Two years

So much has happened since you’ve been gone, dear brother. Mom is in a nursing home now. She kind of lives in a nice world where most people are still alive, including you. At least most days. And Dad’s gone now, too. Maybe you know that? Or if what you and I believed is true, then I’m just talking to folks that read this, not you? You no longer exist. And yet I can’t stop talking to you and wondering what you would think about this and that. The human brain is weird, no?

Your nephew has grown a half a foot since you had to leave. He’s just 3 inches shorter than me, and should be your height by his 14th birthday. He’s liking horror movies more now and has such a morbid sense of humor–just like you. Your niece is pretty busy with her kiddos and she’s finally getting married to her girlfriend. Our sister has to have a new knee soon but still no bionics. Doesn’t that suck? And yeah, I broke my arm. That week after I did it, I imagined you here, helping me along with Larry, but also shaking your head and calling me a “klutz.” Then shuddering when I showed you the photo of the plate and screws in my arm.

So do I still miss you every damned day? Yup. And I’m trying so hard to live the best I can without you, to try new things, to live a life like you did for your first 40 years. (Well, maybe not quite as risky as a few of those years, Phil!) I know those last 9 were pretty shitty, but you lived as best as you could and you helped raise your nephew during that time so I’d say you did pretty well.

Last year on this day, the boy and I were in Boston to see the city and meet dear friends. We decided that we would try new things and live large on this day for you. This year, having one wing, I didn’t really want to go too far. So we went to Belfast and ate different foods, bought a new card game and walked the Harbor Walk. It wasn’t as exciting as last year, but it didn’t need to be. We just needed to do something new and different and talk about you. Like we do every day. It’s impossible not to talk about you since still nearly everything reminds me of you. I imagine everything always will.

I love you. I miss you. I wish you’d visit me in my dreams more often. I’ve only had two that I can remember since you left. It nearly wakes me up when you’re in my dreams because I’m so fucking happy to see you. When I’m fully awake, I’m both devastated and ecstatic if that’s at all possible.

Good night, dear brother.

I wish you were here.

Phil with my boy back in 2009

Bionics!

I’m not gonna lie. I am sometimes grateful for an excuse NOT to run. But this might be overdoing it.

That thing that looks like a parasite is a plate with what seems to be 9 screws. It’s keeping my arm together.

It’s been two weeks since this operation and 18 days since the break. The doctor told me today that it was just a mess inside there. More breakage then they thought, but things look good now. Still not allowed to do much but I can keep the sling off more. Still can’t use my right hand to start the car, wipe my ass, or do much, but if I plant my body just right, I can type with both hands now! Yippee!! It’s the little things.

My new scar.

I think my “outsides” look just as odd as my insides. I mistakenly showed a friend my arm yesterday and her knees nearly buckled. Today, though, I wore a tank top because I had to see the doctor, so no sense wearing too much I would need to take off. That just takes too much time nowadays! I found people sneaking glances at the scar, and a sweet little girl asking her mom what happened to me, and why not? I’m her librarian and I didn’t look like that a few weeks ago, so what the heck? I felt a little freakish at times today, but I’ve always told my son to fly his freak flag high, so why shouldn’t I?

I was pretty despondent yesterday–just everything taking too long to do, arm hurting, brain still reeling and making dumb mistakes at work. But today I have a little more hope. I still won’t be able to do a lot on my upcoming vacation–no major hikes and even no swimming (can only get the scar wet with water and soap)–and I still won’t be able to wear a regular bra for some time or wash my hair with two hands, but there’s hope that physical therapy MAY begin in three weeks. I know it will be tough and frustrating, but right now, I am SO ready to get to work.

So here’s to a good fight and a future where bionics are the norm!

Interdependence

On this July 4th, I am longing for some independence.

I’m not here to “complain” about all the freedoms and advantages I have as a white, educated, lower middle-class woman. I am well aware I have a shitload of them. I am also currently hyper-aware of the advantages I have (or will have again) as an able-bodied person.

