I walked into the house after the gym today and I was met with empty rooms, deflating balloons, empty pizza boxes and cake crumbs.
The teenager is with a client. The guests have gone, even the one that drove a distance and stayed overnight.
Throughout the teenager’s life, she frequently lamented that she was the youngest in the class snd never had a birthday during the school year. That inconvenient June birthday.
But yesterday she was able to gather people who celebrated her and had seen her grow and wanted to marvel in who she was as a person, as a young adult, for a graduation/birthday party.
She wanted pizza From Nicolosi’s in Forks Township and pretzel nuggets and dip from the Pretzel Company. (And I think out friends will be patronizing Nicolosi’s now— several of their flights with the pieces cut in half is a great way to spoil guests.)
She wanted to bake her own cakes and decorate them, which she did.
She wanted to play Cards Against Humanity. And we did.
The party started with a raucous discussion of the Hess’s Department Store and ended with promises of homemade pie.
And the dog only ate a small chunk of the red velvet cake.
The teenager is now a high school graduate and soon she will no longer be a teenager. She will be the young adult or the offspring or some other nickname, but she will always be my pride and joy.
So much of parenting is learning, slowly, to step aside and let your child grow into her/his own person. To be mindful and humble and supportive without smothering. To be proud, but subtle. To encourage and guide, but not nag.
And to trust.
To trust your parenting. Your child. And that young person’s decisions.
And seeing that child grown— the love that pours out of you… eventually you might feel like a deflated balloon and then that child does something that makes you float once again.
I will always be my daughter’s mother, but the bulk of the intense, hands-on work is done.
And so today, Curly led us in making an infused oil of basil, lavender and sea salt to bless ourselves and my home with positivity.
It’s all part of the cycle— especially for women— maiden, mother, crone. I guess I might have to transition to the crone phase now.
For the first time since December 15, I felt like myself. I’m still grieving. I’m still hurting, but by the time end of today (12/26/2021), the overwhelming hurricane of different emotions had pushed me into its eye. And I felt like me.
Yesterday was a hard one. My mother called early in the morning, wishing me a Merry Christmas. Really, my brain couldn’t even fathom why she would wish me a Merry Christmas when I was home alone and my dad is newly dead.
The holidays are always hard on me. They start with hope and usually end with disappointment. I had often said I wish I could ignore them all together. Just skip. And go to Paris.
There were no presents to open Christmas morning. I let the teenager open hers early when we needed some joy in the midst of funeral stuff. No decorations. I never got the Christmas tree up. I never listened to Christmas music this year— and I love Christmas music.
The world stopped when my father died.
The teenager has multiple pet sitting responsibilities. Something like eight visits a day. And her father just got his new car on the 23rd, so I had expected to have a car to visit family without her.
My nephew came down with Covid so there would be no gathering with that side of the family.
So my little funeral tantrum that led me to spend most of the service in my car apparently prevented my exposure to Covid.
I did have a bit of a something— a cold? A sinus issue? Backlash from not taking my allergy medicine for a week?
And I had hoped maybe I could go have some of Mom’s lasagne.
But by the end of her phone call, I think she hung up on me. I don’t know if she realizes it, but her last words were, “well, excuse me for being alive.”
I thought she would understand how much I was hurting. She lost her dad when she was 21.
I spent the day alphabetizing and organizing some cards I’ve been saving. It tools about six hours, while watching reruns of ER and drinking coconut rum and pina colada lemonade.
The teenager brought home sandwiches from Sheetz. Other than that my meals were Christmas cookies and potato chips.
I went to bed around 8:30 pm and woke at 4:15 a.m. I did my physical therapy cobra poses and went downstairs to have my coffee.
When I arrived at work, my body struggled with anxious feelings, trouble breathing, difficulty regulating body temperature. I was no longer sick, though the post nasal drip is still very real.
When we got to Freestyle— our assignment for the day— there was no work for us. So a bunch of us had to transfer to Freestyle Pick and go out into the warehouse to pick our own work. And although the Freestyle carts are 80 items instead of 40 like ordinary fixes, I had a great time. I always liked picking. I arrived back in Freestyle not first but not last.
And I got to see the warming sunrise through the warehouse windows.
My guess is that I performed at about 90% in Freestyle QC/ship.
