I miss running. I haven’t done much of it lately due to stress (do I wake up at 4am to run so I can take my husband to his appointment then go to work?) or because my body and mind are incredibly sluggish from said stress and lack of sleep. Yet I become more tired the less I run and feel bad about myself so I eat a bit more and gain weight and feel bad and so on and so on and so on. Have you been on this ride before, too? Yeah. Not my favorite.
But this past week I was determined not to feel bad about myself. I was already missing my brother and I didn’t need to feel worse by treating myself like shit. So I did run on Tuesday then snuck a few walks in the next few days. My son and I went on a fantastic hike on Friday that began with his non-stop complaining and ended with his non-stop praise of the scenery. 🙂 We never saw another soul and loved the isolation. This was followed by amazing gelato at the Pugnuts Ice Cream Shop in Surry with my sister and brother-in-law.
The next day I went on a hike by myself and saw funky mushrooms and another little stream, all while listening to the birds and stopping every once in a while to just look up at the canopy of trees with the sky peeking through. It was cathartic and peaceful and I enjoyed nearly every minute of it, until I met someone at the end who had two dogs, one that barked and growled at me. But even that creature couldn’t ruin my tranquility.
When I woke up this morning to grey skies, I knew if I wanted to run I needed to do it soon. I drank coffee, folded clothes, watched a bit of CBS Sunday Morning (my absolute favorite news show for the positive stories that are portrayed), then decided I could do a little run. I ate a banana, put on my “hanging out at home” clothes instead of my usual running tank and wicking shorts, and went out with the attitude that I was going to have a good time.
Just two minutes in and “Little Bird” by Annie Lennox started to play in my ears. I smiled broadly and looked to the sky. “Thanks, Phil!” I shouted. My brother’s love of Annie Lennox was infectious and this song in particular was always one of our favorites. “I look up to the little bird that glides across the sky. He sings the clearest melody. It makes me want to cry….I wish I could be that bird and fly away from here. I wish I had the wings to fly away from here.”
I can’t fly but I pushed my shoulders back, picked up my head and ran a bit stronger and faster. Even when the rain did start coming down just past mile one, I kept chugging along, looking to the skies.
At mile three I had started to lag a bit, but yelled and waved hello at a few of my neighbors that never acknowledge my existence. (They did today!) A half mile later with the rain coming down in a nice, gentle pitter patter, “Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande hummed through my earbuds and right down to my toes. That’s when I saw a lone bird flying through the sky, possibly trying to catch up to its buddies, or just out for a solo jaunt like me.
For once, little bird, I don’t want to fly away from here. Not sure how long I can hold onto that feeling, but I’ll take it today. ❤
Tomorrow it will be 1,461 days since you had to leave, Phil. I know you didn’t want to. That’s why you told the doctors all that week to keep you alive, because maybe they could make you well enough to have a procedure that might give you a few more years. But there were too many “maybes” and “mights” and “perhaps”, weren’t there? Watching you make the decision to die is still the bravest things I’ve ever seen anyone do. If you were here you’d roll your eyes at me for that and scoff, “Brave? Ha! I don’t think so.” You were often humble but with attitude.
Phil…I’m sorry. I don’t think I said everything you should have heard. You knew how much I loved and love you, right? You knew how cool and funny and wonderful I thought you were, because that was never a secret. Did you know how happy you made me every time you walked into my house or the library? I hope so. I really, really hope so. But I don’t think you had any idea how much of a big empty crater you would leave in my life and every one of our family member’s lives.
I still don’t know who I am without you. I’m not the same person I was 4 years ago, but I don’t even remember who she was. I just….I still feel so lost some days, Phil. You know, the other day, Wally was reminiscing about something and it reminded me of Dad’s house and how he had his bedroom downstairs set up. But I couldn’t quite remember it all, and I’m going to ask our sister but I don’t think she was around much then. You and Dad are the only ones who might remember. I got so fucking sad and started bawling on the spot. So many questions will go unanswered because you’re not here to answer them. NO ONE is left to answer them. What the hell am I supposed to do with that?!?
