I loved her.
She was dear to me.
She was a good friend.
To know her was so love her.
She was an amazing person.
I caught myself doing this and was kind of like, WTF?
Of course I still LOVE her. Present tense. And of course she IS still dear to me. Present tense. She will always be a great friend and an amazing person. Those are just facts that go on and on ad infinitum.
FUCK THE PAST TENSE.
I’m trying hard to remember a specific memory about Patty. Truth is, after I left that job, we didn’t spend a ton of time together. But that didn’t matter much. We had a bond and a very deep mutual affection. Like family you don’t see for many years because they live far off.
See, I did it again.
We still HAVE a bond and deep mutual affection. Death does not get to put that in the past tense.
Death, that fucking fucker.
Anyway, the last time I saw Patty was when I was on maternity leave with Emily. We went out to lunch. I was still struggling with nursing Em and I sat there, scrunched up in this booth, trying to get Emily to pay attention to my boob and latch. But Em was fussy. Patty held her patiently while I ate and the two of them made a love connection. Patty loved babies. She never had any, but she sure loved them and never was bitter or begrudging that other people had babies and she didn’t.
I guess it was her calm energy and sweet spirit Emily responded to that day.
We stayed in touch on Facebook and email, me and Patty. Then we fell out of touch for about a year. Then she died.
I didn’t know she was sick. Turns out a lot of people didn’t know she was sick. I think she tried to keep it private, and tried to protect people from the ravages of her illness. She wasn’t one to make a fuss or draw attention to herself.
She was one of the best of the best.
Um yeah. Fuck you death. She still IS one of the best of the best. Present fucking tense.
I may not believe in God as such, but I very much believe in Love. And I believe Love doesn’t die.
So, I’ve got to focus really hard on not letting that black hole suck up my present tense and turn it into the past. Because that would be the real loss.
It was the first time in my life that I was going to my grandfather’s village, and Grandpa wasn’t there.
He had transitioned over to the realm of pure love and light over a week ago, but it only struck me as we were driving up there that I was not going there to visit Grandpa.
At least not in the way we did before.
If you are lucky, no one loves you like a grandparent.
A grandparent’s love is uncomplicated, unconditional, fun.
I can’t tell you about my grandfather the man. I can’t tell you when or where he served in the military, or how he met my grandmother, rest and bless her soul. I don’t even know what his favorite song or color was. Those would be nice things to know, but I do not know those details.
I can only tell you about my grandfather as just that– a grandpa.
It surprised how many memories bubbled to the surface, in light of his death. For my whole life, I’ve lived several states and hours away from Grandpa, so I didn’t get to see him as often as some of my other family members. Especially over the past decade of marriage and young children who do not do particularly well on long car rides, I did not get to visit with Grandpa as much as I would have enjoyed.
One of my favorite memories of Grandpa is of going with him, when I was a very young child, with my brother and sometimes a cousin or two over to the barns. He would take us to see the sheep and cows. It was particularly exciting if there were babies to pet and love on in the clean straw.
His tour eventually lead us to the milking parlor and then he would take us to the place where the milk was stored, in a huge, stainless steel tank. He would allow us to climb up a narrow, always taking care that we did not slip and fall, and as we would peer in to the gallons and gallons of milk below, he would say, “Don’t sneeze!” Least we contaminate the milk with our germs.
I remembered him at the head of the table for many special meals. I remember sitting on a piano bench beside hm at the crowded and festive table, and if we kids acted up, Grandpa would threaten “I’m gonna take a hold of you!” But I never felt particularly scared or threatened in the least by that statement. It always seemed like it was meant in good humor, but somehow did the trick to get us back on track.
Speaking of humor it always seemed like he had a good one, at least with us grandkids.
I remembered waking up the day after Thanksgiving before dawn to find a few inches of snow had fallen. My brother and I ran exuberantly down the hall to wake the house. Grandpa told us to go back to bed but he wasn’t mad.
I remembered so many visits, they blend into one memory. The horses and cows and rides.
I remembered him swirling a glass of eggnog as he played trivia pursuit with the whole family, Christmas songs playing on the old record player and an air of contentment all around, the savory scents of turkey mingling with the sweetness of warm pies.
