Friday, February 5, 2010

Grief Found Me

I've been wondering what's wrong with me lately. I've been weepy and that's not like me.

It all started when my chorus was singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and my mother's face popped up in front of me. She was smiling. Her porcelain skin was shining; her long, black hair was in braids pinned across the top of her head in Norwegian style like her mother had worn hers. I stifled my tears, but could no longer sing. Luckily, it was our last number of the concert. That crying continued on into the next day. Here it was, 57 years later, and I was mourning my mother's death.

I've tried to analyze it. Back when my mother died in 1953, we didn't have any grief counselors. We didn't know the language of grieving. We didn't go to family counseling, nor to the Solace House to talk about our feelings with other kids who had experienced loss. We just sucked it up and trudged on, going about our business as if nothing had happened. All I knew at age eleven and just finishing the fifth grade, was that I needed my mother.

I also knew my dad needed me. There he was, forty-five years old, with four children ranging from 19 down to seven, faced with all the housework, cooking, and laundry, plus a business to run and a farm to keep up. Luckily, my grandmother lived four blocks away and could help out with alot of the domestic chores.

One thing she could not do was to braid my hair every morning. My mother was passing the tradition of Norwegian braids down to me and she had done the braiding before she died. Several neighbors said they would take turns doing it, but after a few weeks, this became a burden and it was decided that my hair needed to be cut.

The next Saturday morning found me at the beauty shop getting a hair-cut and a permanent. This was a huge rite of passage for me. It changed me from a little girl into a responsible young woman. Soon, I was inviting my friend, Martha Jill, over on Saturday mornings to help me clean house. We went from playing paperdolls to playing real house. We seemed to enjoy making the house look spic and span, but perhaps it was too much responsibility for pre-teens. I don't know. I think I lost a bit of my childhood in the process.

 I guess grief finds us, regardless of when the loss occurred or what kind of grief it is.   This I know for sure--there's no getting out of grief.