Dead Relatives

Without a map, I found headstones of grandparents I never met in a cemetery I’ve never been to

because, I suppose, I am magical and can amaze, or they were

Their welcome was warmer than conversations with anyone I know alive

They grew moss in their names like a hobby

I felt their guilt when they realized I thought we shared a bond beyond the bones all bodies have in common

They lay there, shoulder to shoulder, side by side

Parents at the center, children who died before them on the left, a brother on the right

The children who died after- lost in the ether, as if by dying in the right order they’d earned the right to leave and forget

Dead relatives excel when they remind you how and where you don’t belong, when they make you aware of your empty hands

How insignificant anatomy becomes when grass grows where a sentient soul no longer is

All those soft bits in the soil, nowhere and everywhere, all at once, alone, together

A planted thing does not always grow, sometimes it is only stone

Dear New Stranger:

I’m a little late writing this, I meant to get a message to you before your changes started. In my defense, you started very young and took me by surprise.

I am hoping, by giving you a heads-up about the havoc you will experience by the actions of your hormones, I will be able to do two things. One, I am hoping to proactively prove I am not a complete dumbass. Two, I am hoping to lessen any fears or worries you might have when all the emotional bullshit comes crashing in on you.

Throughout this next bit of life, emotions are going to fuck around with you. A lot. There will be times they will terrify you. There will be times you will be inexplicably, horrifically, sad. There will be days of not giving one shit about anyone or anything whatsoever. You will hate. You will love. You will want to laugh but be unable. You will want to cry but be unable. And vice versa. Some days you will know why you feel or don’t feel whatever. But mostly, you won’t.

Shame will be bigger. Not because it should be but because that’s just what happens during this time in your life. Embarrassment will feel terminal. It is not. Anger will feel too big to contain. You will question everything, your own value, the worth of everyone you have ever known, the trustworthiness of yourself, the trustworthiness of others. The value of life.

Love, confusion, inspiration, excitement, motivation, joy, will take turns, each engulfing you completely or disappearing altogether. Sometimes several times in one day.

It will be a lot.

And some days it will feel as if it will be this way forever. It won’t.

Some days will feel as if time is flying by so fast you can’t catch your breath. You can.

A thing I know is, while you are going through all of this, you will feel various emotions about me. I will be stupid. I will be ugly. I will be boring. I will be hated. There will be days you will wish I’d shut up, go away, leave you alone, stop paying attention to you at all. There will be days you wish I’d die. There will be days you will be terrified I’ll die. I will try very hard not to. I will try very hard to keep my patience.

I will wait for you.

Even when you can’t stand the sight of my face, my face and I will never be very far away.

Because, eventually, the you who is the actual you will come back. You will remember yourself. You will remember me. Everything will all balance out and be okay.

You might even feel a little sorry for being an asshole. Or, you might not. Either is fine by me.

The only thing I ask you to do is- if you find yourself stuck somewhere dark during your journey through all of these things, find your way out. If you can’t do it on your own, find help. From someone who brings light to the dark, not from someone who encourages you to embrace the darkness.

If you need to hate, hate me. If you need to be angry, be angry at me. If you need to scream, I am tough enough. I can take it.

When you begin to feel like you might be reaching the other side of all of this… come find me. Even if you never want a hug again, I will accept you. Even if you never want to say, I love you, to me again, I will accept you.

Even if you change so much through all of it you think no one will recognize you, I will accept you.

Even if you are unrecognizable to me at first, if you are you, I will accept you.

Until then, I look forward to getting reacquainted.

❤ Me

Everyone Forgets

When I was young, before I left home, I was so soft-hearted, I worried my grownups. They would sit me down and have heart to heart talks with me about how I wore my heart on my sleeve. I was too trusting. Too caring. I believed in people too much.

They said if I didn’t toughen up, I’d be broken hearted my whole life.

They were right.

The irony is, when you live broken hearted too long, you toughen up. It just happens. One day, you wake up and you realize none of the beauteous curiosities that made you all teary-eyed and fuzzy ever meant a shitting thing. Not really.

