Category Archives: Sam I Am

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Mostly brick exterior with attached oversized 2 car garage with
My mom officially sold her house. I spent all weekend helping her pack and move. The movers are there right now. The new family moves in on Friday. I am heartbroken.

Packing up the house where you spent 2/3 of your life – birth through grad school – is always rough. But packing up that house, the house where your dad died, on Father’s Day is torture. It makes me feel like I’ve lost him all over again.

Most of my friends have already been through this – hell, some of those homes have been bull-dozed – and I’m anticipating some friends sharing their stories and telling me to basically get over it. But, you know, I need a little fucking time.

I hope none of my friends ever have to move back home to take care of their parents, but doing so really helped me to appreciate where I grew up with adult eyes. Taking care of him in the place where he took care of me felt like completing the circle. They say you can never go back home again, but you can. And when you leave again, it hurts twice as much.

I thought I would have time to come by one last time for a visit. But Justin works Monday and Tuesday, I have plans with my friends on Wednesday, and the lady has her final walk-through on Thursday. We were halfway to my mom’s new house before I realized I may have just driven away from there for the last time, forever. I called Liz, sobbing. She’s probably the one friend I have who knew how hard that was for me. Hell, she’s the only friend of mine who saw my dad when he had no legs.

I’m going to find a way to go there one more time. I have to. Even if it’s me just sobbing alone in the basement, without Justin there to hold on to. Even if we have to leave Niki’s house before everyone actually walks to the Gardens. Even if we have to sneak over Thursday night when I’m already so busy and sleep-deprived.

My whole life, I’ve always noticed when the clock hit 9:08. I know that it just stood out to me because it was so familiar, but it really felt like it happened so much for a reason. After my dad died, any time I saw 9:08 on the clock, I would whisper hello to him or just tell him that I miss him. It’s our little moment, at least a couple times a week. (I asked my shrink if this was weird and he said, “Do you freak out if you miss it? No? Then I think it’s really sweet.”) Anyway, I think for a little while it’s just going to make me sad.

I could write forever about that house – my house. But if I start to list all reasons I love this house, all the memories I have, all the time I spent there, all of my landmark moments, the fact that I have known our neighbors for 32 years and they’re like my family, the fact that my friends basically lived here, too … I would go on forever. And maybe I will, someday.

But for now, I’m practically paralyzed with sadness. I can’t even eat. I just sit and stare into space and sigh. It was so much easier when I could feel this way sitting on that back patio, surrounded by trees and smoking cigarettes, knowing an old friend would probably drop by at any moment, with my dad listening to the radio on the porch directly above me.

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Filed under Botheration, Favorite Stories, Sam I Am

Chasing Nothing

I’m alone a lot these days. Justin works Sunday and Monday nights, Tuesday he has class, and Wednesday he has Police Academy. And while I relish my time alone, lately it’s been causing some problems with my PTSD.

When I was first faced with my dad losing his legs, my shrink told me to just give myself 60 seconds a couple times a day to cry and let it all out. And it worked–the bathroom became my little safe place to be afraid or upset, and the feelings would pass like a tiny storm and I’d be fine again.

I never ignore those feelings. I never block them out. But PTSD is a lot different than grief or stress. It’s visual. It’s physical. Your body jumps from feeling fine to being back into that moment or period of time. The jump can be triggered by anything and it’s unexpected and shocking. And when I’m alone and not concentrating on a book, show, song or chore, it hits me hard and often. Continue reading

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F This January: Fitness and FIANCE (and Facial Swelling)

Just so I don’t let this thing drop off before I’ve started, January’s goal is to hire a personal trainer at my Y and/0r get Steve to finally burn me the P90X dvds he promised me. I’m pretty good at getting in shape on my own, but I have the feeling I could be using different machines and free weights. I’m sort of in a rut with those. I want to be semi-ripped by April.

I had my surgery this morning. Ooooh anesthesia. Ooooh gurl. Oooooh OOH. Now I understand what everyone was talking about! I mostly maintained my composure; the girl next to me collapsed into a clearly-never-high-before fit of giggles. (Not that I’ve ever been high before. Internet.)

So far the swelling and pain aren’t too bad (unless you are talking about how much my wallet hurts). The real ugly starts tomorrow, apparently.Justin is an amazingly great caretaker and even had a stuffed monkey waiting for me in the car when they walked me out.

