If you’ve followed my recent posts, you know that February has been a difficult month for me, with several anniversaries. My dad’s birthday and day he died. Ben’s birthday. And now, today, February 23, the day my Grandma, Dora, died. Since her birthday is coming up, and things have been rough with these milestones, I want to respectfully acknowledge this date and my love for my grandma, but I will wait until March 5, her birthday – at least a happier date – to write more about her.
I grew up in a house with my grandma. I was also with her in that house when she succumbed to cancer. We knew the best and worst of each other and loved each other unconditionally. She is a part of so many memories, and of much of who I am, and for that I am grateful.
I am thinking of you today, Grandma. You are always in my heart and I love you and miss you.
Today, February 21, is Ben’s birthday. As I often do, I have been reminiscing by looking at old photos. While looking at our most recent birthday pictures, I was reminded about his table that broke over the holidays and, in so doing, broke my heart. That ugly, shaky table held many birthday cakes and other celebrations. I’m glad to have those pictures. I’ve put together a video of photos from some of these occasions, and, of course, some Walt Disney World photos. Some were taken when he had ALS and some in the pre-ALS days. The love was always there, so I embrace all of the memories.
In the background, you will hear The Beatles’, “Happy Birthday.” Ben woke me up with that song every year on my birthday. Now, I am playing it for him.
While it’s emotional to make these videos (click here for the one I made for my dad), I also find it comforting to revisit beautiful memories. It is a good way to focus my attention when I’m feeling down and a positive way to deal with grief. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come with tears, but tears are okay. So are smiles.
No candle on a cake now, but always wishes that he is comfortable, and running, singing and eating to his heart’s delight. And, wishes for a cure for ALS, because wishes do come true, even if, as Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother says, “even miracles take a little time.”
When Ben proposed to me, he asked me to be His Minnie. So, I now say
“Cinderella” is celebrating a birthday today. The film was released on this date in 1950. She was my favorite princess when I was a child. She remains dear to my heart because there is more to Cinderella than what meets the eye. She had feistiness and determination, and also a loyalty to her father’s memory that let her tolerate the poor treatment by her stepmother and stepsisters and maintain her dignity. Cinderella knew the power of dreams, and in the end, all of those qualities got her the love of the prince of her dreams and a position of respect and power!
Cinderella knew at her core that, despite treating her horribly, “They can’t order me to stop dreaming.” There’s a good life lesson. I know that people sometimes think I’m unrealistic because of my Disney love and its connection to wishing and dreaming. On the contrary, as the caregiver for my dad and for Ben, I was hit with harsh realities on a daily basis. Dreaming and wishing were my escape. They encouraged me to find creative ways to solve problems. And, they allowed me to envision a future where my dad and Ben had peace and comfort. Now, as I work through grief, dreams help me to redefine myself and reshape my life. No one can tell me that dreams are not valuable and important.
It’s pretty cool to make dreams come true, too. Ben wanted so much to go to Walt Disney World as often as possible. That last trip we took, in July 2014, was a dream come true for him. It was a challenge, and I wished a lot for things to go smoothly. They went fantastically! We even had a Walt Disney World Halloween in July! Now THAT’s pixie dust and Disney magic at their finest!
Ben and I with Cinderella Walt Disney World July 2014
Maybe you didn’t literally talk to your Fairy Godmother, but I imagine that a lot of readers have had a similar conversation with someone, or with themselves, and questioned their faith that they could handle things or that things would be ok.
Cinderella, 1950 Walt Disney Productions
During caregiving days, when my dad and/or Ben was struggling, knowing that in the end I was going to lose them, it was easy to lose hope and optimism. In those times, I had to thank goodness for the insight and “Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo” of Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. For me, the dreams and the wishes got me through very difficult and sad days of terminal illness and caregiving and feeling that nothing I did really mattered. There were no cures, no one was going to get better, and things were becoming more difficult. But, I could dream, and those dreams helped me keep the faith.
There is a song in the film, “So This is Love.” The song is sweet and romantic, and love is beautiful. In the rough times, it is easy to lose sight of those feelings. The thing is, when we are watching someone struggle with illness or we are struggling with caregiving responsibilities, we accept these challenges, and embrace them, because this is love. It’s that simple. And, that complicated.
At the heart of the film is the song “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes.”
A dream is a wish your heart makes When you’re fast asleep. In dreams you will lose your heartaches. Whatever you wish for, you keep. Have faith in your dreams, and someday Your rainbow will come smiling through. No matter how your heart is grieving, If you keep on believing, The dreams that you wish will come true.
I’ve always been a dreamer. I believe that my wish came true that my dad and Ben are both at peace, even though grief is hard for me. I’ve written before that I will wish for and dream about cures for ALS, and also for cancer and the many other horrible diseases. Sometimes it seems futile, but I remember that Fairy Godmother said, “Even miracles take a little time.”
Today, February 15, would be my dad’s birthday. It’s a strange and melancholic kind of time, with the anniversary of his passing just two days ago and Valentine’s Day yesterday. But, there are so many good memories on which I try to dwell during these down days. My dad is always in my heart and thoughts, and at this time I would like to take the opportunity to put him front and center and share glimpses of his life. My dad never wanted to make a fuss over his birthday. But, we always did. And he deserved it.
I realized as I was preparing this video that my dad was not in so many pictures because he was always the one taking the photographs.
The background music is “From The Hall of Montezuma,” the USMC hymn. He would love that. He loved dogs, the USMC and his family. The camouflage coat you will see was an homage to the USMC, and he liked telling people that he wore it when he went outside and tried to hide among the greens from his mother-in-law, my grandmother. I had to include it in the slide show.
I was a Daddy’s girl and I was his life and his caregiver. I wrote more about him a couple of days ago, on the third anniversary of his passing. Click here to read that post.
Maybe it’s a “Hallmark holiday” and maybe it’s silly, but I’m sad today. Valentine’s Day has been a favorite holiday of mine since I was a child. I have hand-made Valentine cards for as long as I can remember. My great-aunts and great-uncles, and of course my parents, aunt and grandma, saved all of them. As they’ve passed on, their collections of the cards I made for them made their way back to me so I would know that they were kept and treasured. I see them as testaments to the love we all had for each other. But, I miss them.
My dad passed away the day before Valentine’s Day in 2014. I spent Valentine’s Day that year making his funeral arrangements and that hangs over the holiday now. His birthday is the day after Valentine’s Day. There is a melancholy that pervades these days. I remember the simple and sweet Valentine’s Days spent with Ben where we danced in the living room. Dancing was an important part of our relationship and I miss that, too.
But, Valentine’s Day is a time of love, and although I lost many people that I loved and who loved me so much, I am fortunate and grateful to have had them in my life and to still be surrounded by much love. Therefore, I continue tapping my inner child with my card-making tradition. I wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day filled with love and friendship, and a sprinkling of pixie dust!
One of this year’s cards. Ben loved Sully and he would have especially loved this card, although every one is different. I don’t know what I would do without crafts!