Life is a Series of Meetings and Partings

Three weeks ago to the day, my dad suddenly died.

This is hundredth time I’ve typed those words – my dad died – and it never, ever gets any easier. I tried typing words like “passed away” or “left us,” words that feel softer when said aloud but words that do not look soft in print. They look escapist. Treacherous.

Death is such a funny, terrible thing. This dichotomy of hilarity and agony is only amplified when you are the peculiar type of human who uses humor to cope.

Here’s a story for you. Three weeks ago, my mother and I sat in a hospital next to a bed where my deceased father lay, looking utterly peaceful. My sister, her fiance, my husband, and my grandmother were on the way.My grief was comprehensive and utterly overwhelming. I felt as if someone had reached into my chest, through the muscle and sinew and bone, and torn out my beating heart. I also felt as if that heart had just stopped in place. More dichotomies.

My mother and I sat, on either side of the bed, alternately holding his hands, sobbing uncontrollably, and taking turns assuring one another that somehow, somefuckinghow, it would all be alright. With tears in her eyes, she looked up and said, “Father’s coming to give him a blessing.”

The timing seemed a little off.

“Oh?” I said.

Moment later, Father John glided into the room. Father John is a man of average height, with a soft voice, compassionate gaze, and comforting demeanor. I saw my mother relax immediately in his presence.

After the blessing, he asked my mother about the arrangements. She told him that my dad wanted to be cremated and come home. “He loved being home.”

And he did.

Father, full of grace, nodded.

“I suppose we’ll go to the funeral home tomorrow to pick out an urn.” She began to cry again.

Father John placed a gentle hand on her shoulder, “That can be challenging, but there’s comfort in it, too. In bringing forth their wishes.”

“Yes,” she sniffed. “He wanted something simple.”

Silent until this moment, I chimed in, “Well, he always said we could put him in a Chock Full ‘o’ Nuts can and drop him off a cliff.”

Looking into the horrified faces of my mother and Father John, I experienced three fundamental realizations in one fell swoop:

1- Not everyone has seen The Big Lebowski.

2- Father John is the epitome of kindness for saying, “Well, it’s hard to know why people want what they want.”

3- I will miss my dad desperately every time I open my mouth to say something like that for the rest of my life.

My dad did always joke about the Chock Full ‘o’ Nuts can. He would have laughed explosively at that joke. Somewhere, wherever he is, I’m sure he did. “Damn it, Kate. You’re out of your element.”

I am completely without element, Dad. I don’t even know where to begin to look for one.

My dad was the funniest sort of person. He loved to laugh more than he loved most things –  a big belly laugh. In his eulogy I wrote, “You could tell him a joke – it didn’t even have to be all that funny – and he would erupt into that raucous belly laugh. He’d never leave you hanging, no matter how bad the joke. The effect was immediate and infectious. Dad never laughed alone.”

For some odd reason, this blog made him laugh. It always was a silly blog. In fact it was, without doubt, a compilation of the most ridiculous words I’ve ever written. But he loved it.

More than just this blog, he loved the fact that I wrote. This summer, he asked me at least a hundred times when I was going to start writing again, when I was going to start blogging again, when I was going to finish my novel. He was so passionate about this that he even suggested I go back to bartending to free up the brainspace to do it – and he HATED that I’d been a bartender. It wasn’t the nature of the work, mind you, but that he was a “girl dad,” a dad of all daughters, a dad who had once been a young man at a bar. “I may have been born at night, Kit, but it wasn’t last night.”

So here we are.

I understand that this is an odd return to blogging. I understand that this blog has, historically, been riddled with my opinions about a great many things about which I know nothing, pictures of my labradoodle, and tales of my hostile uterus.

But I’ve lost myself. A dear friend told me that losing her dad made her feel like all of the skin on her body had been peeled away, leaving nothing but thousands of exposed nerve endings. “Everything is agonizing.”

And so it is.

I feel that exposure. But the exposure also takes a different form. I feel as if I’ve lost my mooring. I feel utterly adrift. At times, I’m not really sure who I am anymore. I get the feeling that I might be searching for that answer for the rest of my life.

But this place, this tiny corner of the internet that once made him laugh and brought me such joy, feels like it might be a good place to start looking.

Through the pain – through the fucking agony that is grief of this magnitude, a quiet refrain echoes in my head. “Life is good, Kitster.”

During chemo, after radiation, recovering from surgery, or when he experienced side effects so severe that even drinking water caused him discomfort – through the entire fucking ordeal – he would say, “Sure, this sucks, but life is good. Life is good.”

