it can.
That is all.
Can I be you when I grow up? You are amazing.
Peace, love, and ((hugs)).
And what Stephanie (#84) said.
We are all Team Mir and Family.
Wish I could come up with some apt honey analogy. Love is like honey. Sometimes it gets jostled, damaged in life. Despite fires, drought, and other tragedies, there is always enough for family. But it’s late. I’m tired. And you are the writer.
<3 from the Midwest.
I think you’ll be ok, too, Mir. Just ask for lots of hugs. Big ones. You’ll be ok.
So awful for you. I hope, please, let it be so wonderful for her. I don’t know if I could be so strong. Blessings.
Sending you healing thoughts.
I wish you peace with this time in your life.
Chickadee will be ok. You will be ok. You both will still love each other in the end.
I’m not a crier, but you’ve certainly made me get something in both of my eyes and now that something is running down my cheeks. Hugs to all of you guys, and as many prayers as you need or want to get through both of these tough times. :’-(
Lots of tears here. So grateful that this next step unfolded as it did.
You’re still Mom. You’re in her heart.
As I sit here right now, crying for you guys, and trying to figure out a very different, but still ‘how the hell will i know i’m doing the right thing’ situation of my own, I just don’t know. I don’t know how you know letting go is the right thing in one situation, and holding on tight is the right thing in another… but I know that you all made the very best – the most thoughtful and loving and precisely right For Her – decision possible, and I wish you all lots of love and hugs from here till June, and far beyond.
You are amazing.
I have a note on my computer desk that came from your blog years ago.
In the end, it’ll be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
It’ll be okay.
Good luck, Chickadee!
Mir, Stay strong. June will be here before you know it…hey, 2013 has just gotten better already.
I don’t have any words, but want you to know that what you write matters. Praying for Chickadee and you and everyone.
Prayers for strength, healing, and peace for all of you.
You will be fine, she will be fine, I will be fine.
We’ll all make it until June!
Tears and Hope.
May the difficult road ahead be paved with tears and joy.
Hope it’s GF!
Just adding one more voice to your chorus of support. Very thankful that her friends supported her. She’s only a Google video chat away, Mir.
Ditto what everyone said.
I agree that Chickie needs to at least try this for a while, or else she’d never know which works better for her. :-(
It’s gonna be okay. It’s gonna be hard, but it’s gonna be okay.
I am not one to wish away time but here’s hoping June comes quickly to you and your family.
You have gotten her to this place, to this wobbly legged place. Know that she walks, wobbly or not, because of you and your strength and your love and your fierceness and protection. That thank you note about did me in but please know, Mir, that Chickadee will come to realize, more than she probably does now, that she is strong enough and she owes that to your family and your willingness and determination to fight for her, to help her get better. I respect you more than I can say. Not just for being a great mom; that goes without saying. But I respect and appreciate you for sharing your journey in such a profound and eloquent way, for opening yourself up to us, touching so many of us in ways that we can’t begin to explain (because believe me, you have done that).
And remember. June is in 2013, the year that is going to KICK 2012’s ASS!
This post has me sobbing. I only hope to be as strong as you one day, letting your baby bird fly. Prayers for all of you and we’ll get some celebratory fireworks ready for June 2013.
For some reason I assumed that her dad was in the metro area. I guess not. Phew. I can’t imagine how hard that was after everything the last several months. Thinking of you.
I LOVE her journal entry. So, so mature and self-healing.
What a beautifully written post. What a lucky girl Chickadee is, and what a wonderful, selfless, loving mom you are. Hang in there and remember to take care of you during all of this.
I have been following your journey as your daughter recovers. Being a mother is the hardest easiest thing you can do. I think the honey reminds me of how love leaves a residue that is difficult to remove; she is carrying you with her and she will know more about your love at the end of this school year. Wishing you healing and strength and wonderful memories to carry you through the valleys.
I’ve been out of town so am catching up on blog-reading. This is such a beautiful post. Chickie’s note brought tears to my eyes. I hope she’s happy at her dad’s.
You are one strong person. This post makes me want to sit alone in a dark room and it’s not even my family. Wishing you all so much strength and peace (eventually).
I was so glad to see you posted, then I read and re-read…and have been thinking of you since. One foot in front of the other and one day at a time. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, much less next week or next month. Four years ago I latched onto the Serenity Prayer ~ things were happening at warp speed with my grown children and it helped to have words to remind me that I was not the one in control. I say it often and wished I had known to use it when my children were younger:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Thinking of you, all of you ~
Stand strong. You’re doing a bloody fantastic job.