Not Forgotten, Not Here

I’m unsure what to do with this blog. Delete it? Archive it somewhere into dusty corner of things we did in the 2000s-2010s? I still write, create art, just not here. My kids are grown, living on their own now...this is no longer the platform it was for me. So, here’s a placeholder of my regal cat, Toonces, doing her favorite indoor activity: waiting for me to open the door so she can drape herself onto the porch in the summer sun. It’s a pretty sweet life—hers, mine. 

Page Three

I was a sentence into a post about my wedding anniversary when his mom's name appeared on my phone.

"There's no helment law, a U-Haul, on his way to work. Did anyone call you about her? She went to look for him."

He's gone.

The phone app lives on page 2 of my iPhone for a reason.

Numbers like twenty-two years ago on a Saturday.

Would have been.

Six years ago.

He's gone.

One year ago, a wedding. Hers. His. 

One truck, one morning.

He's gone.

My phone app now lives on page 3 of my iPhone.

What I want to tell her when she says it doesn't feel real is that it's not. 

It becomes real in pieces—in the leftovers you made for the two of you that you can't bring yourself to eat; in the mountains of firsts yet to come, every Band-aid ripping one of them; in the years and the minutes. Tonight, when you inhale his smell on the pillow as you lie awake; six years from now as you mark time in missed anniversaries.

Real isn't the moment of your loss, it's in the experience of losing, and missing, and questioning all of the pieces staring at you. 

There will forever be the You Before and the You After. And though you'll be okay, you will not be You Before. The hole stays, its raw edges heal, and you remain pierced by the loss.

 

A PSA on Ghosting and Your Get Out of Date Free Card

Some swipe into your life and back out before you've so much as stalked their FB page. (Shut up, you do it.)

Others wait for you to memorize the curve of their neck.

Culturally eased by the advent of call blocking, ignoring, and deleting people, we remove traces of those we cannot manage to address.

I've done it.

I could tell you my reasons. Justify why after a night of being verbally abused via text I found it easier to just block a number. Peace out, Bro Scout!

Less understandable are maybe those depressions where I just couldn't or didn't want to explain to a complete stranger my inability to go or do anything. Or maybe I shallowly re-examined his profile and decided I just couldn't do it.

Let's be honest, sometimes Netflix is just wayyy too riveting or the game or your friends or your bed or that other person—been there, done that.

It's this one breed of ghost I do not understand...

The Here-Then-Gone ghost.

A ghost who truly haunts you. Like weren't we just mid-conversation?

It throws me into the worst rom com mentality: Did a bus literally run him over and OH MY GOD is he laid up in a hospital? Did he discover that typo-laden blog post with the now-broken links I wrote in 2005? Maybe he's a grandmother in Maine who can't bring herself to admit she just really wanted to see what cat-fishing was all about. Or she likes boobs, but her daughter has a porn block on the router. He's probably a raccoon and though the opposable thumbs made texting possible, he now realizes that pulling off the actual date is going to be awkward, especially when we get to the sex.

I could play this What If Maybe Probably game until my head pops off.

That's why it's called GHOSTING. If you allow them to, those ghosts will haunt you.

But the real answer is I HAVE NO IDEA WHY THE DUDE BOUNCED. Whatevs. Could've been my ass was too sweet. Probably the real reason.

Shit just happens. See my own list of excuses as evidence. (Season finale of Scandal did just drop.)

What I do wish is that we'd all do a better job of simply being adult enough to text a sentence saying, "Yo, no can do."

Myself included.

Instead, I'm writing this PSA. Feel free to use it as your own Get Out of Date Free Card. Or text it to the person who ghosted you. Maybe they'll do better next time.

FINE ASS PRINT: Receipt of this blog post entitles issuer to ghost on your date, no questions asked. Yeah, it's a douche move, but it's a step up from no message at all and this is a step in the right direction. Yay team! As the recipient, it entitles you to delete, block, move on, swipe left...maybe burn an effigy. I don't know how far into this y'all were. You do you. Alternately, this post may be sent to the ghost, in which case, learn. Do better. Maybe send it back as your first step.

Five Stages of Grief

Stage 1:

I'm standing in front of the toilet dressed in my black skirt and ocean blue silk top, black heels, and the stockings I last wore to his grandmother's funeral when I was newly pregnant with our daughter.

There's a turd the size of a burrito clogging the opening, courtesy of my son's inhuman ass, so I've got the auger fished through this shit soup and am cranking away on the morning of my husband's funeral.

I do not cry. I am devastated.

Stage 2:

I'm glued to a bed, shower floor, hammock, hot tub, or bar stool.

I cry. I am sad.

