Earrings

2 07 2015

Then, there are those dreams

when you see your sister

and she’s still alive

and you sit across the table from her

and you want to explain to her

that the reason you’re wearing her earrings

is because it was a way to have her with you.

But here she is—

she’s across the table from you

she isn’t gone

so you sort of feel bad for having her earrings while she’s still here

but there was a reason you had the earrings

a bothersome, sad feeling

which becomes a slow washing over

a tiny river of realization

this odd knowing

this knowing

that she is both here and not here.

She is both dead yet alive.

Gone from this world, but very much present in your heart and mind.

These dream moments are too quick

too fleeting

and you don’t realize how precious they are

until you have left them

until you are awake

and alone

in your room

thinking of her

and her earrings

your sister

the love





the losing of someone

30 09 2014

in the losing of someone, you gain so many things

things you didn’t want

you just want to trade all of those things back for your loved one

but you can’t

your loved one is gone and you are stuck with a crappy grab bag

filled with

sadness, anger, fear, loneliness,

and a hollow, emptied out part of your heart

“I’m sorry to hear about your loss,” they will say, kindly, not knowing what else to give you, your hands already full with the contents of your unwanted bag.

“I know it happened a while ago. I’m sorry I didn’t say it sooner.”

but anyone who has lost a loved one knows that there is no such thing as

belated condolences

you will never stop missing your loved one

never

and life continues and you do all sorts of things

you thought you’d do with them nearby

wishing you

good luck

and

congratulations

and

I love you

It’s so different without them there. Different than it always had been. One less.

one less at dinner

one less at the celebration

one less at all the gatherings

and there are positive thoughts and comforting quotes

but sometimes

you don’t want any of those

you just want to cry

and there is a gentle beauty in that

crying

for the knowing

that even if your loved one was here for only a brief time

how lucky you are to have had even that





Robin

26 08 2014
Mr. Williams has always been one of my favorite entertainers.

Mr. Williams has always been one of my favorite entertainers.

With everything that is happening just in my own little life, I haven’t really mourned the death of Mr. Robin Williams yet. I found out about his death at our going-away party in Chicago two weeks ago, mere hours before we packed up the car to head to our new home down south. So the weight of the news was not something I could handle at the time.

We’ve been in our new home for almost two weeks now and yesterday I stopped by the new-to-us grocery store to grab some supplies for dinner. I cut through the magazine aisle—an aisle I don’t think I’ve ever fully utilized in the grocery store. Perhaps one time, in the mid-90’s, I bought an Utne Reader before a long flight I was going to take. Even when buying magazines was a thing, I didn’t really do it. But then I saw his face on the cover of a special Time magazine tribute. And I bought it. I’ve only gotten through one article—too difficult for me to read more than that in one sitting.

Robin Williams 1951-2014

From a very early age, he was one of the most inspirational performers for me. I’m sure there are countless actors, improvisers, and comedians who’ve said the same thing. I loved his humor, his originality, his spontaneity, and his heart. Everything he did, he did with sincerity and heart, and that makes all the difference in the world. When a performer shares a piece of himself or herself, a strong connection is made to each individual audience member. I felt a strong connection to Mr. Williams. But I am by no means the only one.

Any suicide is so very hard on the loved ones surrounding that person. There’s always a feeling of betrayal. “But I loved you! Why wasn’t that enough for you? Didn’t you know?” And I am selfish enough to have felt a small pang of that betrayal when I heard of his suicide.   But even a casual understanding of addiction and depression tells us that loving someone who suffers from these demons isn’t enough. And it was no secret that he struggled with them for years.

He was so incredibly loved and admired—an amazing performer and human being, a man full of kindness and creativity who brought joy to me, and so many others. But all of that love, all of that admiration we had for him, was still no match for his demons.

May he rest in peace. His work will continue to entertain and inspire others for years to come.





Other Times and Places

17 06 2012

Right now I am in Chicago, sitting at home and thinking about stories.  Stories are like dreams.  They are intimate, revealing, and can transport us to other times and places.

