Fare you well, Dad.

My dad passed away unexpectedly on January 16, 2020.   He felt unwell at Christmas and it was discovered he had cancer of unknown origin throughout his abdomen that had metastasized and  was very aggressive.  He was gone in three weeks time – dying on my parent’s anniversary.  Below is something I wrote to read at his memorial service.

As a kid at camp I used to relish the letters I got from my dad.  Pulling their yellow legal pad pages from a scribbled-upon envelope, I’d dive into what my dad had to say.  A man of few words, I savored those that came in writing.  They were a window into his mind…and I was curious.

He would tell me about the happenings in a voice that took its inspiration from Ken Kesey and his stories unfolded in a lyrical and beautiful way.  It wasn’t often you would hear how my dad’s mind worked.  He kept so much of it inside, maybe deeming the words blunt tools to express a much more wide-reaching and intangible reality that he observed keenly, and often without comment, until the end.  He called himself a Buddhist sometimes. I always liked it when he did. It seemed to refer to a belief he had that our moments in this life are just a blink in the yawning span of time and space and consciousness.  I believe that.  I think maybe he did too.  Other times, he would say that we have one life and you live it to the best of your abilities.  Do good where you can.  Be good to people.  And that was also his truth.  He was, as Whitman would say “Large.  He contained multitudes.”  That was really the truth about him. He contained multitudes.  Devilish, whip-smart with a memory and a sense of history and justice that only a fool would argue with.  He was bullish, comically grouchy, yet so tender that as our cat Smokey lay dying, he fed him tuna juice from an eye dropper.  I sometimes struggled to understand him – he fit no stereotype I knew.  He marched to a different drumbeat – possibly more of an oompapa beat – or the Czech punk band we listened to endlessly after he visited my sister studying in Prague. He was a connoisseur of culture and the interesting things life offered. I recall trying to explain to him once how rap was poetic – he needed to listen to the lyrics.  He should try listening to 88.9 and see if he liked it.  He shrugged, unconvinced.  But, a few months later I found my station programmed into his car. I remember driving with him on North Avenue, and he circled the block at least twice watching a cop who had pulled over a black man – just to make sure that nothing unfair or dangerous happened to the guy who had been pulled over.  He was a person who didn’t make excuses, didn’t complain, helped people, and did his best to be useful.   He asked me last summer to help him move some bags of leaves and dead plants out of the garden.  I walked down the steep walls of the ravine to gather the bags, and when I picked them up, they disintegrated. They were OLD – must have been sitting there for weeks.  I don’t know how long they’d been there, but he thought it was HILARIOUS watching me struggle and curse and swear.  He laughed at me!  I shot him a look that was decidedly not nice. When I insisted on getting new bags and finishing the job he hadn’t finished properly, he told me I was just like my mother.  There was a twinkle in his eye when he said it, and I knew (despite my annoyance) that it was the highest compliment because he thought the world of my mom, Diane.

 

I’m still in shock about how quickly my dad left us.  He used to insist on guessing what was in his Christmas gifts.  It was an elaborate show of shaking, weighing, and knocking on the wrapped gift to understand how it sounded, and by extension, what it might be.  I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a hollowness in my soul. It feels like I am shaking, and knocking, picking up this box of grief to attempt to understand what it is and how my life will look going forward – trying to understand its shape and weight. I wish we could have had 20 more years with him.  I wish my kids could really know him as a Grandfather.  I wish he had been able to travel more – making friends along the way as he always did – with a fire-breathing bagpipe player in Fremantle, a wealthy Irish landholder at a dance club in Dublin, or a waiter who he tried to sell my sister to in Spain.  But I’m incredibly thankful that he spent so much of the time he had on earth investing in me and my sisters and our family.  We were so lucky to have him. He was a good man, a complicated one too, but I loved him so much.

On the morning he died, I sat there with him trying to find words to communicate how grateful I was for all he’d done.  He stopped me.  “Just hugs” he said.  Above all, love was what mattered. Fare you well, fare you well, Dad. I love you more than words can tell.

Solipsism of Motherhood

Maybe solipsism isn’t the right word.  It’s hard to say, but the thing I know is that sometimes being a parent is a lonely and isolating place

Sure, I’m almost constantly in close proximity to either one or two small beings when I’m home.  They actually sleep ON me.  They stick their small, warm hands into my shirt or climb under my dress or slide a hand in my sleeve to inhabit my very clothing and to be that-much-closer to me. They have crafted a calendar that allocates mommy time to either Will or Cody so that we could all stop fighting about who gets to sit next to or on me during any given meal.  I truly feel so loved.

That said, I also sometimes feel unable to breath.

