Oh My Deer!

Everywhere you run has its challenges. I’ve only run in a handful of suburbs and cities, but the advantage I see there are sidewalks and more clear paths. But the downside seems to be way too many people. I typically run at my home in rural, central Maine. I’ve been run off the road a time or two, and nearly run over too many times to count. Occasionally I know it’s the conditions, particularly the sun in the driver’s eyes. I know this because my husband almost hit me last fall and was horribly shaken up afterwards. I was wearing everything you’re supposed to wear (lots of reflective gear, bright clothes, etc.) but the sun was in his eyes and he just didn’t see me. But so far I haven’t been physically hurt by a driver. I’ve been splashed by puddles, mud, and slush, but that’s par for the course, right?

But for the past few months, I have enjoyed my running excursions outside immensely. This is why:

In the winter, I rarely run on any road but my own. There is little traffic and my goal is just to get a few miles in outside and do it as safely as possible. Last fall, this beautiful creature started to follow me for about a half mile on some of my runs. (Thank you to Joelle, one of my neighbors, for sharing the video with me.) This past week, Bam Bam, as some people have affectionately called her, has run with me every day. I took this video a few days ago. From what I’ve pieced together from some of the neighbors, this deer’s mother was killed and a family took her in as a fawn so she’d survive. (I say “she” because I’m hoping Bam Bam does not grow up to a large buck that could easily kill me when “in a rut”, or aka breeding season.)

So since the fall, Bam Bam has become like a neighborhood pet. I guess she likes carrots, but not from me. She trusts people more than she should, but she’s an absolute joy to be around. A bunch of the neighbors came out to see her today as she ran behind me, all the way past my house which was new for her. She tends to stay in this small 1/2 mile area, but today she ran over 2 miles with me! (Mostly behind me, once beside me, then near my house she took off in front of me and was so dang graceful and beautiful!)

I’m sure this amazing time won’t last, but I can’t tell you how much joy it brings me. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook and you’re sick of seeing these types of photos and videos, you might want to block me. As long as Bam Bam is around, I will continue taking photos of this lovely creature. I hope it at least brings a smile to your face.

Another One

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.

Hugs to you all, my friends.

She Flew Away

It’s been a year.

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?

Mom & my boy.

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. ❤

My Whiteboard

I listen to the “Fake Doctors, Real Friends” podcast, featuring Zach Braff and Donald Faison of the television show Scrubs. It’s a great distraction from life and it makes me laugh hysterically when I take walks or do housework. Zach often talks about his whiteboard and how if you want things to happen, you need to visualize them. So he writes things he wants to happen on a whiteboard and places it where he can see it.

I have a whiteboard in my office at work, and I write the annual goals I want to achieve regarding my library. I finally crossed off “Write and adopt a collection development policy” after having it on the list since I was hired. But this summer I added “Do not physically harm another person” after the staff and I had a particular trying day in the library.

I’ve never had a lot of personal goals, though, unless they related to my weight. I STILL want to lose 13 more pounds, but after literally running hundreds of miles this summer AND watching what I eat, that damn scale hasn’t budged. But my pants fit better so I’m throwing my hands up for now!

Occasionally I’ll have a new year’s resolution where I try a new recipe each week or do something that scares me every month, or I’ll have a particular running goal like running a half on my mom’s birthday. But now, after running for nearly 10 years (this December), I have a goal that I’m ready to say out loud. I might even get a whiteboard for home to write it on there, but this is even better than a whiteboard. Because y’all will know what I’m trying to do. The scary part for me is that you’ll also know if I fail.

I told very few people about running a half for Mom–just my husband and maybe a couple of friends. But even with my friends it was just in passing like “I might do this.” Hell, even with my husband, I gave myself lots of outs just in case.

But this is something on my bucket list. This is something I’ve really wanted to do for nearly 10 years, but never thought I had it in me. And yet….I want to have the strength to do this.

I want to run a marathon.

I know, it’s no big deal, right? People do this ALL the time. Yeah, well, it also takes a lot of training and a lot of effort and I honestly don’t even know if my body (or my mind) can do it. But…I really want to and I’m willing to put in the effort to at least try. Being the librarian I am, I’ve been reading books that I own, that my library owns, and ordering a ton of material through interlibrary loan to find a plan that will work for me. I’ve weeded out a few already, but some have just some really great advice or inspirational stories that I’ll probably photocopy to keep me going.

