just another day

The thing about grief is that there is a part of you that just wants to forget, and another part that never wants to let go. It is a constant battle. Some days it is easy to keep things in check, but other days are just hard. Anniversaries and birthdays are some of the biggest triggers.

Yesterday was my Mom’s birthday. She should have turned 66-years old. She will forever be 49. Neither statement seems possible or plausible even. The dead don’t age, and yet life goes on. Thinking about that for too long will make your head spin.

I will say that in some ways I did better than I have most years. I got up. I got dressed. I stayed busy. I even baked a cake. I didn’t know what else to do. We celebrate what we can.

Twenty-three years ago, B and I went shopping at the mall. I was trying to find a birthday gift for my Mom. I don’t remember why, but I was angry with her. I am sure that deep down I just wanted her to stop. I wanted her disease to go away. I was tired of sharing her, and tired of fighting.

But there we were in this mall with its glaring lights, surrounded by aimless people and the unique smell of appetizing disgust of the food court. For some reason we decided to go into the toy shop. On one of the shelves we spied a little penguin. I am sure we picked him up and played with him. The next thing I know we were back home, sans present, but with a stuffed penguin who technically shares this day with my mother.

And then the other day hits me. The day before. The alternate universe in which we are planning the birthday party of a three-year old. I amazingly got through that too.

Today I felt exhausted and scattered. I didn’t check half of the things on my to-do list (although I did make one). It was just another day.

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a trip to whole foods

We had big plans for Sunday. We were going to have pizza at this place in Costa Mesa that we have heard about frequently. Then we were going to go back to the open to the public restaurant supply store we recently discovered before hitting the library. But those plans got nixed since we got a later start than anticipated.

Instead, we headed straight to Newport Beach. We had lunch at R + D. It had been a while. Everything was delicious, and there was so much food, we figured the leftovers would be perfect for dinner since we still had a long day ahead of us.

As we were pulling into Fashion Island, we both had the same thought – that new Whole Foods is open. We should go to the library and garden store, and then come back and check it out. So that is what we did.

I finally got to see the second floor of the new library. I never made it up there when we visited three weeks ago for the Jon Klassen event. It is lovely. It is amazing how they integrated the building into the new civic center. Looks like there will soon be a cafe up there too. I really think it is time libraries embrace America’s caffeine addiction and turn it into books!

After checking out some books, we headed over to Roger’s Gardens. I decided it was time to liven up the back patio. Hopefully those baby squirrels in the yard won’t get too curious. I literally just picked some random plants and hope they will work out. We shall see. Once we loaded up the car – with a little help – it was back to Fashion Island.

We had parked near the Whole Foods earlier and decided that maybe we should park in the covered lot nearby. I did it mostly to keep the plants from wilting. In the future, I’d try to find a space adjacent to the store, although the people are pretty impatient. There is no where to return your car in the covered lot. Plus that is a long walk back on sidewalks that are not cart friendly.

Inside, the store is welcoming, but crowded. It is like everything is scaled down to fit, but it doesn’t quite work. The produce section isn’t as big, nor are the fish and meat departments. Still, we managed to find most of what we wanted.

I decided to check in on the Tejava prices. It was still $1.29 for a liter bottle. They only had one bottle and the shelf space for the product was less than 5 bottles. We decided to stop at the Customer Service desk and see if they had a case in the back. We actually did have a Tejava box in the car just in case.

We had to wait for a bit, but learned that they did not have any more in stock. It sounds like they were not aware of the bargain they have hiding on the bottom shelf. They were happy though to special order a case for us. I actually ordered a case and should get a phone call in a few days. I guess we will make a return visit soon.

The dairy department is very pretty with its shelves and back lighting. Apparently one of the team members was talking up the Cocoa Metro chocolate milk that we recently discovered. It is expensive, but I assure you, it is like no other chocolate milk you have ever had.

I always like to stop and look at the bakery. Again, they had many of the same things at the Tustin location – just less. They had samples out of their breads, which I thought was nice. I picked out a loaf of sliced sourdough. The bag was wet. No idea what that was about.

I think the push at this market is for their ready made items. They have a very large seating area around the outside of the store. They also have a full service restaurant, which looks promising. It smelled delicious. I think they are doing Santa Maria style BBQ on Sundays this summer. We might have to check that out next trip.

Overall, I wasn’t that impressed, and it wasn’t just the parking situation. I think this store is more for the locals who want to bring home dinner after spending the day shopping at Nordies. It may also be popular with the people who work at Fashion Island, especially to grab lunch.

We will probably continue to shop at the Tustin location, which is still about 25 miles from the house (each way). I think the best thing I learned is that you can call ahead and essentially reserve a case of Tejava. Did I mention the 10% case discount? Guess which number is going in my speed dial?

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5114 days

That is 14 years plus the extra leap days. It is still hard to believe that it has been that long since my Mom was found dead in her itty bitty apartment in San Francisco.

I still can remember having this debate with my therapist about how since it took them a few days to find me, and I was fine on the day that it happened, that I should be fine now. It makes even less sense now. Grief doesn’t make sense. It makes you do and think weird things, like believing nothing has changed, when in reality everything has.

I remember calling her in that time in between. I got her voice mail, and decided not to leave a message. We hadn’t been talking. I had been trying to keep my distance because I knew she was back to drinking again.

I also didn’t want to call her because I had been fired from my job at the end of April. The last day of the month, in fact. I was embarrassed because I had done something she had warned me against – working for a friend – and now it had blown up in my face. The “friend” didn’t even have the decency to fire me herself. I should have seen it coming, and I shouldn’t have been surprised because it is almost exactly what happened to the woman I replaced.

I had only been willing to pick up the phone at all because I had at least landed on my feet again. I somehow managed to get a part-time position working at the same company as B. Despite one of the worst interviews of my life, I was actually hired on the spot, and set up with a desk and phone before lunch. I think I felt I had something I could offer up against my firing, so it would be okay. Of course, we never got to have that conversation.

Instead, the police would show up on my front door on a Friday evening while I was lying on the couch watching AbFab. I was in my nightgown, and I remember asking if they could wait outside while I got dressed. I think I ended up just throwing on a robe (which I still have).

I didn’t want to sit down, but they insisted. My couch was full of magazines and papers and books. I was embarrassed by this, but it didn’t matter once they told me why they were there.

And then of course, in the middle of it all – After my screaming fit. After B came into the living room. After one of people left. – the phone rang. It was after 9pm. I was sure it was my Mother. It just had to be. THIS could not be happening.

But, of course, it wasn’t. It was actually the Beast. B took the call in our bedroom, and wasn’t able to tell her about the goings on in our living room. I don’t blame him. I didn’t believe it either.

It wasn’t until after I called the Coroner’s office in San Francisco that it started to sink in. The man on the phone was polite. His voice quiet, yet matter of fact. He asked if I had any questions. I had no idea what I thought I could ask. So, although I had a million questions, I asked him none. I think maybe it was because I doubted he had answers for any of them.

My next call was to my former teacher, who was a nun. She had already gone to bed, but I asked if they could get her. She knew my Mom too. It was perhaps an odd choice, but I wasn’t sure who else to call. Well, I did, but I needed a bit of strength.

The only phone number I had for any of my mom’s family was her brother. Thankfully he was also on the west coast, so I had the time difference in my favor. It was late, but not too late. I still remember my Aunt breaking down in tears when I managed to get the words out that my Mom hadn’t been hospitalized again, but was dead.

They agreed to alert the rest of the family, including her father. There would be all sorts of chaos in the days ahead, including another brother threatening to steal the body and beat my Uncle up while he was in town. It really was that crazy.

The best part though was having the call waiting beep to find my sister on the other line. It was probably close to 3am her time, and she was livid. You see, in the process of being told that my mother was dead, I was asked if I had any siblings. It happened that the last thing my Mother sent to me was a postcard with my sister’s address on it. My Mother felt that I should send my sister money for an air conditioner in her apartment. I didn’t reply. But since they asked, I gave them the address, not realizing that they would send the police to her house post-haste with the news.

My sister went on, after explaining about how the cops showed up at her house in the middle of the night, to state that she felt we should have our Mother cremated and toss her ashes off the Golden Gate Bridge (that’s illegal by the way). I cannot tell you how long we were on the phone, or how I managed to get her off the line, but by that time I was beyond exhausted, and of course, had no desire to go to sleep.

B though, insisted that I at least lie down. He didn’t want me up all night. There wasn’t anything more I could really do. Plus, he had to go to the office in the morning, and take the car in, and didn’t I have an appointment to for an eye exam?

I didn’t want to be alone, although B made me follow him to the shop in my car to take his car in. It turned out they weren’t open on Saturday, so we ended up going back to the house because I told him that I really didn’t want to be alone. I am really not sure how I didn’t lose it right there.

We then went downtown Austin to have lunch before going in to the office. We went to this Irish pub. I had no appetite, which I am sure upset B. I remember going to a pay phone and calling my therapist to see if he would see me later, although I couldn’t tell him anything beyond “something bad” had happened. AND I also asked if he could see me after my appointment with the optometrist that I couldn’t cancel. I told you grief makes you do crazy things. I left this as a message on his answering machine, by the way. And since I didn’t have a direct line, I had to give B’s work number as my contact number.

After working for a few hours – well, I was still part-time, so just sat around after telling our boss what had happened, and crying my eyes out as it was the first time I had told someone else my Mother was dead face-to-face – we went to get my eyes checked (we should have had them check my brain). I said nothing about what was going on, but kept crying every time I was left in the exam room alone. They also dilated my eyes, so by the time I arrived at my therapist’s office my pupils were still the size of saucers.

It was after 6pm by the time we got home, and there were several messages waiting for me on the answering machine. None of them good. The next week or so is mostly a blur. I cannot believe that was 14 years ago. I really have no idea how I got through it, or have survived this long without her.

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i need to change

A good life is when you assume nothing, do more, need less, smile often, dream big, laugh a lot, and realize how blessed you are.

I found this quote on Pinterest, and it just felt like the nudge I needed this week. As the anniversary of my mother’s death looms, I thought I was doing okay, but really I am not dealing well at all. My insomnia is back. I am moody. And as hard as I try not to, I am taking things too personally (see assume nothing). I thought these words would remind me how to turn things around, and that it really isn’t as bad as I make it out to be.

I also watched this video from TedMed. It was a talk given by Andrew Solomon, and is called Love No Matter What. It is about a lot of things, but really if you broke it down, it is about the unconditional love of a parent. He interviewed parents who had had children born with some difference that put the child into a separate culture from the parent. These differences included Down’s Syndrome and dwarfism to parents of prodigies and criminals. Good or bad, these differences changed their expectations about parenting greatly. In most cases, it also change the parents.

He asked many of these parents if they could somehow magically eliminate these ailments, if they would. He was surprised that many said they would want to take away the pain and suffering their son or daughter endured, but they wouldn’t want to completely wipe out the disease or condition. They would explain that while this difference causes pain and suffering, it also changed them in ways they never thought possible. It made them kinder. It opened them in ways that are hard to explain.

It made me think about my own mother, and that love she had for me. For most of us, even if our relationship with our parent(s) isn’t perfect, on some level we do believe that when it comes down to it, there is a bond that connects us, the likes of which that we will never have with anyone else. I believe that with the more complex parental relationships it becomes even more clear after the loss. I think that is why, as hard as I have been denying that I am okay, that I really am not.

Although time has made it easier. The reality is that this pain will never go away completely. Different incidents will bring it to the surface, and not always the same sorts of triggers will turn the switch on again. It just forces me to keep on my toes all the more.

And so I must remain alert and remember that I am still blessed. I need to focus on my dreams and never give up hope.

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father’s day is coming

For whatever reason, Father’s Day has never bothered me much. Mostly I think it is due to the fact that I have had longer to deal with it, and also that it isn’t as in your face as Mother’s Day. This year though, I am feeling a bit more ruffled that usual. I think it is because there seems to be a lot of prove your dad is the greatest messages out there.

Part of me thinks there almost should be a share your worst story about your father, although I know I wouldn’t come close to winning that either. My father had his moments, and he also believed that “out of sight was out of mind”. I really don’t know what to think. I haven’t heard from or spoken to him in almost 30 years. The thing that keeps me sane is believing that he loved me enough not to suck me back into his world.

After my sister found me on the Internet by pretending to be someone else, we chatted a few times over AOL Messenger (it was new back then). On one occasion, her boyfriend (who I had nicknamed bagel-boy because he literally blew up a bagel shop) got on line and chatted with me. The only thing I really recall is that he told me about meeting my father. He basically said that he lives like it is still the 70’s. I can only imagine what exactly that means. He hinted that he was a pretty weird dude.

I won’t lie. I still think about him. On nights, especially when I cannot sleep, I sometimes even Google him. As best as I can tell he is still breathing in the Garden State. I won’t pay the $20 to get the report though.

I thought of calling him when I found out I was pregnant. Of course, I don’t have his phone number. And then it didn’t really matter any way. Of course, this is also a man, who when I was thirteen, took me aside and told me that he had a friend who could take care of it, if I even found myself in trouble. I didn’t even have a boyfriend. And really didn’t think I was missing out. As I said, he had his moments.

Then again, there was the time when I nearly fainted because there was a storm coming in off the Eastern seaboard. It caused a sudden drop in the barometric pressure. He picked me up and took me to my room. I never felt safer. Such a conundrum.

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thinking about goals

I am honestly not sure what brought this up, and I am not sure I have ever written about it before. I will warn you that it is a bit disturbing, and frankly, odd. I still cannot really make sense of it myself. These are not the type of issues addressed by people like Miss Manners.

Maybe it is because Father’s Day is looming, and my own father’s birthday was this past weekend, but somehow I got to thinking how I had not one, but three father (figures) pretty much abandoned me. Now granted, none were very good role models, and the logical part of me knows that I should thank my lucky stars that I never got sucked into any of their lives more than the time that I spent with them growing up. But still, it makes me question myself.

I was remembering how my sister and I discovered that Bozo was really gone from our lives. Essentially my mother invited the new guy over for dinner, and while the two of us were doing the dishes, we heard noises coming from the bedroom. Of course, it was more complicated that that. This man was her boss, the same age as her father, and well, married. Let’s call him JC to make it simple (he was Jewish, if that matters).

