Missing Louise

I’ve been a bit out of sorts lately. Feeling frustration and stress at work, not at the big things, but at the copier, and the printer, and pencils that break…little things that don’t matter at all in the grand scheme of life or eternity. This is so noticeable, and yet so unlike me that more than one friend has asked me if I am okay. At first, I thought it was just a bad day, but this unsettledness has continued beyond my work day. I feel mad and just plain irritable. I have no patience. I wondered what is causing this mounting frustration. I thought politics, but the election is over and I am moving on. I thought job and home pressure may be some of it, but not all. My too-slowly recovering knee? Maybe, but I am no longer confined to a chair. I can hike, and move…just not as quickly or as far…but the physical cannot be the cause of this depth of emotion. Then one of my very observant friends hit the nail on the head. It’s the first holiday season without Louise. Ah. Pierced my heart. As soon as she said it, I knew it was true.
Now that I know, I can see the building pressure within me has nothing to do with life around me. It is a heart issue. My heart needs a good cry, because life is going on without her. Holiday season has always been her favorite time. She was right in the middle of things, cooking, baking, and hostessing the world that showed up at her door each year. Her house the central location for all family events, and she would have it no other way. Until she got sick, she would have fought you if you dared to take the holidays elsewhere. The last couple of years, family members stepped up and were delighted to take the holiday responsibilities. Louise handed them over and enjoyed being the one to show up instead of the one to host. It was a changing of the guard, but still, she busied herself in the kitchen once there and tried to be as much help as possible. There will be an impossible-to-fill-empty spot at the table this year.
It would seem the holidays would bring this boiling emotion to the surface, but it isn’t only connected to the season. This time has only put the spotlight on my aching heart. Life has a way of getting busy, and so stuffing the harder to deal with things becomes the only way to handle them. The problem with stuffing them is that they resurface in other forms. Grief is like that. It requires itself to be heard, whether tears or irritability doesn’t matter. It is bubbling up. My heart is missing her now.
She didn’t like the fall, because it reminded her that winter was on the way. She hated winter. Everything is gray and brown and drab. It looks depressing and it is too cold to be active. Fall, for Louise, brought with it a sense of dread. Holidays were her bright spot until the spring when she felt anticipation for her favorite season of summer. I miss her angel biscuits, and her cheesecake. I miss her laughter and her love of life. I miss having someone who just seemed to know when I needed a break and supplied it. Over the years, we didn’t see eye to eye on everything, but we could always agree to disagree without malice. We understood one another. That is a rare thing…especially for a mother-in-law relationship.
Our bond happened, as best as I can tell, when Bill was in the hospital. Two months of sharing bedside guard duty has a way of solidifying things. We alternated nights in the opposite bed in his room, enduring the out-of-his-mind crazy talk, until neither of us could take it anymore. It was my night to stay, and I just couldn’t do it again. I asked her to take another night. She did, but in the morning when I returned, she was talking to the rehab people to have him moved. We got exhausted of being yelled at…simultaneously. Our love for this man bound us. After those most difficult of years, the children started coming and she was more than happy to give me breaks by taking them all for a night. They loved her as much as I did. She was always watching out for me, even when it drove me a bit crazy. Even in years once the kids were mostly grown she checked in on me regularly. God I miss that. There is a hole in my heart where she used to be. I walk on, but things are not the same and will never be. That is where my pain comes from. This is why I am out of sorts these days. If I snap at you, I am sorry. If I break down, please forgive me. If I pull away, know that it is not personal. I am trying to find my way through grief that has so rudely presented itself demanding to be dealt with, while still dealing with the pressures of my life. It is a hard place to be this holiday season.

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