Did he ever really love me?

Like most women, I have spent far too many decades of my life having no idea of my worth.

Last Friday, in line at Bank of America, attempting to change the signature card on my parent’s account, the photograph of a man with whom I was once obsessed popped up in my phone. My face flushed, my heart pounded. I hit delete. I wondered, did he ever really love me? But before I could finish the thought it was replaced with a more powerful thought. WHO THE HELL CARES? And that is major progress for me.

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Passports and Plane Tickets

We have our passports and our plane tickets. We have shuttle buses and and Airbnbs and we’re ready for boarding passes. In two weeks I will fly to Mexico, my first trip out of the country in 23 years. There are so many reasons I haven't traveled before and so many reasons I'm ready to now.

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The Bureaucracy of Grief

This week I have lost a set of keys, my medicine bag, my sunglasses, my phone. I've missed appointments, forgotten to return phone calls, found myself forgetting what I was going to say or why I why I was going to say it. You have a grief brain, friends tell me. I'm in survival mode, fight or flight.

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Bedlam

My dad was was a social worker before he went into carpentry. He work with troubled youth, senior citizens, and in a mental hospital for the criminally insane. His patients were the bedtime stories of my youth.

The nurses at my dad's new facility say he reminds them of a social worker still. He says things like don't let your mother mood go down with the sun and the Isak Dinesen quote, The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea.

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When Everything Falls Apart

This week I picked up Mary’s ashes and placed them in the wooden box made by her son from her parent’s dining room table. I brought death certificates to the bank, the insurance company, credit cards, and social security. I’ve taken my dad for a haircut and a straight edge razor shave. We’ve had a memorial service, Valentine’s Day, and a birthday party. We’ve looked at a thousand old pictures, tracing our shared and separate past. I’ve heard him weeping beside me and from his room across the house.

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The Dying Time

In the dying time, time slows down. Every thing is sacred and significant. Each breath is a count away from the last. In the dying time, the sacred and the profane walk hand in hand. What were her last words? Did we get the password for her phone? Did she hear us sing? Did she hear the things we didn’t say? What will we do with all these swabs and tubes? What did her parents look like when she saw them in the room? Who will wear her clothes? Who will wear her shoes? Who will wear her wedding ring?

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Saint Mary

I started calling my step-mother, Mary, St. Mary around the time my dad was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia with Parkinson's disease. She had the unflappable tenacity to get him a proper diagnosis at Saint John's when the neurologists in Richmond’s medical community were able to come up with nothing better than temporary psychosis. Plus, she worked at St. Mary’s in HR. She never loses her temper, her patience never waivers. Saint Mary.

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Showing Up

Right now it’s all about showing up. Showing up for myself, for my family, for my class. Showing up for birthday celebrations, death conversations, commitments, and responsibilities. Right now it’s about getting out of bed, getting dressed, and fully inhabiting my day rather than creeping around the dark edges of it. Right now there’s no way to face life except face first and head on.

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LIFE

One snow day last winter Henry and I went through old photos and made a folder called “LIFE.” To qualify for the “LIFE” folder no one could be posing, there had to be some level of mess, emotion or action. It had to look real. These are usually the shots we edit out, clean up, make more palatable before presenting them to the world.

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Meat Suit

My therapist is fond of talking about meat suits. My meat suit, her meat suit, everyone on this planet’s meat suit and what are souls are here to learn once we put one on. It does make death sound less scary doesn't it?— taking off the meat suit? Pleasant even. A relief.

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