I wish you were here. Jesus fucking christ all to hell I wish you were here. I still miss you every. single. day. I still wonder what you would think about a variety of books and songs and movies and television shows and food and drinks. I’ve been making a variety of these literary cocktails lately and my friend, Tiffany said she thought you’d like the whole idea of them. I think she’s right. “The Joy of Sex on the Beach”* would probably be a fave of yours just for the picture in the book. I mean, look at that! I can just hear your comments about the tongue, the phallic “cocktail” glass…yup. You’d love this one. 😉
Tomorrow night, your sisters will toast you with a drink or two. Your nephew and I will go for a hike in a new place, will experience a new adventure in honor of you, like we have done each year since you’ve been gone. More than likely we will all have a good time at some point during the day, but we would trade those moments in a blink of an eye to be with you again and listen to you tell a naughty joke or hear you laugh once more.
I love you, big brother. So. Damn. Much. And if you didn’t get the subtle message before, I’ll spell it out for you. I. MISS. YOU. EVERY. DAMN. DAY.
Today should have been Dad’s 80th birthday. I say “should have”, although he would probably disagree. He was shocked to make it past 70 and he was 2 months shy of his 78th birthday when he died. I also should have run my first marathon today, in honor of Dad. But neither of those things happened.
Yesterday, just like with Mom on Mother’s Day, I visited Dad’s grave. Since it was a Saturday close to Memorial Day, there were a bunch of people in the cemetery, which I hated. Dad would have waved to most folks that were nearby and say “How are ya?” (although it would sound like “Whyya”), but I just kept my head down and set up our picnic.
Dad used to make whirligigs, some were funny, some obscene, and some were just cute. I didn’t plan well enough but for the moment I placed a few small pinwheels, just to have something moving in the breeze. I brought my dad Cheez-Its, which were one of his favorite snacks. There’s an inside joke between my husband and my dad and they used to exchange a box of these crackers nearly every Christmas. It all stemmed from the time my then fiancé drove my dad to Pennsylvania for my graduate school graduation, and my father ate a whole box of Cheez-Its…and proceeded to have horrible gas…and they were trapped inside this little Ford Escort with hours left to drive. It was something they both used to laugh about and bonded over as only men can.
Once I set out snacks and my water bottle, I just sat in front of Dad’s stone and plucked the grass around it and ran my hands over the smooth stone. I could hear people around me, including a man about 20 feet from me laughing into his phone. I tried to block him and the others out, when I started to cry. I was angry and overcome with that loss again–that emptiness I feel when I realize I can never have another conversation with my father. But also the absurdity of the situation. I was bringing my father treats he would never eat again. His body was far beneath the ground I was sitting on and I know this because my sister and I helped put his body in that fucking hole. And all around me people are planting bushes and flowers to sit around these stones with our loved ones names carved into them. But…why?
I wiped my eyes and started to talk to Dad. I told him I loved and missed him. Told him we were all surviving, how tall my son is, how work is going. The usual things we discussed when he was alive. But Dad also liked to have deeper conversations. For a man that never liked to read, he did like to deconstruct thoughts or ideas. And I know some of what he’d say about his grave and stone. He never wanted to be cremated because he said, “I’ll be close enough to hell as it is.” He was traditional in some ways, hence the funeral home visiting hours, the church funeral, the burial. All the stuff that I hate, but the stuff that he and his wife knew and understood. But as I sat there, I also got it, I understood. In a way, I do like being able to “visit” my father. I like being able to still give him things, even if that’s just a plant or a plaque or mints (my father always had mints of some kind and I leave at least one wintergreen lifesaver every time). I do talk to him occasionally when I’m home or somewhere else, so I don’t save that for the cemetery. Honestly I usually get upset when I go to Dad’s grave in particular because I can’t feel him. I’ve visited his grave on days that I just really wanted to talk with him, and I’ve always left even more bereft then when I arrived because he’s not there. I always think that I’ll feel something, like his spirit is somehow there, but it isn’t. It really isn’t. But…I also don’t even believe in spirits anyway! See how confused I am?
I just want to believe in something because it’s too devastating to think my parents and brother are just…gone.
No longer exist.
