Disconnected disjointed broken

I remember when they stopped coming.

When they stopped being able to make it to things. When they stopped hearing. When they stopped being able to walk.

The last track meet they ever watched me run in was when I was in seventh grade. I ran the 4X8 and the 1500. My coach let me skip the 800 because I’d almost beaten the school record in the 1500. I had earned the privilege of going home. I remember leaving the track with Grandma and Papa trailing along. Grandma probably carried the scratchy blanket they always used to keep in their car.

We stopped telling them about musicals and plays I acted in because they couldn’t hear the performers anyway. Even home track meets and cross country meets were impossible because they just couldn’t get around to them.

Papa fell at Jordan’s college graduation ceremony when he got up to use the restroom. Adam blamed me because I’d been in front of him. I cried in my black and white polka-dotted dress. My shoes matched perfectly. It’s all a tear-soaked blur, but I can still see him falling. Falling. Falling. The army veteran and former hardworking Cummins salesman was so embarrassed.

I just wrote that we didn’t take them to Trevor’s college graduation, but “them” wasn’t even possible. Papa had died the year before. He saw everyone graduate from high school except me.

I’m all disconnected disjointed broken with my words because my tear ducts still haven’t run dry. I think about last year when Grandma was around for Easter.

Easter was early my senior year of high school and Grandma and Papa watched my brothers and I scramble around outside for an Easter egg hunt.

I won.

Papa went to the hospital a few weeks later.

He died.

I know you’re not supposed to regret things in life, but I regret all the times I told Grandma and Papa, “no thank you” when they asked me to do things. I regret complaining about how slow Grandma walked during our shopping trips, how I had to keep track of her cane, how she never stopped talking. I’d give anything to have the voicemail she left on my phone that I accidentally deleted a year ago.

I’d give anything to have either of them back.

I remember when they stopped coming, but I also remember when I stopped going. Stopped wanting to visit them, then stopped wanting to visit her when she lived there alone. When we stopped inviting them over because it was just too hard and then stopped inviting her over because she never shut up.

 

Dear Emily from a Year Ago,

Stop complaining and go fucking visit her. Give her a hug from me because the clock’s ticking and pretty soon she’ll be gone.

Love,

An older, wiser you

 

I carry them with me everywhere, but the cold metal pendant can’t provide me with the full dosage of warmth I need.

It never will.

Their memories haven’t reduced me to tears since the first day I saw the bed missing from their bedroom. I cried and cried and cried and my dad just enveloped me.

I think my problem is that I just got back from another trip to New York City and I remember telling my grandma all about it last year. I sat on her brand-new couch (that now has my name on it) and she sat in her usual chair. She told me about the time she spent in the city when she and Papa were first married. How they had a bedroom in a house where they lived with a few other people. Papa taught her how to drive in the city, she and Papa played cards in the city. She took a part-time job in a department store(?) while he began his career. If my mom, aunt and uncle can’t tell me more about my grandparents’ lives as newlyweds, those memories are lost forever.

Because he died.

She followed (basically) suit.

Next time I see them, I’ll be sure to invite them to things. Something tells me they’re able to hear and walk better in their post-life adventure.

 

Blog posts and birthdays

When I turned 13, I got my room redone. We covered the ugly mauve walls with bright raspberry, periwinkle, lime green and orange. I had my first boy-girl party that year. My crush came. He gave me AFI’s Decemberunderground CDNothing happened.

When I turned 14, I got my first iPod, a square, silver Nano that I promptly named “Pandora.” I wish I could access my mom’s computer right now to upload those pictures. My hair was long and curly. My crush-turned-boyfriend gave me a beautiful little heart necklace. If I remember correctly. Maybe that was Christmas…

When I turned 15, my mom made homemade pizza and wings, but didn’t think to thaw out the wings before putting them in the deep fryer. It overflowed, spilling oil all over the floor. Grandma and Papa came over with cleaning supplies to save our ship. With my brand-new camera (an orange Kodak EasyShare point-and-shoot), I took a “selfie” of my Papa and me. I have pizza sauce in the corners of my mouth.

When I turned 16, my dad couldn’t find my birth certificate. We rushed out to the DMV after he found it, but they had already stopped offering driver’s permit tests for the day. I pouted. And I couldn’t eat cake because I had the most important cross-country meet of the season (Sectionals) the next day. I made it to the state championship meet. Then I bought myself another iPod with my birthday money.

When I turned 17, I ran at Sectionals and qualified for the state championship meet again. Robby and his mom both gave me iPods. (I know…) And, to my mother’s dismay, I told our waitress at Red Robin it was my birthday and the wait staff gathered around our table and sang. My mom sat with her head in her hands.

When I turned 18, Robby gave me a diamond promise ring. I haven’t worn it in almost a year.

When I turned 19, Mom and I went on a shopping spree and Robby gave me diamond earrings. The cross-country girls sang to me at my door when I returned to school.

When I turned 20, my parents and brothers gave me my grandparents. I cried.

I love my family so much.

They’re all I need.

There they are.
There they are.

From the box to the grave

I wrote this poem in a cemetery I found nearby. In the beginning of the summer, I’d ride my bike there to sit and think. (I’ve spent a lot of time alone over the past couple of months.)

Such a gorgeous, gorgeous couple.
Such a gorgeous, gorgeous couple.

The poem is about my papa. I started crying and ended up calling my boyfriend while he was at work –– I needed to talk to someone. I’m my own worst enemy and often beat myself up mentally. I sat there under my tree near Harriet’s grave (died in the 1870s, no last name on stone), and wished I could visit one for Papa. I wished I could go somewhere to be alone, but still be with him.

When he died, my grandma decided they would wait to open the grave until their combined cremains could be buried together. So his cremains sat in a bag, in a box, on a shelf. And I just wanted closure.

Looking back now, I’ve realized that, to have closure with him, she had to die, too.

And she did.

I just didn’t think about it at the time.

And I can’t go back to that cemetery ever again. I just can’t.

 

Grandma’s Sentimental Journey

Grandma moved to the couch when I began to cry. She closed both of her warm hands over one of mine and looked me straight in the eye. “I don’t want you to have to leave St. Bonaventure, and your Papa wouldn’t want that either” she said. “I can help you.”

The last time I saw Grandma, 7/8/13.
The last time I saw Grandma, 7/8/13.

I bawled and sank into her warm embrace. I thanked her profusely. I shuddered and said, “Please don’t tell Mom.”

She understood. She provided a little money toward my latest tuition bill and I didn’t have to tell my parents how much I actually owed. It was our little secret. Grandma loved that she could help me and loved that we had a secret. I was her special girl.

She’s gone now.

Grandma filled the plastic pool with water and sat in a lawn chair nearby as my lifeguard. There, in the pink wading pool, I learned how to hold my breath underwater for the very first time.

My salary as a child came from Grandma. She showed me how to take Papa’s old sock, put it over my hand like a glove and spray it with Pledge. Off I went meandering around the house, moving picture frames and knickknacks out of the way to reach the dust underneath. Three dollars sure felt like a lot of money to earn back then.

She’s gone now.

…and I can’t even write this without bursting into tears.

My graduation.
My graduation.

My grandmother was such a wonderful woman and her oh-so-recent death is unfathomable to me right now. It’s not real. It can’t be real. I’ve taken up residence in a wonderful cocoon of denial, but it’s beginning to break open.

She’s gone now, Reality keeps telling me, though I try to drown him out with mindless television, conversations with my family and thinking about anything but Grandma. And, in this way, things seem okay for awhile. Grandma is over at her house, sitting in her favorite chair and reading the paper.

SHE’S GONE NOW, the voice gets louder. She disappears, the chair disintegrates, the piles of newspapers fly around and, when everything has cleared, only the walls, carpets, cupboards, windows and doors remain. Rooms empty, pictures removed from walls; nothing signifying a house made into a home for 40 years. No sign of the couple who filled the home and made it the safe haven that it was.

I’m still in my little cocoon. I catch occasional glimpses of what is actually happening –– like Grandma’s body in a casket –– but quickly dismiss them. I experience flashbacks where I could swear I’m watching short videos of times I’ve spent with her. One second we’re baking cookies, the next she’s teaching me how to make pie and then we’re in Bubbles, driving around her neighborhood as she sticks her hands out the sunroof.

A picture I INSISTED on taking back in May. I'm glad I did.
A picture I INSISTED on taking back in May. I’m glad I did.

I want to break open my phone to retrieve the voicemail messages she left years ago that I so stupidly –– and accidentally –– deleted a couple months ago. I want to delve into the files of my brain and remember every detail of every visit she and I had within the past year. Memorize how she was, hear her voice again. Feel her warmth.

The largest dose of reality came when I took a closer look at her corpse and felt her hands. I kissed her cheek, but that wasn’t my grandma.

She’s gone now.

On a shelf

This is where you should be.

Not in a bag in a box on a shelf,

But in the ground.

Where you can feed the soil

you were born on and fell

in love on.

Soil you fought to preserve,

even though you never talked

about that.

 

I want your ashes to feed the ground

I walk on every day and bring forth new

life.

 

But, most of all, I just wish

you were still here.

So I could hear your voice

softly say my name again.

 

To kiss your sandpaper

cheek one more time

and hear you say “Oh, that’s nice”

and memorize that vibration

of your vocal cords.

 

Vocal cords that don’t even

exist anymore…

 

You’re dust in a bag

in a box

on a shelf.

 

 

~EMS

6/25/13

8:22 p.m.

 

JuneBug and the cardinal

A cardinal follows my aunt during her morning walks on the sand-covered trail near her home in Illinois. The brilliant, red bird flies from branch-to-branch, eavesdropping on my aunt and her friend’s morning gossip sessions. It is my belief that, when we die, we come back as a different being to be a guardian for the loved ones we leave behind. Cardinals that fly by me are my Papa. Pictures of cardinals and references to cardinals –– even the baseball team –– are signs from my Papa. He’s watching over me.

JuneBug, my mama's puppy
JuneBug, my mama’s puppy

It just makes sense. Grandma’s favorite bird is a cardinal, thus her husband came back as one. When I need guidance, something cardinal-esque usually pops up and reminds me of him. A lot of the time, it’s when I least expect it. As I sat at the kitchen table doing a word find during our last break, a cardinal landed on a post outside on the deck. He flew away, but not until after he had gotten a good look at me. The next day, out the bay window at my Grandma’s house, I saw red streak past. I’m so happy he watches over her, too.

And though my mom whines and says, “I wish I had my own cardinal like you guys do!”, we remind her of JuneBug, the warm ball of fur we adopted for her as a family to comfort her after her dad died.

I believe I’m not alone in seeing signs like these. Every family probably has a version of my Papa’s cardinal. I believe in reincarnation. My Papa still hangs around, looking over the family he made and the country he fought to preserve. He just looks a little different now with those bright red wings at his sides.

Five minutes ago

This tab has been up on my computer now for a solid 30 minutes. Time to write and fill the white space, huh?

But, try as I might, I can’t get this worded correctly and succinctly. So another five minutes passes. And I’m no closer to writing this than I was five minutes ago.

Here we go.

One of my favorite Gertrude McFuzz lines.
One of my favorite Gertrude McFuzz lines.

I was told last year that I have a “swagger.” I walk with a purpose; head up, eyes forward, smile –– usually –– on. I wouldn’t call it swagger; that has negative connotations. Especially when nobody knows how hard it is for me to put that smile on and walk around.

I’ve been demolished several times. Shut down. Turned off. Doubted.

Eighteen-year-old Emily walked onto campus and acted like she owned the place.

Fast forward to the tear-stained, first night of my second semester.  Through hearsay, a friend told me the freshman girls in my major who knew me didn’t like me.

I sobbed. I don’t know why, but I sobbed. Then I learned how to say “fuck you” and got over it, but some of my confidence remained shattered on the floor. And I didn’t know how to fix it.

Having my boyfriend of nearly three years join me at school the next year was a treat. He pumped me up, overflowing my world with unnecessary, dare I say it, cockiness.

I had to. I just had to. I began this semester, sans boyfriend and basically parent-less after informing them I had decided to leave the cross country team.

The quotes on my walls served as my only vice, helping me through a terribly difficult time and inspiring me to climb out of bed, despite the urge to stay tucked in and continue hugging Strawberry, my barely-pink-anymore teddy bear. I read these quotes every morning and remind myself that everything is going to be okay and that, though I’m just a little girl in a big world, I have the power to change it.

Thank you, Papa.
Thank you, Papa.

As my Papa said and as the quote on my wall states, “Everything happens for a reason.”

I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in right now if I still had that boyfriend or if I still ran on a rigorous, D1 cross country team.

I made these choices. I stood by them. I defended them.

Now I’m waving to a scared, 18-year-old Emily from across the gorge, urging her to take a risk. Assuring her that she’ll land safely on the other side and I’ll be there to comfort her.

Full House

Reggie looked like a puppy again. He lowered his head, licked bits of snow and came up with snow clinging to his nose. At 13 years old, he’s definitely getting up there in years. His colors aren’t as defined; the grey almost overpowers the reddish brown in some places. But he’s still a puppy.

JuneBug, on the other hand, shivered from her spot on the path between the porch and the driveway. Last winter was her first experience in snow, and a limited one at that.

Reggie welcomed it and JuneBug didn’t know what to do.

Ollie would have been out there tonight bounding through the freshly coated lawn. His ears would flop and he’d come back to the house with snow balls clinging to his furry poodle legs. I wish I would have seen that tonight. Ollie loved snow, too.

Grady will be out there playing soon. Finlay will join come Christmas Day.

Our house will be filled to the brim with brothers, significant others and canine companions (not to mention our two feline friends).

Maybe it’s all been a dream and Trevor took Oliver back to Long Island with him and never told us. Ollie and Finn will fly out of the car as soon as the door is opened. We’ll be so happy to have a complete family. Oh, and maybe they’ll have Papa with them, too. I know Papa would love JuneBug.

We’ll have a full house soon. And I’m definitely not complaining.

I’m actually wishing it could be filled exactly to the brim as it should be.

Two years of “The Bubble”

Two years.

Two freakin’ years.

You have got to be kidding me.

 

Papa handed me the check. I cashed it. Envelope overflowing with money. Most I’ve ever held.

Most I’ve ever spent. I handed it over and drove an iridescent Volkswagen Bug home. Mom and I were positively giddy on that ride back.

 

During the Eucharist at mass this morning, Oct. 14 (I’m not a usual churchgoer…I just happened to be at Mt. Irenaeus), I noticed an older gentleman go up for his share. He wore khaki pants and a checkered dress shirt. He hunched over just a tad.

My eyes were glued.

He reminded me so much of Papa.

Reminders of Papa do not crop up as often as they used to. I’m on year two; I’ve adapted. I get sad sometimes, but it’s not as overwhelming as it used to be.

I had to stare at the floor so nobody would notice my tears. My chin started to do its “I’M ABOUT TO CRY!” wobble and I bit my lip to halt it.

I’m in college. The only older gentlemen I see are friars and a few professors. How often do I see men in their 80s? It’s just not a daily thing anymore.

So it struck me. Especially on the day marking two years since the purchase of Bubbles.

 

I felt you today, Papa. Thank you.

Thank you for “The Bubble.”

Aging Sims

I never let my Sims reach old age. I lengthen the time for the young adult and adult stages as far as they will go. The Sim I made of me has four kids – something nearly impossible if the timeline of my Sim’s life had not been tampered with (unless my Sim has quadruplets – God bless her soul).

My grandma is not my grandma anymore. Dementia and Alzheimer’s swallow more of her everyday. She’s why I subconsciously refuse to let my Sims age. I’ve seen it up-close and personal. Why would I subject someone – virtual or real – to that kind of a life?

Grandma was the picture of health when compared to Papa. Papa’s body turned on him with cancer, diabetes and even more problems that he kept a list of (a list that filled up an entire 8.5×11 piece of paper – I’ve seen it). Grandma took care of him. They took care of each other. Now he’s gone (it’s been almost a year) and she’s all alone.

She’s irritable and hard to work with. She puts on a false front for my brothers and me (and cousins, too, when they’re around), but I hear the stories my mom comes home with. Stories about Grandma referencing something that happened 40 years ago, or claiming she just had a conversation with her mother (who’s been dead forever).

I was just getting to the point where I enjoyed riding my bike over to her house to sit and talk with her. After I got my license and Bubbles, I enjoyed taking her out for a ride. We went shopping when we wanted to. I took her out to eat. Now Alzheimer’s has begun settling in and I’m scared of what I’ll find when she opens her door to let me in.

She has her good days and her bad days. Turns out today was one of the bad ones.

The first time she brought a store-bought pie to Thanksgiving, my eyes teared up.

I miss her cookies. I miss her apple pies (I had to finish the last one she started to make, she was so overwhelmed). I miss playing card games and laughing. I miss being the little girl. Now, since her behavior is unpredictable, she’s the child and I’m the adult.

Tonight I’m going to play Sims and let my Sim grow old. I need to face it.

In the words of a band I love called Eisley, “I wasn’t prepared for this.”

Grandma has always reminded me of Bianca from The Rescuers. Always prim and proper, just like Bianca.