The Beauty of Bread Crumbs

The Beauty of Bread Crumbs

I can’t think of many things more essential to me than friends. And in this stage of my life, I’m referring to girlfriends. Which is odd, because I spent many of my adult years undervaluing their importance. I thought I enjoyed men friends more. They like to be silly, be outdoors, and most have little interest in gossip or shopping; they just felt like a better fit with me. Oh, how wrong I was, and my repentance is sincere and bone deep.

 

When I moved to Floridee about nine years ago and started my new life here, it took a while to really build meaningful relationships. As artists, we worked at home and left our community most weekends to take to the road for art shows. Made some fun friends on the road, a few who have become deeply significant to us, but most often they are people from all over and we see them in short weekend spurts, when our paths come together on the art show circuit. Making friends here at home would take a while longer.

 

And it’s funny how I first met Julie. I was invited by an older couple whom I adored to come to their home one night with a few others to see about being a part of their small group, a weekly gathering, back in my oh so distant church days. We told them we were spending the summer in Jerzey, and were in fact leaving the next day for about 5 months. It’s what we did the first few years down here, we still went back to our house in Jerz to do shows and visit family for the summer. But Vito said no worries, no commitments, just come see what it’s about. Out of nothing but sheer respect and politeness we agreed to attend, expecting to merely meet a few new people and be on our way.

 

Got to their house, saying my hellos, when I heard loud laughter coming in the door. LOUD laughter, and there is no better way to get my attention. My first Julie sighting, and I had no idea what kind of blessing was coming into my life. I was distracted, we all were, by the schedules Vito handed us, listing our upcoming times to host…. in the small group that we had no idea we were joining. However, I’m a big believer in following the path of cookie crumbs the Universe sets out before me. We liked Vito so much, we just thought we’d go along with it.

 

Fast forward to next fall, we return to St Augustine and take our place in the schedule. Turns out to be a good thing, as we enjoyed these new people and started meeting weekly, 8 of us. All of it part of my schooling from the Universe; it’s been a good thing for me to start over, to be less insistent on my own way. Earlier I would not have allowed myself to get embroiled in any regular hang with people until I made sure it was a good flow (for ME, it goes without saying. Yes, I was a jerk in that way, and others, I’m sure). I liked things the way I liked them. But Vito’s ways were Vito’s ways all the way, and I learned from that surrender.

 

I quickly came to enjoy so many things about Julie. I thought I was queen of letting it all hang out, but the crown was mine no longer. I didn’t even realize what a gift her straightforwardness was at that time, because it took me a few years to really find my way through the southern culture. Bless my heart. Her truthfulness was a care package from home, in a land where it is sometimes considered impolite to tell the truth. I would come to rely on Julie’s honesty again and again, and for a while, in my craziest sad days, she was like a compass to me, pointing the way to safety… to truth. Being real has always been the safe zone for me; I’m not great at reading subtle signals, at playing the games of manners, especially with females, ironically. But Julie was as real as they come; I never had to wonder where I stood with her.

 

The Universe was SO behind that involuntary gathering. A year after we started meeting one couple split up, completely shocking us all. This is what I’m saying. We met with them weekly, supposedly sharing our hearts and lives with one another, and to us it seemed to stop on a dime. Of course it didn’t, but this is the thing about southern culture. It’s sometimes hard to know what’s really happening, for me anyway. I’ve since been in another group and experienced this phenomenon for a second time. Believe me, folks, if my marriage falls apart, it shall be no secret or shock to anyone lol. Probably somewhere between my oversharing and their locked lips lies a healthy balance. And when Julie’s marriage struggled she trusted us to know it and be a part of working with them and for them to help, if possible. Sadly, it wasn’t possible, and my friend who had become so dear to me was hurting, openly. It was hard to leave her that spring when we headed to Jersey, and I had no idea that we too were heading for the worst hurting of our lives. Within five days of arriving our hearts were also broken.