I didn’t really have a panic attack before my surgery like I thought I would. Turns out the drugs are in the IV; I fell asleep waiting for the mask everyone told me about. I’m pretty grateful for that. I did get kinda emotional on the way there because this is my very first surgery, and everything about it reminded me about my Dad.

I haven’t really found the time to get into this on the blog, but I was recently diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s from the last few years with my dad. I’ll go into it more some other time, but I’m still crying about him at least once a day. It’s usually less than a minute, but it’s not about grief or missing him. It’s flashbacks, anger, and just thinking about everything he went through. I can’t stop putting myself in his shoes and it’s painful, but I’m aware that what I witnessed was pretty traumatizing and this is a common reaction. I’ve gone back to awesome Dave and have some good books and techniques to work on, but going through my first surgery hit a little too close to home in that area.

And well, there was a little grief today. If anyone could have calmed me down and walked me through this, it would have been him. But I tried to imagine what he would have said, and that helped a lot. Getting to say, “My fiance” like 10 times when the nurses asked me about my driver helped, too.

Blah Blah Wedding Cakes:

My favorite photographer (Ben of the Beth Grant video awesomeness) is free on the date that I want! Biggest priority is booking a venue in the next few weeks. This is not a section about cakes; we already know we’re copying off my cousin for that because it was fucking delicious. (If you don’t know what “Blah Blah Cakes” is about, then you must be younger than me, at least where the Internet is concerned.)

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Filed under F This 2012, London, Sam I Am

Here Comes The Tears

There’s another reason why I’ve been so anxious about my cousin’s wedding. I mean, besides the fact that I look ridiculous in fuchsia. Besides the fact that strapless bras aren’t built for girls like me. Besides the fact that my hair is so sad (yes, in England that is an actual term on the packaging–”flat and sad“) that hairdressers remark about it as loud as possible in a room full of girls who consider hair their best asset, and then they all stare at me and whisper and wonder if they could possibly live with hair like mine. Yes, this happens. Yes, I hear you. Yes, life is possible and you develop other assets, like brains.

The biggest reason I’m anxious about my cousin’s second wedding is because of what happened at the first one.

I’ve always known that my dad would never make it to my wedding. The walk down the aisle, the toast, the first dance–since I was a little girl, I’ve always known that those would be moments we would never share. And it hurts. Even when he was still alive, even after years of accepting this fact, even after realizing that I hate weddings anyway for all the reasons listed above, I would see these moments at other weddings and it hurt.

My brother and his wife basically eloped, so when my dad and I were both present at my cousin’s first wedding, I knew it was probably the last wedding we would ever attend together. At the time, he was still relatively healthy, but I knew. I always knew.

I spent her whole reception waiting for a slow song–one that wasn’t too romantic, one that felt right, one that of course I can’t remember the name of today, though my mom has it on video somewhere–and I asked my dad to dance.

And the whole time we were dancing, I tried as hard as I could to remember that moment. I asked him about when he married my mom. He laughed and told me stories. Then I closed my eyes, put my head on his shoulder (which was hard because we were the same height), and pretended the moment was ours.

No one else knew it, not even him, but that dance was our Father-Daughter Dance at my wedding. Morbid much? Yeah. But in hindsight, I’m glad I did.

So tomorrow, I’m going to be thinking about that a lot. And I’m pretty hormonal this week as it is, which always makes me cry about him more than usual. So it’s going to be hard as hell to hold it all in, especially when my uncle is walking my cousin down the aisle–for the second time, so unfair–and I’m standing in front of everyone with no discreet way to blow my nose.

I want to end this on a happier note, so I’ll tell you something that I told everyone about in person but never wrote about: when I told Justin that my dad was on hospice, the first thing he said was, “I need to talk to your dad.”

And he came over, sat next to my dad’s bed, and asked my dad if he could marry me … someday. They talked for a long time and most of it is a secret between them. Isn’t that the cutest?

So my dad and I missed a lot of our moments, but thanks to Justin, at least we have one. Oh! And did you know my parents got married at St. Justin’s? Hahaha.

Seriously, though: tomorrow. Does anyone have a valium I can borrow?

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Gimme Shelter

It’s been one year since my Dad died.

I’m taking a half day so I can check out the other Y location and get some running in. It’s still World War Fat, so I don’t plan on drowning my sorrows with wine or eating a lot of comfort food.

When the heat wave dies down–if it ever dies down–I plan on taking a solo trip to our family cabin to do some writing. I’ve been there many times, including to spread his ashes, but I feel like it’ll do me some good to be alone. (And it’s always relaxing when you have a stretch of the Meramec River all to yourself.

