Bad Good Days

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I went to my parents house today for a little family get together and early Fathers Day celebration.

After eating the requisite grilled meat and other cookout fare, we started a game of corn hole. It started out slow, with me showing off my excellent skills of throwing past the board. My 8 year old was my partner, and together we managed to end the game at 11 – 0. We did not win.

My parents then joined, my mom partnered with my brother in law, and my dad with my sister.

Since the parents were standing at the same board, they didn’t realize they were on different teams until about halfway through their game. Thanks to skills of their partners, that game lasted much longer than my 10 minute warm up session.

At one point I decided to go inside and start cleaning up so we could bring out the cake.

I watched my family from the kitchen window as I worked.  I saw my parents laughing, really laughing. It was the kind of laughing we took for granted before Joe died. That completely happy in the moment laughing that is so hard to chase down since he left us.

Of course, when I feel happiness, I feel Joe’s loss right along with it. I saw my family, and I especially noticed that I DIDN’T see my brother. He wasn’t laughing with us as we teased Dad about how he used to mix all the old cereal together when we were growing up. He wasn’t making fun of the parents with us as they learned how to navigate the game of corn hole. He wasn’t there. But his loss was there with us, always with us.

I probably imagined what Joe would say or do about something at least 10 times today. Him being there, and being healthy with us would have been so wonderful. And it hurts to laugh without him.

As I left them, my mom walked me to the door. As we said our goodbyes, she put my thoughts into words. She had felt his loss today, like every day. And because of that, every day is a bad day automatically. Today was a bad day and a good day, and we have to get used to this.

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Cardboard Joe

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My brother has been gone for 6 months.

I still try to pretend it’s not true, but sometimes reality just smacks you in the face.

Like at Easter.

Joe made the punch for holidays at moms house. It was his thing, none of us knew how he did it, but somehow he mixed an awesome pink concoction with floating islands of sherbet just perfect for toasting over croissants and cheesy potatoes.

So, we made the punch because we feel maybe that not having punch would make us feel worse and miss Joe more. Having it gives us a chance to remember the good times with him, although the punch this year was definitely not on par with what he could have made for us.

And it makes us miss him anyway.

I used to say I wanted to get a life sized cardboard cutout of my brother. Just to have around. I really miss his smile, his personality, just him in general.

I think maybe sometimes it would be cool to have “him” in our holiday photos, posing with a cup of punch…. it would feel like he was still there a bit.

It wouldn’t replace him though. It wouldn’t talk or laugh back…. and I think the worst thing would be that it wouldn’t age as the rest of us aged. And I could never throw it away, it would feel like I was throwing my brother away.

So maybe no cardboard cutout.

Story of three birds

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It has been a really, really long time since I’ve posted.

I am attempting to find the time to find myself again, so tonight this is my therapy.

I would like to tell you about something, and I want to write it down so it STAYS, and it will be remembered.

My brother died.

He died like a lot of brothers, and sons, and fathers, and sisters, and mothers, and wives and people we LOVE are dying.

He chose heroin that one last time.  Because he’d been doing so well, he must have thought he could get away with it. Just once more.

And so the story begins in the worst way, getting a call from my dad as I was leaving the funeral of someone else I loved. I hate to think about that phone call, and my reaction. Pounding the steering wheel as I drove and screamed and cried and screamed all the way to my parents house. Calling my sister. Walking up the driveway together. Seeing our parents. Dying inside.

And coping the only way I knew, by staying really busy, and trying not to think about whose funeral we were planning, and how we were actually going to have to admit that he was really gone.

So it was the next night, well, about 2am. I was busy working on the funeral program. Not tired, just focused on making it the best damn funeral program ever. Something that he would like, something that somehow would convey just how much he meant to us, and how special he was, and how much he will be missed.

Finally, I decide I needed to get to bed. As I’m getting my pajamas, then lingering over more photos of my brother, I talk to him silently. Why??!  Why?! I want answers, I want to be mad at him, but I can’t be. I know he didn’t mean to die. I want to know he’s ok. I just need to know, please Joe…. can you let me know you’re ok?

I’d gotten to the point of numbness eventually, exhausted and mechanically brushing my teeth, the last person awake in a silent house. By the time I was rinsing off my face, I realized there was this….noise…. it’d been going on for a while somewhere in my head. It was like when you notice the TV is still on after you’ve tuned it out for so long….

I focused in on this sound…. and realized it was a song. What the…… I was hearing the words of a Bob Marley song over and over in my head.

Don’t worry about a thing…..

’cause every little thing

gonna be alright….

