It was us, baby, way before them.

Leave it to you.

I’m listening to Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli on Pandora and when I leave your grave my phone randomly starts playing “Everything I Do, I Do it For You” by Bryan Adams.  I was slightly obsessed with that song (and with Kevin Costner’s Midwestern Robin Hood) as a pre-teen.  I asked my piano teacher if I could learn it, and I murdered it day after day on the piano at home.

Today I’m waiting for the bread to rise – my first time making your recipe – and again I’m stabbing myself with Josh Groban and crying and you insert “Keep On Loving You” by REO Speedwagon in there, just to make me laugh.  It did make me laugh.

You liked to listen to Top 40 in the kitchen, I know. I remember.

Both songs were terrific choices, lyrically.  They were inside jokes for us as well.  Both times, once the song was over the music went right back to classical/opera.  So I know it was you telling me you’re here, telling me to lighten up.  You always did like to make us laugh.

Please keep them coming.  They’re keeping me alive.  xo

Lo Quiero Morir

I. Want. To. Die.

It’s a normal part of grieving, this longing. There’s also some denial. After denial and wishing you could wake up from the nightmare comes wishing you could die. No one ever says that out loud but a lot of people feel it.

Some act on it.

The weight on my chest is crushing me right now and I want to be there, with her, abandoning all else and forsaking all others and relieving the pain that I’m sure is going to kill me.

That’s the honest truth. That’s where I am.

I want to die, and I want it a handful of times a day. I don’t die, and I don’t try to die, I just wish I could. I’m sorry if that’s uncomfortable. This journal is helping me to not die, so I’ll keep posting in it, maybe forever.

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11 years ago

My heart shattered for the first time

There was a song I listened to

Over and over

Torturing myself

Healing myself

One of the lines said

“I can’t do this.”

And a friend commented

Without knowing the context and said

“Yes you can.”

At first I was angry

At his arrogance.

Couldn’t he see I was grieving?

Didn’t he know it was the worst day of my life?

Today, as I walk through this again

My heart shattered anew

I really wish he was here to tell me

I can do this.

I realize now he knew me better

In that moment

Than I knew myself

Held up a mirror for me

When the grief was blinding

Consuming

I need that now, desperately

I need him to tell me I can do this again.

when the night comes

Some days

I can fool myself into thinking

I’m alright.

A walk outside,

A giggle or a conversation,

Pleasant distractions.

Two or three moments

Strung together

That do not wound me.

False confidence, as I think

Perhaps it’s not so bad,

This new life.

Maybe I can live it.

When

Suddenly, quietly,

Like a fox slipping through

The fence at dusk

It comes…

Creeping into me,

Cyphening the light from

My chest and the love

From my bones

I am destroyed

As

Ever so slowly

(Yet somehow all at once)

I die, I die, I die.

 

J’ai du vague à l’âme

Je suis prest pour apprendre le francais.

That’s what I was going to say when I called. We had so many conversations about having those conversations in French if I wanted to try.  I did want to try, of course, but I was embarrassed at how bad I might be and I didn’t want to be bad – in front of you – at something we both loved so much.  Sounds stupid now.  I’d give anything to rewind a couple of weeks and chat with you in your native tongue.

I know people see me drowning in this and they think, “what’s the big deal?  Everyone has lost a grandmother.”  They only think that because they don’t know who you were, who we were.  I won’t attempt to write that here, because I think it would be impossible, but I have gathered a few thoughts to keep for myself.

When other people hear the term “Iron Lady” they probably think of Margaret Thatcher.  Maybe some younger, stupid ones think of the Statue of Liberty.  I always think of you.  Strong and unyielding, a real force of nature.  A woman who would plunge her hands into scalding hot water because that was the best way to wash dishes, walk 15 miles in a day without complaint (and in fact, prefer it to driving), the woman who caught me by my hair and pulled me up when I slipped and fell off an actual cliff.

Having grandchildren softens a person, and I think it made you – as Goldilocks would say – “just right”.  I hear stories about you being conservative with your praise but with me, you gave it so freely.  I felt empowered by your true and steady belief in me.  You were my compass, my North Star, encouraging me to try new things and have adventures.  At the same time, you were an anchor, helping me feel safe in knowing that I always had a home to go back to.  A refuge.

To be known, seen, understood – and to have that revelation of understanding DEEPEN love, not repulse it – is something I have only ever felt from you and Bonpapa.  You did not tolerate me, you did not chastise me, your love was based on nothing that might be taken away or failed.  It simply was.  I could sit next to you and FEEL the love radiate from you. I know that in thousands of instances, you made a conscious choice to see and speak to only the good in me.

