Saturday, December 05, 2015

Christmas 2015

I have been thinking about my step-son Blaine, and Christmas, and how we will be holidaying this year without him. Kinda got a hole in my heart over here. Oh, how Blaine loved to get together with peeps and just socialize to the hilt. It has been said many times by those of us close to him, and by many others, that given his disabilities, Blaine was such a happy and smart and engaging and self confident fellow. A true inspiration to those who knew him and even those who would just meet him for the first time. Blaine brought out the best in people. If you know Blaine, first you are struck by what an amazing cat he is, and then you imagine what his life is really like, and then you remember to shut the fuck up the next time your latte is served tepid. Cuz gratitude rush.

That’s Blaine up there the year he and I raided every Goodwill in Portland for Primo Tacky Christmas Ornamentation, which we displayed proudly on the front porch of our house, much to Marie’s pleasure and marvelment. Somewhere on that table is a piece of toast someone had made into a tree ornament and then it got donated and resold to us at the Goodwill. Absolute best Christmas tree ornament ever conceived. When we do stuff like this Marie thinks we are so awesome!

The way Christmas works at our house is, my two children and their husbands and children and my sisters and their fams come to our house to visit Grandpa Ric and Grammy Marie on a weekend day before Christmas. We make merry, eat killer foods, exchange a few gifts and talk like crazy. Almost every year I am struck by the fact that the house is just abuzz with very boisterous (and loud!) conversation. And we watch football.

So the 2015 holiday party at our house is coming up soon, and well, there's an elephant in the room. And I write better than I speak, so here goes:

We all miss Blainey so much! My daughters Stacey and Amy, their hubs Tim and Gary, the grand kids, my sisters and their families, all of the Deatherage clan, Blaine’s dad’s family, and all of his many, many friends. Blaine was such a gregarious person, social to the max, loved to laugh, was always ready to follow me down some path of ridiculousness, like making Twinkies flambĂ©. Or “Bama Bombs”. He just loved joining in on the fun. Together, we could be just a teeny bit mischievous.

But we don't miss Blaine like Marie misses Blaine. Imagine how much you miss him, and then multiply that by maybe 9000 cuz that’s my default mondo number. Blaine has been gone for almost a year, and we have passed his birthday, and we have passed other milestones, and here comes the holidays, and our family parties, while we move ahead one step at a time. And I have been watching Marie very closely every step of the way this past year.

I want to say something about Marie here as I remember Blaine and how he could just light up a room with his intelligence and conversation, his kindness, and his love. I know for sure that the reason why Blaine enjoyed life so much was because of his mom.

Marie was a great advocate for Blaine with regard to all things medical, and she and Blaine walked right past the shadow of death a few times as Blaine was growing up. Like 14 surgeries. Sheesh. But Marie was way, way more than just a medical advocate for Blaine. Marie spent countless hours as Blaine was growing up lovin' on him and teaching him things and giving him knowledge and experiences through reading and travel, getting him online at a very early age, discussing the news in depth, playing games, the litany is endless. All designed to help Blaine function and succeed in the world. Yes, Blaine came equipped with a very good ability to think, and in some areas, like math, excelled. But other behaviors that most of us take for granted were more of a challenge. Helping Blaine, especially when he was quite young, perform in school classes and stay up with classmates was challenging. Teachers were sometimes alarmed at Blaine’s lack of focus and difficulty in performing and finishing projects. I believe it was his constant companion, Marie, during those early years especially, who informed Blaine’s attitude and developed in him a thirst for knowledge and a zest for life. 

I have a couple of Marie’s keepsake boxes buried in my office closet, (my office was once Blaine’s bedroom), which I suppose have been there for over 30 years, and I have peaked into the boxes on several occasions, enjoying the trappings of Blaine’s early years, a Halloween costume (Handmade! Dinosaur with claw gloves!!), other papers and projects, dozens of “I Heart Trees” buttons, all kinds of stuff. But when I ran into the 3x5 cards, some of which I’ve pictured below, I felt like I’d found my metaphor for the depth of input Marie added to Blaine’s life. As you can see, there are several dozen of them.

During the grade school years, though most teachers and professionals were concerned and kind regarding their treatment of Blaine, and fully intended on educating him to the best of their ability, sometimes getting Blaine’s attention and keeping it could be a challenge. To them, it was alarming, and daily notes sent home with Blaine would report his daily behaviors, his achievements, or lack of focus, owing to his many disabilities.  So Marie devised a plan to help him perform better in school, as shown below on the cards. If Blaine had a good report for the day, there was a reward! And rewards designed to appeal to Blaine’s most powerful motivator, his social side! See? Brilliant. But this is just a teeny tiny surface scratch of the types of things Marie did to help him all along the way until he graduated from barely accessible Wilson High School here in Portland. While holding down a full time job, every day of her life was also filled with plans and projects and reading and rewards so that Blaine could achieve. And some kind of amazing and exceptionally deep bond was formed between Blainey and his Mom. I remain in awe when I consider the amount of input and love that this Mom displayed over all the years of Blaine’s life. And how much a mother can and will do for their children. And why my sweet wife still grieves. She still needs some more understanding and hand holding. For Christmas!


Deb M. said...

What a gift you have given all of us who know Marie and many knew Blaine as well. A love letter to your beloved wife. And a love letter also, to Blaine. I cannot even begin to imagine the level of grief Marie feels. For Marie to lose Blaine must have be all of hell and more. If only others could steal away some of her grief--but each person walks their own path and the places they intersect with others are unique and joyful even when there is pain too. I applaud you for having the courage to let yourself write this. So much of the time, seeing the pain of those we love is its own special kind of torture because we know there is nothing we can really do but stand by. Be close for the times they are able to say they need us. I am a writer yet I have no words to express how much I wish I could take even a fraction of Marie's pain. And yours. Both of you are such giving people. So generous and kind. Marie was open and friendly from the start, willing to share her life and words and friendship with many of us. It meant so much to me. She and you are both such special people. That she should have to suffer such a loss is unthinkable. Thank heavens you are there for her and she for you. Together you will able to get over this mountain. Would it be too hard on Marie if each of you shared a special memory of Blaine at the Christmas party? It's always hard to say if things like that will help or hurt. I am hopeful that the spirit of Christmas will ease the pain of your loss and help Marie take a few more steps toward healing. Peace be with you both.

deb m. said...

the length of this is why i put it here and not over on the other page. my caps keys are not working. new one arrives soon. anyway, so i got longwinded. i guess i had a lot to say.

Unknown said...

What a beautiful description of the love Marie has for her son & the awe & love you have for both of them comes through clearly. I can't imagine the pain of losing your child. You were & are blessed that he shared his life with you. I hope that happy memories of holidays past give you, Marie & your family comfort.

revphil said...

love it. thx ric!!

rdspdx said...

Beautiful love letter to Marie and Blaine Ric. Thinking of all of you especially now. Reba

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