So…I continued to talk to Dad. Why the hell not? The cemetery cleared out, the breeze died down and the black flies started to swarm. “Dad, I’m going to go, ok? As you would say, the black flies are about to pick me up and slam me to the ground!” I kissed his grave stone and told him I’d be back next month.
When I drove home, I saw the sign for the Robyville Bridge–a historic covered bridge in Corinth. I had been there before but I felt the need to go there again. I just took a few photos, avoided the couple that was there as much as possible, walked then ran across the bridge. That need I felt to go to the bridge was like a need to feel alive, to experience something new. Even something as simple as looking at, admiring and running across a covered bridge fulfilled that need.
As I woke up this morning, the day I should have been running for hours and hours and had trained for for many months, I figured I might as well try to start training again. So far my leg is better (although I am now aware that could change at any time). My heart isn’t in it as much as before, but hopefully that will change. The run I took was just 4 miles this morning, but it was already 73 degrees and humid at 9am. It wasn’t a pleasant run for the first half. At the 2.75 mile mark, I had to walk (or shuffle) and drink more water. The sun was frying my brain and destroying my will to go on, until I heard the lovely tune of two geese squawking and flying in the sky just behind me. I have this thing for geese, and often wonder if it’s my family hanging out near my house. And today, after the geese flew over, the clouds rolled in and cooled things down just a tad and I immediately felt better. I laughed out loud and decided that my parents were giving me some support and urging me to keep going. So I did.
This afternoon, I took my son to an international food festival at the high school near where I work, and we ate SO MUCH. One or both of us tried a food from every single country they had (except for Japan because they weren’t ready). We couldn’t pronounce some of the foods, a few were things we had eaten before, and others seemed strange but were typically delicious. It was a fun experience and one that I know the rest of my family would have enjoyed. If food was involved, my father would have been happy. He might have been a meat and potatoes man, but he was willing to try just about anything. It was a great way for us to honor Dad today.
Then on the way home from the festival, I saw a turtle in the road. Over the years, my mother picked up many, many turtles and sometimes brought them home. I distinctly remember finding a turtle in our bathtub on at least two occasions. I always stop for turtles and try to shoo them to the other side of the road. Typically my son hates it, but today he helped me and we just walked behind the turtle, moving it along so cars wouldn’t kill it. Seeing the turtle felt like a little “hello” from Mom…if I believed in that sort of thing.
And now as I sit here, thinking about the days ahead, I am a bit relieved that there are a few weeks until Father’s Day and my brother’s birthday–they happen to fall on the same day this year. A double whammy. Maybe I’ll have a few more gains and pluses and good moments before then. Maybe I’ll have more bad days than good. No matter what though, I will keep remembering, keep running if physically possible, and keep my eyes to the sky. Because you just never know, right? You just never know.
St. Patrick’s Day–I watched my father die that day.
May 23–Dad’s birthday
June 20–My brother’s birthday
July 23–I said goodbye to my brother that day.
September 20–Mom’s birthday
October 4–I held my mother’s hand for the last time.
Someday, I hope I won’t dread some of these days. I hope that I won’t feel sick the entire week before or have the powerful urge to somehow escape my surroundings and my feelings and my brain on the day of. With Mother’s Day here, I am horribly conflicted. I have felt all those things this entire week and I had planned to do exactly what I did today–visit my mother’s grave so “we” could talk and eat and drink coffee. Just like we did every Saturday for the last two years of her life. And this morning after a meeting for work, I found myself antsy. I vacuumed and made blueberry muffins to take to Mom and just…puttered around the house, like Mom would say. I felt the overwhelming need to leave and go to her, but I kept pushing it off because it wouldn’t be the visit I wanted.
