Boys of Winter & Prairie Things

I was sitting in Dairy Queen on Saturday, grabbing a quick bite before heading to my friend’s husband’s memorial service, when I was suddenly, and without any control at all, overcome with tears. I sat there for a few moments, trying to stop the flow, and kept my head down, in order to hide my face from those at tables surrounding mine.

People that were with their children, no doubt fueling up prior to spending a Saturday running errands, taking the kids to indoor leisure centers or movies or even the pool. Endless possibilities and even more activities that every Canadian family has spent Saturdays doing.

Maybe even headed to play hockey.

The tears didn’t start because I was heading to a memorial. My friend’s husband had lived a long, full, productive life and after a relatively quick battle with cancer, had succumbed to the sweet hereafter, with his family and loved ones surrounding him. Medicated, pain-free and at peace.

On Friday evening of April 6th, a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team  was struck by a semi trailer 30 kilometers north of Tisdale, Saskatchewan. The team was on its way to Game 5 of a semifinal against the Nipawin Hawks, also in Saskatchewan, when the crash occurred around 5 p.m.

I heard about the accident on Friday evening, saw brief new items, which were very minimal, as the accident scene was still active, with reports of a code orange event having been called. I systematically shut down as many visceral imaginings as I could, took some medication, and called it a night. Due to my own intimate experience with motor vehicle accidents, and the subsequent post traumatic stress disorder that evolved following, I simply cannot see too many disturbing images or sit with tragedy for too long, before the anxiety starts for me.

I am ashamed to admit that.

Who am I to have the chemical luxury of not fully feeling and empathizing with the pain and suffering of those whose experiences so closely mirror my own?

I feel like a coward when I do this. When I reach for the medication.

I can rationalize that I am only protecting myself and my fragile mental state. I know I have to keep myself safe from intrusive thoughts and anxiety. I can cognitively defend my decisions, having been diagnosed by medical professionals. I instinctively know when it is time to disconnect from the world around me in order to regroup and still my racing heart, my shaking hands, and slow the talons of razor sharp fear digging at my insides.

But I will never not feel like a coward when I do it.

I am a mother of boys. I grew up on the prairies in Canada and most of my memories of childhood are being out in the cold, with my friends, on the ice. Skating, sledding, snowmobiling.

Prairie Winter
Photo credit: Ian McGregor https://www.flickr.com/photos/ian_mcgregor/

It’s how we make the best of so many months of cold weather and snow.

Most of the boys I dated as a young girl had dreams of making it in the NHL. They were on community flooded rinks by the age of 3, with hockey sticks in their hands. My parents and my friend’s parents billeted boys from other places, who chased their dreams of being the next Bobby Orr or Ken Dryden. Boys who left their homes and traveled…by bus…every weekend…to play hockey. Across highways and secondary roads, with the hoarfrost on the trees and the piles of silvery snow glinting the sun’s reflection for miles and miles of farmland.

Boys that age are so full of life! That young male energy, with testosterone bouncing off the walls. There is nothing that can come close to the sound of a group of young males that age all laughing and horsing around. The communal ebullience of the upcoming game zapping through the air on the bus like chain lightning. That bravado that seems to be worn so comfortably and without apology only by boys that age, with their entire lives ahead of them.

I won’t go into details that I have since read or seen via media, as my words today aren’t meant to focus on the logistics of the accident.

It is about the tragedy of so many young lives taken far, far too soon, and the years of recuperation and recovery ahead for the survivors; the timeless grief that those left behind will now live with for the rest of their lives.

As a mother, my heart breaks for the parents, spouses, siblings, and children left behind that have had their worlds turned upside down. Those broken souls that will now begin the very real and painful work of trying to put as many pieces as they can back together again.

As a fighter myself, I pray that the survivors who lived through the terror of that crash can reach deep down inside themselves and find the strength they will need to live long, productive, happy lives in spite of this tragedy. I hope that all that know them will stand with them in support and hold them up when they feel weak and scared.

I hope that they never have to explain to anyone in the coming years why they suddenly start crying in a random Dairy Queen  on a sunny Saturday afternoon and that their communities of loved ones and friends realize that things will never, ever be the same.

This morning, I read that one of the victims, Logan Boulet, was an organ donor- he signed up for one when he turned 21. Because of his selflessness at such a young age, 6 lives will be lived due to his generosity of spirit.