You were otherworldly.  We both knew it.  Your psychic dreams, your knowing.  Remember when you called to ask me if I was pregnant?  I lied to you, but you had known.  When you realized I had similar gifts, you pointed to me and said I was witchy like your grandmother but the sparkle in your eye and half-grin on your lips always betrayed how much you liked that about me, related to it.  I wasn’t like her, I was like you.

A tri-lingual translator for the allies who lost her home and family’s title in the war, lost her beloved father at 9, ate grass sometimes to survive and cursed the Germans frequently.  An athlete and raven-haired beauty queen who held every man’s heart in the palm of her hands.  Coy, coquettish, playful, talented, quick-witted, smart.  Strong.  Unyielding.  Unashamed.  Different.  Proud. I didn’t meet this young enchanting version of you but I could see her in your eyes, hear her in your voice.

The version I met was still a beauty, still playful. She had a radio in the kitchen playing Lionel Ritchie while she cooked.  She took me to the symphony and the ballet so I would have a love for the arts.  She made French bread every Sunday after mass, always pointing out that it wasn’t perfect because the “American” ingredients aren’t the same. She took my brother and me to France – twice – so that we could understand and appreciate her history and our own.

There was nothing you could not do, my fiesty fearless conqueror princess.  Not many people know what a magnificent woman you were.  There should be books written about you, epic movies made.  They wouldn’t do you justice but you deserve them.

My sister, the mother of my heart, my partner in crime.  The first – maybe only – person I really wanted to tell about returning to Paris because I knew that you wouldn’t just listen, you would understand. You wouldn’t just understand, you would feel.  Describing that day, when I turned and saw the Eiffel Tower with the sun rising behind it and I wept, we wept together.  I felt happy to have someone to share that with, and a little sad because I knew that some part of that sadness in you stemmed from knowing you would never get to see your beloved France again.  My heart ached for you.

I hope that you are there now.  I hope that you and Bonpapa are together, traveling as you liked to do,  laughing, free.  I hope that being all-knowing hasn’t changed your opinion of me.  I hope that you can feel my love and see my heartbreak and be honored by it.  I hope that you are already planning when you might visit me in a dream.

My whole life changed in a moment.  My reality shifted.  This is the biggest, the most profound loss, and that is why I am drowning in it.  If you are the thing I held myself up to, defined myself with, what am I now?  I am empty, floating, directionless.  I am filled with guilt that I didn’t call you when my intuition provoked me.  I am filled with sorrow that by the time I got to you, you couldn’t speak to me or laugh with me.

I will miss all the secret things that I have not written here.  I will cling to the memories of my childhood, which you built around me from scraps my parents left lying around and your own beautiful love and strong will.  I will be grateful every day of my life for every day of yours.  I will do my best to love my children the way you showed me, and to travel with them and talk to them like grown-ups and empower them.  We will eat pastry for breakfast and send postcards to ourselves and I promise to speak French with them.  I will wear dresses for no reason and rings on all my fingers and I will stop apologizing for who I am.

Je t’aime beaucoup, my beautiful flower.  My soul cries out to yours in separation. I will count the days until we meet again.  xoxo bisous I love you, Bonmama.  Beaucoup beaucoup.

 

sandman

I am tired

(That isn’t exactly correct –

It isn’t precise.)

Tomorrow I will attempt again

To write a more accurate

And worthy tribute

But tonight

I am tired,

Aching for rest.

DFW

That story –

The one about David Foster Wallace

Winning a prestigious award months after

Stepping into the abyss,

Believing he and his life and his work

Were worthless…

I don’t know if it’s true but

It comes to mind a lot.

I started reading him after I heard that story.

Talented, raw, stunningly gifted.

I am full of rage today

White-hot flame that accompanies

Grief of this magnitude

I’m pissed that my life hasn’t gone anywhere

Embarrassed that you probably

Aren’t proud

And I am ready to be done with

All this bullshit

So. Much. Bullshit.

Maybe I’ll never amount to anything?

That’s where it seems to be headed

All these talented people around me

Some are horrible, liars and cheats who

Got ahead

Some are authentic and totally

Deserve success.

They are my peers.

Am I the exception that proves this rule?

I work and wait and hope and believe

And nothing happens.

I feel stuck here, unloved, ordinary.

And I’m angry you are gone

Angry at life

Angry at death

Angry.

I’m no David Foster Wallace but

I think about him a lot these days.

grieving

I don’t know if I can do this.

I don’t want to.

I don’t.

Life vest

How is anyone expected to survive this?

The waves are too big

My ship is too small

Untethered, adrift

Lost at sea. Aimless.

Without anchor,

Without direction

The sky is getting dark now

The sea thrashes about

I can’t get home

Without you

How is anyone expected to survive ?

inconceivable

I feel like Buttercup

In The Princes Bride

When she says,

“I will never love again.”