Adulting

My 11-year-old son has recently asked for cooking lessons from my husband and I. We’ve tried to get him to cook or bake for his entire childhood, but he’s had little interest until now. We’ve done pasta and scrambled eggs and even a basic frozen pizza so he can conquer his fear of the oven. We had a little lesson on laundry, too, or at least how to work the washer and dryer, but that will take some more time.

All of this got me thinking about the term “adulting.” I will tell you right now that I despise the word.  It’s just some cute, irritating word someone thought up that just means basic life skills that someone should have taught you years ago. (And yes, I realize it can mean more than that, like buying your first appliance, but since I have been a responsible adult since the age of 7, the word just bites my ass.)

adultingSo…if creating a budget or balancing your checkbook (am I the only one who still does that?) is “adulting,” then what have I been doing these past few years? If that crap is adulting, what is taking care of your son and working full-time and attempting to navigate the healthcare system for your dementia and diabetes-ridden mother and now taking turns with your family to be with your father who can no longer be left alone?  And what about trying to maintain healthy and fulfilling relationships, including one with yourself?

Is this “Middle-ageing”? Being a member of the Sandwich Generation Club? Or maybe just Life?

I had a little meltdown a few weeks ago, just feeling tremendously overwhelmed with these responsibilities that I did not and still do not feel prepared for. I might have even stomped my foot. But with tears in my eyes, both my husband and I just started to laugh. I mean, what else can you friggin’ do? I can cry you and every other human being on the planet a river, but laughing is something I don’t do enough of these days. My brother was the one who made me laugh the most.  I need and want him here more than ever. But I guess that’s one reason why I can cry you a river, right? Maybe I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed if he were here. Or maybe I’d just feel like ME again.

And that’s what I’m really trying to do. I’m trying to figure out who I am without my brother. I can’t be whole again, that I know for a fact. But I should be able to piece me together somewhat. There are facets of me that still exist–a runner (even though I’m currently sidelined with an injury), a librarian, a reader, a writer, a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter and a sister. I am a FBG (Former Big Girl) on the outside but a Forever Big Girl on the inside. I’m mostly kind and generous but fiercely protective of my family. I am often brutally honest but sometimes not honest enough, especially to myself.

Maybe adulting is just another term for growing up. Maturing. Finding your way in the world. And many of us, even at age 45, are still trying to figure that out.

 

 

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It’s Just a Car

For a year now, my brother’s car has been sitting in the driveway of the home he shared with his partner of 24 years. Their house is 3 miles from mine. I used to think how weird it was that Phil’s car was sitting there, but Phil wouldn’t be sitting in his house. Why did we have the car but not him?

But now, the car is gone. It was time. I understand that. I know it was hard for my brother-in-law to keep the car as long as he did, and also how hard it was for him to have the car removed. Yet as odd as it was to have Phil’s car sitting there, reminding us all of what was missing, not seeing his car today broke me.

I knew the car wouldn’t be there, my brother-in-law told me. I drove to his house to drop off some veggies and to pick up a possible replacement hammock for our stand and I parked beside the empty spot where the car used to be. I couldn’t park in the same spot, that would be wrong. Larry and I chatted for a few minutes, then he put the rolled up hammock, my brother’s hammock, in the back seat of my car. As I drove home, I started to cry. I was sobbing by the time I reached my house, so I sat in my car in my driveway and let it all out. I think I missed my brother more in that moment than I have in over a year.

It’s silly, I know. It’s just a damn car. A car that didn’t even run anymore. But it was Phil’s car and he sat in it and drove it and drove me around and drove my son around. We laughed in that car and he forced me to listen to whatever music he liked at the time in that car. And although I didn’t want the car and am glad that it gave my brother-in-law some peace, it made me feel like I lost Phil all over again. And as I sobbed in my car, I just wanted to feel close to my brother again.

You hear people say that they would do just about anything to talk to their loved one again. I thought I understood what people meant.

But I really didn’t. Until now.

So through my sobs and sniffling, I talked to my brother out loud and told him that I missed him and that I loved him and how I wished he was still here. Then I scrounged through my glove box and found a napkin to blow my nose on (always classy, right Phil?).