I finally did go. I packed up a bag with goodies and a blanket to sit on and I drove the back way to the cemetery in the town I grew up in. I passed houses that friends used to live in, including my own childhood home that is now abandoned. I saw new houses and roads that never existed before and wondered what my parents would have to say about them. Just like anytime I drive through my hometown, the memories came back–many good, many awful–and I grew angry at myself for driving this route. But once I got to the cemetery, my tension started to ease. I poured Mom a cup of coffee, gave her a muffin, and settled myself on a blanket in front of her. I talked about the pandemic, masks, our family, my friends. I asked her if she’s with Phil or my stepfather or my dad or Grammy. I prefaced that question with “So…if there IS an afterlife…” (What can I tell ya? I’m an agnostic which means I have no idea what the heck anything is or will be.) As I asked about our family, I started to cry and told her I missed her. Then I couldn’t stop crying. I rocked myself and said, “See Mom? THIS is why I try not to cry!” And as I’m writing this, I can hear Mom say, “Oh, I know, I know!” and almost feel her hug and hear her sniffle and wipe her nose.
But because it IS Mother’s Day, I want to celebrate my own motherhood. Sort of. I honestly just want to hide in a room for a day and drink cocktails and watch sad movies. But my son told me just this morning that he wants to make me dinner. My 14-year-old gentle giant of a boy, whom my mother adored more than any other person on the planet, has decided that he does indeed want to do something kind for his mother on Mother’s Day. (Last month he told me just to buy what I wanted for a gift and he’d pay for it—which is really me paying for it since he gets an allowance from me.)
A friend told me yesterday to try and do something for myself this weekend, like go for a run or have a drink or just do something to make me feel good. And I will. I hope to run on Sunday morning, eat brunch with my family, have a drink with a friend via Zoom, and eat dinner made by my child. All the while I will be thinking of Mom and her laugh and her raisin-filled cookies and her eerily strong grip. Seriously. This woman could break your bones with her hands if she wanted to.
Since my doctor gave me the go ahead to gently start walking and running again after my likely stress fracture, I’ve only been out a handful of times. Two weeks ago I ran and although it was tough and slow and my lungs hurt, it still felt glorious to have the freedom to run again. Then I took a few days off, rode my bike and lifted weights…and my leg started to hurt. No swelling, but a similar type of pain. So, once again, I took a few weeks off.
After a week of occasional walks, I just had to try again this morning. Sunday mornings have been my typical long run days since I started running a decade ago. I’ve done all of my half marathons on Sundays, and had hoped to run my marathon on a Sunday. I tend to feel antsy on Sunday mornings if I’m not getting ready to head out for a run. My body starts to zing a little, like I have this bit of nervous energy and I often get butterflies in my stomach.
But Sundays are also extremely complicated for me. My brother and father both died on Sundays, so emotionally I am not at my best. The Sunday my brother died, I woke up early that morning, knowing that it would be the last day I saw him and the last day he would be on this planet. The day my dad died, I was woken at 2am by a phone call from my stepsister to say that Dad was in the hospital and I might want to get there. That Sunday was filled with the phone call to my sister telling her she should come to the hospital, talking with doctors and nurses, and watching my stepmother having to make that decision no one wants to. So…yeah. Sundays still fill me with a bit of dread.
But this morning, after reading a book and eating a light breakfast, I geared up for a walk. Not a run. I just needed that fresh air and what little sunshine there was peeking through the clouds. But after a half mile, I needed to pick it up. Just a little. So I jogged for a bit, then walked. I did this for about a mile and a half, then realized our friend, Bam Bam was following me.
After chatting with him for a minute, I headed back home. I ran the mile and a half back with my hamstrings aching, my hips feeling tight, and feeling extraordinarily heavy. You know, I’ve been riding my stationary bike and lifting weights and walking when I can, but there’s nothing like a run to make you feel weaker and more out of shape than you ever thought possible!
But I finished the 5K, walked a bit, stretched, and felt…alive. And tired. Crikey, I was tired! But that good tired when you know you’ve exhausted your body to a point that muscles ache and your brain goes quiet.
I wish that running was not so intrinsically tied to my mental health. I wish there was something inside of me that could make me feel good about myself like running does. It’s something I hope to work on in the near future. But for now, I’m just happy I got to run. ❤
Five months after my brother died and just weeks after I moved my mother in with my family, I decided to talk to a counselor–the first time in over 12 years. But just trying to work out the logistics to get to that appointment stressed me out so much that I remember screaming in my car on the way there. I kept saying “I am never going to fucking do this again!” I only went to the counselor twice because she was absolutely horrible when it came to grief. At one point I was crying in her office, telling her how much I missed Phil, and what does she say? “He’s still with you, Holly.”