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I finished Life by Keith Richards last night. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s worth mentioning here because my Dad’s favorite band was The Rolling Stones. Honestly, the whole time I read it, I kept wishing that he was still alive or that the book had come out earlier, so I could’ve read it to him. I feel like it would have made that last year a little less miserable.

It’s not fair, but it will never stop being unfair and I’ll never stop wishing that he was around. I’ll just have to get used to that, I guess. Here’s his favorite song:

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He Made It

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We were on our way to Tombstone when we came across a place that seemed like it was where my dad belonged. We ended up spreading his ashes in Cochise County. My dad gave me a book about Chief Cochise when I was little, and I loved it. So rather than Tombstone, which mostly just sounded cool, Cochise County is a great tribute to his love of history, my memories of him, and a great view of the many places he wanted to explore when he got there.

We had just driven into Cochise when we hit a fertile valley full of farmland. After so much brown and red and yellow, all the green was quite a shock. Better yet, the entire area was surrounded by mountains. My brother pointed out the mountains in Tucson and the ones near Tombstone, and we both agreed that the spot had everything we wanted.

We drove down a dirt road past several farms (growing mostly pistachio trees) full of lots of metal hippy art in their yards, like in Castaway.  Finally, we came to a crossroads, and the scene was beautiful yet eerie, which is the best atmosphere for spreading cremains, I think.

I tried to toss them into the vegetation as far as I could without Lebowski’ing myself (again). I couldn’t wander too far off the road because flip flops are not the ideal defense against rattlesnakes. I spread them by myself. I cried a little. My brother and Justin gave me big hugs. It felt right.

P.S. We drove past a million giant dust devils on the way and honestly, how awesome would it have been to cut open the bag of ashes and set them right in the cyclone’s path? If we had more time, I would have insisted. Actually, if I die before coming up with anything cooler, that’s what I want you guys to do to me.

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Tombstone

“I cut down on my drinking (hah, from a lot down to pretty much!)
– Note from my dad’s unfinished memoir

We’re taking my dad to Arizona tomorrow. Well, tomorrow Justin and I are driving to Texas. Then Friday, lunch in Roswell (wooo!) and giving my niece a big hug in New Mexico. Saturday: Arizona. Sunday we fly out of El Paso, which is 10 feet away from Juarez, so in case we get shot by a drug cartel it was nice knowing you.

My brother and I decided that rather than Tucson, where he was going to move, we’d rather take him to Tombstone. He wouldn’t want to be in Tucson without my mom*, and since this is more symbolic than anything, we thought he would love Tombstone.

He was really close to this lady at our church named Joanie. She would take him out for coffee at Daily Bread almost weekly (he would always get a big blueberry muffin). For someone who couldn’t drive, friendships like that meant a lot to him, and to us.

When I greeted Joanie at his memorial, she blurted out, “I miss him!” with such sincerity.  It was one of the most genuine things that happened that day, and for that I will love her forever.

Today I learned that Joanie’s son works at my company. Not only that, but out of the thousands of places he could work on our campus, he’s in my department, in my building, right downstairs from me. I went and said hi to him; he looks just like her. I’ll bet my dad gets a kick out of this.

My dad was writing a book about his life story, covering everything from growing up in an alcoholic family to losing 80% of his vision and coping through his faith. I found it on his computer.

I’ve skimmed it a bit to make sure I have the best draft, but I’m going to read it in its entirety for the first time on this trip. This way, my final road trip with my dad will be the one where I learn the most about him.

I don’t think I’m ready for this, but I feel like he is. So, off we go.

*I’m the type of person who still thinks stuffed animals have feelings, so you can only imagine how much I’ve anthropomorphized these cremains.

EDITED TO ADD: Not in a creepy serial killer way; I don’t talk to them or sit them in a chair at the dinner table or anything.

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May Plus Methodicalness

I’ve been pretty bummed out for the last few weeks. I don’t have a real reason to be (if anything, I have a billion reasons to be happy), which means that it’s most likely physical. I haven’t been very disciplined about sleep or exercise, and my new office (while awesome, full of awesome people, etc.) is very dimly lit – something that, for someone with DSPS, can be very dangerous, both for my sleep habits and my overall mood.

Plus, I’m about to say goodbye to my dad – again. I’ve been crying about him a lot for the past few weeks, much more than usual. Is it because I’m now walking the same grounds he did for 40 hours a week? Is it because of the trip? Am I sad about him because I’m sad in general, or the other way around?