I remembered him taking me aside as a newly graduated high school kid, the summer before I went into college and tellng me how important education is, and his generous offer to help support my college education.
I remembered him trying to get us all to try this fruit cake, promising is that it wasn’t like any old fruit cake and it would be delicious if only we ate it with some cheddar cheese. We never took him up on that offer but I so respect his perseverance.
I remembered his special love of animals, how I grew to be a dog person while visiting the many special dogs at his and nanas house. In fact, I think I can attribute my love, respect, and admiration of animals great and small to Grandpa. Although I’m afraid horses will always terrify me.
I remembered Grandpa’s handwriting in the many letters and cards he sent over the years. He wrote to me about the fair when I couldn’t go, and about his favorite barbecue chicken and corn on the cob.
I remembered watching slideshows of Grandpa and Nana’s travels, projected onto the old living room wall. He loved history and respected other cultures and explored the world. On my desk at home I still have an authentic Matrioshka doll that he and nana brought me back from Russia. Sometimes I allow my little daughter to play with it, and the squeak with which it comes apart always reminds me of Nana and Grandpa.
I remembered how excited Grandpa was when I told him I was honeymooning in Hawaii, which he said had been one of his favorite places he’d been. I also found Hawaii to be life-altering, and I really like to think that was a special bond we shared. That amazing spirit of Aloha.
I remembered the joy and gentleness with which Grandpa met my children– his great grand kids, well two of them anyway. It always seemed so special to him. I’d think that after all the grandkids and great grands that it would lose its luster. But it never did. He got to meet my son, Jack, twice and he got to meet my daughter Emily once.
I have a really special memory of my son approaching Grandpa. Jack just cozied up next to him, posed for some pictures and chatted with him a bit. Jack was barely five at the time, so I don’t even know if he remembers. I was struck by how natural and comfortable it seemed. It warmed my heart.
It touched me because it seemed like Jack just instinctively knew this old dude was cool. Like he knew there was love there.
Because, if you are lucky, no one loves you like your Grandpa.
I feel sad about not seeing Grandpa again. But I know his pain is nowhere.
And his love is everywhere.
And love never dies.
The lock on the antique foot locker
catches my eye,
turns my mind to choreography about
that first summer, listening to Jane’s Addiction
and stealing kisses by the sea.
This chest here contains all those memories
in loopy letters on notebook paper,
like strands of treasure through which I
could run my fingers
if only I had the key.
The lock on the antique foot locker
has been tight for decades,
the key lost or stolen years ago.
I scowl at it, over my shoulder.
If I pressed my ear to the dusty wood,
would I hear the song of the sea,
the ancient opera of you and me?
Throw Back Thursday! “Yoga pants again?”
I wrote this post a couple years ago, when Em was still an infant and I was still wearing a lot of sweats. OK, I still enjoy my comfy clothes, but we’ve gotten beyond the throes of infancy.
I remember this morning. I remember writing this post. And I remember thinking, wryly, that there would be a day I longed to be back there in that moment when my kids were so little and life was so draining and complex.
I was right.
And life is still draining and complex, just in different ways. And I know there will come a time when I long for this day, so I am going to do my best to be here now, as the bumper sticker reads.
Have an amazing Thursday everyone! Big love and momaste! xo
Rays of dawn peeked through my window. I smiled; it would be a great day. I did my morning routine of stretching and cardio, thought how banging my bod looked. I drank a big glass of water and gave thanks for the day. Organic smoothie in hand, I read the entire paper. After getting the children up and dressed, we shared a nourishing breakfast. We smiled at each other around the breakfast table on this glorious day.
There was plenty of time for meditation before the longest and most refreshing shower of my life. My husband complimented my outfit. I dressed up a bit and I was glad he noticed. He patted my ass and kissed me before he walked out the door to take Jack to school. Jack hugged and kissed me, told me he loves me, and was off to a wonderful day. My day off, I…
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There’s this app called Timehop. Have you used it? You install it on your device, then authorize it to cull through your photos, Tweets, status updates, Instagrams, etc.