Really?!? Can I sit and talk to him and he talks back? Is he going to tell me a joke and give me advice on raising my son? Will he still be at my son’s high school graduation that he tried so fucking hard to live for? No, you goddamned bitch, HE’S. NOT. HERE.
Of course, me being the person I was (not sure I’m still that person), I just nodded and whispered, “I know.” Inside, though, I immediately deflated. (The anger came later.) I knew she would not be able to help me. On a side note, she was extremely helpful in helping with some issues with my mom and her jackass boyfriend. So the counselor was not useless at least.
Since those counseling sessions, I’ve only pondered finding someone else to talk to. After Dad’s death and especially after Mom’s, I thought, “Ok. You might want to talk with someone, Holly. This is a lot of shit to deal with.” I was so exhausted by fucking everything that I passed out momentarily in my kitchen after my mother’s celebration of life, with my poor son freaking out and calling his father who was out of state at the time. But I still didn’t ask for help. I barely even took time off of work. Then my husband nearly died, and once he came home I encouraged HIM to go to counseling. (When you’re in a coma for a while, there are many gaps in memory and events and it’s difficult for your brain to fill that time in.) Instead, I became HIS counselor and tried to help him sort out what happened to him and what was happening in my world at that time. But I didn’t go and talk to anyone then either. I started drinking most nights–just one drink–but I felt like I *needed* it, along with my anti-depressant. Hell, I often swallowed my pill with a swig of wine! (And no, this is not advisable.) Then, of course, the pandemic hit and didn’t everyone need a therapist at that point? I looked into Betterhelp.org, but they wanted to match me with a male counselor who, in my mind looked like either a serial killer or a child molester.
But we all know how that last thing turned out, right? Yeah. So then I started to worry about what I was eating and without running would I start binging or restricting food? I mentioned in my last post that I reached out to a dietician, but after thinking about it, I knew I needed more help than that. So I did a little search on counselors in the area that specialized in eating disorders. Then lo and behold, one of my dear friends from my past was a counselor for this very thing. When I saw her name, I immediately called and left a message. I knew she couldn’t be my counselor, but I trust her and knew she’d have someone in mind.
Then St. Patrick’s Day came–the anniversary of Dad’s death. And then I read a book that reminded me of my brother and I sobbed while eating lunch at work. Then I found one of my mother’s tote bags and it still smelled like her. And then…and then…and then…
You, readers, have been my sounding board for years now and although it certainly helps me to hear advice and anecdotes and to feel the love you’ve shared and showed me, I know I need to do something else, too. So when I talked to my friend, I asked her to help me find someone that could help me with MANY problems/issues/dilemmas, or in other words, life. I’ve only corresponded with this new counselor once, just so she has an idea of what I want to work on, but I won’t get to actually talk or meet with her until May. But, you know, once I had a name and heard her voice and read her email, it gave me this little high. Kind of like when you’re about to go on a first date and you have butterflies and possibly high expectations (I am trying to squash those) but more than anything, you’re filled with hope. This person you’re about to meet could possibly change your life for the better. And in this case, maybe help ME change MY life for the better.
We’ll see. Until then, I will carry on. Because that’s what I do. Because that’s what we all do, right? I can’t say I “keep calm and carry on” because my bursts of anger refute that phrase, but maybe you do? Whether you’re calm and serene, or pissy like me, let’s just keep going, ok?
How are you doing? Ok? Hanging in there? Are you friggin’ sick of people asking you? Yeah, me too, and yet I’m still glad they ask. I think I’m sick of saying “hanging in there” or “ok.” Although generally, I reply with “ok” and have since 2017. If I have a good moment, I let you know but so often people are not asking me during my good moments.
Speaking of good moments, did you have many this week? I hope so. I had a few, but most of my week was filled with bad news, rage and vitriol from others–not just others but other librarians. Wanna hear about it?
