grief, life lessons

I WILL REMEMBER YOU

Mom, my head is killing me, the text said at 6:00am after I responded to the preceding text of, Are you awake? 

My son, Michael, never really calls about things like this so I sit here trying not to go to the dark side. 

But it is hard for me. As much as everyone says how much he looks like his father, David, and as much as I see this, I also see my brother in him more and more as he gets older. His voice, his mannerisms, even his handwriting is similar. Maybe it is just wishful thinking that he resembles my beautiful brother. 

He is my brother’s namesake, Michael. 

My brother was a seemingly healthy, strapping young man when he was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer three months before his twenty-fourth birthday. He died just one month after he turned twenty-five. Needless to say, the loss was unbearable and almost twenty-five years later, as I sit with that loss, it shows up in my worry about my son. 

There is this lingering vapor that surrounds me and as much as I try not to give it my attention, it is there. My son is going to be twenty two in almost two months. And that is almost twenty three. Then I have two more years to be reminded of the deep crevices left from my brother’s death as I watch my son enter into the realm of his age. 

There is no positive affirming this away. I am not the type of person who projects bad things. This is just a trauma that is here. Death of a young person is like this. 

It sits there. 

And waits. 

And we can go through our days and our lives and have moments where it is not such a prominent thought, but it is always there. And when it decides to remind you of the pain, the dark feelings are real. 

So when my son calls me at six in the morning, not usually a complainer, I take the call seriously. We go to the doctor, the walkin because these days unless you have some boutique doctor that you have decided to pay an annual fee for the “privilege” of being able to actually see them without an appointment, you slog along to the walkin with the majority of the population. 

We sit and wait and as luck would have it, my own doctor happens to walk by and we start talking about why we are there. In a nanosecond she figures out the problem and in a nano second we are both semi relieved. When he was called for his appointment, it was weird to not go in to the office with him, it was one of those funny mom transitional moments. The kid is almost twenty two for goodness sake; I was traveling for a month alone through Paris with only one thousand dollars in my pocket and no credit cards when I was this age. 

He would have to fend for himself or else the likely eye rolls from the medical team of helicopter mom would prevail. Thankfully, the prognosis was that he had a past sinus issue that decided to keep residence in his head causing this severe headache. It wasn’t a brain tumor, it wasn’t an eye tumor. He wasn’t going to have to have chemo and radiation and lie dying while his body wilted away to nothing.  

This language sounds extreme; I fully realize how dramatic this sounds. The funny thing is that when he was a little boy and even into his teens, I was never the worrying parent. As a matter of reflection, I was about the only parent I knew who was elated at the prospect of him obtaining his driver’s license and getting his own car. 

Michael always showed up when he said he would, he would text me if he was going to be late, which was hardly ever. He was who parents would call a good kid. He still is. Responsible, kind, considerate. My brother was like this too, but the difference was that he died when he was only twenty five. My maternal worry has started this year and I can’t shake it. When most parents are breathing a sigh of relief that their children are almost across the finish line to graduate college, I am in a slightly unnerved state. 

This is trauma. Waiting like a patient tiger for its prey, ready to jump at just the right moment. October is like that tiger because it is the start of many defining moments. October 20. My brother’s birthday. Born in 1970, it is strange when I meet someone who is was born the same year. When I hear or see someone’s birth year as 1970, I look at them and am immediately struck by their normal aging face. 

Losing a twenty five year old makes time stand still because I only remember my brother young. He said this to me before he died as being the only benefit- like there could be any benefit- to dying young- that people would always remember him young. 

As time keeps ticking, I am struck by the fragility of life as I recall the birthdays of the people I love who have passed. October 24, my Grandmother Kitsie, the grandmother who always had a typewriter in her bedroom where she typed hundreds of recipes for me for my twenty first birthday. November 1st my Grandmother Isabelle, who encouraged my writing always telling me what a great writer I was. She kept all of my letters and writings discovered on the day of her funeral when all of the grandchildren found a three tiered storage box where all memories of us were kept. We had such a good time reveling in her love of each of us by what she kept all of the years.

November 10th, Lesa Turillo, a young woman who was an active part of my adolescence because she was the daughter of my first love when I was only a child myself. She died from an overdose almost two years ago. 

Then there are the birthdays of the people I love who are still here. My former husband, Dave, November 11th who I spent twenty years of my life  and the most positive end result being our son. And of course my Grandfather, Herbie, who at almost 102 is still going as strong as a 102 year old man who has seen much death in the last twenty five years can be. November 20th fast approaching is the anniversary of Michael’s death, the last year he will have been alive more than he will be gone. I remember wondering about that when he died, the feeling that would come to me when he would be gone longer than he was alive. And here we are.

Time travel. October 20th comes and goes each year and each year I sit alone with my memory. My mother struggles to speak of her loss and I get that -so I respectfully don’t mention it. My father has passed away so I don’t have him to just say, Hi Dad, I’m thinking of Michael today on what would have been his 49th birthday. Who will remember as time marches forth? Death is easy to remember. We memorialize death with plaques and Yahrzeit services but I remember your birthday. The day you were born. I will remember your life on this day. I will always remember you. You can count on that. 

life lessons

FALLING DOWN, GETTING UP

Meeting a new friend for lunch yesterday on a lovely Friday afternoon, the only stress I had was trying to find a parking space in Providence on a busy noon time slot. After circling the restaurant, Plant City, a new very hip and incredibly delicious vegan food fest, about six times, I decided that life is short and paid eight outrageous dollars for the mere convenience of removing stress from my already late self.

As I made my way into this food mecca of delight, I found my friend and we made our way to the Italian section of the restaurant and bellied up to the bar for conversation and pizza. Oh, and vegan raw lasagna which may sound awful to Italian food purists, but the taste sensation is really special. I am not a vegan at all, I love meat, but what I really love is food and its ability to bring out the most creative cooking among the brilliant chefs in our little state.

New friends are such a treasure and I have the luxury of meeting many cool chicks simply because I am in the beauty business and female energy abounds. I like that I am open to carving time to dive in to the Yes, Let’s make time for lunch answer when asked. I am even luckier that I am asked. More often than not, it is time well spent and yesterday was no exception as we inhaled the truffle pizza and had an indulgent mid afternoon glass of wine.

In my casual life I lead, I have also become more casual in my daily wardrobe, so yesterday I had decided to get it together and actually dress up a bit. These days, this means jeans, my favorite shoes I bought in Israel that I wished I had bought ten pairs of, and a nice top with some jewels- a little more than the typical athleisure (yes this apparently is a real word used to describe my daily uniform these days). I find myself clinging to comfort as my go to closet grab most days and I mostly don’t care about shoes and clothes anymore like I used to. Like I used to when the outside was more important than the inside.

I had one errand before heading home and that was to drop off my rent check around the corner. I had picked some flowers from my still very zinnia packed garden to bring with the check to my landlord’s receptionist I had gotten to know over the past twelve years. As I made my way up the stairs, I could hear the familiar sounds of the television he kindly allows them to keep on the reception desk to occupy their time when it is slow.

I walked in to his second floor office to find, not the familiar receptionist, but instead, a very pregnant one, whom I had never met before. I made my introductions, passed on the flowers and check and said goodbye. I was not rushing, I didn’t have anything in my hands besides my car keys and as I made my way out, I took a mint from the bowl and said good bye.

One habit I have added to my movement is to always lightly place my hand on any stair railing. My aunt had fallen and broken her ankle several years back, and it was a good reminder to be cautious on stairs. With the keys and the mint in my left hand, I placed my right hand on the railing and made my way down the stairs. Wait rewind. I thought this was what I did, but I don’t really know because within a split second, my Israeli shoed heels slipped out from under me and I slid down six or seven hard stairs to the hard landing. My tailbone, mid back and neck followed. I yelled, you know the type of uncontrolled yell like you do when you are on a roller coaster. The mint flew out of its wrapper and the keys went flying and I was in shock that this just happened.

