The time Kait ruined Christmas

Kaitlin tended to call me en route to a vacation stop, or while waiting for a plane, or to check in from some local airport bar where she was living down her latest forty-eight hours of poor decisions.  This story is just that, a recollection of a weekend that involved a few poor judgement calls, bars in airports, and a holiday disaster of epic proportions.

She called me while at Logan airport after a weekend of guests, and she caught me off guard with the immediate and aggressive details of her weekend, so much so, I almost got hit by a car trying to cross the street to process the latest disaster she called dating.

“First, I need to tell you how good looking he is,” she emphasized this, as we’d had some terrible suitors of late that did not qualify as good looking, and so this was her disclaimer up front to get me to avoid being disappointed in her latest tryst.

“He’s a pro-golfer,” she continued, defensive still, and I started in with my usual interrogation tactics.  This is odd, I thought.  Normally I have to pull the professional details of her latest out of her, like the time I did with the toilet salesman, or the Target worker, or the guy with the ambitions to be on American Idol (the Bangor, Maine, version, to be clear).

“It’s winter, Kaitlin, and I highly doubt you met him on a golf course.” My voice was filled with doubt and judgment, as the only thing I’d ever seen her do on a golf course was pose awkwardly with her siblings, every Thanksgiving, when they took this infamous family shot on the green at her Mimi’s retirement community.

kaits awkward photos

“Did you meet him while visiting Mimi, Kait? Because that means he’s at least 70 and I know you like it there, but JESUS.” She had recently told me what a gem Mimi’s community was, with the early dinners, naps, and day drinking by the pool and golf course.  She had boasted how marketable she was for any grandkid of one of Mimi’s friends, and truly, she never ceased to amaze me with her locations of choice for a pick-up.

 “No, Christ, I’m not that bad,” and at this point, at least that was debatable, because her Coug days were just getting started, maybe perhaps with this very first take down.

She carried on with, “He’s the younger brother of one of my roommates and girlfriends,” to which I countered,

“Oh, this sounds like it’s going to end well.  Please carry on.” Why the younger brother of a girlfriend wasn’t enough to deter her, I’ll never know, but apparently, she was into young, unsuspecting lads we were probably old enough to babysit a decade ago.

And then she just laid it out simply.

“So I took down her younger brother last night. The one with the nice girlfriend that the whole family loved.” 

I was almost hit by another car and my mouth dropped so wide a swarm of bees could have flown in and I wouldn’t have been able to shut my jaw enough to stop them.

“Holy god, what the hell is wrong with you?”  She knew I was more proud than horrified, and she asked what all the beeping was about.

“I almost got hit by a fucking Parisian.  You could have warned me before you said take down.” These stories never ended well.  She carried on, unphased.

“So he’s giving me the eye at the bar when we’re out with the family and then one thing leads to another blah blah blah and we’re back at the house,”

WHOSE HOUSE, I demanded, and I want to say hers and the roommates, but to this day, I can’t be sure.  I’m pretty sure hers, though.

She continues, saying blah blah a lot about the details from the bar, but I can picture it all in my head anyway. I have seen her blah blah blah before.  It’s less than classy or attractive.

 “And then he comes in my room late at night and blah blah we had drunken sex. I think the headboard is broken because it kept banging but then we also kept banging.”

I couldn’t get enough of this story.

“And then when we were done, he went out to the living room to sleep in the aerobed, and yep, you guessed it, HIS MOTHER WAS SITTING ON THE COUCH.”

I made a pained noise and then laughed so hard I choked.  “I didn’t fucking guess that, Kailin.”  Truly, I didn’t see that one coming, no one guesses the mother is in the fucking same building, but then again, it was not a huge surprise.

“So she was sitting there just staring at him and then just said, “were you doing nasty things in there?”  I almost got hit in traffic again. I had to stop walking and crossing these damned streets.  This story was the best. Nasty things is one of my favorite things and while I wanted her to elaborate, I knew she didn’t need to.

“So I didn’t know any of this because I passed out in my room but then the next morning, no one said a word when his parents drove us to the airport.”

“DID YOU SAY PARENTS?  Where was everyone sleeping? You had the whole family there and you took down the young brother? Oh my god.  OHMYGOD.  Why were you all on a group trip to the airport?  Jesus, I’m so confused.”  There were so many parts of this story I didn’t understand, care to understand, or really question.   She had this ability to create a circus without even trying and it was magical.

“Who cares? Stop asking all these questions.  I was flying out for work and he was flying back to DC.  Anyway, I thought we had gotten away with it, but then we headed to the airport bar,” she paused for a second and I jumped in,

“Why were you all making a family trip to the airport bar?” I was confused. Didn’t she live in Boston and why was she going to the airport bar?

“Ugh, to see him off,” she was mad I kept interrupting her with my aggressive interrogation and disruptive laughter. I didn’t know what stitches was but I was fucking in them.

“So he grabs me and says, hey, quick, I need to tell you something, and then went into the story of how his Mom asked if we had been doing nasty things and that his sister (my roommate) also knew. The whole family knows. That’s why no one looked me in the eye today.”

Yes, hearing the drunken sex of the prized youngest son will do that to a proud mother and doting sister.  Jesus, I couldn’t get enough of this story.  She needed her own TV series, really, and if I had more time that day, I would have elaborated on what nasty things this time entailed.  If I were to go with the historical knowledge I had of her sex life, I had an idea.

“Oh dear lord what did your roommate say? Nice work on banging my younger brother? I’d kill you, just so you know, if you banged my brother.”  I did hope her friend at least had a sense of humor about the whole thing.

“Oh, you know, the usual,” which I assumed meant she was disappointed, slightly in awe and at least thankful for a good story.

“So she didn’t care?” I tried again. That girl had to care. Kait’s take downs were always epic and disastrous.

“Oh, no, she told me I ruined Christmas.”
And with that I just sat down on the sidewalk and laughed and laughed and laughed until the tears almost drowned me and lack of air almost suffocated me.  People were staring and I had never been so happy to make a scene in the middle of Paris.

