The trigger for tears. Thanks, Mom.

It’s been six months.

Six months and I didn’t even realize it. Logging in to Facebook yesterday morning brought this post made by my mother to my attention:

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…followed by some silent tears because Emily, of course, tries to hold back emotions when she’s in public places. She’d rather be overwhelmed by them late at night when she can pull the flower-shaped capsule containing her grandparents’ ashes up to her mouth to kiss.

I had never seen that photo before, the one on the left where my mother clasped her mother’s worn, battered hands shortly after life escaped her.

Grandma always had messed-up knuckles. She used to scold me for cracking my knuckles as often as I do (who knew her loss of hearing would actually be a blessing in disguise? No more scolding!). “Do you want your hands to look like these?” she’d say, holding up her tired-looking hands to taunt me. If I’m not mistaken, her brother or someone in her family had shut the car door on her hand as a child, creating some funky-looking joints and misshapen fingernails.

Yep. Me. Grandma. Braces. Papa in the background a year before his death.
Yep. Me. Grandma. Braces. Papa in the background a year before his death.

Her sun-spotted hands combed my hair, poured water over my head in the bathtub and kneaded apple pie crust just enough without overworking the dough. She taught me how to do needlepoint, played Go Fish! with me and played the piano for me back when she took lessons in her 70s. Those hands did a lot. She was quite the lady.

We moved what I call my “Big-Girl Bed” into my room over this past winter break from my grandparents’ house. I went into the house ahead of my dad to collect the sheets and prep the mattress and box spring.

Big mistake.

“Emmie?” Dad asked when he walked in through the garage door, but I didn’t answer. My sobs had forced me to sink into myself as a headache crept over my brain from all the scrunching and frowning. He found me, blinked back tears himself and just held me. “I know… this sucks,” he said. That only made me sob harder.

Yeah. Emily got her Big-Girl Bed. But she lost her grandma.

I don’t think about her as often as I did. She’s on my ankle, she’s around my neck, she’s on the walls, she’s everywhere, but I don’t break down as often as I used to. It takes certain triggers to set me off. My mom’s Facebook post did the trick.

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Below is my poem from the 2013 Poetry Slam at St. Bonaventure University. I sat down afterward, put my head between my knees and sobbed. Hope you do the same…?

Go around or you’ll drown

Trevor refused to divulge his plan. “You’ll see when we get there,” he said.

He probably knew we’d all steal his idea if we had known ahead of time. We definitely would have stolen his idea.

So we set a 5-hour block appointment with our favorite tattoo artist. I had my design; Mom, hers; Kim –– my almost sister-in-law –– hers. Adam’s, of course, had to do with music to start a sleeve on his right arm instead of continuing his left.

But all of our ideas meant something, even Adam’s. Local Natives’s music inspires him, why not have lyrics tattooed on his arm? “Who Knows Who Cares” is a beautiful sentiment because, honestly, who knows anything and, frankly, who even cares?!?

But Trevor’s. Oh, Trevor’s. He won. His idea was the best. His meant the most.

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My grandparents had different tapes we’d listen to on the way to Sunday School every week. The last van they purchased had to have a tape player so they could keep playing them. My three older brothers and I loved one particular tape the most out of the others. And even when a 16-year-old Jordan and then a 16-year-old Trevor took over the driving, pushing Grandma to the middle row of seats, we still loved listening to that tape.

A little boy –– I can’t quite remember his name –– went off walking one day, out in the woods to romp and play. He came to a clearing and happened upon a rather large pond. He hesitated. He wanted to get to the other side as fast as possible but wasn’t sure what to do.

“Peep! Peep! Just knee deep!” a group of young peeper frogs exclaimed.

“Better go around,” an old, deep-voiced bullfrog belched and Papa imitated him perfectly.

He thought about it. The little peeper frogs’ way was surely the best –– he’d get to the other side far more quickly and heck, if it’s only knee deep, he thought, why not?

“Peep! Peep! Just knee deep!”

Following the peeper frogs’ advice, the boy waded into the pond and passed the knee-deep level. The water got deeper and deeper and, because he couldn’t swim, the boy drowned in the pond.

“Shoulda gone around,” the bullfrog croaked.

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I know what you’re thinking. What a terribly tragic story. But I never thought that; I always loved it. I can still hear Papa saying “Better go around” in his gruff voice while I shrieked “Peep! Peep! Just knee deep!” in my whiny, childish voice.

There’s a lesson in the story that I only recently realized: trust your wise elders and don’t rush life. Take the long way around. Enjoy the journey instead of rushing it to get to the destination. We know things didn’t end well for the little boy that day. He “Shoulda gone around.”

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The cardinals are my Grandma & Papa.

So tears gathered in my eyes when Trevor finally told us his tattoo idea. And when the tattoo artist lifted the needle from Trevor’s bicep for the final time, wetness trickled down

I carry them with me, too.
I carry them with me, too.

my freckled cheek.

Don’t get a tattoo just to get one. Make sure it means something to you. You win bonus points if it makes your little sister cry out of happiness like my brother’s did.

Stream of consciousness

“Forego sleep when an idea strikes,” I offered as a writing tip in my opinion writing class a few weeks ago.

Yeah.

It should have been, “If you can’t sleep, write.” ‘Cause that’s what I’m doing right now.

And since I read this article a few days ago, I know I’m simply screwing my brain over by not sleeping right now. So that feels good. Those imaginary garbage men are getting some time off after working overtime to clean out the toxins I accumulated this past weekend.

I’m up because my heart won’t stop racing. I had this same problem when I was younger. My mom would tell me to clear my head and stop thinking so much, but I never could.

Tonight I’ve been overanalyzing relationships I’ve had and imagining new ones.

The unknown scares me, but each day I plunge deeper and deeper into it.

I wish I had more time with my grandmother.

“Where were you?” My roommates asked last weekend.

“Visiting my grandparents,” I replied.

Grandma ushered me into their warm, cozy home with a plate of cookies and a chair to sit in next to a crackling fireplace. Papa cracked a joke and Grandma offered me a glass of milk to go with my cookies.

I wish.

No. I stood next to a hunk of cold marble holding an umbrella in one hand and a bouquet of autumn-colored flowers in the other. “Happy Sweetest Day,” I said and produced enough tears to rival the rain.

That was an exaggeration. But you get my point. I cried a lot, okay?

These brand-new sheets of mine have already developed pills and it pisses me off. I must thrash around in my sleep. Don’t read too far into that.

Now this is just turning into a stream of consciousness post. Hey, Virginia Woolf.

Speaking of Virginia Woolf, I’m still wondering if I should drop my English major. Make it a minor. Make it easier. But since when has Emily ever take the easy way out of things? Haha never. 

My hands still smell like the onions I chopped for the batch of potato soup I made on Friday. Papa would have loved it.

Most of the things I’ve been mulling over are now in this post. I’ll let the rest fester. You’ve suffered long enough.

I had been meaning to write about my visit to my grandparents’. I’m glad I suffered from insomnia tonight.

But now I just want to sleep.

What I wish I was doing right now.
What I wish I was doing right now.