 

My phone rang many times that summer, calls and texts from friends offering support. But I could never bring myself to respond, I just didn’t have it in me. The only calls I took were Julie’s. When your heart is broken there is a rest in sitting with another broken-hearted person; perhaps that’s the power of support groups. We were each other’s support group, and we made it through, carried by the kindnesses of many and of each other.

 

One of my favorite things about Julie is her capacity for dreaming. The first night I got back we drove down to the Hammock area, sat by the inlet and watched the sun set with a bucket of clams and a bottle of wine or two. She had lost her beautiful home by the water and yet she told me that night that one day she’d have a home in the woods, on the water again. After enough wine, we actually drove around and walked some of the nearby properties, out on their decks and lawns, imagining what Jul’s future home might look like. She had a passion for farm markets too, and shared with me her vision to start a local market to serve both the community and local farmers. Over the next few years I can’t say that I saw much forward movement in either of those dreams but that never discouraged Julie. She talked of those things as if they already were, and in her mind it was done.  She never stopped believing, in herself or her dreams, and that was huge for me to watch. Like me, she is an extremist. Her personality, her vision, her belief in herself… they are rock solid. I felt for a while that I was almost translucent, wispy enough psychically to blow away in a strong breeze, and being around Julie did much to ground me. She is confident without being obnoxious about it, she is sure of who she is, and I had begun to really wonder in my lostness…The Universe knows what it’s doing when it puts out those bread crumbs, it is best to pay attention. Julie was a touchstone for me, and I hope I served a similar purpose for her.

 

I don’t want to embarrass her by going on and on, but suffice it to say that Julie has been running the Salt Air Farmer’s Market near Marineland for almost 5 years, and since the fall she and her friend and business partner Sloan have been directing the Wednesday Pier Market as well. She’s also bought herself a beautiful home in the woods, right on a spring that leads to Lake George. Dreamer Extraordinaire, she knows how to make things happen. Painful losses and sorrows can hurt us for sure, but they can also strengthen us if we allow them room to do so. I have been lucky in my life, far more lucky than I deserve or ever hoped to be. I know this because of gifts like Julie, and I know that you have similar stories in your own life. Wouldn’t it be great if we recognized and acknowledged them while we have the chance? Thank you, Universe, for unwanted small groups and surprise friendships. May they ever continue.

 

 

 

 

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Maryann

Maryann

I first met her when I moved to a new town, got involved with a new community. Her son was hospitalized as a raging fever revealed the absence of a spleen, a situation ultimately fatal. Maryann’s first son, Sean, gone at nine months.

The next few years were a blur of babies, as we each had three boys, matching in ages and to a degree, temperament. It was an unexpected development for me, as was our deep involvement in the spiritual community that had opened their hearts widely to us. I never expected to marry, let alone have babies, or go to church or PTA or any of the other activities that quickly filled our hearts and our calendars. But we had already run the games out on our own terms and years on the streets and in addiction made this alternative reality pretty attractive. Very shiny. We were all in.

Feeling such a stranger in a strange land made my friendship with Maryann all the more meaningful to me. In one week I turned thirty, moved to a new town, quit my longtime job and had my first child. It was like being catapulted to an alternative universe, and I’m sure I left scratch marks on the walls, kicking and screaming my way in. Motherhood was an unexpected mystery to me and much of it unfolded through Maryann: nursing, diapers, surviving without sleep….being alone with babies and toddlers for days… A drastic change of course, but our friendship eased me in. With her I could always vent, question, dream…..wonder about so much. My love language is laughter and we did much of it, always talking about things that were real. Keeping things hidden wasn’t our style, and I don’t know if I’d have made it through those years as freely as I did without her.