“HEATHER, IT IS NOT FUNNY.  I RUINED THEIR CHRISTMAS.”  I kept laughing.

She had ruined an entire holiday, for an entire family, on perhaps the holiest time of the year, around the birth of Jesus.

I was so proud to be her friend.

 

Things about Kaitlin…

The last time I wrote here, was about my father, on the day I lost him ten years ago.  It was the start to a decade of pain, and it ended just the same, but with new grief, that of losing my best friend, Kaitlin.  I have avoided writing anything too real and painful, and just allowed for a few pictures and memories on FB, because I knew it would hurt too much to write how I feel about losing her, and it reminds me of the pain I felt when I lost my father, and it’s a reminder of how loss in general is one thing I do not do well.

It took me at least a year to write something significant about the loss of my father, and most of which I kept private and unable to share with the world.  Even now, ten years later, I have not written everything I have to give, because it brings me to a place that leaves me uneasy and scared and vulnerable, and vulnerability is one of my very least favorite things on earth.  But, I loved Kaitlin in a very different way than I loved my father, and she loved my stories, and made so many with me, that it seems wrong not to write just because i’m not sure I’ll make it through.  I owe her at least to try, and I know if I can’t, she would understand and wait.

What I can’t decide now is how to approach this.  Do I start at the beginning, with us sitting on her front stairs, late into the night holding hands and me crying, or do I start when I publicly gave her eulogy, not coming up with enough words to express my love, and still crying.  So.  I guess I’ll work backwards, because there is no more forwards, and I should start with the enormity of my loss, to be able to reflect on the abundance of laughter and happiness she brought to my life.

The problem is, though, that I can’t find the eulogy I gave.  I ripped it from my journal, and tucked it back somewhere not to lose, and I did just that, I have lost it, and the only reason I’m not going to light something on fucking fire out of anger, is because sadly I’m unable to forget most of the words I wrote about her.  And, maybe it’s ok I lost it, because I didn’t say everything I wanted to say, and I didn’t get to have more than one chance to say it, but I do now, and so maybe this will be a better version anyway.  And, it’s a better way to spend my time, than the last hour I spent scouring Facebook pages to find photos of us together, to remember the last time we spent together, saving every moronic and unattractive photo we ever took, and my god, did we not try to be attractive.

I met Kaitlin while living in DC, and we became the best of friends almost exactly ten years to the month I lost her, maybe 30 days difference.  We had been acquaintances, buddies through other friends, but it was not until around 15 AUG 2007, that she became one of the most important people in my life.  I had just come back from losing my father the week before, only in town in DC for a few days to gather more things and myself, only to go back to spend more time with my family in Maine.  My friends were worried about me, and I had a dinner with her and a few others.  The dinner that was to distract me from my grief included good news for another friend, and I felt devastated, because I didn’t selfishly, have the moment with my girlfriends, to be as rock bottom as I was.  I made it through the dinner, and she offered to walk me home back to her place, for another drink, and it is one night that I have never forgotten, and will never, because she saved me from myself and my grief for a few hours, and I always told her that I could never repay her for what she did.

We went back to her house, and she asked if I wanted to sit on the stairs and talk, have another glass of wine, a few smokes, and for me to tell her how I really felt.  I had never spoken to her before about anything bad, forget life changing, she knew only the details of my family life that I mocked, and I had never sat before her so ruined, so lost, and so willing to give in to every last bit of self destruction I could muster.  I told her about the week before, about the phone call, about the long drive up 95 that ruined my life.  I told her about having to tell my sister and how I would never forgive my father for that.  I told her what it was like to go back to his house a day after he died, what it was like to feel everything and nothing in the same day, the things I regretted, the things I hated, the things I didn’t want to admit to myself but I had to tell someone who didn’t feel the same pain.

What she did for me that night, and through the entirety of our friendship, was she did not judge me.  She did not interrupt, she did not tell me to feel less or feel something unrealistic as forgiveness or love.  What she did is sat quietly to the left of me, on the same stoop, and she sat silently, and from time to time, she grabbed my shoulder or she ran her hand across my back.  When my drink ran low, she filled it and kept listening.  She lit cigarettes from me and nodded from time to time, but not once did she ever tell me she understood, and I was so grateful to have someone let me be angry and sad and destructive and hateful and lost and defeated and expect not one thing from me, and for when I paused, she sat in silence too, and smoked and stared into the same darkness I was staring into, and she just waited until I spoke again.

And when I was done raving and swearing and pleading and crying, she just asked if there was anything she could do.  And for once, when I said no, nothing, she was the person who didn’t try beyond that.  She put me on her couch, took my shoes off, and when I woke up the next morning, she asked me if I wanted to go to Cheesecake Factory, and she never mentioned what she sat through the night before.  She never asked if I was ok, or told me to cheer up.  She took me to our favorite place to eat buffalo blasters, and she ordered us both a white wine, and she told me about one of her horrific dating experiences of late.  I laughed, and she laughed, and she never felt sorry for me, and it was that weekend, in AUG 2007, that she became my very best friend.

We spent a decade together, making very poor decisions, living life irresponsilbity, laughing so hard we cried, defending each other, fighting each other, loving each other, and having a better understanding of each other’s fears, best moments, and plenty of worsts, than so many other people in my life.  She was a sister to me, and we made each other better, and we certainly brought each other down with mutual bad behavior and lack of self control.

We always said we’d end up together, rocking somewhere on a porch facing the ocean in Maine, drinking nips and smoking into the night, reminiscing about the life we lived hard in our 20s and 30s.  We’d surely be alone, because no man could ever contain us or really want us for life, but we’d have each other, like so many times in our friendship, and it was something we looked forward to, and expected on some level, and were fine with, on all levels.