When I was finally ready to go inside, I dragged the hammock from my back seat. I placed it on my porch, where it still is, waiting for a little clean up. I am hoping it will fit our stand so I can lay in it and read and enjoy a few good moments.

Just like my big brother once did.

hammock

525,600 minutes

For the past few weeks, the song “Seasons of Love” from the Broadway play Rent, has been going through my head. My brother introduced me to the soundtrack in the mid-1990s. I don’t know where he originally heard it, but he told me the basic story and I fell in love with the music. This song, in particular, gets me very emotional. It always has, but today even more so. “How do you measure a year? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.”

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of my brother’s death. It will be the end of our year of “firsts.” Our first Thanksgiving and Christmas without him. Seeing the latest Star Wars and Marvel movies without him and wondering what he would have thought. Our first set of all the kids’ birthday parties without him.  Viewing the Oscars and crying so much my eyes nearly swelled shut. Watching Phil’s 50th birthday come and go and not know what to do.

It’s been a rough year. A really shitty one, in fact. I still don’t know how to navigate the world with the knowledge that my brother isn’t somewhere on this planet. I tried counseling briefly, but the person was really bad at grief counseling. She was good at helping me with stress, but I need to find someone who just deals with grief if I’m ever going to go back to counseling. And to be completely honest? I’m afraid to do that. In my crazy-ass mind, I think if I go to grief counseling and they help me function better, it means that my brother is really gone. That’s why I still have some of my brother’s ashes in a pill bottle because I can’t bring myself to scatter them or even to put them in something more permanent. Because then he’s really gone.

Can that really be?

Can he really be gone forever? But forever is so damned long. Am I really supposed to go through the rest of my life without Phil around? Without his teasing or his funny stories or his love?

“How do you measure the life of a woman or a man? In truths that she learned or in times that he cried, in bridges he burned or the way that she died?”

Each and every person in our family will tell you that they have changed since last July 23rd.  How can we not? When a person you love makes your life better, when they’re gone it can only make it emptier. Since I last saw my brother, there is a dead spot inside of me.  There’s this emptiness, this pit I can physically feel deep inside of my chest. Not enough food, alcohol or drugs could possibly fill this hole. It cannot be filled. I know that now.  So what to do?
I guess we just keep talking about Phil, don’t we? We keep telling stories about him, share his writing, show photos of him and laugh about the funny things he would say. Some folks probably didn’t think that Phil had a censor in his brain since he typically said whatever the hell he wanted. In fact, he knew EXACTLY what he was saying and looked forward to the reaction. He was an asshole that way, and I absolutely loved it. But he was also a super sweet man who loved fiercely.  After the birth of each of his nieces and nephews, he was at the hospital to be one of the first to hold them. He helped bury my son’s kitty cat and held my boy as he grieved.  And Phil was always there to listen whenever I needed him to. He was the best brother I could have ever had.

 

And I miss him. I miss him terribly. That is one thing that will never change.

“It’s time now to sing out tho’ the story never ends…..Remember the love, measure in love. Measure, measure your life in love. Seasons of love

 

 

To Smile or Not to Smile

Tonight, at a library function, I met someone that knew my brother. After we were introduced, she tilted her head slightly and with a big-ass smile on her face she said, “Your brother passed away last year, right?” She was still smiling. WHY THE FUCK WAS SHE SMILING?!?  I wanted to rip her throat out. If I had the strength, I would have taken my bare hands and ripped her mouth from her face. But I think I was too shocked to completely register my anger.  Why…what…why was she smiling? Really. Please tell me. Instead of scarring her for life, I quietly answered, without a smile on my face, “Yes. Yes he did.” She proceeded to tell me how she knew him and talked about the little dog that lived in my brother’s house but I could still only think about murdering her.

gold-mask-smiling

Has enough time passed that I’m supposed to be ok with someone asking about my brother’s death with a goddamned smile on their face?!? Am I EVER supposed to be ok with this? Because I can assure you that I am not nor ever will be ok with a fucking smile on your face when you ask about my brother or his death.  Losing him was the worst thing to ever happen to me and it has changed who I am. I miss him every damned day. I no longer have that person in my life who will recommend books, movies, and music to me and knows what I’ll like or hate, and will recommend shit I hate anyway. He’d do it just to push my limits but in a way that ended up opening my world just a little bit more. He was that person that made me laugh about things that you probably shouldn’t, but you know you can because it’s ok with him. He was the fucking life and laughter of our family and now he’s gone.

