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 not...here.

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 today...today 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.