Tag Archives: loss


27 Dec

In 2009, after a lot of tests revealing nothing,  I was sent to a cognitive therapist to see what the hell was wrong with me. Among the homework I was thereafter to be assigned, I was to begin a diary. 

…But because I only ever wrote in them when angry, (and because hypochondria is another fun bit to my persona), I told my shrink that I couldn’t do that… cuz what if I died suddenly and then people found and read these moments of anger and thought that that was how I truly regarded them?  

…So then she said,  “Fine,  do a blog then,  something in a public forum. This way you will need to find a healthy alternative in which to spin your anger and resentment and frustration for a reading audience. ”

…So I did. 

…And you’re still reading it. 

…But this is all to set up that: as a writer,  as an actor,  as a mentally fucked-up human (which we all are,  in our own ways, P.S.) I needed a model of study. Because that is what I do in my profession. 

…And my profession has–had–(FUCK YOU,”had”!) an ambassador of the first rank. 

…It was at that time that this one book just happened to be on the NY Bestseller list,  and on all the feature tables of Barnes and Nobles. And I bought it NOT because it was featuring Princess Leia,  but because it was written by the author of “Postcards From The Edge, ” a particularly fantastic insider bio of truth and shock and humor, by Debbie Reynolds’ kid. (Cuz that’s how *she* ranked in my childhood priorities .)

…The thing was: at that particular time,  I was seriously fucked up. My motor skills were for shit and at times I couldn’t feel my extremities.  I couldn’t eat,  so dropped 35 lbs and the “new skinny” just looked wrong, I was having respiratory issues,  getting winded within six to ten steps,  couldn’t sleep because of chronic spins that would make me heavily nauseous when I closed my eyes, my hypochondria was on steroids,  and I was on about seven prescriptions to try and counter it all,  to no avail. 

…Which is when the MD wrote me a prescription to his own personal therapist. 

…So: when I say that I was fucked up and in the worst mental and physical place of my life: believe me–it was bad. 

I was 29.

…By the end of my first couch session, I’d been diagnosed and told that not only could she source it to age five, but that if I hadn’t totally lost my shit when I did, NOW,  I was so bad that by 35, I would likely have ended in a psych Ward. 

…Which is never “good” to hear. But even less so when you are an accute anxiety-bent hypochondriac. 

…So with the mental picture of a future like Frances Farmer in my head, I went desperately seeking out any –ANY–possible option to the contrary,  in my own associated self-help program. 

…Which led me to Carrie. 

…A Carrie I already liked and was comfortable with not because of an epic Star Wars trilogy, but because she made me laugh and think and commune with her as a fellow single in “When Harry Met Sally, ” and because of her books.

 …That brilliant, bombastic, bipolar brain she brandished on the page with liberal seasoning of caustic wit. 

…While we shared not the same diagnosis, we did on the levels of frustration at being perfectly functioning people until (for no apparent reason, and beyond our own control) we weren’t. That sense of loss in regards to power and just plain practicality was something she described so perfectly. And the way she could balance that loss with the analytical behind-the-scene viewpoint of a twisted blooper reel,  was –God’s honest truth–the first time I had laughed in months. 

…Because it was real. NOT of my imaginings or horrors,  but truth in its ugly fucked-up form. If it wasn’t real,  how the hell could she be writing about the thoughts my own brain was thinking?  How could she understand how fucking dark the blackness got? How much of a freak I felt? 

…But most of all,  how in the name of all that is holy,  could she be making jokes and laughing about it,  like it was no big deal?! It was a GIANT, ALL-CONSUMING goddamn deal. Wasn’t that the whole point?!? 


The point was: she was laughing at it. 

…Scary as fuck and frequently beyond her control to do anything,  but. So: fuck you dibilating mental health issues! And the demon dragon you rode in on. 

This beyond all else. THIS. Learned NOT from my super excellent $110 an hour shrink, but from a woman on the inside who knew the road cuz she set fire to the damn path before she walked it, hot coals et al… THIS was the greatest piece of education I received (or will likely ever receive) on what will end up being my lifelong journey as a person struggling with mental health issues. 