Forever.

So if someone asks you, “Do you smile when you ask about the large black hole in someone’s chest or that limb that they’re missing?”

The correct answer is NO.

Guardian of the galaxy? Nope. Just of my mom.

Two weeks ago, I went to court for the very first time. Ever. I think I’ve been lucky in that way. I’ve never been to traffic court or divorce court or small claims court or any of that jazz. So many of my friends have had to deal with legal issues and I feel for you all.

I was pretty nervous before getting to probate court but happy to have my sister with me. She can talk your ear off about anything, which is a GREAT distraction. Thanks, Bon. 🙂  We were both feeling pretty confident that everything would turn out ok, but you never know, right?  But thankfully, it really was ok. The judge asked a few questions, I answered them with my sister having to prompt me once because I couldn’t think, and then it was done. Now Jack (or anyone) cannot take Mom from the safe place where she’s at. *big sigh of relief*

Afterwards, my sister and I went to Mom’s house to look for some photos and cookbooks. It was really, really weird. It’s one thing when someone has passed away and you’re looking through their things, reminiscing, and figuring out what to do with everything. But what about when your loved one is in a home and very much alive? We felt…sneaky. I tried not to cry multiple times (didn’t always succeed) because it just felt wrong, pawing through our mother’s things. And yes, good things did come out of it. We found photos we didn’t even know existed, so now we can scan them and give everyone, including Mom, copies. I found a few bags of clothing I ended up washing and taking to Mom, as well as more winter clothing for later on. So it wasn’t really wrong….but it felt it.

As we were going through some of Mom’s kitchen cupboards, both my sister and I talked out loud to our brother, cursing at him for not being there. Calling him an asshole for leaving us with this job, but laughing when we said it. We reminisced about so many good times. Weird items like a certain bowl or nutcracker or even Tupperware would spark memories and stories in us both. It was odd and unsettling in some ways, but a bit cathartic at times.

What really got me was the jar we found in my mother’s closet. Twelve years ago, I made her a jar of memories for Mother’s Day. Each slip of paper was a different memory I had of her and the note attached to the jar was me telling her I couldn’t wait to make more memories with her. It was before I ever got pregnant, before I got to see her be a Grammy to my boy, before she ever showed signs of Alzheimers.

But she kept the jar. It may have been in her closet, but she kept it. I’m not sure why I got so emotional about it. Either it was because of the fact she kept the jar or it was because it was foreshadowing of the future or that I felt this weird moment of rightness. Like I made her something kind of cool and it was something a photo album couldn’t capture–moments in our lives that I wanted to remember and hoped she’d remember, too. But it also showed my love and admiration and respect for her. I guess I was glad we found it because it was proof to myself that I did show my mother how much I cared for her.

Having to place Mom in a facility didn’t feel like I was showing her my love, although I suppose it really was. It just didn’t feel like it at the time. But now when I visit her each Saturday, she’s happy and funny and more like herself than she’s been in ages. Of course her memory is still deteriorating. When we went through some photos just yesterday, she thought a few pictures of me was really my cousin, and she didn’t recognize her second husband in a few photos. I found myself saying who everyone was before she could identify them or not be able to identify them. Maybe I was trying to save myself some heartache? I don’t know. I’ll have to find out what I really should do. Label the photos? Let Mom try to figure out who they are? Put them in chronological order? I have some research to do, I guess.

In the meantime, my visits with Mom will continue (always with coffee and treats) and we’ll have as many good times as we still can. Mom loves to talk about the other residents, who she thinks is sweet and kind and who she thinks is nuts. Mom’s sense of humor is still as great as ever, and we always laugh a lot when we visit. Those are the moments when she still feels like my mom. And as long as we can still laugh, then all hope is not lost, right?

Absolutely. ❤

 

 

Proud

Dear Phil,

I took the boy to his first Pride parade yesterday. He was so happy to be there, Phil. He cheered and clapped and he kept saying how great it was. I know he was in awe of some of the drag queens we saw. They were beautiful!