Parenting takes so much of me.  I sometimes feel awash in lists of things I have been meaning to do or things I hoped for that I have yet to morph into reality.  Last night I awoke at 1:30 am after falling asleep putting kids to bed.  I woke up and for some reason, unable to sleep,  went on a long trip down memory lane via my own Instagram.  I watched myself grow babies and birth them and manage the chaos of bringing new life into a home that literally had a wall missing. I watched as my job changed when faced with elements of workplace discrimination at my former employer after having my second kid – an all too common, yet personally devastating slide into dysfunction.   I watched an empowered me get my dream job and try to leave that trauma behind.  I watched myself try time and again to assert a place for ME in the mix, whether by signing up for a race, or doing a Beachbody challenge, or getting a membership at cyclebar.  I saw a lot of failure there at those moments, but upon revisiting it was left feeling impressed at my perseverance. Tonight I found the time to write this blog in the window between work and meeting a friend for a happy hour that I planned and scheduled five months ago.  I often marvel that there was ever a person within me that could take the time to do self-reflection and write about it.  Yet, that person is still here…just buried under myriad other responsibilities.  And, I mourn her absence.

Please never take this to mean the joy of my children is lost on me.  They are the literal lights in my life and the fact that I don’t write here often is an absolute reflection of my current priorities – they are topmost on the list.  Blogging is not.  But, reflecting and recording ones life is something I value.  Something I care about.  Recognizing that  my needs are low on the list now doesn’t mean they don’t matter and I want the record to show they do matter.  Moms matter.  Our harried lives and our reflections matter.  And the fact that motherhood can suck so much out of a person, yet they continue on, matters.

I have been in what I’d consider a low point in my life – mostly struggling with my thyroid, but having it manifest as a general malaise about all things, a lack of confidence in myself, and an overall sense of barely keeping up on a treadmill that shows no signs of slowing down.  I’m fighting a deep exhaustion that sucks my will to take action.  I am feeling unable to move the needle in my life and hanging on by a thread as a result.  I need a recharge, maybe it’s a tweak in medications, or maybe its something that reignites my connection to my dharma and meaning.  I don’t know.  It is also winter and I’m staring into the dark at 5:30 pm.  These are probably not unconnected things.

I’m leaving now, to have drinks with a friend who I reached out to 5 months ago seeking connection.  I hope we find it tonight and going forward.

 

 

And, now this!

Hello.  My name is Kat.  I used to write in this blog on a semi-regular basis.  I’m back to try to keep my writing mind sharp and relay my observations on life.

What is my life these days?  So many things have changed even since my last post (over a year ago!).    As I write, I’m sitting at work on my lunch. I am tired.  My two year old has recently begun climbing out of things – his bed, his gated bedroom, down the stairs in the middle of the night, and into our bed or the playroom where his Super Wings reside…  He’s an early riser.  By early, I mean this morning he work up at 3:40 AM for the day. So, life has me feeling sleepy.

But, I’m a mom.  I persevere.

I have been in and out of doctor’s offices over the last two weeks.  My thyroid is out of whack – or something is. I blame the thyroid because it has been underactive since I was a teenager.  But that hasn’t stopped me from living an active life…until lately.  I am tired, achy, can’t lose weight, foggy brained, cold.  I got a “great” recommendation from my last endocrinlogist – get a gastric band, he said.  Those are really effective!  So, here we have come in life to the moment when I’m told after a lifetime of being pretty high energy (3 marathons, 6 half marathons (one at 20 weeks pregnant), I climbed Katahdin 5 months pregnant, I’ve biked from Montana to Seattle.  I’m not a slug!)  the only solution to my myriad health issues is a gastric band.  No tests.  No referral to a nutritionist.  No acknowledgement of my previous eating disorder that at one point had me well below 100 lbs.  Just, a gastric band recommendation.

Then, enter the text from the ex.

Yeah, you know.  Just a text from my ex boyfriend with whom I haven’t spoken in about 6 years.  He’s in town.  Let’s clear up the past.

Ha! Righto.  Of course, universe.  Let’s just let all these things coelesce right now to see if I can be driven off a cliff.   I mean, why?  I have this all processed and tucked neatly in a box in the corner of my brain and we have to go open that up now?   Does this seem like a good idea?  Not really.

I just wonder sometimes.  When all the weirdities of the world line up to confront you at one time, it seems to be a reminder to get back on track.  So, I have been nurturing myself a bit.  Sleeping more, stepping aside to breathe, giving my body what it asks for.  Because I feel like the universe has something up its sleeve and I want to be ready for whatever’s coming.

 

Nobody asks you

Nobody really asks you how the transition to two kids is after a few months.  It’s as if the early stage, where – let’s be honest – you’re entirely sleep deprived and likely very hormonal, is reflective on the reality of life with two kids.  But, I’m telling you that the pure exhaustion of having two small children hits you later.  It’s the sustained, relentlessness of it all.  The 3.5 year old who screams just for fun, and the teething, and the constant toys and rough housing and cleaning and feeding and changing diapers.  It’s a never-ending thing.  The baths, the wiping buns, the making of and cutting up of every meal, the vigilance, the arranging for, the sniffing, and asking probing questions, and trying to recall how to respond appropriately when one kid chucks a truck at the head of the other with no remorse. I spend 8 hours + each day at the office – where I have had the hardest year to date professionally – and it is like a sanctuary of peace and tranquility because I don’t have to pick up spilled food, wonder why my couch is making horrendous noises, decipher what the sticky mess on the floor might be, or clean and dress wounds.  I am just. so. tired.

