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.
This is Lassie Asshole (his name might have been changed as a result of this story, but just go with it) and once upon a time he met a girl, and he LOVED his girl.
This is his girl. We'll call her Peanut. You know Peanut.
Peanut also has some friends. We'll call them Sassafrass and Sisterfrass. Collectively, they are the Frasses. We like the Frasses.
The Frasses and Peanut spend a lot of time going back and forth between the Frass house and our house. It's easy because we live within walking/biking distance from each other—just under a mile or so. Sometimes the Frasses or Peanut will behave as though Mama Frass and I are one person and think that because they've told one of us where they are that we both know where they are and this doesn't always translate into reality quite how they planned, but that's not what this story is about.
The Frasses also have a canine. Her name is Olive the Other Reindeer. Actually, it's probably just Olive, but that's not going to work for this story. Lassie Asshole can't be hanging out with Just Olive. Lassie Asshole goes on long walks in the open space with Olive the Other Reindeer. Just look at this picture if you aren't convinced Olive the Other Reindeer is her Actual Factual Name:
Image credit: Sisterfrass
(I might've stolen this from Sisterfrass's FB, but I did give her credit, so ya know, it's all good and could lead to fame and fortune for her and Olive the Other Reindeer.)
Olive the Other Reindeer and Lassie Asshole take walks together. On occasion. The Frasses and Peanut supervise these outings. Sometimes other dogs join them, since Sisterfrass has a bit of a dog walking biz going. Sometimes the dogs hang out in our courtyard for a little playdate while the Frasses and Peanut cool off in the pool on a hot day or the dogs play a rousing game of fetch under the shade of the ash tree with the many tennis balls acquired from our generous neighbor boys and their need to throw balls over fences.
Then Lassie Asshole stays here at Casa Best Together in his sweet digs with the insulated roof and custom window that looks in upon his people while the rest of the canines head back to their respective homes. Peanut assists in this process, and if it's a weekend she's likely going to spend the night with the Frasses. Because teens cannot be parted. We know this. It's THE LAW.
It also turns out that Lassie Asshole: the dog who does not bark; the dog who does not leave the unfenced portion of our yard unless on his leash and being asked to leave; the dog who only comes inside when invited—Lassie Asshole is under the impression that he, too, is required to remain with His Girl Peanut. Always.
The first time we discovered this was a day when the little people were playing in the courtyard and coming and going through the gate to go out to their horse swing in the big tree in the outer yard. No big deal. Lassie Asshole never leaves the yard. An open gate isn't a dog issue. The pool gate remains closed for safety, but the courtyard gate can be opened as long as we know who's where with regard to little people. People. Not dog. People.
Peanut had departed on her bike. A 'Frass of one flavor or the other was with her.
A brief period of time passed.
I decide to do phone. Not really decide. I receive a phone call. It gets interrupted by crazy, frantic Peanut who arrived home tear-soaked, inconsolable, because LASSIE ASSHOLE TRIED TO FOLLOW HER AND NEARLY GOT RUN OVER. He'd noticed her departing, made his way out the gate, and headed down our very busy street as fast as his squat little legs could carry him to find HIS GIRL. What he failed to account for were the cars. Holy crap, the cars.
Somehow, he lived. Unscathed. And we vowed to be ever-vigilant about THE GATE.
We were thankful. Incredibly thankful. They'd only gone maybe a quarter-mile or less. Still, it was a long haul for such a short dog. He was a determined little dude. This Lhasa Apso clearly thought he was Lassie.
This would probably be a good time to introduce the Frasses' dad, Father Frass. He's tallish. I mean, like even for my family. For example, at the last birthday party we hosted, I suggested the kids climb him rather than the tree.
So you can understand why Peanut and the Frasses woke Father Frass when they heard a scratching sound at the Frass's front door at 3am during their next sleepover. You expect to find some scary shit on the other side of a door emitting scratching sounds at that hour. And you want a giant-sized person to handle that.
There was extensive debate about what they'd find behind the door. At 3am. Scratching.
Based on the text I awoke to later that morning I can tell you exactly what was found .7 miles away on that porch, at the door, at 3am. And I still have no idea how, under the cloak of night, using his best ninja skills, Lassie Asshole made it all the way to their house.
But he did.
He knew exactly where to go to find His Girl.
He walked his squat butt up to that door and scratched until they let him in. Nearly a mile from his home, which he won't leave unless he is on a leash, or he has to find HIS GIRL.
I don't know if I'll post Thursday. It will be three years that day. Three years since the children and I and our friend gathered around Bob's bed and said goodbye.
I can't explain that time. The three years.
I could tell you how many days it's been (1,094 as of right now), but it doesn't feel like days. And this hasn't been a completely linear journey.
I could tell you how many hours—26,256, roughly, as I can't bring myself to pull out the death certificate and do that exact math.
And it doesn't feel like the hours, either. Unless I can write a defining moment from each hour on a post-in and stick it to an enormous wall. There would be spirals of time.
And then the tracks. They aren't marked equally in hours or days.