…Like my own version of AA. I chose my greatest support from one who had been there and fully understood what it meant and took to fight this shit every day. 

…Which then got me thinking of one of my alltime favorite Sorkin pieces:

“This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.
“A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
“Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on
“Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.'”
…Look, I know what the bulk of her obituaries will be saying. And as a person in the Entertainment field, I would be the last kind of person to down-play her iconic importance in so many people’s lives as a Force of Royalty and wit. 
…What I’m saying is that: I’ll mourn that tomorrow. Today,  I have to give thanks for an essential life-teacher,  who woke up every day with a massive fight ahead of her, manned with an arsenal of searing truth, humility, wit,  wonder and fucking chutzpah in spades…which she shared,  at every opportunity, with all of us, so we should never feel alone or shamed or outwitted for our own fights. 
…She was a princess to many,  but a badass mutherfucking Queen to a lot more people,  than she would have ever known. 
Thanks, Carrie.You were epically amazeballs, and I’m so pissed at your early passing. It makes my guts hurt. But you fought your ass off,  babe, more than almost anyone I know. I guess I can’t deny you the much-earned rest. 
Keep it hopping up there! 

Whew. Whoa. WHAT?!

15 Jan


All the ink is dry in all the reviews for our show, which just seems to take this sizable monkey off my back, and let me settle in to do the work without outward distraction.

…Reviews aren’t supposed to matter, and some shows I don’t read them on purpose, because I’ve got a bigger plateful than other times, and need to be focused on “my show with my team” vs what other people are flinging at it. It’s difficult, because artists want feedback. But sometimes that feedback gets in the way, and just in case…I chose not to follow that yellow brick road, this time around.

…Course you can’t really get away from it anyway. Other people talk about it, drop you notes…you can’t do a show in a social bubble. So what I do know, is that whether people are “feeling” the content and amount of work they personally have to do to keep up with watching a Stoppard: consensus is — we are doing ours to help them out at it. So: that’s success. Not everything is for everyone, but the fear of en-mass walk-outs and angry refund demands, is over now.

…Now I just getta work and play, with the team. Which is pretty outstanding.

…And pretty essential. This week, especially.

When the world loses an entertainer, an artist, it immediately knee-jerks to its polar relationship with them. That one song, that painting, that movie, that concert. Because ART MATTERS, TO EVERYONE, even when they don’t realize it a lot of the time. It becomes like this crazy few days or weeks of manic memory bumps, and articles, and YouTube tribute videos…an explosion of new DVD, MP3 and CD sales.

When the Artistic world loses an entertainer, an Artist, we immediately knee-jerk to devastation. Because it isn’t about that one song or film or concert. It is about the loss of “family.” They were our teachers, our collaborative companions in countless instances, because of what they inspired, and wrote about and expressed when laymens words couldn’t scratch the surface. They made us want to be and do what we are. They were our freakin heroes, paved the way for us, encouraged us, showed us limitless options of looking at the ordinary and seeing the extraordinary.

…We lost two big ones. Within 4 days.

Too much, too soon.

The tributes keep coming (as they should), and everyone mourns them in their own way. Sometimes it’s hysterical blubbering, sometimes a silent pictorial tribute, sometimes it’s about festing their work, reminding oneself of what a gift we’ve been left behind. I’m more the latter style, but I understand why people can take it to the extreme.

Art is so incredibly personal and builds a relationship like nothing else, between one stranger and another. What was meant by it in the creation might not be how it is received, but that is kind of the magical thing about it. Your interpretation is purely yours. It’s as private as you want it to be, and builds relationships based on that. It’s why we have favorite singers and writers and actors. Because somehow, though we’ve never met, they get us, and where we are at, and can show it better than we can even put into articulate sentences.

…And because of that, the loss of every artist means the loss of this matchless person who you should never be ashamed to mourn, tear up over, get pissed off, about. Guess what? Their job on this earth was to make you feel something, think something, consider something, that you never could have, with anyone else. That intimacy can’t be bought and sold in tickets…that, is personal.

