Caring Place Quilt Dedication Ceremony

“I am here for you,

You are here for me,

We are here for each other”

CP QuiltMay 19, 2013 – Grief to a child – it must be the most baffling emotion of all…

What wonderful and sacred work the Caring Place does!  I don’t know what the boys got out of our 12 weeks of time at the Caring Place, and its dividends may not be evident for years – but I am proud of them for their courage and hard work.  And our quilt square is beautiful, Debbie would be so happy hers is on a pink quilt! 

This day was an emotional train wreck for me, but we will probably all look back and smile someday at what we created, at what we shared, and at what we learned.

Big thanks to the dedicated, caring and genuine staff at the Caring Place, and to all the volunteers who give so selflessly of themselves to help those that are hurting…

The Quilt – by Kevin Sunderman

Memories squeezed from crushed

hearts, pieces picked out

of shattered lives, letters tickets

commendations photos dog

tags strips of fabric paintings

drawings writings feelings

toys keys medals hopes

papers names dreams

a single spent rifle shell in salute

fragments of lives once

shared shreds of a whole now

left behind in another hole placed

 

carefully tremblingly on small cloth

squares lives condensed

between four borders so much

there in such a small

space so much not there

or anywhere ever again giving

urgency to the task of careful

placement careful ironing

on of cloth careful sewing

closed some of the holes

in lives felt to be broken open

like fence after a stampede

 

families working intensely alone and

together with each other anyway

sharing thread sharing scrapes

sharing tables sharing

losses for which there’s

no practice no training

no preparation thrown in the deep

deep end and it’s sink or

swim and no going back to

start over and no chance to

choose a different course and

at least we can help

each other keep afloat

 

quilt squares created, lives once

lived poured into cotton pieces

assembled together into a memorial

to lives still living inside hearts

and souls and families bruised

but limping onward a memorial

quilt woven of pieces from each

of us to make a larger and

stronger whole:

We are that quilt, families

woven together into a larger and

stronger whole and each of

us will be part of each other

for the rest of our days knit

together in our loss and in our

hope a tribute to those

gone and a sign of life

continuing on

by Kevin Sunderman

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Over-wrought , Overwhelmed

“I felt the kind of desperation, I think, than cancels the possibility of empathy…that makes you unkind.” – Sue Miller, While I Was Gone

phone

The home phone hasn’t worked in months now.  Called the cable company a few weeks earlier, they said nothing is wrong on their end, which is good because I would have to take a precious vacation day to sit and wait for a service call “sometime between 9 and 2.”  Was told to get a new phone, so a trip to the store is added to my list.

There is no division of labor anymore for me, I have to do everything, including all the things that Deb used to do as a stay at home mom.  The problem is that ten hours of my day are not spent at home, but working, including travel time.  I just don’t have the time to do everything, and most days we eat dinner right before bed, if we eat at all.  The boys video chairs are surrounded by candy wrappers and empty Red Bull cans and boxes of cereal, the cat hasn’t been fed in days (which actually worked out because he at least ate the 2-day old puke that no one cleaned up), and the snake is now over a month without a mouse.

The pressure mounts; it’s not the big ticket items, like grief and big losses, that cause the most – there are support groups and sympathetic ears at the ready if you need a shoulder to sob on for those big things.  No, it’s these little things, like a phone that doesn’t work, the Easter baskets still not put away, the piles of clothes that never get put away, the dripping shower, all the dozens of little things, things that are small and easy to fix, if you have the time, that really add up, that build to the crushing weight.  No one wants to lend a shoulder to hear you bitch about a thousand little things.  I don’t blame them either, and frankly, I would get sick of hearing it too – but that is what the single parent’s day consists mainly of, these things undone…

So Friday night I had to leave work early because the home phone is still not working and neither of the boys would answer their cell phones, and nobody answered the door when I sent a neighbor over.  I figured they were fine, and they were, they were outside, believe it or not.  But I’m not getting enough done at work – there are thousands of things left undone at work – and that means I will now have to somehow find time this weekend to make up the work – my big presentation is Wednesday and I am far from ready.  Add it to my list.

So I bring home the new phone and plug it in and it doesn’t work; I yell at the kids to fix the phone problem, they supposedly of the technologically gifted generation.  But that is as useless as talking to the cable company about my phone.  My kids are completely helpless and lazy, the product of a stay at home mom who did EVERYTHING for them and has now left them, completely dependent on me.  The anger rises…

I just wanted to come home and plant some trees that I bought earlier in the week, enjoy the remainder of another beautiful day that is again sacrificed to duty, maybe even enjoy the sunset, or catch a bit of the Penguins game and a beer while lounging on the couch a bit later.  The phone situation steals an hour from that plan…

And also of course, as usual, none of the boys’ chores are done.  So I set Jake to mowing (he was supposed to do it Thursday) and of course he is doing a crappy half assed job, and throws the mower down and breaks it.  And a huge fight erupts, yelling and screaming and cursing for the whole neighborhood to hear and threatening to kill each other, and I truly just want to fly away and never come back and go somewhere where there aren’t any kids and the constant “dad dad dad” that follows me like a tormentor, where there are no unreasonable deadlines and constant pressures to do more quicker and faster and better with all new systems all the time and everything in my job changes all the time, I want to go somewhere where the phones work and the house isn’t falling apart and needing constant maintenance and upkeep, and where the dishes and the laundry and the homework do themselves, and where, after a long long week of literally four consecutive 18 hour days because of work and kid crap in the evenings, where I can just come home on a Friday evening and relax a bit and plant some trees and dig my fingers in the ground and enjoy my first moments of relaxation and non- rushing and sunshine all week, that is all I wanted…

But instead we fight.