Some tracks of time have moved faster than others. Some stopped altogether. He stopped that day. Dead. Stopped. Part of me stopped that day, too. Same track. How could it not? Twenty-one years together, you're going to leave some of yourself on that track.
The rest of me started on another track, moving at my own pace—still have some of the same luggage (a carry-on, I think; added a new bag or two along the way, boy did I ever).
And the kids kept going. They kept me going. Tracks of their own, but merging in and out with mine.
Grief is a funny thing; not stages like we've been told—it goes in circles. It wraps around itself. It repeats sometimes. It skips parts. Jumps ahead. Comes back. Asshole will drop you down. And then you won't see it for weeks, it seems. Or maybe that track runs parallel in a way that gets hidden behind the bushes once in a while so you see the scenery on other stretches life brings past.
But I don't know about Thursday.
I did give up predicting things three years ago; I did not, however, give up.
The sayers of nay, and oh how they say, were so wrong that day and many a day and that is okay. Fuck 'em.
It's all downhill until you look up, you know. That's why I bought the house at the bottom; I like to be able to see where I'm headed.
He's almost 16, and you won't be here for this birthday, either. And I hate that. I hate it for him and I hate it for all of the reasons.
He's taller than me now, which means he'd be taller than you, too.
And he's amazing. He is so independent you'd be blown away. And so caring. Nearly every day he checks in with us to see how our days went, give us hugs, and he's genuinely concerned about his family. He loves your parents and makes an effort to stay involved in their lives, all on his own. He is all of the things you would want him to be and even more. His personality is still very much the same as the day he was born, and yet he is nearly grown. Funny how that works.
And as the sadness at your not being here overwhelms me, the joy that he is doing so well fills me, too. You were right. We are okay. Maybe even a smidgen better than okay. I am so sorry you missed this part. We miss you. Thank you for all you gave us that got us here.
What can I do, you ask me? How can I make it better for you? How do I ease your pain?
Take my side?
Of course. No hesitation. Not a millisecond.
Phones, pillows, water glasses are moved in less time than it takes to run a red light.
Will it work? Will it fix my pain? We don't know. I don't know. You don't know.
What is known is that you take my side; I take your side. In an instant. Just because it might help.
We give our best and the most to the people we love because their journey is our journey.
Better together. We really are when that's how we see ourselves—together, as a team.
We've had the best time these past few weeks with our house guests. I don't think they were expecting to be thrown into a mad mix of moving and new house fun, but they've been great sports about it all, and I don't know how we would have done it without them.
In the middle of it all, we managed to celebrate their wedding anniversary with a trip to Sasa:
Checking out the koi pond.
And even got Judy up on the Loubis for a quick spin to celebrate 45 years of marriage.
We figured out the mystery of the hedgehog on the cock fairy tale at Corners Tavern. (Thank you Interwebs; I don't think we or that poor waitress will ever be the same now that we know the story of Hans.)
Then it was onto a holiday and birthdays—the fourth of July, Judy's birthday and then mine.
Heart-shaped finale over Martinez.
Red, white, and blue cookies made with the grand kids.
Wine tasting at Retzlaff.
Cool cars spotted while wine tasting in Livermore, including a TR3 like Ed had back in the day.
Tomorrow they head back to New Jersey, and we'll miss them bunches. Seems like we just picked them up at the airport. Certainly there are still more fairy gardens to build and cocktails and desserts to be had!
We love you! Thank you for making this time so special for all of us. We are blessed to have you in our lives.
It's finally time to move out of our rental house and into the home I purchased back in March, which means we've been packing. And packing. And packing.
The wine is huddled in fear.
I have wondered aloud about the number of teacups I possess.
And there are. So. Many. Games. I'm convinced they were breeding in that game closet.
My non-essential footwear is packed.
And we are ALL more than ready to go to bed and wake up to THIS beautiful space each day, even with the work we have left to do. THIS makes it all so much fun.
So much weird stuff, good stuff, busy stuff, I don't even know where to begin.
Until the dust settles, and I can put it all into some sort of cohesive order for your reading pleasure, here's a picture of those two humans I created. This was an evening out to celebrate Peanut's academic achievements for the year and the boyfriend's birthday. Bug was trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to frown.
A year ago, I posted this story about a guy I met on St. Patrick's Day.
Today, a year later, I am 365 days happier than I was on that day.
I am 365 days more in love.
I am just as sure now as I was then that my instincts were right.
Every day I get to spend with him has been a gift.
Happy anniversary, babe. You make my world better.
Every morning. Not just special occasions like my birthday or Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. Every day.
That's when he makes me breakfast in bed.
Every single day.
Coffee. Eggs. Fresh fruit and whole grain cereals with greek yogurt on top.
All brought to me while I snuggle under the warmth of the covers.
And every single day that this happens I am the most grateful, thankful, appreciative woman there ever was, because I don't know how I got so lucky, so blessed, or so fortunate to have found this guy who wants to do this for me.
We crawl into bed. I ask for room for my legs. Not for right now. Right now they'll be wrapped up with yours. But later I'll need to stretch, and they'll need room. And I ask for our Starting Point to be closer to Your Side.
You ask for Hugs And Snuggle Time to be now, for just a bit, before I sneak off for a bubble bath like I sometimes do when I can't sleep. Just for a bit, you say.