I won’t do an in-person race, even if there are any next year. If I did, it would be the Bay of Fundy International Marathon where you run from Maine to Canada. (Seriously, doesn’t that sound AMAZING?!?) I have a date in mind for next year when I’d like to try and run a marathon at home, but I’m not ready to say the date because as we all know, life can get in the way. Shit happens. I could break my other arm. You never know.

But for now, I’m just throwing my dream out there into the world and I’m hoping I can make it come true. I’ll surround myself with plans and research and opinions. I’ll talk to my doc (who is a runner) and I may even consult a dietician. I’ll buy more running shoes and at least one more pair of shorts. And, of course, I’ll keep running.

If you have run a marathon, I’d love to hear your story or any tips you want to share. I plan to ask at least Kirsten, Kola and Kartika a few questions (and I love that the three friends I know for sure have run a marathon have names that begin with K!).

And who knows? Maybe I’ll even get a tattoo afterwards.

For you, Mom

If you run two half marathons in 3 weeks, does that mean you can say you ran a marathon? 😉 Yeah I didn’t think so, but it was worth a shot.

Today I ran the half marathon I had intended to all summer. I’ve been training since late May for this, and although I ran a half on August 30th (a PR of 2:32), I really wanted to run today in honor and in memory of Mom, on what should have been her 74th birthday.

I’ve had some bad runs lately and haven’t been feeling great–aching shin around the lump in my leg from my treadmill fall, twinge-y right hamstring, and tender left knee. And emotionally I’ve just been…off. I suppose we all have been though, right? I’ve been thinking all week about the amazing women in my life that are gone, but also the incredible women in my life that I still have. I’ve tried to be a really good friend this week, but also I’ve made an effort to be a good person. I wish it always came naturally, but it doesn’t. So this week I tried to reach out to people who I might not usually and just say “hi” or “what can I do for you” or “thank you.”

So with all those thoughts and feelings running through me, I got up this morning and tried to prepare my head and my body for what I would hope be a decent 13.1 miles. I wore lots of black, including my “You Got This” shirt, and an orange ponytail holder that made me think of Mom. (Orange was her favorite color–her kitchen counters were orange!) I told my husband I may call him in an hour, and if not, he knew where to meet me with extra water and Gatorade.

As I began my run, I first concentrated on how my body was feeling. I started out fairly slow and just kept moving forward. The first half of the run would be similar to the half I did three weeks ago, but by the time I reached mile 6, I was in completely new territory…and I loved it. I’ve driven on the Lapoint Road in Stetson many, many times (I take it nearly every day in the winter) but running it is extremely different. I was able to admire the scenery more than usual, that cool little pond I had never been up close to, that adorable sign with the birds that make me laugh out loud and think of both of my parents. Much of the run on this road was serene and absolutely enjoyable–except of course the corners where there was nowhere to run but on the road and there would always be two cars coming in both directions. Every. Single. Time. BUT, most folks were extremely courteous this Sunday morning and I had few problems.

Once I reached mile 9, my husband was there for fluid refills and to cheer me on. This is where I began my 2.5 mile stretch on the dirt road which I knew would be hell on my feet. Large sections of this road now have this weird roller pattern, so when you drive over it you’re bumping up and down and feeling like your car will shake apart. And running on it is no better. As your foot lands on the gravel, it doesn’t know where to go. My large canoes could feel a bump in the arch of my foot while my toes and heels felt like they were sinking. Other parts of the road had so much gravel that I slid on stones several times–but I didn’t fall!

I could hear my mother’s voice so clearly through the entire second half of the run. All my life I would tell her my worries about my ability to do something–whether it be passing a class or moving to Pennsylvania for graduate school or raising my son or even going for a long run–and her response to me was always the same, “You can do it. No problem!” She had such faith in me which I often envied. But today I thought, “Yes. I can do this. My body and my mind can do this.”

Thankfully, once I was off the dirt road, I only had 1.5 miles to go and it wasn’t horrible. And I suppose it wouldn’t be, because Mom was with me the entire way.

Mom and I with a giant beer at the Roadkill Cafe in Greenville, Maine back in 1995.

As I ran to the finish line (my driveway), my son ran with me the last bit while my husband shot a video. It was a good, strong finish (2:36) with a bit of sweat and a few tears.

Happy birthday, Mom. I so wish you were here to enjoy your coffee and blueberry cupcake.