Complete with background music. I wasn’t thinking this…..I was HEARING this.

Now my brother was a bit of a Bob Marley fan. He had T-Shirts, he could play those songs on the guitar, He dressed up like Bob Marley for Halloween in college.

But I never thought of these songs. I just knew what it was when I heard it. And I believed I knew why I was hearing it. It was days later we found a video of him singing this song…. those exact words.

I never even knew the name of that song until we tried to find it and play it after I told my family. Three little birds. We all have it downloaded now. We played it a lot leading up the funeral. We played it at the gravesite as our friends and family said their goodbye to my little brother. As the rest of us, the four remaining siblings, stood together and cried, and said goodbye too.

It’s a small comfort, but a comfort just the same.

Joint Custody

The 4 year old is really into stuffed animals. She’s had her eye on my Raccoon, Charlie, lately.

Charlie has a place of honor on a closet shelf. He is faded, no more stripes on a tail that is hanging by a few threads. He’s been around since I was three….. longer than ANYONE in my house has been around me.

Yesterday I let her hold him, then introduce him to some of her stuffed friends.  They all hung out together on her bed, and she slept with him at night.

Tonight he was back on his shelf, and she went looking for him. Then comes her awesome idea.

“Hey mom! Can I keep Charlie?”

Uh, no.  You guys can hang out though.

Soon after….

“Mom…..look at my face.”

So I look.  Into the face hovering inches from mine, eyes suitably wide and bottom lip pushed out. Just staring at me.

I turn away.

A minute later, “did you see my lip?”

Yes. I saw the lip.

Now it’s quivering as she launches into a tale of woe, about a mother who doesn’t love her enough to give Charlie up. Because she promises to take good care of him, and she wants him, so what’s the problem?

So I ask her, what should I do if I’m out with you one day, and a lady comes up and says she really likes you and wants to take you for her own daughter? Should I get to keep you, or should I give you away even if I still want to keep you for myself?

“Well”, she answers….”she can just come home and live with us!” with a very self congratulatory smile on her face.

So, now Charlie has two moms.

 

Think outside the box, inside the bathroom

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The other morning, I was braiding Jenna’s hair before school.

We’re facing the mirror together, and talking about lots of important things.

She starts: “Mom…… why does daddy always get to sleep in YOUR bed?”

Good question.

And I love that she just knows it’s MY bed, and her father is obviously  bordering on  rude for still occupying that space at night…..just ASSUMING he has the right….geez……

Also, she is looking to get him out so she can take that spot, but she’s subtle enough to not bring that up just yet.

So I say “Hmmmmmm, well I don’t know Jenna, where else would he sleep??”

She’s clearly thought this out, because she answers immediately, no hesitation.

“Well, why don’t we just get some blankets, and pillows, and make him a bed somewhere else? Like maybe in his bathroom?

Another great idea…. and it would make things a lot more convenient for him as well.

She did eventually offer to let him make a bed for himself in our room…and even said she’d help him build it.

Good compromise.

 

Facing the harsh reality

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We just got back from a week long vacation in Mexico.

Like last year, we spent a week sunning, swimming, stuffing our faces, napping, and waking up to start the cycle all over again.

As is the case with all good things, it was over too fast.

Even though I had gotten to the point of just eating fruit for breakfast because I simply could not stuff myself three times a day for a whole week…. I still enjoyed it.

Coming home for me meant remembering how to cook, ugh. And before that, going to the grocery store and buying food to do something with at home.

The kids and I walked through Trader Joe’s in a daze, them asking why can’t we just live in Mexico, me trying to find that secret aisle that will have everything I need to make fast, easy, delicious, healthy dinners for the next week without having to THINK about it.

The 4 year old probably got hit the hardest since we’ve been back home.

It didn’t take her more than a couple days on vacation to recognize what “all inclusive” means in terms of eating options…. and before long she stopped going up to the buffet with me all together. Instead, she chose to relax at the table, and airily directed me to bring her back an assortment of things to try.

Today, on our first morning back, she is requesting sushi, chocolate pastry, and maybe a waffle if it’s not too much trouble.

The stark reality of cold cereal and orange juice left her looking a little shell shocked…..

 

 

 

Identity theft

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I’m sitting on the floor as Jenna paces around me, trying to get the boys to come up from the basement.

She yells for them to come up, they ignore her.

Then she has a great idea.

She whispers to me, “I’m pretending I’m you….”

Yells again:

“I’m momma!!, Come upstairs!”

Big smile on her face, this is definitely going to work.

Looks at me, leans over and whispers again:

“Don’t worry….you’re still you….”

Whew!