I went on to have one more baby, a girl, and we both raised our kids in a bubble that seemed to promise a certain future. It took me a while to recognize it but there was much misunderstanding in our expectations. Speaking for myself, I thought if I tried to raise my kids in an affectionate home of love and laughter they’d embrace our values and morality. Simplistic, I know now, but it was the dream that we lived in and lived for. Those early years were some of my happiest; Maryann’s happiness was tempered by the loss of Sean, of course. The loss of a child doesn’t preclude happiness. It does change it, but many of us who have traversed the path of deepest grief reach a new revelation of how to live, and for some it does include joy, or a different version of it. I expected to raise and deliver happy, healthy, helpful citizens to the world.

I often wonder about the various factors that may have played a role in the alternative version of our dreams that ultimately played out. In my family’s story we struggled with addiction issues always; addiction has always been present in my life in one form or another. But that’s not at all the whole story; some of our kids were drawn into the lifestyle, others were completely disinterested. And it is the same in my family of origin. Cruelly random, seemingly. Life isn’t a simple morality tale in black and white. Human complexities plus culture plus circumstances plus….well, you get the idea. Aim in a direction that feels right and hope for the best.

It was my turn next; we lost Zack five and a half years ago. Talk about random; he had a seizure and asphyxiated on his vomit, sleeping on his back. Interestingly, our house was just opened after all the post Sandy repairs, so no furniture yet. Zack’s mattress lay on the new carpet, he hadn’t had time yet to get a bed frame. If he had would his girlfriend have heard the bed shaking and woken him? I say it again: no simple answers. But Maryann and her family were in my house for days, just showing support with their presence.

Three years later, Mare’s turn again when she lost her oldest remaining son David. Absolutely heartbreaking, and she wasn’t even my only close friend to lose more than one. And my heart ached from far away.

I’m driving back to Florida now after yet another cruel surprise for my dear friend. When her third son, beautiful Danny, was taken we drove up to sit beside them. It’s all you can do. After the service a bunch of us took them out, and as I looked at the long table of old friends I realized none of us had been spared. Not all had children who died but all knew the horrendous pain of watching their kids blow up their own lives. And in no small measures. Maybe it’s why we were all gathered, unconsciously. Our dreams have been severely challenged. We’ve had to re-examine our hopes, our own hearts, in the toughest ways. But we still had love, and there was much laughter at the table that night.

I love so many of the 12 step tag lines. Keep it simple, stupid. One day at a time. So much wisdom in these simple yet revolutionary concepts. Our dreams of a beautiful future for us and our children…they’ve been radically transfigured. We’ve had to surrender the idea of simple equations and explanations. We’ve had to learn to never compare; the entryway to endless pain and frustration. We’ve had to redefine happiness…family….future. For the worst reasons. But still….one of my sweet friends at the table that night told me today she’s found friends to be her new understanding of family. I’m so glad she’s able to grasp that silver lining. I’m so grateful that 36 years ago I became friendly with the funny girl who lived across the street. She knew sorrow deeply but she never forgot how to laugh. She never quit living…hoping…expecting goodness. I’m still standing with you, Mare. Counting it an honor of the highest order. 💛

Saddle Up

Saddle Up

Today I will be attending the memorial service of a friend recently lost, a lovely man who played a significant role in our experience of settling into St Augustine, of it feeling like home.  Vito and his equally wonderful wife, Jane, were two of the first friends we made, and that was some serious good fortune right there. A very focused man, Vito’s actions were driven by his huge heart, and the story of how our friendship deepened is kind of a funny one, revealing much about both him and us. He approached us several months after we first met, and told us that he was forming a small group to do some spiritual journeying together. He thought we might have an interest and invited us to come over and hear more about his plans, even though we were leaving for a whole summer in Jerzey just a few days later. More out of respect and affection than anything else, we stopped by that night, along with two other couples.

