Category Archives: heavy duty

You have all the tender sweetness of a seasick crocodile

I used to love Christmas.  Like LOVE it love it.  Like Buddy the Elf love.  I’m not sure if it’s a simple symptom of growing older and more cynical, or tired, or just that as time passes situations get more complicated.  I miss the days when my brother and I used to sleep on the pull-out couch in the den on Christmas eve, watching Christmas movies and waiting for Santa (even though he was so much older than me and already knew) while my mom worked away in the kitchen finishing up her pies.  The next morning all I had to do was roll out of bed and head for the Christmas tree, and my brothers and sister and aunt and uncle would be there and we’d open presents and eat a big dinner and laugh a lot.  I could go the entire day without putting shoes on.

Then people paired up, moved further away, and had families of their own.  My parents sold the house and there was no longer a central place that made sense for everyone to go.  And now I have a husband and in-laws and my own house, and it’s decorated all nice and cozy and I don’t particularly like to spend time away from it over the holidays.  And my family doesn’t quite enjoy spending time together like they once did, and it all seems like a chore.  Everything is, “Well you know, we’ll try to make it but the weather…” or “We’re so busy…” or “It’s such a schlep…” Getting together just doesn’t seem worth the effort for anyone anymore.

I’m also a victim of the blogosphere, and am therefore saddled with this idea of having to make everything so *special.*  I have a hard time doing half-assed gifts for people, everything feels like it has to be so meaningful and personalized and hand-made and thoughtful.  A scented candle just doesn’t seem to be an ok gift for me to give, even though I personally like to get them.  So I stress about getting gifts for my in-laws, that it’s never enough, and Greg isn’t really helping.  So then I get annoyed at him. And meanwhile I’m baking my ass off to put together giant assortments of cookies for various people, near and far, but cookies don’t really seem like they count as a gift, which means I still need to worry about doing more more more.

On top of the stress, I just feel lonely.  I haven’t seen my family in ages, and every time I try to get my mom to come down for the weekend so we can do fun holiday stuff she has some kind of excuse.  I worry about her because she’s alone in this house in the middle of nowhere, and so I try to figure out how I can juggle things to make time for her.  Then when I do make time, she’s not willing to make the effort to come down.  But then even when I do see my family, I’m reminded how strained everyone’s relationships have become and then I’m sitting right there in the middle of them feeling lonely in a different way.  Greg is only marginally into the holidays and only really wants to do Christmas things after like the 20th.  And I feel like most of my friends are just acquaintances that have their own things going on, or my good friends are either far away or also have their own things going on.  And so I’m left to my own devices to try to be in the spirit.  Like I’m trapped in this sad snowglobe all by myself.

I was baking last night, and listening to Christmas music, and trying to throw myself into the spirit.  And I started wondering why the holidays are meant to be this wonderful time of year, where everyone is a little kinder and more thoughtful and spiritual, and yet for so many people it yields the opposite effect.  It’s like everybody is walking this razor’s edge between ecstatic joy and cosmic melancholy, and if you don’t feel the right amount of joy, it makes for even more melancholy.

And then as the icing on the cake, I committed a Facebook faux pas last night.  I stupidly posted this status chain where you tag a bunch of people, and I kind of forgot how far reaching the ripple effects are of tagging on Facebook, and then everybody was annoyed.  So even social media is working to make me feel like shit.

So this must be what it feels like to be the Grinch.  Except I’m not sure that my heart is going to grow three sizes anytime soon.

Or maybe I’m just PMSing.

touching base

Hi there, long time no see.

I want to get back into posting on this thing.  I’m constantly coming up with little things here and there that seem like something best fleshed out in blog-form.  But I haven’t been able to come back to this space because I’ve been avoiding writing about what needs to be written about before I can move on to business as usual.

My dad passed away, back in June.  I can’t believe he’s only been gone five months, it feels much longer.  In a way I’d like to just leave it at that and not rehash anything, but now that I’m writing this it feels like maybe this is the perfect place to rehash this.

To get things going, and because I don’t have the time to sit here and start pouring my heart into a big post about it, I thought maybe I’d share a snippet of something I wrote in my personal journal.  I was just reading back over it the other day and it’s a small glimpse into what I was feeling back then.  And even then I waited a few days to write about it because it just felt too strange to see the words staring back at me on the screen.

