Imprint

I haven't cried since that night. I've teared up a couple times, my voice has wavered now and then, I've stood deer-in-the-headlights style at a party waiting for the topic of conversation to move on from cute stories about other people's fathers, but I haven't cried. That is, until this arrived in the mail: That's my dad's thumbprint. I took the impression while sitting with him after I could no longer talk with him. Some people take photos or locks of hair, I rolled up balls of purple-and-white putty and gingerly pressed his fingertips into them. This is it, I thought the whole time. This is IT. I suppose I'd known before then -- after all, I'd specifically requested the compound be overnighted ahead of our visit, just in case. On the Friday before he passed away I told him about Janessa and the fingerprint jewelry she offered to make for me and my mom, and I felt...weird, like YO I KNOW YOU'RE DYING AND ALL BUT IMMA GONNA MAKE ME A NECKLACE, OKAY? He didn't think it was weird at all. He thought it sounded like a lovely idea. Still, though. I left the compound in my suitcase until... Read more →


Yellow & Black & Read All Over

Hidden among my father's rows and rows of books -- every book that had ever landed on the high school English curriculum list, plus a few from the banned column, for good measure -- was an impressive stash of Cliffs Notes. I remember being surprised by the huge number of yellow-and-black-striped study guides one day while digging around for something to read, something more challenging than the pathetic selection of Christian young adult fiction-with-a-Jesus-message my school's library offered. I think I was on a Thomas Hardy kick, or maybe it was Vonnegut by that point. Either way, I knew I'd find something that would alternately impress and/or horrify my own English teacher, but I wasn't expecting the Cliffs Notes. I knew exactly what they were, and how most of my peers used them: For cheating. You read the guide and not the book, and hopefully gleaned enough information to bullshit your way through class discussions and tests. They were a safer bet than renting a movie version that might have changed everything, but of course they cost a lot more, and you ran the risk of having a teacher or parent catch you with them. And then there was my... Read more →


Two Thousand Sixty-Seven

On Tuesday, last week, I took Ezra for a check-up at a new pediatrician. "Okay, family history," the doctor said cheerfully, turning to her computer. "Heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, cancer? Are all the grandparents still living?" "My dad," I said. "Is not. He died yesterday." "I'm so sorry," she said. "It's okay," I said. *** On Wednesday, last week, I took a train back up to Pennsylvania. As I rose to get off, my bag knocked over my seatmate's coffee cup. "Oh!" she gasped. "Oh shit!" I muttered. "I'm so sorry." "It's okay," she said. *** A very nice man asked me if I needed help with my suitcase as we boarded the elevator out on the track. I told him no thanks, my toddler weighed more than this, and HE didn't come with wheels and a handle, so I was good. He laughed. Then he sighed. "And NOW I have to go to work." And now I have to go help plan a funeral, I thought, but did not say. Instead, I smiled. "That sucks. I'm so sorry." *** A couple hours later I was ordering a cake. The baker asked if I wanted anything written on it, or... Read more →


The How

When we got there on Friday, it was March 25th, and he was reading the Kindle I’d gotten him for Christmas. He was in a hospital bed in the living room and looked thin and pale and waxy, but he was reading his Kindle. He told me I looked good, referring to my super-pronounced-looking pregnant belly, and I think I said something dumb, like "you too!" that I immediately regretted. But honestly, compared to how he'd look in just a matter of hours, it was true. Noah walked in and surveyed the room. “PopPop, you sure are sick, aren’t you,” he observed matter-of-factly. Ezra, thankfully, did not parrot my pre-visit explanations, but merely stuck his finger in his mouth and requested PopPop make his trademark popping sound with his finger and cheek. He obliged, laughing. Ezra giggled, as delighted with the trick as I’d been as a kid. We hugged, we talked, we gossiped. He teased me about my hair, which he has not particularly liked since I dyed it red. “It’s looking better!” he said earnestly, referring to the neglected, washed-out, two-inches-of-dingy-blond-roots state it’s currently in. Jason and the boys left to stay at his parents’ house; I stayed... Read more →


Selective Hearing

This is the last post in the More Birthdays campaign, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. I imagine it's pretty obvious by now that I didn't really have a plan or theme for this "series," but just sat down each time and started typing and hoped that I'd stumble upon a point or insight somewhere along the way. Honestly, most of the time I just crossed my fingers that I wouldn't get an ominous phone call in between the draft stage and the publish button. I guess, as usual, the best place to start is with the dry, basic facts: The doctors told my dad it was time to stop the chemotherapy. He opted...not to take that advice, and got his oncologist to concede that as long as he kept his blood count numbers just above a bargain-basement level, he could probably continue with chemo. He heard: There's still hope. The cancer has spread to his lymph nodes. But not as much as the doctors thought. His spleen is enlarged. But not as enlarged as it could be. Again, he heard: Hope. After multiple cancellations, at least one infection, some antibiotics and I don't even know how many transfusions, he's... Read more →


