Funeral High Heels

I have struggled with writing recently because I feel so heavy with grief. Sounds cliche or weird but it’s true.

I could write about the law in Georgia but I literally can’t wrap my head around the fact that it is now reality and there are a population of women in Georgia who are having their rights to their own bodies stripped from them.

I could write about the two hours I spent at the AT&T store today to fix the mistakes made in a 45 minute phone call last week. Much of the time today was more pleasant discussing last nights episode of Game of Thrones with the sales guy. He predicts Danaerus will kill Jon Snow. I predict Arya will kill Danaerus and Sansa will end up queen with Jon Snow ruling the North. Tyrryon? Death. I’m just not sure how.

But it all falls flat because most of my thoughts have revolved around my Dad dying. Because before my Dad died my best friend’s Dad died in January. Then two weeks after my Dad died my business partner (and friend)’s Dad died suddenly. Everything bad happens in threes. I just didn’t know it would be three dead Fathers.

The last time I saw my best friend’s Dad was on Christmas Eve. The last time I saw my business partner’s Dad was at my Dad’s funeral. And the last time I saw my best friend’s mom was at her husbands funeral. Too many Dads. Too much death.

It makes me contemplate my own mortality; and that of every one elses. So you see why I haven’t written. My mind is in a dark place.

I asked my mom about the urn at some point, as my dad was cremated, and she told me that they wouldn’t have an urn. It would be a “biodegradable container” that would be buried on church grounds in their memorial garden. My sister and I sorta looked at each other, and didn’t say anything, well I think I repeated the “Biodegradable container” part because it sounded like we were talking about coffee grounds or something.

We had dinner with my cousin the night before and she was raised Catholic, and I preemptively told her about the container. She also took it in stride. Sorta. She in her Jersey way said, “A what? What?! Wait what?!” then asked why we weren’t scattering him somewhere and I had asked that very question, my Mom said they decided they didn’t want to do that because “We don’t want to blow all over each other if it’s windy.”

I mean it’s a fair point.

The day of the funeral it was raining. We walked outside with umbrellas with the pastor carrying a rather large nice looking biodegradable container. Without much preamble and with very little circumstance he tromped through some leaves and plopped it into the ground in a hole while we all stood watching and standing in the mud and rain.

My Dad could have asked us to do any number of things with his ashes. He chose to be buried anonymously as the grave is not marked, it is just a large memorial garden with a plaque when you first enter with the names of those who are buried there listed.

He picked this so I couldn’t say anything about it, though I did have many thoughts about it. The plopping of the container into the hole was a bit much for me, as I had only been to funerals when one was lowered slowly into the ground or at memorial services where we did not see the actual burial. But it was as my Dad wanted it to be.

He liked his pastor, and he wanted his family there, and as soon as he was in the ground by the church he loved; it stopped raining. My business partner, and my friend, told me much later that during the funeral her dad sang each song and each verse without ever looking at the hymnal, he knew them all.

She clung to him crying and she remembered thinking, “What you wouldn’t give to be able to hug your dad right now.” And she was right, but she also didn’t know until two weeks later how incredibly prophetic that thought was.

I didn’t truly break down until I saw my best friend’s Mom. I’ve known her since I was 14 and like I mentioned, the last time I saw her was at her husband’s funeral in January. It was all incredible heart breaking and like fate had dropped us all together all those years ago so we would all have each other during this horrific year of loss.

I don’t remember a lot of my dad’s funeral. I cried a lot and people spoke to me and I spoke to each person who came in uniform and thanked them for coming for my Dad. They were all extremely nice and so open about their memories of my Dad. I know I wore high heels that I love and a dress that will forever be my Dad’s funeral dress.

My Dad took many secrets to his grave and I thought when I was younger that I wanted to know them all. That I knew he had a past and that I knew he even had a past family. I wanted to know everything. But when he died I felt like everything that needed to be said had been. That I knew all I needed to know. That for 34 years he was obsessed with being my Dad and I will be forever grateful.

I realized the things I didn’t know I didn’t need to know because they weren’t important to our relationship. I always say actions speak. He gave me 34 years of actions that spoke of his love and dedication to me and my Mom and my sister and that’s all I needed.

Grief makes you think about everything past and present and future. I hope for a future without the weight of this grief. But I long for my past with my Dad.

 

 

 

Why This Nurse Cares.

In my time as a psychiatric nurse practitioner I’ve had people react to me in many different ways. I often say people either love me or hate me. There’s not much of an in between. But that’s wrong; I am learning the in between exists.

There’s a gray area where some people live where they just don’t understand me and are scared to hope that I might be real.

It’s taken me some time to recognize this particular response to me as it presents as hate some times. Often times. I’ve had clients scream at me, “BUT WHY ARE YOU BEING SO NICE?! I FUCKED UP!” I’ve had clients say, “BUT WHY DO YOU CARE?! YOU AREN’T MY RELATIVE SO WHY DO YOU FUCKING CARE?”