She was so many things I am not.  She was endless laughter, and spontaneity, and selflessness and compassion that I have never felt.  She was kind, and endearing, and mischievous, and clumsy, and sunshine after a hurricane of chaos, most of which she was directly involved in causing, with or without me.  She was accepting, and forgiving, and patient, and optimistic.  I can hear her laugh, because it’s what she did most, and there was a twinkle in her eyes that sparkled and made you happy, or worry, or both, depending on the day.  I never met anyone who didn’t like Kaitlin, because her heart was truly good and never conflicted, and she was real and loyal, and she would do every last thing possible for someone she loved, and she loved me, and she always, always gave me the world.

This piece was actually not as hard to write as I imagined, and it made me smile.  But my heart hurts, and I’m so very sad to live days where so much reminds me of her, and I instinctually go to message her still, screenshot things only she would understand, raise eyebrows at things we’d need no words to share and laugh about, and when she used to just be a moment away, she is now a lifetime away, and every time I am forced to remember that, it kills me, stabbing, aching, pain that drowns me.  One day, hopefully, the pain will be less.

But not today.

She was the very best. She was my angel, my counterpart in creating chaos, my sounding board, the person who always forgave me for just being me.  She was, all things unconditional, and she was a piece in my life that will remain empty until I see her again.

 

me and kait 2009

And when I do, when we are together again, we will raise hell, laugh until it hurts, and I will tell her, I was never scared or very alone, because I was always sure she stayed with me.

 

Ten years of loss

I’ve spent nine years and something leading up to this post, and still have no idea how to make this one post centered around loss different than any other I’ve done.  I decided not to read the other posts, so that when I wrote this one, it had the potential to merely be an update on where I’m at dealing with the death of my father.

And then I thought I should forget about this post because it was too much of a milestone, too much pressure, but I do need to write my way through this, and so I will, because the best thing that’s ever come out of my loss is realizing I can help people who are not able to be as vocal as I am.

So.  Here we go.

In the past ten years, I’ve deliberately taken of Dead Father Day, a holiday not everyone gets to celebrate, yay me, and my “celebrating” includes no amount of decorations, friends, finger foods or alcohol that I’m willing to share for a group.  In many Dead Days past, I thought sitting on my back porch was extremely healing, if healing includes drinking straight through two bottles of wine, a stray beer here or there, and a large amount of tobacco to prove that I’m driving the south forward on their tobacco production.

Today, Wednesday, 2 August, 2017, marks an approximate 3650 days of death dealings.  I’d say 3655, just because of leap years but honestly, I’m not a fucking calendar and I don’t know how many leap years there have been, nor do I care to look it up.

This year it hit me harder than last, proven in my journal entries by day this week.  I wrote a normal entry for 31 JULY and then the next day, as I sat in a gazebo out of view of my office, I sat and smoked and drank too much coffee and decided to write.  And the minute I wrote 1 AUG, the sinking feeling I felt paralyzed me.  How could I know that July has a last day and not remember that August, the worst month of the year, has a first day? August, you humid, sneaky cunt, I still hate you with everything I have in my blood and bones and hobbit sized body.

I wrote privately about how hard it hit me, how shocked and oddly so, and how I should not have been.  I wrote about how truly I hate vulnerability, and how I hope this entire month would drink poison and disappear again forever.  I wrote about wanting to say something profound for those that I know look to my experiences to make theirs better or less painful.  I wanted to write to make sense of what ten years of loss truly feels like. I wanted to write to tell my father all of the things that he has missed but I’m sure he’s either at the bottom of the ocean we dropped him in, or he’s found a way to raise hell elsewhere, and thankfully just not in my life right now.

The truth of the matter is that three thousand something days could go by, and I am still able to put myself exactly where I was when I found out, when i drove home, when i told my sister, when i stayed home, when I cried and when didn’t know how to cry, when i was angry and didn’t know if I’d survive, the days I felt like lying on the cold linoleum floor of a transitional apartment complex made sense, and still makes sense to me now, because when I got very sad the other night, I moved myself with a pillow to the floor, because I feel like I feel my best pain apparently lying with my face against the floor.

I’ve previously written about what each year means when you lose someone to suicide, but after ten years, I’m probably past that.  So instead, I’ll give a ten year overview, and this may get a bit messy.  Ten years, one still dead father, two sad and regretful daughters, a sad and capable wife with cancer who could really fucking use her husband right now, a million questions never answered, and time that never fucking stops to help us deal with all of this bullshit or at the very least, make sense of it.

I’ll start with what’s most bothersome to me, and lucky public, you’ll get insight into our failures and issues that our father thought he’d highlight on his way out to the woods to end his life.

There was once a time that we were told we were not mentioned in my father’s lengthy suicide note, the note that told my stepmother where he could be found, who to call, why, and what to do.  That letter that detailed selling snow blowers and cars and paying bills and making life easier in his absence, that letter that apparently didn’t include a portion for me.

At that time, I demanded to see the document, once searched the house for it when I could find spare moments, I needed to see it, it consumed me.  I called the police station drunk one night to beg them for a copy, to beg to talk to the man who found my father, to ask him if he could tell me anything more, to hear the voice of the one person who saw my father last as he dragged him out of the woods.

I needed that letter.  I needed to know he left something for me, but we were never given it, and we were told he never said anything.  I think we let it go for a few years and then I started in with the demands again.  I’m sorry but my father shot himself twice in the chest like some magician in the woods which we all considered was a place of solace and I spent 27 years loving him and hating him and loving him harder and I was to believe that he left no words for me?

If you know my family, you’d have to be out of your goddamned mind to believe that. Smiths are never short on words–cutting, encouraging, blabber, and the like.  I did not ever believe he would end his life and never mention me.  It wasn’t until years later that I was told that there were two things, and then it was obvious why were weren’t told, because what he chose to say was sad and an unfair goodbye.

Katie: I hope she completes her nursing school and sticks with something, which is kind of a slight considering she was actually TRYING to complete her dreams vice giving up on life.

And then me, the one with all the similarities and problems.  My wish for Heather is that she doesn’t turn out like me and gets control of her anger and drinking.

And that was that.  That was the effort put forth in a letter that expressed more words in ink on how to operate a snow blower or how to sell the cars or who to deal with and how to pay off the credit cards he wracked up when manic.