And no one remembers anything anyway. The gratuitous kindnesses, the pay-it-forwards, the just because gifts you give away mean squat all.

Everyone forgets.

I read a story about a man who stopped loving his wife because she cut down a tree.

This is what sentimentalists do. I stopped loving the world and everyone in it after someone sold a house.

Sentimentalists attach themselves to things. They don’t even have to open books. They just have to hold them.

Sentimentalists can put their souls in their great-grandmother’s Chanel purse and it will stay there, perfectly still and preserved until it is retrieved.

My soul is in a wood ammunition box in a storage shed. It will not be retrieved.

My cat is in love with the idea of birds. She sits in the window and chitters and flicks her tail as if she will somehow hold the bird outside. My cat is a sentimentalist. Her soul is outside with a bird. If she were to ever catch one, she would definitely open it.

C++

I am probably dying
I might not be dying

For every loss of attention to detail
There is a hyper focus on a child’s art and the beauty of little things like cat toe pads sketched on canvas with charcoal and intricate attention to detail

For every abscessed tooth
There is a cute relative who laughs just right
at all the wrong jokes in front of people like the aunt who doesn’t appreciate jokes like that

For every degenerated disk
There is a hammock in the sun and faith in next summer when there will be pool floaties to fall off of and accidentally show your way-past-middle-aged ass while you laugh gin-soaked chlorinated water up your nose

For every COPD wheeze
There is a cool breeze and courage it will not turn cold and bring on the cough because even though winter is hell the silence of snow is heaven and it is really something when the streetlights shine and the stars are on the ground where you can touch them

For every cough
There is a breath and bravery there will be another and another and another and all that sixth grade biology keeps working its magic of cellular respiration as if life went on forever just a little while longer

For every positive result
There is a posibility it is false with a side of hope there are not things growing that should not grow because even though life is rarely fair and luck is not real and fate is an ass, sometimes it is and it is and it isn’t

For every suicidal thought that ever occurred at any time for however long
There is an apology

Because although I am not dying today
I am probably dying

No, Thanks. I’ll Wait.

To continue the theme of time (the before and after of my last journal entry), I am stuck in the in-between.

Whoever came up with the phrase, “Waiting is the hardest part,” is a fucking dumbass. If you buy into that, stop it right now.

Waiting is not the hardest part. Waiting is life. Waiting is the calm before or after the storm.

Waiting should be filled up with whatever keeps your soul happy. Satisfaction. Intrigue. Spooning. Hours of, “Oh, you’ve got jokes,”

How you wait is your prayer. You do not need a special room for it. You do not need a special building. No one gets to dictate how you wait. And no one gets to dictate how you pray. Just because you don’t feel as if you are waiting, does not mean you aren’t.

Just because you don’t feel as if you are praying, does not mean you aren’t.

Just because waiting and praying don’t feel as if you are casting spells, it does not mean you are not.

Waiting is not the hardest part. Waiting is the easy thing in the in-between.

The hardest part is getting bad news. When before becomes after. When here reaches there and there turns out to fucking suck.

The hardest part is when your hands are empty and there is nothing to cast your spell toward.

Before and After

It is easy to believe we are prepared for a thing before it happens. It isn’t until after it happens we realize this is a stupid thing to believe.

My father warned me so many times he wouldn’t be around forever, it turned into, “Oh, that is just something he says,”

And then forever showed up and took him and left me standing there to think, “Oh, that’s what he meant. This.”

Then my brother died. And my husband’s sister. My mother-in-law. Another of my brothers. A third brother.

All that left my mother to slowly lose her mind. I saw it happen. She imagined things that were not there, had conversations in her head she didn’t really have, then referred back to them as proof they’d happened. In her mind, if she remembered them, they must have happened.

My mother never told me she wouldn’t be around forever. She told me she would. And just like I did with my father, I told myself, “Oh, that’s just something she says,”

And then forever showed up and took her too.

