David, grief

Just How Hard Could It Be To Bake a Pie?

“Mom, why are you sleeping again? You’re starting to scare me.” My daughter’s gentle, but urgent voice, startled me awake.

Why, indeed. I’m starting to scare myself.

The booklet the funeral home sent me on grieving through the holidays had suggested taking naps as a form of self-care. I’d never been the napping type, but I had to try something to get me out of the funk I’d sunk into. My last workshop for the year was November 17th. I’d been looking forward to spending most of my free time writing, completing my book and working on several essays. And yet I’d written nothing but my column for seven days.

For eight months I’ve been busy with workshops, speaking engagements, and conferences. Now, with nothing to do but work on my book until February, I felt like a deflated balloon. The irony of my taking naps did not escape me. Hadn’t I always questioned David’s afternoon trysts with the sandman? Why, exactly, do you take naps when on the days you nap you seem just as tired at night and still go to bed at the same time?

David was a regular napper, one who was persistent in asking his wife to join him, a request I rarely met. I have things to do. Naps don’t help me get anything done. The kids won’t let me join you. And besides, I’m not convinced naps even help. I’ll just drink more tea, another cup of coffee, take a walk.

I remember one afternoon, not too long before David had his heart attack, when I did follow him up the stairs. I lay down next to him on the bed, giggling like a school girl who was being naughty. Sleeping in the middle of the afternoon? It seemed decadent and totally wasteful of the precious commodity of time. The children were busy with their own activities and likely wouldn’t bother us. I’d been certain he’d had more on his mind than simply sleeping, but no, he was just tired, and he wanted to be near his wife. He took my hand and closed his eyes, his breath slowing. I paced my own breathing to match his, and soon we were both asleep. I woke up with a start half an hour later, quietly slid my hand from his, sneaking from the room and closing the door softly behind me. Oh, how I wish now that I had indulged more often in the luxury of lying next to the man I loved in the middle of the afternoon. How I regret having chided him, however lightly, about his napping, because I cannot bear the idea of ever having hurt him, my dear, dear husband. And now, here I was, imbibing in naps myself.

Because, you see, I am so very tired. Thanksgiving is approaching, and fast behind that, Christmas.

“Take care of yourself. Do whatever it takes to get through the holidays,” the booklet on grief advises.

So I’ve taken to napping. For the past few days, around 2:00 in the afternoon, I’ve pushed back in the recliner, closed my eyes, and promptly fallen asleep.

And apparently frightened my teen in the process.

“Mom, why are sleeping?” Emily asked me yesterday, and I had no real answer. Did I think I could sleep through Thanksgiving and Christmas? The naps definitely weren’t making me more productive; I hadn’t touched my book for several days. Why, exactly was I sleeping in the middle of the day?

Later in the afternoon, I found myself standing indecisively in front of the freezer at the grocery store when an acquaintance I hadn’t seen for months stopped and touched my arm.

“How are you doing, Mary?”

“Fine,” I answered without even thinking. Ah, that rote answer of “Fine,” that meaningless reply we so politely give, whether true or not.

“Having a crowd for Thanksgiving?”

“No, we’re going out to eat, for the first time ever,” I smiled when I said it, and the smile was genuine. Going out to eat was the best choice I could have made this year; it was something David and I had never done for the holiday. “But the kids wanted pumpkin pie later in the afternoon, and I don’t suppose these frozen varieties taste anything like homemade.” I gestured towards the freezer.

She smiled indulgently. “It isn’t that hard to make pumpkin pie.”

“Oh, I know. I’ve made dozens of pumpkin pies. I just don’t want to.” She cocked her head slightly, not sure what to make of that comment. Why wouldn’t I want to make a pumpkin pie? They weren’t that difficult to make, after all.

I saw her glance furtively into my cart, and I was suddenly embarrassed; Buddig sliced turkey, Pringles chips, milk, yogurt, canned chicken. It had happened again; I’d entered a grocery store intent on stocking up on good food and then spotted something that had reminded me of shopping with David, and discovered I just wasn’t up to it that day, despite my nap. I ended up throwing a few random things in the cart. It has been eight months, and I still have a difficult time shopping. This was what I had resorted to feeding my family during Thanksgiving week? “I just don’t want to bake a pie,” I repeated, and then I grabbed a frozen peppermint pie from the freezer and wished her a happy Thanksgiving before turning and heading to the checkout, unshed tears stinging my eyes.