It surprised me the first couple times. Why would I not care? Why would I be in the profession I’m in if I didn’t give a shit?

I’ve reflected a lot about this particular reaction to me.

Clients that stick with me; who have been with me through divorces, marriages, bearing children, gender changes, sexual orientation changes, sobriety and relapses, and any other major life event you can think of…these clients know that I’ve got their back. They may hate me sometimes. When I’m not doing what they want me to do and I may push them in ways they don’t want to be pushed. But I’m there for them through it all.

I tell clients I don’t get mad at them, I just try and understand where they are struggling and why and work through it with them. And it’s really true. It takes too much energy and would require taking things very personally if I was to get upset with clients and sort of counterproductive to my role.

A client who recently questioned why I cared about them with skepticism said it must be because I have to care because it’s my job because I have to care about everyone who walks through the door. I immediately shook my head no. I do not keep every one who walks through my door. I do not take on everyone who calls. And certainly not everyone keeps me.

It has to be a good fit on both sides. We don’t necessarily have to like each other but we have to have respect for one another and we have to feel safe with one another. I’ve discharged people who threatened me or who were too acute for a private practice. And people have discharged themselves when they don’t get what they want or need from me.

But my peeps, my clients and my patients, yes I care about them. I don’t know any other way to be. I don’t know how to sit with some one and hear their story and try and partner with them to move forward and not feel something toward them. Empathy. Compassion. Because it is from those clients who I learn the most. The clients who take steps forward when the world pushes them back; they are the people who inspire me. They are the stars to see, to feel, to experience, and to be witness to that brings me joy like nothing else.

I saw a client recently and we got in really deep about something and they teared up, and we had this moment, and I’m like you just got therapized. But it’s not just them it’s me who learns from them. Me who learns that it took almost two years to get a tear from them to watch them progress toward feeling the hard mushy feelings.

I care about people because I couldn’t sit in the chair I sit in and not care.

I trained with an APRN who was amazing. She taught me tremendous amounts about everything but mostly she taught me how to see patients as people. She said she did half hour follow-ups instead of the standard fifteen minutes a psychiatrist does because, “Ya know. I like to talk to my people.” I agree with her. I like talking to my people. I like to know them, and although caring about each and every one makes me vulnerable it’s also what makes me good.

It makes people trust me because they know I am prescribing to them in a way that I would prescribe and treat my own family member.

To wonder why some one would care hurts me. Because it means that person has been wounded. Deeply.

Why the fuck do you care?

My answer is because I can. Because I do. Because I see you and you are worthy of being cared about. My question back would be why are you scared of being cared about?

Stop the stigma.

Responding to “Christian” Discrimination. Yes, Lesbians Read the Bible Too.

In the aftermath of my Dad’s death my wife had contact with her estranged parents.

Estranged sounds rather polite. They kicked her out because she’s gay. She was homeless.

I often tell my wife our life should be a reality tv show as we just can’t make up the shit that happens to us. For those of you who know my wife’s story just continue reading. For those who don’t you may refresh yourself here and here.

I won’t say specifically what happened but I will say things publicly that need to be said and since the bible seems to be the only language they speak. Here goes.

1- To not tell some one you meet one of your children is married with her own children when they ask “How are your daughters?” or specifically, “Are they married?” is lying. Lying is a sin. Colossians 3:9 “Do not lie to one another,” Proverbs 12:19 “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment.”. Whether you agree or not this God forsaken country passed gay marriage. Your daughter is married and happy. To not tell people is your shame not ours.

2- To set the expectation that the only way you will re-engage in a relationship with your daughter is if she “puts this all behind her” and by “this all” you refer to her wife and partner of 11 years and her two children who have known her since the moment of their conception and birth…I can call that a lot of things. None of them without swearing (also a sin).

At the core though you are insisting she break up a loving family because of your beliefs. To tear apart a family is a sin. Proverbs 11:29 “He who troubles his household will inherit the wind,” Matthew 19:6 “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder,” and whether you agree or not we are all family. We are married and joined.

3- To kick your daughter out with nothing goes against the Bible. Timothy 5:8 “If any one does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his own family, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Your actions make you worse than an unbeliever. That you have no regrets and no apologies over that is something I will never understand. My definition of Christian is much different apparently than yours.

4- Comparing homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia actually causes a visceral response in my gut of disgust toward you. That you can judge our love and our family without ever knowing us without ever trying to understand. That is also Un-Godly. Never say that in my presence. It won’t end well. Your judgement toward your own daughter is a sin. James 4:12 “There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you that you judge your neighbor?” Romans 14:13 “Then let us no more pass judgment on one another, but rather decide to never put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother,”

5- You pick and choose what parts of the bible you follow and which you don’t. There are passages regarding slavery and treating slaves well and polygamy taking multiple wives. Those verses you decide not to incorporate into your belief system? There are also passages about love. Unyielding and unconditional and eternal love. Do you also choose not to incorporate those?

