A Bitter Change of Season

It is my hope that this blog isn’t going to become an anthology of depressing stories from my life, although that seems to be the way of things, lately.

My younger, and only, brother passed away the night before Thanksgiving. Died. As in, ceased to live on this earth.

Even as I type those words out, I can scarcely believe them.

But I was there at the hospital when it happened and I know them to be absolutely true. He had been rushed to the hospital in an ambulance that morning. I had spent most of the day in the surgical waiting room with my mom, awaiting word from anyone wearing a set of scrubs who could tell us what was happening.

Blood in his abdomen. Emergency surgery to find out why. By late afternoon, we knew of the aneurysm that ruptured near his spleen. For a very short time, we held on to the belief that things would be okay. The bleeding was controlled… until it wasn’t. For hours, the surgical ICU staff fought their best fight, bringing unit after unit of blood and platelets like swords onto a battlefield.

By late evening, they were still unable to stop the exsanguination—he was bleeding from everywhere, they had never seen anything like it—and his organs began shutting down. We were left with the option to keep trying, recognizing futility in the knowledge that he would be brain dead, or we could tell them to stop their aggressive efforts and let nature take its intended course.

Standing in front of my mom, holding her hands in mine, the same knowing expression reflected in both of our faces… we chose the latter.

“What else is there to do?” I remember how her tearful words cut through the silence as eight doctors stood, eyes downcast and bodies frozen in suspended animation, knowing just as we did that there was nothing left to do.

I will never forget that night as long as I live. The amount and complexity of the machinery that surrounded him. The staccato, repetitive track of beeping that kept time with the shushing, rhythmic utterance of his ventilator. The echo of footsteps as doctors shifted around his bed in choreographed motion. The way he looked, swollen and alien and silent as death.

The world around us was still as I hovered at his bedside. Medical instruments continued to automate his breathing but I knew—with absolute certainty—he was already gone. Where? I could only wonder.

He slipped away a little after 9:30 that night.

I want to know why. People who should have died a long time ago are still here. People who have done horrible things are still here. People who want out of their lives are still here, ready and waiting for Death to beckon at its earliest convenience.

My brother had everything to live for. Why did he have to go?

I can’t seem to find any answers to that question and I don’t believe I ever will, save for life can be cruel and the lesson is in how we handle ourselves whenever it is.

To be honest, I’m not handling it well. This internal and constant seething rage is something I’ve never felt before. I’ve been trying to stay active, trying to do all of the things I used to do before November 25th. I did some stuff for the PTO at school. I put some lights out around the porch for the holidays. Even put the reindeer antlers on my car. I have not done a lick of shopping and it’s December 19th, but that’s typical of me this time of year.

Sometimes I spontaneously cry while I’m driving, lost in thought. Or now, while I’m writing. I hadn’t written anything in weeks, until a few days ago when the urge struck like lightning. I realized I needed to do *something* productive and gods know I hadn’t submitted anything new to BLUNTmoms in a while. My novel… its characters and story line have finally started calling me back and it’s a welcoming sound. A new work, a children’s book, is beginning to form into something tangible.

I have things to focus on. Direction. Purpose.

I needed this sort of normalcy more than I could have imagined. And I know I have to keep moving forward or else I’ll drown before I can set foot on the shore.

“Fake It Till You Make It” is officially my new mantra. Go through the motions pretending you’re okay, and eventually, you will discover that you are.

I hope.

On Life And The Occasional Unfairness Of It

It’s been quiet here for two months now. Life has a way of doing that to people, I suppose. One day, you’re full of interesting shit to say and in the next… you’ve got nothing.

August was difficult month. My father passed away suddenly, although perhaps not entirely unexpectedly. The night before the morning I received the call, I had an inkling. An odd sense of precognition that warned me of exactly what was to come in a matter of hours. I just knew… and yet, I ignored it. I didn’t call him that evening in spite of what I felt, because anyone who knew my father knows that you don’t ever drop in on him unexpectedly or phone him when he might be busy watching The Weather Channel. It would infuriate him in ways I could never fathom; that one simple disruption would cause a tiny ripple in the flow of his entire day, and as the undulation multiplied and slowly grew in size, in his mind the reverberation of it heralded the systematic destruction of his entire world.

