16 Months

This is my favorite time of year. My tree is already up, the interior of my house is decorated with a mixture of fall leaves and turkeys and snowmen, and tomorrow I’ll put a few lights up outside. I listened to Christmas carols this evening and have already started watching holiday films. Typically, this is how I am from November 1st through January 1st. I love all of this stuff. But this year, I may be forcing it just a bit. I’m trying like hell to get into the spirit of the season.

This is Holiday Season number two without my brother. On Black Friday it will be 16 months since Phil died.  As I decorated my home last week, I didn’t cry as much as I did last year. This year I laughed as I put up the X-rated Christmas ornament he gave me years ago (two reindeer getting down and dirty) and just sighed as I put his picture on the front of the tree. But today as I shopped a bit for the holiday, I kept finding things I would buy my brother. I would pick something up then just shake my head and put it down again. But I held it together and all was ok.

Then I went to the grocery store. I was feeling good,  humming the new Panic! At the Disco song (High Hopes–a very fun, jump up and down song). I had my cart nearly full with food for Thanksgiving dinner, when I passed by the snack aisle. I wish I knew what I saw or heard or thought, but the realization that my brother was no longer on this planet immediately overwhelmed me. I lost my breath, hunched over my cart, and pulled to the side of the canned vegetable aisle.  I refused to sob in the middle of the store, so I left my cart for a moment and started to wander down the aisle, taking in deep breaths.

And then I saw it.


I am not a person who believes in signs or religion or the afterlife. BUT, if any of that shit is real, then I was confident my brother sent me a sign to go and drink whatever free wine I could. “Drink up, you lush,” I can imagine him saying. Especially when I saw the label:


That’s right, people. Freakshow wine! If you knew my brother, you knew how much he loved a good freak show. Weird? Yes. But that was Phil. He was so fucking weird and funny and loveable. And I still wish like hell he was here.

The wine was not fabulous, although the one with elephants on it was pretty good, but I didn’t buy any. It was enough to get a little buzz (especially since I had an empty stomach). I finished the rest of my shopping feeling a bit more relaxed and no tears were shed. I thought about Phil off and on for the rest of the day–as I visited with Mom at the home where she has photos of all of our family around her room, and when I went to the Feztival of Trees where I saw someone dressed as Super Grover. (He was one of Phil’s favorite Sesame Street characters.)


I’ve come to realize that everything I do for the rest of my life will always have this little twinge of sadness in it. And sometimes I’ll be able to handle it just fine. Like today. And other times I know the grief will be too much and I’ll need to shut down for a bit, even for just a minute. Also like today. Time does NOT heal all wounds, but maybe time will allow me to know when to put a bandage on that bleeding festering gash in my heart and keep going, and when to let the blood (and tears) run dry.

Let your freak flag fly high, my friends. Cheers to you. ❤


Great Expectations

Whether it’s a vacation you’ve been counting down for, a day off with your kiddo, a long-distance run, or even that piece of coffee cake you’ve been salivating over, we all have high expectations and hopes about many events in our lives.  And so many of them lead to great disappointments.  But the kicker is that if we hadn’t expected anything at all, we wouldn’t be disappointed, would we?  It was Ben Franklin who said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”   And most parents live and breathe “Expect the worst but hope for the best.”

And yet….I continue to have high hopes for nearly everything.  I took a day off recently to spend with my son.   We had a list of errands that we had to do, but had a bunch of fun things thrown in the day, too, like play at the Maine Discovery Museum and go out to lunch.   I had been looking forward to this day for several weeks.  Not only because I got a day off from work and had no plans to do any housework, but I just wanted a day with my kid with no time constraints. Yes, we still had to buy pants and go grocery shopping, but we could take our time at all the fun places.

I woke up that morning with a cold and was starting to feel pretty lousy, but I refused to let it get to me.  Fortunately, the first place we went to was the museum.  We had a great time. I was a little disconcerted that my son was pretending to rob the little café the kids play in (he actually took the play money from the register and ran away, cackling—then returned it a few minutes later), but otherwise the 2-hour long adventure was pretty great.   He then asked to go to McDonald’s. I had no desire to do that, but this was his day, too, so I agreed.  I hate McDonald’s for so many reasons, but selfishly, one of them is that I can only eat a salad or oatmeal from the place.   But Bri behaved well and had a good time playing with an older boy that was there, so I really couldn’t complain.  Yet while leaving, he asked for another cheeseburger.  After ordering and paying, we waited….and waited….and waited.  I was trying so hard not to fume, but I didn’t succeed.  I wasn’t that nice to the cashier and felt shitty about it.  I work with the public so I should fucking know better!  I still feel the need to apologize to the woman, and hope to track her down the next time we’re there.

Then we made the trip to the dreaded Wal-Mart to buy Briar a pair of pants.  That is all we wanted from that blasted place. One pair of pants.  And so we drove to the store and ended up  having to walk through 6-inch piles of slush and slop throughout the parking lot. Neither one of us wore our boots and our feet were soaked way before we made it to the door.  Briar whined and yelled and complained for what seemed to be an hour-long walk (it was more like 30 seconds) through the parking lot.  At first I made all those noises you’re supposed to as a parent–“I know, honey. I understand. My feet are getting wet, too. We just need to make it to the door and it will be fine.” Blah, blah, blah.  But my son just couldn’t stop ranting.  And then I lost it. I screamed at him, “JUST SHUT UP!”

Now….I hate that phrase. “Shut up.” It’s something I try not to say unless I’m laughing and playfully smacking you on the arm.  But to yell it? In anger and frustration? At my son? In the middle of a public place?

I could feel the shame and embarrassment wash over me.  I couldn’t even look up and just kept walking, pulling Briar along, and staring at the ground.  And very unlike me, I did not apologize right away.  Once we found him some pants and he tried them on, I apologized to him then. I was calm and knew it would be sincere.  “That’s ok, Mom,” he said, and reached for me and gave me a hug.

Sometimes I think I’m the luckiest mom in the world.

The rest of that afternoon went by in a blur. I do remember there was a lot more smiling and laughing, and no more yelling. We even ran a race with lots of breathless giggling.  Those are the parts I hope he remembers.  I doubt it, but I can hope.

As for everything else I have high hopes for, I do try to have realistic expectations, but the mind is such an odd thing, isn’t it?  We’re taking a vacation in a few weeks to see family and absorb some much needed warmth and sunshine.  I *hope* we have a fantastic time with perfect weather (like last time) and no complaints.  But is it realistic to think that when we’re staying with family (8 of us in one house) and have less than a week to pack in a year’s worth of visiting and good times? Absolutely not.  Instead, I hope to have a couple of warm, sunny days. I hope to relax, be calm, go for a couple of runs, take a few good photos, and hear my son laugh….a lot.

I don’t think that’s unreasonable, do you?  And as for that piece of coffee cake I was salivating over?  As it baked, it made my entire house smell divine.  Yet, it didn’t taste as good as I remember when I baked it the last time. It was actually a little disappointing.  So I ate one more piece to confirm my disappointment.  And that piece tasted better.  Instead of feeling let down, sometimes you can just keep trying until you get your expected result.

So maybe if the vacation doesn’t go well, I can go on another one?


Click on little Briar to see Bruce Springsteen’s High Hopes music video. It’s a great song!