This Is My 99th Post

I was really productive yesterday and for the last two days I have been in what I would almost call a manic state: happy, excited, productive. And I’m scared to admit it, but I’m fairly certain this may be due to the very recent, and very tragic death of my cellular telephone.

To be clear I certainly DO NOT believe modern technology is the downfall of civilization. If you think, Dear Reader, that people have not always been completely self-centered, vapid, distracted assholes, you haven’t been paying attention, but there are things about modern technology that certainly make being some of these things easier.

So I dropped my phone. First, I just want to say that the fact that we are sold hand-held computers the likes of which could not even be imagined 30 years ago for upwards of ONE THOUSAND REAL US DOLLARS but aren’t manufactured to survive slipping out of one’s hand SHOULD BE CRIMINAL. Now, I’ve never have a phone that cost me more than $200 (until the one coming in the mail tomorrow ringing in at an incredibly upsetting $250), and I have dropped every single one I’ve ever owned hundreds of times, onto tile, in parking lots, bouncing off of granite countertops to then fall onto some other hard surface, and none have ever broken because I HAVE BEEN LUCKY. But on Sunday I carelessly bumped my thigh with the corner of my phone as I held it by its Popsocket (my grip was poor because I’d just been hiking, Popsockets are otherwise a godsend) and it fell only about two feet onto some gravel where the corner cracked and spiderwebbed out causing not only aesthetic issues (which I could definitely have lived with), but basically rendered the touch screen unusable.

Another of my complaints along with the fragility that seems to be purposefully built into these magic rectangles is that they are all touch based. I’m pretty impressed with how accurate they are for the most part, but I am still an awful texter due to constantly hitting the “wrong” letters and hate browsing sites as I’m always accidentally clicking links I never meant to. But when the use of your very expensive device relies on such an easily corruptible input method, it seems inevitable your phone will “go bad” or break much sooner than it really should. Even though this has, again, never been my actual experience until now.

Basically what I’m getting at is this shit is made to be disposable in every way except its price point. And except for all the materials and labor put into them. Actually, they’re only made to be disposable in that you, the consumer, are supposed to use, abuse, and dispose of them to keep feeding Apple ridiculous amounts of money.

But that’s not the point. What I’m really getting at is, without the thing that I call a phone but absolutely HATE when it actually rings (especially now that spam calls and those robo calls from “local” numbers that are untraceable exist), I’ve gotten a lot more done. Correlation =/= causation, I know, but there might be something to it. I have almost the same access to the internet without my phone except there are some apps I can’t really do anything with on a desktop (which is another really weird concept to me–the inability to post original content to Instagram without a phone or some hacky software is WILD), and yet I’m getting more done.

I think having the option of picking up a separate device while working on something else is probably the crux of this. Now, I am typing. If I had my phone, I might write out a sentence and then scroll on some social platform, then come back, but I’m less likely to navigate away to another tab on the same device, and if I do, my writing tab or document is always there, staring at me and calling me back. It’s a small, stupid brain trick, but I think for me, at least, it works.

Again, I want to reiterate, I’m not demonizing any of these things (but maybe some companies), I’m just realizing something about myself. Because regardless of what any of us have access to, we are responsible for ourselves, aren’t we?

The new phone comes tomorrow. It’s got a shit load of memory and a rockin camera. I’ve ordered a screen protector and a protective case. IT WILL NEVER BREAK AND I’LL BE DISTRACTED TIL THE END OF MY POINTLESS LIFE MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Advertisements

A Conversation With Marlow

I had to go to the post office today, so I walked from home to Husband’s work to have lunch with him first. Both his work and the post office are about a mile and a half from home through the city, and it’s legitimately easier and faster to walk than drive (plus bonus steps).

So I set out this morning with plans to “mind-write” (plot out where a couple stories are going) as I went. That didn’t happen.