True confession, I journal here because this platform is not kind to the editing process. When I am a serious writer, I use the computer. I save rough drafts. I go back, re-read, edit, rearrange, make appropriate changes.

Here, if I were to do proper writing with all the steps included, more often than not my original drafts would float off into the ether. Unsaved, unchanged, unseen, unheard.

Here, if I write, I must post and share or it is gone.

Here, I fight forever.

Here is where I type.

Here has turned into, “Oh, these are just things I say,”

True confession number two: We are all smack dab in the middle of both before and after.

We are in the before of loved ones we have not met yet because they have not been born. We are in the before of missing loved ones whose death has not yet happened.

The problem is, life always feels like we are stuck in the after.

After my father died. After my brothers died. After my mother died.

True confession number three: Now is where we should be.

Unedited, unrearranged, raw rough drafts of ourselves.

Think, type, post.

Now.

It Always Rains on My Birthday

Not really. My birthday is in November. Sometimes it does nothing. Sometimes it snows.

It did rain on my 6th birthday. I was in Kindergarten. I walked to and from school every day. Once I got in very big trouble when, instead of walking all the way to school, I stopped at a friend’s house to play. I was in morning classes, she was in afternoon classes so when she said school didn’t start until later, I believed her. Her mom believed us both and said she’d drive me. It wasn’t until I was dropped off for my non-existent afternoon classes I learned my mistake.

My friend gave me a giant geode because we had a fun morning. My mom made me give it back because it was a fun morning I wasn’t supposed to have.

She didn’t yell at me, my mom. She told me I’d played hooky. She explained school was much too important to play hooky. I never played hooky again.

On my 6th birthday, Miss Laverne gave me a certificate that said, “Congratulations on turning 6!”

She also let me make a purple construction paper crown to wear. I wrote my name all over it and covered it in crayon 6’s. Miss Laverne had to work the stapler for me because I wasn’t strong enough yet to squeeze it.

When it was time to walk home, it was raining. On raining days my mom would drive me or pick me up or both. But I didn’t see her car waiting for me in the line of cars so I walked home.

I cried the whole way. I wore my birthday crown and carried my certificate and everything was wet from rain and I did not think turning 6 was very fun at all.

When I got home, no one was there. There was a birthday cake on the kitchen table with 6 candles in it but all the lights were off and no one was there.

So, I walked back to school in the rain, still wearing my paper crown and carrying my certificate.

At some point, my mom found me. She apologized for not seeing me when I came out of the school. It was raining too hard. When she realized what I must have done she drove home. When I wasn’t there, she traced my route, driving up and down every side street until she found me.

When we got home I took off my wet things and took a nap in my parents’ bed. I remember my sister, Kathy, was there when I woke up and the candles were lit for my cake. I remember because it was the first time I was ever mad at my mom. I remember because at that moment, my sister was the only person in the world I liked.

Then I tasted my mom’s homemade peanut butter frosting for the first time and I felt bad for not liking my mom for a minute and I cried all over again.

My brother George came home while I cried into my cake and asked me if I was crazy.

I told him my whole ordeal and showed him my messed up crown and my ruined certificate and I cried all over him. He told me to eat more cake. He told me mom would have plenty of opportunities to make me not like her. He said if he wasn’t allowed to stay mad at her, I wasn’t either. He said it was okay to be mad at her sometimes though. I just should try very hard not to stay mad at her because she really was pretty good as far as moms went and besides, “You aren’t going to be half the fuck up I am,” he said.

I laughed. Mom smacked George on the head and told him not to say the f word. Kathy said, “Ya, don’t be a fuck up like George and say fuck in front of mom and dad,”

But Kathy was smart and waited until mom wasn’t in the room when she said it. She was also eating leftover peanut butter frosting off a spatula. The sun was setting behind her outside the kitchen window and the light on her hair looked like a halo. Kathy, the Patron Saint of Peanut Butter Fucking Frosting.

I don’t like my birthdays anymore. I haven’t had a happy birthday for a very long time but this will be a very special unhappy birthday. George died when he was 54. On this birthday, I will turn 54.