June 5, 2012.  I’m in Seattle on vacation, taking the bus to see a friend.  When I get on the #44 and ask for a transfer, a homeless man chimes in and gives me almost-correct directions.  During the 90 minute visit with my friend we cover years and distance.  We reminisce about our Chicago trip ten years ago.  We laugh about old and new inside jokes.  She hugs me and tells me she’s sorry to hear about my sister.  After our time together, I am greeted once again by the same homeless man I saw at the beginning, sitting in the same spot on the same bus.  We both went many places by being in just one.

February 1, 1998.  I am flying out to Seattle, WA from Louisville, KY with a one-way ticket.  My sister says I am brave, but I don’t really hear it.

June 1, 2007. I am moving from Seattle to Chicago.  It’s a Friday around 5pm and I’m in traffic in my rented moving truck on Devon—except I’m pronouncing it “Devin” ‘cause I haven’t lived here yet.  I pass a street called “Pulaski” and it hits me that I’m going to be living in a very different city—one where maybe I’ll even get to hear Polish being spoken from time to time.  I pass a street named “California” and I feel so very far away from the west coast.  Later, I will arrive at my new home and load all of my belongings up three flights of stairs with the gracious help of my landlord.  Then, when the door is closed, I will sit on the floor and cry and cry.  But I know deep down that everything will be okay.

June 1, 2012.  I am in Seattle, walking past apartments I’ve lived in, restaurants I’ve dined in, and fields I’ve played Frisbee in.  I am raw with memories.  A stranger wakes me from my reverie by saying, “Are you a local?”  “Ah, I used to be” I reply.  I give her almost-correct directions.  But her question has shaken me and I worry that I’m in danger of regretting my move.  To cure this, I think of all of the reasons I am grateful I moved to Chicago (the lovely friends I’ve met, the way the windy city inspired me to do solo work, how nice it is to be living closer to my family in Louisville).  Just then, walking toward me, is a man wearing a shirt with “Chicago” written across it.  I think I’m dreaming.  But it’s real.  Later, I will sit at my favorite donut spot in Seattle, wearing my Kentucky shirt, and hear them play a Sufjan Stevens song about Illinois.  Places and times will converge in one spot, in one moment—kind of like they do in a dream.

I dreamt of Kentucky last night.  It was a different time.  My sister was still alive.  We were all in the kitchen talking, joking, and laughing with each other .  I was so excited to see her.  I got to tell her that I love her, which felt so good.  But she didn’t really hear it—I realized I was dreaming before she could respond. It wasn’t real.  I guess I was stirred awake by the impossibility of it.

October 11, 2007.  I have lived in Chicago for four months. My parents are up from Louisville to visit me.  When we go to the lake, I experience a rush of de ja vu.  The last few years that I lived in Seattle, I had this recurring dream where I lived in an old hotel on the beach.  My mom, my dad, my sisters, and my nieces and nephew were all in the dream. It made me think that maybe one day I’d live by the ocean–maybe even own a B&B–and have lots of good family visits.  But here I was, with my mom and dad on a Lake Michigan beach and it all made sense.  I will get this de ja vu feeling again every single time a family member comes to Chicago to visit me, like when my sister comes up for a brief visit three years later.

May 19, 2012.  I am in Kentucky for my niece’s wedding.  As I’m walking outside, I see a key chain lying in the grass.  It’s one of those silver key chains with the outer circle and the spinning middle part.  The middle part says, “Illinois” and the outer circle says, “Chicago, the Windy City.”  I smile and remember the very first time I saw this type of key chain.  It was in 1998 when I first moved to Seattle from Louisville.  I was working in the gift shop of Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. I was in love with my new city and homesick for my old one.  In the stockroom I opened up a box of our new key chains.  The inside said, “Woodland Park Zoo” but the company had made a mistake and outside said, “Louisville, KY.”  I thought I was dreaming.  I took them around to everyone in the shop, asking them to read it to me.  It was real.