As I waited for the walk sign to cross the street, I saw a man coming toward me. He was walking during a green light and had traffic stopped, a dick move for sure. I guess I should describe him here: a few inches taller than my 5’4″, low to average weight, black, maybe 40s, and most likely homeless from the state of his clothes and dental hygiene, but not something you’d notice immediately. When he got to my side of the street he said “hello,” and because I am who I am, and I was feeling rather good, I greeted him back. I was, after all, about to go in the exact opposite direction of this man, and the light was just changing. Perfect: the part of me that gives way too many shits about what other people think was appeased by being nice, and the more animalistic, don’t-get-murdered side was content that this potential danger was being avoided.

But what a fool I was because this man didn’t really have anywhere to be and immediately started talking to me. He began referring to me as “mami” (which was really odd since neither of us were Hispanic–later, when I said to him “Mami? I’m no one’s mother,” he told me he was adopting me as his mom), but he wasn’t being overtly sexual or creepy, just started having this conversation.

The first thing I asked him was “Didn’t you just cross this street?” I was on high alert at this point. The direction I was headed was into a neighborhood, no longer on the main road, so there would be way fewer people and cars.

But he responded jovially, “I just need somebody to talk to.”

Here’s the thing, Dear Reader, I would never advocate for anyone to talk to strangers. It really just is not safe. If I were reading this story, I’d be screaming in my head “RUN, BITCH, RUN!” However, I know that in my heart, kindness costs nothing. Still, I laughed and said, “There’s a guy who works at the gas station. He’s probably bored behind that counter all day; you could talk to him!”

He shook that off. “No no,” he said, “That guy, well, promise you would get mad or upset by this?”

“Uh, sure?” Though my word should have meant nothing to this stranger.

“That guy in there, he’s a jerk. He doesn’t uh…well,” he stumbled over this, not because he didn’t have the words for it, but because he didn’t have the words for me to explain it, “I get the feeling he doesn’t like people of the African American persuasion.”

I had a tiny conversation in my head at that moment. Because I was already over analyzing everything anyway and planning how not to die, I really thought about what he was saying, how, and, why. Why would it offend me, a white woman, if he told me the Middle Eastern guy at the gas station was racist? Wouldn’t he know better than anyone? Did he expect me to argue with him? Was I really in the position to be argumentative?

“I can see that,” I finally told him, “A lot of people are.” I thought back to seeing This Is America for the first time this morning.

So we started to have a conversation. Well, he started to have a conversation at me. I’m not good with new people, even when I’m fairly certain they won’t kill me, so you can imagine my discomfort, but when he reiterated he just needed someone to talk to, I decided I could be that person. I’ve been practicing my whole life at being a listener. Even though I knew the conversation had an ulterior motive, and it was essentially a lie, though more like a mask. Heck, maybe it was true. Does anyone talk–really talk–to homeless people?

First we made small talk, and he used the time to comment on me (this is where we discussed how I wasn’t anybody’s mother), that I was talking to him and he was shocked, and then asked me what was wrong with my shoulder. I’m fairly pale and have freckles from years of sun damage, but he was actually referencing my acne. (It’s really blossomed in the last few months, but thankfully only on my back.) I explained to him what it was, and assured him that no, it was not contagious when he asked. I laughed because here was this man, pointing out something that’s pretty gross and should make me self conscious but I weirdly didn’t feel bad about it, and he wasn’t making me feel bad. It was just a thing we were discussing.

So I played therapist. “What’s going on? Why are you having a hard time? Let’s get to the crux of this.” (So you will go away was the underlying message though delivered with a smile.)

“Well, now, I don’t want to scare you,” he tells me.

Too late, I think.

“I just spent 12 years incarcerated for a crime I didn’t commit.”

I didn’t want to know the specifics, so instead we discussed the lack of a rehabilitation process in our criminal justice system and the ways the country uses mental health and psych wards as weapons instead of helpful tools. This stranger was well-spoken (despite not really knowing what acne was), clear, easy to understand, and didn’t strike me as someone who’d been to jail. Of course, the tale he told me was so he could get to the point: he was down on his luck. But we had the conversation nonetheless.

This morning when I got dressed, I grabbed a pair of shorts out of the clean clothes basket and found there was a five dollar bill in the pocket. I very rarely have cash, but on this day I actually had that five in my pocket. Of course I was going to give it to him, this was ultimately what he wanted and we both knew that. So I told him this story: I have $5 that I’m going to give you, but isn’t it strange because I only just found it this morning and this is the day we meet.