We have never asked you to “check your Christianity at the door.” We have asked you to incorporate love into your hearts, acknowledge that we are a family, acknowledge that we are your family, and never bring intolerance and judgement into our home or family.

If you find the above inconceivable as a “Christian” then yes. We have nothing left to discuss. And I will say it again. I pity you. You have missed out on twelve years of your daughter’s life, and three and half years of your two grandsons lives.

Their names are Jackson John and Declan George. Declan likes unicorns and Cinderella and Jackson likes Spiderman and remote control cars. That you will never know their snuggles, their scents as they hug you, or hear them call your daughter Mommy or see the way their eyes light up when she walks into a room. Well that is your loss and I am deeply sorry for it.

We can trade bible verses all day every day and still disagree. At the core is a stubbornness and discriminatory belief system toward our family. Hide behind bible verses. We will not. We love each other. We have sacrificed more than you can imagine to be a family and we will not be torn asunder. Ever.

Not for nothing, but your daughter found an excellent wife, and that also is in the bible…Proverbs 31:10-25 “A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels…Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

I close with a reminder for myself that out of the pain and judgement that left your daughter homeless came a family of myself, my wife, and our two sons. That without your discrimination we would not be. So I thank you and in time I may forgive and forget you. For I am a sinner too and I know my faults and sins. I am cynical and yes I judge the decisions you make regarding your daughter. As a parent I find it difficult not to.

1 Corinthians 13:4/13 “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Make love your aim.” 

I also read the bible. I am aware of its content. Don’t come at me with bible verses. Strip down the facade and let’s call it what it is. Intolerance. Discrimination. Darkness. There is no room for darkness and discrimination in our life. May the light find you and illuminate your lives.

  • The New Oxford Annotated Bible Third Edition and the Holy Bible Revised Standard edition were used for quotes. Yes I actually own two bibles.

 

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For those who couldn’t guess my current facial expression

What Makes a Marriage.

There are moments that make a marriage. There are moments that make relationships and trust and love.

My wife and I have been together over eleven years now. I can think of different moments that have made up our relationship. Most recently, we went to a garden center and bought pots and herbs and tomato plants. I spent a morning with the boys planting them and moving potting soil bags etc.

Then it rained. For days. I realized on day four of the rain the pots had no holes in the bottom as I saw my precious little plants drowning in water in the pots. I could see them from my bedroom window when I woke up.

I went downstairs and my wife is a much better morning person than I am. I told her my pot/plant drowning dilemma and looked at her. She knew that look. She sighed, and took a screwdriver and went outside to poke holes in the pots. It was before 8 A.M. as the boys wake up at 7 A.M.

I heard some banging and yelling because I slid open the door to the deck as it was finally sunny and nice. I asked a couple times if she was okay, and I wouldn’t say she swore at me verbally but she definitely was in her head.

I joined her outside with a big sharp knife. I found my precious pots disrupted and potting soil all over the ground around them. I don’t really know what happened before I got out there. But I just sliced some slits in the side of the pots and we laughed, well I laughed, she sorta sputtered about my stupid plants and pots and why didn’t I notice there weren’t holes in the bottom of them when I was planting them.

It was a moment of fun after a month of loss and grief, and reminder of what makes us fit one another.

There was this one time she got some sort of adhesive stuck on her hands. I was quietly reading my book on the chair and I heard her freaking out in the other room, this was years ago pre-boys, and I ignored her as I liked my book.

At some point she freaked out more loudly and I looked up from my book to see her glaring at me and I may have laughed because she still looked distressed at her sticky hands and I said, “What?!” she said/yelled, “You didn’t do anything!” I said, “What did you want me to do???” she said, “Well you could have googled it or something!” and then I cracked up even more. Then she eventually started laughing.

Now whenever one of us is in severe distress about something we always say the other one should have googled it after.

There was one time I woke up in the middle of the night (pre-boys) and heard my cats fighting in the basement. Or I thought I did. And I screamed and stumbled out of bed and started running toward the basement. Naked. Yes I sleep naked.

My wife woke up and also screamed and actually screamed (not a little scream, I mean like a big we are dying scream) the entire way following me into the basement with no idea why she was screaming or where we were going or why.

We got to the basement and my cats weren’t fighting.

It was a cat fight outside.

My wife was now fully awake and aware that we both ran through the house screaming and I was naked and we were now in our basement. And our cats were fine.

I am laughing with tears in my eyes as I write this because these are the moments that make us. These memories are not big events but they are small parts of our journey together. The laughter and the crazy are what holds us together during the sadness and the grief.