It’s personal.

It’s family.

It’s a hero.

It hurts.

They went too soon, but dammit, the job they did while here…

Rest in peace dear Sirs.

…And, “thank you. From all the Family.”


RIP, Pops

22 Jan


The WHS Pimp is on family leave in CA after losing his “Pops” the week of the Corporate Manager’s Meeting.  He was in the middle of a shit-storm of flight delays, and missed connections when the word came through from home…stranding him alone in an airport bar, halfway between here and there, with what would end up as something like a 1 am final arrival in Florida.

…Pops had been sick for quite some time, but the plan had been to divert the return ticket after the meeting and see him in person, say the things a son says when they are facing that moment, and come home with at least some semblance of a closure.  Instead, WHS Pimp tossed back about a fifth of gin amongst strangers, got on another flight hours later, and was deposited to a three-day orgy-fest of unnecessary political game-playing…which he somehow managed to live through, even in his emotionally fucked-up state, with more grace and self-respect than the yahoos conducting the whole enterprise.

Any other person would have waved a giant finger of “fuck you” to the Corporate heads back at the airport, and changed destinations right then and there…I sure as hell know I would…but the WHS Pimp didn’t. And not only that, he failed to even tell us back home that any of it had happened, until two days into the Conference.

And it sucks. 

…It sucks he missed the face-to-face goodbye.  It sucks that his Pops was so young to begin with, and that life-choices can handicap a person so severely that sometimes you just can’t find a way out.  It sucks that The Pimp was alone when he heard it…that no one was there to get the top bottle off the shelf, put it in front of him and say, “Tell me some stuff about your Pops…I know there’s a million awesome stories…”

…And it sucks that even when he got home, we were all too damn poor to front a bottle, set up a wicked feast, and wake the man a proper way.

…All we COULD do, was take over the biz, and shove him out the door to California, to be with the people who COULD do all that for and with him.  So we did.  And he’s there.  And is reporting back with pics of long-ago friends he hasn’t seen in years, and sister time, and mornings with Mom by the pool, and general shenanigans that you need to have to survive the kind of shit-storm that is “death.”

It’s good for him to be home…has been too many years since he’s been.  We all wish it was under better circumstances (obviously), but I happen to know first-hand that sometimes the only thing to bring you together is the loss of something great.  It’s a stupid law of life, but there it is.

So, from here we wish him well, and lots of stories, and “remember whens,” and laughs, and building more good memories to bring back… helping counter the hard ones that first sent him there.

…And we also would like to say, for the record: “STOP CHECKING YOUR FUCKING WORK EMAILS…ALL THAT SHIT CAN WAIT!”

Love and stuff,


Waking A Giant

4 Jun


If Theatre is a family (and it is), then it makes sense that I feel gut-punched right now…

…Because like every self-respecting LGBT-21st-Century-Community with multiple Mom’s and Dad’s, little sisters and big brothers, in a splendidly blended environment of love and universal acceptance…we are the village that it takes to raise a child. All of us were reared in it. And all of us will eventually take our turn (if we haven’t already), reaching out to the others who come after us.

…In that respect, our family has lost a once-“son”, then “father”, and now grand-poobah of a “grandpappy,” who has taken his final bow on this earth with the grace and dignity and showering of respect he has so very much earned, during his time on this planet. In this family.

When I first met him, he was a totally indestructible force of sparkling dry wit (still is), dressed in sooted togs, as the most beautiful Alfred P. Doolittle of all time. Beautiful in the dirt smears, in the picking at a flea in his armpit, in the good-ol-boy jeer and wink that killed the audience every single bloody night. Beautiful in his choices, in his art, in his reckless abandon at whatever his particular version of “dancing” was, as he lolliped about the stage with his mates and us, every night…dead of summer…covered from head to toe in wool-and-such, in a theatre with no air conditioning.

By show’s end, I was eternally gobsmacked and we were “pals.”

…I was 20 years old. A brand new transplant from California, and he was (and is) one of my first friends, in the first show I had ever done, here in this state.