Stage 3:

I'm dancing on a stage, in a a cage, in a crowd, on a pole, in Denver, in Manhattan, in Chicago. Anywhere but here.

I cry. I am untethered.

Stage 4:

It's St Patrick's Day. I fall. I grow. I move. I move on.

I cry. I am breaking. I am healing.

Stage 5:

I find my feet, in high heels and in flip flops. I sit in the quiet. I eat life in chunks. I live its stories.

I cry. I am whole. I am happy.

How It Feels This Year

This is the first year I’ve voluntarily felt like I could do Christmas.

Not the first year ever. The first after that demarcation point. The After Death Year.

There were years I faked it, and it was excruciating, and wrong, and painful.

There were years I literally stuck to the bed, pillow soaked through with tears, knowing a light would come, gasping for the air that would get me to that spot. That was last year. The fifth year.

This year I have half-decorated trees, bins strewn about the house, no gifts wrapped, company set to arrive in under an hour, and I’m the most at peace I’ve been.

I mastered the art of Fuck It long ago.

Next year could be different. I know that.

Depression isn’t predictable. Liar. Thief.

Grief is a cunt of another stripe. Curling through everyday life, popping in for inopportune visits.

But this year. This year I get to Do Some Things.

And I’m furiously happy about that shit.

Jars

Broke in the new shower finally. Sat right on the floor. Water mixed in nicely with the tears. That honed river rock felt about like I thought it would when I picked it out.

We were nineteen, maybe twenty, when some smartass asked that stupid question, "So picture yourself being put into a jar. Now the lid gets screwed on. How do you feel?"

Him: Safe.

Me: Suffocated. Trapped. And what the fuck is wrong with you? Safe?

Person: That's how you feel about death.

Twenty years later.

Him: I still feel safe.

Twenty-six years later.

Me on the shower floor knowing you can't answer that question twice.

Chapters: House

I let go today. Didn't take a single picture of the house. Didn't need any. Hasn't really been mine since we moved out four years ago, except it has. It just hasn't lived inside me, or me in it. We've let go of each other…slowly, as you do with these things.

I built the memories from the inside, all of them. His first steps at 8 months old. Bringing her home from the hospital on rodeo weekend, rain pouring down in the middle of June, gladiolus blooming halfway up the picture window.

The DOJ sitting in our living room, just after your diagnosis.

The walls we knocked down and worlds we opened up.

And your spirit leaving us at the end of that long hallway, all of us with you. The window we had to open before you'd go.

Now the slate is ready for a new run; another family can paint their memories on the walls. They'll cover ours, wonder why we did what we did to that sixty-year-old house, just like we wondered why beer cans fell out of the walls we opened up.

Sometimes you don't know why, or don't want to.

Our home now is the place we've chosen for ourselves, the place that chose us, and the place where we are together—the one with the bitchin' bathtub, wild turkeys, a crazy old diving board, and Neiman Marcus just a skip away. A girl needs her shoes.

Thank you for another chapter; I'd never have written it without you. I wish you were here to write the next one.

Circles

December Moms (that’s what we call ourselves). We met each other online in 1996, brought together by our December 1996 due dates.

We started as a group of over 200, all over the world. We’ve dwindled to a group of maybe 35 or so now. I’ve met many of them in person, consider some my closest friends.

In 2005 we lost our first mom to cancer. I was the second mom widowed. Sunday, a fourth mom lost her husband. Two widows on each coast. A widower in Norway.

I started blogging in 2004 because of Karine’s cancer. Our blogs were a sort of solidarity—how we stayed connected during her yearlong battle with cervical cancer.

The birth of my first child led me to social media; death made me a blogger.

Double-Deck Solitaire

My grandmother taught me. My hands were barely big enough to shuffle the two decks together.

Hours. I'd play for hours. Late at night when I couldn't sleep. When my brain wouldn't shut off. It never shut off.

My grandmother did crossword puzzles in cursive. Pencil. Never erasing her mistakes, but writing over them.

I did mine in ink. Now I have an app for that. For late at night for when my brain won't shut off.

Words, numbers, colors, lines. Order in things outside me. Waiting patiently for the order inside to return. There's an app for that.

Self Care

I spent the entire day wishing, willing, begging myself to stop being depressed.

Stop crying, I said.

I kept crying.

I dragged myself out of bed.

Myself crawled back under the covers.

I pulled myself into the bath.

This will make you feel better, I said.

I cried in the bath.

I pushed myself into the shower.

Try this, I said.

I tried.

I told myself I was clean and could go to the store now.

Myself crawled back under the covers and cried.

I texted a friend to make plans. The friend was busy.

See, said myself. Nobody notices. Nobody cares.

Seriously? I asked. They're busy. It doesn't mean they don't care.