Marriage has brought me to my knees. Marriage has lifted me up. My marriage has shaped me whether I wanted it to or not. And the small, hysterical, crazy, moments are what makes my marriage survive and thrive.

*****This can be generalized to heterosexual marriages also….as gay marriages are shockingly similar to heterosexual marriages.

Life Without My Dad.

No one prepares you for the morning you wake up and are slammed in the face with the fact that today is your dad’s funeral. A part of me wanted to get it over with and another part of me wanted to run far far away. But I did it. I wore a black dress and cried a lot and hugged a lot of people I didn’t want to touch. But I did it.

I’ve been going to hot yoga at least 4 times a week, usually I go only 2-3 but I realized that I needed that hour to zone out. Because what’s been also difficult is dealing with my kids. Twin three year olds actually don’t care that my Dad died. They still want my attention, my love, and energy. Lots and lots of my energy.

Hot yoga gives me space away from them, away from my phone, and the world. Where I can just feel my feelings and if there are tears that mix with the sweat no one notices and if they do they don’t care. I’ve been doing hot yoga for roughly fourteen months, and until three weeks ago when my dad passed I didn’t realize how incredible it has been for my mental health.

Before now it was a workout but the last three weeks it’s been this sort of emotional cleansing. I only told two of the instructors that my Dad died. I went to a class the day after he died and I told that instructor later in the week when I saw her again. I didn’t want them to treat me any differently or feel awkward if they didn’t know what to say.

I credit hot yoga with my ability to function and move forward step by step over the last few weeks.

I realized at one point that I don’t have pictures of my Dad around. I mean there were a couple, but mostly it’s pictures of the boys in our house. I went to Rite Aid to print a couple 8×10’s- one of him in his military dress uniform and one of our entire family. It was a disaster. First it stopped uploading with a usb cable, so I uploaded a second time, then in the middle of printing the printer stopped working and the staff had to replace the cartridge and paper, then it erased my order again…

I mean literally anything that could go wrong went wrong. Including my twin three year olds screaming and running around the store.

Yes we were that horrible family who everyone is wishing would leave. When the worker came over for maybe the fifth time(?!) my eyes welled up and I said, “Listen I’m just trying to print literally two pictures of my Dad who died two weeks ago. Could you just get it to work this time?”

She gave me two coupons so I paid one dollar for both pictures, and apologized profusely and said, “We’ve all been there honey,”.

It’s true. When I talk to some one who has lost a parent it’s very different from when I talk to some one who hasn’t. There’s an understanding among those of us in this horrible little club of kids who’ve lost their parents that it’s just awful and nothing can ever really prepare you for it.

Even when the dementia was setting in, he was still there, I still had a Dad. Now I’m Dad-less.

The pictures printed eventually and I framed them and hung them in my house. When I walked by one tonight carrying Jackson to bed, I said “Look baby, say good-night to our family, good night to Poppy and Grandma,” and then named off my sister and her wife and our niece. Everyone in the picture. He looked at me, and looked at the picture and then kissed my cheek and my eyes welled with tears as I walked him up the stairs.

It feels comforting to me to say goodnight to my dad still.

My yoga instructors often talk about transformation and how going into a pose you will not come out the person you were going in. Embracing the pain and sitting with the uncomfortable will teach you how to tolerate distress.

I certainly am not the same person I was three weeks ago. I am transformed. I feel like I’ve gone deep into the pose and am trying to work my way out of it. Some day I will.

When I see the picture of my Dad in his dress uniform I remember all the times I hugged him and laid my head against his chest and felt those buttons push into my head. I remember the scent of him.

I loved hugging my dad as a kid. It was safe and warm and there were many times I hugged him in uniform. The fatigues had a different smell and feel than the dress. I see him dressed for the military and all I think of are the hugs.

 

How I Talked to my Three Year Olds About Death

My dad died last Saturday. He was ill for the last couple years, with a steady decline in the last six months. It was horrible for me to watch and even more horrible for me to contemplate explaining this to my sons.

Saturday came and he was on in-home hospice care. We brought the boys over and spent the day there. I do not regret this because the boys got to spend the day with our family and we all surrounded my dad with love the day he died. He even opened his eyes and smiled when Declan came in and said Hi Poppy when we arrived in the morning.

My boys are very intuitive and they knew Poppy was sick because he was laying in my parents bed, and not talking to them. They were timid at first being in the room, and then as the day progressed and they were outside running around with their cousin and we were all acting as normal as we could…they started running in and out of the room to check on Poppy.

Jackson left a purple flower on his bed.

Later in the evening they left and Jackson said “Good-bye Poppy” loudly.

About an hour later my dad died. I think he waited for them to leave.

Then we had to figure out how to tell our sons. Poppy was a constant fixture for them for three years, and toddlers have a concrete vision of our world.

Sidetrack: My cousin sent me what I refer to as “Death books” about three weeks before my dad passed. They are children’s books specific to speaking about death. I hadn’t looked at them yet because I wasn’t ready to and my wife and I joked about the “Death books” as they came prior to us coming to terms with the fact that he was dying. I pulled them out of the box and held one up and said, “Look babe, they got their first death books!” I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I finally visited the death books and talked to my sister and sister-in-law about how they talked to my niece. They used the heaven version and that she has guardian angels. The books did give me some good language to use and I agreed with the tactic of being concrete, not saying “he went to sleep and won’t wake up” because that seems like a set-up for a phobia of sleep.

We are not religious. But the heaven/sky/angel version of death is a positive one. I’m down with that. My wife came into my room the morning after Poppy died and told me she tried telling Declan about Poppy when he asked to go see him.

Declan came trotting in after her and said, “Poppy in the sky Mama?” So for lack of  a better explanation I said “Yes”. He’s in heaven which is I suppose in the sky. He accepted that and we moved on for the day.

Later in the evening though he and Jackson brought up Poppy, and Declan again asked about the sky. I told them that “Poppy’s body stopped working. He was very sick and sometimes when some one is older and sick their body stops working. So we would not be able to actually see Poppy or talk with him, but that he is watching over us all from Heaven.” I did use the term “died” at one point, I think later in the week.

They seemed to accept this. And since Saturday they’ve asked about it, and we’ve sat and talked, and I’ve cried and my wife has cried in front of them both, and we say, “We miss Poppy, and it makes us sad, and it’s okay if you are sad too.” And they generally give us hugs and move on.

Then today in the car Declan said, “Poppy’s body was hurting?” I said “Yes baby, he was hurting,” and then Jackson said, “We go see Poppy and Ba? I mean, we go see Ba? (Ba is Gramma)”. And I burst into tears. Because he gets it. He gets that he won’t see Poppy again. Then Declan asked me if my body was hurting, and I said “No baby, and Mommy’s isn’t either.”

Gramma came over last night, and they told her Poppy was in the sky, and she agreed. Her being here alone I think cemented it for them that we wouldn’t see Poppy again.

Grief is heavy. So heavy it feels like a weighted blanket on top of me all the time. But to grieve and have small children is awful. They rip off the band-aid every time it starts to stick a little. They don’t mean to, but they randomly bring up Poppy and they catch me off guard and it’s like a knife to the heart every time.

I’m glad that they understand and I feel like we have a parenting win with this whole explaining death thing to two toddlers. But as a daughter who lost her Dad, it’s incredibly painful. Because when they ask about Poppy I’m supposed to be a strong Mama, when really I just want to be a daughter crippled with grief. But I can’t be.

This is the stuff no one tells you about parenting. My heart goes out to any parent who has lost a loved one who has small children because to keep showing up as a parent in these dark days is the one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

 

No Heat. No doorknobs. Purple Flowers. The Death of my Dad.

I got the call from the hospice nurse there was a sudden decline and went after work to my parents house. The two nurses and an aide were there as well as my sister and sister-in-law and Mom.

I had to pee.

Preface: My Mom decided to replace all the interior doors a month prior to my dad’s decline.

I went to one of two bathrooms at the house and when I went to close the door I realized there was no doorknob. Just a big hole where the doorknob should be. It also would not stay closed. So I shoved a towel in the hole and shoved some more on the floor to help hold the door shut. Then I peed.

I relayed my doorknob issue to my mom at one point and she agreed that there were in fact no doorknobs on any of the doors yet. The towels did the trick though.

Then we were all sitting around my dad’s bed. Watching him labor to breathe and we realized it was rather chilly. The furnace died.

After we made that realization there were a few seconds of silence, and I broke it with the statement, “No heat. No doorknobs.” Another few seconds of silence and then we all cracked up laughing.

The problem with being a nurse who has worked with the dying is I knew the timeline. I knew when I saw my Dad that night with the heat and doorknobs that it wouldn’t be that night.

I told my wife I predicted another 24 hours. And exactly 23 and a half hours later he passed. His color was still too good that Friday night and his skin still looked normal-ish, and roughly 22 hours later his skin looked different, darker, the pre-death look. And his breathing was more ragged. He also had the smell. The smell of a dying body is distinct.

I went home Friday night and took my time getting ready the next morning. With a feeling of foreboding I took a shower and picked out my clothes carefully, because what does one where to the death of their father? Black? Pastels? Casual or more formal? It was bizarre that I was even thinking that but I was. Then we got the boys in the car and my wife took her car too, as they would leave earlier than I.

We were driving up a main route and I saw a car coming toward me with flashing lights. It was a long line of cars with flashing lights, they all had a orange signs in their windows, “Funeral”. It wasn’t lost on me that the universe placed a massive funeral procession across from me as I drove to see my Dad for what I suspected would be the last time.

