Fever.

This is a draft that began during Spring Break (April) 2022. Newer, more relevant content coming soon.

It started innocently enough, a little tickle in my throat as I drove into work. As the day went on that tickle turned into an itch that got worse as I sniffled and swallowed all the extra goo my sinuses were suddenly making.

By that first night I felt bad, not awful but bad. Bad enough to take an at-home COVID test before going to bed. Negative.

Woke up feeling even worse, took a second test.

Negative.

I don’t remember most of the day, but I do remember wishing someone would pull a fire alarm or just send me home.

At one point I coughed myself stupid to the point where a coworker thought I was choking to death, I thanked her profusely at the end of the day for caring enough to check. Feverbrain was so glad someone cared.

Once the students went home I took a lie down in one of the kids cubby’s (it’s like a cubicle but for students, and this one had gym mats on the floor). I laid down sipping water and forcing myself to eat crackers for about 10 minutes. At one point my supervisor stopped to ask if I was having chest pains, I hadn’t realized I was holding my chest as I lay there.

As I packed up my things for the extra long weekend at B’s, house to ourselves with only the puppies to keep us busy, I took yet another covid test. Negative. Then I noticed the thermometer I keep in the medicine cabinet and decided to check my temperature..

101.4

By Saturday afternoon that number had climbed to 102.4 by one thermometer’s measurement. I say that because I’d gone out to buy a non-digital version of a thermometer, because if I couldn’t quantify my illness by some outside metric how bad could it really be?

Really fucking awful, that’s how bad.

Lying in the fetal position crying for my mom to come kind of bad (which has been established with B as the metric, the way to know I am Really Truly Awfully Sick).

Coincidentally, crying cause I’m sick and want my mom made me cry even harder knowing she wouldn’t come. This then lead to other always-helpful cycle of thoughts like “She can’t come cause she left me”, and everyone’s favorite “She left because I didn’t save her”.

Logically I know that, but I was sick and rational thinking was not a priority for my brain.

Instead it ruminated to the darkest, most self-loathing, deprecating doomsday scenarios that could be conjured. Questioning all my choices and leaving them lacking. If in that moment I had acted on any of those thoughts I would likely be unemployed, single, possibly homeless and very fucking sad.

I did not. Instead I got B to bring me some water, make me peas & rice, and then passed out for 14 hours.

I wouldn’t say I woke up feeling refreshed, but I was certainly better than I had been.

In the end I took 5 COVID tests, all negative, over the next 5 days. Turns out a fever can fuck you up real bad, even if it isn’t ‘Rona-related.

Wash your hands people. Wash Your Fucking Hands.

Things that Sting

I’ll be at the store for something extremely trivial but for whatever reason absolutely necessary at the moment, when something small catches my eye. Something that reminds me of my boyfriend, or an old friend. Maybe a game or puzzle or some other activity I think so and so would really enjoy. Or maybe it’s an inspiration, something that will spur me onto learning a new skill, or keeping up with a habit.

Whatever it is I’ll generally buy it if it’s reasonably priced, the potential of that purchase bringing me a hopeful glow inside of what may come. How so and so will enjoy them, or how much fun it’ll be to do X with that other person.

Generally these purchases reach their recipients, are used in some other fashion, or is relegated to a hidden space because it’s been too long to return the item I now realize will never see use. It’s shameful, and I try my best to find new homes or purpose for these items, and I know eventually they’ll find a place that isn’t hidden under my desk…

But it’s not the shame or guilt of these impulse buys that stings, I can deal with my impulsivity just fine.

It’s when I see my mom in these actions.

How she would go grocery shopping and see DIgorno’s on sale, 2 for 7.99. We’d agreed a long time ago Digorno’s was better than delivery, not to mention one of the only quick dinner options we both liked.

Or maybe it was my favorite chai tea on sale, or a style of shirt I always wore, or some other thing that was on sale. Clearance section. Two for one.

BUt they weren’t. They just caught her eye, and she thought of me, and maybe we could spend some time together when I stopped by to pick it up. To have some pizza and watch Dexter.

God how I hated it, I knew she had the best intentions but the last thing I wanted to deal with was stuff I didn’t pick out. I had to find a place for, go get from her, I don’t actually like that brand of chai tea…

And now, nearly two years since she left, it stings to think of how many messages she’d left asking when I could come by and “grab that stuff”.