By age 30, I’ve learned that I am susceptible to depression, and all the tiny elements of it can grow into a storm if I’m not careful. I also know that I’m tough enough to attack this now while I can still see daylight.

So I guess what I’m saying is, rather than doing something new for a month or something silly and crazy, I need to just focus on routine. Sleep. Run. Fruit. Veggies. Light. Discipline. Get used to my new environment, new people and a new daily drill.

I bought a Happy Light. I’m going to the Y tomorrow. I’ve reprogrammed my BodyBugg for a fresh start. I’m going to bed late tonight, but that’s just because I marathoned season one of Fringe this weekend and I’m on the last episode. (I may be depressed, but I’m still me.)

This week will still be uncharacteristically nuts, what with Hurricane Puppet destroying our loft and the trip on Thursday, but for the rest of May, methodical is the drill. If I come out of it feeling more like myself, with less tears, less pounds, and less poof under the eyes, then I did it right.

P.S. Somewhere in the middle of typing this, Osama Bin Laden died?

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Filed under Sam I Am, The Year Plus

Egg Raid On Mojo

This is the last picture taken of me with my Dad. It’s from last Easter. I had a gut feeling it would be the last one, which is why I made Justin take about five of them.

We’re going to his best friend’s sister’s house for Easter, and I’m not quite sure how I will handle that. Though, I’m sure my Grandma will say something completely awkward and embarrassing. Hey, if it gets rid of the sads, I’m cool with it.

The last time we ate with them, my visually-impaired dad almost knocked a full cup of coffee onto brand-new white carpet. John, his life-long bff, caught it just in time.

“I’m a good test to see how Christian you people really are,” my dad remarked matter-of-factly.

Justin, Patrick and I are taking his ashes to Arizona (possibly Tombstone!) in two weeks. That, plus seeing his best friend today, plus being emotional in general thanks to the peems, means it’s been an intense week. At least there’s candy.

Let’s end this on the best note ever: NIECE!


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I Used To Room In A Tomb Where I’d Sit And Freeze

My first day at work was better than I ever could have imagined. (I was so excited about the dogs, I forgot about all the Swiss chocolate.) But honestly? The only person I wanted to call afterward and share today with was my dad.

It isn’t just because this is where he worked for 25 years. (Though, the last time I applied here, he made me a list of everyone he could remember who could help me get the job. “Now … some of these people might be dead,” he said apologetically as he handed it to me.)

It’s because he was always so proud of me and my career, and even though he hasn’t been around to see me work for the last year, I wasn’t making him proud. I certainly wasn’t proud of myself. I was depressed and unmotivated and (as I told key people more than once) completely demoralized, and I spent more time sitting around and hating life than actually writing.

In fact, things were the worst at work around the time that they were the worst for him, and I didn’t want to complain to my manager or HR upper management (HR was awesome) because I was sure they would blame my outlook on what was happening at home. (If they were going to avoid the real problem as usual, then I sure as hell wasn’t going to let them pin it on my dad.)

During his memorial, all his friends and pastors talked about how proud my dad was of my brother and I for our lives and our careers. I remember sitting there while they all talked about how he bragged about my writing, when the truth was I was so depressed at work that I would stare at my computer on the verge of tears, and sometimes days would go by where I couldn’t write anything noteworthy at all. I felt like shit (well, more than you already do when you’re sitting at your father’s funeral).

Work got a little better after that (and I mean it, I loved 99% of those people like family and I was homesick for all of them today), but the problems were still there.

I’ve worked at this new place for eight hours and I already feel like I can contribute and grow. Dog parks and koi ponds and cookies aside, I’m thrilled to be at this new place because I can be productive and appreciated. I’m proud that I made it here. And now I get to earn all of that pride he had in me.

(Bittersweet stuff aside … it’s pretty dope, you guys. I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into.)

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Sam I Am

When I started moving everything over to WordPress (4 years down, 2 to go), I realized that I’ve written a lot about my dad and I should probably make a category for it. All the Dad entries are labeled Sam I Am.

My dad’s name wasn’t Sam, but that was his nickname all the way through college. It started when he was a kid, when he was cornered by some bullies. Here he is explaining it:

I shot that video before one of his leg amputations. It was probably the second one. I really didn’t think his body would make it through another surgery like that. He was stronger than anyone imagined. When you’re faced with the idea of losing a parent, you start asking them as many questions as possible. This was one of those times.