…Which is how I’d eventually book a headshot session with him. And how I first met his other art: conducted behind the eye of a camera lense.

(Naturally, he was quite brilliant at that, as well.)

…As he was brilliant in “talk” in telling a yarn…in summing a story up seen as no one else quite sees it, in private IM’s after reading a blog I had written that particularly tickled his fancy.

Meanwhile: we worked on more shows.

…He: as a “softy” singing, “More I Cannot Wish You,”…watched nightly from the wings by the whole lot of us…the sweetness and endearment so very, very clear in his interpretation.

…Then: a hell of a court case, where I…ME…THIS person, right HERE…got to sit beside him…nightly…in a silent court room, just we two, in a single scene. As Drummond shared a window into his psyche in “Inherit the Wind.” A simple, moment, yes. But “full.”

…And you know the “fullness” that I mean.

…Or at least, I wish you to some day experience it, if you haven’t.

He was, (and is) quite frankly, loaded with “that thing.” That special whatever-the-hell-it-is that defines the “great” from the “good.” He was (and is) that extra step of something special…something you cannot quite put into words, but you absolutely can “show.” Least some people can. He can (and could.)

…And in case you’d ever doubted it…there was his gorgeous, human, wonderfully truthful without being overly sentimental Norman in, “On Golden Pond.”

…He is (and was), one of the greats. The greatest of them. You may have never heard his name, but you should. You may have never seen his work, but you ought to have. He would have taught you so much. He did, me. (And likely hundreds and hundreds of others.)

…Not just “how to be an actor” either. Not only lessons an actor could watch and mentally note for use later down the pike…when…IF… we were (or are) ever so lucky to have the talent and to have gained the access to perform the kinds of roles he did. I mean: just even as a “human.”

Human lessons.

…You know, the kind of things that “dad” and “granddads” are SUPPOSED to do.

…And his last one, for us…on a stage. The last one he took his bow from at large from here in the Pacific NW…was how to face age, and illness, and loss with dignity…with humor…with devotion…with love…with respect.

I’ve always said (and always will) he was one hell of an actor. But I think maybe he cheated a bit on that one. I think, more often then not, he supported that character with his own personal viewpoint and wit and sass. His own brand of “He-ness.”

A giant has passed our way, friends. He lit a lot of fires on his journey, and I am one of them. You might be too. And tonight I’d just like to raise a toast to my (and our) good friend, and head-of-the-family, as we know it…with thanks.

To the great Clark Maffitt.


One of your many, many friends and fans,


Thinky Day

3 Mar


This is one of those weird disassociation days.

…The kind that you get when the brains are pulled in totally different directions not even remotely in the same ballpark as one another, but at the same time. 

Crap sleep again.  Strange hormonal sweats coming in waves.

…Headache behind left eyeball through three cups of black coffee and all of Month-End. 

Successfully hit my numbers, ate a banana, took some head pills.

…Which lead to more paperwork, and bookings, phone calls, and catch-ups with WHS Pimp, who is currently at a Managers Meeting in Florida.

…He hates it, and thinks they’re all racist schmoos.

(They are. What kinda dicks wearing 3000 pounds of aftershave, cram into a cab and proceed to yell things like “Onward Habeebs! Lets move it Moostafa!” to the cab driver, on the ride from the airport to the hotel?)

…Now that they’ve completed all the keynote speeches for the day, though…everyone’s been left to their own devices.  Which means they will be wasted while getting lap dances on the company dime, by 1 pm, our time.  Easy. 

… I told WHS Pimp to go sit in the sun by the pool, and look at all the bikini bodies walking by, instead. He has decided, in lieu of this, to go back to the room and sleep. He never listens to me.

…And he should. Not just cuz I’m always right, but also on account of the fact he’s not allowed to come home without first securing a sugar mama of indiscriminate age, who will elevate him into the sort of lifestyle of which he should become accustomed…so I can quit work here and be his PA. And by PA, I mean “Personal Alcoholic.”

This was already decided before he left.