We do this Going To Bed Salsa.
This is how we do.
We find our Starting Point. A little closer to Your Side than before.
I skip the bubble bath because Hugs And Snuggle Time relaxes me as I start to hear the rain rhythmically dropping on the skylight, joining the dance.
As you drift off to sleep, our legs slip apart, and I stretch into the space left behind.
We spent the day in the City—laughing at SF Sketchfest's showing of Best in Show and Q & A with Fred Willard and Michael Hitchcock then exploring the Sutro Baths ruins. Oh, and we grabbed a quick lunch at the Sausage Factory in the Castro, which was surprisingly good. Straightforward Italian with old-school decor. We had a torpedo sandwich (salami, pepperoni, and american cheese) with a side of spaghetti that was spot-on for our craving for comfort food and fast service. The bread on the sandwich was fresh and tasted homemade, there was just enough mustard, and the sandwich toppings were served on the side so they stayed crisp and cold to be added to our toasted, warm fare. Delish. It set the tone for a great afternoon and evening in the City. The show was perfect. We're both huge fans of Best in Show. Going to see the Sutro Baths ruins iced the cake on the day. Neither of us had been, and if you haven't read about the history, you really must. You'll be blown away.
The Castro Theater
Best In Show
Descending On History
Sutro Baths Ruins
The Moon Sees Me
Land's End—Day's End
It's 1:30am. My bedroom smells like pumpkin farts and a cold I'm tired of having. Depression is wrapping its bony fingers around my shoulders as it often does when I can't do things—when I'm useless. It's the catch-22 of mood and mend. I don't feel well, can't do, therefore don't do, therefore feel badly about not doing, and the spiral of loathing begins.
Fortunately, I think and hope, I have some kind of clarity about it this time around. I also have people making sure I know it to be okay. So important. Also, writing. And pictures. And sunshine. Amen for sunny days and fresh air. Even a few rays sneaking in through sunlights and open windows make a huge difference. Eventually, the tunnel of suckitude will cease, and I will feel better.
Colds shouldn't knock me on my ass like this. The more I read about fibromyalgia, the more it makes sense that they do, but I hate to think that's the case. Big pile of crap.
I feel like a character from a Victorian novel. Truly pathetic. Fetch me a hot water bottle, and lock me away in a room on the third floor.
And why pumpkin farts? Is the ghost of Thanksgivings past ripping ass under my bed? Oh, NyQuil, what have you done?
This Sunday you will turn fifteen.
It will be the anniversary of your birth.
It will also be the twenty-month anniversary of your father's death.
I hate that those two things have a shared date.
I hate more that you have no father. I hate that you don't have YOUR father.
I have given you his razor so you can shave, a milestone he missed.
I have given you his cell phone, his clothes, his wallet, and all of the love I have within me, and it still isn't enough to give you back your father.
Yet, somehow, you are okay.
You are kind.
You are loving.
You are happy.
You bring us joy.
You make sure the people you love are okay in the world.
You make sure the people Daddy loved are okay, too.
You continue to learn and grow and drink all of the milk in a 25-mile radius of our house and, for that, I am truly thankful if not slightly poorer monetarily.
Your dance moves rival those of the late Michael Jackson, but with more Chris Farley overtones circa the Patrick Swayze SNL Chippendale sketch.
Your modeling poses are less Blue Steel and more Lavender Aluminum, but you'll get there.
And keep doing that thing you do in the kitchen, because I think you've got real talent there. You can cook, my boy. You have a flair for the flavors. Your sauces are coming along nicely. The béchamel is a great place for any teenager to start.
I love you,
P.S. Don't forget to research getting that learner's permit. We need to get you behind the wheel as soon as is legally possible, sir. That minivan you're destined to inherit isn't going to pilot itself.
This Thanksgiving was filled with so much for which I am thankful. I have an incredible family, love an amazing man, and live in a beautiful part of the world. We are healthy and our needs are few.
Yet, as with every milestone, this holiday was marked with that grey cloud of grief and what is missing. Bug excused himself to his room for bit before the pie was served because he was missing his dad. Peanut needed extra hugs and love tonight after we'd gone to bed. I had a long cry when we finally made it to bed.
I'm resolved to think that there will always be a sense that part of us isn't here. Part of our whole is missing. As much as most of my days feel normal, on these kinds of days, the hole feels marked. There is somebody missing at the table. I hate that gaping hole. I don't feel very thankful for that hole.
I do feel thankful for the children left behind who remind me how wonderful our time together was. It is an honor to be their mother and watch them become young adults.
I do feel thankful for the man who loves me now, that he cares deeply about supporting me and my children through our grief. He is a blessing I cannot even begin to explain, and I tell him every chance I get how glad I am that I found him. (I had to weed through a LOT of kayakers and campers to find him, people!)
This life of walking with one foot on each path continues. I just wish Mr. Louboutin would make the appropriate pair of shoes for the journey. One grief stiletto. One new-love stiletto. Or maybe boots. Something over-the-knee would be nice, with a zipper up the back like he used to do. Mmmm...dreams.