While staying mindfully present in the present usually helps me stay sane, sometimes it is a fun diversion to take a trip back in time. We live in an era where we capture every good meal, each wacky moment, and any new make up trick or hair-do on digital devices, so there is no shortage of memories at our finger tips. My Timehops take me back over the past six or so years I’ve been on social media, and treat me to photos and status updates regarding my children and family– usually the highs and lows of parenting, but sometimes the perfectly mundane.
This morning, Emily and I are hanging out at home, waiting to leave for her well-child physical which for reasons I can’t recall, I scheduled in the middle of the morning on a work/school day. Whatever. It is nice to be able to take a few moments off from “life” to cuddle and play with my bubbly three year old doll.
My phone prompted me to check out my Timehop, and so I did, while Em watched Curious George operate a subway train.
Modern technology treated me to two of my all time favorite family photos and memories this morning, and they were of a couple of those perfectly mundane moments that are the exact stuff a good life is made of.
They were both “selfies”. The first was one of my children, my husband, and me from a snow day last year. We were all rolling around and playing on the floor, and I happened to hold up my phone at just the right moment. I captured us all looking a bit wild and messy, smiling so hard we were all almost squinting at the camera. It was just a perfect moment. We were all so happy, cooped up in the house on a stormy day, but at that exact moment, getting along with one another.
For what it’s worth, life as a working mom in our society is far from perfect or ideal. We do our best, but there are still so many moments of struggle, confusion, and a deep sense of inadequacy. I never feel like I am doing anything right or “good enough,” or like my kids are growing up happy or well-adjusted. I’m not around enough for them, and when I am, I am usually exhausted, overwhelmed, and frazzled. But this. . . this was such a sweet moment I caught with my stupid, distracting phone.
It only lasted a couple moments, and was most likely chased by moments of frustration with the children fighting, and me losing my cool. Yeah, that happens often enough that I could break the internet if I posted about every single one of those moments. I’m so glad I captured this moment because it was just pure love. And in the end, that is the important stuff.
The other Timehop offering that delighted me this morning, was a picture from three years ago today that I snapped of me and Emily. We had found a cozy moment after nursing and were taking a nap together. I happened to hold up my phone and got a photo of our profiles, nuzzled together in repose. It is actually a photo I keep on my desk at work, so I see it every day, but it never fails to make me smile and sigh. It was one of the most peaceful and lovely moments of my life with my darling little daughter, snuggled safely in my arms, her tiny tummy warm and full with mama milk.
In the end, Timehop is really “the highlight reel.” You know, the photos that reflect all of the great stuff and make our Facebook timelines look like we all have our shit together? I have a weird resentment for highlight reels that tend to taunt us into thinking everyone else’s life is going so much better than ours, like everyone else is eating better sushi, enjoying bigger cocktails, getting better presents, and riding in nicer cars. It is interesting to me how we chose to present ourselves on social media, and how we measure ourselves by the presentations of others. . . but according to Timehop, I do it too.
And my highlights are pretty freaking sweet.
So, it kind of makes me feel like, hmmm, I guess I have it pretty good and should be happy with what I have, rather than envying the good stuff of others. In a weird way, it brings me back to the present, and helps me to feel grounded and thankful with where I am.
It also makes me realize, shit, this time goes FAST!
I’m sure our obsession with our phones and snapping photos every two seconds will come back to bite us all on the ass. I have a lot of photos that I wish I hadn’t taken because I wish I had just been more present in that moment, and actually LIVED it as opposed to merely RECORDING it. You know what I mean?
But these two moments are ones I am glad I got physical proof of.
Do you use Timehop? How do you feel it affects your sense of your life, and being mindful in the present?
“Mom, can I have one dollar and fifty cents?” Jack asked me one afternoon.
“For what?” I asked back.
“The fifth graders are doing a fundraiser selling popcorn and punch. It costs one dollar for the popcorn and fifty cents for the punch.”
I got him the money, put it in a zip lock baggie, and packed it in his back pack. “It’s in the front pocket,” I told him, and didn’t give it much more thought. . .
. . . Until my husband called me during my commute home from work. He picked up Jack at the after school program, as usual, but Jack got into a funk on the way home and was refusing to get out of my husband’s car. My husband was flustered, trying to get irascible Jack into the house along with bouncy Emily, their backpacks, and his briefcase.