My version of the “incident” is that I voiced my opinion on a library listserv about some of the protocols libraries have been following and backed it up with science. But it was still my opinion and said as much. The shit that came at me and another librarian who backed me up was absolutely ridiculous. I was completely discounted by someone because I think they thought I was politically conservative–which is far from the truth but it did make my conservative husband howl with laughter. But another librarian accused myself and my colleague of not caring about our patrons–I am sure if we were in person she would have jabbed her index finger into my chest. If I hadn’t been in a rage before then, I was full fledged into it then. My patrons are why I’m a librarian. I long for the day I can hug many of them. I send cards to them when they’re hurting, I cry and attend funerals when they die, I help them as much as I can while they’re in my library–and even when they’re not. I love them. To say that I don’t care about them was a lie. Period. I responded to the nastiness with civility (mostly) and that was that. I felt betrayed and disillusioned. It’s like when you realize that your parents are not super human, just human. The library community is not entirely filled with kind people. Or if they are typically kind, they’re lashing out because they’re afraid…yet they didn’t have to hit send on that email. They chose to be an asshole.
But at the end of the day–by the way this was Monday (!)–I helped 2 local folks get appointments for their COVID-19 vaccinations. We had been trying to help them for 3 weeks to no avail, but on Monday the system finally worked. This couple was so happy and wanted to send the library a check. I told them no, but if they could come visit after their 2nd vaccination, then that would be the thanks we needed.
Each day for the rest of the week, something shitty happened. Difficult phone calls, tense meetings, sick friends or parents of friends. Most events were not extraordinary, but I cried or lost my cool nearly every time. I feel like I’m only “hanging in there” by an invisible thread and wonder if it’s really hanging ME.
Throughout this week, I have wished for nothing more than to talk with my brother. I do have a sister and great friends and a husband, but Phil was the one I wanted to talk with. He would understand my rage and would agree with me but then make light of it all to make me laugh and to show me that it doesn’t really matter. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter that the eye doctor said you weren’t covered by insurance when you were (yeah, I blew up a bit at that office, too) or that your house is an absolute mess, or that some librarians really are dicks. You just keep going and you don’t worry about that stuff or those people. Just try to laugh at what you can and forget the rest. He would also say something nasty or snarky about the librarians because sometimes it feels good to do that. 🙂
I’m drinking tea at my kitchen counter as I type this, which is where my brother should be. We sat right here for the last meal we ate together. He often sat here drinking tea while I baked and we talked with my boy and would just shoot the shit. I miss those days.
I tried to live today like I want my year to be. I wanted to run, read, do a little cleaning, watch a movie, spend time with my son and husband, and eat sushi–all activities I’d like to do for the rest of the year. I actually got to do all of those things, but nothing quite turned out the way I wanted or expected.
My 5k run wasn’t horrible as far as speed or conditions, but I felt absolutely uncomfortable in my body. If you watched me run, you probably thought I had major tics or was having a seizure. I kept moving my shoulders, trying to relax, tucking and untucking my shirt, adjusting my hat, and just flailing about. Nothing felt quite right. I could only focus for a few seconds here and there, but mostly it was just crappy. BUT, the sunshine was wonderful, little wind, and the 27 degrees felt much better than it sounds.
I didn’t read what I should have, but I read the last in a graphic novel series (Fence) that my son and I have been reading and it’s highly enjoyable. I feel no guilt whatsoever for not reading anything for work or my committee.
My son and I took down the outside Christmas lights and decorations. I wish I had a photo of my son taking down Darth Vader and hugging him close. It was damn adorable. My husband made us a lovely ham dinner for lunch and I got a smidge of vacuuming done, but no other cleaning took place. I ended up doing a bit of yoga instead and I think my time was well spent.
For a while everyone did their own thing, so I watched “Blackbird” starring Susan Sarandon. Have you seen it? It’s about a woman who wants to end her life because her ALS is starting to restrict what she can do. She invites her family over for the weekend so they can spend time together and say goodbye. Not really uplifting per se, but I feel very strongly about dying with dignity and wish every state in this country would allow people to die how they choose. Most people don’t even get the chance to die where they want much less dying how they want to.