There is a paragraph that I have been seeing cut and pasted on the Facebook statuses of well-meaning friends who are attempting to show support for those who might be having a difficult time during the holidays. Perhaps you have seen it too. This is what it says;

The holidays are upon us and it can be a very joyful time of year. Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us. And, many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring thoughts and loving prayer right now. If I don’t see your name, I’ll understand. May I ask my friends wherever you might be, kindly copy, paste, and share this status for one hour, to give a moment of support to all those who have family problems, health struggles, job issues, worries of any kind, and just need to know that someone cares. Do it for all of us, for nobody is immune. I hope to see this on the walls of all my friends just for moral support. I know some will. I did it for a friend and you can too.

I know many people have continued to cut and paste this on their Facebook wall this week, with very good intentions. I would respectfully ask that you not continue posting such a platitude. I don’t pretend to speak for everyone, but I am fairly confident that I speak for the majority when I say that very few hurting souls will look at that paragraph on your Facebook wall and think, “This person is posting something on their wall in support of people like me, and that sure makes me feel better. Gee, I can put the pills away now. Somebody cares.” 

Consider doing something instead of cutting and pasting a random paragraph. Many of you already do give of yourself during the holidays. Bless you for that. But for those of you who are not sure how to show support, this year you might think about knocking on the door of your elderly neighbor who is alone. Invite her to dinner. Or coffee. Bake an extra loaf of poppy seed bread and share it with someone. Send a card. Make a phone call. Offer to babysit so a young, overwhelmed couple can enjoy a night out. Give a gas card to a struggling student, or a gift card to the family with an ill child.

Or maybe, just maybe, think about your children who lost their father this year, and consider their one simple request.

And bake the darn pie already.

Postscript:I tried. I really did. I went to Walmart with every intention of purchasing the ingredients for pumpkin pie. The cans of pumpkin were marked down to $1, a super deal. I picked up a can, a lump forming in my throat with the memory that last November it was David who’d picked up reduced cans of pumpkin, informing me he was going to make me some pumpkin muffins. (he never did, but he always had good intentions) I turned the can over, my eyes scanning the recipe for what other ingredients I would need.

It was no use. I just didn’t have it in me.

“Help me pick out a pumpkin pie,” I told Abby, who obligingly followed me to the freezer section, where we scrutinized everything from cheaper frozen Sara Lee pies to the baked Walmart versions sitting out on shelves in the middle of the aisle. I was seriously eyeing several sweet-potato pies on a marked-down shelf, until nine-year-old Abby looked at me with her Daddy’s brown eyes and innocently asked, “What kind of pies are those?”

Had I stooped so low I would serve my children reduced price sweet potato pie? No. I might not be the house-cleaning, turkey-baking, pie-baking mother I once was, but by golly, my children deserve the best.

The best darn frozen pumpkin pie in the freezer.

Happy Thanksgiving.

3 thoughts on “Just How Hard Could It Be To Bake a Pie?”

  1. Mary, I hate those generic platitudes, and I agree with you. It doesn’t help. What does help is to reach outside of yourself, to step out of your comfort zone. Instead of hiding from our grief or sadness, whatever methods we use to blunt our feelings, I think that doing something-anything-to work through those feelings is the best answer. There are times that we do need to be alone, to deal with overwhelming grief; but once we walk through the fire, it is time to move on.
    Whenever I get blue, or feel like I’m in a funk the last thing I want to do is to get out of the house and spend time with another person. It’s easier to stay at home and feel sad. But the best thing for me to do is to leave my cocoon and to socialize; even if I just stop in at Panera Bread and have a cup of coffee and read the paper. I’m surrounded by people who don’t know me, but for some reason it is comforting. Often I see someone else alone, and I will give them a smile and a “hello”.
    I’m an introvert by nature, content to sit at home and read or watch PBS, work on a puzzle or do some scrapbooking. But I need other people in my life, and struggle with feelings of loneliness. It’s hard for me to reach out to others and I have to force myself to take that first step. But I receive joy whenever I do this, and it uplifts my spirit when I take that step.
    Think baby steps, one small step at a time. And pie is easy to make when you buy the premade Pillsbury crusts. Just dump in your favorite filling and bake. Baby steps.

  2. Mary….I can so closely relate to and understand your words. I miss my brother more each day. The days passed have not eased the pain. In fact, it feels more intense as I am forced to acknowledge that each passing day is one that Todd cannot experience with me and our parents. I’m not ready to face Thanksgiving without Todd, so I haveade the choice to stay home alone.

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