It’s always a beautiful day every year around this time. The sunshine still feels very warm on your face and the breeze is cold and it feels good to wear long pants again without feeling like your ass is melting off. The routine of school is working itself out and its good to have the children out of the damn house for several hours a day where I am not yelling at them to turn off the TV and clean something or at the very least not make anything more dirty.
I use to love this month when our kids were teeny. We spent most of October in Ptown and came home in time for Halloween. We would leave the Cape wearing winter jackets and hats and come back to Baltimore and wear shorts on one day and a sweater the next. October always felt exciting to me. Ramping up for winter and winding down the summer. Goodbye tomatoes, hello Apples. So long shaving my legs all the time, hello hats and not washing my hair everyday. Its easier to be slovenly in October and I like that.
Since my mom died this time of year always bums me out, now. Then after Megan died, my mom’s self-declared birthday baby, just more sadness. I really liked my mom’s birthday. I liked buying her presents, I liked doing things with her. When she became ill we spent every birthday together going away for the weekend doing something cool. Our best trip was to Deerfield MA. The nagging breathlessness and constant persistent coughing made me worry (side note: not like I would have FREAKED out about now that I am a nurse) and was kinda irritated with my mom for always being so fucking sick. She wouldn’t do the things she needed to do to be well. It was hurtful. Objectively I can see how hard it must have been. How complicated and un-fun it would be to do all the things she needed to be more healthy like quitting smoking, leaving her job and going on disability, moving in with me on the Cape so I could help take care of her and trying to avoid getting sick all the time.
I was just mad all the time. I was mad when she got sick. I was mad when she died. I am still mad that she died. I feel cheated. Just when we were really working out our Greek Tragedy of a relationship that it seems most mothers and daughters duel within, she fucking died. I am only 7 years younger now than she was when she died. 7 fucking years. She never saw me be a mom, be a nurse, raise my kids and become a reallifekindagrownup.
Its bullshit really. Its been a long time since I really really wished she were around until the other day at work. My patient seemed really really familiar to me. Her face. Her name. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I have this terrible thing where after I am done for the day, usually, I just flush their identity down the toilet and never remember them again. There are literally about 4 exceptions to this in all of my 10ish years of nursing. Only one name I can put with a face and am actually friends with in real life. I just don’t work that way in my work. Personally, I can remember every name and face and would recognize my 3rd grade crush Patrick and be able to recall to him how much I loved the bubble-gum ring he gave with the dried flowers in resin. Ask me who I took care of yesterday at work…um, er, maybe? Anyone last week? Nope. But this patient I had, she was so familiar. Sometimes I know people from my other hospital but I knew that wasn’t it. Finally, while transferring her from the ICU to a floor I remembered.
She was a pill from the moment I walked into her room that morning. Listing all the things that were wrong, how she must be moved to a different room because the vent in her room was so noisy she couldn’t sleep a wink and can’t you get me some hot coffee and some ice water and these pillows are so flat do I have to keep this IV on, really (it’s a drip of cardiac medication she is in the ICU to get. so um, yep). I asked her on our way to the floor finally realizing who she might be, “Did you teach 4th grade at ……… school?” She smiled and said “YES! Were you a student there?” I said I was, that in fact she was my 4th grade teacher. My patient said, “Oh, how wonderful, what is your name? ” I tell her. I have a REALLY REALLY unusual last name. Like, so unusual that if you have ever heard of my last name I am totally related to them. Like, anywhere they might be, they are my immediate family of uncles and cousins and aunts. She smiles and says in a voice that is trying to hide something, “Oh, that doesn’t sound familiar. I hope I was a good teacher and you had a good year!”
I smile and change the subject and say something to the extremely nice and helpful Tech that is helping me transport her. The tech keeps saying, “How cool! that is so neat. What a weird cool thing!……blahblahblah.” I keep smiling and pushing her in the wheelchair to her room.
Handoff is given, she is settled into her room.
I walk out to go back with my Tech and tell her that woman tortured me. She was so awful to me. It was one of the worst years of my entire life. I only attended that school for one year and then my mom divorced my stepfather and we moved to a different town and school district making my 5th grade year the 4th elementary school I attended in 6 years. This teacher was horrible. She called me dirty and stupid all the time. I got a bad heat rash and she sent me to the nurse who sent me home saying that the teacher suspected I had scabies. My grandfather picked me up and took me to the doctor who proclaimed it heat rash-just like I thought it was familiar as I was being a rashy child with eczema and allergic to everything that bit me. I was sent back to school the next day with the new knowledge my teacher and school nurse thought I had an insect that could burrow under my skin and cause a rash. SO GROSS. This teacher was not satisfied with my doctor note. She put my desk in the corner, instructed no one to touch me or talk to me, I was not allowed to go to recess. This went on for weeks before I told my mother who wrote her a note and the isolation abruptly stopped. But her treatment of me did not. I stayed in from recess often because I was so slow and stupid and didn’t do my times tables well enough. My handwriting was terrible and she criticized my cursive constantly. She never called on me, spoke to me like she did the other children and when it was obvious this fat pig of a girl named Missy was hitting me and bullying me, she made me sit next to her in class and changed my seating assignment so I could learn to get along with people better.