 

The end.

 

Cherry tree

Every spring in mid-April, our cherry tree erupts into a pinkish-magenta lattice-work of flowers that covers our front yard with a beautiful, fleeting, serenity and lusciousness.  It is a welcome to spring that brightens our street and blows dust off the cobwebs of winter in my soul.

Each April, I reflect on the first time I viewed that tree.  I biked over to Rick’s house, early in our dating.  As I turned off of 13th onto his street and approached his house I remember seeing this tree and the beautiful, warm terra-cotta look of the house.  Immediately, this guy who I met at a race wearing an old hoodie and smoking a cigarette appeared to be very different from what I’d assumed him to be.  His beautiful old house with the flowering Cherry tree told me something else about Rick – about his care, his conscientiousness, and about who he is deep down – someone who buys a house in his twenties and in his thirties is debt free.  “This guy is no slouch”, I recall thinking.  His home gave me the sense of his eye for design, his diligence and care for the things that are his, and for the things he wanted to have in his life – me, I’d hoped.

Each spring when the cherry tree erupts into bloom I remember falling slowly and steadily in love with Rick, winding the road that took us across continents and oceans and eventually right back to where we started. And I smile now to see our two little boys and sweet dog  playing beneath the tree.

 

Why Don’t You Have a Daddy? …and other mortifying things your kid said.

I’ve toiled over the idea of writing a mom-blog.  So much of my life is anecdotes about my kids.  It only seems right for me to put paper to pen (so to speak) and document these moments.  Sadly, the thing about the years when you have littles at home to write about, is that you have no time.  Ever.  Full stop.

But, lately there have been some gems spouting from the mouths of babes.  Like the subject line, spoken to a friend at school just as his single mom walked in to hear it.    In these moments, I just cringe because I’m certain it will get worse before it gets better.

But, also spouting from the mouths of babes these days? Well, from Will mostly a “mama” or “dada”  as he tri-pod crawls around the house and stuffs avocados into his mouth.  But, from Cody I get my full compliments for the day – usually by 7 AM.  Lately he’s been brimming with, “Mama, you’re so beautiful” or, “Mama, you smell so nice!” or, “Mama, you’re a great ‘nuggler.”  And in these moments, every other bit of threenager angst that radiates off him falls away and I am sure, without a doubt, that he is an angel sent to Earth for the benefit of my  ego.

I constantly read mom blogs and lamentations about how hard it is to be a working mom, and hell it’s all true.  I’m exhausted.  I’m fatter than ever.  I feel like I’m not committed enough to anything. I’m never without bags under my eyes.   Half the time I’d struggle to recall the last time I shaved my legs and I used to be a daily shaver. But, each night I spend playing with and taking care of these little people who I made with my favorite person.   It’s a freaking miracle and it’s like riding a tsunami crest–constantly wondering when it will all come crashing down in disaster.  But, I love it.  I really do.

 

 

Bliss. Surfing, and bliss.

As it always does, the beach scene as viewed from the surf line up seems serene and remote.  Even here, amidst a cacophony of colorful umbrellas and a brass band stationed inches from the water mark of the rising tide, horns trumpeting a tinny Mexican melody.  With my feet dangling in the blue as I straddled my longboard and the subtle rise of the rollers beneath me I felt at peace.

My relationship with surfing is a bit complicated.  I love it from a distance, and then when faced with imminent  breaking waves I’m occasionally timid — unsure of my place among the throngs of people who call themselves “surfers.”  And, this Mexico trip was no different.  The day we arrived, Rick raced to the beach and rented a board.  I watched him, content to bob in the surf for hours.

But, when I did grab a longboard and head to the breaking waves the following day, I was greeted with the familiar and welcome sensation of paddling on to the breaking face of a gentle wave — the bouncing rush of momentum when the struggle to catch the wave morphs into a gleeful breakneck slide down its leading slope.

Rick and I marveled over it.  What is it that makes it so addictive? I think maybe the fleeting nature is what gets me most.  It is the ultimate flow moment when you stand up on a wave, focused on nothing but riding it to its completion.  The sun and mariachi on the shore, and bobbing heads in the tide all morph into background static as you angle your board to the breaking wave and attempt to trace the line between racing down the face and hanging near the lip.  It is one of the those meditative activities that, through no effort on your part, immediately brings your mind into a profound state of concentration– and bliss.

So, yeah.  That was Mexico.  Bliss. Surfing, and bliss.