It was a long day. We kept it as normal as possible for my kids and my niece. We all played outside in the backyard, we had the boys nap in their sleeping bags in the guest rooms and we made sandwiches for lunch. All along though my dad was in their room, on oxygen, not conscious, and laboring to breathe, as he prepared to die. The boys and my niece would randomly run in and out of his room and ask about him sleeping and being sick.

At one point outside the kids were picking little purple flowers and putting them in our hair and their hair. Later I walked in to check on my Dad and my son Jackson had apparently placed one of the purple flowers on the bed with my dad just at the tip of his fingers.

I saw it and smiled and told my Dad it was there and we left it there all day until he died.

He waited. He waited for my kids and wife to leave; he waited for my sister and niece to leave, and for my mom’s friend to come and be with her. He always told me that he preferred me with him whenever he was admitted to the hospital. Said I was the most calm.

He knew I was the one who would handle him dying. That I wouldn’t’ want my kids there. That I would make sure he was comfortable.

I had this sort of detached feeling that whole two hours at the end. Like I knew it was coming but couldn’t process it or verbalize it at all. I just ran through the motions of existing and being aware of his increase in agitation and giving him more pain meds and telling him it was time to go. My mom and her friend and I sat chatting in between checking on him and trying to eat dinner. Trying to be normal.

My sons knew something was up that day. Especially after nap time. They were irritable and hyper. When they went to leave my son Jackson, who never says good-bye, ran into my dad’s room and said, “Bye Poppy,” very forcefully and purposefully. He stood there with me and looked right at my dad and repeated it, “Bye Poppy.” Then he looked at me and I said, “Good job baby, he’s sleeping, but he heard you,” and then Jackson marched from the room ready to go.

Somewhere in his little heart he knew.

Later that night I came home and smiled thinking of this morning when I picked out my outfit and I peeled it all off and put on the flannel button down I took from my dad’s closet before I left my parents house.

My Dad’s death is devastating to me, but watching him live with dementia for the last two years was was equally devastating. It’s been bittersweet on so many levels. I miss him, but I missed him before, as the disease took his brain and personality. I wish for more time with the man he was but I also wish him peace as he was suffering.

When I saw that he wasn’t breathing and knowing I had just been in the room not ten minutes earlier and I had been telling him it was okay to go for the last day; it was an acute pain and grief such that I never felt before. But I’m glad I was there for him. I’m glad he’s at rest.

What I will remember of my dad’s last day is the way he smiled when he heard Declan come in and say “Hi Poppy,” very loudly. It was the last time I would see him smile. I will remember a small purple flower on his bed left by little hands saying good-bye in their own way. I will remember curling up in my bed in his thick flannel shirt.

I will remember his death because it was a few days of waiting, but that was after two years of watching him slowly slip away. I hope that after this acute pain fades I will not think of his death but of his life. My Dad’s life revolved around loving his family.

I am at peace knowing the love of his family surrounded him in his death.

With much love…rest easy Dad.

At Home Waxing and Balloon Disasters…Mom Life

I went to the hairdresser today. Couple things happened when I had my boys. They started giving me gray hairs. Too many for me to ignore. So I started dying my roots and highlighting. I also developed an affinity for waxing. Lasts a long time and my pain tolerance sky rocketed after carrying and delivering twins. I go see some one who waxes upper legs/bikini line every 6 weeks or so. But some times I do a touch up in between visits.

There I am. Wearing a bath towel, in the kitchen, hair in a ponytail, boys watching a movie so I have about ten minutes before they lose interest and require my attention. I had waxed a few spots on my legs before, but none up close to the bikini line.

I realized that my mom pooch from carrying twins (which is smaller now than it was, and hopefully with enough hot yoga will continue to shrink) was interfering in my waxing. However, hot yoga gave me enough flexibility to contort myself into a crazy position with my head practically in my crotch and my hands trying to spread the wax, hold the pooch out of the way, and then put the paper on and….then I realized my hair was stuck in the wax.

I tried flipping my ponytail up and then I had to let go of pooch, pull hair out of wax on leg, towel dropped, I’m naked, swearing, and in walks my wife. Literally I’m hopping around the kitchen going “Fuck this fuck fuck fuck” trying to pull the wax out of my hair, dropped the towel, and she looks at me, shakes her head, and keeps walking.

So I grab the meat scissors. Because obviously I couldn’t take the time to walk ten feet and get real scissors and I cut the glob of wax out of my hair along with a couple inches of my hair. One problem down.

Then I wax the spot on my leg, almost in tears at this point but trying to laugh about it. Then my kids come over and ask what Mama is doing, I’m struggling with the towel, and then I drop wax all over the floor. It didn’t improve from there.