She was a monster. A monster that caused permanent scars on my psyche to this day and I still totally LOATHE her. She was horrible and was just another piece of a horrible year.
The next year I move and start another new elementary school. The guidance counselor there, prompted by my teachers, gives me an IQ test after I complete my standardized testing for 5th grade and score off the charts. The test she gives me in 5th grade stated that I read on a college sophomore level, possessed math skills of a 11th grader and science skills of a freshman in college. She was so excited and told my mother who literally said, “Well what do you want from me about it?” I was so pleased and proud and thought of my 4th grade teacher that bitch (or whatever I could have named her while being 11 years old) can fucking suck a bag of dirty dicks. I thought maybe I would be skipped a grade which would have been heaven because I had been bigger than everyone by 3rd grade and was about the size I am today in 5th grade. I was so excited that maybe I would be with older kids since everyone always mistook me for someone older. But no. My mom didn’t do anything about it. I stayed in 5th grade. My guidance counselor was so sweet and sad for me she hooked me up with the special ed teacher and I became her classroom helper and made bulletin boards for her, made dittos and helped in her classroom during my recess 3 days a week.
I wish my mom were still alive so I could tell her I saw Miss XXXXX and what a fucking bitch she was. I want to ask her why didn’t anything come of my testing? What was it for? What was she thinking? Why, what, where, when everything all over again damnit.
I will never have any answers because my hourglass ran out of sand. No flipping it back for a do-over. Boom, gone.
I am pleased with myself though because I did NOT tell her what a fucking bitch she was and how miserable she made me and it was the worst year of school I ever had which is saying a lot because I LOVED school. I was kind. I was polite. I kept it all in. I didn’t even secretly wish she would fall this winter and break her hip and spend a protracted amount of time recovering only to develop pneumonia and have to be placed on a vent unable to be weaned and transitioned to a trach when she would die of sepsis from a bed sore because KARMA is a bitch.
After many, many months my husbands blank journal set out into the world in 1990 was returned to us via WI and a young woman named Madeline.
Riding on a bus in India Madeline was passed this book by another young woman and the return of this once blank journal started on its journey back to the orginator.
I am curious about the many people who have written in this and passed it on with hope of the chain continuing.
Did people find it like a chain letter-bad luck if not written in and passed on? Did they wonder where it would end up? Did they think about the person who made it? Did they write to my husband or themselves?
How have the lives of the people who wrote in it changed? Are they married? Do they have children? Have they died?
Since 1990 my husband’s life has changed so much. In 1990 he had just been deciding to change his major at Mass College of Art from illustration to 2D painting. He was 19-20 years old living in Allston, MA with roommates. Spending summers in his hometown in Provincetown,MA in Cape Cod working at his family’s business The Governor Bradford Restaurant, drinking with friends, driving his jeep, trying to meet girls, having parties, going to concerts and traveling during school breaks.
He graduated in 1993, first in his class at Mass Art and won a solo show at his schools gallery and the Top Painter Award. We had been together for one year. He had just gotten his braces off the year we met in May 1992. We spent the next 7 years living year round in Ptown, traveling, getting hitched officially, acquiring two cats, buying a car, saving money to buy a house and working.
In 1998 my mother died and my desire to attend school fulltime was pressing. We decided to move away from the Cape in 1999 and started living full-time in Baltimore. Soon we were pregnant and I gave birth to our first child, Spawn in 2001. Desiring more time together as a family and struggling to make ends meet in 2002 in Baltimore and we were able to move back to Ptown and live with his family working in the restaurant for the next 5 years. We added our darling Chica to the mix in 2004.
Once Spawn started school full-time for Kindergarten we made Baltimore our more permanent home, I started Nursing school and finished when our darling Chica started Pre-K in 2008.
Going along our lives, traveling together BC (before children) and then spending as much time as possible together when our kids were wee and small.
The journal might have been mentioned in passing when a few years ago Husband was painting old beer cans and leaving them around places we visited and lived. Also telling me about things he and fellow artist would leave around the city of Boston. He might have at some point mentioned the journals. Maybe not.
Miraculously, Madeline sent one back.
When I think of family heirlooms, this journal and all it represents are so important and will be a lasting reminder of the way Husband’s mind works, how he thinks about art and why art is important to him and why it should be important to you.
It’s been so long it’s like it didn’t exist. I have been motherless for 19 years this December. I am no one’s little girl. I have no one harshly judging me and pushing all the buttons they installed. No one recalls embarrassing things at family gatherings. I miss knowing someone has the secret knowledge of my potty training, first words, school concerts, my failures and accomplishments. I wonder without any hint at what she might say now. Nice people say she would think nice things. I think she would say nice things about me to others but save the judgy harsh bits for weekend phone conversations. Without any parents am I free to be what I want and evolve organically of my own determination liberated from the innate need to please and be pleasing or am I fooling myself that their absence changes anything? Parenthood is powerful and as my teenagers grow I am more concerned I wield my power carelessly finally realizing I will never be an expert . Parenting is a profession of amateurs.
