Thursday, November 30, 2017

So many Elizabeths

Joanne, Marilyn, Jessie, Ethel, Jennie, Lottie, Mary, Nettie, Salome, Theresa, Carmella, Catherine, Elizabetta, Maria, Elizabeth, Sarah, Anna, Isabella, Rosa, Isabelle, Anna, Mary, Anna, Freny, Anna Maria, Maria Elizabeth, Martha, Lillian, Elizabeth, Abigail, Elizabeth, Abigail, Louisa, Lydia, Experience, Mary, Elizabeth, Margery, Mary, Rebecca, Phoebe, Ann, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, Elizabeth, Ann, Martha, Louise, Caroline, Barbara, Sarah, Cristina, Brita, Maja, Johanna, Kjersten, Lias, Anna, Elna, Anna, Catharina, Butvi, Lisbeth, Gertrud, and Catharina...

I'm all about connections to the past and how they relate to our present. I gave myself an early Christmas present of a renewed subscription to This month has been spent diving into the files upon files of antique cursive where forgotten ancestors' births and deaths are recorded with startling lack of penmanship (I mean, seriously? Can you not separate and define your letters?). My house has been filled with my shouts of  "Oh my gosh! Look! Here is the actual town in Sweden your 4th time grandfather was born in!" or "Both the father and mother died on Christmas day after drowning in a river horrible!" Responses to my exclamations are met with every type of response from "That's so awesome, Mom," to "You can't cry for everyone, Mom. They've been dead for over 2 hundred years."

Those names up there? They belong to my mother and to all of the other mothers of everyone that has led to my existence (that I can find so far). These women all loved and hoped and dreamed for their babies. Some were probably amazing mothers and others may have lacked, but each and every one of them holds a link to my past. I cannot explain how important it is to me, right now and always, to feel this connection to the world. Continents are crossed and centuries are spanned and it all still leads back to me, sitting in my kitchen in Illinois, raising my own 3 children. Living for a moment before I also pass on into what will someday be thought of as the distant past...

It's incredibly humbling.

*"Experience" wins for the most awesome name of far.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017


So, despite the fact that Justin is 18, he only JUST got his license last week and is driving, solo, for the first time tonight. I am NOT FREAKING OUT. Not at all. Just.... Ok. I'm freaking a bit. I mean, holy shit. This is bigger than letting them go to the park or even letting Evan ride the raft down the river with Connor by themselves (I mean, water = drowning). This is a vehicle. On the road. With other people who are not aware that MY CHILD is on the road with them...

Deep breaths. He'll be home soon, and then I can breathe. Until he takes the car out by himself tomorrow, and I have to worry all over again.

Hold me.

Justin starts JJC on Monday in their culinary program and Evan and Corinne will be starting their Sophomore year and 6th grade school work at home on Monday. Life is pretty tame right now and that is pretty fine with me, to be honest.

And so, this is the update for my future self, as I wonder why in the hell I wasn't updating more often as the kids were getting older. Give yourself a break, future self. Remember how hellish this past year has been (or don't, because you deserve a break from the grief, girl) and give your past self a pass. The kids are awesome. Patrick is awesome. You are awesome. Some of the sweeter, smaller moments may not be as well documented as in the past, but that's ok. It's in your head, if only you work a little harder to find it.

Points to spark future memories:

Evan's tone as he jokingly calls me "Maaa-aaa--aaaaah!"

Corinne's obsession with making slime. All the slime. All over the house. Including baggies that spill into her underwear drawer. Sigh.

Justin coming to terms with not going into the Marines and refocusing on culinary school, instead.

IRELAND. Oh, Ireland. (I will definitely write about that trip, because Oh my goodness, the green. The memories...)

LTYM ending. Bittersweet, but timely. Moving onward, as it were.

Evan slowly coming around to being less teenagery and more adult-like when dealing with you. Small favors, sweet Universe. Thank you for them.

Corinne's last moments as a young girl... They're just wisps right now. She's nearly a young lady. It's there, on the edge of the horizon, and it's beautiful, but definitely heart-breaking as her mom. Sigh.

You are teetering on the edge of several life changes... Healthier eating. Healthier living. A sudden consciousness of different desires to live a fuller but simpler life. The amazing coincidence that Patrick is coming into that consciousness simultaneously. Hoping that this change becomes something greater that sticks...