If I wanted to come over Friday night cause “There was this wicked deal on DiGiorno’s ”

“Did you wanna finish that last season of Dexter? If not I’m gonna go ahead and cancel HBO….”

And I just wish…

I wish she would have stayed. I wish that she’d have taken me up on the calls to go for a Sunday walk or play a game I found, gave sewing or painting a try…

I wish she’d known she didn’t have to buy things to get my attention, she just had to share her attention with me.

And I wish I’d’ve fucking gone over more often for coffee and a chat, but I didn’t.

More than anything else though, I wish she’d stayed. That she could’ve found a reason within herself. A reason to believe it would not feel so awful forever. To not to take those pills and cut those wrists before curling up with her pillow and leaving everything behind.

To not leave me behind.

Now my eyes sting.

Snow

My favorite time is the quiet time. That all too brief spell when freshly fallen snow blankets the world and muffles everything.

A muted world.

I’m a hypocrite, though, and I know there are days when I can’t stand the quiet. Where I rave and fight against the possibility of being left to my thoughts.

But tonight, tonight I embrace this quiet calm. Knowing it won’t last. Knowing this snow is only teasing, and by morning it’ll be an obstacle.

A brief respite to myself.

Avoidance; a How-To guide for beginners

Now I know we’ve all likely been confronted with feelings or facts we’d rather not acknowledge, so I’ve put together this post for the uninitiated (or anyone new to avoiding the uncertain and uncomfortable).

Keep your hands busy, find a craft or a chore or an errand that NEEDS doing right now. By focusing on these urgent matters those feelings, that reality of the situation, isn’t in the forefront.

Personally I (don’t) enjoy making lists of things, that way there’s a physical reminder of the looming tasks I’ve yet to accomplish. Having this physical reminder keeps me focused on The specific tasks I can avoid, as opposed to the nebulous and/or undefined feelings I’m really trying to avoid.

Below is a typical list of tasks I could perform in lieu of actual emotional work (aka dealing with feelings )

  • Gotta insulate those windows, better run to Home Depot and get all the supplies
  • Your bedroom is a mess, better get on it…actually no, that’s gonna remind you of your reality. Moving on…
  • Do laundry, heck the machine does most of the work. Wash everything, blankets, sheets, coats, throw it all in
  • Start a project, maybe even finish that embroidery or paint by number that’s been cluttering your life.
  • Search Pinterest for ideas for projects you wanna try but probably never will

Whatever you do, DO NOT sit with your feelings, talk about them, or write them down.

  • Doing so will result in FEELINGS.
  • Feelings you may not understand, and which may be uncomfortable or downright painful. These may include:
    • Anxiety stemming from the lack of stability and uncertainty in the future
    • Sadness
    • Worthlessness or Despair from the idea that your parents were the only two humans fully invested in your reality, and now that they’re dead you’re alone
    • Loneliness in knowing that previous feeling isn’t something that other people understand

However, writing them out as a note on your phone while chain smoking on the back porch may be beneficial. Posting it to a quasi-anonymous blog where it’s likely never to be seen by anyone you know could also be considered “productive”.

Congratulations, you’ve passively acknowledged your feelings!

“It’s like the ice bucket challenge, but with feelings instead of fingers“

So you remember the ice bucket challenge, right? It was supposed to be a fundraiser thing for ALS or something; instead it became an excuse to dump ice on yourself and film it for Facebook.

Simpler times.

Anyways; I never understood what was “challenging@ about dumping ice over your head. I mean, if anything it’s just a refreshing way to cool off.

I have a better idea.

Instead of dumping perfectly good ice everywhere we put it in a bucket. Then we add a little water, and you hold your hand in the freezing water as long as you can.

Now THATS a challenge. I’m gonna assume you’ve probably never had a reason to purposefully freeze your fingers, but have you ever stuck your hand in a snowbank sans gloves? Or had to stand out in windy, frigid weather with some bit of skin left exposed?

It fucking hurts, but not like anything you’ve felt before.

At first it’s a shock, then you start to feel the stabbing of the cold as your nerves freak out telling your brain “DANGER!”. It might start to ache and throb as the tissues get damaged, the cells literally freezing and expanding.

At a certain point the pain changes, it’s gotten so intense, too intense. With so many neurons sending so many signals of different pains the brain short circuits.

It turns off the pain. Your appendage, now slowly dying in the cold, feels like nothing.