Uranium has a half-life of 30 years, “Not only does it decay by giving off energy and matter, but it also decays at a rate that is characteristic to itself. The rate at which a radioactive isotope decays is measured in half–life. The term half–life is defined as the time it takes for one-half of the atoms of a radioactive material to disintegrate. ” . The radioactive isotope is invisible after its initial burst and most often initial event is seen as a huge fireball whose cloud disperses its insidious poison deliberately as only it can as that is its nature. Contained uranium can be manipulated to produce energy that gives us light and warmth but if not handled properly minding its temperature and dissemination the energy can no longer be contained.
Radiation permeates all things stemming out from its ground zero for hundreds of miles. Winds swirling around our planet pick up these powerful invisible molecules and carry them until they lift off into our outer atmosphere leaving the dirt, buildings, trees, people, animals, insects, rocks, books, glass, food, plastic, cars, lawnmowers, spoons, forks, skirts, shirts, shoes, toys, bikes, birth certificates, paintings, water hoses, railings, rugs, cups, plates and every single existing THING saturated with deadly invisible poison. This poison causes illness that manifest immediately and some that fester within our DNA waiting to fell you with exotic and common fates that kill you quickly and slowly.
Everything changes instantly while the life you had must be abandoned, realistically before you really needed to in order to avoid the blackest of destinies after uranium lets itself loose. Everything you felt comfort in is now poisoned. The walls around you that kept you safe are now an empty echoing empty well where you would slowly starve to death in agony and pain.
28 years after my mother’s death my body has continued to grow, my family expanded and my inner world richer. Is it because of your absence or because of it? When the bar you have set when you are given birth to dies before you have really done much of anything with your life except to continue to be alive does it eliminate the finish line?
Maybe I just need to wait 2 more years for the half-life of her death to reveal itself. Her memory becomes less poisonous and dangerous as it becomes fainter and her love becomes more bittersweet in its fading. My mother was my personal uranium fueled power plant and with the melting implosion her death left in its wake I am bobbing up down in this river, scared, lonely, confused but marveling at the lush life that has sprung up despite my past destruction.
Its been so long blahblahblah since I have faithfully written in you. Its not like I have forgotten you or been too busy or don’t care.
Its not even like I am out of words to say. When you haven’t written in so long sometimes its hard to get back because the pressure to be witty, clever and relevant is oppressive.
Because, really folks, its just the internet, right?
Every time I feel like putting my hands on my hips and shouting for your kids to get off my lawn, shut down my FB account, stop looking all together something crazy happens. Sometimes its just a cat that looks like a minotaur cat/dead plucked chicken
But then sometimes its the story that my husband has been a part of for 25 years #donreadme
A couple of days ago a nice girl named Madaline Zedblick put out into the interwebs that she was passed a journal made by my husband Donald Edwards inn 1990. Donald put blank journals in airports with his name and address on the back cover with the command README written on the front.
Madaline was on a bus in India and a girl who spoke some english passed the journal to her and she has been on a quest to find Donald. From his former address in Allston MA she tracked down my father in law, also Donald Edwards and sent him an email. Luckily for us his Dad passed it on to Donald and contact was made.
It is amazing to me that a journal, found in an airport in Massachusetts could find its way all the way to India 25 years later, remain in one piece and passed to someone who found it to be a treasure worth sharing.
People are amazing and I can’t wait to read it. Thank you to everyone who shared #donreadme.
The universe and everyone in it is amazing.
Not everyone has the opportunity to work where your mother died and be at work on the anniversary of that day. It wasn’t as weird as I thought it would be. In fact, it was pretty ordinary.
But isn’t that just like death, to be ordinary? Loss, is so common. It happens every minute on this rock hurtling through space circulating around a ball of fire. Keeping that in mind, you would think it would be dramatic, right?
The living keep on living, held down by gravity driving to work, pooping, arguing, buying dinner, kissing children, laughing, crying blahblahblah. The dead, well, we don’t know where they are or even if they are.
Pieces of people get inside you and stay forever. Your parents especially are actually parts of you. You inherit all your mitochondria from your mother so you are always more your Ma then your Pa. Those pieces that remain feel like they are still there.
People seek confirmation of the presence of those they have loved and lost in mediums, meditation and prayer. Pawing over objects that hold their scent, looking at pictures as proof of their existence.
I think we are just reassuring ourselves that we knew them. Confirming they were real to begin with to validate our longing and grief.
Whatever is meaningful to us, those that remain on this rock certainly can’t mean anything to someone who is dead. I am sure they have better things to do.
As do we, so, so long , SO LONG. Its nice to still know you.