Myself wouldn't listen. Depression plugged my ears.

Here, I'll turn on the Happy Light.

Fuck the Happy Light, I said.

You know what?

What?

I love you.

I know.

I'll email the doctor. Feeling like this is bullshit. Crawl back under the covers. It's gonna be okay. I promise.

Help

That's all he said.

No question mark. But that's what it was. Questions spilling from his soul, from that place that got split open and made raw.

How do I do this? How do I keep breathing while she's dying right in front of me? What do I do first? Last? Today? How do I make time stop? Why is this happening? Why her? Why not me? How? Why? What?

Help.

Spend every moment with her.
Accept help from everyone.
Be selfish of your time with her.
Devour it.
Everything else and everyone else can and will and should wait.
Take pictures. Videos. Record her voice.
Plan for the end.
Talk about it so you know exactly what she wants. Write it down. Write it all down. Through the tears. Write it down.


Missing It

She drives herself most places now—work, school, the ranch. Where she doesn't drive herself, her boyfriend typically takes her. And her choices, for the most part, are good ones. They are all age-appropriate choices. They are far less concerning than many of the choices I made at her age, if we're comparing choices.

He gets to and from most places on his own, too. No desire to drive, still. He's proficient in the arts of public transportation and begging a ride. I still can't figure out how he knows what he knows. He's simultaneously smarter than me and dumber than me; I think it's one of the things he knows, but he doesn't let on.

They are finished baking, but still on the cooling racks. I didn't get them to this point on my own. I really thought He'd be here for this (not God the other Him). For them. For me. Forever.

Would've been our twentieth wedding anniversary at the end of this month (plus another 5 ½ years together beforehand). That either means I'm old, we met young, or He's been gone a long time. Maybe all of that.

She Is Sixteen

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It feels cliché to say I can’t believe you’re turning sixteen, but I can’t. And for all kinds of reasons—because you’ve already seen more of life than many kids your age. You’ve learned that life is not meant to be measured by fairness, and you’ve learned it head-on. Still, you rise. 

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You make better choices at sixteen than many adults I know and certainly better than the ones I made; it’s exactly what Daddy and I hoped for you, but the actions are all your doing. We wanted our kids to know how to make decisions for themselves, because we knew we wouldn’t always be there.

From the time you could dress yourself, you knew what you wanted, and that hasn’t changed. You have strong convictions about how you think things should be, and how and whom you want to be in the world. You may not always think of yourself as tenacious, but I challenge you to look at all you’ve seen, done, and accomplished—take a deep breath, my child, you are resilient. 

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If I could give you anything for your birthday, you know I’d give you more time with Daddy in a heartbeat. I miss seeing the light in your eyes that was automatically there when you were with him. All other gifts feel like poor substitutes. They just do.

They have an easiness together that everybody sees.

I am forever grateful that you have a passion that gives you such peace and joy, because your smiles feed my soul. Your ponies are your happy place, and I imagine they’ll always be part of your life. 

Riding Deuce

Happy 16th Birthday, Peanut. You are my favorite daughter, and I am so incredibly proud you are my child. 

Four Years: Bob

My Constant Companion

Every Spring I feel you here along with the cartoonish green hills and cotton ball clouds glued onto the monochromatic blue skies by the sticky fingers of a preschooler. Four years of Springs, every one a new path through the hills. 

I want to run to you this year, as if you could give me wisdom. I want to hear your words reminding me that I will be okay. That I can do this. I want to have conversations with you about my life, now—reminisce with you about the ups and downs of our life together. Look back and laugh about how it all seemed so big and important and hard sometimes, but with that knowledge we came to have from growing through it together—from never giving up. I want to land in that spot where I can expose all of my feelings (ugly and raw, beautiful and tender) without fear. I want to remember those times with someone.

I miss that.

I miss that barn that we built that is still standing inside of me. 

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I sit with my tangled feelings. I fill notebooks, sketchpads, and grow calluses on my fingers finding the rhythm of my breath in the curves and lines. I am learning to be quiet, to listen, to sit. I am learning to create peace for myself. 

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In the morning sun I find the quiet, when the house is asleep or empty. You know it used to be the night hours that were mine, but things shift with teenagers I suppose. So I find my place. I create my happy, quiet where I can hear myself, and I give thanks for all that I do have, all that you provided for us, and I hope that I am doing my very best to honor what we planned—I think I am, but I wish I could ask you.

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This one, she’s already looking at colleges. In fact, I think she’s picked one. We always said she knew what she wanted, and that hasn’t changed. I don’t think she’ll ever stop being Daddy’s girl. She got her permit and already drives like a pro. You’d be proud. I have to work hard not to give her the world, I know you would have failed miserably. But just like you, she works hard for everything she has. 