Many of you know that I broke my arm 11 days ago. It was just a freak accident while goofing off with my son and landing “just wrong.” It’s been a week since I had surgery and I now sport a plate and a bunch of screws inside of my body, just below my shoulder. I really wish they could have just inserted bionics, because seriously! That would totally be worth the pain if I could lift a car with my right arm or throw a baseball 2 miles. But apparently I’m no Jaime Sommers and this isn’t a cool 1970s television show. It’s just my real life in 2019. Ain’t that a pisser?

When I first broke my arm (and yes, it’s my right and I’m right-handed), the pain was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. I rarely stopped screaming or crying those first few hours. My brother’s partner drove my boy and I to the ER. Every bit of movement was excruciating. Meds helped very little but some at least relaxed me. Once I was somewhat stabilized, I became horribly depressed. How would I do anything?!? (My husband was out of state when all of this happened, too.) My beautiful sister drove over an hour just to take my damn bra off me and give me a sponge bath, and her husband made us dinner. My son did anything and everything I asked him to, but I needed to do some things for myself. Yet every damned thing was just so fucking difficult. Go brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand and tell me how it goes. NO! WAIT! Go wipe your ass with your non-dominant hand. THAT, my friends, is just friggin’ weird.

Now that I’ve had surgery and my husband is home to help the kid and myself, I’m not quite as depressed or disheartened as I was. I’m still very frustrated with not being able to do certain things like put my bra on by myself, do dishes, wear pants with buttons or zippers, or even sleep in my own bed. And keeping my pain level manageable still isn’t easy, especially at work. BUT, even with all of my frustrations and annoyances, I am incredibly lucky to have family and friends lending a hand to help me, and a staff at work who have my back in more ways than one. As independent (and stubborn) as I am, I know that if we all were a little more interdependent or even just admitted that we needed one another, we could live in a truly incredible world.

So lend a hand if you can to someone that needs it. And if you’re in my vicinity, I’ll be happy to borrow your right hand, arm and shoulder.

Let’s take care of each other. ❤

And then today…

Sometimes I really hate Facebook. Or maybe I just hate some of the people that use it.

Today is my brother’s birthday. He should be 51 today, yet he will forevermore be 49. An age that many like to say they’re at when they’re really older. But no one, including my dear brother, wants to stay at 49 for an eternity.

Last year on this day, I did ok. Until my sister called me then I cried…a lot. But I was ok. Today? I just wasn’t. I felt uneasy as soon as I woke up, although I thought it was from the argument my son and I had the day before. My parenting skills were not at their best yesterday and I said things I shouldn’t have. I did apologize to my boy, though, and we made up before bed last night. But I thought this morning’s uneasiness was due to a guilt hangover. But then, like a lightbulb exploding, I remembered. It’s June 20th. Six days after my birthday. Phil’s birthday.

I knew it was coming. Of course I did! It’s just after my own birthday, typically just after Father’s Day. But for a few minutes it was not part of my conscious thoughts. And then it was. And the grief started to settle into the back of my eyes, my downturned mouth, even into my bones. Once I got to work, I sat at my desk in my empty building and sobbed. I tossed my glasses, covered my face with my hands and let it go.

And yet I couldn’t let it go. I could feel that sadness and grief cling to me all day. I thought I would go home early in the afternoon, but I stuck it out for most of the day. But foolishly, oh so so foolishly, I looked at Phil’s Facebook wall. I knew some of my family might post something, and I get that. I do. I sometimes write on his wall, too, or talk to him in my car or in my head. But today I just couldn’t write anything. I just read the few comments. And I started to get so damn angry.

One person just wrote “happy birthday.” So, does this guy know that my brother is gone? Maybe he doesn’t. So shouldn’t I tell him? Shouldn’t the entire world know that this amazing, hilarious, sweet man is no longer on this godforsaken planet and it will never again be as good as a place as it was? But what about the woman, who I KNOW knows about my brother’s death, and her fucking cheery message? “Happy birthday, Phil!” with stupid ass balloons in the background. WTF? Seriously! What is this?!? He’s not here! He can’t celebrate ever again! Why did you write this?!? WHY?!?

