what do you do in the bath?
Facebook says it’s Crystal Starr’s birthday.
I hate Crystal Starr
What kind of name is that anyway
I should probably say happy birthday.
Yeah, Imma wish her happy birthday.
Wait is she pregnant AGAIN?
How many is that, now, five?
Beads, good beads of sweat going on in here.
That was a funny episode of Seinfeld,
The one where Elaine and Jerry are arguing about whether or not Jerry’s girlfriend’s boobs were real?
Which one was that?
GOOGLE: “Episode of Seinfeld where Elaine is in the steam room…”
Ah, “The Implant”, that’s right.
Damn, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is looking good here.
I wonder how old she is now?
GOOGLE: “Julia Louis-Dreyfus age”
Holy snap, 58?!
58 and looking FOINE.
MESSAGE FROM TABITHA JONES:
T: “How are you doing? You came across my mind today, just wanted to make sure you’re okay?”
M: “I’m fine, thank you for checking in! You know it’s been a hard year, what with my mom passing from cancer and being in between careers…”
T: “I’m so sorry to hear. Speaking of being in between careers, has anyone ever talked to you about selling Rodan and Fields skincare…”
M: “No Tabitha, thank you, I have to go.”
INCOMING CALL: DAD
FACEBOOK: “Crystal Starr”
I should really say happy birthday anyway.
But maybe I could leave, like, a really cryptic emoji,
Like – a passive aggressive one so that she knows I don’t mean it
Like, like, the face that is just eyes, or the one facepalm one, or just a slice of pizza
She’ll be all like “what does that mean… does she think I’m old?! Or fat?!”
Yeah. This is great.
FACEBOOK: “Write something to Crystal Starr.”
“HAPPY BIRTHDAY CRYSTAL, GO GET IT GURRRRRLLLLLLLL!!!”
::face with just eyes::
Yeah. That’ll get her
#poetry #funny #humor #personal
When I built the flowerboxes, I never imagined that they would serve a dual purpose. I had taken it upon myself to build them, despite having little more than an enthusiast’s-level of woodworking skills, after learning that there had been a snag in ordering my mom’s headstone. It had been her wish that the stone be inscribed with both her and her husband Dave’s names jointly, and he had been having difficulty coming to terms with the idea. In a text exchange between he and I – one that would for many reasons be our last – he told me that he was “not dead yet” and would “deal with it when he was ready”.
Not really giving a shit about when Dave was going to be ready to come to terms with his mortality but definitely giving a huge shit about my mom’s plot just sitting there barren, with no way to mark who she was, where she was, why she was, I set out to build the flowerbox display for her as a stand in for the stone. After a solid day of Pinteresting, I found a tutorial for the ideal arrangement, a three-tiered display set in an A-frame made of cedar. I wrote down the measurements and a list of the supplies I needed and headed to Home Depot to get it done.
They say it’s a poor craftsman who blames his shoddy tools, but I didn’t have any tools, so I blamed the shoddy tool who cut my wood at the store. The instructions were simple, I needed nine 12x6’’ and three 6x6’’ panels of ¼’’ cedarwood. Perhaps if I had told the man the intended purpose of my project, he would have understood the importance of measuring and cutting correctly, but alas I did not and he did not.
At home, I assembled the jenky cuts as best I could, using a sandpaper to file down cuts that were too large and wood putty to fill the gaps where corners didn’t properly meet. I glued them together first, not realizing that I had bought the opaque wood glue instead of the transparent, which oozed sloppily out of every seam. I tried to wipe it where I could, and set them to dry. Later, I hammered them together with the thinnest nails I could find - many of which ended up jutting out the sides – but I figured that was okay, as it was unlikely there’d be too many passersby in the cemetery who might potentially snag themselves on a jagged edge. I was wrong about that.
I filled the boxes with potting soil and planted her favorite things, and whatever I thought would last through the late summer and early fall – mint in the first box on the lowest tier, garlic chives in the second on the middle tier, and succulents in the third on top. The arrangement looked nice, and despite being somewhat sloppy, it was better than there being nothing there at all.
They lasted well into September, with me going to tend them about once a week, cutting back the mint as I learned to do as I sat at her grave watching ehow videos. I liked the time I got to spend there, tending to the boxes and watering the plants. Some days I would sit there for hours cross legged, talking to her. I got to know the groundskeeper fairly well, and I liked him as he was about my age and very friendly, and above all didn’t seem to pass judgement on me for the amount of time I sat talking to nobody.