And so it is.

Life is good. Life is also hard. The days are long. The nights are dark. The winds of time are relentless and cold. The world keeps soldiering on. Meanwhile we, who grieve desperately, feel suspended. We are suspended between the disbelief that it can’t possibly have happened only three weeks ago and that ohmygod, OHMYGOD, it has only been three weeks. How can we endure?

But we remember him. Life is long – even when it isn’t – but life is good.

My dad was the man who, when told that a new tumor might render him unable to walk, turned to the neurosurgeon and said, “Well, Mrs. Lincoln, other than that, how did you enjoy the play?”

My dad was the man who, when told that he was a good “girl dad,” would reply, “I am utterly awash in the Estrogen Sea.”

My dad was a thumbs-up as you pulled out of the driveway, a tome of crossword answers, and the biggest, warmest, most ensconcing hug you’d ever had.

My dad was the man who always had a funny story for his oncologist, who made his nurses laugh, who inspired his surgeons. My dad was the man who made such a huge impression on people that his last nurses, who cared for him for a mere three days, came to his wake.He was the man who gave nicknames to his fellow chemotherapy recipients, who tried to make everyone’s day brighter every chance he got.

As such, it seemed only appropriate to begin his eulogy with a joke. “If my dad were to deliver his own eulogy, he’d probably open with a joke from Caddyshack. ‘I bet you get a free bowl of soup with an urn like that.’ It looks good on you though.”

That, friends, is the goodness of my dad. To the very last moment, he made the people around him laugh. To be honest, he’s still making us laugh.

He always told us that, at all costs, we should try to leave each interaction, each person, each moment better than we found it. In his eulogy for his own father, my dad said, “Everyone loved my dad. Everyone thought that my dad was their best friend. He made everyone feel important and honored and heard. And in that, maybe he was everyone’s best friend.”

Life is funny isn’t it? Because in my eulogy, I the same thing about my dad. Everyone loved him. Everyone thought he was their best friend. He made everyone feel important and honored and heard.

On the lid of his urn, a plaque reads, “May the work I have done speak for me.”

May the work I have done speak for me.

I’m not sure what this blog, some of the work I have done, says for or about me. I’ll figure that out in time.

What my dad’s life and work said about him, however, was simple.

Be kind. Love fiercely and without apology. Help others as much as your can. Eat well. Drink better. Plan as if you’ll live a hundred years. Live as if today is your last. And perhaps above all else, don’t forget to laugh. Laugh often. Laugh with abandon. Pass it on.

He was the first man I ever loved, my first friend, my buddy, my confidante, my compass. I loved him. I love him still.

He was my dad.

I will miss him desperately until the day I die. I know this to be true. I know this deep down in my very bones.

I also know, just as profoundly, that he has left a handprint on my heart. I carry him with me.

I will laugh. I will write. I will live. I will live well.

To you dad, wherever you are, I know you’re out of your element too, right now. We’ll get there. We’ll figure it out. The “kids” are alright. I know you were always worried about that. We’re alright. We’re awash in the Grief Sea right now, but the ship is yar, the hands are plenty, and life is good.

Walking my girl

 Lola 1

My girl.

She’s been going through it lately. Well, for a dog, anyway. She had a brush with an ear infection, found out that she has a tilted vulva (don’t ask), got a haircut, and, to add insult to injury, it’s been raining for several days now.

I wouldn’t call her miserable. After all, I don’t think any creature who lives as well as she does could ever be capable of true misery, but she’s been down in the dumps. Mopey. Clingy. And, oh, the sighs that come from this dog.

Meanwhile, I’ve been chugging along, cheerfully assuring her that everything’s great — on the way to the vet [ears and vulva], on the way to the pet wash [haircut], when we’re standing out in the rain to potty [her, not me].

But yesterday, I started my new part-time job. My manager, as managers are wont to do, asked me to tell him about myself.

MANAGER: So you’re in school?

ME: Yes. Studying social work. I’m going to be a licensed clinical social worker and, hopefully, do therapy and counseling with combat veterans.

MANAGER: That’s really cool. So, when you’re not in school, what do you do for fun?

ME: Well, I’m ignoring the fact that I should be finishing my novel. And I have an Etsy store. And I substitute teach.

MANAGER: Oh, that’s really awesome! …But what do you do for fun?

Kittens, I didn’t have an answer. I certainly didn’t want to say “Watch tv,” though, recently, my recreation can be boiled down to watching Miranda on Hulu in bed while stress-drinking an absurd amount of tea.