I hated him for choosing to leave that guidance for me.  I hated him because it was true and I hated him because I needed to hear him say he loved me.  I know I’m just like him.  I know what my vices are.  I know how I respond to stress and life and boredom and family.  I wish he had never said anything.  But I really wish he had just left this for me instead.

Heather, You are more like me than you will ever be able to admit.  We’ve shared these talks over the years and I beg you find the peace you need to conquer all the things that cause you to self destruct.  I know the fact that I lied to you and promised that this would never happen again after the first time or two is now complete bullshit in retrospect but I hope you understand what I am trying to do for my family by leaving.  You are a strong woman.  You will beat this.  I need you to run the family.  I need you to know I will always love you.  You are the worst of me in the best way and I will always watch over you.  Take care of your sister and Judy, and when you need me, ask, and I will be there.

That is the fucking letter I needed.  That is the letter I didn’t get.

I got, I hope Heather doesn’t turn out like me.  Too late.  I’m just fucking like you.

I wish after ten years, I could make some sense of this.  He owed me so much more than that. I FUCKING DESERVED MORE THAN THAT. I BECAME MORE THAN YOU. I HAVE A SON NOW WHO IS INSANELY LIKE YOU. I can’t go one day without looking at Sully and not see my father and if that’s not fucked up payback, I don’t know what is.

 

Let’s talk about despair and loss and guilt and pathetic behavior.

I’ve mastered all of those things as well.  Despair? I’ve passed out on the floor during the holidays with his urn open and lying next to me, so I could be close to him.  Loss? Every day is loss when it comes to my father.  Loss of his loud voice, his captivating stories, his smell of Irish Springs soap, his hugs, strong and sturdy, realizing the twinkle in his eyes disappeared the moment I was told he was gone.

I’ve spent too much time lying on floors, face under a vat of wine, or beer, or vodka, taking in anything that would make me feel better for one goddamned day in my life.  This never works, by the way.  I always wake up more sad, more angry, and so fuzzy in the head that all I wanted to do is throw up my sadness.

I’ve thrown up a lot since he died.  Half of the time, likely attributed to drinking too fast, too strong, in an attempt to make it all go away.  The other half, I’d wake out of a dream where he was there, I could feel him and see him and touch him, and I’d wake and have to throw up because I was so convinced I was just with him and then realized I couldn’t get back there and I felt like someone was keeping him from me and I’d go to my yard and throw up until my eyes would almost fall out of my head, on my knees, pleading that I could go back in that dream where he was, where I needed to be, but he was already gone. Don’t ask why I go outside to have these fits of emotion and breakdowns. There’s something I like about the yard.

I’ve felt him a few times, in passing, mostly when I was dealing with a very hard time, and it was like a wind swept in and something sat with me, said nothing, and just sat there.  That has happened maybe 6 times.  At the end of these times, though, the wind always moved on.  I never did.

I’ve had really hard decisions in life to make where I didn’t know what to do and I felt him sweep in and just surround me in a glow and I felt my entire disposition change, I felt ok, I felt I was taken care of, he was there, and I trusted in what I did. Those times, I begged him to never leave.  He always left anyway.  I hate him for that.

But, for the most part, he’s always gone.  I don’t know how long they let you out of hell for good behavior, and I don’t know how to ask.  Maybe in my eleventh year, I’ll find out.  I don’t know.

What I do know is the following, and this is just going to spew out:

I loved my father since the day I met him until the day he ruined my life.  Not one day in 3650 plus has gone by that I haven’t needed him or loved him or hated him or been filled with an instance that if I could see him again for 5 minutes, I’d want to fight him for hurting me, but I’d hold him with every last ounce of love that I have for him, and I’d look him hard in the eye one last time, kiss him, and tell him I will always, always love him.

I needed him to help me not be like him, because I’ve failed.  I needed him to tell me he was proud of my motherhood, something he never thought was possible.  I needed him to tell me how to get Sully to stop saying WHAT THE HECK, which isn’t even from me bc if it was, it’d be WHAT THE FUCK.  I need him to come to Germany and hunt down his terribly recorded family heritage.  I need him to come tell me one more time that I’m a Smith and we are strong and we have moxie and to never let anyone tell me any different.

I just need to ask him why.

why.  why after 27 years of my life, many trying times together with your mental illness and our family issues, why, why couldn’t you stay for me? Why was I not good enough? What could I have done, because you PROMISED ME YOU WOULD NEVER DO THIS AGAIN.

But you did.  On Thursday, 2 August, 2007, while I was at a work happy hour, you were already hours gone.  You didn’t give me a chance to talk you out of it this time, you just gave me the chance to come home and realize our new family reality.

And honestly, still, fuck you.  Fuck you for leaving me. Fuck you for leaving Katie.  Fuck you for leaving Judy and fuck you for giving up on us.  I do understand mental illness, but it is so fucking hard to understand it when it changes your entire world.

I can’t do more tonight.  I need to sleep.  I need to remember that my real life picks up tomorrow.  And I need to hope that for the millionth time, it’s really a thing that this type of tragedy makes you a better person, even though I’m not even sure I’m capable of being a better person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chex Mix

So Chex Mix says that eating a full bag of Bold mix is consuming 8 servings. I think that’s a bit unfair and don’t appreciate their snack size. I ate an entire bag yesterday in the office and am on par to finish today’s bag in the next three hours.

I don’t know what to make of this, and now, since I ate 1/3 of a pint of B&J in bed last night when reading, perhaps I should consider upping my step count. I don’t want to be foolish and slow down on my eating.

I might consider chewing quietly since I sit in an open room with 11 other people and just a few weeks ago one of my new coworkers asked, mid bag, Are you going to finish that whole thing, without turning around and without first considering how important his life was to him. I decided also to not turn around and kept chomping loudly and said, Yes, yes I just might.

That was his strike one.