I know I need to ask myself, “why do you care, Holly, and why are you so friggin’ mad?” These are the exact questions Phil would ask me. I know he would. Especially the part about caring. He was pretty good about trying to distance himself from things and people that really didn’t matter. No sense getting worked up over people that don’t care about you nor do you care about them. Just let it go.

But sometimes….sometimes it feels good to be angry and hate someone for something as silly as a FB post, because there isn’t anyone to be angry at about losing my brother. There’s no one I can yell at for taking away the person whom I looked forward to talking to, the person my son confided in and needs so much right now, the person that made me laugh like no other. So instead, I rage to myself (and to you) about a stupid meaningless post, until my anger burns out and I cry once more.

If I had some wine (I cannot believe I don’t have any right now), I would toast my lovely, hilarious, snarky yet kind big brother.

I miss you, jackass. I can’t quite move forward (there will never be moving on). I’m mostly standing still, occasionally going backwards, but I’m trying to put one foot in front of the other. I’m trying. ❤

Today

We’re burying my father today.

How am I supposed to get through this?

This morning, I woke up late because I flat out refused to get out of bed. I just didn’t want to face the day. Once I had my instant Maxwell House (also my father’s favorite), talked to my husband and got the kid up, I was kind of ready to get this day going.

I went for a run, or a semblance of a run, to clear my head. Instead self-doubt flooded my brain and I barely got to my turnaround spot just 1.5 miles from home and wondered how the hell I was ever going to get back. I just kept thinking about my dad and how much I missed seeing him and his laugh and his love. I thought, “I can’t get through this fucking run, how the hell am I going to get through this god damned day!”

So I walked then jogged then walked again. I started to think about the person Dad was when I was a little girl, and how much I feared him when he drank. But once I was in high school and he stopped drinking, I finally got to know the real man that was my father, and what a good guy he was. How much he changed his way of thinking when my brother came out, how supportive he was of us, how proud he was of every one of his children and grandchildren. He fiercely loved us.

These thoughts helped me to pick up my run again and keep going. I certainly didn’t make it home in record time, but I made it home.

And now I somehow have to get through this day and watch as they put my father’s casket into the ground. I know he’s not really there. Just his body. But you can say that all you want but it still fucking hurts. He’s still gone. He won’t ever call me on my birthday again and sing to me. He’ll never make up funny little songs for the grand kids again or hug me or cry with me about my brother or give me advice about my mom. He will never be here ever again and that fucking sucks.

I miss him so friggin’ much.

But I also know we’ll get through this awful, awful day. Right, Dad? You’d be telling all of us that we can do this. “This really sucks,” you’d say. “But you’re strong and you can do it.”

So….ok. Somehow. Some way. We’ll get through it. I love you, Dad.

Love you, sweet Papa. ❤

A Cautionary Tale

My dad was a big proponent of “you can’t take it with you.” If you have any money, spend it or do good with it. Unfortunately, though, Dad never had much money to begin with. In fact, he didn’t have a large enough life insurance policy to pay for his funeral, much less his grave stone. My family and my stepsisters helped finish paying for the funeral. The bank will take his home soon, so my stepmom had a large yard sale to raise funds to pay for Dad’s grave stone. It was set up like an estate sale, where you could walk through the house and purchase items.

It was fucking awful.

My son and I went the second (and last) day of the sale, basically to say goodbye to my dad’s home, which had also been my grandparents home. When I walked into the living room, where he spent much of the last year of his life, sitting in his comfy chair watching Red Sox games and game shows and Western films, it was so void of life. There were items sitting on the carpet for sale, including his neck pillow he used to use.

Dad’s chair used to be in this corner, with family photos on the walls surrounding him.

When I entered this space, my son was behind me in the kitchen. I held a hand over my mouth and sobbed and gasped and tried not to make too much noise. I didn’t want him to know how upset this was making me. This is what was left of my father? His bedroom held his slippers and shoes for sale, as well as many of my stepmom’s things. Even in the bathroom, his last bottle of Old Spice had a 50 cent price tag on it.