Even though “Weather On The 8’s” is replayed on an unending loop, every eight minutes.

He was an odd duck, that one. Still, I should have called him, anyway.

My mother and I, along with my brother, seamlessly made all of the arrangements without argument or sense of discord. The man himself had wanted nothing in way of a funeral procession; we agreed on a small service with military honors at the cemetery chapel before interment. He may have rolled his eyes at my black “funeral” slacks, but I don’t think he would have minded them entirely.

Funerals are intended for the people left behind, more so than for those who did the leaving.

My mother is handling her life as it comes, taking care of one thing after another as her own mother does, and as her aunt does, the way her grandmother and her great-grandmother did. There is a resilience throughout the women of our clan, I think; husbands are always lost too soon and most of our women live decades beyond those shattering losses. Such is the way of a long life. My great aunt is 93, my grandmother is 88. Their mother lived until the age of 93. Female longevity is in our bloodline.

Now watch me get hit by a bus today. Wouldn’t that be a kick in the ass and a hilarious twist of fate?

At least there’s a life insurance policy in place now. I had been hounding my husband about getting them set up for the last ten months or so because the older I get, the more I am apparently turning into my grandmother—a woman who has all of her ducks in a row. Her entire funeral is arranged and paid for so she wouldn’t have to worry about the family “dealing with it” when the time comes. I haven’t gone so far yet, but give me a little more time and I will.

We rarely ever need those types of fallback plans, it’s only when they aren’t already in place that they become a necessity.

Here’s to living forever.

Twenty Years Later…

My high school reunion came, and then it went. I did not attend.

It wasn’t as though I were oblivious to the occasion. Plans were underway for quite some time, I knew about them, and I’ll admit that for the briefest of moments I did consider going.

I have a friend who couldn’t believe I was even entertaining the thought of skipping out on my 20th high school reunion.

“How could you do that?” she asked incredulously. “You have to go! You’ll have so much fun!”

I gave serious thought to her words for about five minutes. They were coming from someone whose high school experience greatly differed from my own. Her senior class had fewer than 50 kids. She lives in the same tightly-knit town she grew up in, the same one where most of the people she went to school with also still reside, and whose kids now attend the same school alongside her own—and mine. Everybody runs into each other all the time at the gas station minimart or while they’re stopped at the only stoplight in the center of town.

My high school? It had just under 250 seniors. Many of them—myself, included—fled from the city as soon as they were able, so 1994 Woodrow Wilson graduates have been spread across the country like seeds on the wind. Fourteen years, a marriage and two kids later, I finally settled down about 20 miles from where I grew up, but most of my closest friends from high school live nowhere near our hometown.

None of them are the type of people who would attend a high school reunion, anyway. That probably speaks volumes for the company I keep.

“But you have to go! It only happens once and you’ll regret it forever if you don’t!”

I heard those same words right around the time of my senior prom. I went to my prom because I didn’t want to look back one day in the distant future and regret not going. My boyfriend at the time took me to the only high school dance I ever attended but I don’t think he really wanted to be there, either. The deejay was terrible, the food was mediocre and definitely not worth the price of admission. At the end of the evening when we left—early—to go and shoot some pool at a friend’s house, I realized that prom was nothing but hype. Legend. A romanticized ideal perpetuated by teen movies and cautionary tales which reiterate a notion that one day we’ll regret the decision not to attend.

Prom was a waste of two hours of my life that I’ll never get back, so I decided that I wasn’t going to fooled by that advice a second time. The world would not end if I didn’t attend my 20th high school reunion and I certainly wouldn’t be missed.

Well, I’m pretty certain, at any rate. I did some online sleuthing out of curiosity but Facebook was oddly quiet after the event last fall; no one posted anything about it. For all I know, the plans fizzled out and nobody went.

Maybe we all had the same idea.

Thanks to decent genetics, I haven’t changed much in 20 years. My hair is different now. My breasts grew a couple sizes bigger after having kids but Gravity hasn’t had her wicked way with them yet; they look fantastic. Even better than when I was in high school, if I do say so myself. I marvel at them in the mirror sometimes. Seriously. They are incredible and they’re the source of all my power.