I might also consider cleaning up my mess at the end of each day because underneath my desk looks like a squirrel is hiding CM down there. Just today, some techie person came in looking for phone cords and even after I told him we didn’t have any, insisted on getting on his hands and knees awkwardly and searching under each of our desks. All was fine until he got under mine and he shouted, YOU LIKE CHEX MIX HUH? First of all, please stop yelling so everyone on the floor can hear you. Obviously I like it, it’s everywhere under my desk because I have no self control and it’s everywhere. Look in my keyboard. Gross? Yep, it is wicked gross.

And if we’re judging my by what’s under mess desk you’d find, 3 pairs of smelly shoes that I only put on for meetings, slim jims, wet wipes, a spare pair of underwear, my daily journal for writing down good ideas and names to add to my shit list, and a mirror so I can check my teeth b/c I don’t like to talk to people after eating in this manner.

Kind of a slow day, outside of binge eating at my desk.

 

Pictures: Edition 1

I’ve had two conversations with the same friend where she said the same thing to me that bothered me in a way that kicked my ass.  She’s a friend I have over late into the night and we sit out on my back porch and down wine and talk about all of the things that no one ever gets around to talking about. We talk about family mostly, just because of the absurdity that is our past lives and the characters within.  We talk about relationships–my marriage and her dating life—and all the things we hoped it would be and will be and isn’t.  We talk about my wonderfully insane children that I deserve, because she takes care of them, and I trust them to her with my life, and she has helped make them the little angry beings they are, but in the best way possible, because she allows them to strive and just be.

One night a year ago she said to me at 3am, after 97 family stores, lots of laughs and a few drunken tears, “I hope you write this all down one day before you forget.  Can you imagine if you woke up one day unable to remember and this was all lost?”

And that killed me, because that was the exact feeling I experienced since the day after my father died and I never had the chance to gather all I needed from him and his family to piece together that part of my life, and I never would again.

And I’m full of stories, most worthless but some really good ones, too, and so what if I did forget? What if my mind left me and I never got to writing these out for my kids, god help them, or for the people who just need someone to help prove they’re sane and use me as an example of what they’re not?

And so tonight I was looking for the wedding picture of me and all my siblings to wish my brother and sister a happy wedding anniversary but in doing so, I came across 8 years of pictures I had forgotten about.  Surprisingly enough, though, I could feel the moment I was in them, and I could remember the details of almost of all of them.  And that is where this is coming from.  I want to go through every last picture, like 18000 of them, and write one paragraph or more to explain where I was in life, what the weather was, what the day tasted like, what the weather did to my hair, who I wanted to drink poison in that moment, and just where I was.

And so here is the first installment.  Encouragement will keep this project going and I’m so grateful anyone is even willing to play along.

hair

First of all, I only allow for this humiliating picture to be reposted because the choice was random (by the thoughtful Miranda Mulligan, who will pay for this) and it actually has a funny story worth telling.  I don’t know why it’s still on my FB because I don’t allow for such hideous pics, but oh well, here we go.

This was July of 2012, and it was the Mr.’s 37th birthday party, but not only his, but my cousin Kyle’s birthday party, as he was here for the Summer of Gays and so obviously me being the thoughtful wife I am, I made a joint birthday party that involved food, adult beverages and wigs.  Why not, just what any husband nearing 40 wants in life.

Now in this picture, we had done the cake, celebrations, and moved on to wig wearing, and I can’t tell you why for the life of me, but my friend Sandy had no less than six wigs at our disposal to try on and glamour shot it up for the remainder of the evening. This wasn’t even my favorite of the night, but you couldn’t tell by the drunken excitement exuding from my stupid face.

I would guess this gem of a picture was taken around 9pm, and I know the bbq started around 4pm, and who knows why I’m wearing an Old Navy graphic tee that cost me $7 that no respectable woman should wear after high school. I’m unclear of the details why I’m braless but yes, my sidewinder tits are that nice without a bra (slightly better in this pic than they are now) and god knows why I was wearing gym shorts since I neither succumb to voluntary physical activity and I know the outfit I showed up in was jeans and a bright blue top that matched the lai that someone handed me upon arrival. Who knows where that fucking outfit went.

It’s clear I had consumed at least 7 drinks at this point by the boldness of the sunburn I must have recently acquired and the evidence that I had rubbed off all the makeup I showed up with, and further, at this point I had lost all ability to care about eye contact and my facial muscles were were losing functionality, a sure sign of slowness to come.

I will take a wild guess that my underwear are also not present in this picture but could be found with my pants, my bra, and my dignity on the floor in my friend’s bedroom or on the porch, but currently I can’t recall.

In any case, I know this party moved quickly from adult wig wearing to moving to a club to dance moves that hadn’t been dusted off in a decade, though by the looks of this photo, I’m positive I felt prime time to unleash the sprinkler, shopping cart, or some sort of unsexy Michael Jackson ensemble on a bunch of unsuspecting Germans in the basement of a dirty bar bound to give my shoeless (clearly) feet hepatitis.

I didn’t get that far, though, because before I could stretch or hydrate further properly, I got a call from the house I just left from Bryan and Kyle telling me how inappropriate and rude I was to leave them there to clean up the mess, regardless of the fact that a. it wasn’t my fucking house they were cleaning and b. Cinderella A and B had offered the friend that did rent the house to clean it, probably as payback for drinking all her monkey gin all fucking summer without asking.

So I’m on the phone, borderline slow, hearing an extreme amount of shrieking and anger and swear words that I DO NOT LIKE USED ON ME and I throw up my hands and ignore the glances of my other friends and shout, Oh, I’ll fucking deal with this and be back. And off I stormed in an crooked path around the two blocks back to the house to knock some estrogen out of the two that had just called to verbally assault me and prolong my sweet dance moves.

Upon entering the house I saw them both at the end of the hallway, one holding a swimmer broom contraption and the other a trash bag, both heads snapping in ugly unison to highlight their dislike and discontent but I was there to gun blaze and so I launched in all hot and ready to ruin.

“Don’t you dare call me back from a bar to punish me like you are my mother,” I hissed and glared, hoping the lightning from my eyes struck their pretty and oddly moisturized faces dead.