…I, of course, form no personal function towards him. As his PA, my job will be to drink Bourbon and Mojitos and park myself in ritzy resort cabanas with mountains of pillows and a foot-rubbing boy named Jesus-Federico, (who I will call “Fred” for short.) He will be supremely jealous of Conquistador Manuel Rodriguez (my lover) and Habitas Consuelo (my other lover), who both wear white linen over their tan skin, when not in their James Bond boy-short swimming trunks, coming in and out of the pool in slow motion to Julie London and Billie Holiday songs.

I have a plan, people.

WHS Pimp WILL deliver.


In real life: I’m sitting here winking at the screen, trying to get my headache to go away…trying not to fixate on the fact I’ve my first actual rehearsal for the show tonight and still have no idea what the hell to do with my character.

…Still not off book like I wanted to be.

…Still exhausted, and trying to wrap my head around getting through the work day, never mind the four hours that follow.

…And knowing, as well, that through all of this relative nonsense, worry, and stress, they are putting my Grandfather to rest today.

A more deserving place to focus my thoughts, obviously. But they just don’t seem to focus on anything at the moment, merely “flit.”

…Is it any wonder it breaks away on it’s own little quest, beyond headaches and Month-End numbers and serious loss, to stupid mental escapes like a hummingbird?

…Oh look! Something shiny! I’ll look at that for a bit.

…Instead of what it should.

Stupid head.



26 Feb


I have to write a letter tonight, to a man I haven’t spoken to in nearly 14 years. 

…It’s about another man, whom I haven’t seen in almost as long. 

I feel side-swiped, and ill prepared, though there were signs that were telling me to get ready.  Signs that this was coming.  But I was so consumed with trying to dig out of the last family loss, that I didn’t give this next one the attention I should have, nor the people on the other side of family tree, sharing limbs with me.

Tonight, they are gathered, there.  I know what they feel. I know the loss of appetite and swell of pain ripping upward from the throat which comes from trying to hold back tears.  I know they are huddled together, speaking comforts to one another. Uncles are picking up Aunts from the airport. Everyone seems to be whispering, with grim-faced stares.  Children are fussing and crying because they don’t understand what it all means, only it is the most terrifying thing in the world to see your father cry.

…I imagine.

They are at a loss, with a loss, which seems somehow removed from me. I don’t like to admit it, but I want to comfort them, without being hypocritical. Having a loss that rips you in two deserves its proper mourning, and sympathy. They knew and grew up with this man their entire lives, and the simple fact is: I did not.

This afternoon, I found out that my Grandfather had passed away.

The man has given me my name, by once marrying my Grandmother, and adopting my Father and his sister, before carrying on to grow the family further. From them grew cousins I adore, and their sweet babies I wish I could snuggle. He may not have been of my blood directly, but it was a proud name, and he was a proud man, and his life, though almost exclusively separate from mine, helped to make me who I am today.

Our ancestors are our roots, seeding us, growing us, anchoring us into our places on this earth in a true marriage of “for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.” For this, I am truly thankful to him, but I know it is not the same as the pain the others are feeling tonight.

…And I feel really badly about that.

Frankly, I feel like a total asshole.

For over an hour today, I haunted the sympathy card aisle, trying to choose something to send to my family. Something that recognized the epic loss, without making it sound as if it had nothing to do with me…yet nothing which might hurtfully presume more of a relationship which I hadn’t earned, and would have no right to presume upon them now in their grief.

…Just so you know: They don’t make those kind of cards.

I’m literally faced now with two “blanks.” Something calming on the outside of water and blooming life: on the inside: nothing.

One for my Grandmother and family.

One, for my Father.

I have a pen sitting right there, on the table, but I’ve no idea whatsoever where to begin.

…Even just starting the first one is odd.

“Dad,” it says.

Simple enough I guess, only not so much when you haven’t spoken the word in one and a half decades. Two years before that. Four before that.

I don’t know my Father, any more than I knew his.

So now I must write of one to the other, and have suddenly a minefield stretching out before me of all the things NOT to say, yet no idea how to get to the things I should.

What, for instance, can I write, which won’t dig up past ghosts, and hurl them at him blind-sidedly…triggering whatever regrets and/or guilts he might have held onto all these years, as people from broken relationships do? Now is not the time to appear to be throwing loaded emotional bombs at people in their grief…even less, at your own Father. Because you actually harbor him no ill will, that was all over…long ago.

…You just don’t know him, is the end result.

…So what in the hell do you say in a card on the loss of your “Dad’s” Dad, when you can’t seem to even think of the title yourself without quotations marking it’s specific significance?

I don’t have the proper practice it takes to say it without sounding foreign.

Love of family can be an odd happenstance, a Frankenstein-and-the-Monster kind of thing. Sometimes it is a comfort from stability and encouragement. Sometimes it is a flamethrower away from all-out war. Sometimes it resides in the symbolism. Mostly, I’d say, in the “shared experience”…good, bad, or otherwise. Because of this, you can hold that fierce connection and devotion, no matter how far apart you roam from one another. You belong to the name. You belong to the history. You belong to the gene pool, and its every harbored secret and horror and wonder and joy and regret.

…Because of this, I can say, “I love my family,” and mean it…whether I particularly know them well…whether I’ve met their spouses, or children…whether I attend the potlucks and football games, show up at Easter…or not…because we are linked by these viciously intense, and invisible tethers. They are my people, and I am there’s.

…I want to tell them: “I’m sorry for our loss” without sounding condescending or belittling the depth of their grief in any way. After all: they’ve been there through thick and through thin…and I have not.

…I want to say things of comfort, give hugs that will help, and be an ear to talk to…should any of them want or need that essential sounding board when lost in the anger, confusion and sadness of what has happened and what is yet to come, from it’s repercussions.

…And if I knew how, I’d want to tell my Dad…

…I guess I’d tell him…


…In all seriousness? Waiting for Godot would not be as long as waiting with this pen sitting in front of me tonight…

I really just need to not fuck this up.


The Part No One Talks About

8 Feb


*Unvarnished grief, real-talk, inappropriate and uncomfortable subject matter. But I need to let it out, and somewhere, someone might just need to read it. To know: you’re not alone.
I needa shower.

Feel gross.

…Eleven hour car rides (one way) through snow and ice storms to get to Oregon, turn around the next day, and do it all over again, in the single most depressing field trip of all time.

Because death isn’t funny.

…Except when it is ironic, or unreal.

…Which it nearly always is…

…Once upon a time, my shrink said, “the second you can laugh at or make fun of a thing, is the second you win control of it.”

…But really, I’ve been far too pissed off to make fun of death lately.  With or without irony.  I know it isn’t supposed to be the “funny, ha, ha” kind of laugh…it’s the dark and twisted side. Obviously. Like where Tim Burton lives. Like if Tim Burton were a Funeral Director, instead of just a movie one.

…It sort of makes sense, because death is something we all deal with and will all have to face, and fearing and raging and crying about it doesn’t lessen any of those facts.

For me, it’s the awesome moments of “slap-stings” occurring…as if from no where, instant microseconds of time which wallop you so fucking hard and fast that you have forgotten how to breathe and when you come-to again, can’t understand how you are even still standing up and not in a clump on the floor.

…Cuz you FEEL like you’re a clump on the floor.

…In fact, a clump on the floor, sounds like a soothing place to be.

…But you’re not.

…Instead, you’re in another city. In another state. In a funeral home. Waiting for the Director (a youngish, clean-cut guy in a suit, not at all resembling Tim Burton) to get the paperwork to sign.

…And the sheer weight of morbidity for you to be standing here in this place, just about manages to send you into an anxiety attack.

…But you don’t let it.

…You push back.

…From the middle of the room…by the chairs you’ve just been asked to sit in.

Giant, overstuffed leather.

In front: a giant round table, with a giant box of kleenex, masked in a faux giant stack of books. You don’t sit (of course), because that would require motor skills and the confidence in your ability to stand back up again. Instead, you just stand there…trying not to become enclosed in the shrines of death all around…the walls of boxes and urns, the pillowed caskets, plaques and stone mock ups, and to the left, apparently: “pet haven”…where you can have all of the same in miniature version, or have Sparky turned into a pendant made of his own pressed ash.

