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.

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.

Independent Woman (Maybe not the Destiny’s Child version, but still relevant)

Yeah, I saw Destiny’s Child at the state fair as a preteen and saved this scrap of memory for 20+ years…what of it?

My mom was a lot of things, but one thing she was above all else was independent. She raised me alone, sure she had friends & family who cares about us and helped where they could but at the end of the day it was just the two of us.

So when it came to household stuff like cleaning or fixing the dryer she had to figure it out. I learned a lot through watching her. Things that I take for grant today, like knowing how to light the pilot on the stove or insulate the windows for winter, that a lot of my friends are clueless about.

For years I’ve attributed these skills & knowledge/ to my time at Home Depot. Sure I learned stuff there but that’s not where I learned the drive to fix. To figure it out because no one else will, and to do so alone because there’s no other option.

Today I hung a clothesline. I’d tried last weekend with my boyfriend but was missing a piece. I had everything ready to go but kept putting it off, waiting for someone else to be around just in case.

Would it have been easier with help? No doubt. Was it impossible to do alone? No, it just required a bit more creativity (and patience…I damn near tore the whole thing down out of frustration more than once)

Ultimately situations like this remind me that I am capable of doing things independently even if I’d rather not. So yeah, thanks mom.

Death Season, or another excuse about why I’m not writing more

“Memento Mori“- Remember Death

Death season is upon me, while I suppose it’s technically season 2 I didn’t know season 1 was coming so…

Here we are. One year ago I was reeling from my moms unexpected suicide while trying desperately to cling to hope that my dad would survive.

It was a shitty time to say the least. However I can’t say this moment is much better; over the past year I’ve had family disown me & lost a job. Granted that job generally made me miserable, I miss my students.

I miss having an obligation, where someone would notice if I’m not around. where I was held account for my time.

Truthfully I’ve spent most of the past year in Disbelief (dissociation?) that they’re truly gone. I go from numb to paralyzed and back again daily. Some days the realness of it all is so intense I get sick, retching from anxiety like when I was a kid and had to sleep away from home.

August 29th will mark the end of this first (or second?) Death Season, between now & then let’s try to memento mori. Live this life remembering death will come to us all.