 

Vito met us at the door with his usual warm hug, and handed us a schedule, committing all four couples to the next six months of bi-weekly hosting and meeting, with our Jerzey time factored in and accounted for. I think the other guests were as surprised as we were. That story could have ended badly, right? But the beauty of it, and of Vito actually, was in its sense of flow. It was hard to miss the humor in it, but we all just as strongly felt the “rightness” of the plan. Something good was happening here, and when the River is flowing right, the only wise thing to do is jump in and start swimming.

 

I’m so glad we did. Two of those eight remain among my closest friends here. It will be my honor to go tonight and celebrate a man who loved chasing the River as much as I do. He spent time in his last months making specific, thoughtful plans for his last service; as I said, a man of great focus. He wanted his friends to enjoy good food, good wine, and some bocce ball. Not a bad sendoff, and I appreciate a well-planned exit.

 

If you know me well, and even if you don’t, oddly, you may have heard me speak of my plans for my own final service. They’ve been in place for probably close to 20 years now, and I mention them whenever the topic comes up because, pushy to the end, I feel so strongly about the feeling I want to communicate one last time to those I love most. Some of the specifics are…. odd. There’s some audience-participation, some physical acting out, and without giving away too much, I will caution you not to wear heels to the service. I know there will be disbelief and/or reluctance, but I figure if I tell enough of you, someone is gonna force the issue, represent for me in my first absence. C’mon, y’all, trust me one last time. It’ll be fun.

 

It came to me when I fell for this song years ago, a song that seemed to encapsulate my own energy and passion for life like no other. For me, there was only one appropriate response to this song. If you know the song and my plans, can I get an amen?! I haven’t been to a ton of memorial services but I know that as much as we want a “celebration,” it’s hard to really get to that emotion on that day. Have no fear, friends, I’ve got it covered. Obnoxious even from the grave. Geez.

 

I listened to the song about a year ago, for the first time in many years, and was kinda horrified to hear how dated it was. It now sounds pretty “pop,” not my style at all.  Some of the lyrics no longer fit as well; my journey has gone off the beaten path since then. I panicked a bit, and wondered if I’d have to actually change my plan, after bugging people about it for years…. Could I really let this song represent me? Can I really go out on a pop song??…. You laugh, but to someone who loves and needs music as much as I do, this is no small thing.

 

Interestingly, the artist is also a parent who lost a child, in a particularly horrible way. Life can take your breath away with its cruelty sometimes. He’s well known, and many people watched him survive, and go on, changed but unbent. “Struck down, but not destroyed.” That’s the thing: life comes at ya sometimes. But this song he wrote that means so much to me… it’s about the adventure we’re all on even as we travel down those rougher roads. Adventure is one of my favorite words. I wish I had the super power that could enable me to implant passion and joy into people who are struggling…or maybe are just missing those things.

 

I think I’m gonna stick with the plan. It just fits too well, with me, with my hopes for you in my absence. Yep, presumptuous to the bitter end. If my peeps come through, and you find yourself at my service doing…unusual things….remember how much healing there is in laughter. Remember the power of unexpected goodness in times of pain and loss. Remember how much fun it is to do crazy things, just for the joy. Let the river flow, y’all, in all of its crazy beauty.

 

 

 

 

Drink Me

Drink Me

We’ve been up in our home town for the past few weeks, doing some art business and visiting with family and friends. It’s always a very reflective time, and sometimes morphs into some serious soul-searching, a process which can feel like a house of mirrors to me. Very Alice in Wonderland, and the DRINK ME potions make me feel small and then tall in the most confusing ways. Do you ever have those times, when you try to figure out who you really are or what you’re feeling, and everything looks distorted and uncertain?

 

The past few years have been a process of weeding my way through various grief mazes, and now that I’m out of the worst of it maybe, I realize how distorted some of my thinking was along the way. I didn’t know it at the time, of course. In the midst of it you think you’re handling it, doing okay, but you’re mercifully out of touch with the reality of how you’re REALLY behaving. I had moved to Floridee shortly before my process started, so many of my Floridee friends only know that Kevan, the stunned, deer in the headlights, shell of a Kevan. I sometimes wish I could post a public disclaimer, or wear a sandwich board proclaiming “Do Over!” or “That’s not who I REALLY am, I swear”…. but I guess maybe part of it must be? I don’t know, and therein lies some of my current confusion.