And now I have to go sit by the front window because Justin is leaving his game night and on his way home and I don't want to obsess, but I think I'm going to let myself do it, just this once. He is, after all, my baby.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Breaking the Seal

Springtime always makes me nostalgic. Hopeful, happy, and wistful... This year, with so many monumental changes in my life, just seeing the trees yesterday caused me to out and out sob. I am serious. They were so green, and so fresh! Beside them, the first goslings of the year were toddling about on the newly mown slope that led down to the lake and I lost my shit under a sky so blue it was blinding. With my windows open and upbeat music playing, I had to pull over and let the grief  over the swiftness of life wash over me.

I know I can't hold back the emotions when they hit. At least, not for long. If I am feeling overcome, keeping my tears inside doesn't help anything. It's such a release to just bawl, knowing it won't be permanent. Just as nothing in the springtime lasts for much longer than a moment, my pain for everything I have lost (and am going to lose) doesn't have to stick around too long, either.

I hadn't really gotten emotional during our read through's for the Listen To Your Mother show. I mean, I was really upset in August when I learned of the upcoming ending, but it was still in the distant future and I was overwhelmed with so many other losses, that this one didn't take precedence. The other day, Melisa and I read through the final version of our script and the last words that we will ever read on stage and...nothing. I didn't cry.

"Crap. I really need to cry," I told her. I knew that if it didn't come out beforehand, it would be too much on stage on May 7th. I needed a pre-cry!!

I started listing all of the things that I would miss about the show, and all of the people I was in contact with that I wouldn't be talking to as much, and that I probably wouldn't ever be working with her on a project again (she moved to Knoxville!)... And then the seal was broken. It isn't the stage, or the attention, or the sharing of my own stories that I will truly miss (though I love all of that, so very much). It is knowing that this portion of my life, with constant contact with people that I love, will be over.

And I'm ok with it. I AM. Shut up. I AM. Just like I'm "ok" with my kids growing up and life changing and, gulp, the death of my dad. I'm ok with it in that I have no control over any of them, and so I HAVE TO be ok, otherwise...what would I be?

The sheer beauty in the greenness of those trees and freshness of the goslings is the impermanence of it all. Life is precious because it is fleeting. If my babies were to be babies forever, the joy of new discoveries wouldn't exist. I treasure the peaks of joy in life because they are just that: peaks, surrounded by valleys. Up and Down and up again...

I cry a lot. I always have. I feel the moments pass and the emotions overwhelm me. Joy and pain are just opposite sides of the same coin and I KNOW that I cannot have one without the other. And so I choose to enjoy this moment in my life. Climbing this current mountain of hope and happiness and trying to enjoy all of the small moments that Life presents to me.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Oh hi. Still alive. Still struggling.

Currently in a state of flux as Justin is now 18 (and I didn't write him a birthday letter and I'm going to feel some serious guilt over that. I need to write SOMETHING for my firstborn child), and the house is in disarray from trying to finish projects, start projects, and plan for 437 activities/vacations/responsibilities all at once.

I decided that RIGHT NOW was the best time ever to finally save my old VHS home movies onto DVD and digitize them. So, I've been on a memory lane bender for the past week, wondering where my babies are. I am actually serious when I say that I am angry that they aren't here anymore. They were here, in my arms, and now they're different people. Completely different people. I had that magical period of time and now it's gone and I'm pissed off. I love their personalities now, don't get me wrong, but my babies/toddlers/young children were insanely special people who have left forever. Yeah, I've cried. Ironically though, I have only cried a few times when I see my dad on video. I'm actually super grateful to have all of these moments on film to replace my final memories of him being so very sick. And if I can erase the final time I looked upon his face from my mind completely, that would be awesome.

Anyway. Sitting in a house with boxes and laundry and random shit. Feeling overwhelmed and ready to just throw it all away (which I've actually been doing a lot of lately. But I'd be happy to just take a box of photos and videos and maybe a spare change of clothes and LEAVE IT ALL BEHIND).

deep breaths. Trying.

Where's the sun?

Friday, January 06, 2017

New Year

Christmas came and went and we survived, even though it sometimes hurt so badly I couldn't see. And then it didn't hurt and then it did and and then it didn't and back and forth and the waves keep coming...

Life. It is so incredibly messy and twisted. We build these foundations of "security" that are just fabrications. Our minds cannot cope with the knowledge that everything is absolutely impermanent, so we create little security blankets of twisted bits of thread. The illusion of control and safety is what allows us to rise each morning and move through each day, working and cleaning and fiddling our lives away with the unimportant necessities that living in a society require. All the while we are holding this threadbare-blanket over our heads, like toddlers in our cribs, hoping to keep the monsters away.