Single parenting IS the hardest job ever, I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, friend or foe.  And no one understands that – except other single parents.  And we are not allowed to bitch about it – except to other single parents.  And everyone around us is sick of us complaining about it…because mostly we complain about these little things, and they don’t understand why, it’s not that bad…

But nobody understands what it is like to go over a year without a full night’s sleep, to constantly do a half-assed job on everything because you just don’t have the time to do things right, including making vital decisions that affect my kids well being.  Who knows the ramifications of my sleep deprived decisions now?  Who knows what unknown damages I am inflicting on them because I don’t even have the time and energy to take care of myself, let alone needy kids?  Who knows whether tonight’s fight will be brought up again some time in the future as it’s recounted to a counselor? Some kids come from privilege and wealth and every opportunity and two parents, and they still grow up to a mess.  And some kids come from disadvantages far worse than having only one parent and grow up fine.  Who’s to know what is important and when???  Certainly not the stressed out single parent…

So we keep plodding along, us single parents, doing the best we can.  Some days it seems fine, it seems like maybe we can do this.

And some days the wheels completely fall off and the whole world seems it is crashing down, like tonight.

Tonight is a low water mark, a breaking point for me.  Tonight I cannot do this.  I am killing myself trying to do everything and getting only 4 or 5 hours of sleep each night.  I have reached my depths, and something has to give…

Tonight I just want to cry, to throw in the towel, yell “no mas”, walk away, lock myself in my room and sleep for 100 hours, maybe forever, or at least until this weariness, this chest-crushing weariness, this zombie inducing haze of too much all the time, the over-wroughtness of over-responsibility, until it all goes away, sleep until it is all gone or at least until a fairy godfather takes care of everything for an extended period of time so that you can rest, and even crosses a few things off the ever growing to-do list (like the shower that has been dripping for three months or getting the phone working again), maybe even become human again, and remember what it is like to see and think clearly again, not rushed and hassled, and maybe even have some extended leisure time that is measured in hours not minutes and that doesn’t end with jumping right back in to the pressure cooker again, and maybe, just maybe, even having some extended time just for you…

And on top of this, Sunday we are supposed to go to the Caring Place, for a quilt making ceremony to honor mom.  I do not want to go.  We just did a very emotional and heavy tribute to mom last weekend at the Race for the Cure, and I have not emotionally recovered from that (because I have no time to address grieving issues) and right now I am so pissed at Deb that I want to explode.  She up and leaves and moves on to betterness and happiness, while I am left in hell…not fair that we go honor her, again, while I’m left picking up all the goddamn pieces at the base of an insurmountable mountain…

I don’t know what else to do except keep moving forward, even as my kids grades fall because I don’t have the proper time to work with them and help them with their homework, as they almost burn the house down because the 9-year old is hungry after school and tries to cook instead of waiting for dad to feed him when I get home at 7 o’clock, even as they miss half of the activities in school because I just can’t be at two places at once, even as their hearts break because they don’t have a mom on Magnificent Muffins with Moms day and they ask to go in late that day but dad has to drop them off early because he’s got an early conference call, even as son #2 is the worst pitcher on his team because I just don’t get home early enough to practice with him in the daylight, even as my kids are wearing shoes a size too small or don’t have a proper fitting coat in the winter because I don’t have time to go shopping, even as their old man falls sound asleep in their band and chorus concerts, because he is just bone tired, completely exhausted, and has absolutely nothing left in the tank…I just want to run away…

But as much as I want to run away – I won’t, at least not yet.  Maybe I will quit my job on Monday.  I don’t know what else to do.  I am exhausted, totally exhausted, haven’t had any extended time off since Christmas and the few vacation days I did take were mostly to get chores done.  But patterns need broken now; clearly we cannot go on like this…

I think back to the previous Friday night, when I finally got home, just as exhausted and just as in need of some down time.  I just wanted to sit on the couch for a while – but the boys reminded me that I promised to take them to Carnival night at the school…sigh…

Respite will not be arriving anytime soon, I know that.  And most nights I can dig a little deeper; most nights I can peel myself off the couch after only five minutes of rest, the first time since 5 am that I’ve sat down, and get up and go to Carnival night, and things are okay.  But I am worried about the nights where I get home and pick a fight because I am just at rope’s end, and the exhaustion just seems insurmountable…