life

now we are an “us”

For years,

I counted days.

And then one wintery January morning, the clock reset itself because of you.

It’s been a dream in many ways, even when reality has intervened. To love, and be loved, is complicated. I’ve always said we bring baggage into every relationship, and how we unpack it, in some ways, decides the survival of it all.

Except I don’t know what to do with my baggage. At least not until this very moment, as my fingertips glide across the keyboard.

We will unpack it together,

you and me.

Because now we are an “us”.

You are my future,

and I am yours.

Music Pairing: All My Heart by The Mynabirds

somewhere over the rainbow

Four years. As a friend wrote to me this morning, four years sounds so long, but when you’re living it…feeling it…

every second

of every minute,

of every day,

well, the time seems painfully slow,

and yet, like it was just yesterday.

I originally wrote this post a few months ago, and then I decided to hold back. I have a few of them much like this one. The rawness, the honesty, the confusion in figuring it all out. What it means to move forward when you’re still tethered to the past. How much is okay to share now?

Virginia is talking about Mikey a lot these days, more specifically the fact that she’s been alive longer without him than with him. She wanted an exact number—as in how many days she got to be with him. I was stunned when I did the math (1,182 days). I kept myself composed for her sake, but crumbled inside. I emphasized what an incredible daddy he was, and how lucky she was to have known him at all. I did my best to spin a web of happiness, to help her land safely from her sadness.

She’s figuring out what this new life means, as is her sister. I keep reassuring them that letting someone else in doesn’t mean they have to let go of their daddy. I struggle with the same feelings, but don’t feel like I get the same pass as they do. The boundaries of romantic relationships are more territorial.

And so, I’m going to leave the remainder of this post as it was originally written. I think those of you traveling similar journeys will be able to relate.

***

April 30, 2015

I did what I swore I wouldn’t tonight. I watched Grey’s Anatomy. He’s rolling his eyes, wherever he is right now. Thursdays were laundry night, not by design—it just always seemed to work out that way. I’d settle on the sofa with a basket or two, and fold while watching one trauma after another unfold. He’d sit at his desk, pretending not to watch. Then he’d let something slip that gave away he’d been watching along. He once muttered, “Why does anyone go to that hospital anymore? Don’t they know it’s doomed?”

I missed the first half hour, but the show played out in fast forward. Suddenly it was nine months later, and I felt betrayed. Real life doesn’t work that way. You don’t get to fast forward through the pain. When you’re living it, it feels like slow motion. Some Many Most nights you go to sleep, only to be disappointed when you wake the next morning. It means it’s real. Your life, your loss—each new dawn picks away the scab the previous day managed to build.

And then one day, the light doesn’t seem so alarming. The hollowness inside is replaced with hope. Hope that maybe one day you won’t feel so empty. It’s a step in the right direction.

Virginia came to me tonight, and asked for her photo box. I began a memory box project for the girls when I first bought the house. I’d spend Saturday nights sorting through photos, creating a special keepsake they could take when they leave for college. Thankfully that’s a while a way since I abandoned the project soon after I started. It was too much going through all the memories. Isabella’s box is overflowing. Virginia’s is sparse. Call it second child syndrome, but there are a lot less photos of us as a family when we went from three to four. Even fewer photos of her and M together. Life just got busier is what I tell myself, but the guilt that I didn’t document it more haunts me.

A few minutes later she came to me, holding a little wooden block calendar I bought in Cape Cod on one our many summers there. She asked what date daddy died. I’m pretty sure neither of them knew the date until that moment. In past years I’ve just tried to get through the day quietly, never pointing it out to them. I didn’t see the value in causing them extra sadness when they live with the reality of it every day. I wonder now if I underestimated the importance in the need for ritual in processing grief.

Instead of a somber funeral, I threw a party and asked his close friends to share stories about him. There was no burial, so there’s no grave to visit. His ashes still sit in a box in my bedroom. I don’t know yet what to do with them when I move. Do they stay at the house with his turntable?

When I walked into the girls’ room for bedtime, Virginia had photos of him spread all over her bed. She was staring at her music box playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. He used to play it for her on guitar all the time. It became their song. I looked at the photos, and realized I’d forgotten how incredible his smile was, able to light up a room. His laugh eludes me; I remember how hearty it was, but can’t hear it anymore in my mind.

Even when the clock seems to be standing still, time continues to move forward all around you. She cried, I hugged her, and then we read a book. We’d made it through another day. The 1,362nd day to be exact.

 

weighing in…

Funny, how I’ve decided to do Weight Watchers without a scale (yet). The last one I owned broke, and never registered beyond 25 pounds. It was my favorite scale ever, and not sure why I ever got rid of it. Kind of like the evil stepmother’s mirror from Snow White…who’s the thinnest of them all?

Much as I started this to lose weight, what I really wanted to accomplish was to feel better about myself. I used a ball park estimate based on my recent doctor’s visit (those scales are the worst!) to “weigh-in”, so I’ll never have an accurate estimate of my weight loss. But that goal of wanting to feel better about myself? I think I’m onto something. In just one week of giving more thought to what I eat, when I eat it, and how I eat it, plus increasing my physical activity, my outlook is different. I feel like I’m in the driver’s seat, and not just a passenger in my own life.

Mind over matter, perhaps? Here’s what one week’s worth of homemade meals looks like while following Weight Watcher’s. And yes, there was pie! Sour cherry filling wrapped in a buttery homemade crust for our 4th of July dinner with new friends and family.

Weight Watchers - Week One | www.injennieskitchen.com Weight Watchers - Week One | www.injennieskitchen.comWeight Watchers Week One 05

it’s all happening

Violets seem a little magical to me. Just a few days ago I looked around the yard, and there was no sign of them, though I knew it would be soon. Then I came home yesterday, glanced down, and low and behold, little purple buds peppered the landscape. A thick patch right outside the back porch door. Another cluster in the back of the yard, behind the garage. And yet more on the field next door which my neighbor graciously lets me and the girls use as our own. Continue reading »

daybreak

Moving forward is not as easy as one might suspect.

Moving forward means leaving something behind.

I found out something last week that I’d been trying to uncover for years. Michael and I were never sure the exact date of our first date. We both knew it was in May. I vaguely remember because it was close to the birthday of a college friend of mine at the time.

And I remember it was before Memorial Day. I have a vivid memory of searching for a payphone near Battery Park City to call him while having a picnic with the family for which I used to be a nanny. The only clue I had as to the day was that it was the same as my best friend’s graduation from F.I.T. Over the years I’ve asked her if she remembered the date, but it was lost on her, too. Continue reading »

monday, monday

I realize the general consensus regarding Mondays is that they’re an unwelcome event. I prefer to see them as a wipe the slate clean kind of day; a new beginning, of sorts. Way back when, Mondays used to be mommy and me day. Virginia was still a wee one, and only went to daycare four days a week. I’d wake, go for a run, come home, cook breakfast, pack lunch, and then gently wake the rest of the house to start the day. Once he left with Bella for school, Virginia and I would cuddle on the sofa with poached eggs and toast, watching Sesame Street.

Then it all changed so suddenly, and it took me a while to find my footing. In the beginning, it was a matter of survival. Each Monday was a reminder that I’d gotten through another week. I feel like you should get a grief badge for each one, the way they give chips at AA meetings. As time passed, Mondays morphed into a day of relief. Single parenting seems relentless on the weekends. It’s one long 48 hour shift without a break. Continue reading »

and we strolled there together…

Twenty four hours ago I was walking out of Webster Hall. It was my first time ever going to a gig alone. I don’t think I’d even seen a live concert until I met Michael. He was my muse and mentor, all at once. Some of it is undoubtedly chalked up to the 14 year age difference. Though I suppose at 21, the age I was when we met, there was no excuse I hadn’t seen a live show, except for the fact that music just didn’t have the relevance in my life as it holds today.

I remember the day George Harrison died. I heard the DJ mention it on the radio as I was driving home from running errands. M was sullen, and mournful, when I walked in the door. He was in a funk, and there was no shaking it. I very unthoughtfully told him to snap out of it after a few hours…it wasn’t like he knew Harrison. Why the need to put a damper on our day? It would be years later, and losing part of my own past, to understand what that connection meant to him. The Sunday I woke up to hear that Lou Reed had died, I felt empty and numb inside. I lost something I couldn’t get back the day Reed left this great earth. I lost a piece of my love all over again. He saw Reed many times, but me, I only saw him twice, and both with M. We heard him recite the Raven someplace in the city…I should know that, shouldn’t I (note to self: go look in M’s box of old ticket stubs). We also went to see him perform Berlin at St. Ann’s when it was in Brooklyn Heights, not Dumbo (is it even there anymore?).

I got lost in Lou and Patti Smith when M died. I got lost in all the music he loved when he died. It was my life raft, my arm stretched out, fingertips grasping to him in the distance. Lou’s passing was a reminder that you can’t hold on forever. The tangibles eventually become intangible.