A couple weeks later my wife asks me to not wax at home anymore. She says I can’t handle it, and neither can our kitchen. To her credit she said all of this with a straight face.

I’m at the hairdresser’s today and I tell her I need a trim. Then I hold up the bunch of hair that is about two inches shorter than the rest. I tell her it was a wax disaster and not to ask any further questions.

I can still see the boys faces, total bewilderment and I’m thinking, this is what makes a family. These moments when I’m such a freaking mess. No one else in my life sees me like this. Not that I would want any one else to see me with wax in my hair, naked, and swearing in my kitchen, but my point is these are the moments that make family. They are intimate, raw, and incredibly vulnerable. I can laugh about it now, and I cracked up telling my hairdresser.

It was a bad night and the damn balloons (about a week old) were still high on helium, weighted down with little hearts. I was sick of tripping over the balloons because I told the boys they couldn’t have them in the family room, so they would park them between family room and rest of house.

I tripped on Jackson’s three times. I told him all three times to get the balloon into the toy room. The fourth time I picked up the weighted balloon and tossed it into the playroom while yelling, “Move your balloon now!” Which was stupid because I was moving it. But I was losing it that night. They were wearing me down.

The boys were right there. Watching my meltdown me throw the balloon into the playroom. It somehow managed to skid over one of their little wooden chairs and much to all of our horror we watched Jackson’s balloon get torn clear in half. It caught on something on the chair and literally just completely ripped silently in half. Then it floated sadly to the ground in multiple pieces.

The three of us looked at each other. Then Jackson burst into tears, “My balloon Mama! Not Nice Mama!” And a whole litany of name calling and blaming me. How to explain to a three year old that I actually did not mean to do that at all, and I could never have predicted that if I tried. I felt like the worst human in the world. I tore my three year old’s balloon in half. I thought he had recovered though and we were putting it to rest.

But today, two weeks later, we were driving home from daycare and Jackson said, “Mama, you hurt my Elsa balloon,” and I had to say, “Yes baby, I did. I’m sorry.”

He wasn’t upset, just stating a fact.

The boys see me at my worst and I hope they also see me at my best. I guess it’s how we all react and recover from our worst that shapes our bond and love for one another.

My wife and I were just us for ten years. It’s taken such incredible adjustment for us to add two little beings into our life. But moments like the wax and the hair, that makes me feel like me. I’m being myself with them, and that’s such a relief. Because while they were newborns it was hard to be any one at all because we were so sleep deprived and before that pregnant so it was like I didn’t have my body to myself. And adjusting to two new people in our lives who are solely ours has been one of the hardest and best things I’ve ever done.

So yes. I’m sorry boys. Your Mama is so smart in some ways, and so incredibly dumb in others. I own and operate a business and can bring pretty much any one to tears if I pull out my psychiatry skills. But I can’t wax my upper leg without cutting out a chunk of my hair. I have what I thought was incredible patience, but apparently not for tripping over balloons. And I seriously had no idea or intention of ripping it in half.

But I wouldn’t change these moments. Because I want my sons to know me and love me as I am. Just me. Because I want to know them and love them with all their imperfections too.

But for God sakes just move the damn balloon when I asked and then we could all have been spared the balloon murder. For real.

“Why Do the Boys have Two Moms?”

The question was asked innocently by one of their three year old friends. Actually the specific friend whom they shared an office with while I was pregnant and her mom was pregnant. We worked together and delivered three weeks apart.

She asked once before. About a year ago, “Where’s the boy’s daddy?” and her mom fielded that one, said, “Some people have two mommy’s and some people have two daddy’s and some people have a mommy and a daddy,” she looked at all of us, and said, “Okay,” then kept playing with the boys.

It caught me off guard being asked again. I thought we covered this a year ago. And this time it was a different question, “Why do Declan and Jackson have two moms?”. It was directed to me this time, not her mom, so I repeated the question loudly for her mom to hear while I also gave myself time to compose an answer. “Um, yeah, they are just… special?” I sorta shrugged and looked at her mom like ‘please God help me,’ and so she said what she said a year ago, “Because some people have two mommy’s.” Then she named a kid at daycare with two daddy’s and then their little friend nodded and walked away.

I had no answer ready for that question. Why do they have two mommy’s? Declan’s answer would be “Why not Mama?” or something equally philosophical.

Jackson would probably laugh and shrug and run away. Avoiding all confrontation.

I mean our answer is because we fell in love. Cliche yes but true. Do kids of single mom’s get asked why they don’t have a dad? I’m sure they do. But perhaps being abandoned by a parent is more acceptable in certain circles than having two loving parents of the same gender.

I was highly aware of the fact that this was not my kid asking. So I didn’t feel right saying “because we fell in love,” or something else that established my wife and I as in a relationship. Because who am I to teach some one else’s kid about sexual orientation?