 

It’s like trying to grab those tiny pieces of eggshell from the yolk. Your fingers feel all fat and overgrown, and the shell pieces keep moving just ahead of you always. At a party the other night, someone whom I’m really coming to dig deeply said he liked my writing for my “vulnerability,” and I thought really? Came home and started reading in this very blog…. starting being the operative word. I could only get through the first entry and half of the second. Took me like two hours and I was completely overwhelmed… slightly horrified… kind of embarrassed. And yes, my most present adverb companion of late, CONFUSED. Honestly, I have little recollection of writing those words. I felt like I was reading a book from the library, a very intrusive, in your face kind of book that followed me home, snuck into my reading pile, and then leapt into my consciousness without my permission. But then, that does kind of sound like me.

 

I think sometimes our feelings churn and brew inside in a smoking cauldron, noxious fumes rising, with eye of newt and frog’s legs poking out occasionally….until we have to finally, blindly RELEASE. This is usually when my hair gets dyed purple or blue. Because the process isn’t always malevolent or even negative. Sometimes it’s just passion or creativity percolating and rising to the surface. And I don’t even feel like my written words were bad or necessarily problematic. They were just so…naked. And maybe uninvited. You know, you’re reading a blog thinking maybe you’ll pick up a few good recipes and then you realize the writer has slit her wrists and is bleeding profusely all over your bright sunny morning. It’s not BAD, but it may be a bit presumptuous of me to think you’d WANT to deal with all that blood and guts while pleasantly scrolling through Facebook. I basically stripped without an invite. But then, that’s kind of me too…. (I know, forgive me for that image I just planted into your poor brain. See what I mean, LOL?!)

 

These thoughts were running in the background all week, and then this morning I had the opportunity to meet a woman whom I’ve been hearing about for a while, hearing enough to know I was gonna like her. I knew she read my blog and she must have gotten a similar build-up from our generous mutual friend, for her first words to me were about “kissing the ring.” I’m inclined to love anyone who starts off with a wisecrack, and soon we were right in the thick of it all, discussing the challenges of parenting, i.e., keeping parental pain secret vs. being open in the hope of healing. I love someone who gets right to it. Yeah, I’m definitely back in jerzey.

 

Both of these two sisters encouraged me in my “naked writing,” and their timing couldn’t have been better. (Or worse, if you’re a reader who cringes at my over-sharing. And if so, I feel you, I really do.) Because now I’m wondering if even this journeying, this stumbling down the road but still moving forward kind of step, if maybe this is just what it looks like to go on. Maybe many of us walk this way (Aerosmith howl), maybe limping is the human condition. Or maybe it’s more of a baffled-human condition, but if so, that’s okay too.  If I’ve learned anything in recent years, it’s how little I really know. I used to think I had so many answers all buttoned down tightly in my head…now I’ve come to realize maybe my whole head was just buttoned too tightly, period. Now I’m letting some breeze in, airing out some cobwebs. I vacillate between confidence and fear, trust and shame, but at least I’m moving. More of a crablike skittering, but hey, I’m in jerzey. It kinda works.

 

 

 

 

Both

bik

My husband and I are working in Ocean City for a month, the island beach town where we raised our four children. It is a very family-oriented resort, no bars or alcohol sold, and it JAMS all summer long, until Labor Day. School starts the next day and the transformation in this small city as vacationers leave is extreme. Streets that have been furiously overcrowded are suddenly empty; finally we can park again. The wooden boardwalk is once again pleasant, the ocean breezes themselves feel joyous. Pretty much everything whispers… they’re gone. The relief is palpable.

