Friday, November 25, 2011

The Head of the Table

One down (Thanksgiving), three more to go (Christmas, anniversary, New Year's).  I actually did pretty well on the first one.  We had our family get-together Wednesday instead of Thursdy.  Trey, his girlfriend Candace, Emily, my mother, my dad, and my grandmother were all here.  We had the traditional Thanksgiving meal (and way too much of it).  My mother came early to help me cook.  I had intended to let her help, but once I started cooking I just kept doing everything myself.  I've found that I get through these days better if I stay busy.  I only had two difficult moments, and thankfully they were brief.  The first was when we stood in the kitchen to pray before eating.   I remembered the Thanksgiving after Eddie came home from rehab.  That day we went around the room and everyone told something they were thankful for.  I remember Eddie saying simply "I'm thankful to be alive."  My second moment came when we went in the dining room to sit down.  I assumed Trey would sit at the head of the table, but when I walked in he was sitting on the side between Emily and Candace.  The only empty chair was the one where Eddie always sat, so I sat there, even though I didn't want to.  I realized that no matter how much I like to be in control and in charge of things, I don't want to be at the head of the table.

Since we'd had our Thanksgiving on Wednesday, we didn't get together again Thursday.  I stayed home and decided to get started on my Christmas decorating.  The first Christmas after Eddie died, I really didn't want to decorate at all.  I would have liked to just skip the holiday altogether.  I knew that wasn't possible though because of Trey and Emily, so I put up a tree, decorated the mantle, and hung wreaths on the doors.  It was so much less than what I normally did, but it was the best I could manage.  Last Christmas I did a little more but not much.  This year I spent all day yesterday and all day today decorating.  When I finally finished I was surprised at how much I had done.  I hadn't started out to do much more than last year, but I kept seeing "just one more thing" I wanted to do.  Before I realized it I had decorated almost as much as I used to.  Hopefully this is a sign that Christmas will be a little better this year just as Thanksgiving was ... as long as I don't have to sit at the head of the table.

Be Glad by Helen Steiner Rice

Be glad that your life has been full and complete,
Be glad that you've tasted the bitter and sweet.
Be glad that you've walked in sunshine and rain,
Be glad that you've felt both pleasure and pain.
Be glad that you've had such a full, happy life,
Be glad for your joy as well as your strife.
Be glad that you've walked with courage each day,
Be glad you've had strength for each step of the way.
Be glad for the comfort that you've found in prayer.
Be glad for god's blessings, His love, and His care.           

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Meaning of Prayer

I still think about Eddie every day, but he's been on my mind much more than usual this past week.  I know part of it is the time of year.  My birthday was last month, Thanksgiving is this week, then there's Christmas, our anniversary, and New Year's.  This is always a difficult stretch to get through.  But it's also because three years ago this past week I spent five days and nights with Eddie at the rehab center in Statesboro.  We came home the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  I remember the time spent there like it was yesterday.  I remember every class we attended, every meeting we went to, every speaker we heard, every movie we watched, every counseling session we had both separately and together.  I learned things that week that I never knew before.  I heard stories that I would have preferred not to hear.  I told things to total strangers that I had never told my own family.  I will remember that time for the rest of my life.  It had a very strong, lasting, positive effect on me.

Every meeting in rehab began with the Serenity Prayer and ended with the Lord's Prayer.  Of course I knew both of them and had said them many times in my life.  But I realized that up until that week I had only been reciting the prayers.  I had never really thought about the words and their meaning.  I know now that no matter how many times I said them, there is one line of each prayer I was never able to follow - God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and Thy will be done.  In all the years of my marriage I never accepted that it wasn't up to me to change Eddie's behavior.  I was convinced I could make Eddie want to stop drinking.  I thought that if I kept at it I could eventually make a difference.  It was all about my will and what I wanted to be done.  Now I know there are some things we simply cannot change or maybe that just aren't meant to be changed.

I don't like what I've learned.  I don't like the things I've had to accept.  I would much rather be in control of every aspect of my life.  My family and friends tease me about being "OCD" because of the extreme order I keep in my house and in my classroom.  I know I'm excessive about some of it, but in some ways I think this is a result of what I've been through.  I wasn't able to control what happened with Eddie, so I've looked for other things in my life that I can control.  I know the next six weeks aren't going to be easy, but I'll try to accept them for what they are and make the best of the time I have with the rest of my family.  Maybe I'm realizing the meaning of the last line of the Serenity Prayer - the wisdom to know the difference - between what I can and cannot change.

"In this manner, therefore pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name ..."
The Model Prayer - Matthew 6:9-13