There is a huge, gaping, ragged hole in my blanket and I am unsure if I even want to try to stitch it together again. If I keep staring through the holes in my safety blanket, if I acknowledge the monsters every morning, perhaps the inevitable destruction they WILL bring won't be as much of a shock. As I've always said, and thought I understood; it's not IF someone dies, it's WHEN they die. If I am truly grateful to see someone each time we get together, knowing that it's never a guarantee, will it help to keep my eyes open to the fragility of this entire experience on Earth?


Separate brain rant: If I hear one more person compare the death of their loved one to something mystical and beautiful, I MAY JUST SCREAM. It was not peaceful, it was not beautiful. I did not feel grateful that he finally left and that his pain was over, because the pain didn't go away, it just transferred to all of us. Death from cancer was messy and ugly and cruel. It took so much from him and us and took so incredibly long... Knowing that people are experiencing our pain right now, every day, over and over again, just rips me up.


And now it's 2017 and it's a new year and the end of the year that my father last lived. 2016 was his last year, and that year is over... And I honestly just want to take one more picture with him.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas 2016

2 days till Christmas... I have cried every day for at least the past 2 weeks, knowing that it's going to suck. I just want to DO IT ALREADY and put this check mark on my to-do list of "things to get through for the first time without Dad." I'm hoping that the expectations are worse than the actual experiences; kind of like childbirth. (hahahahahaa. That was a joke because HOLY SHIT, childbirth was kind of like the 7th circle of hell) (But I'd do it again in a heartbeat because the reward is pretty freaking awesome).

2016 has been kind of a collection of AMAZINGLY AWESOME moments mixed in with pain unlike anything I'd ever considered possible. I had some of the best experiences, including a surprise 40th birthday party, a long-awaited dream trip to New Orleans with Patrick, a special 10th birthday trip with Corinne and a surprise trip to L.A. with Justin, and just so much joy, that you would think 2016 would have gone down as The Best. But then LTYM announced it was ending, a dear friend moved away, my child had some serious friend issues, a special little girl was diagnosed with a life changing condition, another special girl nearly died and continues to struggle every day, the Anti-Christ was elected the president of our country, my dad went through 4 months of hell before dying a week before Thanksgiving... it's just been a little too much Bad to balance out the Good.

I'm trying, though. I'm trying to focus on everything I have that makes me happy...

Evan is playing rock music on his electric guitar as I type, and that brings me joy. He's so talented and is really dedicated to it. I love to see him excelling in music. As usual, he continues to revel in his role as the family clown, and his jokes/wit have actually gotten me through some pretty crappy moments this year. One of his "Evanisms" of 2016: "Whoa, you put up a lot of Christmas lights! I guess you could say our house is pretty 'lit.' " (executed with an awesome sense of timing and tone.) I wish I had had enough forethought to record more of them as I have in the past, but life has just been about survival lately. It's enough to remember that his humor has helped me immensely.

Corinne has truly matured this year, in academics and athletics, but also in her kindness and heart. Seeing her grow into such a lovely young lady is both rewarding and heartbreaking. One of her greatest strengths is her generosity and understanding of what others need in a moment of difficulty. She is still our baby and is happiest when the entire family is home, eating dinner together.

This is Justin's last Christmas as a "kid." For years, I thought my focus this year would be on how sad I am over his impending adulthood status, but instead, I am just happy that the five of us are here and healthy and relatively happy. I am so grateful that he has found a niche of people at school and in the gaming community to connect with. Seeing him excel at League of Legends (it's a computer game that is an eSport. Don't ask me to explain it to you) was something akin to watching your child who played an outdoor sport for their whole childhood finally be recognized in public for their skills. I've yet to meet an adult who doesn't say to me "He's a really cool person!" Also, Justin is an AMAZING cook. Like, holy crap, how did we not know this about him? I honestly cannot stress how much pride I take in his culinary skills. I have great hopes for him and for our future family dinners at his house. :)


Wish us luck this weekend. My intention is to let the sadness in, grieve for him and send him love, and then to enjoy and be present in the moments I have with the people I love. Hug your loved ones this holiday season. Look into their eyes and tell them you love them - let them see you and actually hear you. Take the mental snapshots of the joy, even in the midst of the pain.

I am blessed. Merry Christmas to you all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A nightmare...

There are moments from yesterday that I cannot believe weren't all dreams... actually, nightmares.