I don’t know why I taped it. I DO know that my Grandma was on fire that day (and that, clearly, I am a terrible liar):

I’ve been trying to avoid posting two Dad entries in a row, but I’ve been missing him a lot the last few days. If you’re sincerely bummed out now, then you might want to revisit this old gem. (I got screamed at on the highway to get you guys that one. You’re welcome.)

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3 Cheers for the Weirs – Revisited

It’s been exactly a year since I threw the concert for my parents, and I feel like if I’m ever going to write about it, it might as well be now.

For those of you who don’t know, my dad had both of his legs amputated about 15 months ago, due to Type 1 diabetes. This was after a triple bypass and several vein replacements the year before, not to mention losing an eye two decades earlier. When I first thought about this concert, only one leg was missing and I had hoped to buy a prosthetic with the money. Soon, both legs were gone, he developed a category 4 bedsore, and it became apparent that (because of his blindness), he would require 24/7 care – most likely (and as it turns out) for the rest of his life.

The actual money I raised (around $3,000) paid for a hospital bed, a trapeze bar for above the bed (so he could exercise), a portion of an expensive wheelchair and medical supplies. It was much needed, and I know this because I had to pick up a lot of equipment and run to the pharmacy for him almost daily. My dad was expensive – worth every penny, but expensive. Above, you’ll see the receipt for my first trip to the pharmacy for him – $538.39.

I didn’t write about it right away because I wanted time to let it absorb. Then, around the middle of December, he got sick again. He had gastroparesis, which makes patients feel full even though they haven’t eaten. As a diabetic, eating was essential, and the doctors were having trouble getting a feeding tube to work. The day before Christmas, my brother went to the hospital with my mom to speak to counselors about end-of-life decisions. I thought he was going to die on Christmas. My concert seemed pretty pointless, my initial optimism  seemed childish, and in addition to the sadness, I felt like I had let everyone down.

However, he came home soon after, and aside from one more hospital stay, he spent the last 7 months of his life at home, in the house where he lived for over 30 years. My mom was with him almost 24/7, and when I moved home in mid-May, he got to see me every day, too. He had a lot of visitors and got to spend holidays like Easter sitting at the head of the dining room table, just like he used to. The equipment helped make all of this possible, and the concert helped bring the equipment home, so it was worth it.

Man, when I started this entry, I wanted it to be about the concert itself and all the positivity, but it’s impossible to explain even the facts of my dad’s story without being long-winded and heavy. Anyway:

The concert was amazing. There were so many friends from so many different parts of my life, and I think I even remarked onstage that it was kind of like a wedding in that respect – when would I get all of those people in the same room again? I remember choking up during my speech (and saying, “Shit.” when I did). I told everyone that my family spent so much time sitting around in hospital rooms that we would run out of things to talk about. And when that happened, I would tell them about my friends. My parents knew about almost everything that happened to my friends, and asked about them, too. “How’s Warren’s house?” “How’s Emily’s baby?” “Does Ron like teaching?” “Did Jen get over her cold?”

I told the crowd, “You all mean a lot to my parents, because you mean a lot to me. And it’s really nice that I can tell my parents that the same is true about them.”

I can’t tell you how amazing it was in the weeks leading up to the show – businesses handed over gift certificates without blinking, Off Broadway opened their doors gladly (and for free), friends like Janet and Ann pitched in to make fliers and banners, Rob brought pizza for the bands, and all the musicians/friends I asked to play gladly accepted.  Erin (who was still a relatively new friend at the time) gathered money from her co-workers, promoted the shit out of the show, and brought several friends with her.

Friends bought insane amounts of raffle tickets from my boyfriend (in his cute raffle outfit). I remember one friend buying 40 at once! Oh, here’s one complaint – I kept picking the same 5 winners, no matter how hard I shook that bucket. What the hell? One friend handed me a $100 check on the spot and another friend hugged me and slipped me a wad of cash for just as much.

I also got tons of checks in the mail – one of the first was from my first grade teacher, all the way from Texas. Hell, I even got a huge check from an ex who had every right to hate me. I raised almost twice as much from these checks – a part I wasn’t even expecting as first – than I did from the actual concert.

The staff at Off Broadway was awesome, too. They gave me drinks on the house and the door guy kept diligent track of the amount of guests (80) and the money they gave. He made me pull up to the front door and walked me to the car with all of my cash. And speaking of the cash – have y’all ever walked downtown with a huge stack of bills? I had to, because that’s where my bank is. I thought I was going to die.

