perspective

{Here, I’ve written a bit about perspective as both a recent vacation and Mother’s Day have come to a close.}

Tossed salads and scrambled eggs

Today, I’m back at home in Ohio after a perfect week-long vacation in Seattle. I have wanted to go to Seattle for years, mostly because of the Frasier connection. Hi, I’m obsessed with Frasier. Anyone who knows me well knows this. Netflix has asked me multiple times a week for many years, “Are you still watching Frasier?” Yes, I’m still and forever watching, Frasier… GOD DO YOU EVEN KNOW ME NETFLIX?! What did I do before Frasier was on Netflix? I watched my DVDs because you better believe I own all the seasons.

Appropriately, AB booked us a Belltown-area hotel (the utterly fabulous Kimpton Palladian) with a weird framed oil painting of Kelsey Grammer in the lobby. We were steps from Pike Place, which I visited multiple times a day; this place was my mecca. We were spoiled with gorgeous weather and just a few instances of famous Seattle rain. I logged 60+ miles of walking and two kayak trips, dined atop the Space Needle, ate way too much food, met some quirky locals and fellow tourists, enjoyed my own self-led pastry and coffee tours, enjoyed two salt water floats, explored three museums (Chihuly was my fav), celebrated AB’s 28th birthday, got lots of sleep (insert Sleepless in Seattle joke), and hit the reset button on the whole work-life balance thing.

Predictably, but without connection to my Frasier fandom, I fell in love with the city. I love city life, as our time spent living in DC taught me. But Seattle is a big city wrapped in water, wrapped in mountains – the best of all worlds that appeal to me. By day 3, I found myself looking at apartments and condos. By day 5, I found myself wondering where that “ready to go home” feeling was. Of course, I was itching to see our animals, but I was thoroughly picturing myself living in Seattle, like right now.

Enter perspective during a Lyft (cab) ride on day 4 of the trip. A delightful gentleman was driving us back to our hotel room from one of the many perfect dinners we enjoyed in Seattle, and AB (always the talkative passenger) had revealed we were from Ohio. He responded by telling us how badly he wanted to move to Ohio. I think I asked why as I stared googly-eyed out of the backseat window upon Puget Sound… He explained that he and his family lived in a small apartment they could barely afford to rent and that he wanted to move to Ohio so he could own his first house and have a yard and have his family be a part of a community.

I realized he wanted so badly what we have – our house, our yard, our pets, our cul de sac of friendly neighbors, and the number of friends and family we have that live close by. I don’t take these things for granted, but someone else’s perspective helped remind me just how wonderful it is. I know we are fortunate. We work very hard too, harder than most people realize. We worked hard to build our home and our careers and work hard maintaining both, and we work hard to continue cultivating the strong, important relationships in our lives. Sometimes though, I realize that we can be anywhere we want to be, and it makes me wonder if we’re in the right place. We don’t have children yet, and we’re young and financially able to pick where we want to live out this chapter. We picked a return to Ohio a couple years ago, and we’re happy – but is it where we want to stay? I don’t know. But, I know it’s where we want to be now, and our driver afforded me perspective I was missing amidst fantasies of the proverbial greener grass. Perspective also knocked me upside the head the moment we got home, and it continues to nudge me as I make plans to see friends and family over the next week or so. There’s no place like home, and that’s what Ohio is for us – maybe forever, maybe not, but definitely for now.

mom

Mother’s Day without the mother part

Sometimes people or situations offer us perspective; other times, we have to find it on our own. That’s the kind of perspective I need on the toughest days. This August will mark five years since my mom passed away, and time does not heal all wounds. Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of my mom. The days are easier on a more regular basis, but there are still days that feel impossible. Mother’s Day is one of those days.

Those really hard days sometimes feel harder because it has been so long. No one comprehends that things should be so hard five years in, unless they’ve experienced a similar loss. I was only 24 when she passed away, and it had been just me and my mom for a long time – of course, for a long time, we had my grandpa too, who adored us both more than life itself and offered unending support in every way, but we lost him in 2010.

But my mom and I talked daily, even after I moved out to go to college (although it was only 15 minutes away). Sometimes, we talked multiple times a day, and that’s on days that we weren’t going to see each other. We fought too, in this comically dramatic way. I don’t think I’ve ever been angrier at a person when I think back on all my life’s arguments. She’d likely say the same. We would just have these screaming matches, both of us unrelenting in our efforts to have the last word. They’d always end before going to bed, oftentimes with laughter. The fighting was much less frequent when we stopped living under the same roof – go figure. That’s when our friendship really grew.