I wouldn’t call me miserable. After all, I don’t think any creature as blessed as I am could ever be capable of true misery, but I’ve been down in the dumps. Mopey. Clingy. And, oh, the sighs that have come from me.

That question, “What do you do for fun?” has been plaguing me.

I was walking Lola this morning. It’s raining. The grass is wet. And, as we’ve covered before, I don’t think I loathe anything in this world as much as Lola loathes wet grass. Or even damp grass, really. So here we are, mincing our way down the driveway – she, trying to find the least wet patch of grass in the yard while I, on tiptoe, try to avoid stepping on any of the approximately 7 million earthworms littering the pavement. Because they gross me out. I’m frustrated at her for being so picky while she, undoubtedly, is frustrated for my refusal to understand her “issue.” (pronounced in the fancy way – “iss-you”)

Eventually, we both gave up. Lola heaved a giant sigh and waded into the wet grass and I’m pretty sure that I stepped on a worm. Or nine.

I think we both need a little shake-up in our lives, Miss Lolabear and me. She needs the hair trimmed from between her toes and, I’ll admit, a bit of an attitude adjustment. (It is not your bed, Lola. It is our bed and we let you sleep in it.)

I, on the other hand, need to chill the f*ck out.

And yet, it’s hard to tell myself to do that. The world seems to have gone mad. Really and truly mad. Dear friends of mine are hurting. It seems that everyone is hurting.

The papers will get written. The work will get done. The bills, somehow, will get paid. Everything will work out. What’s that quote? “Everything will be okay in the end and, if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.”

I guess I need an attitude adjustment of my own. I’ve missed this blog. I’ve missed attempting to make you laugh. That used to make me really, really happy. That used to be a lot of fun. And, in this time of great struggle for our world, I think we need more laughter and fun. After all, when the laughter stops, things get very scary very quickly.

Sending you all so much love. We’ll get through this. It has to stop raining eventually. But in the meantime, I leave you with something that’s been making me laugh quite a bit the last two days. Thanks, Barry. You’re tops.

A Snapshot of Marriage

As some of you know, I’m married. As those of you who are married know, marriage is defined as “a relationship wherein you are yolked to a person until one or both of you dies, characterized by vacillating feelings of intense love, disgust, and loathing.”

Last night, I was making gravy. As those of you who make gravy know, gravy is defined as “an amalgamation of starch, fat, and liquid which, if you turn your back, will congeal or break and ruin your f*cking day.”

It’s not the easiest thing to accomplish. The fats must be right. The thickener must be right. It must simmer and reduce for the right amount of time. It’s not difficult per se, but it requires finesse.

Enter my husband.

CARTER: I’m gonna stir it, babe!

ME: It doesn’t need to be stirred.

CARTER: It’s fine. I’m gonna whisk it.

ME: Please don’t touch it. It’s reducing. It doesn’t need to be stirred.

CARTER: I’m gonna do it. Babe, you just don’t have the culinary instincts that I have.

ME: Dont. Touch it.

CARTER: Give it a little whisk, a little stir, babe. I’m gonna.

ME: I’m gonna crazy person murder you.

CARTER: Well that seems a bit harsh.

ME: Will you hand me a knife?

CARTER: What kind?

ME: A sharp one.

CARTER: Well, not now.

ME: Babe, I need a knife. I have to cut this broccoli.

CARTER: You just told me you were going to, and I quote, “crazy person murder” me and now you’re asking me to hand you a sharp knife.

ME: I can’t right now. You know that. You don’t have any money to dig.

CARTER: Ah, yes. Your plans to dig my gold. You know you’re the worst gold digger ever, babe. Right?

ME: It’s the long con, my love. I’m in it for the long con.

 

Disclosure: I would never harm this man. Well, I would eat the last piece of Havarti on purpose and I hope to live to be in my eighties just to spite him. But I would never, ever harm him and he knows this. I may be prone to theatrics and exaggeration. It’s my nature. Don’t you dare judge me.

As for the gold digging, contrary to what he says, I am not the worst gold digger in the world. After all, I get to sit around in my satin pajamas stained sweatpants while I eat bonbons do homework and start a home business and sip on champagne all morning lukewarm coffee all day. So, yea, I think I’m doing pretty well for myself.

Marriage. Lifetime Original Movies, you’re doing it wrong.

The toilet paper aisle on Senior Day is a metaphor for life. I think.

I’ve recently found myself with more time on my hands. Naturally, I’ve been spending a lot that time at the grocery store.

