Some things are better left unsaid…

As I said, any great relationship usually has a great beginning. As I have navigated my life after the devastation of the death of my son, and the death of  my marriage, I quickly surmised that some things are better left unsaid.

I was 36 when these events occurred. Ten years ago, I was a shell-shocked fragile woman. My entire life was in upheaval and I suddenly found myself in a place I never thought I would be. Single and a Mom who’s child had died. I was quite the showstopper at a singles mixer. Not that sort of showstopper- the good kind-more of a “Kill joy” sort of showstopper. I learned this very quickly the first night I was out with friends at a dinner they begged me to come to. That night I quickly realized that not everyone I would meet merited the explanation of my life.

Think about it. We say too much most of the time in life. We explain things, give excuses, try to reason with others when really it isn’t necessary. I remember the looks on the faces of the people I would meet when I would tell them I was a Mom and one of my children had just died. Nothing about me, how I looked, who I was or anything about my other children mattered, I was some sort of strange creature to them. I was already some sort of oddball in a room of singles because most of them had never been married and had no children. They hadn’t even begun to contemplate that area of their life.

So, I had decided that when I met someone and they would ask “Oh you are a Mom, how many kids do you have?” in that moment I would have to determine how involved in my life this person was going to be. For instance, if I was never going to see them again, or depending on where I was when I met them, would determine my answer to this question. If I was never going to see the person again my answer would be “I am Mom to 3 children.” Which is true. If the person was someone I knew I would be connected to in life for some time or I saw the potential for a “great relationship” I would tell them, “I am Mom to 4 children…” Then they would usually say, “4 children, you have 4 children? How old are they?” Pause again. Tricky question when one of the 4 died when he was 11…so, I settled on this, “My oldest is 23,  a son who is deceased WOULD BE 22, daughter 18, son almost 17…” If they caught the “WOULD BE”, they would usually politely ask what I meant by that and I would explain.

It took some time for me to figure out how to handle this simple question. My friends became accustomed to my replies. They would pause, look at me and listen closely. I guess after a time they could quickly figure out if I was ever going to speak to the person again by my answer. I must admit, I was not a fan of being introduced by someone else in this manner. “This is Kathy, she is a Mom too; she has 4 kids, well 3 now, her oldest son died from leukemia………” I would just smile politely and wonder why they were telling my story. I’ve found myself in situations where my answer to this very simple question was  used almost as a way to strike up a conversation, like it was some hidden talent of mine.  This mystified me often.

I would be in the other room, and hear adults whispering about it; “Did you know that one of her children just died…” Or someone would jump in and answer for me, “oh she has 3 kids…” This is a tricky question. Not one you ever really prep for to answer when you are heading out for a girl’s night out…certainly not a question you’d hear addressed on a red carpet by a celebrity like “who are you wearing…”

“Oh you’re a Mom, so how many kids do you have?” Yeah, I’d say there is about a 2-3 second window of silence for me to decide how to answer that simple question…if I’m being asked by someone I’ll never see again, or want to see again, I answer one way. If the person asking was going to be in my life, well then I give them my heart answer…”I’m Mom to 4 children, 3 are still with me, my oldest son is deceased…” I hate to make a judgement call in a split second whether or not someone will be in my life or not; but I have too…because truly some things are better left unsaid.


Gotta start somewhere. So they say…

Seems the only way for me to start is to introduce myself. Right? Isn’t that the way any famously fabulous relationship starts, with an introduction-a blink-a moment when you are captured by someone?

I’m Katherine Charlton. I am…presently, single. I am a Mom…I am a friend, daughter, sister, teacher, pet owner, novice runner, avid collector of shoes-denim-purses (okay so I am a ‘clothes horse’). I am smart and I like that about myself. I am a woman with a story, many stories. And I love to tell stories…because I truly am grateful to have breath in my body, laughter in my soul and a thought in my head…and I also, truly love people.

When I stepped out of my car late this afternoon, the sunshine and fresh air told me I had just enough time and daylight to rip the crazy vines that were creeping up the side of my house off the side of my house…I’ve done this before. Ripped the vines off this same wall several times. My son will mow the lawn for me, but he is not exactly interested in ripping the vines off the side of the house. (Scaredy cat) Me, I love yanking them off and hearing the pap pap pap of them as they snap away from my wood that they are stuck to like little sticky pads on the bottom of a tree frog—“pap pap pap…” it sounds like rapid fire of a kid’s air soft gun; maybe I should have told that to my son.

I decided to wear garden gloves this time.