He looked close to tears, and he hugged me. This was way too much for me, and I tried explaining to him “I don’t hug strangers” because of “things that have happened to me in the past.” This, he tells me, hurts his feelings. The feminist in me wanted to have the “your feelings aren’t more important than my safety” conversation, but I hadn’t been murdered yet and I wanted to stay not dead which is an even bigger comment on feminism without anything being said, so I just moved on.

“What’s your astrological sign?” my new friend asked me.

“Guess.”

This, like many things I said to him, made him laugh uproariously. I was “a mess, girl, just a mess” but also “a firecracker” and “full of surprises.” He guessed cancer or libra, and I told him “Wow, I was born right on the cusp of cancer and leo.” He was very excited to have gotten it almost right. “Okay, you do me now, what do you think I am?”

“Well, I don’t know much about the other signs, just myself,” which is mostly true, but he insisted. “Okay, sagittarius.”

“My sister’s a sagittarius!” he throws his hands up, “But me, I’m aquarius.”

“Hm,” I smile, “Yeah, I can see that, like the water, meandering and adaptive.”

“You,” he points at me, “You know more than you let on. You’re the kind of person who won’t let other people know that you’re superior to them. You bring things down to other people’s level.” I’m just laughing at this, and he goes on to tell me how cool I am, and I say to him, “You’d be the first person to ever say that to me.”

“Listen, Ashley,” because at this point we’d traded names, “When someone tells you they think you’re cool, you’re supposed to say ‘I know.'”

And all I can do is laugh because I very frequently do just that. I’m always jokingly full of myself with people I know, but in talking to strange men I’ve learned that being humble and demure can save your life, and here this person is who, by all rights, I should be afraid of, teaching me to do a thing that really isn’t safe for women to do, and it was all so preposterous.

We parted ways soon after that after I insisted I had to go meet my husband who he definitely didn’t believe existed. Enough other things happened to write a whole series of blogs (specifically a blog called “There’s A Special Circle Of Hell For Women Who Don’t Help Other Women But I Guess That’s Pretty Sexist Too”), but I’ve expended enough energy on this encounter for one day. The point? There isn’t one. I’m in no way advocating speaking to strangers, ignoring your gut, being kind because it’s free. I’m also not advocating against those things. What happened today was rare, but probably only because we don’t let those things happen, but we certainly can’t be blamed for disallowing them.

But don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a feel good story. When I walked home I prayed not to run into him again which I admittedly feel guilty about: our conversation had the potential to be very pleasant had I not been riddled with anxiety. And I didn’t die, right? But really, how fucking stupid is it I felt guilty? No one has a right to anyone else’s time ever. All I wanted was to think about what was about to happen to Lorelei and the gang, but even on the way home I couldn’t because I was on even higher alert plus chastising myself for the whole thing which was even dumber: I had very little control over that whole situation.

So I mean, I don’t know, Dear Reader, take from this what you will. Sorry I didn’t say “fuck” very much.

A Nice Story About Death

I used to work for a company that did maintenance work on properties that were foreclosed upon and had become bank-owned. Our company contracted with vendors who would do lawn work and maintain the interior of these non-lived-in homes all over the country. Among other things, we also did clean outs of homes that the previous tenants or owners had left their stuff in for one reason or another, typically for the most depressing reasons. I didn’t feel particularly good about that work, but this post isn’t about that.

This post is about one particular clean out a few years ago. Crews would send photos of the interiors and the debris within before removing it so we could determine if there was anything of value–specifically something we called “personal belongings”–left behind. Of course, “of value” has a different definition in that world, and very few things (among them mostly irreplaceables like family photos or obviously expensive jewelry) constituted stopping a trash out and holding up the bank from getting their hands on an empty and marketable house. But one day a crew called me with one of those very few things.