More importantly, I didn’t go to my reunion because I don’t feel the need to compare and contrast or compete with who’s got the most interesting life now. That seems to be the real reason that people attend these things, right? Not to catch up with one another, no matter how much we might convince ourselves of that noble goal, but to see who’s done exceedingly well for themselves, who’s turned into a raging alcoholic, who’s living in a cardboard box under a bridge. I don’t see the point. We’re all making our way through this world the best we can. What more is there to say about it?

Truth be told, I was also a little afraid to go because of a real possibility that no one there would even remember me. I was one of those “sweet” girls who got along with everybody, belonged to no cliques, didn’t do any extracurricular activities aside from working backstage for the drama department during my senior year. I was very plain. I didn’t stand out. I was entirely forgettable.

I’m left to wonder whether that isn’t a small part of the reason I dye my hair bright colors. People might not remember my name or my face, but they’ll remember seeing that chick with the pink hair, spotted only for an instant before being lost among the crowd.

That small aspect of myself has become one of the biggest parts of my identity. It’s also why, twenty years later, no one I attended school with would be likely to recognize me now. That’s probably for the best, I think. I don’t need to relive those “glory days” because they weren’t glorious. They were just… days.

Here Be Spam Dragons

Some days I feel like my Gmail’s spam folder deserves a big hug and a chaste kiss. Like a chivalrous Knight Of The Round Table, it ceaselessly defends and protects me from ridiculous annoyances on a daily basis. It never takes a holiday, it never goes on vacation to the Bahamas, leaving me to fend for myself.

No. It is unyielding in its efforts to slay all of the Spam Dragons who would dare to breach the sanctity of my personal fortress.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

As a show of appreciation to my spam folder — and spam folders everywhere — here is but a glimpse of what mine battles every day:

thisisatestThis is one test I won’t have to take. I get to continue living in a gauntlet-free zone.

russianbridesThey never look like their pictures. Take my word for it. You might think you’re getting a hot, lonely, undersexed supermodel until a hosebeast with a face full of hairy warts shows up on your doorstep with a raggedy suitcase, a bowl of borscht, and a toothless smile.

freecellphoneThe asterisk says it all. Sounds like there’s probably some sort of catch involved, like it’s free* in return for the blood of your firstborn.

weightlossrevealedI bet it involves one weird trick I won’t have to worry about falling for.

getanynowA_N_Y .. O_N_E .. I .. W_A_N_T ..? Really? Any one? Like, in the whole wide world? Hey slow down a minute, maybe we should talk about this…

christian mingleWhy on earth…? The last (and only) time I dated a Christian, his whole church-going family lovingly referred to me as “that heathen.” To my face. It probably didn’t help that I wore a hex bag around my neck and performed a spirited voodoo incantation right before I used my teeth to rip the head off of the chicken I intended to roast for dinner.

Just kidding. I’m not a voodoo-ist. I’m Pagan. The store-bought chicken was already headless.

3dudesI don’t know what they’re waiting around for at the loft condo by Coors Field, but the invitation sounds kinda rapey. My purity is sure to remain intact, thanks to my knight in cyber armor always looking out for me.

He acts as the bouncer at my personal club, the Lancelot to my Guenièvre, the Alistair to my Hero of Ferelden. Spam might be flung at me from every conceivable direction but he is constantly there, battling those unwanted advances from faraway armies that vie for my attention on a daily basis.

I can offer only this in return: Thank you, Spam Folder, for always having my back.

Word Of The Day: Fun Dip

Fun Dip |fən dip|

noun
• A powdery, sugary confection developed by Willy Wonka Satan himself, manufactured somewhere in the bowls bowels of Hell. Street names include Hell Sprinkles, Sinister Sand, Maleficarum’s Magically Multiplying Mess and Devil Dust. Has a 100% likelihood of spillage, with only a 30% probability of completely successful cleanup afterward.

• 9 out of 10 kids will agree with the following statement:
“Fun Dip tastes awesome, especially when it’s licked directly from the table, my pants, or even the floor!

• 9 out of 10 parents will agree with the following statement:
“There is nothing ‘fun’ about Fun Dip.”

More-You-Know