It is three years today since you died. I honestly can't believe it's been three years. It's like at least one of those years just got lost--completely lost. That first year after you died it literally took nearly the whole year to "deal" with you..and Mom too. We had to clean out that big, beloved house we lived in. That took six months. I always thought of that house like a sixth member of the family. Every time I watch "It's A Wonderful Life," and how every time George Baillie (Jimmy Stewart) runs down the stairs, and his hand trailing along the banister knocks that decorative knob off the end, it makes me think of our home. Remember how we had that crazy long pull-string hanging off the light bulb at the top of the stairs, and how dingy it became over time from our hands pulling the light off and on? Remember how the knob on the back door was getting worse and worse and sometimes you'd turn it and turn it and turn it but it wouldn't catch, and we'd start to panic that we were locked out of the house?
Anyway, it took ages to clean everything out because that house, and especially that basement was like a time capsule, and you and Mom had saved so much stuff. Not to mention cleaning out our lives was one of the most painful fucking experiences I've ever been through.
Then this horrible young couple came along and I'll spare you the details Dad, but those assholes own our house now. Ah well, that's life I guess. Everything changes. And all that happened the first year after you died. I got the taxes all straightened out too, Dad. Thanks for always (appointing, ha ha) believing in me to take care of those details.
Then I think I dropped off for a while there. I stopped going out anywhere and it became really difficult to keep in touch with people. I tried to get a job at the end of the summer of 2015. They really liked me at the interview, and then I lost my shit. I couldn't do it. The nice lady called me on the phone and the worst thing ever happened: I cried on the phone to a stranger as I told her I just couldn't do it, and how sorry I was for wasting her time. Nothing like hearing how nutty you sound, but not being able to reel it in. But, I tucked that one away.
Things really got groovy in the fall when a little, insignificant health concern happened and I lost my shit. I was waking up every day crying. I can't do this, I'd say to the mirror. Nervous all the time. Impossible to function. So I broke down and for the first time ever, I went to see a therapist. She was nice, I guess. She was really busy. I spent a portion of my session hearing about how busy she was, and the stress she was going through with her own daughter. She gave me some tips on how to practice "mindfulness," how to do deep breathing, how to deal with anxiety before it escalates. I was supposed to go back but one of my kids was sick so I had to cancel. My therapist never called me again.
And that health concern? It turned out to be nothing.
So anyway dad, I decided enough was enough and really started working on myself. Better nutrition, more water, more fitness because that all makes me feel better. And maybe a magic number of days had passed too, but I just started to feel a little better.
The past couple of weeks have been amazing Dad. You'd be so happy. I got a little job. It's not much. I have a little joke I made to myself actually: it's one small step for normal people, and one giant leap for KAREN KIND. I'm a Wednesday lunch supervisor at an elementary school. Money? Pppft, what money. It's just less than 2 hours a week, unless they need me more. But I made it happen. I battled the nerves and left the house and got the two criminal background checks needed. I got the info straightened out for direct deposit. Filled out all the necessary paperwork. You know; all the things I USED to do once upon a time without question.
On the day I was supposed to start, I woke up at 6:30, and I'm not gonna lie--I felt mildly ill. My adrenals start pumping real easy ever since we first heard you had ALS. They've never really returned to how they used to be. Fight or flight? YOU KNOW IT. I headed off to the school.
For the morning I'd be supervising the grade 2's, and for the afternoon it would be the grade 1's. I put on a fluorescent vest with waaaaaay too much velcro, and then it was like a door was opened and I was tossed into a tornado. Leaping between 4 classrooms I had to make sure everyone was sitting and eating, answer tons of requests to use the washroom, make sure they got tidied up before the bell rang then fly out the door with them to the playground. So many rules! No climbing the monkey bars! Grade 1's can only go to the little playground, Grade 2's can only go to the bigger kids' playground. This boy claims so-and-so was cheating during soccer. This little girl tripped and scraped the tiniest, skinniest knee I've ever seen. THAT KID PICKED UP A STICK! NO STICKS ALLOWED!
Jesus--I don't know if you know but I'm not a super big stickler for rules, so to have to be so rules-y all of the sudden? Ooof...