Typically we identify this kind of stuff prior to beginning the trash out, and then put the whole thing on hold as when one thing is identified as a “personal belonging” then everything in the home falls under that jurisdiction, but in this case, the crew was halfway through when they called me. Dear Reader, you don’t want to get a call from your crew saying they’ve already brought a load to the dump and then found “personal belongings.” And you definitely don’t want them to tell you that what they found was a fucking urn.

To make this news doubly stressful, my manager was out of the office that day, so I had to go to another manager who I did not know that well for help. (This other manager had, in fact, trained me when I first started at this company, but I have always been incredibly forgettable most of my life, and she didn’t remember me though she seemed to remember literally everyone else. So I guess it wasn’t that I didn’t know her that well, but more that I felt very small and embarrassed that she didn’t know who I was and I had to do that whole introduce myself to her even though we’d met and worked together a lot already thing that only you other poor, forgettable fuckos understand.)

So I went to this manager, reintroduced myself, and explained my predicament. Her eyes went wide. “An urn?” she asked with both the horror and excitement of the realization we almost threw away human remains and now we’d have to deal with this. “An urn,” I told her with a solemn nod, holding back laughter because humor is how I deal with everything and this was, at its core, kind of ridiculous.

We shut the trash out down, obviously, and the manager set to contacting everyone she could in regard to the house in question. Somehow, through the long line of everyone who had handled the house thus far, she had gotten in contact with the former owner of the house. This was unprecedented as, in my particular position and department, we were typically very far removed from the former occupant of the houses. Talking with people who think you personally are taking their home from them is particularly terrible–I would learn this a year later when I picked up overtime by answering our emergency phones after hours and got yelled at and threatened by all sorts of people who didn’t pay their mortgages–but speaking with someone who has lost their house AND the remains of their family member? Horrifying.

So the manager called the woman (thank the gods) who was now residing on the other side of the country, and when informed we had found an urn amongst her abandoned belongings, do you know what she said, Dear Reader?

“Well, I thought we left someone behind!”

As it turned out, the remains were not human, but of the family dog, and we were all a little relieved this wasn’t someone’s grandma, but still, right? You see, a lot of people, when they’re foreclosed upon, leave behind a bunch of stuff sometimes out of necessity and sometimes out of spite. I don’t blame these people, I basically had a job because of this, but very rarely was something of this caliber discarded so thoughtlessly.

So the manager asked the lady what she’d like to do. This was, after all, all that was left of a beloved pet, and the family had already been through enough losing their home and packing up with little they could take and relocating, so we were willing to send the ashes to her–something we wouldn’t have done for any other belonging–and the manager was going to pay for it out of her on pocket.

But to our surprise she said no, and for a moment I was particularly upset and not just because I like animals more than people. First she forgets Fido, and then when given a second chance through an incredibly kind gesture, she blows it off! But her reasoning was thus: that house we found the ashes in had been the dog’s home its whole life, and that was where she belonged. Not tinned up on someone’s shelf or, worse, in the back of a closet, but there, at home. So she asked us if we could bury the ashes on the property so the dog could “watch over the house forever.” Those words will stick with me my whole life, Dear Reader, and I don’t think I will ever be able to tell this story without crying.

The crew completed the request and sent me pictures, digging the hole, putting in the ashes, filling it in, and even placing a handful of wildflowers on top of the spot. We sent the photos to the woman and received a heartfelt thank you. People who clean out houses for a living are incredibly tough, foul-mouthed, strong people. Often they lied to me because the system was a game and they needed to win so they played dirty, and to be honest I respected that, but I think in just about everyone’s heart there’s enough room to get it together to bury someone’s pet with the love and honor it deserves.

I like to think that even though she was abandoned for a bit and never reunited with her family, that dog is very happily haunting that yard to this day, raising the hair on the back of the mailman’s neck and chasing off the errant squirrel, and, pleased with a good day’s work, she curls up on the back porch every night to sleep. So yeah, I helped trash out foreclosed houses–I don’t feel great about that–but I know I did right by that ghost doggo.