So far, however, the forecast says it will not rain.

It will be a Friday the 13th though. Because fuck.

Wander This Way

It may or may not be funny in an ugly, not funny way but not very long ago I told my son, “You should watch the movie, ‘__________,’ if you want to know your mom because the lead character, that’s your mom,” and I don’t remember which movie I told him to watch. (Snuff, Stone Sour)

If I could remember the name of the movie, I would watch it. To get to know Jake’s mom. If I remember anything correct at all, I think I liked her for awhile. She was a good movie. An okay movie. A bit of a pot boiler. Some people like that sort of thing. (Creep, Radiohead)

Susan reminds me I was a teacher. Sometimes Beth does too. Whitney and Kim remind me I was a writer and an audiophile. My ghosts remind me of my soundtrack. (Panoramic, Atticus Ross)

Faith reminds me I was once someone who gave good advice. She remains ever vigilant in the belief I will not fail her. She was named well. (Wings for Marie, Pt. 2, Tool)

Dana reminds me I was once a fairly good caretaker and should not be allowed to wander off and fall in a hole. (Don’t Follow, Alice in Chains)

Ashie checks in, every now and then, to say, “How are you, I hope you are fine,” (Hey There, Delilah, Plain White T’s)

I am still right here. (Hurt, Nine Inch Nails)

Time Traveler

If I’d been thinking, when you asked if there was anything I needed, I would’ve asked for time.

Most people, when presented with a request for time, assume it refers to the future. They think, “I need more future,” is the ask. It seems to make sense.

Others think it means the present. They think the requester needs more now. More of this moment right here. Please may I stay right here. Put a pin in this.

But I would’ve asked for more then. A whole bunch of remember when. I would’ve asked to be sent back. So I could do some things again. So I could take more than notes. Find the places where all the things broke.

Everyone always wonders who my words are for. My answer has always been, of course they’re for you, silly.

But they probably aren’t.

But maybe they are.

And that’s how I like them to be.

Because that is how my now is.

And how I’d like your now to be.

If I could go back and do it again, you’d know for sure. But only then. And only if. If only, if only, if only.

I always looked as if I were thinking big thoughts. I maybe really wasn’t. And now we’ll never know because you never really asked. And all the moments passed.

Typical People

Typical people worry about job interviews. Cross country travel. Blind dates.

My anxiety kicks in on Sunday if I know I have a doctor appointment on Wednesday.

Typical people find me ridiculous.

If I can’t find a bra, my hubby won’t insist I go anywhere. So I accidentally on purpose hid all my bras from myself.

If I haven’t showered, my presence can’t be demanded. We’ll skip this topic in deference to my accidental on purpose dreadlocks.

My daughter messages me to remind me she will pick me up at 3pm for whatever. She knows I will sit in my living room with my purse on my lap all day until she comes. She reminds me to wear a big t-shirt because she knows about my bras.

Granddaughters are unpredictable. They want things like fast food drive-thrus and public swimming pools. My oldest granddaughter has learned I will hide if she says the word shopping.

My youngest two granddaughters just think I’m that weird lady they used to see sometimes who made bracelets with them or painted rocks beside them. They don’t expect anything from me anymore.

Typical people say things like, “That’s so sad,” or, “That’s fucking crazy,” or, “What the hell is wrong with your mom,” Grandma. Sister. Aunt. Wife.

Typical people suggest therapy. Writing. Journaling. Blogging. Xanax. CBD gummy bears. More cats.

Extreme typical people suggest I get a job or go to gatherings.

Typical people are outside. They drive cars and bitch about Karens. They interact with other typical people and make fun of anything atypical.

Atypical people stare at their hands. Forget absolutely everything. Leave their glasses on the living room table so they can’t see too much if they have to go in the backyard. If they are in their backyard it is because there is something back there they can’t avoid going back there for. Like their fucking cat got out because he is a cat bastard and there are squirrels out there and he doesn’t realize his human is a giant squirrely atypical weirdo who will cry for an hour after she gets him back inside.