Back in a Flash

I hate you, Facebook Memories.

I began my morning and thought I’d check in on Facebook before I started work. What comes up? The year 2016 in photos–the last full year I had my brother. He was there in my memories, pics of our Halloween tour of the local winery. Other photos of me where I looked so fucking happy…some I know weren’t real smiles, but others showed genuine happiness. I look at that Holly and want to scream at her. “Tell Phil every single thing you’ve ever wanted to! Go and see him each day. Take time off and take your boy along and just be with Phil. Do nothing and everything with him.”

I miss him. I miss my brother so damn much.

Typically, I love this time of year but everything is still tinged with sadness. And mornings like these? It’s hard to function. It’s difficult to not just say, “Fuck it. I’m not going to work today.” I know I could legitimately do that, but my mother’s voice is telling me to just go to work and you’ll feel better. My own inner voice is also saying, “Don’t let your staff and patrons down. Just go and you’ll be ok.”

So I went.

I went about my day, doing whatever needed to be done–working on reports, paying bills, answering emails. I still felt like I was in a fog, but it was manageable. Then I went to make a cup of tea, something I rarely do. But I was freezing and needed something warm and there sat a box of Earl Grey tea on top of the fridge at work. It’s been there for months, but today I really saw it…and thought of Phil. This was one of his favorite teas. I picked up the box, started to cry and whispered, “You’re everywhere today, aren’t you?”

If only he was. If only I could talk to my big brother, ask him questions I know he’d have answers for, or at least have a joke for them. I wish he could see his nephew and realize that he’d be able to see him eye to eye now. I’d love to hear them laugh together and share some dirty joke or discuss Star Wars films. I just…I just wish he was here.

You know, I’ve been desperate over the past few months to get down to a particular weight. I’ve obsessively counted calories, added a few extra miles to my long runs, and lifted weights. But absolutely nothing happened. I actually gained another 5 pounds instead. (Of course, I now realize I wasn’t counting some calories accurately, but that’s another story.) As I was telling my therapist about my weight dilemma, she asked why that weight. Why this arbitrary number? I told her that I know I feel good at that weight–it’s a little more than when I was running A LOT and when people thought I was sick because they thought I looked too thin. But it’s a weight where I felt good in my body…and the weight I was at when Phil died.

After I said those words to my therapist, my body became very still. I looked at her and let out a sob. I covered my mouth and shook my head. It was such an epiphany, an a-ha moment, and a gut-wrenching grief-inducing realization.

I think I’ve been trying to find my way back to a time when my brother was here and my parents were here, and although life was still difficult and complicated, it just wasn’t quite so lonely or sad.

But I know I can’t do that. Rationally, I know that no matter how much weight I lose, my family will not come back. Of course I know that. Will that stop me from trying to lose weight? Nope. Do I still want to find a way to be happy in this body of mine? Yes. Will losing the weight do that? Probably not. But my pants will fit better.

And hopefully my therapist can help me with the rest of it.

Friends, if you’re out there and you’re missing someone so much that you just want to turn back time and have one more conversation or hug or “I love you,” please know that I hear you. I understand and I wish for that, too. I might not be the one you want to talk with, but I’m here and I’ll listen.

Take care, friends.

Oh Happy Day

I rarely have happy days. I’ve said before that I’m not a particularly happy person. I have happy moments for sure, but never a happy day. Either my self-doubt will get in the way or something makes me so angry that it ruins half the day for me. And yet, in the middle of this pandemic, when the uncertainties far outweigh what we know as truths, I had one of the best days in years.

I started my day with my version of a long run–4.5 miles. The furthest run I’ve done in a long, long time. I was slow but I felt like a machine. I even conquered this hill.

Doesn’t look like much, does it? But as you run down this nice slope, it levels off for a few feet then gradually goes up and up and up for close to a half mile. I was trudging at the top, but I didn’t stop and I felt like a superstar. And then I saw these lovely flowers that I had to admire.

For part of the rest of the day I raked part of my land where I hope to make a little space for myself and possibly a memory garden that I’m calling “Mom’s Place” or perhaps “Wine Away” where I can sip wine and whine about the world to the surrounding trees. (Although currently there are a lot of tree roots which combined with wine would not be a good scene.) I talked to my neighbor/cousin for a while, too, as we swatted black flies away.

Later I baked a cake, drank homemade iced tea on my porch while reading a book, hung out with my family in little bits outside and inside, vacuumed, did laundry and dishes and greeted grumpiness from both my son and husband with good cheer, which brought them into my good mood. It was all absolutely amazing!

I don’t know if it’s because it’s Sunday and I tried not to think about work or because it was sunny and nearly 70 degrees. I also thought about my family today. My son made a funny remark that made me scold him and laugh all in the same breath, and it reminded me so much of my brother. I made sure my boy knew that, too, which pleased him to no end. He would like nothing more than to be just like his uncle. I also kept thinking about both of my parents and my grandmother. Working outside on the land makes me think about Mom and Grammy because they were both work horses. They seemed to have so much energy when it came to cleaning and gardening and doing just about anything for their families. And the weather today made me think about my papa. He would have loved today. There was this lovely breeze that kept most of the bugs away, but it was warm and not humid and just perfect. I could picture Dad and I sitting on his deck or my porch, enjoying some of that iced tea I made today.

Isn’t if funny how a day at home can actually be better than a vacation? I thought about driving to the coast next weekend–but that takes time on the road with lots of other people trying to get to the ocean and where can we go and still be away from people? Or when we are able to go on a vacation again, the travel time and the crankiness of my family or fellow travelers can be such a letdown. But on a lovely day in rural Maine, with much of my day puttering around my home and being alone when I want to and spending time with my family when I want to, it was pure bliss.

Hope you had a decent day today. If not, tomorrow is another day. Let’s try again, ok?

Hugging you from afar.

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

 

 

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. ❤