Is this only a phenomenon for me and my family? Whenever I’m working 1.5 jobs and not sleeping, I go into food-based organizational hyperdrive. I plot meal plans, make a grocery list for the whole week (two if I’m feeling super awesome), and shop with the precision and drive of THE Ohio State University’s marching band at halftime. With all the pomp and “Smoke on the Water,” too, kittens.

I’m not in hyperdrive anymore, however, which means that I’ve been to the grocery store nearly every day for the last week, each time with the precision and drive of my beagle when one of her legs has fallen asleep during a nap.

Do I need anything? Hardly, though I always manage to leave with a single beet or yet another set of nail clippers.

It’s happening.

Slowly, but surely, I’m becoming my grandfather.

Because, somedays, I just “want to see what the leeks look like.”

And I do.

My new favorite day to check on the status of the Belgian Endive and rotisserie chicken selection (which included all flavor options but BBQ last time – get it together, Kroger) is Senior Day.

Once upon a time, I hated Senior Day. So great was my loathing that, if I needed food on a day that just happened to be Senior Day, I would go to Target and risk emptying my bank account on a cart full of items ranging from yoga pants to new Swiffers to umbrellas, just because they were on endcaps.

And God forbid I fall ill and need to pick up a prescription on Senior Day. I would do it, but I would think really pissy thoughts as I waited in line behind a woman picking up 43 prescriptions, all of which are absolutely necessary for the preservation of her life.

What can I say? I was an asshole. Actually, no. I was still classified as a “youth.”

Youths are assholes.

If that wasn’t enough for you:

Ah, Schmidty. I’d marry you if you didn’t say words like “hair chut-en-y.” And you were a real person.

…..and I weren’t already married.

My days of pissing people off because I’m young and inconsiderate are done, however, and to that, I say “Good riddance.” Senior Day is now, frankly, one of the highlights of my week. Because wisdom. Though, the automatic 15% discount doesn’t hurt. I may not get to partake in the free day-old danish and pastries, but I do get to absorb some savvy and experience through osmosis. (I think I remember this being a thing from 7th grade science. Science nerds, don’t judge. I’m just a regular nerd with an addiction to fine paper goods and cartoons.)

If I weren’t spending my Wednesdays around troops of gaggling octogenarians, I never would have been privy to the moment where I received ultimate wisdom and understanding.

My Senior Day grocery trip began with the best intentions to peruse the imported cheeses for a Manager’s Special gouda and then self-loathe for a while in the chip aisle. Because P90X3.

The tell-tale signs of Senior Day were present. The parking lot was full of Lincolns, Buicks, and Cadillacs. The tiny carts were all gone.

The produce section, however, was deserted.

The imported cheese aisle was deserted.

I met only one person in the chip aisle – another woman in yoga pants looking incredibly peckish and annoyed, cradling a bag of Ruffles in her hands and muttering under her breath what sounded like “F*ck you, lovehandles. F*ck you.”

This is remarkably similar to what I say when in that position, only replace the “lovehandles” with “Tony Horton” or, if I’ve been working out with my husband that day, his name. He’s an extroverted exerciser and wants to pump everyone up to his level. I, on the other hand, am an introverted exerciser who just wants to do the workout and plot the demise of the instructor and his/her instructor all the while. Though, that’s a story for another day.

Where were the seniors? How would I know whether the milk was priced properly without their commentary? How would I spot a good Manager’s Special without seeing a flock of people rifling madly through the tilapia bin? I began to panic that I was wrong for thinking the kids from my high school were full of shit for believing in that “Left Behind” nonsense and instinctively grabbed for a jumbo bag of garlic croutons. Because, in the apocalypse, I definitely don’t want to be without a bag of food that will cause me terrible agony.

You can imagine my relief to discover that those kids from my high school were, in fact, full of shit when I found every senior in the store in the toilet paper aisle. Given the number of pocket calculators present, it seems that I’ve been buying toilet paper all wrong. Calculating not just the price per sheet, but the price per ply, these savvy seniors were not going to be swindled by the bath tissue oligarchy. 

A man leaned over to me and said, “Don’t pay attention to the penny pinchers. Trust me. If you want to be good to your downstairs business, this is the stuff to use. It’s got ripples. They’re great at grabbing things. You can’t take too good of care of that downstairs business, gal.”

It was, at once, the creepiest and most considerate thing any man has ever said to me.