And that is when I realized I was not dealing with my girlfriends but instead the very emotional and drama charged Dream Team that was now both dead set against me and wanting blood. The looks on their face went from dramatic and feigning hurt to bitch I will cut you and I saw one dart his eyes around for a weapon.

There was a lot of screaming and blaming and insulting going on, death threats and talks of gaining weight and lack of appreciation and people being horrid trolls. I want to focus on that but it was just at the peak of the insulting that one, the smaller, seemingly innocent one, pulled back with the swiffer in his hand and full out tried to whack me with it, straight horizontal, which if executed, would have welted my entire hobbit stature, but my drunken cat like reflexes ruined his ambitious assault and I snatched the swifter mid air and then in a move I like to remember fondly, I launched that mother fucking floor cleaner straight across the room, right past their shocked bodies, and into a bedroom where it clanged heavily and defeated against the wooden floor.

“How fucking date you try to SWIFFER ME???!!” I shrieked the verb as though I’d used it a million times before. I glared and wished holes burning in place of their mostly slightly horrified but proud eyes. I knew my swiffer tossing abilities, clearly nearing the level of Olympic javelin tosser, both shocked and impressed them, and I could tell because it reduced them to apologetic tears and hugs that only a gay but proud man would succumb to if he was impressed, and they were. Otherwise, if I had reacted in the typically awkward manner I usually did, they would have treated me like the frumpy, overweight lesbian they normally treated me like.

Honestly, I don’t know what their thing about lesbians is but that’s a whole other post that I really don’t want much to do with.

And so with one aggressive defense tactic, I regained their trust, their respect, and we hugged and apologized for things no one was probably even mad about in the first place.

Then I walked back to the bar alone in the same crooked like, only to rejoin my dance  troop, but not before I yelled over my shoulder back at them for good measure, “You bitches pull his shit again and I’m calling Aunt Chris and putting you both on the next flight back to New Hampshire.”

And that is why I was wearing a platinum wig in July of 2012.

 

 

 

 

Happiest 60th from us

60

Today my father would have been sixty years old.  We might have held a party for him at home this past weekend, and I would have brought the boys home for a week to celebrate and kick off summer.

We would have gone to opening weekend at Fort Foster and sat in the sun, and he would have held the boys’ hands and walked them down to the wade pools to the left of the pier and showed them how to locate the sneaky crabs, and surely Sully would have jammed his fat fingers at the first he saw and then promptly tried to either eat it or smash it full of glee and aggression.  Sawyer, though, would diligently follow them around and thoughtfully collect as many as he could in a pail, asking the whole time where we could keep them as pets.

He’d walk them down the pier and teach them how to jump from wood to wood, and tell them they wouldn’t slip through the cracks, as they have heads like their father, and then he’d laugh at finding an opportunity to call Chris Jack, as in Jack O’ Lantern, like he did the one and only time he met him the year he died.

He’d walk them to the end of the pier where the old men fish and they’d all get on their knees and he’d he show them how to tie chicken to a string and drop for the big crabs, and the boys would shrike and squeal and clap and should when they got one, and they’d shout “I WANT TO HOLD HIM!” as my father pulled one up, and then he’d look across to me and smile and we’d remember without words how thirty years ago it was me excited to pull crabs from the cold and dark water at the end of the pier.

 

We’d swim at the beach at the bottom of our favorite spot and we’d play ball and run back and forth chasing waves that crashed and would surely town their chubby legs under.  We’d play in the sunshine on the grass and pick flowers and go hunt through the overgrown paths looking for entrances to the underground forts used a lifetime ago.  I’d be Nancy Drew again and they’d be the Hardy Boys and my father would laugh hard and robust, like a lion, and he’d exude a pure joy I never doubted my boys would bring him.

 

We’d pack up the car, sun-kissed and sweaty, immediate nap time facilitated by the salty water and excitement overload.  Back home, we’d wake the snoring bears and sit on the back porch with no pants or shoes on and watch the Red Sox on the TV and take turns standing at the grill, helping my father flip the perfectly marinated chicken and steak and I’d stand beside him as I did a million other times in my life and I’d tell him about my new job and the people I’ve met recently on our crazy adventures around the world. 

He’d tell me how proud of me he was and I’d tell him how much I loved him and we’d hug, hard and long with my head against his chest, and I would smell his soap and hope that one day my boys have children that associate Irish Spring with the smell of family.  I’d ask him if he was ok and he’d tell me not to worry because we’re Smiths and Smiths are the strongest of the strong and then he’d look me in the eye when we pulled away and with watery eyes he’d say proudly, you’ve done alright, kid.  I’m proud of you.

We’d gather in the living room around him and bring out a cake with enough candles to remind him he was older than dirt and he’d act surprised and light up with the job of a million fireworks and his smile would brow bigger the louder we sang and before we’d even eat the cake he’d be yelling about where his presents were and he hoped we didn’t show up empty-handed acting cheap and that this year it better be something good but he never cared what we brought because we were there and we loved birthdays and it was his day.  We’d put one of the boys on either side of him and tell them to smile to take a picture and he’d toss up his hands to show how old he was, much like Sawyer does now when asked and we’d have yet another picture of the man whose his birthday, his “natal week”, more than anyone else I’d ever meet.

 

This is how this year should have gone, as the other eight that have passed since he died, and I’m quiet and sad today because I want to buy my boys an ice cream cake filled with candles to light after we have dinner so that we can sing loudly the birthday song for Grandpap, and hope he hears us wherever he may be.

I asked Sawyer this morning before school if he’d like to have cake for Grandpap’s birthday and he lit up like every Christmas tree I’ve ever seen and said, “Yes! And we can have presents! And we can call him on Facetime?” And he looked at me excited and inside I felt more defeated and broken than I could possibly type.  With a lump of concrete in my throat and a fake smile unmasked by sadness, I reminded him quietly, “We can’t call grandpap, Soy, remember?  Grandpap lives in the clouds where he watches us from up in the sky every day,” and he only responded “Oh, ok, Mommy,” like he remembered but I knew he had no idea how to comprehend celebrating a birthday of a life of a person he’d never meet.