And then, at the end of the day they asked me to go pick again! And despite my back hurting a bit on the right side, once again I had a great time. The Freestyle/Direct Buy cart took me 45 minutes. I imagine the goal is 40 minutes.
That motion drove the feeling of panic away.
And before I left, I grabbed some hard-boiled eggs to share with the dog. I had asked the teenager to grab some jarred vodka sauce at the grocery store when she was between clients and she one-upped me.
She went to George’s Pizzeria and bought their homemade vodka sauce. My favorite.
And our cat foster godmother, now the teenager’s client and the teenager’s boss at Apricity Pet Care, left her a bottle of wine to bring home to me.
While the teenager finished her afternoon shifts, I made spaghetti. I sautéed a chicken breast and heaps of fresh broccoli, kale and spinach. I mixed it all up with George’s vodka sauce.
We ate like queens.
And then as I cleaned up the leftovers and packed my remaining work lunches for this week (Mr. Accordion stopped by and brought me his scrumptious halupkis that I finished today), the dog grabbed my favorite cat by the scruff of his neck and starting running around the kitchen with him in her mouth.
The cat was fine. The dog just wanted to carry him.
I spent most of my morning trying to be practical and do what needs to be done. And maybe get some breakfast before heading to my father’s viewing.
The teenager went to her morning job— a cat sitting visit— and then had breakfast with her father and my college roommate.
I finally forced myself to eat an egg with some kale.
And I found myself sitting quietly.
Struggling to find shoes that fit.
We drove up to the funeral home and met my aunt and my uncle’s widow and her family. My older sister and her husband came next. And then my stepmom and her sister (and her extended family).
My uncle’s widow thanked me for my recent writings as they helped her adjust to the reality that my father has left his earthly life.
(Later, my stepmom’s nephew hugged me and his wife told me how beautiful some of my recent writings and reflections have been.)
Together, we entered the funeral home. And the funeral director apologized for being in her slippers, but honestly it brought me a sense of home.
We walked into the chapel, and my dad was surrounded with red and white roses and celebrated with so many flowers from friends, relatives and colleagues (some of whom even signed his nicknames for them instead of their given names).
Photo 1: On the top, that’s a photo of my dad and his older brother, Earl Ivan Jr. or “Skippy.” The photo on the bottom right is my dad on microstock race night with my nephew holding the now teenager as a baby.
Photo 2: My dad holding the now teenager at the West End Fair, at the tractor pull. It was my first outing with the baby on my own. She was about 8 weeks old.
Photo 3: I had to take a photo to remind me of how peaceful Dad looked, with a slight smirk like he got the last joke. He just needed a remote and some pretzels. The teenager said before he passed on Wednesday morning, she could feel his reluctance to leave us, but the calm when he did.
Photo 4: My stepmom and my aunt, the last remaining sibling
Photo 5: the teenager and her dad
My mother came and said some nice things to my stepmom, thanking her for always being nice to myself and the now teenager, and my stepmom said we are easy to love.
My friends and Parisian Phoenix staff — Gayle and Joan— came. (And the whole day was a theatrical farce of people coming and going and not seeing each other.)
My college roommate slipped out with the teenager’s dad to grab sandwiches.
And my in-laws not only came but my mother-in-law, at my request, made chicken and potato salad and brought many other goodies. Including Memmy’s fruitcake and Uncle Lee’s baked beans.
It was a long afternoon — and people kept leaving things in Dad’s casket: cigarettes, a Harley Davidson hat, flowers, a racing patch.
I intended today’s post to be about my medical appointments, but grief and death have a way of sneaking into everything.
So, let me start this post by saying I’ve been released from physical therapy and let’s hope I do yoga and more weight training to improve more and free myself or even more pain.
I haven’t been to the gym in two weeks because first came the schedule change, then my trainer got sick and then my dad died.
Today, my college roommate reached out to say she would drive up from Baltimore if I needed her. And I started to weep in the parking lot of physical therapy, because she and I have been extremely sporadic in our contact since we graduated. I never even told her when the teenager’s father and I split up.
I did finally tell her, but only after she sent a Christmas card.
So many people have been kind in the wake of my father’s death, but to have such an act of kindness offered just hit me hard.
And then, as I have often since we met with the funeral home, I checked for his obituary. This time, I found it.
Now it could just be I’m grieving and therefore have a lower IQ than usual— I somehow got the dog’s bowls stuck together— but it is a little tricky to navigate the options on my phone to see the obituary.