I am not sure why, but when I mow the lawn I do not wear gloves, or proper footwear. I mow in my shorts, usually a tank top with a bathing suit underneath it so that when I’m out of sight in the back of the house I can mow my bathing suit and flip flops. Makes absolutely no sense to mow the lawn in flip flops and no gloves. Especially since I inevitably end up pulling weeds…I work, sweat, listen to my music, dance around a bit, but I get the job done. Lawn gets mowed. I always end up with fingernails that are dirty and green. I often end up with lots of scratches too.

As I decided to tackle the wall covered in vines, I decided to wear gloves. I’m glad I did. The vines were mostly attached to the wall behind bushes. There were spider webs everywhere and they wrapped up to the roof. I was ready to attack. I had my music on, and man I tore at those things with a vengeance as if their assault on my house was deliberate. My determination to dismantle them was deliberate. As I ripped and pulled and maneuvered behind the bushes and the spider webs I realized how critically important the garden gloves were. They gave me this sense of power. I attacked these freakin vines and didn’t let go, literally. I made this giant pile of these things. A pile compiled not just of the vines but of the spiders as well. You see the gloves made me feel like I could tear it all down and the spiders didn’t even phase me. You’d think I had on body armor not just garden gloves!

As I yanked and pulled I thought of prayer. The determination and certainty with which I tore at that mess made me think of my life with prayer in it now. I live my life now with prayer. For years I did not. I did not pray. It was as if I understood exactly the contrast in my life before prayer and after prayer as I tore at that wall with garden gloves on. The work would have gotten done with or without gloves, but with the gloves I had greater courage and determination. I also didn’t get scratched, and my nails didn’t turn green and dirty. Ever try to get that green grass and dirt stain off your nails? Not easy. I’ve pulled my weeds and dug in my yard without gloves many times…and the work to clean up after was almost as hard as the work I did in the yard. The yard work got done either way; but how I felt and completed the work was completely different.

This is what came to me as I tore off the vines from the side of my house. I was so happy I chose to wear gloves. I am also so happy I chose to begin to pray. My life chugged along  and was full of all the things every Mom’s life is full of…but so many times my work has been harder, less peaceable and more complicated. If I had not readied myself with those gloves today I would have half-assed that job for sure. I won’t waste my time pondering what my life might have been like had I not abandoned prayer for so long. It was a deliberate choice, a sort of rebellion if you may. You see after my 11 year old son died in my arms, in our home, in his bed…well, I chose to rebel silently. So my prayers became silent. It was fear. It was my way of taking back control over the death that had changed absolutely every single thing in my life. Funny, rebellion is what we do to stand up against someone or something. I was going to stand up to God in my silence. Not my most brilliant thought I know. And in a queer way, as I did it, made that choice, I knew that He understood me. I could sense His patience with me. What I did was try to beat my pain at its own game. I rebelled against something that seemed to fail me; “I’ll show you!” My heart would not allow me to rebel against God. Truly that was a loss I was not prepared to handle, as strong as I was, there was no way I could rebel against Him. But I wasn’t going to talk to Him, ask Him for anything, or trust anything to Him.

Hmm. Those years went along and I survived. My 3 remaining children survived.  The vines and weeds grew.

Ironically the first thing I prayed for was our yard. My youngest child, my second son, bounded in the front door one day so sad. “Mom our yard is so ugly. Why is it so bad, the grass hurts my feet…I miss our yard…” His words broke my heart because the rotting of our yard was symbolic of all that we had lost. Divorce meant the Dad of the family would no longer be the caretaker of this once beautiful yard. My lack of funds meant I could not afford to maintain it either. As my heart broke I wanted to talk to God again. I knew His word. Knew He wanted me to talk to Him and that He wanted to take care of me. I said, “Okay, I’ll pray and I’m going to ask for something. I’m asking for my yard. I want grass again.” You know what, grass came back. The rotted weeds and thorns disappeared and grass grew in. It took time. As nature does. He took time to grow our lawn. Just like it took time for me to pray again.

Our life is far from perfect. I cannot sit here typing telling you that prayer gave us other great things like a life free of financial turmoil etc. But I can say that my life became like my gardening with gloves on. It became shielded and my work became more efficient and I, I felt like I was protected by an armor that made me want to take on much more. I did the same work, lived the same life, but was now protected and at peace again. It was nice to go in the house after attacking the wall of vines, wash my hands with soap and water and begin cooking dinner…much cleaner and simpler and better for less wear and tear.