 

We will still have cake, though, and we will still sing, and loudly, and then at bed before I tuck them in for a night of sweet dreams, I’ll tell them more stories about Grandpap, Mommy’s Daddy, a man who would have loved them more than any birthday cake in the world. 

 

And when they’re fast asleep, I’ll move to the back porch and sit under the stars for a glass of white to be alone—alone to remember my father and his infectious roar and his childlike smile, and his joy, and every small thing about him that I try not to think about on the normal days. I’ll cry all the tears I keep in the secret geyser of sadness that only bubbles over on these days that I can’t keep below the surface.

 

I’ll look up high and talk to him out loud, telling him what I wish this weekend could have been and I’ll tell him all of the reasons I miss him and I’ll beg him to give me a sign that he’s here with me, and that he still loves me as much as I love him.  I’ll be patient with my pain and then wipe my face and breathe deep, reminding myself to be proud I survived another year without him.

 

Happiest birthday, Dad.  I’ll look up tonight and find the brightest spot in the sky, because surely that’ll be the cloud you’re looking back from.

 

dad bench

 

 

A lost in translation compliment

Today I spent some time helping someone new to the area get settled, which included me spending some time in my car telling them about our last eight years here, and some suggestions to help their family integrate with ease.

We discussed the differences in our lives back home–him from LA, and me from New England, which couldn’t be more different, though we spent a lot of time discussing our mutual love of the ocean, the woods, animals, etc.  I told him how his family would love the food festivals, the proximity to other countries, the wine festivals, summer trips to local lakes.

We discussed how his baby is due in two weeks and his boys will be only 14 months apart. I told him about the boys and how at 20 months apart, they are more fun than I could have imagined, if he doesn’t mind a year of sleep deprivation.  I talked to him about us having dogs and country v city life, how to find a second car and where I thought his wife would like to travel with the kids in her first summer weeks.

“You and my wife are going to get along so well,” he said optimistically, and I was happy to have made a connection to make him feel welcome.

“Really, she’ll love you.  You’re very similar—both athletic (which I assume is code for not stunningly gorgeous), outdoorsy, stocky and outgoing.”

I was smiling politely and listening until he said stocky.  He used stocky as the third adjective to describe me, in such an enthusiastic manner that I will choose to believe this is perhaps a complication of learning English as a second language.

Seriously.  A whole twelve minutes into knowing him and he went with stocky.

The domestic misadventures continue

You know who I will never be? The mom that brings something delicious and homemade to a birthday party or holiday gathering. I will never have that thing that people call and say, make sure you bring your potato salad or famous chocolate cake or deviled eggs, and I seriously love deviled eggs enough to make them for other people if I were good at making them.

So today I’m like, i’m going to be all domestic, not my strength, and make some deviled eggs and stuffed mushrooms and bulgogi. Right, three things that do not belong together, I know, but I realized we have three packages of eggs because every time I go to the store I think, I better get some eggs to make sure we have some, and yes, I’ve done that three times in a week sober, so I needed to do something with the eggs and I figured it was about time I try again to boil eggs and see if today would be the day I would succeed for the first time in 4 decades.  Last time I tried a few weeks ago, I cracked into soft boiled eggs, tried to put them back in for a second boil and the whole damned pot ended up in the bio and I pretended like it never happened.

Then I was like, but I also need stuffed mushrooms in my life, so let’s make some, because I’m not working and I’m also not day drinking so I figured cooking a few snacks would keep me busy.  The bulgogi was just because I like to put shit in the crock-pot and I had three packages of meat that needed to be used or shamefully tossed and so the kids are having beef and broccoli tonight.

I’d like to announce that I not only made all three recipes, but everything appears to be edible, and I’m sure of the tastes at least because I spent the better part of lunch eating egg and mushroom cap fillings with a spoon like the attractive woman I am.

Speaking of attractive, it appears as though I alarmed some people with my WebMD questions yesterday regarding the wounds I have on my legs.  Maybe I should clarify.  I’m fine.  I was hobbling around and they are all sore and red and now scabbing but I highly doubt I’m going to end up with red lines shooting towards my heart or amputation or sepsis or whatever additional nightmares people commented yesterday.  Here’s a picture of what it looked like when I kept bandaids and neosporin on them last week.

IMG_0763

I’m sure we all remember one of my favorite hobbies is to exaggerate and we’re all positive I’m not a medic, which I’d like to take a timeout to note that my husband, the Army medic, was actually not helpful at all in this entire two week injury situation and so I determined myself that it would take a lifetime for these wounds to heal so I ripped the bandaids off and allowed the wounds to air dry and fingers crossed my legs don’t scar, not that it matters because no one in all of history has ever liked me for the looks of my legs.

Anyway, yesterday after a few days of air drying and walking around screaming in pain for no reason, I finally begged him to carefully pull up my stretchy pants to tell me if we’d need to cut my legs off, and he took one look, smirked and called me a name meant for cats and said I’d live and then I wanted to question his training but instead decided to remind him not so gently that TWO LARGE HEADED KIDS BLASTED OUT OF MY VAGINA SO I WOULD SLOW DOWN ON THE NAME CALLING.

But apparently I’ll live, and I’ll note that no, I did not get those wounds from falling around after drinking. Well, I was drinking when I injured myself, but I was actually trying to get all sexy with the Mr in the garage and it obviously went terribly wrong and that’s why vodka and sexing only worked out in my 20s. I’ll save the extended story for a combined piece about how I broke both legs and ended up in a wheelchair in Alexandria after the horse races in 2008, but not today because this story was supposed to be about cooking.

That’s about all that’s been going on.

 

About siblings 

I have four siblings, two sisters and two brothers. I have siblings who span three fathers and two mothers. We’re a mixed bag, and I’m sure that is no shock to anyone. I like my mixed bag, I think it’s an unavoidable part of me, and while we are mixed, we are a lot the same. 

