Dear Betsy…

I said I wasn’t going to write about you anymore, but I have to say something tonight because I had lunch with your girls and my mind is racing.

I miss you.  I really do.

Today what really overwhelmed me is how much I want my son to know you.

It isn’t fair.  Everything is so hard for him already and he has to make it in a world without you and my dad.

That can’t be right.  It isn’t right.  It hurts me and I hate it.

I can’t stand the image in my head of what would have been.  I don’t want to know how easily my son would have fit into your life.

You would have gathered him in your arms and your heart and kept him safe, just like I try to do.

You would have helped him learn and laugh and love.

I know that as sure as I breathe.  But I don’t want to know it.  I really don’t.

Sometimes, I try to tell myself that we wouldn’t have been friends if you had lived.

I try to tell myself that we were drifting apart.

I try to tell myself that we were not interested in each others’ lives or kids or homes or hobbies or dreams anymore.

But that just isn’t true.

We drifted apart regularly, but we always drifted back.

We fought a lot, but we always made up.

We found each other ridiculous, annoying, rude, uninteresting, boring, petty, maddening…all the time…and then we didn’t.

So I know that picture of what would have been is accurate.

You would have loved my son.  You did love my son.

So I miss you for that, you know?

I miss you because you loved my son.


It takes a while

After dropping off the little boy at school this morning, I took a brisk walk around the campus and through the adjacent park.

I probably needed to walk the loop more than once, but even that fleeting twelve minutes worked wonders on my foggy brain.

This has been a strange week.

My uncle’s passing and the daily updates from mom about the flowers and the neighbors with food and the service and the other little details that you can’t predict until you’re dealing with them, all of that is spinning in my head and kicking old memories right to the front of my thoughts.

I remember all of this from the week after my dad died.

It’s good to have those things to keep you occupied until you can settle into the fact that your loved one is gone.

It takes a while to do that, you know, to settle into it.

It takes a while to stop reaching for the phone to call him.

It takes a while before you stop rushing home to tell him about your day.

It takes a while before you think of where to put the thoughts and feelings you kept just for him.

It takes a while to like the holidays again.

It takes a while before you stop buying him trinkets or bringing home magazines with articles on the things he collects or the places he goes.

It takes a while before you stop getting an extra slice of cake or a few more oranges at the market.

It takes a while before you stop regretting this day or that day.

It takes a while to forgive yourself for fights and failings.

It takes a while before you can clean out his stuff and actually decide what to do with it.

It takes a while to remember all of the people who would want to know that he is gone.

It takes a while to recover when you stand alone in your house with the phone in your hand and you realize you have told everyone there is to tell and now you must face a conversation with yourself.

It takes a while to really cry and to feel the way you really feel – mad or sad or relieved or sick or lonely or not.  Happy or stressed or scared or buoyant.

It takes a while to decide where you think your loved one is and whether or not he sees you and knows you as this new person that you’re taking a while to become.

It takes a while to rearrange your life and to realize how you rearranged it for him before he left.

It takes a while to settle into it.

For me, it has been a long time.  Eight years.

Today, I finally stowed away some of the Christmas decorations.

In the space I made for them in my closet, I found a box with some papers in my father’s humored, unhurried, and purposeful hand.

I will keep the box, of course, and I will frame some of the papers one day.

But it could take a while.

This week reminds me that I am still unsettled.

P.S. I threw some tomato seeds into the yard a couple of weeks ago.  Can you see the sprouts in that photo?  They are teeny next to the fully established ornamental strawberry leaves, but they are thriving.  I can’t wait for this year’s crop to show itself.

And speaking of delicious produce, the strawberry patch at Main and Third is open for the season again.  Go get yourself a flat.  It’s worth the drive.



Another Goodbye

My uncle died.  Yesterday.  He died.  Far away from here.

My mom was there, with her sister and my cousins and their families.

This wasn’t completely unexpected.  He had cancer and he fought, but it’s sitting heavily with me and I wish I could be there too.

My uncle was a good man, he provided a good life for his family and I think he loved me in whatever way an uncle loves a niece.  I loved him too, but now he is gone.  Just like that.  Just like everyone.

Just like my dad.

I hadn’t seen my uncle in person since July of 2005.  We were all in Lexington to scatter my dad’s ashes at the Kentucky Horse Park.