A gofundme account set up shortly following the accident, has so far received  $5,730,448.00. I think the original goal was something like $10,000.00.

Ryan Straschnitzki, upon being given the news by his parents that  he is paralyzed from the chest down responded with “well, I’m gonna get onto the Olympic sledge hockey team.”

May we always hold the prairie boys of winter, those boys that were lost, within our hearts and memories and may we always be ready, willing and able to help those that survived in the coming months and years with putting the pieces back together once again.

Oh, Canada.

 

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Lost

Lost in the thought of the last time I saw your eyes looking straight into my heart and the goodbye you could not speak, but we both knew was arriving.

i’m leaving you soon. you’ll be ok. thank you for loving me. you’ll be just fine. you are so strong.

The sight of you wrapped in a heated flannel, strapped to the chair because they knew you would not stay in the bed.

i know, if we just keep moving nothing bad will happen. i know, Mark. i have been where you are.

The impromptu braiding of your long hair after lovingly brushing it out of your ashen face.

they hated your long hair. endless bitching about how you looked like a girl. it was beautiful.

Strands of silver weaving throughout the chestnut and my snipping of the tangled ends stuck to the wires all over your chest.

let me do it. i’ll make sure it doesn’t hurt you. i wont let anyone hurt you. i promise.

When you reached out to take our hands on either side of you, I knew.

i’m not ready. i can’t do this. oh god, not now. you are so strong. you can come back from this.

When the time for leaving came, my walking backwards, making a silly face to see you smile, anything for one more smile. Telling you I would be back tomorrow.

there won’t be any more tomorrows for you and I. we is over and soon just me.

Your head turning ever so slowly towards me, and your sad eyes looking into mine.

i will always be with you. you will never be alone in the world. i will be beside you. forever.

 

I will never be lost. My brother is always with me and wouldn’t allow that to happen.

He will always tell my heart which direction is home.

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Into the Abaddon

These events occurred following this.

Paramedics transported 37 yr old female victim of the MVA to nearest acute hospital twenty miles away from the crash site. Assessment by Emergency Medical Transport personnel indicates multiple spinal fractures. Pressure gauze applied to gaping head wound. O2 given by nasal cannula as SATS decreasing rapidly. Shock. BP  decreasing to 96/57 during transport. Patient responsive to stimulus but non verbal.

blinding lights and pain. more pain than could ever be imagined or a loving god to allow to be suffered by one of his children. too many faces, shimmering in the lights of the icy cold room. chattering teeth slamming uncontrollably against each other. can’t stop them from tearing into my lips and tongue and a hand shoves something warm between them to stop the violence of the shaking. taste of warm blood in her mouth, coppery, thick, running down her throat, causing the heaving. Ohmygodohmygod cant breathe. and struggling to sit up and stop the hurting and then a prick of the needle 

and

nothingness.

wake to the uniformed man asking about drinking that day and how much. crying please leave me alone, no, no, i wouldn’t do that ever. . he is telling the nurse with grey hair that he wants the blood immediately. has to have it before i decease for some legal reasons. the priest who is sitting by the stretcher tells him to stop, he is upsetting me and I am gasping for air, and to go away and what does any of it matter any more. the nurse is pushing the officer out of the room telling him she will get to it after,unless he wants to steal it like a thief right off the floor or me and  that it can be done quickly when it is needed. am i dying? i turn to the priest and whisper am i dying? and he looks at me with the saddest eyes and moves his lips in prayer         

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.”

i awaken in the blackness of nothing and silence.  it is quiet and feels like death has come for me after all. no pain, no sound, womb-like, with no atmosphere but the absence of everything. entombed in a shroud of blank space and opiates. sensing like an animal that i am not alone, i turn my head and see the whites of my sons eyes looking at mine. “mom mom mom, are you going to be ok? please be ok.”  i must be dreaming or stoned or dead. i feel removed and cannot open my lips to speak to him.he isn’t here, i must be dreaming of him. suddenly a  horrible pain in my stomach and a splintering inside of me. feeling the heat of it rising up my stomach to my throat and the spewing out of the blackness and a sudden tearing of tissue and searing agony and …ohmyGOD..and as it comes pouring out of me, out of everywhere it possibly can, burning me with its heat, i hear my son’s voice again,

” SOMEBODY COME HELP US PLEASE COME HELP US MY MOM IS BLEEDING, SHES BLEEDING ALL OVER AND IT’S EVERYWHERE! HELP HELP HELP.”