I'm not sure how it's possible that I am sitting here this morning. That I managed to take a shower and accept the cup of coffee from Patrick after screaming at him as I woke up from a fitful sleep. That sleep held another nightmare. One where he too dies of cancer. A cancer he got from smoking for so very many years, despite my logical conversations, and then anger, and finally desperate pleas. The anger I unleashed upon him this morning was not 100% fair, given that, although it is rooted in a fear I carry with me every day, it was triggered from the real pain I'm feeling after yesterday's ACTUAL nightmares.

Somehow, even though it's impossible, my dad finally passed away yesterday.

I am fatherless.

After I hung up with her, and after I threw up in the bathroom, I picked up my mom and we drove to the nursing home and we looked upon his body and he was no longer in it... Those moments, in that room, with my mother and my sisters... I don't want to remember those. But I fear they will be forever etched in my mind, clear as a bell...

I don't like the idea of"stages" of grief. That suggest to me stages that you actually GET through, instead of the waves of emotions that continually knock you over. I'm not dealing with one stage right now. The shock and the sadness are working right alongside the anger. Sometimes denial and bargaining show up for kicks. And I'm only on day 2.

Of course, having known he was dying since July, and having had him in the obvious end stages of his life this past month, we've already BEEN grieving for what seems like forever. I know all of my family was feeling the same as I was:

"It is insanely fucked up to want someone you love so much to just die."

Being a rational and moderately intelligent person, I knew that I didn't actually WANT my DAD to die. What I ACTUALLY wanted was selfish; I wanted my dad alive and well and making bad jokes at the Thanksgiving table. But instead of that, which was impossible, I had to hope for my dad to be free from the pain. I wanted US to be free from the pain of the limbo we were all living within. We were actively grieving for a man who was still alive. Every day began with the question of "Is today the day?" Every time I said goodbye, I kissed him, put his hand on my cheek and wondered, "Is this the last time? Is this the memory I have to hold onto because tonight, the phone will ring?"

Monday, the day of the actual last day I saw him, I managed to get there in the morning to avoid the stream of people that had filled his room every other time I was able to visit. Don't get me wrong, I am SO GRATEFUL that he had so many visitors, and I don't wish that they weren't there; but I was feeling anxious that the time I was having "with" him wasn't actually WITH him. I needed a quiet morning with him and my sister Vicky. And it was good. And she and I cried with each other, and held his hands, and wiped his face, and told him it was ok to go...

I had time alone with him, for the first time in a long time, and I held him and told him the same things I've said before. I love you. I know you love me. I am so proud you were my dad, and I know you're proud of me. My other sister, Jill, came and then we both had a quiet afternoon together. And we cried and we held his hands and we told him it was ok to go...

And then, it was time for me to go. And this time, as all of the other times before, I put his hand on my cheek and my head on his chest, and I hugged my daddy for the last time and told him it was ok to go now...

I had started making a photo album for him about a month ago, right around the time that we knew he wasn't likely to come back home again. I wanted him to have photos surrounding him, with faces he loved, and stories to share about all of the memories we'd made. Sadly, the cancer was too painful. The pain meds were never able to be on top of his pain AND not affect his cognition. And so the photo album became something else. It became the book I knew we'd bring to his funeral. I worked on it for an unbelievable amount of hours, and it still came down to the final hours of last night, where I realized that I didn't have a picture of So-and-so or that something wasn't straight and it didn't look "right." Feeling the tension and anxiety flooding over me, I rushed through it, knowing it would be FINE and that anyone who felt under-represented in the book would probably understand.

I'm so scared. I'm so scared of what life will look like without him in it. I'm so scared of knowing my mom is alone every night. I'm so scared that my kids and nieces and nephews will lose their memories of him. I'm so scared that I will lose memories of him...

Driving home last night, do you know what made me start crying and screaming again? I had been relatively calm for several hours, and maybe it was natural that it all came spewing out again, but the realization that he would never make potato salad for parties again nearly knocked me over. My mom makes the same damn potato salad, but my dad and I have very similar tastes on consistency and I always liked his ratios and blah blah blah and I started bawling like a baby. He won't make potato salad or Papa's noodles or barbecue on the grill again. He won't be at the head of the table at Christmas or Easter or Thanksgiving, raising his glass and smiling at everyone. He will never cannon ball into the pool with the kids or hide flamingos in my mom's Christmas village. All of the little things that made him so special, are simply no more.

I always imagined this day would be impossibly hard. I had no idea it would be so much harder than I thought...

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