She was diagnosed with cancer when I was a junior in college, and she’d have an up-and-down battle to fight for the next 3.5 years. She had her first long stay in the hospital that winter after her diagnosis, and I didn’t handle it as well as I should have. I’d go a few days without making it to the hospital, and in general, I acted selfishly. I was scared and immature and 20 years old. I’d just lost my grandpa and was facing the likelihood of losing my mom as well, so I was little pissed off too. She got a bit better that spring and summer of 2009, and I got better at being the daughter she needed me to be.

All things considered, my mom’s quality of life was quite high during her fight. She had a handful of lengthy stays in the hospital over the years, one over Thanksgiving and Christmas, and those were draining. I know she had a lot of painful days that she pushed through to be present in my life, including attending nearly all of the football and basketball games I cheered and going out with me after games on campus. I was fully present on a near daily basis after the first long stay, and I accompanied her to chemotherapy treatments as often as I could, while still wrapping up classes at Wittenberg and then when starting my short-lived time in law school. She gave me and AB my grandfather’s house so we could live nearby, basically for free. We acquired three of our four animals in that house, and AB proposed there. We still miss it. My mom stayed there with us for a few weeks when she was really sick, and she visited multiple times a week (and vice versa) while we lived there.

I know I was exactly who she needed me to be for her last 3 years here, once I got the hang of it. We had so much fun and did so much together. We made chemo fun, somehow. I taught myself how to be a caretaker. After 20 years of the Marisa show, I learned how to put someone else above myself. I’d never had to do that before. My mom and grandfather gave me a life of privilege and opportunity; they certainly taught me empathy as well, and I was no stranger to hardship thanks to my father being a turd, but I was in no way prepared for the selflessness my mom’s illness would require of me. I grew up in a way that I may never have done without the opportunity to care for my mom and became someone of whom all my friends and family could be proud.

We trudged through the awful days, and really, even on the worst days, she was herself, up until her final week or so. She was all Ellen, all the time, even in the weak moments. For that, I’m forever grateful. She was not on her deathbed for 3.5 years. Not even close. She never wanted to hear projected life expectancy from her doctors, but I talked with them about it when I could tell the time was drawing near. She outlived their initial guesses by years. She defied her doctors’ expectations and my worst fears until the very end, and at the very end, AB and I were by her side, and she knew we were together and that we’d eventually be okay. Perspective.

Her birthday and the anniversary of her passing are tough days. The weeks leading up to our wedding were full of the fear I wouldn’t be able to keep it together that day without her. The thought of it brought me to tears, but someone gave me strength that day to enjoy it to the fullest and only cry for her a little. I feared life would never be the same without her, and I was right about that. Mother’s Day just stinks, for me and for AB, who also lost his mother too soon, after having gone through the loss of my mom as well. Imagine the potential for pure gloom.

Yet, even after the years that have passed, I am profoundly comforted by a forever friend who never forgets to text me to let me know she is thinking about me. She never fails to do so every Mother’s Day and on the anniversary of my mom’s passing. Never prompted, and typically out of the blue, a few simple words on my phone screen or a phone call, accompanied by her thoughts, always give me strength (and usually make me cry too). I have many friends who have offered kind words on these days over the years, but one in particular has sent this simple text each and every time, and it’s unlikely she knows how much this means to me. (This shout-out is for you, JG-H.) I’m indebted to my two best friends from college, who continue to love me as their own family, and whose parents treat me as their own. I’m beyond blessed to be counted as family by my mom’s best friend – whose daughters are my sisters, and their children are my joy. Loss has a profound way of strengthening bonds and highlighting who and what is important. Perspective.

Even after getting up at 3:30 a.m., two flights, traveling all day, and being absolutely exhausted, AB and I still managed to share a belly laugh (I was laughing so hard I was crying) in the car yesterday, on Mother’s Day, no less. I don’t have my mom here, but I have my husband every single day. He listens to those stories that no one should care about – the ones I miss telling my mom so much because she found even the most mundane details of my life completely fascinating. He finds a way to still love and like me despite my inappropriately dramatic reactions to the smallest things (e.g., while packing to come home from Seattle, my suitcase tipped over, spilling only one thing out of it, and I literally fell to my knees, covered my eyes, and started crying – are you rolling your eyes? Totally called for, if so.).

He’s not my mom – thankfully, because that’d be gross – but he is that all-consuming, all-forgiving, all-everything, unconditional, over-the-moon kind of love that my mom had for me. And while he doesn’t need me to take care of him like my mom did, I try to anyway. It’s completely unfair that we both lost our moms at such a young age, but we had each other during those losses and we have each other now, and we have so much happiness in our lives. He probably doesn’t find my stories as entertaining, but he listens. And I tell a lot of stories, and they’re usually as long as this blog post.  Perspective.

 

 

To my friends for reading, thank you! To any strangers who’ve come by this blog post via Instagram, thanks as well, and I hope this offers perspective. My Instagram makes my life look really pretty, and it definitely is pretty and full of joy, but it’s not without loss and wanting too.
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