The mint flying out of its wrapper was a clue that maybe I was trying to open it as I stepped on to the front stair which would mean that I didn’t put my hand on the railing before taking the first step. It is all a blur and doesn’t really matter because the end result was me on my ass and three people running to the unusual sound they heard. The sound of the full weight of me and the scream in the middle of a Friday afternoon was concerning. The pregnant woman whose name escapes me, the landlord and a lovely massage therapist from the first floor offices, who had been interrupted in the middle of her service because of the noise, all came rushing out to see what the commotion was.They found it alright, along with the mint and my keys, sitting breathless but, thankfully, conscious at the bottom of the stairs trying to determine if I should bounce up and brush it off or if I should take this more seriously.

Questions came flying out, Can I get you some water, are you dizzy, where does it hurt, can you breathe, I’ll get you some water, here is some water. I just kept saying, I just need to sit for a few minutes to catch my breath. Everyone was so kind, helpful, caring and concerned and I just sat patiently for a few minutes to evaluate how I landed on my ass in a split second. I knew enough than to berate myself because I didn’t do anything wrong. I wasn’t being careless. I wasn’t rushing. I was calm and happy, but I fell anyway. It felt like my heels slipped from under me, that is the only thing I can distinctly remember.

The textured rubberized stairs clearly designed for not falling were not wet, nor were my shoes. It was a freak fall. I slid down the stairs like a child on a newly wax papered metal playground slide from yesteryear. My tailbone took my entire weight, then my mid back then my neck then my head. My hands instinctively braced for the fall, causing my wrists to take some of the brunt. I could already feel the bruises forming. Was this all because of a fucking mint? The only reason I took the mint was because the lingering garlic from my lunch was so potent I was trying to defuse its aftermath.

No- I did not think I needed to go the hospital, no- I didn’t think I had a concussion. I would be fine. I was just trying to determine if I should drive or not so I sat and weighed my thoughts for a few more moments. I was sore but I felt fine enough. I would be bruised, both my body and my ego. As I find myself approaching fifty five along with my dear friends, our conversations are naturally starting to turn to ailments and health. We find ourselves laughing at this surprising turn of how did we get here conversation. A fall was just one of those things that is bound to happen. But for me the question was WHY? There always has to be a why for me. Just helps me understand and gives me direction.

I got up. Because this is just what I do. I get back up. I brushed myself off and made my way home. I packed up some clothes and made my way to my partner’s house. Just in case I did have a concussion and died in my sleep, I didn’t want to be alone. Yes, this dramatic thought ran through my head; who knows, I had never hit my head before. I didn’t play sports when I was a kid, I played the flute, hardly a chance to bang my head doing that. This was unfamiliar territory and as much as I minimize life coming at me, I was also pragmatic enough not to be foolish.

My lovely landlord reached out, obviously concerned, I jokingly told him that my fall got me out of my seven am workout the following day. As I laid on the couch tending to my very sore backside, I had a strange vision occur. The maybe answer to my why this happened.

I had never seen the receptionist who had been in the office yesterday. Maybe my fall was to create a hyper awareness in her pregnant self to be careful on the stairs. That fall I took yesterday could have been a fall she may have taken if she had been rushing like so many young moms. Maybe my fall was a guardian angel looking out for that little super being in her belly. Maybe this baby she is about to have has an added layer of protection as he or she makes her grand entrance into this chaotic world.

Yes- that is why I fell yesterday, for a higher purpose other than myself. It makes the fall worth it thinking about it in this light. We fall down, we get up, we start again and perhaps the lessons in our falls have nothing to do with us at all.

I thought I was going to wake up beyond sore, beyond bruised; in fact, I slept beautifully, and though I am a bit sore and a bit bruised today, I do think shifting the way I considered my accident yesterday healed me faster. I feel astonishingly good today.

To quote two of my favorites, ee cummings, “Thank you G-d for this most amazing day…. “ and Wayne Dyer, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Indeed.