Bell rang. Everyone was back in safe and sound. I went home for an hour and bit before I had to return for the next shift.
Then, Dad, it was once more into the fray! And this time it was the grade 1's. The grade 1's are still so like babies. They're so small, and cute and a LOT of them can't open their thermoses, or their little apple sauce containers or their shitty processed lunchable all-in-one junk lunches they have.
I had to mop up a gross packet of "pizza sauce" out of one little girl's lunch bag. While I was pulling the foil off an apple snack container later for this same tiny person, a little boy snuck out of one classroom and was playing peek-a-boo with a little girl from his class whom I had allowed to go to the washroom. A horrible teacher saw this and reamed that little girl out. I kept trying to interject and explain that I had let her go to the washroom, but that teacher insisted she was playing a GAME, and yelled at her to GET BACK TO HER SEAT RIGHT NOW and SIT DOWN. Then that teacher tried to put the friendly tone on to me and tell me THAT girl does that ALL THE TIME. Well, I went back to her classroom and that poor little kid was crushed. Six years old. Honestly. I patted her little back and told her don't worry. She's alright. Sometimes school is hard and you just have to do the best you can to follow the rules. I told her that she is still a good girl. God I was mad, Dad.
Then it was time to go outside and I was running to get my coat from the staff room because those kids were GO-GO-GO and they were NOT going to wait! As I was jogging through the hall, a boy from an older grade sternly told me; "No running in the hall."
Yes, yes, kid. Got it.
Several kids lined up dutifully for their "wall" time. One little girl supposedly was to spend 15 minutes on the wall because a power hungry student from the older grades, who helps watch then during lunch, said she was "talking" when she was supposed to be eating. Seriously--WHAT THE FUCK?! When that little girl made it outside, the on-duty teacher asked her how long she was supposed to be on the wall. Her eyes darted to me quickly. I said; "I think she's supposed to be there for five minutes." Her whole little body relaxed.
So I ran around like a headless chicken for those 15 minutes they were outside. Made sure they all safely returned, and I went home, head nearly spinning. As I set up my dvd to workout, and changed into my workout clothes, I cried for 10 minutes straight. I couldn't stop thinking about that little girl who got hollered at, and that little girl who was supposed to be punished the whole damn recess instead of just letting her run around like a kid should. I had an endless movie reel of shitty lunches running through my head; thermoses crammed with alpha-ghetti. Processed all-in-one lunches marketed to appeal to kids with horrible, horrible ingredients. That one kid who had a thermos PACKED with bowtie noodles that she didn't get to eat because she'd dilly-dallied to and from the washroom. I cried because of all that, and I cried because it was new and I was basically shell-shocked.
But dad--I liked it. They actually called me the next morning from the school, because the regular lunch supervisor couldn't come in that day, and could I possibly come that afternoon? For the first time in my life I didn't feel ill from that phone call, or like hiding from the phone, or making an excuse. I was back in there and it felt wonderful. The little people are so sunny, and charming, and ridiculous and cute. They're so uplifting--not all jaded and rude and hideous like adults. I patted a little crying girl's shoulder because another kid said she was annoying and told her obviously they were wrong because she seemed just fine to me. I rubbed the tiniest little hand ever of a little boy whose friend accidentally pricked it with a little needly piece from a pine tree. A little girl drew me a picture and now it's on my fridge. And when I walked out of that school, I felt like the king of the world.
Normal people go to work. They just do it. They leave their houses and run errands. They go out for drinks or for dinner. They go to appointments. I used to do all that too. I don't want to be the person I used to be. Karen 2.0 is much better, to tell you the truth. Yes, I was scared, but I made this happen, and I was outside, which I love, surrounded by all these crazy kids and it was great, Dad. It was really great.
And Dad, I discovered I'm still fierce as fuck. Just like you always knew. Oh, and I know that right now Mom's completely amazed too because I actually LIKED something. Ha ha, she always hoped my bad attitude would change one day, so there you go, Mom!
I'm excited to be doing this. So Dad, I'm doing much, much better. I got this. You just keep taking care of Mom, and I'll handle everything down here.
P.S. Dear nasty teacher who is non-stop angry at students: