Thursday, July 29, 2010

(Mostly) Wordless Thursday...

...Because really, I have no idea what to say about this picture of Dibley the wonder cat anyway.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My mother's kitchen

I was standing at my mom & dad's kitchen sink this afternoon, washing up the dishes I'd used to make a meatloaf for their dinner, when the smell of browning meat and simmering chili sauce bubbling from the oven carried me back to another time. To the same place, my parents' kitchen, but to a time when I was a child and my parents were young - and they were looking after me.

And the warmth of that scent memory flowed through me, slowing my breathing, relaxing my body.

I inhaled deeply, trying to pull more comfort from the air in my mother's kitchen. I looked out into the yard where I used to skate on rinks my mom flooded every winter, where my grandma shoveled paths in the deep snow, where I played in the sandbox and lay on a blanket in the sun listening to 45s on my sister's Mickey Mouse record player.

I remember my dad with black hair, taking steps two at a time. I remember my mom wallpapering the stairway, standing on homemade scaffolding without a trace of fear.

And now they are old. And I have woken up 1964 times without Thomas. And life is so different than it was, and every day I find myself sorting through some sort of grief. Sometimes newly realized, sometimes familiar and worn.

There are moments of peace and moments of despair. Moments of joy and moments of sorrow. Always, there is light and dark.

And that's the way it is. Right now, in this aching time as I watch my parents failing and I look into my future and see just a handful of us left and no one following behind; that's the way it is.

This, as it turns out, is what it means to be a grown up: feeling pain, but taking strength from lovely memories and finding moments of comfort in my mother's kitchen.

Monday, July 26, 2010

One more time

I used to think it was only me. Not surprisingly, given my penchant for catastrophizing, I'm pretty sure that I was the only one who routinely (as in every single time I walked away from him) wondered if the last goodbye I gave my dad would be the last goodbye.

I would watch him waving from the window as we'd pull out of the driveway, and want to curl up in a ball and cry, sick with worry and despair.

In my defense, he really is that sick. Has been for years. First a bum ticker (with a 1998 cardiac arrest thrown in for added excitement), then diabetes, and now end stage kidney disease on top of everything else.

But, by some miracle, he's still here. 

In lighter moments I joke that he might be immortal. Because honest to God, I've never known anyone this sick to continually battle back from the brink. And there have been so many brinks over the past 26 years since his first heart attack; so many times the situation looked dire, only to be turned around by the smiling Irishman with the big laugh and twinkling eyes.

But this time it's different. He's fighting as hard as he can, but I know in my heart that there is well and truly not much time left.

And now, I think, so does he.

There is more weight in his hugs. They last a fraction longer. They are tighter, despite his frailty.

It startled me on Saturday. We had everyone over to celebrate my mom's 70th birthday, and as they piled out the door with presents and leftover dessert in hand, I hugged him goodbye and told him I loved him. And he held on. And squeezed.

And in that moment, I knew he knew it too.

I know what he was saying with that embrace, and I closed my eyes against the truth and hugged him back, willing it not to be our last goodbye.

Willing time to stop and love to cure and hope to best inevitability.

And then I did the only thing I could. I let him go. One more time.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Saving grace

It's pouring rain - pounding on the roof and, thankfully, on my poor parched pie pumpkins which can't seem to get enough water these days.

But that's not what's keeping me up. Mostly it's all the cheese and chocolate. A fondue extravaganza, is what it was, with wine and friends. And way, way, way too much food. Seriously.

And then, A Single Man. Which, if you haven't seen it, is utterly fantastic. It so beautifully and artfully demonstrates what it's like seeing life through the lens of loss; how shades of gray dominate until a spark of beauty - a kind word, a lovely face, a selfless gesture - infuses a moment with colour. And in those moments, a fragment of the beauty that existed before loss returns. Shines. Saves.

It was truly stunning in its simplicity and power.

And it's all so true. Loss does alter the way you see the world, and there's nothing you can do to change that. You can't un-ring a bell, as they say. And so it follows that you can't be who or what you were before loss. That person is simply gone.

But there are moments that revive your soul, quench a thirst you didn't know you had, and keep you moving forward. Step by stubborn step.

Today it was a chance encounter in the parking lot of the grocery store. A voice calling my name, a hand gently touching my arm, a friend asking for news about my dad - caring so very much.

And in those few sweet moments, colour radiated from her and bathed me in its healing light.

And for that gentle, restorative energy I am so grateful.

Once again, I am saved.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I don't want to scare you...

...but this dude clearly fears no one.

Toes have been known to get this very same treatment. In the dead of night. From beneath the covers. Which, in case you were wondering, IS terrifying.
Luckily he's not necessarily all that bright... toes are often safe.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Someone rifled through our car the other night. I noticed that the glove compartment and ash tray were open when I got in to take my dad to the hospital for dialysis Friday morning.

I'm happy that since neither me nor My Beloved ever leave anything more valuable than change for Price Chopper shopping carts in the car, all they found were old receipts, extra napkins, one pink glove and an expired ferry ticket. And garbage.

We're so not car people...

But still, someone rifled through our car. Someone decided to walk onto our property, get into our car (which took us years to pay off), and poke about to see if they could take something from us.

From us.

Because yes, that was my first thought: How could anyone want to take more from us?!

I was aghast, staring stupidly at the open glove box spilling its contents onto the passenger side floor, quietly filling with rage. My baby died. In fact, I did nothing but lose babies for five straight years. And now, after all that, I am still childless.

How dare someone try to take more from me.

I realize that the teenager hunting for beer money in my ash tray had no idea whose care he was attempting to pilfer from. I know it was a totally random car on a totally random street to him. It wasn't personal.

Except that when the universe has fucked with you the way it has fucked me, everything kinda feels personal somehow.

Even when it isn't.

This inflated sense of entitlement - this belief that I should, nay, deserve to be spared any and all future suffering, persecution, toil, torment, sorrow, and general badness is only going to mess me up further. I know that too. Mostly because I know that no one - not even someone who has suffered the worst cruelties imaginable - is immune to experiencing still more. That's the way life works. There is an endless vault of crap for the universe to pull from, and random shit happens all the time to whoever finds themselves walking into the black cloud of a looming shitstorm.

But I can't help it. The injustice of having someone break into my car when life has spent so much time shitting in my general direction was just too much to swallow Friday morning. On the way to the hospital. Where Thomas died.


And while I'm at it, fuck you, stupid kid looking for beer money. I hope you never find yourself sitting speechless in your car wondering why on earth someone would want to take something from you when you've already lost so much.

I hope you never know the fatigue that comes with that kind of defeat.

Monday, July 12, 2010

It would be funny it was a character in a movie

I'm not going to lie. I've always had a touch of OCD; a special penchant for re-checking the previously checked, worrying about catastrophes that never come, and just generally fretting needlessly.

Virtually no amount of calm reassurance from cooler minds is able to convince me that someone besides myself can check things properly - or, more importantly, will remember to check everything.

During stressful times it's worse. On Christmas Eve, for some odd reason, it's next to impossible to control. Leaving the house to go to my in-laws for dinner involves frantic racing in and out of rooms to ensure that everything is locked, turned off, unplugged, stored properly, sealed, closed, put away - that the whole house is thoroughly, unequivocally safe and sound.

Why I think some catastrophic event is going to happen on Christmas Eve is beyond me. But it sits in my brain and taunts me with its fiery, very un-Christmas like possibility.

In the years since Thomas died, I've noticed that while the OCD (which is self-diagnosed, thanks to my Internet degree in psychology - I also have one in reproductive endocrinology, by the way) isn't necessarily any worse, it has expanded in scope. Morphed into something new.

Now, it seems, I can turn even the most benign non-event into a catastrophe-in-the-making. If there's a way for someone to die because I dropped a stray elastic band in the living room and forgot to pick it up, I'll imagine it. And it will haunt me until I retrieve the elastic band and dispose of it properly.

Only then is peace restored. Only then are those around me safe. Until, of course, I misplace a paper clip.

Do you know the myriad ways you can be injured by a paper clip? Sweet Jesus, do you?

I know where this comes from. Of course I do. Five people died on my watch. I absolutely do not want to be responsible for any more deaths - I can't be. I just can't. So my spastic little brain spends its time calculating the probability of mortality of all those around me at any given moment as I wander through the day living, and checking. And re-checking. And pointing out dangers to others because it's my new responsibility to keep everyone safe - like I'm some middle-aged, chubby, neurotic little suburban superhero.

I've been quiet about this. I fully recognize the batshit craziness of it all, so it has always seemed best just to continue picking up elastics and keeping it all to myself.

But then, as is so often the case in this wonderful virtual world of gut-spilling, I found a blogger who does it too. A blogger who totally gets it.

She wisely pointed out that once you've seen death - once it has crashed in unannounced and violated you in the most horrific way imaginable - you know it's out there. You know the unthinkable is actually possible and that it can come when it is least expected. Like when a baby dies the day after it's just been born.

And you can't un-know it. You can never un-know it. And it taunts you, that knowledge. And it makes you think elastics can kill.

Long slow sigh. There is so much mind-fuckery in grief. So much endless work to soothe a mind so thoroughly and meticulously shattered.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


This post made me think of this montage, which I created for My Beloved on Father's Day the year after Thomas died.

Thanks, Loribeth, for the reminder. And happy 25th anniversary.


Monday, July 05, 2010


After de-slugging the pepper patch on Saturday evening, My Beloved and I sat on our tiny patio (the lottery win I'm planning for this Friday will eliminate the "tiny" in that phrase) and watched the evening melt into dusk.

Everything seems to turn grayish-purple in the blue half-light of dusk - skin, grass, trees, fences. It's an ethereal and melancholic sort of time, I find. A time for fairies and gnomes and things hiding just out of sight.

And yes, I'm aware that almost every time is somehow a melancholic time for me. Dawn, noon, dusk, midnight - I can usually find a little melancholy in each of them if I look hard enough.

But you don't have to look hard at dusk. It's there in the deepening shadows, the blue pall, and the impossible stillness.

And in that half-light, as I stared out at the freshly watered lawn, I remembered a hazy, long-ago conversation My Beloved and I had back when we believed we would, I could, have children. He didn't want too many gardens. He wanted lawn - space to play with his children on the grass in our backyard. I agreed, picturing a chubby-legged toddler in a sun bonnet feeling grass on her toes for the first time.

The lawn still has space. Ample. There are gardens too, like our slug-ridden pepper patch. But nothing more.

So as my eyes fought against the dark on Saturday night, my mind drew a tousle-headed boy running in an arc across the lawn towards my chair, his arms thrown open in that glorious way that boys do when they're let loose on a patch of grass in the summer. He ran towards me, his mouth stretched into a crazy, wide open smile - and then he slipped quietly away into the shadows. Just before he reached me.

My mind will always be drawing pictures of the boy, I guess.

I know I'll see him no matter where I go, but I often wonder if a different place might hurt less. He was expected here. This house is missing him. I see where he should have been. I remember the plans I had and the pictures I drew when he was wriggling and kicking inside me.

Dusk falls everywhere. But it falls hard here.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Shut your pie-hole

Dear Perky Young Thing sitting beside me at the hairdresser,

I understand (from the sounds of things) that you're probably blissfully unaware that not every single person can sneeze and get pregnant. And stay pregnant. And birth a live baby. I understand that you're pleased that you were able to have one child and, now, get pregnant with a second one while you're still young. I understand that in a perfect world this makes a lot of sense. You have energy, health and youth on your side.

I get that. I do. And the part of me that didn't want to jam a curling iron in your great gaping pie-hole is happy for you - happy that you get to be young and pregnant and blissfully unaware.

But the crusty, broken-down, 40-year old whose uterus has left a bloody path of destruction in its wake would like to respectfully tell you to keep your opinions about "old mothers" to yourself. She might patiently bite her bottom lip whilst you wax poetic about the joys of being a young mother, but she will come this close to beating you about the head with a full conditioner bottle when you effortlessly slide into an ugly conversation about how terrible it is that Kelly Preston is pregnant at 47.

Honestly, Perky Young Thing, you were dangerously close to getting a new one ripped for you. You are clearly unaware of how horribly insensitive your comments were, and how inappropriate it is to sit there on your pregnant pedestal judging older mothers with such open scorn and smugness oozing from your lips when you have no idea who is in earshot - or what struggles they might have endured to bring a child home. Or not, as the case may be.

My God, Perky Young Thing, what if I'd been pregnant??

You were saved by the hairdryer which finally drowned out your incessant prosthelytizing (which, in case you hadn't noticed, even your own hairdresser wasn't buying into. I should have tipped her too.).

One of the reasons we decided to stop trying was because we are now both in our 40s. After all we've been through we knew, at a certain point, that we simply didn't have the energy to continue and risk facing any additional hardships or loss.

We have become old before our time, Perky Young Thing. But it was OUR choice to make this incredibly difficult and personal decision based on what we've been through, and I will defend to my death every "old mother's" right to decide when she is finished adding to her family.

Now quit your yapping, keep your eyes on your own uterus - and, by the way, stop getting your hair dyed while you're pregnant.

The barren, ferocious hag to your right