My other three are mostly central to home, but all different and interesting in their own way. I can only imagine what they’d write about me if they cared enough to sit down and put a pen to paper. Unluckily for them, I have nothing but time today.  

I’ll start with David, six years younger, and couldn’t be more unlike me if he tried, which he doesn’t, because that’s his thing, effortless in approach to life and ability to never have a bag of fucks to hand out. I admire that most about him. He is a sweetheart, a warrior in his own way, and I spend a lot of time regretting that we haven’t spent much adult time together. 

David is artistic in a way that I’ll never be, with the ability to create beautiful items, lighthouses and rock walls and fireplaces that dreams are made of, made with his hands, with his bodily strength admirable and subtle, with a tan so golden, it alone proves easily we have some sort of different genes, but we are alike in many ways. 

We are more different, though, in his ability to see the world more simplistically, his tousled and woodsy chestnut hair, his love of appropriately placed but ill advised zoo creatures branded to his sides.  I could never have a jaguar and tiger gracing each of my sides as he does, as they would disappear somewhere in the jungle that is my stature — best described as hobbit meets inner tube, but David has a torso for days, coupled with a disposition and resilience that will forever keep him happy go lucky — that, and his thirst for wild turkey by the gallon, one or the other. 

Then there’s Tiffany, three years younger and surely wiser, the more self conscious, immaculately dressed sister who never had issue with her studies or her responsibilities in life, one of the only ones (the only one) who performed as expected, but seemed bored with each accomplishment, probably because she was bored being so successful with so little dramatic flair. 

Tiffany is the voice of reason, the stoaic one, the bread winner, the one who has probably watched the rest of us for a decade and rightly exclaimed, what in the living fuck, but said with a yawn, because she’s always a distance away, and never involved, by her very own doing. 

She does come with her own complications, though, those of distrust and boredom and indifference. She won’t discuss those with you, though, because she’d rather laugh you off and then buy a designer purse and grab sushi. Those are things more her style. 

Then there’s Ryan, a million years my junior, who while I’d like to remain impartial, makes it so damned near impossible. He loves all things Republican. He lives to harass and pick and his dream woman is probably Sarah Palin and I’ll stop before the amount of gagging I’m doing kills me. We don’t agree on anything, I haven’t seen him in a lifetime, and to avoid further parental disapproval regarding my opinions, I’ll leave this child here and stop searching for adjectives. 

And then there’s Katie, also three years younger, but forever trying to keep me alive and functioning and well, somewhat normal. 

Katie and I are the only children from the same parents and so it would make sense that we split the parental gene pool. She got the long legs, nappy hair and athleticism that I can only admire from a bar. My legs are short, my hair is luxurious, my ability to comprehend physical activity as pleasure, non existent. 

She has a love and passion for science and a healing and nurturing nature that is downright frightening to me. She has tiny ring fingers and a big heart and the ability to dead face an enemy that one can only wish to master with decades. 

And then there’s me. I would guess that I would be described as the loud one, the fighter with or without a cause, the short and stocky one, the one that couldn’t bail the rest out because I’d probably already be inside. 

I broke our parents in to assure a seamless and easy transition from teenager to adult, something no one has truly ever thanked me for appropriately.

  I oversaw fist fights and screaming matches that were of Rocky proportions, and participated in a few of my own. I babysat nights filled with Nintendo game pads and I tromped through the same forests, in the same mud, under the same sun, to sleep under the same covers, under the same roof, and I survived childhood with the same tales, but surely distorted. 

It’s funny though, because one day, along the way, we all just woke up to different dreams, and we chose different lives. And we look different, speak differently, and answer to very different causes. 

But. They are me, I am them, and while you can pick your greater family, you do have to respect the one you have. I am so lucky to be challenged and supported by my tiny tribe. I love them fiercely, judge them thoroughly, and miss them sadly most days, and most importantly, they are mine, and when I’m old, I’ll have all the material I ever wanted to ruin them, all with the mere swipe of a pen and a glimmer of a decade where no one was attractive and and the biggest reason we had for hatred for each other was the notion of a tattle. 

Because of nothing else, being a sibling is about payback, isn’t it? 

Today’s harassment of the Mr.

I’m home today, the sun is out, it’s 60 degrees and I didn’t get off the couch until 11 and there was no one touching me with sticky hands, shouting my name or title, staring at me with judging eyes, or reminding me of the To Do list we made the other night to motivate ourselves for a productive and successful spring.

I did get around to getting up to go get iced coffee and dinner around noon and then I thought about doing more around here but then I remembered what I wanted to do today.  I needed the Mr.’s help.  Just kidding.  I just wanted to fuck with him.

I emailed him: If you had to guess where the hammock was, would you go with garage or basement?  The couch feels uneven. 

Being married to me is 20% fun, 80% psychological warfare.  If you ask him, 20% is generous most days.

My favorite part of sending these emails to him is picturing him throwing up his hands like, DO NOT EMAIL ME ASKING ABOUT HOW TO GET YOU A NEW NAPPING LOCATION WHILE I AM AT WORKING SLAVING A WAY EARNING THE ONLY PAYCHECK THAT HAS EVER BEEN HANDED OUT IN LIFE TO SUPPORT OUR YOUNG CHILDREN AND YOUR NEEDS WHILE YOU THINK ABOUT NAPPING AND I THINK ABOUT PROVIDING, all while shaking his head, sighing angrily and then trying to come up with something supportive to say to me, a way to task me without actually tasking me, and a jab without being too mean to send me off into the land of white noise.  It’s truly an art, handling me.

And, I should have known, after more than a decade together, he was ready for me today.  “Don’t know,” he lied, “but maybe you should put “fix couch” on the list of TO DO items next to the fridge.”

Then he informed me he’ll be home in two hours and fifteen minutes which means I have two more shows to watch until I have to collect everything in the house in a  laundry basket and dump febreeze on the rugs and the dogs and then look exhausted from cleaning.

Better get back to my TV watching.