“We had the memorial for dad last week.  Everything went really well, there were SO many people there, probably around a hundred.  It was the loudest wake I’ve ever been to – I walked out into the hallway a few times and felt bad for the other funerals happening.  But everybody chatted and looked at the pictures (I put together a collage board and [my brother] had a laptop with a slideshow) and shot the shit.

When we were walking into the funeral home, I was very quiet and taking deep breaths, and [my sister] asked me if I was ok.  Everybody kept asking if I was ok, in this confused tone, like it was some big mystery why I was being quiet.  As if any minute they were going to ask me if it was something I ate, or if I’m having a problem at work.   I did ok at the funeral.  I started crying when I saw Ronnie and Kim, I’m not sure why.  I guess because they had been such a familiar part of our family and I know they loved my dad.  Then I pulled myself together.  At the end, when the crowd had dwindled back down to just our family, I sat in a chair and it all started coming to me.  Once the boisterous chit chat and laughter had stopped, the silence was so sad.  It finally felt real, this was the last thing.  Everyone had gone – I might never see some of those people again.  They had paid their respects and were leaving to move on with their lives.  And there he was, ashes in an urn on a table.  And there we were, fatherless, husbandless, and embarking on a new chapter.  And I cried.  And everyone fawned over me – [my sister] gave me a nice long genuine sympathetic hug, and my mom gave me a hug.  But the thing is, they all acted like I was the one who needed the comforting, like I was this weak little thing that couldn’t handle the situation.  When really I’m not the weird one, they’re the weird ones.“

It’s been five months and I’m finally just in the past few weeks beginning to feel his absence in a sad way.  He was so sick for so long that when he finally passed, there was such a wave of relief among everyone that it didn’t leave much room for mourning.  And of course, everyone had a complicated relationship with my father, so nothing about this is particularly straightforward.  But I think maybe it’s time for me to reflect a little more on the loss instead of pushing it down and out of the way.

so where was I?

**WARNING: What follows, and what will continue to follow with all posts about this subject, might at times seem unfeeling, callous, matter-of-fact, flippant, and any other negative similes for “insensitive asshole” you can come up with.  I assure you, I really am a warm and caring person, but this is a complex subject and a complex situation.  If I could sit down and write a 25,000 word entry wherein everything unfolds and you understand me completely, I would.  But this is a blog and you’d stop reading after 47 seconds.  So please bear with me through the ups and downs of this thing.  After all, I’m still mentally unraveling it all myself.**


Oh, right.  My dad having lung cancer.  It sounds too dramatic to say “my dad is dying of lung cancer” but essentially that’s what’s happening –  it’s merely a case of whether it’s in the next few weeks or the next few months. It’s sort of been the overshadowing element of my life for the past year, and it’s exhausting.

He was diagnosed last year in early February after having had a nagging cough and cold for a few months.  He went through a few rounds of chemo and in May wound up in the ICU because of a fever and infection.  For two months I spent several days a week making the two hour trip to keep vigil with my mom at the hospital during the day and cheer her up at home at night.  After the first week he had regained consciousness and was moved out of the ICU, but was a complete mess from all the antibiotics and drugs.  He was confused and antsy, talking rapidly and incoherently, constantly trying to get up and leave, and becoming belligerent when he couldn’t.  He was delusional and paranoid, claiming my mom wouldn’t let him come home because she was having work done on the house behind his back.  He kept seeing mice run across the ceiling, and pulling at his IVs. He would have moments of clarity when you’d feel relief that things were looking better, until he would say something completely out of left field.  I remember a text I sent to my sister one day that said, “Dad asked me when I’m going to give him the measurements for our back gate so he can work on it.  But then he saw a pony walk past the room.” I think she and I laughed for about ten minutes at that one.  

The worst part about that whole period (ok maybe not the worst, just one of the many MANY horrible parts) was that the doctors and nurses seemed to have no understanding that something was radically wrong.  The neurologist would come for five minutes when we weren’t there, ask him his name and what year it was, and give him a clean mental bill of health.  We kept asking about the dementia, whether it was normal, desperate for someone to understand the severity of the situation, and instead everyone just sort of stared blankly and said he seemed fine to them.  Those first few weeks was unbelievably harrowing, my mom and sitting there in the hospital room alone with him trying to keep him calm and in bed.  Every two minutes he would throw the blankets aside and start to get up, and we would tell him to relax, that he can’t leave yet.  He would demand to know why, and then just ignore us, and my mom would have to push him back down.  When he wasn’t trying to get up, and losing his shit on us that we were stopping him, he was incessantly pulling at his gown and IV’s.  I remember several days of my mom pulling her chair up directly in front of him just so that she could keep him seated and keep him from pulling out his IV’s.  Which of course seemed like something the hospital staff should have been dealing with instead of his wife.  Every day we would go back to her house completely wiped out and immediately pour ourselves extremely tall drinks.  It was absolutely brutal.