I took Dad’s slippers and his Old Spice. I walked around the house holding them close to my chest. My son took his neck pillow and asked me to take photos of the house, even though it looked….empty, sad, depressing. Even the sale table of dvds sitting in the kitchen, dvds of old movies and tv shows I know my brother gave my dad. I took photos of it all.

I know this whole experience was bad for everyone involved, but I also know it was necessary. And I feel like it was the last lesson Dad needed to teach me, whether he realized it or not. I have always agreed with my father’s philosophy of spending your money while you have it, but I will not leave my family to sell their clothing and my perfume to purchase a grave stone for me. I will not have a funeral like Dad had, nor will I be buried in a cemetery. I hope whatever money I have left, my family cremates me or buries me in our backyard then has a party with lots of great food and music and friends and wine. Heck, I hope I have a home my son can sell or live in, but even if I don’t, he will not need to go into debt just to bury me.

Dad always wanted better for his children than for himself. I have hope that my child will have better experiences than myself, too. I hope that my son’s memories of his grandfather’s home will not be those empty, sad rooms I took photos of, but instead will be more about the people and the love and the living that took place there.


I miss you, Dad. So friggin’ much. And I know this is all just “stuff” and it doesn’t mean anything. But I really do like having your Old Spice in our bathroom. I get little whiffs of it every now and then and it makes me both happy and sad. And my boy loves your neck pillow. He says it smells just like your house always did.

We love you, Pop. Thinking of you every day. ❤

The Men are Gone

When people you love die, how does one fill in those holes that they left? Not only the physical space that they left–at the dinner table, on the couch, at family parties–but the empty spaces that are now in your brain, your heart, or even your senses. The smells you miss, the sounds, the sight of them. You’re reminded of them when you get a whiff of their cologne or the soap they used or the cookies they made. But is that why you can sometimes hear their voice? Or see them in the grocery store parking lot? All because your brain is trying to fill in those gaps?

When my brother died, I ate everything I could to fill in those holes his absence created. I needed to feel good for just a few seconds, and sometimes that cookie or whipped cream did just that. Dad has been gone for four weeks, and although I think I’m doing ok, I find myself drinking more. And when I’m not drinking, I’m eating. And when I eat I often think, “Dad would have liked this.” I’m justifying all the eating with the thought that I need to eat for him now that he’s gone. Is it ridiculous? Of course it is. Yet I haven’t been able to stop myself.

I went to the doctor just 10 days after Dad died. It was just my annual exam, but with a new medical provider. When she got to the question about stress, I started to sob. Here I am naked, in a paper gown, sitting on a damn table, and telling her about my life for the past 20 months starting with Dad’s death and going backwards, ending with Phil’s death. I told her I need grief counseling but I just can’t seem to do it. It’s like how I treat my brother’s ashes. Many of my family members have necklaces with his ashes in them, but I have a pill bottle that sits in my vitamin cupboard. I don’t want anything permanent because then he’s really gone. Forever.

At Dad’s funeral, I stayed near his casket until it was time for them to take him away. When they tucked part of the lining around Dad and closed the casket forever, my knees started to buckle and I had to sit down. There may have been the sound of keening coming from my mouth, but I don’t remember hearing anything. I know I had my niece on one side of me and my mother on the other and we were all crying, but that memory holds no sound.

My medical provider has lists of counselors “for when I’m ready” she said, but also offered an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication which I refused. I know I have to take some control of my life and stop filling in those empty spaces with food or alcohol, and I figure it’s not the right time to introduce any kind of drug I might enjoy too much. I’m not a complete mess, I promise. I’m ok much of the time, but I have to learn once again, to find my new normal.

Last night was the first night I’ve dreamt of my father. It was kind of a funny dream, where he had on a holey t-shirt and I had to encourage him to get a new one on, but he smiled and laughed and was wearing suspenders. Parts of it felt like a memory, but it wasn’t. It was just so good to see him and hear him again. I miss the Williams men so, so much. As long as I can hold onto memories and stories about both Phil and Dad, then I should be ok, right?

This was taken at my house a while ago. I like how neither one has a big smile but a tiny one.