Today I caught up with a dear friend, someone who has believed in me since the beginning, in a way only Mikey ever did. I told her that last night, going to see Patti by myself, it taught me something. For the last few years, and probably long before that, I thought I had no claim to his music. It was his, and I simply liked it by default. In preparation for our move six months ago, I made the decision to sell part of M’s record collection (or is it albums? I never remember the difference between a record and an album). It took three passes before I had a “sell” pile.

The first pass was purely sentimental.

The second run through resulted in a slightly larger “sell” pile, having discarded some stuff I knew I had no interest in (if only I’d known that damn Leonard Nimoy album was worth more money!!!).

The third pass was a ruthless stripping away at the layers. It was no longer about my allegiance to him. The stakes were higher. What did I like (not the Sex Pistols!!!)? What did I think was essential for the girls to have as part of their father’s musical history?

Finally, the pile was whittled down to half, a mere 200 albums. The day the guy from St. Mark’s came, I felt somewhat dirty as he handed me a wad of cash. It felt tinted with betrayal. But the truth is that he had threatened many times to digitize it all, and get rid of the vinyl, to which I always protested “over my dead body”. Guess he won that argument…

Anyway, last night I realized that while I came into my own musically under his tutelage, the ownership of taste is all mine now. So much of our relationship, the first nine years in fact, were quibbles usually about me demanding to be heard and loved for who I was at my core. I may not have been as well-read, and I liked 80s music because I was a kid of that generation. I pushed back at every step of the way in our relationship, screaming (often literally) to just be loved for the person deep down. Back then I viewed books and music as window dressing. And in a way that’s what they represent. They’re the goods that pique your interest. I get that today, and only time and experience can teach that lesson. At 21 we think we know the rules. At 41, I realize we’re just making them up as we go along.

As 2014 winds down, I say goodbye to my sweet love. It is not the first, and I know it will not be the last. This goodbye is a thank you in a way, for the gift he gave to the soundtrack of my life. And these songs are for his journey.

I love you Mikey. See you on the other side. One day.

Music Pairing: Trampin’ by Patti Smith

Video: People Have the Power – Webster Hall 12/29/2014

and so, the countdown begins

It’s been a while. I wonder how many times I’ve started a post with that sentence. It feels like quite a few in my mind. The last few weeks feel clear, and a blur, all at the same time. The thing about grief is that it catches up with you at the most inconvenient moments. I was well aware that this is a tender time of year, and yet it still doesn’t make it any easier. Perhaps, the right way of looking at is that it makes me more aware. More conscious that I need to be gentle with myself, that I’ll have to dig deeper to find more patience for our daughters, and that I’ll have to find a way to acknowledge my loss, but not let it get the best of me.

In the weeks I was away from here, I had two interactions with friends that left me feeling misunderstood. And it opened the door to a larger question in my mind, that if some of my closest friends don’t get me, will there ever be someone else who can understand me as deeply as the best friend I lost three and a half years ago. The closeness you develop in an intimate relationship is one that can’t be mimicked by even your closest friends. It’s the innate understanding of what you need, and willing to put your own needs on hold at moments when the weight needs to be carried by one, instead of two. Continue reading »

all in the family

Yes, I know, it’s been a while. I knew time was passing faster than I could keep up. My silence here inspired a few of you to send notes or leave comments wondering if everything is okay. The truth is that I decided to pull back a little at the end of August, just so the girls and I could enjoy our Cape vacation. I needed to disconnect a little, though I stayed tethered a bit to Instagram. Perhaps tethered is the wrong word; that sounds burdensome. I love seeing other people’s lives, and sharing my own, through photos, so you can always check in there if you don’t hear from me over here for a while.

Well, we came back from North Truro on August 30th, and then school started a few days later. After a relatively leisurely summer of waking when we wanted, eating when we were hungry, and going to bed at no particular time at all, well, it’s an understatement to say adjusting to school was a shock (more so for me, than the kids, I think). The girls seemed to settle in as well as could be expected, considering we moved just a few months, their friends are all back in Brooklyn, and they’re now in a new school up here. I’m sure as time passes, we’ll settle into new routines, find new friends, and feel more like we belong, and less like we’re outsiders. If only time was an ingredient we could buy, preferably a “just add water” item. We’d miss the journey, though, and experience has taught me that even the tougher parts of the path make it worthwhile. Continue reading »

18 hours in Philly

“Let me get this straight. We’re driving to Philadelphia for doughnuts.”

That was Isabella’s response when I told her about my road trip plans for the weekend. The sun had scurried behind storm clouds, and raindrops began to dance upon the windshield as we rolled out of Brooklyn. My mind was divided between concentrating on the stop signs and streetlights, and my real reason for driving 95 miles for doughnuts.

Continue reading »