…And that is when this shit just gets totally unreal. Like beyond ridiculous.

…And somewhere you must realize it’s prob’ly not reasonable to be so pissed off at the fact that there is a “pet” section at the funeral home you are here to claim a family member from. “Pets” are people too (or so they say.) But at that second, it becomes sorta the turning point of, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?! THEY HAVE A PET DEATH SECTION, LIKE JUST OUT HERE, RIGHT IN YOUR FACE?! AS IF LOSING A GODDAMN DOG BELONGS IN EVEN REMOTELY THE SAME REAL ESTATE OF FLOOR SPACE, AS LOSING AN ACTUAL HUMAN BEING?! I HATE ALL YOUR FUCKING DOGS! AND CATS! FUCK YOUR FUCKING BIRDS AND GERBILS TOO!! FUCK ‘EM ALL!!!”

…Is what you are thinking.

Really, really loudly.

To yourself.

…But you must confess, it does help a little. Having something tangible to become angry at. Because up till then it was all about trying not to look at and note the weirdness of various makes and models of open caskets with pillows, resting on the floor…like they were inviting you to take them for a test drive or something…and the wall of urns and boxes and cylinders and mini “keepsake” vials…that hold the remains of what “remains” when we are, you know…not alive anymore…but for some reason, people want to keep you around anyway.

…Creeped out, more by the second…thrown back instantly to every Holocaust film and research flashback…and bad horror film you’ve ever heard with your eyes shut… you were, in the end, semi-saved by a rage-fest at the “pet haven” section.

Which lasted exactly as long as it takes for a guy to walk from his office, back again, with a manila full of documents to sign.

…Then it all comes crashing back to real-times again. And that hurting-to-breathe thing. And stinging eyeballs. And you try to hold your shit together, just a little while longer, so as to NOT lose it in front of this stranger (who I’m sure is totally used to it by now)…”just three minutes more,” you think, “And it’ll all be over.”

But then it all comes to this silent, silent moment where time and space and life completely freezes. It’s like being out in the country after a new snow. The silence is SO silent, and pure, that all you can hear is your own breath…and your own heartbeat. You can actually feel it’s thump so hard that you can hear it. Pure, pure, silence of: STOP.

You’ve been handed a box.

It is heavy. Heavier than you would suppose, had you ever thought of the weight, which you never have, until now. In your hands. Maybe a million what-others-might-consider-morbid-thoughts, cram your head full, but you don’t think of them as morbid. They are wonders. They are private. I don’t even know if they are articulate enough to convey. But the single biggest two, you know:

“It’s wrong that I can pick him up, now.”


“I need to get the hell out of here, before I blow.”

…So, you do.

…Get the hell out of there.

…And because you don’t know what else to do…because you don’t know the “protocol” for transporting your uncle’s remains in a car ride, a full state away…you do the only thing that comes to mind.

You put him, very carefully, on the back seat, with a seat belt securing him in.

…And you get into the car…

…And you ball your fucking eyeballs out.

…Until you really can’t see or breathe anymore.

…And you squeeze your Mom’s hand.

…And then…because life has to go on…you turn out on the road. And drive home.

There are all kinds of grieving, and ways that people come to terms and deal with the things they must. For me, it’s been a lot of anger, this time ’round. Anger of “too soon,” and “simple causes that can’t be reasoned with” and “what about his son?” and much, much more. Too pissed off to cry as much as I probably should. But there are no rules, no “how-tos,” no right and wrong ways when it comes to grief…I don’t give a shit how many books you read or shrinks you go to. Everyone sees and feels and deals with the after-effects differently. Everyone needs their space to do so. Everyone needs to come, in their own time, in their own way, to that silent-snowfall moment…where it finally sinks in, and the enormity of the loss is so loud, it renders the entire world deaf with it.

I am thankful for a belief that all he is doesn’t rest in a box that I can hold in my hands.