 

Our family had very few traditions, but the first day of school was one we never missed. For this one day, maybe, the kids were less reluctant about school. Especially when they were younger, there was a tiny element of excitement, curiosity. Once all four were on their various school buses, Paul and I always got on our bikes, headed to the boardwalk, and rode through the freshly empty town. We’d stop for breakfast at the tiny restaurant that we could never get into in the summer when crowds kept the locals at bay. We reclaimed our community and looked ahead with deep satisfaction to the life of a parent with kids in school. Sports, new friends, challenges….growing. Moving forward, back when time was kinder.

 

I’m not much for holidays anymore, so I don’t know if there is a more evocative day for me. The calendar is no longer my friend, lurking as it does with dangerous days and memories. It’s fitting that this day falls in September, rolling out hope of cooling air, promises almost tangible on the ocean breeze.  My bike ride this morning was still lovely…even though no longer brimming with those same expectations. Being back in this town where we lived for almost 30 years, where we raised four kids, and walked through life….and death… with many friends so deeply implanted into our hearts…feels at once familiar and foreign. We’ve been forever changed by recent events…by the loss of our son. Our transformation feels as radical, as blunt and dramatic, as these empty streets. And yes, they are a fitting metaphor for the hole within, the hollowness that never leaves…. But the air still feels ripe with promise; hope continues in the same streets, the remaining children, the same friends, and the life to come. There is both, always and concurrently. At home in Floridee, I never run into anyone who knew Zack, who can evoke or share memories…..and here, I do run into those who knew him, loved him, and remember. Both situations help… and hurt. I hang and eat donuts with his girlfriend, and it is glorious, and brutal. We laugh and love…and cry. I want her to be my daughter forever…but I remember that she has her own parents… her own life. And of course I want this for her. It is both. Everything is both, and today especially is deep with dreaming.

 

Paul doesn’t really like to come here, and I understand why. Just speaking logistically, it’s a rough go. We pay a boatload of money to stay in a shoebox. Parking is a nightmare, and the bed is so bad I sleep on the tiniest of couches, shorter than the length of my body. Everything feels a bit alien to us now in this place that was home for so long. But I will always want to come as this is also a place of great comfort to me, solid encouragement, a living reminder that we built a life. That like the undulating waves coming in and out of the shore, life has its own rhythms and rhymes and cannot be denied. My oldest son and his daughter still live here, although not together. Like so much else here, this is not the fulfillment of my dreams for him. His life has had as much coming and going as the tides, and the road before him is not one easily traversed. It fits about as well as my tiny couch. But I do sleep each night, and he does walk through the days. We keep going, because life, for all of us, is both.

 

I want to come each summer, to see him and encourage him. To ride my bike on an empty boardwalk and feel hope in the wind. To look at an enormous sky and know that Love is watching over us, and over Zack, and the waves and the road are still before us. Both coming in, and going out…. No one gets a pass. But we all get to ride, for how long we do not know. In some seasons the streets are filled with promise and pleasure; in others, the ride is more difficult. The bed’s too soft and the couch is too short, sleep is fitful at best. But get up and jump on your bike. Ride to the boardwalk and look out at that magnificent sea, at the waves endlessly unfurling. Embrace the coming in and the going out, the duality of it all, while you still have it. Tomorrow is not promised, but hope still rides the breeze.

Girl Overboard

adult-life-jacket

I am a person of excess. Always have been, probably always will be. Just the way I’m wired, and I don’t think of it as good or bad. But I tend to do everything big. I feel things in a big way, I think deeply and often over-think. I eat too much, I jump in always in the deep end, I am loud in my self-expression. I do try to be sensitive to others and not suck up ALL the oxygen in the room, and I understand that some misread the intentions of those wired like myself, and I’m fine with it. I get it. It’s not easy to consider the makeup of others, and maybe they figure who’s got the time? Very understandable.