My sister and JC did not get along. Actually, that would be quite an understatement. She did her best to ignore him, and that did not go over very well.  Of course, she often did this by slamming doors. A part of me actually applauds her for taking a stand. It was brave and bold, but also stupid. I am sure it was a big part in my mother’s decision to send her back east.

Now I am sure that I could not articulate this as well then, but I know that on some level, I realized how much held in the balance because of this relationship. It wasn’t only my mother’s job potentially at stake, but also our apartment. You see, when my mom took this position, it was agreed that for two years we would live on site at one of the apartment buildings the company owned with the goal of cleaning them up, so to speak. The plan was to stick it out two years in the Valley and then finally buy a house and move to the West side of LA (which we did). But even at 13-years old, I knew that if things were to go sour, or someone should discover this tryst, all bets were off. I had nightmares about how bad it would be.

I think part of the issue was that I knew how things had gone with Bozo. They were were chaotic. Over those six years that they were together, they broke up many times, and of course, got back together. We moved across the country and lived in seven different places. In fact, when we left that summer (to visit our father), it seemed that Bozo and my mother were back together. So understandably, we were more than a bit stunned that not only was he out of the picture, but that by the start of school, there was someone else. Although we talked to our mother regularly over the summer, for obvious reasons, we couldn’t bring up Bozo. And she never brought up JC. Or maybe she did, but I didn’t catch on.

The thing about JC was that he seemed to want to get to know us. Of course, he had a very weird way of showing it. There was the one time pretty early on where my mom announced JC wanted to take us to dinner and a movie. It sounded like a good idea, but I really don’t know what they were thinking.

After dinner, we went to one of those $1 movie houses. Honestly, what happened was so traumatic, I cannot tell you what movie was saw. They insisted that my sister and I sit in the row in front of them, and then the two of them proceeded to make out (very very noisily) throughout the entire film. I was too afraid to move my head, both for fear of what I might see, and for fear of what they might do in reaction. I also remember not wanting to go to the movies again, and don’t think I did until later in the school year when I was required to see Gandhi for religion class.

Once more, no one dared say anything about that night. I mean, really what could you say? Well, I suppose I could have been sarcastic and made some comment about how they thought that would promote “family bonding” or getting to know us better. It really was gross. I mean don’t most parents try to keep their sex lives hidden from their children? And certainly it isn’t normal to invite them to the movies and make out in the row behind them?

I was new to my high school, and it was still pretty early in the year, so I didn’t have any real friends to speak of. And even if I did, I mean, how would you broach such a topic. I am sure that at least one of them might have gone to the movies with a sibling and his or her date, and perhaps found themselves in a similar situation. But again, this wasn’t something I could really talk about for fear that somehow this secret would get out.

I don’t remember exactly when, but it was probably not too long after the movie incident, that JC came to me with a proposal. He wanted me to write down a list of five goals for the month on an index card (which he would keep). Then when the month was up, we would discuss it, and he would give me $50 (and the card back). As I said, weird.

I really wanted to refuse, and I think initially I tried to refuse his money. But I quickly realized how much that set him off, and so to keep the boat from rocking, I agreed. I tried to make my goals vague and impersonal. It was tough. He expected more. I do believe he wanted to teach me how to set goals, although I have no idea why.

The worst part about it was often we would talk about my goals before well, you know. My mom would go to the bedroom and wait for him. The only good thing is that we probably never talked for more than 15 minutes.

This would continue though all through high school. I am not sure how it finally ended. I was just glad it did. I didn’t want him inside my head. I knew more than I needed to know about him. I so wanted out of these bizarre relationship.

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things were said

Lots of things were said, but here are some of the best gems from this visit:

You can show your green card at the hospital for free medical care. They reportedly learned this from the friend they bumped into at the grocery store. We managed to dispel this myth by pointing out that it is highly unlikely that the US government would provide something to non-citizens that it doesn’t provide to its own citizens. They at least backed down.

My blood pressure is high. It’s 120/80. I really don’t know where they get their medical information from, but that is actually the number doctors (real ones) tell people to aim for. It is considered normal.

Referring to nephew in dental school at UOP. I don’t know why he is going there. Maybe because it is the number 2 dental school in the US. Harvard is number 1. [And yes, I didn’t know Harvard had a dental school either.]

If I didn’t have a job, I’d get a job packing. I told her no one would hire her as she is too slow. It took them six days to pack 3 boxes. People expect that a house be packed up in a day.

I love packing. Related to the above. I told her she was crazy. No one likes to pack. That is why people hire other people and pay them lots of money to do it.

And, by far the winner. I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

My bush is on fire! She was talking about her garden, but said this to B, who burst out laughing.

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