I tried not to think too much about you, but that was impossible. I kept thinking of us last year watching the parade with my friend, Trish. You had to sit through the parade but you clapped and cheered. I remember how fragile you were. I hovered and worried about you that day. I guess the writing was already on the wall, but I refused to read it. I wasn’t ready.

But yesterday, as the kid and I strolled through the Pride marketplace where he bought a rainbow bandana and fedora (wore both of them proudly) and a rainbow shot glass (this kid and his shot glasses disturbs me a smidge), I watched all the folks walking around and imagined the conversations you and I would have. I pointed one fellow out to Bri and told him that more than likely you would roll your eyes when you saw the guy with his cropped tank top and pot belly and mutter, “What a mess!” Then I would laugh and say, “No, c’mon, he’s trying to be fun and cute with his rainbow hair and perhaps too tight shorts.” Then you would scoff and retort with some scathing remark about the poor guy and I’d end up laughing so hard I’d be in tears.

I had to admit to the boy that I missed you an awful lot at that moment. I didn’t cry, though. You’d be proud of me. I swallowed my sob and just looked up and away from the crowd.  That’s when I noticed this:

rainbow2

Fantastic, huh? It was there the whole time and I hadn’t even noticed it. How the hell did I miss that? I think as tall people we always look down, don’t we? I need to start looking up more. So I snapped a picture then grabbed the kid’s arm and we wandered some more. I could nearly hear your laugh everywhere we went.

Do you remember what we did last year after the parade? I bought you supermarket sushi as a belated birthday present and we went back to my house to eat. At one point, we were sitting at my kitchen bar and I popped up to either wash a dish or do something and you grabbed my arm and said, “Stop. Sit down and eat with me.”

So I did.

Did you know that was the last meal we’d eat together? You probably had an idea. You understood more of what was happening to your body than I did.  Or I kept denying it. You always came home, Phil. Each time you went into the hospital, you always came home. None of us ever wanted to believe it would be any other way.

So…thank you for trying to teach me to live in the moment that day. To spend time with you while you were still here. To just be with you and eat and talk. That’s what we did best, right? We’re a family of great eaters and talkers. Especially eaters. 😉

I love you, old man and I miss you like fucking crazy.

Hugs and sloppy kisses,

Holly

Birthdays

Tomorrow is my birthday. My first without my brother. One week from today should have been his 50th. This weekend we would have had a family party to celebrate our birthdays along with our dad’s birthday and Father’s Day, just like we’ve done for over 10 years. Phil and I have been celebrating our birthdays together for most of our lives. That’s what siblings do when their birthdays are 6 days apart.

So this year? No family party. I have no desire to celebrate and neither does my family. We’ll get together later in the month so we can hang and eat and play games outside. We’ll celebrate summer but not birthdays.

Typically, I’m pretty excited about my birthday and I think I’m still a little excited this year. I like gifts, good food and kind words. But I’m thinking more about Phil’s birthday this year. I want to celebrate him somehow that day. I know I’ll be thinking of him, probably post about him, but what else? If he was here, I’m sure I would give him black balloons or something with the grim reaper and bring him sushi or something else he loved to eat. But….what do I do now? Maybe buy his book that I haven’t purchased yet? Read something he would have, eat foods he liked?

Maybe just talk about him. Cry. A lot. Maybe try talking *to* him again? I did that the first week after he died. I didn’t know how to live without talking to Phil nearly every day, so when I was in the car or went for walks, I’d start talking to him. But I stopped. I think I was angry, still am. Angry at the world, at fate, at Phil’s stupid fucking heart. But I miss him so damn much. Still. I miss talking to him about books and movies and my kid. I miss his laugh, his view on the world, his very loud opinions about people and their stupidity. You know, with all the drama that surrounded my mom and her situation these past few months, my sister and I both often think, “Phil, you asshole, we can’t believe you missed out on all this shit!” I can still hear that mischievous laugh he had when he knew he got away with something. It was priceless.

I guess I’m celebrating Phil right now. That is if you can “celebrate” someone with tears staining your face and snot threatening to stain your shirt. And I guess if you’re reading this, then maybe you’re celebrating my big brother, too.

phil&ismilingIf you have a glass of dry red wine or Coke Zero or even a joint, then raise it to that handsome guy you see in the background there.

The world misses you, Phil. It will never be the same without you. You were one of the greatest. ❤