STARS air ambulance dispatched to rural hospital at approximately 2000 hours to transport MVA patient to FMC in Calgary. Internal hemorrhaging, right side pneumothorax and C7 spinal fracture primary injuries noted on transfer form.

whirring and roaring in my ears and freezing like ice, oh so cold. machines are bleeping and sending spirals of paper down to the floor and something is covering my ears. someone in a spacesuit is trying to talk to me but i can’t hear him over the whirring and clattering sounds of the copter blades and the screeching coming from the machines. i understand i am alive and moving to another hospital but not aware of urgency. i feel like i am in a space ship with all the machines and coloured lights and sounds. i don’t recall my son being with me at the hospital at all. my reality has turned into  a series of waking and nothing moments. no slow drifting from consciousness to sleep, rather a sudden jolting of existences. i no longer feel sadness or fear and feel weightless, floating along wherever these ever-changing faces take me. what makes me me, the ego, the id, my instinctive force within, has disappeared.  there is a sense of wonder and relief in the letting go

 

 

 

June 08 2002

The day my life changed forever and I became my second self.

Fact: It was a beautiful sunny June day, warm but comfortable. A beautiful day for a country drive. I had spontaneously offered to drive a young girl to see her boyfriend that day.

Background: I had met her a month before through an acquaintance. She was new to the city and was struggling to catch a break. She was a lovely little free spirit – 19 years old and alone in a new city with a lousy job at 7-11. Her name was April and within an hour of meeting her, I knew her entire life story. She talked a mile a minute and laughed and touched you while she was excitedly telling you everything about her. I worried for her. Her open heart and being alone in the city, so I offered to let her stay with me for a couple of months until she “got on her feet.” I had recently left my husband of almost twenty years and was settling into a new home with my two sons;  she may be of help to me while I was helping her, watching the boys for that hour or so after school before I got home from work.

I was like my mother that way- helping others, taking them in, getting them sorted and sending them on their way. I was not selfless- I knew she could help me too, but from the bottom of my heart, my primary purpose was to keep her safe. I felt such an intense feeling that I needed to protect her…from..something. That feeling of mine will become  a mockery  as this story finds its way out of me. My only hope is that I can somehow explain in a way that makes sense, a truly senseless tragedy, that to this day confuses me to my core  in regards to why April had to be a part of it.

Fact: We were driving in my car away from her boyfriend. She had visited with him and kissed and giggled and laughed her way through the entire time she spent with him. She was on top of the world, motor-mouthing to me about how she was so in love and how they would get married some day and the names her children would have, and how I was the BEST person she had EVER met for helping her out and taking care of her like a MOTHER would. She was sitting sideways in the passenger seat and talking with her arms and hands flying with emotion and I laughed as I told her to  sit properly in her seat and to put her seat belt on before we reached the highway. I couldn’t see out her side of the car at all and didn’t see anything until it was just….this….much…too …late. I strained to look around her as we came to the train crossing, and not seeing anything, I drove forward. The last words out of my mouth in the split second of realization that occurred were” Oh FUCK.”

RCMP Accident Report: The Northbound Canadian Pacific train struck the passenger side of  vehicle at 1535 June 08 2012. The car was pushed for approximately 30 meters, with the occupants remaining inside the vehicle, with occupant belongings being ejected out the shattered passenger window and rear windows. Witness reports stated there was a smell of gasoline and burning rubber, and that one witness (occupation: Registered Nurse)  crawled under the train to get to the victims inside the vehicle.

Eyes wide open in shock, mouth gasping for air, hurts, hurts, hurts, HURTS, HURTS HURTS,FUCK IT HURTS IT HURTS IT HURTS OHMYGOD WHAT IS HAPPENING TO MEEEEEEEEEEEEEE??? SOMEBODY HELP ME PLEASE, MOM. MOM, MOM, MOM, PLEASE HELP ME ANYBODY HELP ME OHMYGOD IMDYING IMDYINGMYSONSMYSONSMYSONSRORYNICKYRORYNICKYRORYNICKYRORY OH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!WHAT HAVE I DONE??????? I LEFT THEM ALONE I LEFT THEM ALONE NO MOTHER NO MOTHER I’M SO STUPIDSTUPIDSTUPID!!!!! WHAT IS ON TOP OF ME? WHAT IS THAT? I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE BUT I CANT GET THIS OFF OF ME WHAT IS IT? 

closing my eyes. too bright, too much, too hot,  close them for just a minute, put your head back and rest and close them for a minute, they are burning and something hot and sticky is in them and on your face and you suddenly smell your newborn son’s neck. the car is filled with the smell of new baby and the sweet smell envelopes you and you want to close your eyes but just for a minute and you hear your Dad’s voice and you can almost see him but he won’t help you and you cry a little and moan and almost pant like an animal and you hear his voice saying, “no, not yet, no, no, no, not yet – OPEN YOUR EYES!”

hard to breathe and whistling sounds and you sit straight and look down…and you push…that…off of you. you push hard and cry and try to breathe and then you push the arm away and you push…the other…away and you turn to your door and you slide out like a snake and fall to the ground. you get up to stand and fall again. you do this three times before someone holds you down and tells you to stay down. she tells you that you are badly injured and need to stay down. she is crying but she doesn’t  even know you…she cries as she holds you down gently.you try to tell her that if you can stand up you are alive but she can’t hear you. you have no voice left, just whistling, whining puffs of nothingness.

on your stomach with your face in the prickly grass and ditch weeds, you can smell the earth and the dirt and you can feel the sun hot on your back and the blood and your tears and the dirt become one and you hear the others whispering but you don’t care as you think about your babies and everyone you ever loved and those that loved you and it goes so fast in your head and spins and whirls that you feel dizzy and want to sit up. you almost feel like throwing up but you know that these people are sad already and you try to keep all that down and let yourself go..go..go.

you are in the ambulance tied to a board and the lady with the blonde hair is asking you who to call and you can’t say your mother cus she is old and far away and you know that is the call that will kill her so you tell her to call your brother who is reckless but strong like you and who will come for your sons if you die and they need him. she wants to know your children’s names and how old they are and what you would say to them if they were with you right now and you watch her try to write in her little coil notepad and her hands are shaking and you can’t breathe but she keeps talking and asking and writing as the ambulance moves to where they are taking you.

she asks about April’s family and numbers and you try to turn your head as far as you can in the brace

            and then close your eyes

                                              and disappear…. 

 

 

 

 

My Ah-Ha Moment

Throughout my life, I have had my most profound thoughts while I am not thinking at all, but rather moving through my day; standing at the counter chopping vegetables for a meal, driving the route to work early in the morning. The route I know like the back of my own hand, that is done with no conscious thought, really. Folding laundry. The mundane necessary tasks that are done with a mostly empty mind.

While standing in the shower today, I had what Oprah likes to call an “a-ha” moment. That moment that occurs when you suddenly realize something that you have been struggling with your whole life, or a difficult answer to a question you didn’t even know you had, I guess.

I have had a rough three years since my brother died. Been on auto-pilot and just kept moving forward, in spite of the fact that I should have just taken time off to deal with his passing and the very difficult fact that he lived with me during the end stages of his illness and had left a very huge hole in my existence with his leaving.

I would sit in silence, alone, and try to understand why his was the hardest loss I have endured thus far in my life. Having lost Father at 17, Son at 22, Cousin( like a sister) at 26, Mother at 42, and finally Brother at 49, my rational mind was telling me that I was older, wiser, more hardened and should be dealing with my grief faster, for lack of a better word.

And yet I was struggling daily, hourly, sometimes in ten minute intervals.

I could not listen to music for a year. Too much of a risk that I might hear a song that reminded me of him, or it would open up a memory that would increase the pain that I was so desperately working on keeping at bay.

I felt FULL of pain. I felt like I was smothering in my grief for my brother. I felt the physical pain and weight of his death sitting on my shoulders and upper back and mostly in my heart.

I would obsessively check my blood pressure every 30 minutes, thinking that I was having a heart attack or a stroke. I could feel such sharp pain, it would leave me breathless and hyperventilating, thinking I was dying too.

But, because I was alone, in the quiet, I would let that pain in. I would sit with it, and wallow in it at times, and allow it to fully wash over me. It came in waves. Sometimes, pretty big waves, which seemed to not want to end. At times, I felt like I was never going to be able to come back to myself or even be able to catch my breath. The intensity of that pain was so powerful, and so large, it dwarfed any emotions I have ever felt, aside from childbirth.

It felt like birth in reverse. Like a closing off, or amputation.

And when it came over me, rather than shutting it out, or running away in my mind, or getting up and leaving the house to force myself to keep it together, I would sit back like we all do on a plane when it is time for take-off. Hands gripping the seat arms, and feeling that  pull of the plane taking off into the sky.