I am thankful for a belief that he has moved on to a place where he can watch us and his son, and laugh and make merry, and be the “he” that he always was here, only care-free.

I am thankful that I have such a hilarious, cheerleading, go-to-guy up there…so close to the ear of the dude that makes “the calls.”

…But none of that replaces or excuses the fact of what we had to do that day, or what he had to live through for fourteen before all this, or what his son will have lost, for the rest of his life.

I have a bone to pick with God on that one, and I think I always will.

I’ve added it to the list.

So noted.

…Now, to that other one:

“Take a shower. Get human again.”


The Biggest Guy

25 Jan


There’s a story from when I was just a little thing of a human…

…In the small town Gram, Gramps and my Aunts and Uncles lived in, was this old grocery store…always smelled of freshly butchered meat from the back stalls where the bright red beef layered in lines just off from the pork and chicken, amongst the garnish greenery…where every conceivable household tool, lightbulb, baking good, camping supply and candy type was somehow crammed into this tiny space on the main street, serving as that old timey type of country general store.

…Precious little has changed in it even now, decades upon decades after…probly even still owned by the same people, where Gram could somehow cash a check, get stamps, buy the brisket and catch up in all the town news, while they opened the brown paper bag for filling.

…And it was there that, as on many occasions, mom stopped one day on the way to visit Gram and Gramps, to pick up something-or-other needed for dinner. Walking through the backdoor access by all the meat, with the smell I knew so well, wafting after me, I pealed through the aisle almost instantly…(a thing Mom never let me do, but apparently I had far beat her into the store,) yelling out as I went, “Uuuuuncle Biiiig Guuuuy!!!” For my uncle at that time worked there, and I’d just seen him from the back of the store.

…And I’d ran to him and he’d pick me up, tall as a giant Swede (the only one of the six brothers and sisters who’d inherited the gene, left mostly served with the small Irish stock), and red-faced or not, he made a big to-do over me, cuz I was the first niece, and totally spoiled, and knew it.

“Hi Boo!” He’d said…his nickname for me hailing from Boobear…

…Little did he know at the time of course, but he took one for the team that day…as all his buddies forever and ever afterward…all through high school and the years and decades to follow after, would call him “Big Guy,” with not hidden smirks on their faces. A family nickname, but not generally known to the outside world. And I had outted it.

…It fit, cuz it was true.

The Biggest Guy, in all the good ways. Everybody always agrees. Sure brawn, and sturdy…but big in laughter with the biggest sense of humor and the biggest giving heart…biggest creative juices, and always always always the biggest champion and protector of the little guy…whoever he may be.

…Age doesn’t change things like that. And it’s nice to know that sometimes…sometimes it happens in this life that a hero never slips from his place of height in your heart. Sometimes they manage through all the hell and high water that life throws at them, to still retain that bigness of character and humor and well- earned devotion, which first gained them their hero title to you…all those years ago.

…And you know what…he’s never once lost it. Not for any of us. Even last time we visited, crowing the end with the giant bear hugs he gives the best. At 33, I still squeezed him with all my guts and said, “Love you, Uncle Big Guy!”

…”Love you, Boo, ” he squeezed back.

…And that, today, is my last memory of him. Because I chose it to be, instead of in a hospital bed in an ICU ward, somewhere in Portland…where family has been sitting vigil and praying…and he has been fighting and winning small battles for his life, and his son, for nearly two weeks.

The Biggest Man I ever met…in morals, and life value, and being a good human…and father…and brother and uncle…the Biggest Man I will ever know, decided it was enough today, and passed away.

The sink in my gut and tear at my heart is completely irreparable. And because of how he lived his life, I am certainly not the only griever at a total loss of capacity to understand the how and why of it.

Uncle Big Guy, in the sky:

Thank you for your youness, the ten hundred thousand laughs, the nips of Jack Daniels, the peace of the farm life, and every twisted, hilarious way of looking at the ordinary and finding the extraordinary. You’ve taught me endless everythings in how to be a good human and appreciate every ounce of life we are given…to the fullest. I’ll try to do better. And laugh more. Always.

Love so full, it hurts,


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