Nothing.

Not better, not ok, but void. A vacuum in the place where something was.

That’s where I’ve been for a while now, but instead of my body it’s my brain. My heart & soul, the place where I’d feel sick over the loss or giddy about <insert things I have enjoyed>.

It’s worse somehow, like emotional constipation so bad it’s all just impacted feelings stuck somewhere deep down; and it ain’t budging.

So yeah. That’s grief some days, at least for me.

Leave me a comment if you’ve ever felt something like this, and how it’s gone for you.

Family is a 4-letter word

If you’ve spent some time here, read along with the story so far you may have noticed I don’t seem to spend much time with Family.

“Why is that?” You wonder, “With so much loss you’d think the family would come together and support each other. Bloods thicker than water after all…”

Yeah, except when it isn’t.

Except when you spend the anniversaries of your parents deaths mostly alone, keeping busy with as many mundane things as you can find.

When you get a phone call from your mother’s brother on the anniversary of your dads death, a man who only met him a few times over 30 years ago, and he is the Only Person to ask “How’re you doing?”

When you remember the last moments of your dads life, holding his hand surrounded by strangers. Those two other people that share his DNA and a vague resemblance to you, those same two you haven’t seen since that fateful afternoon last August.

Family, the way it’s portrayed by the media as this steadfast harbor in a storm, is a lie.

Family is no more than those people who share a vague genetics connection to me. Who’s concern only extends as far as how I might be of use in their times of need.

Family is a curse. A promised lie I can’t help but fall for each and every time it’s spoken. Like some pathetic dog returning to its master despite their indifference and neglect, when even the dog knows it’d do much better if it just stayed out alone.

It hurts to know it’ll never be. I’ll never have the love and support I see taken for granted by so many.

Que sera sera,

One Year Later ; A reflection & “as told by Dad” ghost story is

Today marks the first year since my Dad died.

That’s exactly one year of my existence on a planet where my parents aren’t. Where I can’t call them, or stop by on a random Tuesday to say hi. A whole circuit around the sun on a big blue rock when I didn’t have them to reach out to.

It’s been a long year, but it’s only the first. I’ve seen & felt grief in so many ways I never imagined; and it hurts.

That’s just another piece of the story though, and who reads a story where everything goes right?

Nobody, because it’s the hard stuff that makes it worthwhile somehow. Even when it doesn’t seem like it. It’s diving into what’s unknown, uncomfortable & potentially painful that makes us.

But I digress, I started this with the intention of telling you a a Real Life Ghost Story, so here it is:

On a summer day, long long ago Dad went for a country drive with an old friend. Though they didn’t have a destination in mind, they were hoping to find a new fishing spot along along the streams that run throughout the hills of western MA.

As they drove the road started to curve awat from the River, bringing them higher into the hills. Up here the homes become more sparse. The trees thicker, the bright summer day began to feel heavy as the two turned a sharp corner, noticing a clearing in the trees up ahead.

As the truck approached the men realized what they’d found, not unusual in rural New England, the gate of a crumbling old cemetery.

The clearing was perfect for a break from the truck where they’d sat for so long, so the two men peeled themselves from the seats to stretch their limbs. Dad & Friend wandered together for a bit, trying to make out what was written on the headstones without much luck.

Eventually the two split up, with Dad heading towards the back of the clearing. Here the stones were little more than crumbling lumps, barely distinguishable from the ground. Dad see something off to his right, near the back edge of the cemetery.

As he gets closer it’s clear that this it’s another headstone, but in much better shape than any of its neighbors. Once he reaches the stone he reaches out to brush away some of the dirt and loss that covered the writing, only to recoil in horror before running full tilt back to the truck yelling for friend to follow ASAP.

Written on the stone was his name, but the dates were worn completely off. We’d tried to find the cemetery a few times over the years with no luck, odds are it was some great-great grand-uncle (we’ve been here a while apparently…) but still. I’d be spooked.

Good Ghost Stories

Random Libby Read of the Week

Tomorrow is one year since I sat & watched my Dad breath his last.

It’s surreal to me now, that an entire year of my life has occurred since then.

At the same time it seems like eons ago, like a movie I saw before I was old enough to follow the plot.

The quote at the top is from the book “vacationland”, and I highly recommend you give it a try. It’s just good clean summer-fun reading really.

