Wednesday, May 27, 2009


May 27, 2009

I've have read on other parents' blogs that they avoided the Lego aisle or the Polly Pocket aisle when shopping after their child had died.  This created a dilemma for me.  On the one hand, Erin remains very near to the surface for me, and I wouldn't want to deliberately trigger those inevitable meltdowns that particular memories could stir.  On the other hand, Erin had so many "favorite" things that if I worked to avoid public places that would put me at risk for having my memory stirred, I wouldn't go anywhere:  no bookstores, toy stores, or movie rental places.  No grocery stores or clothing stores.  She adored nurseries, so they would be off the list.  Hardware stores. . .she would browse until I made her leave.  The meat market?  You've got to be kidding.  Hobby Lobby?  Every aisle would be a potential disaster.  You get the idea.  

She wasn't necessarily a shopaholic or even particularly acquisitive.  She just found delight in the  beautiful, interesting, fun, or novel.  So, inevitably I have to go to those places.  And so far, no big mind fields.  

One day recently, I was pushing the cart through the grocery store.  

Produce section:  Do I put kiwi in the cart?  I'm okay with kiwi and so is Walter, but Erin was a big fan, and we're closer to indifferent.  No kiwi this time.

Soft Drink/Sports Drink Aisle:  Gatorade doesn't fall under the category of beer, wine, coffee, or water, which are really the only things that we actually drink.  No real need for Gatorade.  

Snack Aisle:  Do Walter and I really need Chex Mix or Cliff Bars?  Nah.

It finally hit me.  Not grief.  Not tears.  Just realization.  Kids give you permission to stock things that you like (salty/naughty snacks, sweets, ice cream confections), because you don't have to admit you want those things.  Having children (or someone else you can indulge) gives you permission to experiment, to try different options and more varieties, to buy treats.  Of course, you can still buy those sorts of things if you don't have children in the house, but you can't fool yourself into thinking you are doing it for someone else.  If you by a bag of Cheetos or a box of Butterfingers, they're for you.

Of course, all sorts of people have figured this out before me (single folks, empty nesters).  It really wasn't just about whether I was willing to indulge myself by adding treats to the cart or face the inevitably dullness of my basket.  It's about having to admit that the person I loved to dote upon is no longer dotable.  

I helped Shirlene with her Meals On Wheels route last week.  I remembered and asked after a couple on her route from previous times I had helped her.  The man would come out to the car to get their lunches.  He always had a cheerful remark and a smile.  Shirlene told me she didn't serve them anymore.  When his wife died, the man took his name off the list--like it was okay to get a meal for himself as long as MOW was delivering to his wife anyway, but he didn't think he deserved one on his own account.  

Shirlene worried about him.  He wasn't any less homebound than he had been before.  On her route days, she buys his lunch and delivers it anyway.  When I saw him on Monday, he seemed glad to have it.

I think that man lost someone that he took pride in taking care of.  This happens to a lot of us.  Sometimes death is the thief, but other things can bereave us and leave us personally and profoundly deprived of another person and the love that we shared with him or her.  

W.H. Auden wrote that "Love requires an object."  Our bereavement is not so much about what to put in the shopping cart or what aisle to skip in the toy store.  It's about admitting that the object of our love is gone and deciding to live anyway.


  1. Exactly the right acknowledgement.

  2. vickie - your ability to turn great hurt into a lesson for all of us is amazing. thank you. you know this - but you - and erin & walter & davis - remain in my prayers daily.

  3. You write so beautifully. I love reading your blog for your honesty, your wisdom, and your love. Erin lives in every word you share.

    I got off the bus early today and after a very cloudy, gray and difficult day at work, I looked up at the sky and it was beautiful. The clouds looked like cotton and the sun was setting-- my favorite time to look at the sky. And, I thought of Erin. Immediately. Every time I look at a beautiful sky now, I think "that's an Erin sky" and my heart is happy.

    Love and hugs to you. Thank you for sharing Erin with me. I love my Erin sky days.

  4. The list of beverages you consume resulted in a hearty laugh. Today I was going to get lunch for Dina and I saw a young girl who made ME think of Erin and I wanted to email you. When I got home and I found this update in my feed reader it made me smile. Your ability to express your thoughts and feelings is truly extraordinary and I feel a better parent each time I 'leave' this place where you share your words.

    When you get a chance please let me know your 'schedule' for when you think you'll be around (if you have one) so I can be sure to carve out some time.


  5. I think when the object of your love is perfect when you lose it then it is much harder. Your words have made the imperfect loves in my life seem so much better than I could have imagined and I am seeing that they really are perfect for me. Thank you.

  6. Vickie, thank you for sharing your life with us. It is touching and precious that you would share your insights about your personal experience with grief. I was very moved, by your eloquence and transparency.

    I really miss Erin. I still love the image I have of her running around heaven with that gorgeous sunny smile of hers, making friends easily, as she always did, and enjoying learning all about her her new surroundings. That makes me smile.


  7. WOW!!! No one could have said all of that any better!! You are an amazing lady. No wonder Erin was who she was. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Thanks for sharing your heart, Vickie. You and your family are still in our prayers. Whenever I feel a little down, I only have to think of Erin's courage and spunk and smiling face. Then I smile too and say to myself, "Be like your hero - just do it!" God bless.
    jenny in Idaho

  9. Vickie,
    I envy your students. You are such a teacher and I learn from you every time I come to your site. Thank you for continuing to write. You clearly express things that to others might seem impossible to express.

    Our blog is completely broken or I'd link to you but I hope to have it up and running by tomorrow.

  10. You are right about the grocery aisles for empty nesters. I remember tearing up on the cereal aisles after Rob left for college. But you make me feel it as a good thing--which I didn't know to do then. Thank you for helping me to embrace caring.

  11. You have such a way with words. This weekend I was in Central Park raising money for neuroblastoma through Jack Brown's fundraiser and I couldn't stop thinking about Erin and "how much" she lived life to the fullest. She inspired me to take some risks this weekend and do things I normally wouldn't do....and I have to say it was one of the best weekends I've had in a while and it is all because of Erin and your "Lets do it" slogan.Thank you again.

  12. I can't imagine how difficult it is to not have Erin here. I know how much she filled your life with soooo much. I will never forget you pushing the cart around the hospital with all of her cooking props! Eat whatever you want, drink whatever you want! You are an extraordinary woman. Erin will always be with you. God Bless You.

  13. Melissa Kipp - Friends of WIllMay 29, 2009 at 10:11 AM

    I have alwways found similarities in my relationship with my daughter and yours with Erin. Its just the two of us and grocery shopping never occured to me as such an important thing before. But you really hit the nail on the head with this post. Next time I have to spend a gazzilion dollars on "crap food" I will think twice about complaining. I continue to think of you gusy often and now everytime I groecry shop!

  14. What a beautiful entry. I hope you continue to allow yourself the occasional warm cookie for breakfast.