Bit by bit he got better, and gradually his mind came back, for the most part.  He went to a rehab facility for a few weeks, but continually begged for my mom to let him come home, the furious outbursts from the hospital replaced by weepy appeals.  After three weeks at rehab and six weeks out of the house, he was able to come home.  

What follows from there is a long ten months (and counting) of ups and downs and deep introspection by yours truly.  All of which will be discussed ad nauseum in upcoming posts.

check ignition, and may God’s love be with you

I was talking with Greg the other day about blogging, and how when he and I used to have blogs back when we first met, it was a totally different world.  They were pretty rare, and mostly just random people posting random thoughts and generally opening themselves up to public scrutiny in an effort to put their voices out there.  I mean, Greg and I both had blogs before they were even called “blogs.”  I remember my first website in high school that I coded by hand that had a “Rants” section, and I had to literally type my entries into a text file and upload them to the FTP server.  There was no such thing as blogging software back then, or at least any that I was aware of.  

Nowadays blogging has turned into such a ubiquitous medium, there’s literally billions of blogs out there – my mom could have one for all I know.  (Although if she did I’m sure I would have had to provide tech support by now, so I think it’s safe to say she probably doesn’t.)  It seems to me the other bigger difference is that it’s turned into such a moneymaker that everybody has some kind of angle they’re working.  Nobody seems to have just regular old personal blogs where they chat about everything and nothing – it’s all either home improvement blogs, or health blogs, or recipe blogs, or design blogs.  Or if it IS a personal blog it tends to be all whitewashed and polite and positive.  

So I was talking to Greg about what I want to get out of blogging, and why I still have this urge to do it after all these years.  And how much do I want to share?  As an adult there’s something that feels juvenile about opening your heart to strangers. But there’s something that still goes back to that whole idea of just shouting into this giant void and see what echoes back to me.  Sometimes it’s easier to talk to strangers than friends. It’s like a much much much less expensive version of SETI:  I’m just going to aim my satellite array and put a signal out there and see what I get back.  Actually, I’m pretty sure SETI just listens and doesn’t send messages, so bad analogy.  But I just like any excuse to namedrop SETI.

So…have I mentioned that my dad has lung cancer?  Because he does, and it’s pretty bad.  And I have a lot to say about it, so you can look forward to some depressing shit in the upcoming posts.  

finding the shift key

The strangest thing about life is that people talk about it like it’s this thing that’s separate from themselves.  They envision their “Life” as being this thing that is out there somewhere, waiting to be lived.  You talk about it as if you’re outside of it and controlling it, but really you’re inside of it and it’s controlling you. And yet life is really the thing that you do every single day. 

The capital L Life, the one people talk about out loud, is climbing mountains, and quitting your job to go back to school to do what you’ve always wanted, and biking through Southeast Asia, and doing the Iron Man, and raising money for cancer research.  The little l life is the real one, the one that consists of waking up, going to work, cleaning the bathroom, cooking meals, walking the dog, getting a beer with a friend, going to Target to buy shampoo, fixing the leak in the ceiling, hanging up pictures on the walls, watching Mad Men, making the bed, doing laundry.  The thing I’m still trying to figure out is how to capitalize the l in my Life, because I’m stuck in lower case.

For the past eleven years of living in Philly, I’ve been living life without knowing it. I’ve always been biding my time, waiting for Life to kick in, as if it was something that would just happen without my help. I never thought that time was counting toward the total. But looking back I can see how much it adds up. And now here I am.

something’s happening here

I know I’m buying into all of the end of the world hype, and that’s intentional because I think it’s just fun and interesting to think about – that there might be a chance for a fresh start for all of us.

But seriously, doesn’t it seem like something is happening? All of these shootings and natural disasters, they just don’t even bear thinking about, I can’t even really process them.

The shooting today was a half hour from my nieces’ elementary school. I honestly can’t let my mind dwell on that fact.

The one bright spot that just cheered me up is the fact that this just came on in the coffee shop I’m sitting in: