Wednesday, September 27, 2023

15 years: the silicone anniversary

Dear Nick,

When the hospital assigned me a surgery date and time two weeks after my consult, I was relieved.

Then I realized that it was our wedding anniversary!

And then I did math, and realized it was our 15th anniversary! Fifteen seems quite like a lot, doesn't it?

I can't remember if we promised each other sickness and health til death us do part. 

Probably? We went simple but fairly traditional.

Although in truth I didn't actually think about it that way until I really thought about it.

Yes, it's true that I no longer joke about stabbing you in front of you, because it upsets you, but you know I don't fully trust women who don't admit to occasionally feeling this way.

But most of the time I go through life with the approach that you and I will be together until one of us is no longer here in corporal form.

I just didn't think we'd be confronted with more than your deviated septum and Achilles heel business for quite some time to come.

Breast cancer was definitely not on my Bingo card. (I shot the clerk?)

At least neither of us are terribly sentimental about our wedding anniversary. I loved our wedding so much, you'd think I'd be into the anniversary.

I don't think we've ever exchanged gifts for it, have we? Not even a wee vacuum cleaner or bread knife. (I do love my birthday bread knife. Such a good one.)

Still, it seems auspicious, if surgery can be considered so, to do something life-saving on a big anniversary.

A friend recently asked if you were a breast man, and I was like, maybe he'd like to be? But if that were a top priority for a person, I wouldn't be the woman for them.

Still, when I decided to get implants, you did sneak in that the only regret you'd ever heard from friends who'd had implants was that they should've gone bigger.

At which point I was like, "Maude is coming to the plastic surgeon appointment with me."

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous, because it's a big surgery. And I've never had general anesthesia. I've never been intubated.

I saw my dad intubated plenty of times, but those were always under emergency circumstances.

I love my surgeon, and I feel confident that it will go fine. But still.

India asked if I was scared, and I said that what I'm most scared of is not being able to do things for myself. The hospital is amazing, and the surgeons are fantastic.

I asked her what she was scared of, and first she said she was afraid of me losing a boob. I told her that was the whole point. But I'm getting new ones!

She's scared of something going wrong. She's scared of losing me.

I told her that's not going to happen. Because it's not.

Me, I'm scared of not being able to take care of myself. 

Pain sucks, but I can handle it. We're getting Hulu so I can binge Buffy.

But I am so used to doing all of the everything.

My only frame of reference for surgery is my C-section, the recovery from which was horrendous. But since this one does not involve the severing of my abdominal muscles, and because I won't also have a new baby to care for, this should be less traumatic.

Still, and obviously, this is not how I'd choose to spend our anniversary.

In high school, when we did the play Our Town, our parents wept. I played Emily, the female lead, and of course, I thought it was our stellar acting abilities making them cry.

But now I understand that we were just too young to really get it. Adults, who'd lived through so much more than we had, who'd experienced time going by too fast, who'd lost loved ones, felt the message. 

In the last act, Emily, who has died young, has the opportunity to go back for a day and visit loved ones, so she can move on from the living. And she wants to pick a special day. 

The advice she's given is, "Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough."

It's easy, for me at least, to find our daily lives prosaic. Sometimes I long for adventure. Something to shake things up.

But then something comes along and shakes things up.

And reminds me that I like the safety and comfort of routine.

I so wish this 15th anniversary could just be a normal day, where you make me tea in the morning, and we text each other our Wordle scores, and you come home late and walk Wanda for the night, and then we sit on the couch and watch an episode of Midsomer Murders with our running commentary.

Instead, we'll be arriving at the hospital at 5:30 am, and I'll be in surgery at 7:30.

When I asked my breast surgeon in the consult if it would take a long time to get on her schedule, she gestured at my chest and said, "Your breasts are very small. It'll take an hour. I can fit this surgery in easily."

Like, with my small boobs, we could squeeze this all in between a Starbucks run and a manicure!

And in fact, my total surgery is 150 minutes. Then a couple hours in the recovery room, and then home. Where you can wait on me hand and foot. Hurrah!

Happy silicone anniversary, sweetie!



Friday, September 22, 2023

Isn't it rich? Are we a pair?

When I told my dear friend Leigh I had breast cancer, and was considering mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, she said, "You get the booby prize!"

She'd gotten in touch about the flowers for my mom's memorial. And I had to be all, oh, hey, I love dahlias and also: I've got a wee touch of the cancer. 

We cried together and then she brought up the booby prize.

You can see why we're friends.

Let me not pretend that I haven't sobbed my guts out, because I've cried so hard I've hyperventilated and retched and nearly fainted.

But apart from that kind of sobbing, so often it's laugh or cry. Two sides of the same coin.

At least, that's what I think.

We did a meditation exercise in yoga teacher training where we had to stare into a partner's eyes and send them loving energy.

I was partnered with this kind, beautiful, truly luminescent young woman. We both started laughing. It started small, and built and built. We shook with laughter. We laughed, and laughed. 

Quietly, not in a disrespectful way.

We kept trying to stop, and then one of us would start laughing again, triggering the other. I had tears of grief streaming down my face at the same time.

It's one of the best, most cathartic experiences I've ever had.


Maude went with me to the plastic surgery appointment.

My breast surgeon got me a last-minute appointment, and Maude and I decided to walk. Since it was a couple miles, I needed to wear sneakers.

It was a beautiful morning, and I put on a pair of bright turquoise capri pants. I think they might've been normal pants when purchased, but my mom lopped them off to capris. Which is a shame, because the color is fabulous, but the length is a little weird. I wear them anyway.

So I donned them, and decided to add new white running shoes with turquoise soles and orange details.

I looked in the mirror, and with these particular pants, they looked like clown shoes.

I turned to Nick. "Do I look like a clown?"

"Yes. Those pants are weird."

And I was all, I *have* to wear a good outfit. At least on the bottom.

Meeting a plastic surgeon is akin to meeting a new hairdresser, really.

I've known my lovely hairdresser so long it doesn't matter what I turn up in, although when I have time, I do try to dress cute, because she appreciates it.

But meeting a new one, I'd try to look like a person who fits the hair I want to have. You know?

So I was running around the house all, "I have to look normal! I can't look like a clown! What if I end up with clown boobs?"

And Maude was all, "Ooh, maybe they could honk when you squeeze them!" 

You might imagine that we went into the appointment in this mindset.

The nurse practitioner complimented Maude on her hair, which is currently blue and aqua. Very mermaidy.

She said though I thought I knew what I wanted, I could change my mind back and forth. She said, "You didn't choose to get cancer. But you get to choose what happens to your body."

This was so empowering.

We discussed implant sizes. I said I'd like to have what I had before two babies sucked the life out of my boobs. And I'd like them up where they used to be.

The plastic surgeon proffered an implant in my proposed size.

Maude put a hand on her breast and held the implant to compare sizing. It seemed totally reasonable.

It was very malleable. Nice and comfortable. It's the gummy kind. I thought it might feel like a gummy bear, but it's much softer.

Obviously, there was more to the appointment. These are the highlights.

When I asked the surgeon if I could take it home, he seemed surprised. "You want to take this with you?"

"Could I, please?"

"Well, you can't take this one, but I can get you another one..."

"That would be great!"

So he left and returned with a bigger, slightly less malleable one that I could take home. He said, "This is different, but you can have it. You really want to take it?"

I said, "Oh, yes! Thank you!" And popped it in my bag before he could change his mind.

Because who would take back an already-bagged boob?

It's nice to hold. Calming You can smoosh it, turn it over. Like a fidget thingy.

I had a house filled with guests last weekend for my mom's memorial service. 

We chatted and passed the implant around.

Sometimes I tuck it into my sweatshirt pocked and carry it around. Kind of like how men play with their whatevers when they're just sitting around.

Hashtag not all men? Because it's true that my sample size is not huge.

But realizing this made me think that if I were a guy, maybe I'd sit around with my hand in my pants while watching TV, too.

It's my emotional support boob.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Although it is true that in the immortal words of Rob Base, it takes two to make a thing go right.

Ever since I got my breast cancer diagnosis, I keep thinking of Ralph Macchio in My Cousin Vinny. 

"I shot the clerk? I shot the clerk?"

I mean, it's been 13 days since the radiologist told me I have breast cancer.

He walked through the details with Nick and me. The oncology addendum gives specific details of said cancer. 

I've now met with two breast surgeons and a plastic surgeon. I've had an MRI.

Still, regularly, I am all, "I have breast cancer?"

Today I turned to Maude all, "Can you fucking believe I have cancer?"

I shot the clerk? 

I already had the practice of going into Rock Creek Park with the kids and yelling. We started doing this in Covid. 

I need to take Maude so we can have a big bellow-fest.

Yesterday morning I asked Nick what he thought I should wear for my breast surgeon consultations.

I did this because when he has something important, I'm always all, "What are you going to wear?"

And he always says something like, "A suit. And a shirt. A tie. And shoes."

So I asked, and he was like, "Something breezy."

I love it when he plays along.

Also: Georgetown breast cancer center gives you a lovely waffle-fabric robe to put on.

Also also: when I told the surgeon about the T-Rex arms post-surgery, she was like, "We most certainly do NOT want you completely immobile! You can get frozen shoulder!"

Which I said was a relief, because I'd been worrying that maybe I wouldn't be able to wipe my own bottom.

She assured me this would not be the case.

Today I had an MRI. My doctor ordered it September 1, the day after I got my diagnosis, and I made the appointment that very day.

So, 12 days ago. And still, as of right before my appointment, my insurance hadn't approved it.

Because, they said, they'd only gotten the request yesterday, and they need 72 hours to review and approve. So they might not cover it.

I didn't ask them why they're a relentless bag of dicks. 

I know why. In America, the only entity that benefits from our private health insurance industry is the health insurance industry.

But I wasn't going to not get the MRI, because it's fucking cancer. And it's the next piece of information my surgeon needs.

So I put it on the credit card, and hopefully they'll reimburse us.

Health care professionals keep telling me to lower my stress level, relax, etc. Everyone except the insurance industry, which is like, let's ratchet up your anxiety at a vulnerable time.

I was nervous about the MRI and also really wondering what would happen, because they said I couldn't eat or drink anything for two hours ahead. Nothing. No water, nothing.

And I was like, they're not putting me under, are they? They'd have said.

But then the morning was hectic and Maude and I rushed from the plastic surgery consult to the MRI appointment and I wouldn't have had time to ingest anything in the two hour window anyway.

I will have to blog about the plastic surgeon appointment. Maybe tomorrow. 

He let me take an implant sample home. It's quite soothing.

At the MRI place they asked me in the paperwork and then again in person if I was claustrophobic and I said no. 

But they asked so many times that I was like, AM I?

Kind of like when you say a word over and over and then you're like, is that even a real word?

Maybe I'm claustrophobic? (I shot the clerk?)

Reader, I am not.

The tech running the machine was lovely, and truly, the whole thing was easy.

The only thing I regret was the music.

Despite the provided earplugs and noise muting headphones, there was still a tremendous amount of noise.

I didn't realize it would be like this.

She asked if I would like some music, and gave me a choice, and I immediately thought of my go-to and said, "How about 80s?" 

But then I was face down, boobs dangling in this big space tube with the clanking and clonking of the machine.

And layered on top was, "I wanna rock right now! I'm Rob Base and I came to get down!"

So if you have to do this, I might go for soothing classical.

I shot the clerk?

Saturday, September 02, 2023

Wake me up when September ends

Dear Mama,

When I was a kid and I had a nightmare, I'd crawl in on your side of the bed. 

I'd wake you up and whisper, "I had a bad dream."

You would always pull back the covers, and I'd snuggle under, safely tucked in against you, shielded by your arm. (The same arm you'd fling in front of me when you braked the car suddenly. Vestigial behavior from pre-seatbelt days.)

That particular feeling of safety, of being ensconced in protective maternal love, love that requests nothing in return, is one I crave so badly right now.

Today is your birthday, and ordinarily, your birthday post would be about you.

This date has loomed large since you left us. Birthdays hurt.

And it's not that I don't miss you, because my gosh, I do. I occasionally smell you as I pass through a room. I cry. 

It's not that I don't think about you and all the things I love about you.

It's just that in the most brutal year of my life, a year I could not imagine getting worse, it somehow did.

I've been diagnosed with breast cancer. 

Because I needed one more club to be in: dead dads, suicide loss survivors, dead moms...

I fully intend to be in the breast cancer survivors club down the road. Right now I'm in the havers club.

The lucky/awful thing is, it's a very popular club. There are lots and lots of incredible women in it. Loving, fabulous women who are generous with time and information.

But still. It's scary. And devastating. 

I don't yet know all the details for necessarily treatment, but I know I'll be having surgery.

I just keep thinking, I need my mama. I really, really need my mama.

You'd hug me and kiss me. Make me food, bring me drinks and snacks, pick up my medication. You'd comfort and love on and distract the kids.

But more important than physical assistance--and I know at some point I will need a tremendous amount--you'd just be here. 

You'd worry about me and love me and wish you could make it all better.

You'd mother me.

Since reaching adulthood, I've not needed maternal comfort more.

I have Nick, of course, and he's going to take good care of me. I have the kids, who are loving and terrific.

You wouldn't believe how much they grew over the summer, both physically and emotionally. Jordan towers over me, and India is almost as tall as I am.

They've become so competent and, while not totally self-sufficient, really heading in that direction.

Who'd have thought we'd be able to make a grocery list and either one of them could run up to the store?

India was concerned about choosing radishes when I sent her yesterday, and I said just to make sure they didn't look like the poor unfortunate souls in The Little Mermaid.

And then she chose nice ones and I made salad.

I've told them both the news, and assured them that I'll be OK. Jordan asked, and I said yes. I will be find.

I'm trying to normalize conversation around it, because we're going to be living with me in treatment for some intense period of time.

Honestly, I don't know what's going to happen. I have consults with surgeons the week after this coming on. 

I'd decided in January that if that biopsy showed cancer, I'd go the most extreme and have a double mastectomy.

Eliminate the potential constant fear of it happening on the other side. Although now that I'm researching, I don't know if that's the approach that makes the most sense.

Obviously, I have to talk to the doctors about risk and benefits to that approach.

Maude told me that a friend of hers took this approach, and for some period of time after surgery, you're restricted from using your arm and chest muscles.

"So," she said, "you basically have arms like a T-Rex for a while."

Which sounds extremely inconvenient. T-Rexes couldn't do anything with those stupid little arms. 

And they didn't even have to wear pants. Or use their hands to eat.

I guess I could hold a sippy bottle in one arm. I have one that's tall enough to hold in my hand wtih my elbow tucked to my ribs, and I can still drink out of the straw.

I just tried.

It's helpful for me to focus on things like that. And I'd rather the kids focus on ridiculous image of me having T-Rex arms than focus on fear of losing me.

I'll feel better once I know what the deal is, and what I need to do.

I know too well that even in huge trauma, I put one foot in front of the other and plod forward. 

What else can I do?

It sucks, it super sucks. But I fortunately have such a loving, generous community. I have recommendations for great doctors.

And the week of my appointments, Maude will already be here. Thank god. And so many friends will be coming for your celebration of life.

It's going to be a party filled with people you love. I've encouraged people to dress joyfully and wear hats. We'll have beautiful music and gorgeous flowers.

I sure wish you could be there.

Happy birthday, mama.



Sunday, August 13, 2023

And now I am 54

We're at family camp on Moose Pond in Maine, one of my happy places on this green earth.

This is my first birthday without my mom in my world.

In two days, she'll have been gone three months. 

This is, apparently, half the lifespan of an adult dragonfly. And one to two months longer than the life of an average worker bee.

I don't know what average dragonflies or worker bees are like.

Average, I guess. I mean, what are exceptional ones like?

But three months is a tremendously short time in the grieving process.

And on a side bar, we stopped into the Honey Exchange while we were cat sitting for my dear friend Pam in Portland. We were enchanted. We watched bees in a hive with a glass side. We discussed beekeeping and tasted freshly-de-hived honey.

Being me, I left determined to become an urban beekeeper upon return to DC.

Which is how I am. Sometimes the endless topic is rabies, sometimes it's killer gees. Right now it's honeybees.

When their queen dies, they pick a hearty little bee and start feeding it royal jelly and it grows and becomes the new queen.

Also! If the queen is mean--like if you have a hive of really aggressive bees--her daughters will be, too. So if you're going to bee keep, you want to research and get a hive of gentle bees.

But listen to this! You can change the temperament of a hive by switching the queen.

But you have to monitor, because sometimes when you put in a new gentle queen, the mean former queen's daughters will kill the new queen and make their own.

It's very fairy tale, isn't it? Or maybe real life in olden days.

But back to my birthday.

Shortly after my mom left us, and the hospital staff came in to turn off the monitors and express condolences, I told my brother we were orphans.

Orphans may sound rather young and war-torn, or sooty and Victorian, and as my brother said, I don't know that we actually qualify as orphans as adults.

But immediately, I was no longer anybody's child.

My entire identity changed the instant my mom's heart stopped beating.

I was always her kid, her girl, her, well, her anything. Hers.

I don't know if I'd have thought so much about it this way, except that my kids are mine. My girl. My boy. Pieces of my heart, actually each somehow my entire heart, walking around outside my body.

But always my babies.

And even though I was bigger and stronger than my mom, and I did so many things for her because they had become too hard or in some cases impossible for her, she was always my mama.

When I got sick, she'd bring me ginger ale. She would baby me.

When I was a kid, when the biggest number I knew was five, I would tell her I loved her five. FIVE. The most imaginable.

And she would say, "I love you more."

That's what she would say to me up to the end. I'd say, "I love you," and she'd say, "I love you more."

I would hear India and her saying that back and forth. "I love you more."

Who doesn't want to be loved more than the most imaginable?

Mother's day was, in my mind, about my mom. Yes, we shared it, but for me, it was about her.

And now I'm the mom. The Mom.

It's weird to suddenly have no parents. To be the parent, with nobody who preceded you in parenthood in your family.

I used to have someone to ask. And now I don't.

I recently wore an Indian silk outfit that was my mom's in the 70s, that she'd given to me years ago. I was trying to figure out if I could hand wash it, or if it had to be dry cleaned. My first thought was to ask my mom.


So I dropped it off at the dry cleaner, just to be safe.

At family camp, we see people we haven't seen since last August. We ask each other how our year has been.

For me, my year was pretty great. Until April.

And then it was the worst year of my life.

I can now talk about my mom without crying about 50% of the time. If you catch me off guard, or in a low moment, then all bets are off.

I've teared up in the dining hall, on a mountain hike, at the lake.

But I'm not like I was, weeping on a brand new acquaintance who I didn't yet know would become a dear friend at baggage claim.

I've gotten lots of hugs, because I have a lot of friends here, even if they're annual friends. It's a wonderful community.

So it's been a weird year. I'd have said the year from 53-54 was quite good, because mostly, it was. But then when you have the worst thing in your entire life happen in that year, it kind of dominates.

And now, whether it's grief brain or menopause--which everyone, by the way, should be talking about, because it's going to happen to over half our planet at some point--I don't actually remember much prior to May.

Thanks to conversations with my friend Fiona, I'm booked to see an HRT specialist in September. Assuming my boob scan next week is clear.

If so, and I fervently hope it is, maybe hormones could improve my memory. Or my persistent hip pain. Or my patience. Or a plethora of things I had no idea were depleted hormone-related.

Yesterday we hiked Pleasant Mountain with a group from camp, and one of the counselors said he was talking to Jordan early in the season, when they'd had rain for days and Jordan was low and tremendously homesick.

He asked Jordan how he was doing, and Jordan said, "I miss my mom." He was incredibly sad.

And this lovely guy said, "I"m 23, and I got all teared up. And Jordan asked me why I was crying, and I said, I miss my mom, too."

And I guess that's how it is. 

I'm OK. I'm doing well, actually, all things considering. Sometimes I'm doing great. I'm happy and filled with gratitute.

And hey, I've way outlived every worker bee and firefly that's ever been born.

I feel blessed to be here, in such a beautiful place, with people I love so much. 

I'm joyful and devastated, loving and loved.

I'm 54, and I miss my mom.

Tuesday, August 01, 2023

You had me at hello

I have myriad things to say about my physical, emotional, and spiritual journey to yoga teacher training on the other side of the world and back.

The group was filled with incredible people. I felt lucky to be among them. The teachers were so accomplished and incredibly generous with their time and knowledge.

But I feel like this first post has to be about my Bali bestie, Fiona.

In week two, we bought matching outfits and wore them on the same day. We didn't set out to buy matching outfits, but she tried on the blue and I loved it so much that I asked if she minded if I got the same one.

And then we were all, "Ooh, let's both wear them tomorrow!"

Which of course meant we had to head out to the rice paddies and commemorate the twinsieness.

During the training, we learned a lot about anatomy, which turns out to be fascinating. I'd never thought I'd be interested, but now I want to learn more and more.

We learned about activating the parasympathetic nervous system. The importance of breathing and postures--and the use of specific breathing techniques--to calm the body.

In the morning, there was black tea and hot water but no coffee available in the shala, as coffee was discouraged.

I hadn't heard of the no coffee and yoga rule, but apparently it is known.

Fiona said she'd been at a yoga retreat and had nipped out with a friend to grab a coffee. She was carrying it back, and the head of the retreat saw her and said, "I see you have a nice cup of anxiety."

He had a tone. He gave her a look.

Apparently, there are energizing poses that can invigorate you in the same way as coffee.

I like coffee, but grew up drinking tea, and for me it's the most comforting way to start the day.

We had electric kettles in our rooms, and I could make tea, but was complaining to Nick about the fact that we only had these stupid little hotel coffee cups. I just wanted a big mug.

Nick said, "I believe that dream is within your reach."

So the next time I went to Bintang supermarket, I bought myself a big glass mug and a box of shelf-stable milk for my fridge, and it changed my whole morning, every day.

There were delightful coffee shops close by, and it was easy to head out for a nice cup of anxiety mid-morning.

(Also learned: if you yourself love coffee and struggle with anxiety, apparently waiting until 10:00 am to have a cup is extremely helpful.)

Ooh, I'm so full of tips and tricks today!

For an arts- and humanities-brained person, not only do I blithely pass on scientific tid-bits I've heard as absolute facts, I seem to have many scientific theories of my own.

I have zero percent interest in testing them, nor do I particularly care if I'm right. 

Because I can remember in school having to come up with a hypothesis and then you had to test it and then you had to draw conclusions and it was all so tedious and I was like, if we're testing stuff that people already know comes out one way or the other can't we just skip the testing?

No. Because the boring old process was the point.

I've long known that as a "more is better" person, rather than a precise one, I would, in fact, make a terrible scientist. 

This is OK with me.


This theory is about friendship. 

And I think the only way you could test this theory was if you had a Roald Dahl sort of device that measured sounds made by trees that would measure people's frequencies.

The teacher training had a WhatsApp group, and people wrote ahead of time to share rides. Fiona and I knew we knew that we were arriving in Denpasar late on the same flight, and had agreed to share a car.

I thought we might connect at the gate in Dubai, but I spent my one-hour layover frantically sprinting, taking elevators, trains, and finally jumping on a transport to my gate at the far other end of the terminal, arriving late in the boarding process.

Holy cow is Dubai airport stressful!

We messaged each other upon arrival in Bali, and I told her which visa line I was in and that I was wearing stripes. And suddenly I was being hugged, out of nowhere.

"I spotted your yoga mat! You look just like your photo!"

I was so grateful to be together. It was brutally and inexplicably difficult to leave the airport. It took a full two hours.

Fi had been organized enough to do her visa online ahead of time, but then the official told her it was wrong and she had to fill out a new one.

I was already on the other side, and couldn't go back, so I hung out while she found an ATM, returned to the visa guy, handed him the cash. Which he may have pocketed.

Then there was customs (I think? Or another immigration line?.) The check-in agent at Dulles had made me complete an online form, so I was set, but once again, I was on the other side and Fiona was detained. 

Then my checked bag took an hour. She and I covered a lot of ground in that hour. I cried on her about my mom. She hugged me.

By the time we arrived in Ubud after the hour ride on winding roads in the pitch black rain, we basically knew each other's life stories.

Sometimes it is like this. 

And on a side bar, I was initially envious of Fiona's room, which had so much more light than mine, even though her bathroom was open to the sky and she was worried the people next door could see in when she was using the toilet. 

But then she had a huge humidity problem, and an ant infestation. The near final straw was when these frogs were mating really loudly night after night in her wall.

The people at reception told her to come get them, no matter what time, and they'd throw rocks at the frogs.

Ultimately, the persistent sogginess of her clothing made her ask for a room change.


I often use "resonate" to describe how I feel about people or ideas, but it wasn't until some of our teachers used singing bowls or percussive instruments, and I actually felt energy flow from my heart out to my hands (seriously--my hands felt like they were full of balls of spinning energy) that I decided that it's about frequencies.

I mean, we're mostly made of water, right? And sound waves alter water molecules.

I'm still not sure how this explains personal frequencies, but I really think it's all connected.

Fi and I went to a sound healing session at Pyramids of Chi.

I'd never done anything like this. You lie on a mat, with a blanket and an eye pillow, and you're immersed in a variety of sounds.

We literally staggered out of the experience. I felt both completely relaxed and a little sick, like I was drunk.

It was extraordinary. 

They have amazing food, so we ate, which helped. Pretty much everywhere in Bali you can buy a whole coconut. They hack off the top and hand it to you with a straw.

Coconuts, incidentally, are simultaneously the most convenient and inconvenient portable beverages on the planet. 

On the one hand, a coconut is a self-contained drink and snack. You have this delicious, hydrating beverage in a biodegradable container. On the other, if you're walking around and it's hot and sunny and the sidewalk is crowded, your drink weighs like 20 pounds. 

I don't even think this is an exaggeration. I read that more people are killed annually by falling coconuts than sharks.

Anyway, we had snacks and drinks and then I was all, "If you're feeling any better...I saw some really good shopping on the way up."

So we went to the market.

The sound may have penetrated our very souls, but let's be honest: we had very little time in which to purchase gifts for loved ones and possibly ourselves.

What I think now is that we all operate at slightly different frequencies, and this is why, immediately, some people are so easy. 

You resonate with each other. The same things make you laugh.

Some people you can settle into if you need to. Like a colleague who doesn't feel exactly right but you can get along with well enough to chat with in the kitchen or work on a project. But when you make a weird joke that cracks you up, they don't laugh. And they aren't the ones you seek out when you're having a hard time.

Some people you never resonate with, which doesn't mean you dislike them. They just feel like effort.

I personally think the laughter trigger may be the deepest and most powerful. The one that forms more connections. More so even than crying.

Maybe laughter and a feeling of safety. Feeling safe is tremendously important to me.

Laughter and trust.

Washed down with a nice cup of anxiety and a biscuit.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Now today is tomorrow and tomorrow today and yesterday is weaving in and out

There is a 12-hour time difference between Bali and DC.

This is an established fact. It's how our linear time system works. Maybe not in the multiverse, because then isn't it everywhere all the time simultaneously? 

But in our current verse, we all move forward at the same rate, minute by minute.

This 12-hour difference continues to be the case whether you are upright or standing on your head. Whether you're facing east or west.

The earth revolves around the sun, and our planet spins, and day shifts to night incrementally across our world. Yes. I did learn this at some point.

Though time and numbers are not my strength, I understand this concept.

And I have been here almost three weeks at this point. 

But still I cannot figure out what day it is where, when I'm talking in two time zones. 

It's like a new surprise every day.

We start our yoga classes at 7:00 AM, so I'm usually heading out the door by 6:30.

This means I typically talk to Nick around 6:00 AM my time before class, or 7:30--8:00 PM after dinner here.

Not to suggest that my class, dining, and chat schedule is riveting. But here's the thing.

I'm always like, "Good morning! Wait! You're still yesterday, right?"

And Nick says, "It's 12 hours, love."

I talk to him at night and I'm like, "How was your day?" And then I say, "No, wait! You're my today? It's today there? We're the same day! Oh! Good morning!"

Sometimes I'm even like, "Is it tomorrow there yet? No, I'm tomorrow."

And he's all, "It's 12 hours, love."

"Right now I'm your tomorrow?"

"You're my tomorrow."

Bother literally and lit-rully, we have this conversation at least once a day. Initially, Nick patiently tried to explain that we are on the same space-time continuum, and I will continue to be 12 hours ahead for as long as I'm here.

In the beginning, he just said it neutrally. After a few days, I could hear him sigh.

"It's 12 hours, love."

I will always be his tonight or tomorrow (his sun, moon, stars...). That's just how time differences work.

But now when I'm like, "Good morning! No, good tomorrow! Or yesterday," he just responds, "Good morning!" Or, "I hope you had a good day! I'm just waking up."

"In today?"

"In today."

And then the other day when I was like, "Hello yesterday! Or maybe today? I think I'm tomorrow," he said:

"Could you please look up the winning lottery numbers so I can buy a ticket?"

Yes. Yes, I'm pretty sure I can.

Sunday, July 09, 2023

Run and tell all of the angels this could take all night

Early in the morning on the very last day of June, I headed to Dulles airport. 

Two flights and 25 hours later, I landed in a new day, and a new month, on a whole nother continent.

I've been in Bali for just over a week now.

I'd been planning to attend an intensive yoga teacher training in Costa Rica at the end of the year. A very solid three week training.

I chose the path of immersion because I could, and because it resonated more with me than a course divided into 20 hours over 10 weekends. I figured I'd be anxiously preparing my family leading up to each weekend, and then exhaustedly recovering and preparing myself and family for the next 20-hour weekend.

When I say that having these options at all is a tremendous privilege, I mean this absolutely. I had amazing options in the first place.

With my original plan, my mom, Nick, and my kids had all agreed that they could stay alive and well for those three weeks without me.

I figured if there were a crisis, I could get back in a reasonable amount of time. And the director had assured me that if something happened last minute with my mom, I could postpone for a later course without losing my deposit.

My kids and my mom could take care of each other and Wanda during the day. Nick would be home at night and on weekends. One of the weeks was Thanksgiving, so really, it was 2.5 weeks I'd be away during work and school. 

I'd return with a certification to teach yoga.

And then, as you know, my mom left us suddenly.

After she died, I spent a lot of time on the floor. I'd start crying and just sit down wherever I was, hugging myself in as tightly as I could. I cried so hard I couldn't breathe. I wailed deep, primal pain sounds I'd never before heard.

This happened over and over and over.

I'd open the cupboard to make tea and reach past a mug my mom preferred.

And there I'd be, slowly curling in on myself, lowering to the floor, wedged in the corner of the cabinets, sobbing.

Nothing has ever hurt as much as losing my mama. I thought losing my dad was brutal, and certainly it was. And as traumatic and painful as that was, nothing, nothing has been as profoundly gut-wrenching as this.

So a few weeks ago, I found myself home alone. The kids were at school. Nick was at work. 

And I was alone. 

With Wanda, but to be honest, she's scant company.

I looked at the wall calendar, and erased my mom's upcoming biweekly appointments.

I thought about my July, which originally was going to be all about Betty.

The kids were going to camp, and I'd told her I'd take her somewhere, anywhere she might like to go. I'd make it easy for her.

We could drive, we could fly. We'd bring the wheelchair for walking distances.

Anywhere, anything.

Then suddenly, in my mom's place was this enormous jaggedy chasm in my heart, my kitchen, my life.

The person who had loved me quietly and steadily and fiercely and gently since before I was born was gone. 

This tiny, kind, loving woman who sat in the red chair with my children, who plastered their artwork on her walls and told them how wonderful they were, who laughed at all my jokes, who thought I was the best writer and the fittest person she knew, who giggled when I swore at other drivers, left, and left me bereft.

Bereft. Be reft. I am being so reft.

And so, in a moment of profound sorrow, I messaged the director of the yoga training company and asked if there were any spots left in her July training. Which was in Bali (!!!).

Yes, she said, there were. 

Nick said he could care for Wanda. I bought a ticket. Packed my suitcase. Bought chocolate. Wound myself up super anxious. Got on the first flight.

And, 25 hours later, arrived in Bali to begin a three week, 200-hour, rest of my life journey.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Laws of thermodynamics

Dear Mama,

Today, or tonight really, it will be a month since you left us. 

I remember coming up the back stairs, and India meeting us at the door and asking us why we were carrying Nana's bags.

And then I started sobbing and we crumpled together.

That was only a month ago. That was one enormous month ago.

In some moments, I expect to see you in the other room. In others, I feel like I haven't seen you in years.

When I stop to consider it, it feels like forever.

Sometimes I forget and think I can't wait to tell you something. And then I remember.

Last night Jordan was eating gulab jamun for dessert.

We had some left over from the Delhi reunion. Which was wonderful. You'd have absolutely loved it.

There were so many grown-up kids you loved from high school. So many people with memories of time at our house or together at the school.

When Maude arrived, and our girls met, the first thing I thought was that I couldn't wait for you to see this third generation friendship. And then I remembered that you weren't here anymore.

I told Maude, and she said she had the exact same thought and realization.

She said, "Betty was my last mom."

And then we both hugged and cried.

I told Jordan that gulab jamun is better warm, so he put two of them in their syrup in the microwave, but then they came out too hot, and when I expressed surprise at how fast that happened he said something about the rate at which liquid heats and sciency things about it.

So then he cut it up and I said it would cool faster, and did he know why, and he said yes, because we've increased the surface area.

And then he mentioned that they'd been studying the laws of thermodynamics.

I only know one of them. So I said, "Energy can't be created or destroyed. That's why I think Nana is still here."

And I'll be honest: I had to google the definition of thermodynamics. Even though I know what the prefix "thermo" means. I also had to look up how to spell syphilis because I was making a text joke to Maude and my phone kept telling me I was wrong but had no spelling to suggest.

It's an old word and malady, for Pete's sake. Does Apple really not have syphilis in their dictionary? 

Anyway, my search history is pretty random is what I'm saying.

Nick, who admittedly knows significantly more about science than I do, insists the kind of energy I'm talking with you still being here about isn't the same. (But in this case, I know I'm right. But as we both know, it's easier to just out loud let him be right.)

 Jordan nodded and said, "I smell Nana sometimes. You know how she smelled kind of sweet?"

I know exactly what he's talking about. I haven't smelled you spontaneously since a couple nights after you died. I'm rationing opening your drawers--and anyway, that's not the same thing.

Jordan and I talked about how often the two of you played Old Maid. He said he didn't think anything about it then. Like, it wasn't special, because you were here. 

And that's how it is. It's not special because we're together all the time just doing the things we always do.

Until we can't ever do them together again.

He said he was trying to teach you to play chess, and that wasn't going so well, but it was fun.

I feel lucky that they had so much time together with you. That spending time with you was as easy as heading into the living room or up to your room to see if you wanted to play cards or walk to the store.

The kids are doing quite well, although I think they're extra tired. And India cries very easily if something goes wrong, really over anything. But I know it's about you.

Me, I cry so much. So much.

Yesterday morning on the way to yoga I ran into friends and they said they were sorry and gave me big hugs and I started crying.

So I arrived at yoga pre-cried.

I almost always cry in savasana now. I tell myself to breathe. I try to clear my mind, and focus on my breath. But as I settle my body, and stretch out my legs, I think about how soft and smooth the skin on your legs was when I'd rub your feet in that hospital bed. 

You had the smoothest skin. I think about how I'll never get to touch you again.

So I lie there and cry as quietly as I can. My throat hurts and my tears fill my ears, trickle down and make wet spots on my mat.

My body is full of all that missing my mama hurt. I think all that sad energy is there constantly, just waiting for quiet moments. And then it leaks out.

Like how you can fill a glass and it can be slightly overfull but the surface tension keeps it from spilling. But you add one more molecule or you shift it a bit, and it overflows.

I do have a couple science terms up my sleeve.

There are days where I'm doing OK--or anyway at the OKer end of the OK/Terrible scale, and then I'll get completely derailed by someone I hadn't seen since before you went into the hospital.

Like, I went to our pharmacy to get prescriptions. Nick had told them to stop any automatic refills you had, but I hadn't been in there.

And as I was at the counter, Manjula came over and asked me if what she'd heard was true. She couldn't believe it, she said. You'd just been in there a couple weeks ago. You were so vibrant.

So we had this whole big conversation about how lovely you were, and how afraid she is to lose her parents. We talked about all of it. 

I cried the whole way through. She gave me a big hug. I cried the whole way home.

I should start making a list of the unexpected people who have hugged me since you died. 

We boarded Wanda with our dog trainers last weekend because we were having so many people coming through.

The wife of the couple, who we hadn't yet met in person, dropped Wanda off. She told me her mom had died in 2013. We stood on the stoop and hugged and cried.

There are so many of us without moms. All three women who came to stay last week. They still have their dads, though. Which is statistically unlikely, I think?

Nick keeps asking if I'm tired, and then I say no, I just miss my mama. And then I start to cry.

But it's true that I'm also tired.

Being this sad is exhausting. I'm sure there's a scientific explanation. Maybe it's under another law of thermodynamics. Like, grief requires heat, which is why being upset makes me so cold.

Or maybe sadness is heavy to carry. Everything takes more effort.

Maybe I'm burning more calories (which are measures of heat? I think?) walking my sad body from place to place than I was back in April when I wasn't all sad.

Today is Jordan's last official day of 8th grade. School doesn't end until next week, but they're letting the 8th graders stop early. They have to go a couple mornings to practice for their "promotion" ceremony, which is next week.

Two things struck me. Today, the 15th, makes one month since you left us. And you won't see Jordan finish 8th grade. You won't see him start high school.

I know you were there for so many important moments. And I know we had lots and lots of time.

But I have no photos of you from May. My last photos that are really cute are of you and other friends. Not you and me. Why was I taking so many yoga photos and not getting people to take photos of us?

I want more. I don't care how much we had. I am greedy, and I want more.

I miss you so much.



Tuesday, June 06, 2023

Memories seep from my veins

Last Wednesday, I was all, oh, goat rodeo, hahaha! 

People are multidimensional and grief is so weird and complicated, and it's true that you can cry and then laugh in successive breaths.

But I didn't cry at all on Wednesday, and so I wondered if I was done crying.

Which would be OK. Crying or laughing or just not crying doesn't mean you loved someone more or less than someone else who is or isn't crying. It doesn't really mean anything.

So maybe I was done?



On Saturday, I woke up at 6:30 am sobbing. Bereft.

Nick folded me into his arms in a giant bear hug and I cried and cried. I snotted all over his shirt.

Fortunately, he's a morning person. 


A friend told me she's been dreaming of my mother and me. 

I haven't yet dreamt of her. I think I've only dreamt of my dad once, ever.

I long to see Betty in my dreams.


The picture above was our last photo together. 

Why didn't I get us all dressed up and do family photos this winter? I thought about it. Thought, we should do it while we're still all here.

And then I didn't.

Why did I spent so much time taking photos of flowers and weird little cracks in sidewalks?


I want to hug my mama. I want to make her laugh. I want to hear her tell someone that I'm the fittest person she knows.

She was very impressed with all the yoga. During Covid I did zoom yoga on her floor. Some of the classes were incredibly hard.

She liked to call it torture. How was torture today? Great! 


I want her to show me something weird and incomprehensible that she's done to her phone when she was fucking around with it at 2:00 am instead of sleeping. I want her to ask me to fix it.

Like this one time, or actually twice, although truly I have no idea how you do this once, she made it so the screen was so magnified you couldn't really see more than a couple letters at a time. And also, you had to double tap everything. And then the phone spoke the letters.

If you didn't double tap, you couldn't get anywhere. And it was too magnified to scroll.

Being that everything was so magnified, and it took a while for Nick to figure out that you had to double tap, it took quite a frustrating while to even navigate to settings to reverse it.

But when she did it the second time, oh, I knew.


I wish she were sitting in the kitchen listening to a random and stupid video commercial that she happeend to click on and had no idea how to stop or navigate away from, so I could ask her to please turn it off.

I wish she were upstairs listening to her television too loud.

I wish she were playing piano, which makes Wanda howl, which then made my mom pause to tell Wanda sincerely and sweetly to stop. And Wanda would stop as long as my mom paused, but as soon as she resumed, Wanda would commence howling.

And this situation could continue on a loop for longer than one might imagine.

I want her to tell me that her email has completely disappeared and can I please look at her computer. Because it was right there and now, suddenly, it's not.

I want to organize every week around taking her to her appointments, even though I felt inconvenienced by the amount of time this required.

I want to count out all her medications and put them in those little week by week boxes. Even though up to a month ago, I'd much rather have been spending the time doing something else.

I want to fill up water jars and put lids on and straws in them and hand them to her and cajole/harass her into drinking enough.

Even though I was often like, why do I have to do this? Why can't she just drink enough water?

Obviously, I didn't actually have to do it. But being me, I had to.

I want to bug her to eat vegetables, and ultimately chop up a whole bunch and make a good salad even though I hate making salad and often felt resentful, because it seemed like I was more invested in her eating well than she was.

I wish she'd open a second container of something that we already had one of open, just because she couldn't find the first one so she figured it was gone. 

I wish she'd insist we had no more maple syrup and then I'd go find another one in the pantry and open it only to later find a nearly full container in the fridge.

I wish for so many things that I'd never anticipated dealing with or taking on in the first place.

I just miss my mama.


I know I did a lot of things for her, but what I keep thinking of are all the things I didn't do to make her life happier. 

I know I had a lot of time with her, particularly as so many people live far from their parents.

But isn't this how it is with people we love? You always want more time.


On Saturday, I realized it had been a month since she fell and that marked a month since our last normal day. Whatever that means.

Anyway, the last day my family was all together.

We were five, and now we're four.

Jordan's been on a school trip, so this past week we've been three.


Today I took India to the pool, and I was chatting with strangers from Atlanta about the pandemic, and online schooling, and what a weird time it was. I mentioned my mom.

It's the first time I've talked about my mom living with us in past tense. I think I said she was living with us then.

So it was open to interpretation. 

Maybe she lived with us in Covid and then went back home to wherever she normally lived.

Or maybe she bought a flat in Paris. She now has pain au chocolat and cafe au lait every day, and shops at Galleries Lafayette.

Maybe she packed her bags and headed for Australia. 

Maybe in the multiverse, in versions where my dad is still alive, she's done all of these things and more.

I hope so.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

There's a baa-aad moon on the right...

Nick and I were on the phone a couple days ago discussing an extremely frustrating situation.

He said, "It's ridiculous. What a goat radio!"


And he was all, "Are you OK? What are you doing?"

"Goat radio! That would be the worst radio station ever!"

"Goat RODEO. It's a goat rodeo."

This expression was new to me. A goat rodeo!

What does this mean? Goats riding horses? People riding goats?

But who cares, because listen. Goat radio has so many songs.


"Yes, dear?"

"You give love a baaaaaaad name."

"I have to go."

"I got a baaaa-aaaaad case of lovin' you."

"I'm hanging up now."


Thursday, May 25, 2023


This is what I tell people when they ask how I am.

I mean, if I don't immediately start crying. Or if we are texting.

I say this verbatim, because it's true: OK/terrible.

Both are true, back to back, simultaneously, moment to moment. I'm OK and I'm terrible.

When my dad died, I still thought I needed to tell people I was fine. To try and act like I was fine.

I mean, we were still lying about suicide back then.

Now I know I don't have to pretend. 

This is the absolute most painful thing that has ever happened to me. This is the loss that I have been terrified of, the one I didn't imagine I could survive.

(Reader, she survives.)

Some friends have said they know that absolutely nothing will make this hurt less, but they want me to know they're here.

Friends who have lost their moms have said they know this astoundingly painful chasm of grief. They feel me and they see me. 

This is the most brutal IYKYK ever. They know. They really know. 

They? We. I know. We know.

Some friends have said they don't know what to say, but they're sending love.

This is all perfect. There are no right words. There's only kindness. 

Kindness is love, and love is everything.

Monday marked a week since my mom left us.

Last Tuesday, the day after my mom died, we gave the kids the option to stay home or go to school. Jordan chose to stay home. India wanted to go to school, as she had a science showcase she was very proud of.

I encouraged her to go, to not feel guilty about crying or not crying. To seek normalcy in activities if that felt OK.

And I said that of course I really wanted to see her showcase. I would be there.

On my way, I saw the school crossing guard, who we've now known for years.

She asked if I was OK. (This is how it starts. In case you run into me.)

And I burst into tears and said my mom passed away last night. She knew my mom, because she sometimes walked with the kids to school.

She pulled me into a huge hug. And then a woman who was leading a bunch of teenage kids in matching school shirts walked by, and then turned around and hugged the two of us.

Unclear if she even knew the crossing guard or not.

I cry everywhere. Everywhere.

The thing about losing my mom (the thing, ha) is that she lived with us. So last week, Jordan and I kept visiting her space and hugging and crying.

I still go up there and nap. I sit on her sofa. I flop face first onto her bed.

The first two nights, India and I slept in her bed. The kids had slept with her with some regularity, and I'd slept in her other room during big fights with Nick.

But never in her room.

And her bed is so comfortable. Her room is so friendly, so cozy.

It makes me happy to know she had such an inviting space here.

I open her dresser drawers, the ones with her sweaters, because they smell like her. I don't open them wide, just enough to stick my face in. Because I don't want scent of my mom to dissipate quickly.

When I was growing up, she wore an armful of gold bangles. Not both arms, like Indian women, just one.

I could locate her with her jingle. And I loved how she smelled.

She stopped wearing Arpege when my dad died. But she still smelled like Mama.

I've been wearing her clothes. Some of her clothes were mine in the first place, because the ones that were particularly soft she tended to appropriate.

Which was easy, as she did most of the laundry.

Laundry makes me cry.

Everything makes me cry.

I know Nick, and I know he is an action person. He wants to DO something that will make me feel better.

I've told him there's nothing he can do to make this hurt less. It's just going to hurt terribly until it hurts a little less, and a little less.

He's keeping our family moving forward. This is how he shows love. He does kindnesses like bring me morning tea and not make me get up. He makes things run.

After my mom had been in the hospital a few days, and it was clear her kidneys were very unhappy post-surgery, and things were more complicated than just getting her into acute rehab for her hip, I sat my family down.

I said, "You people need to take care of things, and you need to take care of yourselves and each other. I am going to be at the hospital, and I cannot do it. I can't think about Wanda and if she needs to be walked. You need to do it. I can't do laundry. You need to do it."

My dad used to You People us when he was frustrated. Shit is serious when you're at the You People stage.

And I said to Nick, "This is good practice for you. Because I'm going to fall completely the fuck apart when my mom dies."

I meant, like, after she came home from rehab and we got used to the new normal of her recovering from a broken hip.

Maybe in a couple years, or 10 if we were lucky.

I didn't know we were so unlucky.

I didn't mean already. I didn't mean last Monday.

Recently I told him that I'm scared he's going to get sick of my grief. Other people's grief gets  inconvenient and tedious. He's being so lovely and caretaker-y but he's going to hit a point and he's going to be fed up.

He promises he's not. Or if he gets to that point, he won't tell me.

He's grieving, too. It just comes out differently.

I've been looking for signs from my mom. My Russian Orthodox friend said that days 7, 9, and 40 are important, and to pay special attention, to look for messages from Betty.

On day 7 I looked, and didn't find any. But Nick pointed out that maybe she's really busy, because she's with so many loved ones she missed for so very long.

I hope this is the case.

On Tuesday I saw a couple roses in our very old rose bushes in front of our house. They were there when we moved in, and my mom always tended them.

So I thought I'd take these roses as a sign. I can't say they're the first of the season, because I think maybe we had some earlier when I wasn't paying attention.

Her wisteria is blooming up on the back stairs, where she twined it up the railing.

The poppies in the park are out in full glory.

This beauty I cannot share with her makes me cry. 

Everything makes me cry. I bought coconut water and those little hydration packets to add to water. I've had to become vigilant because otherwise I get insanely dehydrated.

I cry alone, on the phone, at the gym, in the street.

Sometimes a friend calls and all I do is wail.

Pretty sure I've cried at or on just about everyone in a four-block radius of my house. 

Although there may still be a couple unscathed shopkeepers around the corner.

Might get to them later in the week.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

If you'll be my bodyguard I can be your long lost pal

On Saturday morning, Nick took me to identify my mom's body.

Because I filled out the contract asking to be there for her cremation, they'd given me the option of identifying her at the same time.

We didn't know this was an option with my father, though I don't think I could've handled it then anyway.

With my mama, I want to be there.

But when they said I could do it the same day, I didn't know if I'd be able to manage. I didn't know if I'd want to see her that day, the day which turns out to be tomorrow.

And also, maybe this sounds morbid, but I wanted to check in on her. I hated leaving her alone in the hospital. I wanted to know she got to the funeral home OK.

On Saturday I dressed head to toe Betty. 

Clothing, shoes, chain and watch. I put on a cute jumpsuit that my mom had bought and tried on for us but not yet worn. It's a little big on me, so it would've been on her as well, as she was smaller than me.

Or maybe we're about the same size right now.

I pretty much stopped eating when she went into the hospital. I was either too busy or just felt sick most of the time. I'd start to eat, and then it would seem all ick.

My mom didn't want to eat, and I didn't want to eat. But I made her watermelon juice, which for a couple days she liked. I brought her masala dosa. The only time she called me from the hospital was to ask for another masala dosa.

The hospitalist, who was Indian, said my mom was on a low sodium, low potassium diet for her kidneys, but really, anything I could get her to eat was fine. Anything.

Masala dosa? Great. Anything, anything, just get her to eat.

The nurse the next day was also Indian, and said she had to take a photo of my mom eating the dosa for the doctor. So she did.


Currently, I'm really skinny.

I told a friend of mine with a similarly eating-disordered youth that my high school self would be so pleased with me right now.

If you find this funny, you really get it.

I had told Maude that I wasn't drinking, because the evening after Betty died I had wine with a friend, so then I couldn't take a Xanax that night when I got all wound up. 

I'd gone to an evening meeting at school and was about to walk by my friend's house and instead just showed up at her doorstep. Her partner answered the door and hugged me, and then she came to the door and we stood in the door frame and wailed. Like the kind of sobs that start low in your belly and come out as pure emotional pain. The kind that convulse your whole body.

She lost her mother during the pandemic, and she loved Betty. We hugged, door wide open, and cried and cried.

And then I asked for wine.

So that night I was awake and awake and awake and devastated. Fortunately/unfortunately I'm now way less cavalier than I used to be about medication.

Maude said, "Oh. Maybe try drinking in the morning?"

I filed this away.

Saturday morning I woke up crying, in an absolute panic. Should I bring clothing for my mom to wear? If so, what? They hadn't said anything about this.

What would she want for her last outfit?

Her last normal day outfit was a pink cashmere sweater and pink jeans. She looked so cute. I've washed both. 

(The fact that she has laundry in her hamper and laundry in the wash wrecks me.)

I settled on a printed cotton caftan. Simple, cool, elegant.

And then the man at the funeral home said it would be an extra charge to put her in clothing, because they'd have to wash and disinfect her.

I couldn't bear the idea of her little body being messed with like that.

And when we saw her, she was wrapped in white sheets. She looked asleep.

At the hospital, my brother closed her eyes, and a bit later we noticed that she peeked them open again. Then I closed her eyes, and we realized they wouldn't stay closed.

We joked that she really wanted to know what was going on.

I don't care what kind of actual chemical process might make this happen.

But here, her eyes were closed. And she looked very peaceful. We could only see her face and hair. Everything else was shrouded in sheets. 

I believe that now her body is, for her, an unnecessary vessel. But for me, that vessel is so familiar.

I thought the white sheets were perfect. Simple and serene.

We had to sign some paperwork, and pick a date for cremation.

Which is 11:00 am tomorrow.

And then I turned to Nick and said, "Please take me somewhere for a margarita."

And he was like, "Sure, we could get Bloody Marys."

Being morning-ish and all. And I was like, I said a margarita.

My mama was really, really not a drinker. She would suggest splitting a beer, and we'd pour one into two glasses, and she often didn't finish her half.

She liked the idea, though. She liked being included in the drinks.

But she loved margaritas. And mojitos. 

Maybe for the same reason I love them--they feel like little events in and of themselves.

Despite years living in South America, her Spanish was pretty tortured, but she said both margarita and mojito with an emphasis on the T that Americans do not place.

It was cute.

So Nick drove us directly to Cactus Cantina, and we had two frozen margaritas, and while we sat in the sun and sipped and watched the world, I decided that we should have margaritas at Betty's celebration of life in September.

Right now it's pretty grief-y around here, and as this is not my first grief rodeo, I do not imagine that I'll be that far along in my process by September. 

I also know that where I am or am not in my process doesn't matter. I don't need to be anywhere except where I am with this. She's my mom, and I have never been anywhere this painful in my entire life.

But September seems right, and I will have time to plan and friends who love us will have time to make travel arrangements, and we could have a fun little party.

My mom was an introvert, and like me, she liked a lot of alone time.

But she loved so huge, and she sparkled with friends.

And I'm certain she'd like the idea of being toasted with margaritas.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Mama, my mama, you are my sunshine, and I love you forever

Tonight India and I are sleeping together in Nana's bed.

She doesn't know how she is going to live without her Nana. I don't know how I'm going to live without my mama.

This morning Betty was rushed to the ICU. Her body was in crisis, and they were working to stabilize her.

Yesterday, out of the blue, she had tremendous pain. She couldn't quite identify where. But so much pain. She had more pain today.

They were doing a pain medication dance, as narcotics lower blood pressure, and hers was crazy low. But ketamine wasn't doing it. They needed to add a narcotic.

She was agitated, in pain.

While we waited for more medication, I sang to her, though I sing for very few. 

I sang, "You Are My Sunshine," because it's a song she loves, and I knew it would soothe her. It's the song she sang to her mom the night she died. 

I sang it over and over, sometimes putting in lyrics about how much I loved her and would always love her.

Sometimes she sang some of the words, too. She loved that song, and she was comforted.

The surgeon offered an operation to see what was happening with her intestines. They suggested an angiogram to figure out a mysterious bleed in her leg, one that had caused massive blood loss. A nephrologist called to talk about emergency dialysis. We were looking at kidney and liver failure.

I said no, no operation. She wouldn't survive. My brother and I talked to the radiologist several times about whether the procedure on her leg could save her, or just buy her a little time.

We didn't want to put her through more trauma if it wasn't going to make a difference.

But in truth, her little broken body was shutting down, bit by bit. 

Her primary care doctor called during one of these conversations and she said, "What does your mom want?"

Today Betty wasn't talking much. She understood everything. But talking intelligibly was a strain.

So I asked her. I asked if she wanted this procedure, which would take an hour and a half, and was, they felt, the best chance to save her.

She gets to choose.

And she said no.

I said, "This most likely means goodbye. Not in a minute, but ultimately goodbye. Are you ready to say goodbye?"

And she said yes. She was done.

We told her very kind doctor, who stopped the two-person restriction for the room, and long-time family friends, with whom we'd been taking turns in the waiting room, came in.

The doctor took her off the machines, just leaving the ones that would keep her comfortable. They increased the pain medication, and authorized more as needed, so there wouldn't be a painful moment.

They said it could take a long time. More than a day. It was impossible to predict. We could stay as long as we liked. Visiting hours no longer mattered.

We all held her hand in turns, and told her loving things.

I kissed my mom's forehead, over and over. I told her how much I love her. What an absolute treasure she's been for my kids, for me. What a blessing it's been to have her with us all the time.

I called home, and India wanted to talk to Nana. I put her on the speaker next to my mom's ear. She said, "Nana, I love you so much. I love you with my whole heart."

That was my mom's last phone call.

We sang "You Are My Sunshine" again. My brother sang it, though he only knows half the words, it turns out.

And neither of us can carry a tune.

We kept talking to her, holding her hand, rubbing her feet.

She began to seem farther and farther away.

My brother and I were each holding one of her hands, and I was telling her loving things when she stopped breathing and her heart stopped beating.

It was fast, and it was peaceful.

She decided she was ready to let go, and she let go. She was small, but she was mighty.

Today, in 2009, is the day my dad left us. I don't believe this is a coincidence.

We stayed for the two hours they allow you to stay. In truth, it's good they give a time limit, because I'd have stayed the night. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving her alone.

I still can't bear the thought.

Another friend came. We took turns saying our goodbyes.

I kept holding her hand, kissing her, telling her I love her.

My brother took her glasses off her face, and this gutted me. Her glasses.

We took off the ear tags and the oxygen nose thing.

And we stayed as long as we could.

Then I said one final goodbye to her small body, knowing her soul had already floated free.

She left making the choice, surrounded by people who have loved her a long, long time.

I know she wasn't scared, she wasn't in pain, and she wasn't alone. My dad, her family, her dear, dear friends--all of them were waiting for her.

And now she's at peace. And we are devastated.

How do I live without my mama?

Sunday, May 14, 2023

If words could make wishes come true

Dear Mama,

Today is Mother's Day 2023.

I'm writing this from the chair in your hospital room. We've had a truly hell of a day. Grammar be damned. But that's not for this post. 

This post is about how much I love you. How grateful I am that you're my mama, and that you're still with us.

On Tuesday I brought the kids, and we told you how much we loved you. I held your hand, and told you it was OK for you to let go, if that's what you needed to do. I said we were strong enough to help you stay, and strong enough to survive if you go.

I told you that I'm the mother I am because of you. That my kids are as terrific as they are because they've grown up with you.

I said these things and more, and I told you that if you were ready to go, to please know that we would be OK.

And you said, "As far as I know, I'm not leaving now, but I will one day."

I hope and pray that that day is far away. Or at least far enough away that you get some joyful time at home with us again first.

You know, my kids don't remember a minute of their lives without you living with us, and this has been such a treasure. How cozy, how beautiful, to know that whenever you wanted to, you could walk upstairs and find your Nana. Crawl into Nana's bed. Watch TV and chat. 

I'm grateful that you've been an everyday part of our lives.  

The kids are kinder, more understanding humans because of this. 

Jordan walks to the store with you so he can carry the heavy bags. India loves going on outings with you to CVS and the cute store. She takes the wheelchair so you can walk as much as you can, but you've got the wheels when you need them.

Just a few weeks ago you and India were goofing around on the kitchen floor like you used to.

I think about all these activities that we considered so prosaic, and I wonder if they will happen again.

Now I'm focusing not even day by day, but hour by hour. 

Sometimes in smaller increments.

I've had that line, "Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours..." running through my head. Also, Time in a Bottle. But I can't really think about it much because even on a non-sad day, that song makes me cry.

And I can't stop crying. 

Absolute strangers have comforted me in the hospital hallway. Yesterday I cried at a lovely woman doing wine tastings in Whole Foods. And then she told me her mom had a broken shoulder.

This Mothers Day, I know a lot of people grieving or pre-grieving or hoping but truly scared.

We send each other love all the time.

I have an incredibly loving community, and for that, I am grateful.

You still have your humor, in starts and fits. Yesterday I was playing you healing mantras up by your ear while you slept. And at a certain point you were like, "OK. Enough with the mantras."

Last night after a bit of a crisis, when you were hooked up to blood in one arm and a drip in the other, Nick said that if those gave you superpowers, he would just ask that you only use them for good.

And you said, "I really wish you hadn't said that."

The Wednesday before last, our last normal day, I drove you to an appointment. And on the way home I referred to another driver as a "fucking asshole" and you giggled.

I knew why. When I don't swear while driving you'll say things like, "Well. I guess there aren't any fuckers on the road today?"

Which is all the better because you never swear. 

Today is not the Mother's Day I would wish for you, or for me. In fact, I would wish it on nobody, with perhaps one or two exceptions.

Even though I believe in karma.

But on the whole, I'm kind and generous, and I'm this way because of you.

Thank you for everything, every gift you've given me. Everything you've shared.

I know I won't always have you right here, but you're always in my heart, and always will be.

I love you five. I love you almost more than I can bear.



Monday, May 08, 2023


Tomorrow, I am going to tell my beloved mama that if she is ready to let go of this small and pain-ridden body, that we love her enough to let her go.

I cannot stop crying. 

I've cried myself inside out. I've cried myself raw and dehydrated. And still I have more tears.

Today, I took the yellow no-slip hospital socks off her cold feet and massaged them with oil and lavender. I held them, to ground her.

Today, I said, "We love you, and we need you to stay. India, and Jordan and I, we need you here. India wants to drive you somewhere when she gets her driver's license. She asked if you would be here when she can drive. So you need to stay. At least another five years."

I told her over and over how much we need her to stay.

Because suddenly today, today she felt like she was leaving.

Not in a dramatic way.

In a small and gentle way. Which is very like her.

Like she's here, but also floating. Not upset or scared or in particular pain unless you move her. But mostly not here.

Not interested in talking or TV or looking at her phone. Very, very sweet. But mostly tired. Mostly just

But let me back up. Because I haven't checked in with LG for a long time.

On Wednesday evening, Jordan and I heard a big thump upstairs.

This turned out to be my mom missing a step, just one, the last step of the flight, and hitting the ground.

She hit the ground, and she broke her hip.

I knew falling was a risk for older people, but I just...didn't really think about it for my mom. Yes, she now has a cane. But she's spry!

Turns out you can be spry and still fall and still break your hip.

And then, though you had great hemoglobin numbers that very day, your kidneys can respond very badly to blood pressure fluctuations and anesthesia. 

Surgery is a trauma. Hospitalization is a trauma.

On Friday, she introduced me to the physical therapist as Generalissimo. She told her, when asked about her daily tasks in the household, that cooking was not among them because nobody in our family likes to cook.


That was Friday. Friday!

This weekend she was still here. More tired, but still here.

And she felt very far away.

Her kidneys have not recovered. She's not eating. Not even watermelon, cut in tiny pieces, brought from home.

She's very, very tired. But beyond tired, today she just felt, I don't know. Beyond is the best way I can describe it.

When I sat on the floor with her waiting for the 911 people to arrive she apologized to me. She said she was sorry for all the things she'd put me through. This was one more big hassle.

And my god, I said please, please don't worry about it. I'd do anything for you. 

And tomorrow, I'm going to do the biggest, most brutal kindness I can imagine doing for anyone.

I'm going to tell my little mama that it's OK to go. 

If you need to, you can let go.

If it's too hard, too painful to stay, if it feels better to let go, you can go.

Dad is there. Her parents and siblings are there. Her dearest girlfriends. In fact, just about everyone she has ever loved is already there.

Fortunately Mr. Mitroo did a great job teaching us on those manual typewriters in Delhi, because I'm crying so hard I can barely see. 

I am terrified of losing my mom. I want with all my heart for my kids to still have their Nana right upstairs. I want them to be able to crawl in bed with her when they want to.

I want her here to ask them to walk to the store with them and carry her bags.

I wish desperately that she hadn't taken the stairs on Wednesday.

The thing is, I can beg. I can beg her to stay. I can beg her to try, for me, for the kids, who I know she loves more than life.

But she's had a big life. 

She's had extraordinary experiences. On their whiteboard in the room they invite you to write something interesting about the person. So I wrote that she'd lived in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Peru, Thailand...

And those are just places. That doesn't begin to scratch the surface of how interesting she is.

But also, she's had a tremendous amount of loss.

And is it fair, if someone is ready to slip gracefully to the other side to try to tether them, just because you personally cannot bear to consider life without them?

I don't think it's fair.

I think the only fair thing to do is to give her the choice. 

Even though I truly cannot bear the thought of living without my mama.

But in the end, I think Sting has it right: If you love someone, set them free.

And that's tomorrow.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Pew! Pew! Pew! Duck! Duck! Duck!

For us so far, 2023 has been the year of dodging bullets.

That's what the pews are in the title, if you were wondering. And unlike every time my phone autocorrects to duck—ducking autocorrect—I actually meant duck. 

Which, let's be honest, I pretty much never mean. And it makes me incredibly ducking frustrated that with all the internet knows about me, my phone is always like, "Oh, lovey, I think you mean ducking. Here, let me change that for you."

I am of course to be grateful for very scary situations turning out as best case scenario, but halfway into the month of January (which generally seems to last three years, but technically speaking, only lasts 31 days), I am utterly exhausted.

On Thursday night, I walked into the kitchen to find my mom bent over in an L-shape, clutching the kitchen table.

I asked what was wrong as I rushed over.

She couldn't speak and she couldn't move. I held her around the waist and pulled a chair towards us, but she was rigid. I was scared she'd fall. Or we'd fall.

I was just scared.

Nick and the kids had gone to bed, so I yelled for Nick to come help. I think I was kind of panic shrieky.

He ran downstairs and took my mom while I called 911.

Nick laid her down gently on the floor, at which point she opened her eyes and was able to speak.

The fire truck and ambulance arrived fairly quickly, and soon our kitchen was filled with EMTs.

One of them was trying to get the timeline of events, and she asked what time the behavior started. I gave her the approximate time I walked into the kitchen. But I said I didn't know how long my mom had been like that.

So then she asked my mom, who had no idea. So she said, "When was the last time you were normal?"

And Betty was all, "Normal? Probably never."

They did a number of tests and told her they'd be taking her to the hospital.

To which she said, "I'd really prefer not to go."

Everyone not on the floor agreed that it was best that the lady on the floor who couldn't sit up without becoming extremely dizzy did, in fact, need to be escorted bodily to the hospital.

So she went.

The waiting room was packed, and I had to wait for her to be admitted until I could join her in the back. Even arriving in an ambulance, it took her a while to get checked in.

When I got to her in the back, they were getting ready to take her for an MRI.

The nurse left the room and my mom said, "She asked if I was allergic to anything. And I said Republicans."

I told her she just might need a Republican caregiver, so please not to repeat that, and maybe tell them something helpful like her actual drug allergy.

In any case, I left at 2:00 am still not knowing anything but confident they'd at least keep her the night for observation.

As I was to learn Friday, she'd had a small stroke. Very small. Like, barely visible on the MRI. Thank god.

And my little mama also had Covid! What the Dickens?

Thank science and human ingenuity, she wasn't sick.

I tested all of us Friday, and we were all negative. We continue to be.

I picked her up late yesterday afternoon.

She's now testing negative. 

She's exhausted but OK.

Not normal, but please, we have no expectation of that.

Jeez, 2023.