I didn’t intend to watch this film today, but I borrowed it from the library a few weeks ago and it’s been sitting in front of our television since then. I couldn’t remember what it was about until I put it in and figured, “What the hell.” I’ll be honest, though, I haven’t finished it yet. I just watched a scene where the woman with ALS gives everyone a gift at the table, including her wedding ring which she gives to her husband. I was crying before we got to that part and completely lost it at that moment. I figured it was a good time to stop.
We picked up sushi from our favorite restaurant and brought it home for dinner. We decided we’d have a nice living room picnic and watch “Titans” on HBO Max. Of course, the one thing I really wanted was mistakenly left out of our order–miso soup! It always makes me feel better for anything that ails me. I whined for a few minutes then ate my absolutely fantastic raw fish and rice with my family. At one point my son and I argued and there was slamming of a door and sighing and generally feeling pissed off, and then the moment passed and we finished eating and we were ok. The three of us sat around after watching an episode and just chatted and laughed and enjoyed the moment.
My lovely son being the person he is, stopped and said, “You know this is great. Just hanging out, talking and laughing. This is really great.”
It is. It is really great. THAT is what I want this year and next year and every year I’m on this planet to be. I want it comprised of good conversation, lots of laughing and loving, good food, exercise, reading, time outside–preferably while feeling good inside this body but I’ll work on that. There will always be disappointments and disagreements and grief and stress and more crying than you would think is possible. But I also know there will also be at least a few surprises and encouraging words and acts of kindness and moments of happiness and laughing and many memories. There are so many good memories with those we’ve lost as well as with those that are still here. But there are more good memories to be made.
So let’s go make those good memories, ok? Even a great conversation over the phone or on Zoom can create a great memory. Let’s connect while we can and while we’re still here.
I’ve always loved this time of year: the lights, the music, the food, the gifts and the cheer. But there have been tough holidays, too–the first Christmas without my brother was incredibly horrible. My grief was so overwhelming that I had to smoke a joint before I could leave my room. Last Christmas, the first without either of my parents, I cried every day of December and silently sobbed numerous times on Christmas Day. And I know, for many of you, this Christmas will be lonely or filled with grief. Many of my friends lost a parent this year, a friend lost her adult son, and I lost two friends just in the past month. Or maybe you can’t be with your loved ones because of COVID-19 and you’ll miss the gingerbread cookies or that spiked eggnog your stepfather makes or you’ll just miss the comradery, the hugging, the love.
So…what do you do? How can you get through this holiday with some kind of good cheer?
There’s always Zoom or FaceTime or phone calls. It’s not the same but it can ease the loneliness a bit. Or how about driving a few hours just to drop off a little gift and give a few friends a great big smile at how silly you look?
Since I know this year has been tough on so many, I wanted to do a little something for a few of my friends. These women are colleagues who have become friends and they’ve done a bit of extra hand-holding with me this past year and although I hope I had reciprocated their kindness, I needed to do more. Hence my adorable outfit. 😉
Since I was little, I loved unicorns. Remember those Lisa Frank stickers and notebooks with the pastel colored unicorns and rainbows and all that jazz? I loved that shit. Still do. And now that I’m closing in on 50 years old, I can embrace my weirdness. I can fly my freak flag high—and wear a purple unicorn onesie wherever and whenever I want. So I traveled over two hours to briefly visit with a few of my friends with a goodie bag of treats in the hopes of making their day. And mine. This was seriously the best gift I may have ever given myself. I absolutely LOVED seeing their surprised faces. It brought me so much joy! It made me a bit envious of Santa–except the landing on roofs or going down chimneys–that part doesn’t look like fun.
I’ve done a few other gift drop offs since my Santa Unicorn day–sans the unicorn outfit–and hope to do a few more. A visit, even if it’s a masked 6 feet away visit, is the best gift anyone can give or receive right now. And if you can’t do that, just send a note. Seriously. Please let people know you’re thinking of them and care for them.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived–that is to have succeeded.” My friend, Tracy, died of cancer last month. She was 47. One of the very last things she ever wrote me was that I was one of the sweetest people she’s ever known. Her words made ME breathe easier. I didn’t know what to do for her and said as much, but then she gave me the ultimate kindness of telling me I’ve done ok. That I’m a decent person.
I don’t know if I made my friends breathe any easier when I showed up at their homes and work places in a unicorn costume, but I made them smile and laugh and tear up a smidge. For now, that will do.