And finally, my daughter looked at me this morning and said, “you know how you always say that my generation has an easier time with body acceptance… for me, that wasn’t social media or TikTok or anything, it was Poppop. He never said anything when I started gaining weight, and if I said something, he’d say, ‘Nobody gives a sh*t. Fat, skinny, you’re still my grandkid.’”
And he’d know how to get those damn bowls unstuck.
Nobody gives a sh*t. Fat, skinny, you’re still my grandkid.
Since my father died yesterday… yesterday… (it feels like a lifetime ago and at the same time like maybe it didn’t happen at all), I thought it might be wise to keep today quiet.
I canceled my appointment at the gym, as I feel a little drained and shaky from all the emotion yesterday and I know I didn’t eat right.
I started to get dressed and ended up merely putting on a clean t-shirt with my fuzzy cat-in-the-hat pajama pants.
I read more memories people sent me— so many people knew my father. My mother stopped by. My neighbor stopped.
I started laundry. I did dishes. I got out the broom and swept for a while.
I found the pendant my father gave me, engraved with “my little girl yesterday, my friend today, my daughter always, I love you.” It’s on a silver chain that’s tarnished with age with my Celtic knot charm and my amber.
I mopped the kitchen floor. I answered texts and talked on the phone.
I ordered a case of Parisian Phoenix’s next title— Twists: Gathered Ephemera— a poetry manuscript by Darrell Parry, father of the teenager who has been, as always, very helpful and dependable.
I invited my blind friend Nan over for dinner, as she loves to watch me cook and I figured by feeding her I would, in turn, feed the teenager and I.
So while I waited for the teenager to return from school, I wrapped her Christmas presents. The teenager would also swing by Nan’s apartment building.
It was a ridiculously warm, sunny December day and I opened the windows so the cats could frolick.
And when Eva and Nan arrived, we brought Nan to the kitchen and I cooked pork loin, chicken burgers and pre-seasoned pulled chicken. While I cooked, the teenager opened her Christmas presents.
With the holidays fast approaching, and Yule is one of those holidays, I thought she might need some of the items I gave her. I also thought Nan might enjoy watching her open her presents. The teenager works a lot in coming weeks as people travel to see family. Today seemed calmer.
And I thought we could superimpose some joy onto our sorrow and grief.
I packed up leftovers for Nan to take home. Nan and I had soft tacos.
And after dinner, I poured Nan a County Seat Spirits whiskey and water while I had a Yuengling. And we celebrated with a drink in my dad’s honor.
And Nan always makes the teenager and I laugh.
And the neighbor that visited earlier, little dog’s mom, returned with the fanciest chocolate covered pretzels I ever saw. She made them at work and thought we could enjoy them with family after the viewing on Sunday.
Daddy, I promise to seek laughter and joy when I miss you.
My father has been dealing with illness for the last couple weeks, since Thanksgiving.
He was in the hospital twice over the last week, because a twist of complications from COPD and Covid made it impossible for him to breathe. And he wouldn’t eat or drink.
But a week before that he was here and fine.
And yesterday he was stable.
The hospital had sent him for a brain scan because he was delusional and rather hateful. And they discovered that somewhere between seven and 30 days ago he had a stroke.
Well, despite being stable, he apparently had a bigger stroke last night— and it left his legs paralyzed. And he developed pneumonia.
So… I drove to work this morning having last heard that my father was stable and my stepmom was asking family members if we could help care for him while he recovered.
I saw two deer frolicking on the Bizzy Hizzy lawn as I drove to the Stitch Fix warehouse. They were happy and bouncing around, and I was optimistic, Wednesday, after all, is my Friday.
I clocked in and headed to my assigned table and even nailed those numbers as I QC’ed my first few fixes.
I noticed the warehouse seemed hot and sticky and I suspected I smelled funny.
Then my step mom called. She had bad news. Dad was dying.
I walked up to some random supervisor and explained what was happening. Another person who seemed to be more in charge grabbed my Bizzy box and told me he would clock me out.
I had been folding a lovely jewel tone green sweater.
I called the teenager and told her not to go to school.
I drove home racing into a beautiful sunrise.
There was a drug raid at the house two doors down.
The teenager was burning a candle.
We drove to the hospital with no issue and the guard almost stopped us until I told him my dad was dying.
And then when we arrived in the room, my dad looked tiny and frail. He’s always been tiny but never frail.