My dad’s name is on a plaque there, under a maple tree.  Someday, I will get there to see it again.  Mom brought me a leaf the last time she went.

I keep it with the pieces of the leaf I took when I was there in 2004.

That first one was the victim of the little boy’s curiosity.  My heart ached a bit when he broke it apart, but I had to let that go.

He was just a boy.

It was just a leaf.

And I still had the pieces.

Even so, I was relieved when Mom brought me a new one.  I keep it in the same box as the first, but now the box is stowed away from tiny dancing fingers.

I don’t mean to make a ritual of it, but I tend to take out the leaf whenever someone dies.  Seeing it makes me feel better for a moment.

My uncle was funny.  I remember his sense of humor.  I remember being amused around him all the time.  That’s a good thing.  That makes me feel better too.

I know what will happen in the next several days.  My mom will extend her trip, there will be a service of sorts and everyone will say goodbye.  And then, the arduous task of going forward, one man fewer.

I remember when I left Kentucky, I felt so conflicted about leaving my father behind me.  The most painful part of the trip was the day after the service, when I went again to the Horse Park to say a last farewell.

When I turned my back on dad’s tree, my limbs got heavy and the air felt like drying mud in front of me.  It was hard to wade through it and get to the car.  I kind of had to swim.  Swim or sink.

I swam.

I swim.

Now my uncle is gone and the air feels a little bit muddy again.

I am sad for my aunt.

I am sad for my cousins.

And the kids.

My uncle has sweet grandchildren.

I am so sorry for their loss.

Goodbye, Uncle Bill.

I will never forget you.


Bad Morning

I just told my kid to shut up.

Parenting fail.

I think I’m in shock.

There was a tantrum brewing.

But I needed to eat.  I still need to eat.

We’ve had a very bad morning and I actually told my autistic, precious, frustrated son to “just shut up.”

I said that to my best friend once too.

The look on her pretty face is burned in my memory.  She was disappointed, utterly defeated by the challenge of communicating with me.

I haven’t seen her face in eight years, but I remember how it looked that day.

She would probably be angry with me now if she knew how easily I summoned that specific image of her to shame myself.

She wouldn’t have wanted me to do that.

She would have wanted me to get over it, forgive myself, be calmer and kinder – to myself, to the boy, to her memory.

So yeah, feeling like a pretty crappy mom person right now.

The little boy said “noooo shut up.”

He knew what I meant.

I am mortified.

Will he repeat that at school?  In the store?  At Grandma’s?

Will everyone know I told my son to “shut up?”

I’m typing it here.

It doesn’t matter who else knows, because I know.

I am an ogre in this moment.

Interesting how an ounce of ogre ruins a pound of positive parenting.

I feel stupid, obvious and far too large in my motherhood this morning, like a bull in a china shop.

I should eat.

Interesting how an ounce of ogre taints the taste of breakfast too.

Reality check…

my son is autistic.

He is a challenging little boy.

When he sets his mind to something, there is no veering off to the left.  Or to the right.

All surrounding souls must be singularly focused on the boy’s immediate goal, or all hell breaks loose.

I know this.  I do.

And the little boy is in the habit of making demands.

And the grown-ups are in the habit of complying whenever possible, practical, and sensible.

Life is more peaceful that way.

But sometimes, like this morning, the demands are too much, too desperate, and too rigid.

So I can’t comply.  Not completely.  Not immediately.

I have to assert my free will, so I know I still have it.

I have to confirm that I am still a grown-up, capable, on some level, of determining my own fate.

For the sake of my sanity, I did this stupid thing and now the analysis of it will rob me of the sanity I was trying to protect.

It sounds so dumb.

And no matter how hard this is for me, it’s harder for him.

But my sweet little boy is now upstairs, laughing, and I am here dissecting myself to tiny bits.

How is it that he recovers so much more quickly from the ogre sighting?

Is it easier to face the ogre than to be the ogre?

It must be.

Thank God my mom is babysitting today.

I need a break.

I wish I could leave my ogre somewhere for a while too.


Happy Sunday.

P.S.  Husband has somehow talked me into seeing TRON: Legacy today.  I have low expectations.  Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised.  And I can get through two hours of just about anything with the promise of Filippi’s afterward.  I love you, Filippi’s.  🙂  It has been too long.  Far too long.