Get Me Outta Funky Town

Funk is such a fun word, but put depressive before it and everything gets all fucky. Trying to get out of a depressive funk is rough. I’m not suggesting that I’m experiencing a real bout of depression that requires any sort of diagnosis or medication or therapy, but I’m definitely in the dumps. Motivation is hard to find, though I have had fits where I’m exceptionally productive as if all the productivity I should have during the day gets balled into an hour-long session where I run around the house cleaning EVERYTHING while simultaneously narrating an entire chapter to a project I haven’t touched in months. My body and my brain want to get back to normal, but they’re failing miserably.

But it’s probably not depression, or even just plain old sadness. What I’m dealing with is most likely grief, a term I’ve never given much thought to before now. Grief, specifically, as it’s the sadness that comes with death.

I find myself on the verge of and more easily persuaded into tears lately, and not at all wanting to engage with others for the same reason: the weirdest shit is triggering. I saw a cardinal on the way to the post office a couple days ago, and I was immediately blinded by a rush of tears. I really don’t want this to happen in front of someone, and, truthfully, I really don’t want this to happen AT ALL, so I think I’m sort of avoiding everything in order to just suppress it. And sometimes being alone feels really good.

As you may have noticed, Vacancy has taken a regoddamnediculously long and unexpected hiatus, and it’s hard to get back into the swing of things, but what makes it so much harder is that the next part has some death-related things going on in it. I can’t exactly skip those things, they’re integral to the plot, and when I just go work on something else, I feel guilty about not finishing this, so I am kind of languishing here. (And to add insult to injury, when I did decide to work on an older project, I picked up at a spot editing where I was just killing someone off and experimenting with my main character’s sorrow and reaction to that so FUCK ME RUNNING, HU?)

I had these plans of having a daily routine figured out by now, almost a month into our move, but that’s gone to hell. I literally have all the time in the world, but I feel the hours slip away like they’re nothing and the pressure of imaginary deadlines looming thick and fat over my head, but the joke of it all is there are no actual consequences? Which almost makes me feel worse because it highlights the crux of this feeling: nothing I’m doing matters because all the people I love will eventually die and someday I’ll be dead too, so what’s the point?? And maybe it never did matter??? But at least before it mattered to me.

But somewhere I know these things, the projects I want to work on, they really do matter to me, they just need to come out of me. (GET THE FUCK OUT, WORDS!) At least I hope they do. I mean, my fish aren’t dead yet, so no worries. I still feel something, so apathy hasn’t totally settled in.

I did find something very helpful to me, though. I’d like to share, but I want to stress that this is very helpful to me because it aligns with my personality and views on the world. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and I’d encourage everyone to find their own brew, but if you are dealing with the death of a loved one, grief, and pseudo-depression like I am right now, Caitlin Doughty’s Ask A Mortician series might be helpful.

I’ve always been intrigued by the physicality of death, and there was a short time when I thought I might want to actually become a mortician (but eventually realized I’m way too soft a person for this). I thought maybe my outlook was easy for me because I’d never really cared very deeply for anyone who’d died before, but I find that in my saddest moments now, these videos are incredibly comforting for me. She shows death for what it is: an inevitable end, but makes it a hell of a lot less scary and even a little less sad by dealing with the facts head on.

I don’t know what my thesis here is. I’m feeling particularly shitty, but I do think I’m getting better and doing so by seeking out resources that are tailored for me. I wish I had something better to offer you if you’re reading this and having the same issues, but maybe sometimes there really isn’t anything that can be said. Sometimes you just have to wallow in it for a little bit and then one day you won’t feel so shitty anymore and you’ll get on the treadmill and you’ll go to the grocery store like you’ve been meaning to and you’ll do the dishes and things will start to feel normal again.

Things I Just Don’t Fucking Understand: Mom’s Memes

My mom has a folder of memes saved on her computer.

If you noticed my absence the last week or two and happened to see my last post, Eulogy, you can probably put two together and figure out my grandma passed away recently. I traveled to New Hampshire for her funeral and to visit with my family. While there’s plenty to ruminate on there, I’d rather focus on something more lighthearted for now. And that brings me to my mom’s laptop and her folder of memes.