It gave me a lot to think about as I’m sure she won’t be the last kid to ask us this question. And in that moment what the hell do I say? I think her mom’s answer was good. “Some people have two mommy’s and some people have two daddy’s and some people have a mommy and a daddy.” I think that works. I just now have to remember it and not get all flustered in the moment.

I also think it’s fantastic that my straight friend had the best answer and was the most calm about the question and came up with the best most coherent answer. She’s woke. Obviously.

I apparently am not. Because I literally could not come up with a legitimate explanation why my son’s have two moms. Let me tell you, when I blabbered out “because they are…special?!” all I could think of was that scene in Elf when they say, “You’re not a cottonheadedninnymungins, you’re just…special.” Will Ferrell’s face falls because he knows it’s not good to be “special”.

So that’s a no-go in the future.

But let me tell you. This is the shit straight people don’t think about. They don’t wonder about being asked by other kids, “But why does little Jimmy have a Mommy and a Daddy?” They don’t worry about being the ones to expose other children to other sexual orientations other than heterosexual. And this is an example of internalized homophobia.

Internalized homophobia is carrying the hatred and discrimination of society within the individual. I clearly carry some internalized homophobia because I’m worried about “exposing” other people’s children to my family. That’s messed up. That shouldn’t be. I should not feel shame or fear of offending others just by existing with my wife and kids. But I do. Because we live in a society where hate is real and homophobia is literally down the street from us.

I have internalized homophobia from existing in a society that looks down on homosexuals. From hearing in the media and being told to my face that my family is less than other families because my son’s have two moms.

There will be so many more moments that come up raising kids and explaining our family. I do not know how I will handle them. But I know that surrounding myself with friends who accept my family make-up and defend it…that is a strength. Surrounding my children with accepting and loving people is a first step in combating the hate we have yet to face.

 

Picture- from 2016 at age one. It was freezing and they were day one post vaccines. Cranky and cold…good times!

 

F*$# Dementia.

I haven’t been writing as much lately because I’ve been trying to cope with watching my Dad decline further into the grips of dementia.

I keep trying to write about other stuff and it just falls flat. Because I’m thinking about this.

There are a lot of different ways people cope with grief and illness. My Dad is not dead, but I grieve the man he was because that man is already gone.

Grief is a fickle bitch I’ve decided.

I have a few family members who face death and grief and illness head on. I walked into one of my aunts houses several years ago, and she was baking bread. I asked what it was for and she said for one of my Great Aunt’s funerals. I said, “She died?” She hadn’t died. My aunt was just preparing.

I am not the face head on type; more of the avoidant and detach variety.

I find it incredibly painful to see my dad now, but I do every week at least and I bring the boys too because it’s important that they have this time with him. But the rest of the week I try and turn it off. Focus on my wife, the boys, and work. Don’t think about it. But then I have the song in a playlist of Tangled Up Puppet by Harry Chapin. My Dad and I danced to it at my wedding.

That is one of the my best memories with my Dad. I feel incredibly blessed that he was in good health that day, that he was so happy and proud, and that we got to rock it out on the dance floor together. We are both corny and crazy and we both had so much fun dancing. So that song will come on while I’m driving in the car to daycare to pick up the boys and I get there and I sit in the car and I remember that guy, my Dad, and my eyes well up as I think my boys will never know that guy. They will miss out.

Something will happen and I’ll think, I bet I can fix that, at my house, and I think, I should call Dad…and then I remember. He can’t help me fix anything anymore, or lend me his tools, or bitch that he loaned me his tools and I haven’t returned them. I miss it all. The good and the bad. I miss fighting with him. Because that man and I could argue. It was ugly sometimes. It takes us both a long time to reach our fuse. But when we do. Watch out. I definitely got his Irish temper.

I’ve also been called a redhead twice recently. I think that’s weird as I have brown hair.

That’s an aside though.

He and I clashed over just about everything at one point or another, but we were also incredibly close and I can and likely did say just about anything to him over the years. It also just hurts me and makes me angry that I saw him today for St. Patrick’s Day, and it wasn’t the normal jovial celebration. I’m not sure he knew it was today. St. Patrick’s Day was always his day. The Irish dude who married into a family of Swedes. He didn’t own any other time or day but this holiday.

I was talking about it with my family and some one said they wish for more time, and I said I would give anything to have one more moment with him lucid and the man he was pre-dementia. But this man with Dementia is suffering, and it breaks my heart to watch.

To reconcile those feelings is insane. Because I don’t want him to die, but I don’t want him to suffer.

So fuck dementia. As you slowly take my Dad I flip you the bird. Because honestly that’s what my hot tempered Irish Dad would want me to do.

p.s. The pic is because I am confused by the redhead comments, and I knit my first hat! Yes I made the hat! I also realized I knit more when I am stressed. So I’m sure this is only my first of several hats.