There wasn’t much I could do from the middle of the highway. “Tell Jack Mama will be home soon and we can talk about whatever it is.”
By the time I got home, Jack had come into the house. My husband was in the kitchen making dinner for the kids. “He’s upset because he didn’t get to buy popcorn today,” he explained.
Jack was in meltdown-mode as I approached.
“I had to go to stupid after care!” He shouted. “And they were selling the popcorn and punch on the blacktop after school. So I couldn’t get any!” His body flopped from chair to floor to bed, walloping space with his righteous indignation. I tried to talk with him, but he turned, sobbing, ran into his room, and slammed the door.
My heart has broken hundreds of times. Many of those times faded into the dusky, grey recesses of my mind and will never again see the light of memory.
Other times are indelible.
The memory of hugging my high school boyfriend good bye the night we broke up never fails to melt me. I can still feel my emaciated body- sweaty after ballet, underneath that hideous purple sweatshirt I wore incessantly to disguise my weight loss- clinging to him as we decided it was over. I remember, and ache and melt like a chunk of wax, and each time I reconstitute, but in a slightly different form, the molecules and crystals of me arranged with imperceptive difference, sometimes stronger, sometimes more fragile.
Of course the miscarriage is difficult to remember, but not for the reasons you might think. The hemorrhage in the grocery story was frightening and embarrassing and I still do not like going into that market.
Other moments aren’t as obvious.
For example: One spring afternoon of my freshman year in high school we went to visit my grandfather in the hospital. He was well enough to put on a flannel shirt and pair of pants that had become cavernous around his shriveling body. We had lunch in the cafeteria. I was in love with the embrace of my new denim jacket around my shoulders as we sat down. An elderly man– even older than my grandfather– walked by us, his hands shakily carrying his brown tray. He stumbled and a saucer of peas fell, sending a shower of green, vegetable beads across the maroon and navy carpet. The man stooped and tried to sweep them back into the bowl. I’ll spend the rest of my life wishing I had gotten up to help him, but at that moment, I was suddenly hit with the realization my grandfather was dying. My jacket had stopped feeling nice, as I watched that man’s gnarled hands stroke peas off that ugly carpet.
It was one moment 25 years ago, but it might have been the saddest moment of my life. Even now, it hurts to write about it, and it is also painful to see the sentimental words with which I describe it. But when I remember it, those are the words, because I was 14 and sentimental.
Then there was awkward tragedy in seventh grade of being unfriended for a week by my best friend because I accidentally bought the same outfit at the Limited as her, except mine was in peach and hers was pink, but it didn’t matter and I ate lunch alone as quickly as possible and spent the rest of lunchtime in the girl’s bathroom so no one would see how destitute I was without her even though she was mean as a snake and we never should have been friends in the first place.
Years later, my grandmother had a heart attack. I went to see her at the hospital just as she was coming around from whatever drugs they had given her. She lamented missing the May Day breakfast that her nursing home had been about to put on. Is that what life becomes? I wondered, my heart aching for my grandmother who didn’t have much left in life to look forward to except a nursing home breakfast and my infrequent visits.
Sure. There have been plenty times Life showed me her delicate underbelly and then smacked me full in the face with how painful it is to be vulnerable.
Watching my son mourn his popcorn and punch had this effect on me.
He finally came out of his room and allowed me to love on him. He ate dinner ravenously, suggesting his grief had been made that much worse by hunger. I tried my maternal best to fix things with some cookie dough ice cream, his favorite. His eyes were still red and puffy, and he looked rather pathetic, spooning ice cream into his mouth.
“I don’t even know what kind of popcorn it was going to be,” he sighed.
“I know, pal, ” I said. “I get it.”
I really did understand.
Most days I come home from work hungry, tired, and cranky with little energy for situations like this. I pay minimal attention to the little dramas because I don’t want to inadvertently inflame them.
But something about my little son that night brought back the memory of that old man and his peas, and how much my heart still hurts when I think of it. I’ll remember Jack’s sincerely sad, swollen face pondering popcorn with the same heartache, even as he might forget all about it as he plows through life, collecting heartbreaks of his own.