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I allowed myself to be washed by it. I allowed it and all the feelings associated with it in.

And I came to the conclusion today, during my moment in the shower, that I wasn’t just grieving my brother, I was finally grieving them all properly and fully.

My rational mind has known they are gone from my life, some for many years, but my emotional being has kept carrying them with me.

When I lost my father, I was so incredibly young, that I ran away from it all. I self-medicated with alcohol and weed and stuffed it so deep, I didn’t even dare try to understand that loss. When I was present, I was helping my mother deal with material things, like cleaning out his clothing and going through about 6 suitcases full of paper and deposit and withdrawal slips from the bank.

With my son, I was also very young, and dealt with that by turning my face from the sun until I was pregnant again and had another child to look forward to. I remember pretending to be alright to my husband at the time and to my mother and close friends. I didn’t like the pain I was causing THEM by being honest about how much I hurt, so I quit being honest.

When my cousin Cindy died, I had children who needed their mother and her son who needed someone to be strong. I took her son home with me from the hospital as everyone seemed to forget in their own grief that his mother wasn’t there to care for him any more. Someone needed to go through all her personal things and ditch things she wouldn’t want her mother to see, and pack up her belongings neatly. Someone needed to hold her two lost, grieving brothers close and reassure them that things would be OK. That someone defaulted to me.

When my mother died, I had two teenage sons who loved their Nan very deeply, and so I tried to hide my emotions from them in order to soothe them into a false sense of security. I once again, had to deal with the packing up of a lifetime of belongings, and the financial issues that we all deal with, the estate and the paying of final debts. In fact, I can remember the only time I actually broke right down and cried deeply was in my basement about a month after she died, when I was going through hastily packed boxes, looking for light bulbs, as I needed one and just KNEW she would have at least five boxes of four in one of the damn boxes. I found one of her socks and suddenly just lost my mind. Sobbed hard, but quietly in that basement, not wanting my sons to hear me upstairs.

Yesterday, I woke up early to a beautiful spring day. I started cleaning windows and as they got cleaner and cleaner, and I could see the beautiful sun shining through them into my home, I felt freer..lighter…happy. I had music blaring and was just a physical beast. I did all the windows, I moved furniture around, I cleaned from top to bottom of my house and threw out minutia and dirt, bag by bag. I was so full of energy and the need to clean up that clutter and the dust of winter, that I didn’t even realize until today that I was actually cleaning up more than my home.

I can attest to the fact that we need to grieve fully and allow ourselves the time to let it work its way through us. I want everyone I love and even those I don’t, to know that it is healthy to sit and be still. To live with pain and allow it in fully.

It hurts.

So bad that some days you feel like you will die from it, or that it will take you to places you can never return from.

But in order to move forward and be in the now….really engaged in your own life and the endless possibilities that the future has for us all, you need to invite that pain in like an old friend. Get to know it. Learn that you are stronger and more fierce than it and allow it its rightful place in your life.

One of my favourite quotes from the movie Vanilla Sky is so pertinent to the way I am feeling now that I just have to leave it here:

“You can do whatever you want with your life, but one day you’ll know what love truly is.

It’s the sour and the sweet.

And I know sour, which allows me to appreciate the sweet.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eulogy for My Brother, Mark

What to say about my brother, Mark?

Well, we aren’t in church, so I can skip the part about telling you all what a Saint he was, because that isn’t the first word that comes to mind when thinking of him.

Everyone who knew Mark saw something different, I’m sure.

Over the course of his life, he was a son, a brother, a husband, an uncle and a friend.

I used to get frustrated with Mark’s inability to be tactful in his dealings with people. Rory pointed out to me that Mark did not HAVE that little switch in his brain that most of us have; the one that tells us to keep it to ourselves or stay silent when we should. Mark was so brutally honest about his opinions and his feelings that he was unable to keep anything to himself. I truly believe he felt that we all NEEDED and WANTED to hear every thought, good or bad, that he had about us. He wouldn’t feel true to himself or those he loved if he wasn’t being “straight-up” 100 % of the time.

One of his frequent complaints to my Mom when he was growing up was “Why am I always in trouble and SHE never is?” And my Mom would reply “She knows when to keep her mouth shut and you don’t.” Mark never learned that skill….ever.

He loved us all, with his whole heart for EXACTLY who we were at EXACTLY the moment he knew us. He took us flaws and imperfections and all and loved us not despite our flaws but loved the flaws just as much. The flaws to Mark were what made us who we were.

One of Mark’s greatest traits was his generosity and his amazing ability to forgive those who had wronged him.

Oh, don’t get me wrong- he had a hit“list”. And he usually referred to it once a year at a family gathering and would ask if any of us had anyone who needed to be added that year.

Mark hated to hear of stories of injustice occurring to regular folks. If any of us shared a story with him of someone we knew being wronged in some way, he was the first one yelling for someone to find his keys as he was going to go “make it right!”

And over the years, I watched him charge blindly into situations, some of them terrifying to me, without a thought for his own safety or personal freedom…he just knew someone needed his help and he knew if he didn’t deal with the situations, no one would.

So, he made some enemies along the way, but there is no one who will ever be able to say that my brother was a coward who sat back and did nothing when someone needed his help.

Mark was the most loyal person I have ever known in my life. That is something our parents taught us from a young age.  We could beat the stuffing out of each other daily (and we did as kids), but God help the person who came after either of us if the other one was around.

I will miss that now and also his incredible memory. It just isn’t fair that someone that put that many foreign substances into his body should still have a memory like an elephant!

We spent a lot of time in the last couple of years reminiscing about the past. I think he knew his time was limited and it felt good to relive some of his favourite memories all over again.

He told me, during one of our chats (when he was actually trying to prepare me, saying goodbye and telling me he was so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old & grumpy together as we’d always planned), that he believed he was going to a better place.

He had such a child-like wonder and inquisitiveness about what he would find on the other side…like it was going to be his next great adventure or trip. We had endless discussions regarding spirituality, morality and different belief systems. He wanted to know where he was going and if it would hurt at the end.

When the topic would become too much for me emotionally, he would throw in a joke about how chances were that I would die before him anyway, as I was such a shitty driver and also clumsy, so I could fall down the stairs any time. He was aware of his health problems; I was a ticking time bomb of clumsiness and crappy driving!

I have regrets that during those dark times for him I could not fully go as deep into the depths as he needed me to go. No matter how many times he told me during my life how strong I was, I couldn’t allow my heart or my mind to go to that place where someday he wouldn’t be here. I can barely do it now that it is a reality.

What I learned and take away from his illness, is how much was still left after so much had been taken away.

While he slowly lost physical ability, endurance and strength, he seemed to grow immensely emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. It was almost like he had to shed his old skin in order to be prepared with new tools when the time came for him.

Exactly two weeks before he died he was telling Rory they were going to be in the Okanogan in the summer jet skiing, while also making plans for a winter cruise with Cal and I.

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Infamous “smoking in his sleep” move.

I still don’t know if he was trying to remain optimistic for everyone or if he truly thought that if he had things planned, dying would have to wait.

The memories of Mark that seem strongest for me at this time are:

Mark as a typical pain in the ass little brother- always wanting to go everywhere I was going; me being held responsible for his safety. Removing slivers, wood ticks, leeches, bee stings, and trying unsuccessfully to remove his tongue from the clothesline pole the January he was 7 after I told him they tasted like cotton candy. He lost some skin that day but at least it prevented him from telling on me.

The two of us together in a room alone at the funeral home looking down at our Dad when we were younger than my boys are now. The absolute silence and togetherness of that moment and the strength we gave each other.

Waking up in the hospital room in the dark after my first son died to hear quiet crying and looking to my side to see my brother in full Gene Simmons make up with tears running down his face. My Mom had contacted him right in the middle of a hell of a Halloween party with the news, and he had come straight to the hospital to see me. We actually didn’t say a word to each other- he just held my hand and cried for me as I was too sedated and numbed out to cry for myself.

Mark on his wedding day- so handsome, so happy, so in love. I think that may have been one of the best days of his life, all his family and friends in one place celebrating their marriage and also the opportunity for a kick ass party when the formal stuff was over.

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Money-Drop Visit

Finding $100.00 bills all over my house after he had been to visit one time when the boys were babies.

In their piggy banks,

in the cookie jar,

in my coat pockets,

stashed in my car.

I even found one in a box of tampons in the bathroom. He had obviously noticed that I was struggling  financially and knew I was too proud to ask for help. So he helped and just went on his way without us ever talking about it again until I tried to pay some of it back.

He told me to shut up about paying it back.