It’s here I should clarify a couple things for you, Dear Reader. One is that I am not an enemy of fun. I want people to have a good time and unabashedly love the things they love. As long as you’re not hurting anyone else, you do you. And two, I pronounce it “mem” like in re-mem-ber, not “meem.” It appears I’m wrong, but I wanted to throw that out there to see if anyone else might do this too.

I’m not entirely sure when the concept of the meme changed from a template image, captioned with slightly altered but relatable and reproducible text to basically any picture with writing on it, but it has, and that’s fine, but this expansion mixed with the boom in older adults utilizing more and more social media has produced a plethora of images that I, personally, do not find humorous. But my mom does. By gods, Dear Reader, does she ever.

While I was visiting her, I paid for my room and board with technology lessons. After answering questions that I didn’t really have the answer to, she opened My Photos. Here, you can see a preview of each of the sub folders. Mostly mountains and snow, but there was one folder, quite dissimilar to the others. The image was clearly compressed and not a photo so much as a solid white background, some text in a near illegible font, and a yellow, amorphous blob. Something in my brain seized at that, but she quickly opened a different folder from a hike she did two years ago and lulled me into a false sense of security. Dear Reader, I’ve seen 90% of her photos before. In fact, I’m in at least half of them, but viewing them with her is just another form of currency, and I’m glad to pay it. But then she confirmed my fear and opened it. The meme folder.

So I got up and started making nachos, because that’s the only thing a sane person can do in that situation. She would chuckle in the background. Increasingly loud chuckles. She was baiting me. “Got some memes there, do ya?” I asked, sprinkling Mexican Four Cheese onto a single layer of tortilla chips because that’s how you do it, Dear Reader: single layer of chips, cheese, another single layer of chips, cheese. Fight me.

“This one’s so funny!” she insisted, and then she read it to me.

Dear Reader, under threat of slow and painful death at the yellow-nailed and pigs-blood-covered hands of an inbred, cannibalistic, radiation-blasted family of the undead, I could not recall what the meme was because when I saw it, my brain shut down.

It’s this thing that happens when faced with something that I don’t agree with on a fundamental level, and I can’t muster the fraudulent expression needed to continue the conversation. I just kind of turn off. It’s basically what happens whenever I see one of these fuckos:

pexels-photo-164854.jpeg
Then I am filled with a BLINDING RAGE and cannot be held accountable for my actions.

But I decided instead to try and make something of this. Why did I have such a reaction, and why was it so in contrast to her own? I avoid these things like the plague, she she, my own mother, the loins from which I was born, seeks them out and saves them as if they won’t be eternalized in the infinite cloud that is the Internet. And for her, someone who has tremendous difficulty on a computer, saving an image from the internet is not an easy task. But this, she learned all on her own! I had to teach her how to set up her bank account alone, but this was more meaningful to her! So I asked: What makes a meme worth saving?

She was quiet, the remnants of a good laugh still plastered in a smile on her face as she stared wistfully at the screen. Then came the reply, “I dunno! They’re funny!”

I know. Take a breath.

I tried to dive deeper into this: Was it that she liked the sentiment of the meme? Were they all similar in some way? Or perhaps she cared for the person who sent or posted them, or even the specific situation that person had referenced with the meme? Every time you see that one-eyed, yellow, banana-loving bastard, do you remember a very specific hike into the snowy mountains of New Hampshire?

“Yeah, I guess.”

She guesses, Dear Reader. And that’s a good enough answer, I guess, because really, no one has to justify their actions to anyone else, especially ones so incredibly insignificant, and especially in response to someone who isn’t doing real science, but I still felt perturbed not getting to the heart of the matter. Her inability to enthusiastically or even completely commit to that answer told me it wasn’t true.

So why does she think they’re funny, but I don’t? Why does she insist on showing them to me even when I say they’re not funny? It’s as if I’ve said nothing or, worse, as if I actually laughed, as she keeps offering another to me. “But this one has Garfield in it!” she tells me despite that the words attached to the image have nothing to do with lasagna or Mondays which just further boggles my mind: these memes are almost completely devoid of meaning beyond the images themselves. In no other context (or really even their own context) would they make sense which I thought was the core concept of a meme–that the image was recognizable and offered additional commentary on the text.