It was around this time in late fall when, relaxing in the bath one morning I received a text from my brother.
“Have you talked to Aunt Laura?” it said.
“No,” I replied.
“You need to call her now and the news is not good.”
I had had this feeling before, and I immediately began to rack my brain. Who else could be dead? My mom was already dead, so definitely not her. Laura and my brother were clearly texting me, so for sure they were alive. It could be Laura’s husband, I thought, he was a prominent sex crimes detective on the CPD – a risky line of work – and a daredevil at that. I got myself out of the tub, wrapped myself in a towel, sat on my bed and with hands shaking prepared to use my phone for it’s actual intended function (as a phone) for probably the first time this month – as doing so even for regular reasons was almost certainly a trigger for anxiety on any given day. She picked up.
“Did you hear or are you just calling me?”
“I’m just calling you.”
“Um, there was an accident, Ryan died. He was on his way to the base early this morning and lost control of his motorcycle, and he died Madeline.”
I didn’t know what to say, I think I muttered a series of “um, okay, um, okay, um, okay,” for a good minute or so, between gasps Laura replied,
“I know. I know. I know.”
And so, for the second time in two months I stuffed into the black gown and uncomfortable heels I had bought for the previous occasion and had sworn to never wear again. For the second time in two months we gathered at the Kobes Funeral Home, in the very same room where our family gave eulogies and cried, this time for my 25 year old cousin, The Marine, my friend. For the second time in two months we at the same sandwiches with too much mayo from the same deli, in the same basement of the same funeral home, my cousins and I once again sneaking out to our cars periodically to take shots of whiskey and to breathe.
And finally, for the second time in two months we gathered at the same cemetery where, at the plot directly in front of my mom’s we watched him be lowered into the ground.
But as those who have experience with this process may know, it is actually a fairly slow one. And as the logistics of lowering mechanism were being worked out, I couldn’t help but stare at the flowerboxes at the head of my mom’s grave, peeking out ever so slightly, now overgrown and wild and slightly dilapidated and worn by the October weather. I was ashamed of the way they looked, and wondered why I hadn’t spent more time to make a nicer arrangement. Dave, as it turns out, was still not “chill” with the idea of his own death five weeks later, and had not begun shopping for the stone. How had I not anticipated this? Why did I not take more time and care assembling the boxes? Why hadn’t I picked out a more resilient weatherproof wood stain? Why did I buy the wrong opacity of glue? Why had I let the plants become so overgrown? Why had I gone and gotten a hot dog instead of confronting the Home Depot tool? Why didn’t I own a miter saw? Why wasn’t I better with a hammer? Why was I such a failure? A fat, ham fisted failure? Why had I failed my mom?
I decided after Ryan’s funeral that I would remove the boxes, and replace them with something more appropriate to weather the winter months. Before so doing, I figured I’d text Laura to let her know as she now made daily visits to both plots and I didn’t want her to think they’d been taken. Much to my surprise, however, she objected.
“Don’t take them,” she said, “if you’re going to replace them, do you mind if I keep them for Ryan’s plot?”
I hadn’t felt so simultaneously flattered, honored, proud, and triumphant in some time. She continued,
“They haven’t sodded it yet, and it’s probably too late to sod.”
“Yes,” I replied, “It is probably too late to sod. They’re yours.”
#prose #personal #nonfiction #death #grief #humor
Mom and Where She is
When I lost my mom this past month, I grieved for at first her in a way that came naturally to me - I was angry that she'd been taken from me, I was sad at having sat and watched her waste away until there was nothing left, and I was scared at the thought of a life without her. I felt a tremendous sense of loss, I'd lost her. We'd lost her. And for a while that's the only way I saw it.
But interestingly, as the days passed by and I continued to feel this way, simultaneously (and probably subsconsciously for a while) my brain started to amass little bits and pieces of information that slowly built up into an intelligible pile of perspective, through which I began to be able to see through, slowly - until it occured to me that there was more to her death than my loss, or anyone's loss, or anyone's fear or sadness. There was her light.
I shouldn't say was, because I mean is. That's what this piece is about, should you still be reading this (which means, most likely, you're not easily scared off by the occasional tortured metaphor or trite imagery, so please read on).
