Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Aftermath...

Vitals: It's been six weeks since we buried Bruce.

Details: Life has been non-stop lately. A few days after the funeral, I went to PA to visit family, then returned to spend time with my older boys at camp. The last day of camp my friend, Michelle (one of the Fabulous Five) and her family came for a week (Thank you God, for my friend, Michelle). Summer school started for the younger boys in July and swim team has kept us on a life-sucking schedule for two months with practices every morning, weekly meets every Wednesday and the league’s “champs” meet which was all day Friday and Saturday. This morning, we skipped church to spend our first quiet morning at home in about two months.

...It seems that my idea of "rest" is to sit down in front of a computer and write about how busy I've been. (In the meantime, my children completely trashed the living room. We have a “no screens before noon” rule here so they made a cushion castle of sorts. Each child has their own “room” that they are stocking with enough provisions for at least a month-long siege. Reilly just gave me a tour. My favorite line was, “This is Paul’s room. You can tell because of the weapons.”)

So, as I wrote, it's been six weeks since we buried Bruce. It's become the latest marking point on my mental calendar. I used to measure time, "since we got back from Ukraine" (eight months), but that seems to have been replaced by "since the funeral" (six weeks).

When Bruce and Maryann first moved to Japan back in December, I spent a considerable amount of time on Skype with them one morning, trying to find their townhouse on Google-Earth. I found the Marine Corp base OK, but it just wasn't that easy to navigate the roads. The GPS coordinates Bruce had were landing me on a mountain way outside of town, so they had to "walk" me through the base, passing a few landmarks and road turns until I found their home. I marked it with a push pin and after that, I felt much better. Don't ask me why, when they were half a world away, I needed to know EXACTLY where they were. I have no idea. But, once I had that push pin saved, all was well. Honestly, I don’t think we even talked after that until the day that Bruce died. Perhaps somewhere in the back of my mind, I needed the assurance that I could find them if they needed me.

Anyway, I write that to explain why the evening of the funeral, I got on Google Earth and found Bruce's grave site at Arlington. I couldn't sleep until I'd found it and marked it. I also know where Maryann is, and I know that her home is just over 100 miles as the crow flies from her husband’s final resting place. Apparently, love-in-my-language means you get your own push pin on Google Earth.

Though I know where she is and I know where Bruce is, I don't have the same sense of closure that I did when they were in Japan. I fear for Maryann because it seems as though going back to day-to-day life, but without her husband, will be the hardest part. She wrote to me that she was doing better for a few days but then the pain was back--"that nagging, never leaving pain.”

So, I've spent a considerable amount of time banging pots and pans and slamming doors and wondering what on earth God is thinking. I got my answer about the second week in …through Ruslan.

We have been having a really hard time with him. He is bright, so the first few months he was much easier to deal with than Will. But lately, Ruslan has been an extremely difficult child and Will has been the easy one. The bottom line is that Ruslan has an unhappy, whiny, dissatisfied personality. This is remarkable since at eight years old, he is well able to remember his former life.

I could go on and on but it is sufficient to say that one day after dinner I asked him to pick up his napkin and throw it away. Bear in mind that he had done NO OTHER JOB the whole day while the other kids regularly do chores around the house in addition to things like fetch Ruslan’s plate, help him into his chair, cut his food for him, etc. etc. etc. There is a a whole list of things that he really cannot do for himself so that even though we try to make him as independent as possible, there is still a lot that he simply can not do. Since he has to hold onto his walker with both hands, even something as simple as getting his own fork can be really difficult. The napkin was something he could hold along with the walker handle. However, rather than quietly picking up his napkin and throwing it away, Ruslan tried to get out of the task. After I made it clear that he had to take care of it he said, “I have to do EVERYTHING around here.”

This totally put me over the edge. I have no problem spanking kids when they deserve it, but I almost NEVER yell. I hate yelling and I really try to discipline without turning myself into a screaming shrew. However, Ruslan had gotten on my last nerve. I said to him, “REALLY? YOU REALLY HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING AROUND HERE? DID YOU WASH AND FOLD THE CLOTHES YOU ARE WEARING? DID YOU PUT ON YOUR OWN BRACES AND TIE YOUR OWN SHOES THIS MORNING? DID YOU WALK YOURSELF ON AND OFF THE BUS? DID YOU GET YOUR OWN SNACK? DID YOU GO TO THE STORE AND BUY THE FOOD YOU ARE EATING? DO YOU COOK IT YOURSELF? DO YOU WASH YOUR OWN DISHES? …You get the idea.

The rest of the children practically froze in time until my little speech was over. None of them are used to me yelling. The girls were near tears and later Reilly asked me if I was OK and if our family was ever going to be normal again.

Ruslan, for his part, could only look at me with a blank, open mouthed stare and mutter, “no,” –a word which probably saved his life.

Of course, a few minutes later, I finally connected the dots and realized that God could very well be asking me the same questions since I don’t actually run the universe (though I do dream…). It kind of dawned on me that God has His own reasons for running the world as He does and I’m not really qualified to start making corrections. Apparently, it’s all been said and done before. The original "REALLY?" speech begins in Job 38.