Just In Case There Was Any Doubt

Ezra's middle name is Harrington. It was his now-late great-grandmother's last name, and we chose it in her honor. Noah's middle name comes from my side of the family -- Corbin, the Latin version of Corbett. Though we found out this weekend at the memorial service that the actual last name Corbin appears a few branches up on the Harrington family tree as well. Huh. We also discovered that while Ezra got the name, Noah got the genes. (Professional photos [I am sure you can tell which ones those are] by Kaileen Galhouse, Galhouse Photography) Read more →


Mommy, Read Me A Story About Death & Destruction

We're headed back to Pennsylvania AGAIN this weekend, travel exhaustion and desperate homebody desires to sit on the couch be damned. Grandma's memorial service in on Sunday. We're taking the boys, since it's really not a "funeral" -- no viewing or casket or urn, just a family-and-friends gathering at her nursing home. My mother-in-law thinks their presence will be a welcome distraction for everybody, especially Grandma's remaining friends, who do always adore visiting grandchildren, no matter who they "belong" to. (Of course, my mother-in-law also thought it was totally appropriate to take the boys to visit Grandma last week, when we were in New York, and she was officially on her deathbed -- a decision that, after Jason saw Grandma on Saturday, he was little upset about. Yes, it's a natural part of life and all but HE was so rattled and shaken by how sick and already dead she looked, and would have preferred our two- and five-year-old children being spared that particular sight. Or at the very least, being consulted ahead of time would have been nice.) (Free babysitting! No such thing. There's always a price tag. Like say, your babysitters jumping the gun on the whole death... Read more →


Both Sides of It

Jason's grandma died yesterday. It was...not unexpected. It was also peaceful, and one of those instances where crappy platitudes about it "being her time" and "for the best, really" are actually, entirely true. She was very old and very sick -- dementia had long since robbed her of most of the memories of her life and the chance to forge a relationship with Noah and Ezra, her great-grandchildren, whom she was simply unable to recognize in any meaningful, connected way. But. Still. I met her over 14 years ago. At that point, the dementia was simply the occasional moment of confusion or befuddlement, but on some visits it was clear that she was already mixing up our relationship, treating me like her grandchild and Jason like the interloping boyfriend. We'd sit together and hold hands and she'd tell me stories. She gave us both furious hugs and kisses when it was time for us to leave, making us promise we'd visit again soon, which of course we assured her we would. Of course! I never had a grandmother like that. But then suddenly, I did. Jason got to visit with her one last time on Saturday, though she was already... Read more →


We Called Them Rinse & Spit Cups, Even Though We Never Did Either Of Those Things

This photo is for my sister, who is currently pacing a hospital waiting room while her daughter, my niece, undergoes emergency gallbladder surgery. You know, for kicks. Yeah. It's kind of an inside joke. Which would ideally involve each and every one of those cups filled with shots of contraband Pinot Grigio. On Christmas morning. While huddled in the guest room under the guise of last-minute present wrapping. Which may or may not have actually happened. Anyway. Between that and another week full of chemo treatments and bargain-basement platelet counts, I'm in a giddy sort of limbo where I don't feel particularly funny, nor do I feel capable of being all maudlin and introspective. I'm just sort of spent. Maybe I just need a drink. Or a hug. Or some kind of chocolate-y boozy drink that could be the equivalent of a hug. Come to think of it, those mini-sized Dixie cups seem like the perfect serving size for a pregnant woman to safely consume alcohol in moderation. Plus look! At the packaging! The cups have ARMS. I feel comforted already. Meanwhile... 1) I am recapping Top Chef All-Stars this season at Mamapop. Unfortunately, several of my personal Top Chef... Read more →


Alive & Slobber-Coated

Isn't it crazy annoying when bloggers start a post with an apology for not posting? Like they automatically assume you EVEN NOTICED in the first place, and CARED in the second place, because they are self-absorbed egomaniacs who imagine that dozens of people are sitting at their computers terribly worried because they couldn't be bothered to sit down and grace the world with a few sparsely punctuated sentences? I know, right? Anyway! I am very sorry for not posting there, for a few days. I went back up to Pennsylvania again, for about the millionth time, for a good old-fashioned terminal-illness-related family reunion with some of my siblings. Siblings I haven't seen in years. Like, before my children were born years. Family togetherness for the WIN. I kind of don't want to talk about it. I mean, it was fine. It was just strange and very...heavy with cancer. You know? I think I'll just post some pictures instead. This is my brother's dog Jack. Jack is the dog for whom the phrase WHO'S A GOOD BOY? was invented. Because he is the best boy, yes he is, shnuffle shmoopy etc. Noah especially enjoyed riding him like a pony. I am... Read more →