This story he tells about playing pretend with his daughter, the imagined scenario of silly nonsense that helped them pass the time, this hit me. Not just because of the connection between storytelling of the dead & immortality, although that’s part of it..

It’s the imagined times with him, the make believe scenarios we’d come up with to pass the time on any given gray Sunday. The fact that with him gone all I’m left with is the imagined. Imagined conversation, advice, adventures that can only happen in my head.

That and the total lack of anyone else remembering him. I worry quite a lot that I’m the only one who tells his stories. So I keep telling them, even if there’s only myself around to listen.

How’s it Feel, like Really Feel?

How does it feel to be grieving a year later? 

It’s different, but I’m not sure how much so. I know a lot hasn’t happened that I expected, and a lot of things have come up that I never saw coming. 

As far as this loss goes, it’s a wound. A year ago I got two huge cuts, one down each side from my armpits to my hips. Normally healing these kinds of things starts with the mourning; with sharing the collective loss with the community and those who knew them. Sharing the loss, the stories and the pain helps to close the wound a bit, it’s not healed but it’s on it’s way. 

There was no collective mourning here however, and the day my dad died was the last time I saw anyone blood-related to him. 

Skipping this step it feels as if the cuts have scabbed over, maybe even started to grow scar tissue but they’re anything but healthy.

Healing might not be the linear process we’d expect. What seems to be an old wound suddenly starts to warm, and I can feel the swelling from under my skin. There’s infection, something that needs release before the body can stitch everything back together. As painful as the infection becomes the urge to try and force it out is strong. 

Thing is, you can’t just force the bad away. You need to get rid of it, for sure, but that takes time. Maybe just some TLC, maybe a round of antibiotics. Only thing I know is when you squeeze a pimple it gets 10x worse. Same goes for Grief. 

So the cycle has gone this year, from healing to infection; relief to pain. Right now I’m in the infection stage, that bit where it’s not ready to be drained but you know the pain is there. I was hoping that by writing I could trick myself into purging the pain. No luck there.

Sunday will make it a year from the day my Dad passed, and it’s looking like I’ll be spending it alone.

Credit goes to GriefKid & thanks to UntangleGrief on instagram for sharing. It’s accounts like this that remind me I’m not the only one.

Why I want to set fire to my garden

Let me stop you right there friend, this isn’t your usual blog post about gardening woes. I’m not here writing to complain about my lack luster tomato plants or the squirrels that are digging holes in the garden beds killing what little is thriving (even though that is happening…)

No, I want to burn my garden because it failed on a much bigger scale.

See, last summer I built the raised beds to save my seedlings since the greenhouse wasn’t an option ( The greenhouse is it’s own story for another day…). I had a ridiculous number of cherry tomato plants, but only one beefsteak survived.

Turned out that those big juicy tomatoes were my Dads favorite, so I tended that plant like my life depended on it.

Or his, actually.

I had this hope, this ridiculous dream that I’d bring him that tomato and we’d sit around like old times; that with one bite he would commend me for my gardening skills and reminisce about summers past.

Funny thing about pancreatic cancer is it makes eating excruciating.

The day the tomato had finally ripened I made plans to go visit ASAP. As I drove up to his house I played out all the scenarios of us enjoying this moment, how wonderful this t would be. That despite the pain and nausea he’s be able to taste it’s juices and magically he’d begin to go into remission.

When I got to the house I sliced it up and sprinkled some salt, then put it on the coffee table while we watched some shark week. He told me how beautiful it was, how “a garden fresh tomato is the taste of peak summer”, but he never took a bite.

Eventually I started eating it, grabbing spices hoping someone else would follow suit.

When I left I was the only one to try it. He said he’d take a bite later, that when he ate the pain got worse and he didn’t want to ruin our time together.

I believe he did, and that the tomato failed to be the panacea I had built it up to be.

When he died in August I stopped tending the garden. I wasn’t going to grow anything this year, but At some point I planted tomatoes again. Only beefsteak, but the cherry’s self seeded all around the bed.

I care for it, neglectfully so but still. Green tomatoes are growing, and I hate them.

It’s a duality, like so many others, this perfect example of “life goes on” that inherently reminds me of death. I want to burn it, a huge pyre and pit to replace the green that’s there now, taunting me with the memory of Hope dashed.

I won’t though, there’s flowers coming back. Even a cucumber plant bloomed this week. So, it stays for now.