Let’s strive to have more lives breathe easier.
May you all experience joy and good cheer during this holiday season. Hugging you all from afar.
It was cloudy here this morning, much like this day last year. As my husband and I started to watch CBS Sunday Morning, I kept looking outside just after 9am. I kept looking for that sunbeam. I kept looking for her.
You see, I missed the moment Mom died. I left her bedside 5 minutes before she died. My sister was with her, as was the hospice nurse and doctor. The hospice care had just arrived as I was about to leave for my own doctor’s appointment. I remember telling Mom that I’d be right back. Before I even got across town to the doctor’s office, my sister called me.
I had a lot of anger towards Mom for that. For dying when I wasn’t there. And then the hospice doctor told me that just after Mom died, the sun broke through the clouds and shown through the window for just a minute, as if Mom was saying that she was ok. It gave me comfort for a bit, but then that pissed me off, too. I kept thinking, “Really, Mom?!? You sent a message to Bonnie and the doctor, but not to me?!?” Yup. I was that angry and irrational.
But as this year has passed, my anger has turned inward. I was so mad at myself for leaving that day. I really did believe I had the rest of the day to be with her and I felt like I needed to get this appointment out of the way. It was with the surgeon for my broken arm 3 months before, and it still hadn’t healed the way I thought it should, so I wanted to get some clarification. But it could have waited. Nothing was more important at that moment then my mother.
And yet I left.
Like most human beings, I am extremely selfish. And I don’t always make the best choices. On October 4th, 2019, I made a bad choice and I’ll never, ever forget it.
I know if Mom was here, she’d say that it was ok. I was her baby and my health should have come first. But it really didn’t. She was on her deathbed for fuck’s sake! I was absolutely foolish to think I would have the rest of the day with her, and even if I did, why was that enough time when I knew I would never get her back? That I would be motherless for the rest of my life?
So…this morning…no sunbeam. My sister said she saw lots of birds, which makes both of us think of our parents, and she was going to bake today in honor and memory of Mom. I planned to (and did) the same. But I still kept looking for some damn sign.
I have never thought of myself as spiritual. I’m agnostic, which means I don’t know what’s “true” as far as religion goes and have faith in just about nothing. But since 3/4 of my family has died, I am constantly looking for signs that they’re out there. I can’t help it. Part of me thinks it’s ridiculous, but the other part misses my brother and parents so much sometimes that I can’t function so I need to think that they are somehow ok.
This morning, after watching the cloudy skies for a while, I took a quick walk with my son then gathered my running gear to go for a 5-miler. The music I listened to was just background noise as I kept my eyes on the road or sky, thinking about Mom. I tried not to remember last year, but instead thought of myself as a teen, watching Mom cook in our kitchen while I told her about my day. I thought of her knee-slapping laugh when my brother said something extraordinarily naughty and funny. I thought of her face lighting up when my boy entered the room.
I glanced up at the sky at the 2-mile mark, and saw one crow flying alone. No other birds, no other crows, just one bird flying west. I ran along and watched it for as long as I could.
“Hi Mom,” I whispered.
Eventually, the crow flew away and I kept running.
Once I got back home, I’ve basically been baking non-stop. Almond lemon cookies, banana bread, and for the first time, rum cake. Mom made rum cake for every single Christmas and it was always one of my favorite things she baked. I didn’t use her recipe for my first try, and although my family says it’s great, it’s definitely not as good as Mom’s. It’s not as boozy as hers was! I’ll try it again near the holidays.
I had hoped between the running and the baking, I’d feel a bit better, but I don’t. I still can’t believe it’s been a year. Most days it feels like a decade, and other times I relive Mom’s last few days so much that it seems like yesterday.
I want to ask a favor of you. If you knew my mom, I’d love for you to toast her tonight with a cookie or a piece of cake or a drink of any kind. Remember something good about her–about her cooking in the school kitchen, about her laughing at a joke, about her loving her kids and grandkids. And if you never knew my mom, then think about your own–whether living or gone, and toast her. Give praise to her if you can. Let’s send some love out to the universe tonight. ❤