I’m Just Saying

I’m just gonna say it to get it out of the way.

Today is the day my dad died.  Seven years ago.

Do you call it an anniversary?  That seems celebratory and that’s not exactly what this is.

But I didn’t wake up depressed today.  At least, not about this.  Not about my dad.

I know he’s in a good place.  And wherever it is, he can walk and run and ride horses.

I’ve said before that I don’t make appointments with grief.

I don’t believe that I am supposed to be sad just because a given day marks a somber event.

I’ve said that before.  You’ve read that before.

I guess I’m just bringing this up because writing a post about something else today seems disrespectful somehow.

Last year, we were traveling in January, so I spent the 8th posting a recap of events from the road.

I didn’t think much about the significance of the date.

This year, I’ve been sick and I’m just home and not engaged in any hugely distracting activities, so there it is, the anniversary of my dad’s passing.

I think my mom is a little teary today.

She loves her life and everyone in it, but there’s always going to be a space in her heart that is reserved for my dad.

I’m not even sure it’s a voluntary reservation.  It’s just par for the course of love and loss.  I have it too.

Crying about the past doesn’t mean we’re not thrilled about the future.  We are.  We both completely are.

My dad would want that.

On a lighter note, I feel a lot better today.  I sound worse, but I feel better.

The husband boosted my morale with personal sacrifice.

He skipped a movie night with the boys to let me off the parenting hook last night and then he got up with our son this morning so that I could sleep in.

I’ll be gone tomorrow, so today was supposed to be his day to sleep.

I am forever grateful.  I think he let me turn the corner on this cold.

And to sweeten the honey-do credits, he’s now at the store picking up my hair color.

In the morning, I’m driving a couple of hours to meet some friends for shopping and lunch.

I can’t wait.

Thanks to husband, I think I might even have the energy required to really enjoy it now.

Of course, I may feel differently when the alarm rings at 5:30.  😐  We’ll see.

What are you doing this weekend?

Have a Happy Saturday!


Has It Really Been Seven Years?

Happy Birthday, Pop.

I’m thinking about you today.

I wish you were here to go to a thrift store or get a doughnut.

Maybe we could even sit in the garage and listen to music while you tell me a story about Caruso.

Or we could share some See’s and talk about your mom and dad.

Then we could pull out the graph paper and draw our dream houses or chart the year’s best horses.

Later in the day, you could call me and pretend to be a serious government employee, needing information only I can provide.

Your name would be something like Petunia Snardfarter.  Or maybe that would be me.

Do you remember that time we were turning into the parking lot of the Amvets store on Broadway around 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday?  A six-foot-something man (?) dressed in drag with great long fishnet-stockinged legs crossed in front of the car and wagged his tongue suggestively, right in your direction.  I think he wanted to get to know you better.  Do you remember?

Or how about the time I walked a few paces ahead of you one evening as we were leaving the Tower Records on El Cajon?  A couple of twenty-something punks started hitting on me in the parking lot.  You grumbled something to dissuade their bad behavior, so they asked if you were my granddad and you replied that you were my husband.  I think I turned four shades of red, but they turned six, so it was fine.  Do you remember that?

I remember all of it.  And more.

It all still makes me chuckle.

You were such a good dad.

You always made me laugh.

I miss our friendship.

I really do.

Happy Birthday, Pop.

I hope those other angels bake you some devil’s food today.  🙂

With white frosting.


Can’t Collect My Thoughts

Well, that’s not really accurate.  I seem to be collecting thoughts at an alarming rate.  Organizing them is another thing.  I can’t get that done for you, so here are a few of them in random order.

I feel immense sadness this week over the death of a dear family friend.  Sam was 92 and he lived a long, happy, generous life.  He was sweet and kind and the best neighbor I’ve ever known.  I cannot imagine the future of my childhood street without him on it.

Sam was there 43 years ago, when my family moved in, and he has stood by our sides as a fixture of unwavering support and friendship in every moment since.  He was a dear man whom my family will remember and love forever.  My mom is so accustomed to Sam’s cheery smile and casual hellos from across their quiet street, that I know she will miss him the most of all of us.  They were wonderful friends.

My little boy needs to look, happily and regularly, at the light bulb aisle.  I’ve mentioned this before, but it impresses me everyday.