I don’t have an answer for these questions, just like I don’t know what that notification is that keeps popping up on your phone but it’s not there right now, so you can’t show me, but it pops up like five times a day and you can’t get it to go away except it’s not there right now. I can come to some conclusions about why I hate these things, and even some hypotheses as to why she loves them, but I fear we’ll never come to an agreement on them. I’ll forever be making nachos and she’ll forever be giggling at Snoopy drinking wine despite that he’s a dog from a children’s show.

 

Eulogy

In Billy Joel’s Master Class, he tells the story of explaining to his young daughter what death is. He told her that people never really die, they never really go away. Instead, when you die you go into other people’s hearts, and they take you on their journeys. In this way, no one ever really leaves us.

I really like that idea for the obvious reasons, but also because it’s so much easier to use someone else’s words when you can’t figure out what to say. If you know me you know I love words, but I don’t think I could ever find the right ones to define my grandma’s life. There are a handful that stick out: crafty, musical, hard-working, charitable, loving, but none of these can sum up who she really was.

She tried – emphasis on tried – to teach me to play the piano. My biggest regret, and I think one we all share, was not listening. There are only so many times you can play “Hot Cross Buns,” and only so many times the average person can listen to it, but Grandma wasn’t average. Just like how she never got sick of playing “Für Elise,” Grandma endured listening to us hit the wrong keys over and over because she wanted us to be on the same journey that she was: a quest to always be a better you.

She love music, singing, art, and I think she instilled that passion in all of us. Not necessarily for painting or piano, but she gave us the ability to develop a deep and enduring love for something. She taught us all a lot of things. For example, she taught me key words and phrases in French: bonjour, merci, au revoir, pamplemousse – that one’s grapefruit. She also taught me to call my grandpa “Tony” or “To-neeeee!” But most importantly she taught me to keep learning. The world is full of more than any one person can ever really take in, but it’s our responsibility to try.

Everyone here played a role in my grandma’s life: a caregiver, a friend, a son, a daughter, a husband, and you all gave her things so special, so dear, that they are irreplaceable. There is nothing left we can give to her now that she doesn’t already have in abundance where she is. But there is something we can do, though it may be more for ourselves. Carry my grandma around in your heart, bring her wherever you go, show her the world, take her on your journey, because she would want to see you keep learning, and she would never want to stop.

grandma

The Big Move Part III: Resignation

Part I and Part II if you’re interested.

Cat wrangling, much like ballet, is simultaneously an art and a sport. It leaves you breathless as well as creatively drained. On the morning we were to finally leave, the Thursday after Valentine’s Day and a day behind schedule, our furry children had to be put in cat carriers to be transported for the long drive. This is that story.

We rose on moving day at about 4am. There was, of course, more work to do because moving is interminable. In fact, I believe a shadow of myself still haunts my old house, forever carrying boxes from one room to another, lingering in doorways and sighing mournfully over dust. We loaded the bed, frame, and headboard into the truck, Husband packed away what little food we had left, and I did a final sweep for things we may have missed. I attempted to ignore the fact that this was likely the last time I would ever be in that house. You see, I loved that house. I knew it was to be our home based on pictures alone. I frequently hugged the house, I loved it so much. So I focused on just getting the work done, powering through, but then I broke the seal.

Let me take you on a little side journey, Dear Reader. Husband and I used to have two cars, one of which was a Dodge Stratus. It was a little, navy, two-door, rusted, low-riding piece of shit that we acquired after my Chevy Tracker was totaled (notice the very purposeful passive voice here) back in 2010. I resented the Stratus for two reasons: it replaced the car that had been the love of my life up until then, and it was so goddamned low to the ground that me and my broken pelvis could barely get in and out of it. Also, I had zero say in picking it out which was pretty fucking annoying, but that was eight years ago, so maybe I should get the fuck over that.