 

Sometimes my wiring is a positive. It’s taken me on some wild adventures; I think I’m living in Floridee because of an insatiable hunger for, what… more? More is the name of my game. Back in the days when I thought I’d have a tombstone, I wrote my preferred inscription: “Here lies Kevan. She always wanted more, and she finally got it.” Those who know me best or longest know my instructions about the memorial service, and okay, they’re unusual. They involve some climbing up on chairs and yes, there’s a bit of pretending the chairs are horses… I guess some might call that extreme… or a tiny bit controlling, I’ll cop to it. But only because I want so much to express myself even when I’m gone… you see, this is what I’m talking about. I may have a teensy problem.

 

Every so often, I just feel some crazy rising up in me, like a slow dark tide. I can ignore it for a while, sometimes a long while even. But then: something must be pierced, said, written, tattooed, or dyed. It’s just the law of the jungle: something’s gotta give. And once it does? Sighhhhhh… peace in the land. So you learn to just go with it. I do try, I swear, to factor in the needs of others, if their needs are unlucky enough to be connected with mine. I’m fortunate to have a man who couldn’t care less about the color of my hair, and trusts me to weigh the things that come out of my mouth. My daughter however, when she was in school, used to cringe at the attention my hair color brought her way, and I did feel badly about that. I ran into my mother-in-law in a grocery store one day and I think the shock of my purple head just broke her usual polite restraints; she stopped in her tracks and wailed, “Oh Kevan, why?!” Is it wrong that I loved that she broke through??

 

Why indeed? Because it is who I am. I don’t always love who I am, but I do try to. I went through a period of a year or two recently when my brain and heart were so broken, so rattled and dismantled and wounded, that I couldn’t always remember who I was, or reach that person. I’d leave the house as Kevan and wake up an hour later in a social setting huddled in a corner, dazed and confused, wondering where I went. And that can happen to us, when we’re not in touch with ourselves. Taking our temperatures, paying attention to our own lives, honoring our need to express ourselves. One of the best things about my recovery is that I do feel like myself again, like Kevan. I’m certainly changed by my experience, but I try to see that as a positive too. Life is full of changes; you gotta roll with it, grow and change and expand as needed.

 

Today I’m feeling a little of the black tide. It’s been a rough week, and I may be wishing today that I felt less. That I was better at shrugging things off. But that’s never gonna be me, and when push comes to shove? I’ll take me, over my purple head in the deep end. Just throw me a life jacket if you see me bobbin’ in the tide.

 

 

Of Kindness and Delusions

Of Kindness and Delusions

Facebook literally made me laugh out loud yesterday. My “memories” included a public apology I had to make two years ago, after yelling at a houseful of guests at a surprise party we threw for friends. To tell the funny story I have to tell some sad stuff too, but that’s how life is, right? And if I’m going to have a blog I need to get this said anyway.

Almost three years ago we heard screaming as we woke up one morning, and ran downstairs to discover that our 27 year old son had had a seizure during the night, vomited in his sleep, and choked to death. There. I said it. I know, it’s brutal. My story since then has had much to do with surviving that morning and the loss of our precious son. I knew fairly soon after Zack’s death that I had to keep living but I had no idea what that would look like.

We’ve been fortunate in having an amazing community of love and support, and that makes a huge difference. I’ve always been a survivor at heart, so my M.O. was to just. keep. going. Simply said, you try to feel what you feel and go on as best you can. There were times when I cried all day but I also had many days when I laughed, and that felt like progress. The whole first year you just feel like you’re underwater, like your connection with the rest of the world is shaky, blurry and distant. You see them and interact with them but it’s all through a watery veil, and you’re the only one who is wet.

Maybe if I’d talked about it more I’d have been more in touch with what was going on inside, but what can you say besides, “I’m so sad”? It’s like an app running on your phone, draining your battery without you knowing; your worldview shifts beneath all those tears without your consent. The world had turned out to be far less secure than I thought, so inside I became very insecure without knowing it. I just wanted to fit back into the “normal” world as quickly and with as little attention as I could. I guess that was the thinking, but I can’t say for sure as I was completely uninformed of this new game plan.