In the days and weeks that followed her memorial and visitation services, through which several hundred close friends and family gathered to honor her, lend support, and speak from the heart on her behalf, I started to reflect back on what was said, and by whom, and how many. I realized that each person who had spoken, regardless of the nature or duration of relationship with my mom, each speach carried a common, noticeable thread that made me smile, for a minute anyway. It was sort of threefold: "Janet helped me when no one else would" and "Janet loved me when no one else would" and "Janet gave her everything to everything she did." Being her daughter, and knowing who most of those people were, I was actually somewhat surprised, I think. Though I knew her to be nothing other than the most loving, helping, caring person on the planet, I had no idea she had coworkers, gardening friends, even an in-law (whose relation is too obscure to determine via google, so I won't and I'll just say "step-son-in-law's mom") who all felt the same way. I thought "how is this possible? I don't care that much about people... how did she manage to expend all that energy?"
It was then that more of the shiny pieces of the perspective pile started to come together, like little shiny crystals and pieces of sea glass, into a kind of reflective mosaic that began to reveal to me a different way of understanding who this woman was, the same woman I had assumed I understood better than anyone else in the world.
I'm not ashamed, I had underestimated her. I had assumed she was more like me, more guarded, less empathic, less loving, less willing to give everything for nothing. But I think I'm glad that I did, because it was only through this revelation I began to feel better about losing her - because I hadn't. None of us had.
The amazing mother who had raised two bratty kids into passably-functional millenial-adults (who mostly only argue over the comedic validity of various streaming netflix series or who gets to choose where we order from Uber Eats), the dedicated wife, music partner and later very close friend to my father, the proctective big sister to her family, the insanely hardworking professional woman, and ever-devoted wife to her second husband with whome she remained inseperable at the end -- these things all just describe the tip of the iceberg that was my mom's light. She poured it into her community garden, she enlightened the pages of the novels she shared with her book club, she wove it into every sweater and scarf and complicated cable knit patterned-ting that she could. And she did it just because it made her happy.
That kind of positivity, that kind of illumination and spirit once emitted into the universe does not go away. Until quite recently, I don't think it likely I'd have ever produced a sentence like the former one. However as a woman of science and champion of reason, I need only to point to the First Law of Thermodynamics to bolster this sentiment, namely "energy cannot be created or destroyed, energy can only be transferred from one thing to another."
And so, in conclusion I propose the following: Having now a more accurate understanding of the magnitude of positive energy my mom brought into the universe, it is reasonable to assume that every iota of said energy is still here, still with us, and still (as she would be) doing good for the sake of doing good.
That makes me feel happy. That makes me feel less alone. That makes me feel less horrified and angry at the sight of her on her last day, a body I didn't recognize and never would again, because she left her light with us. In the very end, when she could no longer talk to us or understand us, she kept the light going through her eyes until they closed and her light transferred onto the next place they were needed.
I know that this is true because her light is with me now. And I think it's with Matt and with Dave and my dad and probably hovering over her community garden plot trying to emit some extra rays to kickstart her herbs for the year. I know it's in all these places because (and though I cannot speak for the garden plot, per se) there has been darkness in each of them, and light was needed.
Like always, mom delivers.
Moonset Over West Chicago
Today is Day Number One.
I asked the moon, “What should I be doing?”
“Do what you always did when you felt everything so closely and so much was was happening.”
I asked, “how should I be?”
“Be the way you are when there is no one else, nothing else that matters except what you want to do.”
“Moon, are you friendly?”
And it glowed a perfect soft white glow,
radiating outward from it’s circumference a perfect halo of magenta and fuschia
that sang into my eyes
and fell out of my face.
Does he not understand the physical properties of glass?
or that the barrier of the material is not an indicator
of one's relative proximity
(to the other side?)
He does realize we're right here
- right? -
Or did he somehow get this far in life
under some sort of misconception that
"opaqe" and "clear"
are, indeed, synonyms?
No. Maybe he just missed that day in school
Or maybe he has never painted his nails
Or used a camera
Or bought a light bulb
Or ever had to distinguish between two types of pantyhose.
How does he look at us like that
Why does he look at us like that
He must not realize that we see him
every move of every muscle
on his face, that same face who was must have been absent that day at school
when the kids also learned that saying about not throwing stones if one lives inside a particular type of house.
Sometimes when I'm alone at night
when the space sneaks in between
and my mind turns on.
And always, it occurs to me, again.
That the only thing that I know in life to be true -
Is that THIS reality
and everything that comes with it
has no name
has no number
has no locus
has no bounding box
except the ones that we assign
which are nothing more than memories
inside the walls of a maker's mind.