Said he didn’t need it and he knew I spent it on something far wiser than he would have.

Hugging him close to me days before he died, in the middle of an acute episode of pain, hearing him cry for the first time in twenty-some years. He was hurting, he was afraid and he was finally allowing me to be the strong one again after years of him doing it. It was full circle back to our childhood with me rubbing his back and “shhhshhhing” him, telling him everything was going to be alright, and that I would make everything better. Just “shhhhh.”

 

 

I always knew in my heart that my big strong brother would not wither away. I told anyone who would listen that he would go on his own terms and his own timeline, which he did.

Watching as his life slipped away in the hospital that day, surrounded by his nephews and Gary and Jack, I was so very grateful that he had such strong loving hands upon him to ease his transition.

At the moment his spirit left his body, I physically felt it fly straight through me like a shattering burst.

1424320229906.jpgIt hit me hard enough to send me to my knees if Cal hadn’t been there to hold me up.

That energy was my brother’s soul impatiently dropping what he didn’t need any more- that tired, failing body and blasting off like a shooting star to whatever is out there- his next great adventure.

He took a huge chunk of me with him that day but also left so much of himself in my heart that will forever be with me until we meet again.

Safe travels, Muck – love you forever – Yaya XO

 

 

The Stupid Broke-Down Rusted-Out Merry-Go-Round

A year and a half ago I made the trek back to my home town, to fulfill a promise I made to my baby brother. Shortly before he died, he asked that his ashes be put into our father’s grave.

The cremation itself was quite an accomplishment, as he had never cared for the idea. I found out during that discussion that he was afraid that he could possible be burnt alive, due to someone’s mistake, or incompetence.

Having worked in healthcare for years, most specifically with hospice patients, I was pretty sure that this had never happened ever in the history of all time. ( Please don’t show me any stats and prove me wrong!)

Once I reassured him that he needn’t fear, he was totally on board with cremation so that he could go in with Dad. He liked that idea and I thought it was nice as well, being as our Mom insisted on being scattered here and there and I STILL have a portion of her in a lovely, discreet box in my living room, awaiting the mutual availability of my sons to go do it with me. ( Truthfully, none of us have the heart for it and have every excuse not to.)

While I was back home, the day following my brother’s memorial service, I took my man , my stepdaughter and her boyfriend out to the lake my family had a cabin at for my entire childhood. We spent all our summers there, swimming, boating, playing in the sand,  & endless hours at the  dinky playground with only three stupid rusted out playground items to play on.

I will be honest. I was pretty tired and hung-over on this day. The memorial had gone well and we had been hosted following the service, in our friends’ beautiful yard –  flowers, sunshine, music and plenty of bevvies. Relieved that I had actually made it through my eulogy without a breakdown, I was ready for a drink..or ten.

So, the next day, we are at the lake. We spent some time in the water, we walked the old board walk. I was a regular Anthony Bourdain, telling stories, sharing history of the lake, the cabins, the geography.

Everything was fine until we walked through the shady coolness of the trees and I was at the playground, without knowing it. Someone made a joke about the disrepair of the equipment and how nowadays, helicopter parents would be apt to sue if their precious snowflakes got cut on a jagged edge or rusty handle.

One moment I was laughing; the next I was frozen.

I was back there in the 70’s with them all. With the eyes and ears and heart of the daughter and sister I was. I am neither of those things now..nobody’s daughter, nobody’s sister.

My “new” family had walked on ahead, chatting, laughing, not noticing I was standing still.

That is where I finally broke.

After years of watching my brother dying- of watching him in pain and regret and wasting away.

Seeing that stupid fucking rusted out merry-go-round sitting still in the shade and quiet sent me over the deep end.

For one soul-shattering moment in time, I went back. I could SEE my parents sitting on the porch of the cabin. Enjoying the shade and a cocktail together.

I could HEAR the sounds of the music coming out of the  radios of the cars the teenagers cruised around in.

I could SEE my brother’s silky blonde hair wafting in the breeze of the merry-go-round. I could SMELL his wet puppy smell that all young active boys carry with them. I saw his dancing eyes and his whole life in front of him and how it all ended up and it broke my heart absolutely.

I can say honestly that I felt a piece of my very heart tear itself loose and drop there on the ground,dead. Forever to be hidden under the sand and leaves and snow in the winter.

It happened in the time it would take to count to ten and then it was gone.

And all because of a stupid rusted out merry-go-round.