Many of the new friends I’d made in Floridee were much younger than I, but that’s not unusual for me. I’ve always hung with who I enjoyed without categorizing, and never gave it a moment’s thought. I didn’t really think about it this time either, but on some level of desperate, unseen need, I took another tack this time around. I needed to be like them, not just with them. So apparently, despite reality and science and every truth known to mankind, I was now gonna be young again. Like 40. Which is crazy because I’m SO not 40. Like, I’m 40’s grandmother. But whatever. That’s the  decree that came from my trickster subconscious and I pretty much insisted that my friends all go along with it. Like I said,  I had some very supportive friends. Confused maybe, but kind. So they nodded their heads graciously when I talked about our generation, their eyes revealed nothing when I spoke of similarities that existed only in my imagination. And I went on blissfully unaware of my delusions. Ahhh, progress!

Almost a year after Zack’s passing, two things happened. The first was that we planned a surprise party for friends celebrating their 20th anniversary. I had to plan it a good month ahead as he traveled and it took a lot of coordination to make it work and keep it a secret. The second was another tragedy. Another couple in our circle of close friends lost their son in an accident, and we were all devastated. It seemed too cruel to be true, and it actually was. And while my focus initially was, of course, on helping to stand by this couple, it slowly began to knock me backwards as well. Within one month we had the loss of Brandon, then Mother’s Day, the anniversary of Zack’s death, and in the midst of all this, the party for Katina and Greg. Because it was a surprise for a lovely couple who had made it 20 years, we decided to go on, and I thought I could do it.

A BIG miscalculation on my part. Like, scary bad. As if the exorcist threw a party, complete with green slime. I was not into it. And looking back, I think I was just waiting for an excuse to lose my mind and release all of the black venom in my heart. My poor, innocent guests. Like lambs to the slaughter. At one point someone was taking a picture of me and and Katina’s daughter Savannah, a girl I adore. It should have been a nice moment. And then Katina said those fateful words: “Oh nice, Savannah, a picture of you with your OTHER GRANDMOTHER.”

Sure, they seem like innocuous words. Unless your shaky world is built on desperate irrational denial; then not so much. I imagine the black ink of a venomous octopus shooting into the room as I snarled,”Grandmother?! What did you say? GRANDMOTHER?!?!” There was a bit of nervous laughter… until I put a stop to that with another snarl, “Don’t be laughing.” And then proceeded to berate my poor friend for her cruelty AFTER I GAVE HER A FREAKIN’ PARTY. I know, it’s ridiculous, and I can’t help but shudder even now as I remember it. But the truly amazing part was that I didn’t know I did anything wrong. Everyone left soon after, what a surprise, and I went to bed and sank into a deep black octopus sleep.  I was telling the story to another friend days later and when she also laughed nervously I said, “Yeh, that’s what they did.” Kay waited a moment and then said gently, “But then you apologized, right?”

I swear that is the first time I saw it. My watery seas parted and I saw for the first time in a year how deeply delusional I had become. How insistent I was with my friends that I was their age, dammit. ….that the whole prior year had not happened. That the world was not really as insecure as it turned out to be….and yes, that we had not lost Zack.

Even I know I’m not really 40. Now. But in the moments of our lives, we can be so out of touch with all the work our spirit is doing beneath the surface of our busy days…our will to survive. My poor spirit gets a workout. As do my friends. I posted that heartfelt apology and my friends were gracious to accept. In fact, we laugh about that night now and it’s easy, it’s SO ridiculous. I asked one of my closest friends later, “How could you go along with that? Why didn’t you tell me?” Another nervous laugh as she said,”Well, I did try to say something sometimes about your outfits.”

…..wait a minute. Nobody is saying ANYTHING about my fashion choices. Release the black ink!!!!