Overall, the whole experience was overwhelming. When I got home that night, I was sitting on my bed holding all the money, and I just burst into tears out of exhaustion and gratitude. And as you’ll see from the following video, my mom did, too:

So I know this is about a year too late, and I thanked everyone who needed to be thanked already, but I wanted to reiterate how amazing this was. I knew that putting together a concert would be helpful and therapeutic, but I wasn’t expecting so much support and kindness and positivity. I didn’t have the time or the money to help my parents, so I used what I had – friends. Talented, generous, incredible friends. And what I received from everyone involved didn’t just carry me financially – it gave me what I needed emotionally to survive this last year. So once again, thank you from the bottom (and top, and middle) of my heart.

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Between Sleep And Awake

So here’s something totally personal and the perfect mixture of sweet and creepy:

I knew that my dad died before my mom told me. I knew that he died because I saw him leave.

My alarm clock is on the other side of my room, at least 20 feet away, so by the time I reach the snooze button I’m a little more conscious than I’d prefer. A few laps back and forth will perfectly place me in that state between awake and asleep, where I can hear birds chirping outside while still cognizant of the surroundings in my dreams.

I was there, in that place, when I saw him. But when it happened, I was acutely aware that it wasn’t a dream or my imagination – it was a completely different place that I had never seen or felt before. It was very real – but it wasn’t here.

It was dark, with a fuzzy green light. He was peaking around something like a corner, but it wasn’t quite him anymore. Not exactly an outline of him, but a fuzzy, faded version of him. While it was hard to make out his face, he looked happy but also kind of stern, which I attribute to the fact that my boyfriend was laying next to me. He looked back around the corner, towards where he was going, then back at me one last time, excited but rushed. And then he was gone.

While it might seem like the first instint would be to run upstairs and check on my dad, that’s not what I did. I mean, I saw him leave. He wasn’t upstairs anymore. I understood that there wasn’t any urgency.

Instead, I kissed Justin on the forehead to wake him up. As we laid there, I tried very hard to soak up the warmth, comfort and safety of the moment, because I knew that the second I walked upstairs and saw him, my life would change forever and I wouldn’t feel that peaceful again for a long, long time.

After 5 minutes or so, I got out of bed with a purpose. And just then, my mom came to the top of the stairs and called for me.

“He’s gone,” she said.