But maybe you’re in a place where you are celebrated like you should be–with lots of fantastic food (especially ice cream) and an endless supply of good, hot coffee. ❤

I love you so much, Mom. I miss you and your badass self. Thank you for loving me and believing in me. I’m trying to do that for myself now. I think I’m doing ok.

Sucker-Punched

Out for a morning run,

one foot in front of the other.

Stop to chat with Gene.


“Lost one of our neighbors this morning.

Kidneys shut down. He was only 61.”

Moment of silence.


State our good wishes for the day,

keep on running.

One foot in front of the other.


Making my way up a hill,

leaves cascading down from the trees

tickling my face.


Close my eyes, smiling, enjoying the moment,

a flash of memory of my brother laughing,

recognition of joy.


My breath is gone.

I double over, clutching my body,

pain flowing through my limbs.


Yet I trudge on.

Determined to finish.


My body straightens,

even as the pain in my shoulder grows.

That damn raven digging in.


My legs are heavy now.

No more thinking.

Just one foot in front of the other.

Love You Forever

Do you ever wake up with a bellyache because you’re nervous or anxious about something? Maybe it’s about a speech you need to give or you’re starting a new job or you need to go to a funeral. That last one might seem odd, but I’ve experienced so many types of funerals, burials or celebrations of life in the past 3 years that I now know I will wake up with a bellyache before every one.

But I also hurt before any of the firsts. The first holiday season without my brother, the first Fathers’ Day without my dad, and now tomorrow will be the first Mothers’ Day without my mom. I didn’t feel great yesterday but I didn’t know why. I actually forgot about Mothers’ Day for a bit. But then I was reminded–by the news, by library programs, by the world. And today I feel awful–and it’s not just the fact that it’s May 9th and snowing. (WTF?!?) Or that I had to take a few kitties to the vet to get their shots. Or that I had a crappy run on the treadmill.

It’s because I miss my mom.

I know there are others of you out there who are missing your mom today, too. It might be because you live far away from her and it’s impossible to see her right now. I get that, but call her. If you can, drive to her house and talk to her outside. Or if she’s in a home, talk to her through a window. Go do that, ok?

And if you’re a member of the “My Mom is Gone” Club, then do what you can to honor your mom this weekend. Even if that just means to sit down for a few minutes and think about the good she did for you and the joy you brought to her. (And if your mom was downright awful to you, do what you can to just be you.)

After my crappy run, I got into my pajamas, wrapped myself in one of my mom’s sweaters and have been binging “The Handmaid’s Tale”. I folded clothes for a bit and sobbed. I stared at a few photos of Mom and sobbed some more. But now, to honor my mom, I will get off my butt…and bake a cake. Because that’s something she would have done, too.

Tomorrow, on Mothers’ Day, I will think of my kick-ass mom when I go for a run, then again as I’m eating some of that cake. And I will keep thinking of her as I make my child be my slave on this Mothers’ Day of 2020.

I think of you every day, Mom. I miss your smile, your laugh. I really miss seeing you light up when my son walks into the room. I love you and miss you so, so much.

“As long as I’m living, my mommy you’ll be.”

Serenity Now

Ever feel like “Red”, the angry bird that has a short fuse and explodes a lot? Or how pissed off Michael and Janet Jackson seemed in their Scream video? “With such confusion don’t it make you wanna scream…Stop pressurin’ me, stop pressurin’ me.” As a library director in the middle of this pandemic, this is exactly how I feel. I’m angry, confused, and just trying to do the right thing while voices from every side and direction continue to yell at you about one thing or another.

And I do mean yell. We have a library listserv in my state and lately it’s been downright awful. Mean people suck. And there not only mean people out there but rude and judgmental ones, too. (And I mean JUDGY!) Lately some of the comments on the listserv reminds me of why there remains the stereotype of a shushing bitch that we have tried so hard to demolish. And not just on the listserv but even among Zoom meetings or on social media. The library world is a small one, and the Maine library world is even smaller, so when you talk smack on one publicly, many of us listen and sometimes smack back.

There are also many Maine librarians that have been super heroes and awesome to the nth degree during this pandemic. Because that’s who many of them are and I try to ignore the others…or talk about them behind their back because you know we’re all doing that. But then I find myself lashing out at some colleagues at the end of this week. Some deserved it, others didn’t. I apologized to those that I knew I should, because that’s what I do and it is certainly not done enough, especially among co-workers and colleagues.