You might think it odd that the most important, potentially life-altering decision of Senior Day rests in the toilet paper aisle. Considering how my colon’s reliability and, let’s be honest, loyalty have dwindled over the past few years, however, I don’t find it so crazy. If I make it to 80, you bet your downstairs business I’ll be really interested in how “grabby” my tissue is. I imagine I’m not alone.

Of course, if that recently published NASA study is correct, it won’t matter since we’ll all be taking care of our downstairs business with leaves or shreds of our former civilization.

Or we’ll all be dead of measles. #You’reAnIdiotKristinCavallari

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. Granted, it’s probably more of an analogy – a really shitty one (no pun intended) like when high school comp students write things like “She was as unhappy as when someone puts your cake out in the rain, and all the sweet green icing flows down and then you lose the recipe, and on top of that you can’t sing worth a damn.” [source]

It’s there nonetheless, however. I’ll try to parce it out today while I’m following my fearless, senior leaders to the best bargains on foods and goods that I most assuredly don’t need. 

Pay no attention to that sobbing woman in the corner.

Credit: Hyperbole and a Half

Apparently, I’m a crier now.

Once upon a time, I approached life with the measured rationality of a German or, as Tiny Fey so aptly puts, the torpor of a possum. Certainly, I cried when life threw giant curveballs my way – death, loss, extreme duress. Naturally.

I didn’t, however, get weepy at such silly things as thank-you cards, butterflies, or not being able to tie my running shoes tightly enough. But now? Now, I am a crier, my friends, and I f*cking hate it.

It wasn’t a gradual thing either. One day, possum status. The next, I was at dinner relaying information about gluten free flours and just started crying.

Apparently garbanzo bean flour kicks me in the feelings. Hard.

It’s getting bad – like, Kim Kardashian Crying Meme bad. Last week, when pulling out of our driveway, I commented on the fact that, due to the ice storm, the neighborhood had to cut down half of the trees in front of our house. “Oh no, Jo!” I exclaimed, “Your one beauty!”

All of us in possession of ovaries know that quote is from Little Women. Carter, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your persuasion, does not possess ovaries and, therefore, did not know the quote’s origin. Thus, I relayed the entire plot of Little Women to him. Because of course.

I say that I relayed the entire plot, but that’s hardly true. I got to the part where Beth died and recited the whole “Now I’m the one going ahead” soliloquy, which I know by heart, and just lost it.

Sidebar: For those of you shrieking and pulling your hair because I didn’t shout “Spoiler Alert” before spilling the beans that Beth kicks the bucket, the book is more than 100 years old. You’ve had time. Don’t try to tell me you haven’t. And if you shrieking maniacs are women who have gotten this far in life without reading Little Women, well, I don’t even know if I can look at you anymore. ….through this screen. *sigh*

Don’t even get me started on the Budweiser commercial with the puppy and the clydesdale who are best friends. I saw it on tv the other day and sobbed inconsolably for 15 minutes. And while, yes, I know I’m prone to exaggeration, let me assure you that I mean that I cried for a very literal 15 minutes.

In fact, here is my crying log. I created it because, for the last 15 years of my life, my eyes didn’t leak very often. The startling regularity of this event of late has made me curious and, like any amateur scientist, curiosity means the rigorous collection of data. Or at least that’s what I think I remember from high school chemistry. Here is my log, complete with the cause of the crying and then, in column B, how long I wept without hope of consolation while clutching my beagle and making my really ugly sobbing face.

Screen shot 2014-02-20 at 9.11.30 PM
I can’t even talk about this whole Olympic thing. I was at home when Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the gold in ice dancing and started sobbing because she looks just like a Disney princess and he looks like the male human version of Lola and, somehow, the combination of those two facts turns me into a crumpled heap of Slanket-wearing hysteria.

Before any of you scream “pregnant!,” allow me to assure you that I know, for a fact, that I am not. How do I know? I am a compulsive taker of pregnancy tests. It’s pretty much my superpower, though that is a topic deserving of its own post. Someday, my loves. Someday I will give you the full view into my crazed, neurotic mind.

We’ll chalk it up to hormones or something like it. Isn’t the root of all evil hormonal in nature?

Of course it is.

As it’s finally Friday, however, I’ll try to keep my weeping to a minimum and exclusively relegated to things cute, fuzzy, and non-literary.

Any big weekend plans, kittens? I’d love to hear about them. Also, ladies over 28, did you notice a gigantic emotional shift in your late 20’s? Enlighten me.

No, really. I want answers.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to have a glass of chocolate almond milk.

Given recent events, I’ll probably cry because it’s not ice cream. C’est la vie, AmIRight?