Our first stop at the grocery store is always the light bulb section.  He needs to study and touch and hug and label every globe and tube and “twisty” that he sees.

He understands their fragile structure and he has practiced a light and careful touch.

He says “blue clear” and “white clear” and “mommy bathroom light” and “orange nightlight” and “yellow is a circle light” and “all the lights are white” and then he can move on.

And no matter what transpires before or after our light bulb viewing, I am in that moment, a completely happy, adoring, and even tranquil mom.

It’s magic.  Everyday.

Yesterday, I was surprised and delighted by a small package in the mail.  My sweet and stylish cousin sent me a pincushion.  I don’t even know how to describe to you what a marvelous gift this is!

I have two other pincushions, but neither is totally functional for the real nitty gritty of sewing.

The first of them is sweet and pretty and came from my dear mom-in-law with a matching thimble, hand stitched pouch and attached magnet for picking up the pins.  I cherish the set and keep it separate from the chaos of my everyday sewing tools.  It’s just so stinking cute, I can’t bear to spear it all willy nilly, you know?

My other pincushion is really just a small pillow that I whipped together in desperation one day, but I neglected to weight it, so it’s really not useful.  You can stick the pins in, but good luck pulling them out with your free hand as you hold your fabric in the other.

If you sew, you are likely quite familiar with the standard tomato pincushions available anywhere you see a rack of sewing notions.  They’re very cute and I’ve even thought about collecting them.  I’ve yet to buy one though because they’re usually too hard.  It’s awkward to stick your pins in them.  The green stems and leaves at the top are usually attached with hot glue.  Getting your pins through, once the glue has hardened, is more than difficult.  I keep forgetting to look for a tomato with stitched on leaves.

So (Sew!) you can see then why this handcrafted, perfectly weighted, not-too-hard, beautifully blue, made-with-love pincushion from the cousin is the perfect gift for me.

Cousin crafted it herself with a heavy ceramic tumbler as its base.

She used a bright blue thread to tuft (??) the fun Japanese lantern print fabric.

Best of all, cousin wrote a note confessing her plan to encourage my craft making.  Apparently, the pincushion is her secret not-so-subliminal message.  That is support I can use, my friend!  I mean cousin!  😀

I love it.  Love it!

Thank you, from the bottom of my ♥.

To pay you back, I think I’ll remind everybody right this second that you are the voice behind the amazingly informative, stupendously stylish, educational and quirky, intensely spectacular FIDM Museum blog.

Go.  Read.  Now.  Use the link.  Enjoy.

More in the next few days, but right now I gotta get some ice cream.

Happy Friday!

P.S.  If you like music, treat yourself to my latest girl crush and then treat yourself to more.

Going Along Fine And Then…

My friend’s kitten died last night.

It was four weeks old – probably just too young to be away from its mama.

I held it for twenty minutes in the morning after walking the dog.

Its little voice had deepened since I heard it last Thursday.

It clearly wasn’t well.

Its energy was gone.

It didn’t even know I was in the room until I touched it.

Poor little thing.

It burrowed itself between my neck and hair and stayed there as long as I let it.

I wish I’d had more time, but it wasn’t my kitten.  It wasn’t my house.  It wasn’t my place.

When my friend called later to tell me it had died, I wasn’t surprised.

I feel sad for my friend and her husband and children.

It’s a rough time for them to lose a pet, even a stray they’d only known for a week.

Last night as I was getting into bed, I accidentally tipped my grape leaf music box up on its side.

The daintiest little notes of O Sole Mio tinkered their way to my ears.

Somehow that seemed fitting for my somber mood.

The music box sat on the mantle in our living room when I was growing up.

I was always fascinated by it.

Now, whenever I hear it, I float instantly to a weird melancholy space between the lightness of childlike wonder and the heavy reality of my father’s absence.

I don’t think I realized until I heard it that I was so depressed about that little kitten.

I couldn’t save it.

That’s just how I felt about my father, my friend and cats of my own.

I couldn’t save them.

But today, I’m trying to let that go.

I had two good days getting the little boy off to school this week and then this morning there was a meltdown about socks.

Three pairs.

Socks.  And shoes.

None of them were right.

After an agonizing fifteen minutes of upset in the car, I sent him to school in sandals.

I’m tremendously sad about the kitten, but I have to let it go.