So to try and deal with all of this anger and confusion and grief, I attempted to do a few things this week to help me cope. Unbelievably, I did NOT eat my feelings this week. That was new! I attended a talk via Zoom on mental health co-sponsored by my son’s school, I talked to friends about all of it and I ran.

I’ve tried to begin running in earnest once again, starting 6 weeks ago with a running app called “Running to Lose Weight”. First off, I didn’t lose an ounce. I actually gained back weight, but I loved the routine so much that it didn’t matter. Instead the app eased me back into running with walking breaks until I was finally running my typical 3 miles again by the end of the six weeks.

Today I even hit a PR, at least a personal record in the past few years. I never, ever try and go for fast because I’m not. I would love to increase my distance back to my 10-mile Sundays that my brother used to be in awe and proud of. But that won’t happen for some time or maybe even ever again. But I’ll try. And maybe, just maybe, I can find some kind of peace while I’m out there or at least when I’m back home. I need to find a way to channel that anger, and not just just anger but all of these intense emotions that I seem to lose control over these days.

My “I kicked ass” face.

I know it’s ok to have all of those feelings–anger, sadness, frustration, confusion, and even intense joy. (Don’t let people take your happy moments away from you either, because they’ll try!) But I’d also like to be able to take a deep breath and find that moment of clarity and tranquility and carry on with whatever discussion I’m having with people and not lash out.

Hopefully I’ll find that bit of serenity when I need it. Until then, hang on because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

And then….

It’s 2020. The roaring twenties? A new year, a new decade, maybe even a new you? I used to love the beginning of the new year–a fresh start, a clean slate. Time to start eating better, exercising more, doing new things, achieving those goals I couldn’t get to last year, and becoming a new person.

Starting over used to really appeal to me. I used to love the thought that I could become a new person, someone I would like more and others would like me more, too. I really thought that losing weight would do that for me. So I did it. I lost over 85 pounds and kept it off for nearly a decade. As a matter of fact, 10 years ago yesterday I began running. I had already lost the weight I had intended, but now I wanted to challenge myself. And so I did. I became a runner. I became that crazy lady you saw at 5:30 on a winter morning with the head lamp running in the dark. I ran some road races but really just ran for me. Did I like this new person I had become? Sometimes. But not completely like I thought I would.

And then 2017 came along. I started to struggle with running because of injuries and motivation. And then my brother died and I didn’t want to live anymore. I didn’t know how to and I honestly didn’t really care to. But I did. I even tried to run some but often I’d start to sob in the middle of the runs or stop a half mile before home and drop to my knees because the darkness just overcame me and I couldn’t put one step in front of the other.

So I stopped. I started to care for both of my parents off and on and tried to parent my son the best I could and still be a wife that was semi-present at least and still work 40 hours a week. I stopped caring for myself or about myself. I was no longer moving forward but backward and if I was lucky, sideways.

Then my husband was laid off. Backwards I went. Then I got a new job directing the library I had loved for over 13 years. A few steps sideways and one forward.

Then my beautiful, hilarious, sweet dad died. Back and back and back…

Then my husband got a new job. A hop forward. Then I broke my arm so badly I needed a metal plate and 9 screws and 6 months later I still can’t completely move it. A step to the back.

And then my mom died. My loving, badass mom. Backwards I fell. Literally. (I passed out the evening of my mother’s service.)

And now we’re here. January 1st, 2020. Am I a new person? Well…yes. I’ve become a new person over and over and over in the past two and half years. Every time an “and then” occurred, I became a new person. Every one of these life-altering events made me into a new person. A different person. I don’t always like the new person I’ve become or am becoming, but that’s something I have to figure out. I don’t even know who I am most of the time, but that’s something else for me to discover and manage.

I do know that losing the 20 pounds I gained these past 2 1/2 years will not make me a new person or happier. Will I try and lose it? Of course! I need to be a healthy me and I need to fit in my clothes better because restrictive clothing makes me a very grumpy Holly and no one needs that. But will I try and lose it by going on a diet? No. I can’t be that person anymore. I’ll eat as best I can, but I’m hoping that running will help me lose some of it.

I hope I do not become that person I used to be that constantly posted my stats or photos of running because honestly? I hated those assholes for the past 2 1/2 years when I didn’t have it in me to run. Look, I know we all need to do it sometimes. We need that encouragement or pat on the back. I get it, I do! I’ve done it many times, too! But I’ve also been on the other side where I couldn’t run due to injury or grief and I felt like my friends were rubbing my nose in it. “Look what I can do and you can’t or won’t, you lazy bitch!” (Hey, I know you didn’t say it and probably didn’t even think it, but my mind just went there.)