And this towel in his room was folded like a swan. It seemed out of place, but serene.
We all sat there— my brother for a while, the teenager, my stepmom, her friends, and I— watching my dad gasp to breathe. They didn’t have his teeth in. My sister arrived around 10. She went to the bathroom. The doctor came into the room.
My sister said, “hi, Pop.”
The doctor hugged my stepmom.
And the teenager and I watched him stop breathing. And his death was that quick. 10:07 a.m.
I snapped this photo because if you look near that wad of cotton on his left arm, he has a tattoo of my name. And I might not ever see it again.
My dad was 73. And smoked almost 2 packs a day for almost 60 years.
I have received hundreds of condolences on Facebook today— so many little remembrances of who he was. A message from a high school peer of mine who used to do tractor pulls with my dad. Another high school peer who bought my dad’s tractor trailer. A Target peer whose mom worked for my dad and stepmom, and my dad used to try and explain the tools to him.
We told my Aunt Sharon. But she said she already knew in her heart.
And we took Dad’s phone charger from his hospital belongings bag so my sister could charge her phone. His teeth are in that pink case. I also took a toothbrush from the hospital. Not sure why. I just wanted it.
And then we got ready for the funeral director.
And then with the viewing and funeral set, we went for pizza.
The people in the local pizza place gave us the pizza for free. My dad made that kind of impact on people.
We asked my mother-in-law if she could make her fried chicken and potato salad for after the viewing. She volunteered to make “Lee’s Beans,” too.
My stepmom’s sister arrived at 7, so after 12 hours I headed home. The teenager looked at me as we walked to the car.
“This is the first time we ever went to the car without Poppop standing in the garage to wave at us,” she said.
My husband and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary today and, even though we have been separated for two-and-a-half years, we inadvertently spent it together.
My mother celebrated her 67th birthday today, and I postponed her birthday until next week because one of her brothers died on Thursday. The second brother to die of prostate cancer in about a month. And her ex-brother-in-law died last week, too.
The day started strong with the teenager and I killing our workout at Apex Training with Dan. I also ordered an Apex Training hoodie. The teenager and I benched 70lbs on the barbell, and the teen also did some hearty squats.
We signed five cats up for the “come adopt us” event with Feline Urban Rescue and Rehab. One of them was sweet Khloe. Khloe hid under the blanket with one eye poking out the whole time, until she heard my voice, then she came out. Not bad for a first day out.
So the husband came over to retrieve his car from the teen and do his laundry and assign his ISBN to his poetry manuscript.
He then rewarded us with pizza.
I did some more work for Parisian Phoenix and some more cleaning, and then the teenager asked me to come down to the diner for coffee and my favorite pie.
This morning my legs felt more normal than they have in weeks and everything seemed to be working in coordination. But as the day wore on everything started stiffening up. It was the first time in about a month my right quad wasn’t burning all day.
Marie Killilea, mother of Karen Killilea and champion for research and improvement in medical treatment for those with cerebral palsy, wrote two memoirs and a children’s book about her daughter. She also wrote another book— though I don’t know the content of that one.
I’m puzzled by the title of this second memoir, as it refers to Karen’s correspondence with some American service men during the Korean War.
But the book focuses not on Karen, nor that correspondence, but family. The text itself is more beautiful and structured like a novel. Members of the family are cast with richness, though I think sometimes “Big Marie” (the author as her first born daughter is also Marie) gives the various pets in the household more literary attention than Karen.
Marie says she wrote the book in response to the huge volume of mail she received asking what happened next.
The second memoir focuses on all the children growing up, struggling with their futures and leaving home. Well, except for Karen, who, at least until she started showing Newfoundlands in dog shows, just exists in the background doing her physical therapy and for more than a year carries some unknown demon that she is wrestling and the family just lets her sulk. For a year.
The older children get married. A seven year quest for an annulment is chronicled. And elder Marie Killilea’s long-awaited miracle baby is conceived when she is 43. And then she is confined to bed.
Karen’s triumph is learning to put her own shoes and stockings on.
And in the end of the book — Karen reveals the source of her depression and her decision on how to approach her “freedom.”
I’m so disappointed not to know what happened to Karen. Remember Karen? I thought this was a book about Karen, not her damn dogs, the 80-year-old obstetrician, or what a holy Catholic family and their brood looks like.