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You would be amazed at the independence, calm, and maturity your son exhibits. He serves on more committees than anyone in their right mind should—and he does it by choice. He’s methodical about the things that matter to him, and continues to hide a plethora of skills and knowledge just as he did when he was little. He’s not running off to a four-year college to start, but if you knew how much tuition had gone up, I’m pretty sure you’d be on board with that decision. And he’s got a great friend and male role model there to his side. I couldn’t have chosen a better partner for myself or our family. 

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A heart is not an easy thing to open when it’s lost so much, and I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am that I jumped in and opened mine. Just as it took effort for us to develop and grow together from ages 19-40, I know it will take work to build this new barn. But both times I have been blessed with the most important part—my person, whom I love to the core. So, bumps, humps, empty nests, and all the rest, I miss you and wish I could share all the good, the changes, and the challenges I face because you knew me so well that I feel like you’d be the person who could shed more insight and support than anyone. I cannot lie and say that it’s not difficult to go without that piece of my life in place. I leaned hard on you for that kind of support for a very long time. It’s difficult doing life without you. 

one more time

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgotten Spaces

There's dust here, my doing. Yes.

In March I'll have been coming here to this place for eight years, I suppose. Dates and numbers are and aren't my thing. They remember themselves before I remember them; remind my body before my brain.

When I started here—this place—it had no shape. That was its beauty and its innocence; my innocence, too.

People still come here looking for answers to questions about Tourette's and discrimination. And that's a story I wouldn't have told here without my husband's insistence that I not silence my voice in fear.

This became an unintentional blog about cancer, loss, and grief. Three times.

It became an unintentional blog about a lot of things—depression, rape, autism, stalking, marriage, dating, love, blended families, politics, photography, travel, homeschooling, cooking.

It became an unintentional source of support for others, but also for me during the most difficult times.

The world held my hand as I buried my husband. And held me up in the months that followed. My children and I know the love and generosity of a family borne from this place in addition to family borne from blood.

As my place here has bent and shifted to my life, it's form pushed and pulled to accommodate my story, its innocence has been replaced—mine, too.

What started as a hidden corner, once mostly my own, has become a marketplace—small, but frequented by regulars and occasional passersby. And I love that it's grown into its own, while at the same time I long for that hidden corner.

I find myself writing more and more in other spaces with varying degrees of public exposure. And I'm writing more pieces that I'm not publishing at all, which feels okay for now.

I've not been one to write for others. The few times I've toyed with it, it felt unnatural. The words and inspiration need to be mine. The story, mine.

Dust may gather here, but the stories and pictures will be mine.

Seventeen

By the time the story hits my fingers it’s a roaring waterfall of words I cannot stop. This one is about you, looking up at him. Just before he died. It was his last race before the cancer returned. You look so small. Him, so big.

You fill doorways now. Your voice fills rooms. Your laughter fills the hearts of those who miss him and love you. Taller than even your grandfather, you are no longer a little boy looking up.

You turn seventeen this month. I am asked what you’d like for gifts, and I fight giving the answer that’s always in my heart—your father. Gift cards and games seem poor substitutes, yet that’s all you say you want. Or a sword. You’re practical like that.

I read an article yesterday about a neuroscientist’s research that showed autistics don’t lack empathy; in fact they feel more than others. They experience the world as a sensorial overload, taking in too much too soon. I cannot think of a better way to describe your sensitivity to the emotions (and information) around you, the people you love, and how you care for others. The way you just know things without ever letting on; it’s always left me dumbfounded.

You notice things so many people miss. I adore your texts telling me what you see on your daily commute. I hope I still get those no matter how old we get nor how far apart we live from one another.

Happy Birthday, bud. You truly are a gift and an amazing kid. I know teenagers get a bad rap from a lot of people, but I really do like mine. You make my world and the world in general a better place.

Love,

Mom

Halloween: Nail Art

I've already confessed to my nail art obsession, and there's a tab up at the top of this blog to confirm that. Holidays make it easy to get inspired, so I thought I'd share a few of my favorite designs. Keep in mind, I have shaky hands and no professional training. In other words: you can totally try this at home. 

Sugar skull nail art.

Okay, these are technically for Dia de los Muertos on November 1st, but skulls work in October, too.

Boo #nails #halloween #nailart

Boo!

Quite possibly the EASIEST nail design. Black base coat, pair of white dots on each nail, smaller black dots on each pair of white dots.

Throw some top coat on, and you're good to go!

Fall #nails #nailart

More autumn than Halloween, but still fun: black trees with falling leaves. 

If you want to see more ideas, click on here.