October 1, 2011.  I buy myself a purse in Chicago.  It looks sort of like an owl.  My sister loves owls.  It has always been her thing.  Deanna loves owls.  Laura loves turtles.  Amanda is the weird actor one that switches what she likes a lot.  If I was younger, I might question if it’s okay for me to like owls.  But I’m older and I like the purse.  So I buy it.  I wonder when I will see her next, because I know she’ll think it’s cute.  I see an older man trip on the escalator going into the store.  I try, without success, to keep him from falling.  But he tumbles and tumbles and tumbles on the unforgiving escalator.  It feels like a dream.  It makes me think of how fragile we all are. The man kept falling and the stairs kept moving and none of us were able to stop it from happening.  That night, I dream about being in a combination city made of Louisville and Chicago.  I’m trying to get a hold of my family and my family is trying get a hold of me.  But, the buttons on the phones aren’t working and I’m panicking and it seems so urgent for me to see them.  I wake up, heart racing.  I know it was a dream, that it wasn’t real.  But I switch on my phone and see all of the missed calls starting early in the morning.  When my mom tells me on the phone that my sister has died, I will cry and cry.  It will feel like a dream.  But it’s real.

Right now, I am in Chicago, traveling to other places and times while being in just one.  May we all be wakeful enough to appreciate the dreamy moments and restful enough so that we are not stirred by the impossible ones.





Transcending Loss

21 03 2012

After I lost my sister, a dear friend gave me a book on grief.  It’s called, Transcending Loss by Ashley Davis Prend and has been incredibly helpful.  Dealing with the death of a loved one is not something I can encapsulate into a sentence or even a blog entry.  At least, not right now.  Or maybe I can on some days and other days I cannot.  Something truly valuable I’ve gotten from this book is that, yes, there are lots of stages of grief, but that no, you will not necessarily feel them in any certain order.  Sometimes, you’ll be in multiple stages at once; sometimes, you’ll revisit stages you thought you already passed through.  Dealing with death is weird, sad, frustrating, gut-wrenching, liberating, and–despite my trying to do so–impossibly indescribable.  So when this book lays out in front of you all of these things you’re feeling and does so in a way that says, “Yep, what you’re going through is pretty shitty and all of those thoughts and feelings you’re having are COMPLETELY NORMAL,” it just makes you feel so much better.

This morning, I woke up with a Garth Brooks song in my head.  My sister loved Garth Brooks.  The song accompanied an image of the three of us–my two sisters and I–standing with our arms around each other.  The film maker in my head sure does know how to direct a tear-jerker, right?

Anyway, it made me reach for the book, which I actually haven’t done in a month or so.  I opened up to different pages and am moved to share some excerpts of the book here.  Who knows?  Maybe it will even help someone else who is dealing with grief.

“After the stage of Shock, grievers commonly enter the stage of Disorganization.  This is the heart of grief, and thus the most difficult……You remember the good times and the precious, ordinary moments.  You remember the bad times and all the things you wish you had said that you’ll never be able to say now.  Some days are punctuated by gut-wrenching, bittersweet, lonely moments, but on other days, you don’t feel anything at all.  You might have nightmares, health problems, or irrational phobias.  You probably think that you’re going crazy and you may even want to die.  This is a particularly difficult stage since it seems endless and in fact it may reemerge, off and on, for many years.”

Like I said, it’s helpful to have your feelings validated and to know that no, you’re not going crazy–you’re just normal.  Here’s another passage that found me this morning.

“The point is that in the beginning, in the stage of Disorganization, things are not okay.  Life is not fine.  You are not doing all right.  Someone you loved dearly, someone precious to you, has been wrested from you, and your life is left in shreds.  If someone describes a griever to me by saying, ‘Oh, she’s so strong and together; she’s handling her grief really well,’ that’s when I worry.  I think someone is handling her grief well if I hear that ‘she’s terribly upset, she’s crying constantly, she’s falling apart.’  Emotion isn’t the problem to be fixed; it’s the natural response and the ultimate solution.”

Thank you, beautifully validating book.





the small moments

15 02 2012

condolences

is a big word with lots of sylables

that folks use when they don’t know what to say

if you ask me when I miss her most

it’s in the small moments

the unexpected times

the ones that don’t always make sense

washing a plate

stretching out on the floor, listening to a song

dusting my dresser

cutting through the greeting card aisle in the drugstore

crossing the street

folding a blanket

and anytime

I remember

that she’s gone