Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Quilt

Hey there-

We all went to my family reunion last week in Connecticut, all seven of us.

The McGoldricks have a reunion every three years and this years was the eighth one. This was the first one for my step-children, the second one for Mike, the first one for Arthur (unless you count the one when I was pregnant with him), the fourth one for Henry, and the seventh one for me. Bob attended three.

Each reunion is in a different place and hosted by a different family member but many traditions stay the same. The family photo when everyone turns around so we can get a picture of the back of the reunion T-shirt, card playing (our game is Setback), one nice family dinner that everyone attends, a poem from my dad at the end of the weekend (he is not really a poet but they always rhyme) and the photo albums from reunions past.

Six years ago we were in the San Juan Islands. Henry was about to turn three, I was pregnant, and Bob had just finished a chemo treatment less than 24 hours before we got on the plane. When the announcement of Italy as the next destination was made on the last evening I wondered if Bob would be there with us. Would Bob be healthy, sick, or would I be there alone with the boys?

Mike came with me and Henry to Italy three years ago. Surprisingly, that had never been an option I had entertained at the time.

Looking at the photo albums last weekend it looked as if I had a seamless transition. One reunion I was standing next to Bob and the next reunion I was standing next to Mike. How crazy is that? One year I posed with one child and the next year I posed with five.

A picture doesn't tell the whole stroy does it? It is a moment in time.

Anyone who knew me during those three years knows the transition was anything but seamless. Those years had jagged edges and there was a lot of ripping out of stitches and lots of tears. (you can decide which way to pronounce that)

I like to think of the person I am now as a quilt. A quilt takes time, hard work, and patience to make. It may look haphazard and unattractive at times. A person can get tired and sore and feel like giving up the project. It may seem like more pieces are being taken away than being sewn back in. But in the end it all seems to work somehow.

I am patched back together now. Some pieces of me are old and some are new. Some pieces go together well and some need to be seperated by other pieces in order to work. Some pieces were put in place and then ripped out and put back in a different place. Some pieces didn't make the quilt in the end but were important to the construction of it. All the pieces are important to the whole.

I don't know what is in store for me in the next three years. I can't imagine the pieces that are being formed at this moment for my next quilt.

All I know is that for now my quilt is comfortable and warm and beautifully patched together.

Thanks for checking in-


Friday, October 2, 2009


Hey there,

I have a friend.

I adore her.

Whenever we are together we talk nonstop, there is never enough time to say all that there is to say to each other. I feel like I have known her all my life. I think we may have been related in another life. I can't imagine what I did before I knew her.

And I never would have met her if Bob were still alive, and that is hard to reconcile at times.

She is a "new friend". That is the term I use for friends I have met since Bob died. People who know the woman I am today, the person I have become after clawing my way out of the depths of grief.

But they are missing a significant piece to my puzzle.

They can listen with interest, compassion and maybe a bit of awe to my stories of stem cell transplants and growing tumors and nursing infants and weeks of instant oatmeal for dinner. But they weren't with me. They weren't there to have me to dinner for the fifth time that week even though our children always ended up fighting, or to come over and organize my Tupperware drawer with a stack of tissues in hand, or to put their own grief and fear aside and stand beside me as the undertakers took Bob out the front door, or to listen, once again, to my lamenting about the injustice of my situation.

There was a time when all I wanted was to meet new people. I was desperate to meet people who did not know Bob and who did not see the big "W" on my forehead. I was tired of being defined by my circumstances. But when I began to meet these new friends I resented the fact that they did not understand my situation, they could not tell I was widowed just by looking at me, they did not understand what I had lost, what I had been through.

How could they really know me and not know Bob?

I found myself wanting to explain my situation, wanting them to know who I was when I was with Bob. It turned out I didn't want to escape my circumstances, I wanted to embrace them. I wanted to incorporate my whole story into this new person that I was becoming. This new person with new friends and old friends, all of whom have circumstances of their own that have made them who they are.

I am grateful for all the people in my life, new friends, old friends, live husbands, late husbands, in-laws, family, neighbors, children, step-children. No matter how or why I met them, I am grateful for them all. I am grateful that they know me and love me for who I am today.

We are all who we are because of our circumstances, maybe even despite our circumstances.

I can be changed by what happens to me.

But I won't be reduced by it.

Maya Angelou

Thanks for checking in-