So let’s make a deal. I’ll post this photo of the end of my run on Christmas Day.

Me in my dooryard at the end of my first 5K run in eons. This was a happy moment. Just before this run, I had been sitting in my living room sobbing and rocking myself while I thought about my family. There is so much photos don’t say.

This will be it for at least a week. Of course, I’ll probably be on the treadmill or in front of my tv for the next 2 months due to Maine weather, but whatever. Feel free to keep doing whatever you’re doing and posting what you’re posting. If I start being annoying with running posts, tell me to pipe down and give it a rest. I will probably oblige because I’ve been there.

Or I’ll tell you to fuck off because my pants are still too tight and I’m cranky. But I’ll still love you. That much I can promise.

Hail and Farewell

Today on CBS Sunday Morning, there was a long segment entitled “Hail and Farewell” featuring many famous people that died this past year. My husband and I watched in awe and sadness as many performers we knew as kids and teens were gone–the voice of Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird, Caroll Spinney; the voice of Minnie Mouse, Russi Taylor; musicians Eddie Money and Ric Ocasek (of The Cars); actors Peter Fonda and Diahann Carroll and for us, the absolutely incredible and lovable Peter Mayhew who played Chewbacca in the Star Wars films.

But as the photos passed by on the screen and the narrator talked about these people and their amazing accomplishments, I could only think of the two people that passed away this year that had the most influence on my life.

A rare photo of my parents together and smiling.

My parents may have not influenced a world with their charm or musical ability, but they influenced a generation–their children. My father’s sense of humor and ability to laugh at nearly everything (“You can either laugh or cry, but laughing feels better”) was passed down to the three of us kids, but with my brother embracing that philosophy more than my sister and I. My mother’s work ethic was drilled into each of us, although her obsession with a clean and/or picked up house was certainly a trait I inherited (but I’m not nearly as good at it as she was).

My parents also passed down their love of Christmas and family. Christmas was an event in our home growing up. We were not church going folk and the three of us kids actually became giant skeptics, yet Christmas was “celebrated” by being together. It was our time to be a family and exchange gifts and eat good food and enjoy each other. Truly. Even after my parents were divorced and my stepfather moved in, we all still had Christmas together. It was so strange to other people, but not to us. It was our normal. And I’m absolutely grateful my parents were able to set some issues aside and be together at least once a year.

The tradition continued as we children grew up and found partners and had children. We still all met sometime during the Christmas season to be together. When we had our family Christmas a few weeks ago, my sister and I tried to make our parents proud and have a big extravaganza for our family. We did the usual exchange of gifts and ate great food but we added some games to the mix and made it a little more fun and loud. It was good. But we also felt a great absence. I felt uneasy at times, knowing that something….or someone was missing. At the end of the day, my sister, my husband, my brother-in-law and I all toasted our family–Phil, Dad & Mom–they were sorely missed and will never be forgotten.

And now a new year is about to begin. A new decade without 3/4 of my family. A new year of my son growing to be a little giant and acting and looking so much like my brother. The beginning of my life as an orphan, without the two people I turned to for advice and comfort and love. Another year of living with grief and learning how to keep taking those steps forward without turning to alcohol or food or complete inertia.

I’m beginning 2020 with trying to run again. I’m slow and it’s difficult but I don’t push myself too hard yet. I just move and see what happens. I’ve started taking an antidepressant, hoping that will help move me along, too. I’ve also booked a vacation for my family and I in April so we have something to look forward to.

I need this coming year to be different. I know I can’t have my family back, but I can write about them and you can read about them and their lives will live on in a way. It’s not exactly the way I want it, but I have no choice in the matter. I know I still have guilt and anger and frustration that’s mixed in with my grief that I must deal with, but that is for another day and probably another year.

I don’t know if I’ll make any resolutions for 2020. A friend recently asked people to post on FB what they were most proud of accomplishing this past year, and one of our good friends said, “Surviving.” Maybe that should have been mine, too. I do hope I accomplish a little more than that next year, but it’s always good to have low expectations, right? Maybe instead of surviving, I can make a resolution to keep putting one foot in front of the other, to keep moving forward.

Friends, I wish you all a safe new year and may you be as happy as you can possibly be.