Anyway, that car took Husband, when he was still just Boyfriend, Bart and Di, and me all the way from Ohio to Florida with all our belongings crammed into it. Despite the ire I held for it, I came to love that car so much that when we donated it because it wasn’t even worth selling in 2016, I cried big, fat tears on multiple occasions. You might be noticing a pattern here, but I actually felt bad for the car. Guilty for abandoning it. Why do I tell you about that car? Because I hung from the rear-view mirror a little sachet for good luck and safe travels (side note: I’m a witch, don’t worry about it), and when we got rid of the car, I removed the sachet with those big, fat tears pouring down my face, and instead hung it around the house’s door handle for the same purpose: to protect us whenever we crossed the threshold.

So as you can imagine, removing the sachet from the handle not only made me sad to leave the house, but brought up all the sad memories of abandoning the car. And now I was abandoning the house. The sink had been right for breaking all along. Blubbering notwithstanding, I tried to just hold it in and move on. I asked Husband to get my wooden turtle wind chime down from the front entryway, but my voice cracked with the question, and all I could do was point and sob. So this wasn’t a great set up for what we has to do next which was the aforementioned cat wrangling.

Rutherford, the baby, was first. I threw a toy into the car carrier and he bounded in after it. The mistake here was choosing a jingly ball as that toy that I would then have to listen to for the next eight hours. Next, we got Bart. Bart is an old soul, and I’m pretty convinced he understands human speak in the way that dogs do: he doesn’t know what you’re saying, but he knows you’re trying to convey something, and he desperately wants to make you happy. I asked him to get in the carrier and though he hesitated, when we made eye contact, and I said “Please?” he could read the exhaustion and brokenness in my soul, and instead of using it against me like his brother would, he relented and climbed inside and laid down because he is forever the goodest boy.

Then came Di. Unlike Rutherford who is evil but stupid, I’m pretty sure Di means well, but unlike Bart who wants to please you, Di is significantly more interested in his own security. Throughout the moving process Rutherford wanted to play and Bart just wanted attention, but Di, the smartest of the bunch, knew the horrors that were to come, and immediately holed himself up under the kitchen sink. After 48 hours of packing, moving, loading, bruising, worrying, complaining, barely eating, and crying, it’s hard to have patience with a dumb beast who doesn’t know what’s best for it. Like, seriously, bud, who’s going to feed you if you stay here alone? Who’s going to snuggle you? Who’s going to give you chicken? The ghost of me will be too busy feeling sorry for herself to do any of those things.

Husband tried first since Di loves him the most. He gently called to him, spoke in a quiet “it’s okay” voice, but to no avail. He looked at me and simply said, “I can’t do it.”

But I had this, mostly because I’m the one small enough to fit under the counter. I slid him out, all 19 of his nails (one is missing, that’s its own story) scraping across the wood, and put my body between him and where he had been. The carrier was waiting for him, and he howled “nooooo” in that horrifying way that only cats do. Once he was in the carrier, after a lot of heaving and reorganizing of limbs, my black leggings were white, and I was picking fur out of my teeth the next day, but I’d be damned if we were going to leave one of these fuckos behind.

I decided to have Di ride beside me in the car since Husband was driving the UHaul, and Bart and Rutherford filled up the backseat. This turned out to be the best decision possible for two reasons: Di does a lot better when he can see you, and when Di inevitably shits himself in the first hour of any car ride, you can easily access the cage to clean it up. Because that’s exactly what he does, Dear Reader. He gets car sick, but from the other end.

So I drove about eight hours in the car with naught but meows and Billy Joel to keep me company. The cats were surprisingly well behaved, especially Bart who answered when I called to him to see if he was still alive, but otherwise just chilled. Rutherford had one attack of the crazies, but when he discovered he couldn’t rip open the cage to run circles around the interior of the car, he gave up, and Di cried on and off while looking balefully up at me to let me know he was blaming this discomfort on me forever which, honestly, that’s nothing new.

And, Dear Reader, we made it. We’re all in our new apartment and we’re all alive. The cats are still very uncomfortable, but most of our things are unpacked and save for a package containing a Costco-sized soy sauce and maple syrup busting in the back of the UHaul (a placement Husband now admits was a terrible idea, obviously brought on by the mania of moving), we made it mostly intact. Here’s to a happy future and great things! Oh, and regularly scheduled blogging.