“I know,” I answered.

~~~*~~~

I wasn’t sure if I should tell that story on here. But if I don’t share it, I might forget – not that it happened, but the way it felt and looked. I remember those details better when I write them down. And I figure, right now the 50-or-so people who regularly come to this blog are people who actually know and care about me, so now would be the best time to write something so personal.

The real motivation, though, was coming across this scene on a random tumblr today. When I saw it, I immediately burst into tears:

That’s probably a sign. And as I’m beginning to learn, my dad likes sending those to me.

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How Ghosts Work

Last night, much like two years ago, I watched fireworks from a carnival at Jen and Ron’s church. Having narrowly missed the display last year, I opted to drive to a nearby playground ahead of time instead of meeting at their house and walking there.

I was about 10 or 15 minutes early, so I climbed to the top of the tower with my tiny bottle of wine and nestled on the floor next to the cave-like entrances of two slides. For some reason I started thinking about my dad. I realized it had been exactly two months, and I mulled that over for any meaning. I dangled my feet off the edge, laid on my back, stared at the moon and told my dad about my day. I poured out a tiny bit of wine for him, laughed to myself about it, then tried to recall if I had ever seen him drink wine. I decided that I hadn’t. I wondered why he was so present in my thoughts right then, right there, surrounded by empty swings and wood chips. I bit my lip, tried to absorb the tears back into my eyes before they spilled over, and then I glanced over and saw the silhouettes of Jen, Ron and Nick making their way toward me.

Then: fireworks. Slow but loud, thanks to the chill in the air. I shrieked with joy during the unexpectedly huge finale.

This morning my mom asked me where I was the night before. I described the carnival and the parish school. I said the name of the road and she said the name of the church with surprise. “By the train tracks,” she clarified, not a question. I nodded.

“Did you know that’s where Dad went to grade school?” she asked. I hadn’t.

After the fireworks, we had relaxed in Jen and Ron’s living room and talked about ghosts. They mentioned a friend of Ron’s mom who claims that she summons spirits.

Next year during the fireworks I’ll remember to say hi to my Dad’s kid ghost, who was probably sitting right next to me and not on the moon like I had assumed. And I’ll pour out a juice box instead, or maybe a beer, because my dad was the type of Norman Rockwellian 1950′s kid who would probably sneak up behind his dad Findley and steal a sip or two. That’s obvious to me, now that we’ve hung out and all.

I drove all the way downtown just to tell you that story. Wasn’t that nice of me?

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I Threw My Dad Off This Cliff

This is the cliff where I spread my dad’s ashes. It’s the view from the firepit. Below it is our stretch of the Meramec river. My family’s cabin is amazing. I’m glad I insisted on taking him there.

I was going to hike to this place called The Pinnacle. But (a) I underestimated how carsick I would get from the 30 minutes of brutal gravel back roads and (b) The Pinnacle, while only a mile away from the property, is a 3-4 hour hike due to the ridges and detours. So I was all HEY THIS CLIFF RIGHT HERE LOOKS GOOD.

It was a really pretty view overlooking our stretch of the Meramec River and miles of scenic hills (and cows!). HOWEVER when I threw the ashes, this totally almost happened:

Except only some blew back and they only got on my jeans before I dove away. My brother was like, “If that wasn’t dad, I would’ve laughed at you so hard.”

Did you know that ashes are really crushed up bone fragments, and that’s why people prefer to call them “remains”? That there are pebbles in there? And your fillings? And heart stints if you have them? Can you tell I’m not afraid of my Dad’s ashes at all?

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“Well Done.”

My dad’s memorial was about as fun as a funeral can be. My brother gave a speech that made me so proud, his friends John and Mark spoke and it was touching, and his cousins Danny and Bill told childhood stories that had the whole place cracking up. I saw so many people I haven’t seen in years, maybe even decades. People from our old church, my old private school, most of our neighborhood, my brother’s in-laws, etc. I met my Grandma’s stepbrother for the first time!

Lots of my friends came, including some who had never even met my dad, and that was beyond touching. My kindergarten BFF Jane managed to venture outdoors with an awful cold/flu/bug and it meant so much to me and my mom. (Hope you’re feeling better, Jane!) Graham had a fu manchu that would’ve made my dad proud. Peter brought pictures of his baby to cheer me up (and it worked!).

I really wanted to work his favorite song, “Gimme Shelter”, into the ceremony, but … well, it was at a church and they probably wouldn’t have appreciated the lyrics on page 4.

I used to always joke that my dad would be late to his own funeral, and my mom and brother were running pretty late so I guess I was right. My mom had put together this great slideshow of pictures and we didn’t even get to see it because they played it while everyone was sitting down. I’ll try to make a Facebook album of it or something.

We cried a little during the ceremony, especially during the hymns (I lost it during “Amazing Grace”; how cliché) but mostly we laughed. I got to walk my teeny tiny grandma down the aisle and I was happy to do it. Afterwards lots of people stayed for cake and it was so great to see everyone. I wish it was appropriate to take pictures during something like that, you know?

My niece had her first non-family babysitter ever and did awesome. I was really proud of her and glad my brother could show her off. I know I’m a little biased but she’s the cutest baby I’ve ever seen. I’m willing to bet even my future kids won’t be that cute. (But don’t tell them I said that.)

Today we’re going to spread some ashes at the family cabin in Cuba. During everyone’s speeches, they talked so much about Cuba and Arizona and it made me so happy that I insisted on spreading them. I don’t know when I’ll make it to Arizona, but it was my dad’s dream to make it there and I’m going to get him there if it kills me.

My family is in town for one more week (and Justin’s family is coming to town this weekend, too) so eventually I’ll get back out into the world to see all my friends. I miss you guys.

During the long talk that my dad had with Justin, he said that he didn’t know what love really was until the last two years of his life. After last night, I kind of feel the same way. I hope my funeral is that hilarious.

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With No Particular Place To Go

I’m going to see a free Chuck Berry show tonight, downtown. The last time I saw Chuck Berry was at Blueberry Hill in 2002 with Kevin and my boyfriend at the time.

That week, my dad was in the hospital – either for a vein replacement or a toe amputation; I can’t remember which. I handled those first few surgeries terribly, though considering how desensitized I am now, my reaction was probably normal. I worried. I cried. I felt helpless. Rather that being upset in quick, healthy spurts – a technique I’ve mastered – it was always on the forefront of my mind and weighing in my heart.

My dad loved Chuck Berry. He loved rock ‘n roll in general, especially the Rolling Stones. He even played guitar in a band in the 60′s – the Crestones. So of course he loved Chuck Berry. He was excited that I was going, and it made me sad that he couldn’t.

I had a VERY chunky flip phone that shot fuzzy videos back then. This was before it was normal to hold your phone up at a concert. So I spent much of the concert with my phone at my side and my finger on the record button. I was probably terrified of getting arrested. (I used to be a 24/7 nervous wreck.)

Edited to Add: Now that I really think about it, I didn’t have that phone yet. I don’t think phones shot video til 2004 or so. I remember now that I called myself – either with my ex’s phone or my own – and left a bunch of 3-minute voicemails of Chuck singing and playing. The fuzzy Chuck Berry image I’m remembering is a picture I took that night with a cheap Walgreens free-film-for-life camera. However, I did still think I was going to get in serious trouble.

The next day I took my phone to the hospital, and he held it up to his ear and listened to all my recordings, beaming.

I would do that for him again, if he was still here now. With a better phone. Maybe even a camera. In fact, I would’ve called him so he could listen to the whole show with me. The fact that I can’t makes me so incredibly sad. And it makes me realize that things like this are going to hurt me for a very long time. In a lot of ways, the pain isn’t going away – it’s only starting to appear.

To cope, though, I keep reminding myself that Chuck Berry is doing this to help bring the Democratic Convention to St. Louis in 2012, literally a few blocks away from the loft. I’m probably Liberal (I avoid politics too much to be sure) but my dad was a raging Republican. I’m not sure if his love of Chuck Berry would conquer his love of Rush Limbaugh.

So if I feel like crying tonight (which I probably won’t – it’s Chuck Berry for pete’s sake), I’ll remember that my dad would be so angry and ashamed of me if he heard that I cried in front of a bunch of those damn awful Democrats.

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Crossing Paths

My neighbor Rachel has this black cat named Mina who used to hang out with me on my back porch all of the time. She’s an outdoor cat and is the type of feline who acts as happy to see you as a dog. Any time I was outside reading or smoking, she would jump in my lap, kiss my nose and demand a head scratch.

She always seemed to know when I was sad, too. If I was crying about Brian or stressed about school, she would appear out of nowhere with a snuggle, mewing as if to say, “It’s okay. I’m here now.”

She even stopped by on the last night I lived in this house, a little over five years ago. I’ve only seen her once since then. We have coyotes and even a hawk in our neighborhood, and I used to hear animal fights in the distance every night. So I assumed that she wouldn’t last too long out in those woods.

However, last Friday I had called Jen to tell her about my dad’s worsening condition. We had put him on hopsice almost two weeks prior, but because that circle of friends was preparing for a wedding, I didn’t tell anyone. But a week after the wedding, I felt like it was time to let her know.

I could barely say the h-word without choking up, and as she comforted me while I tearfully explained the situation, I heard a rustling in the flowers next to the porch.

Then, for the first time in five years, “Mew.”

And before I could look up to confirm it, Mina was in my lap, rubbing her cheek against my cheek, and pushing the phone away from my ear with her paw the way she used to, demanding all of my attention. “It’s okay now. You don’t need anyone else. I’ll take it from here.”

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Too Tired To Think Of A Title

I’m not ready to write too much about it yet – maybe not ever – so if you see lots of dumb YouTube videos or something, that’s why. I’m doing sort of okay… Sunday I spent the day taking care of other people, Monday there were tons of much-appreciated guests, so I didn’t really have a chance to cry (really cry) until last night.

I was going to wait to tell Facebook about what happened because it just seemed a little … tacky? But times have changed and to be honest, it’s nice to take a deep breath and dive into 100 condolance emails at once, rather than have them sprinkled throughout the week.

From TSGoC: “Sorry to hear that :(. I’m in transit to the dictatorship of Myanmar, but will have gmail.” Of course he is. Love it.

I wanted to tell Shortcake readers something before I told most other people. My parents have always had plans to be cremated, and my mom had told them to just keep the remains. But I insisted on taking his ashes. Part of them will be spead on the family property in Cuba, Missouri where he spent his childhood summers. There’s a place deep in the woods called the Pinnacle that he apparently loved, so that’s where he will go; it will be fun to hike around and find it. If I come across a Civil War battlefield on the drive out there, they’re getting a dash or two.

The other half? I’m taking him to Arizona. :)

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