Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Not quite a decoder ring

Hannah says...

And means...

Papa Paternal grandfather
Papa Bill Maternal grandfather
Papa Mama Maternal grandmother
Bob Bob The penguin my benevolent parents bought for me at the zoo in Seattle, and the first thing I named
Bock Darling brother
Emmy Aunt Emilin or Aunt Brooke
Daddy Father, mother, or nearby man
Mommy Father, mother, or nearby woman
Hopie Mother
Maggie Any of a variety of nearby cats
Horsie I want to put myself in harm's way right now.
Monster I want to watch Monsters, Inc. for the fifth time in a 24-hour period.
In a minute I picked up a delightful means of procrastination from my father.
No minutes! You're a fool to think you can put me off.
Wakeupwakeupwakeup! My father taught me that sleeping people appreciate it when I scream in their faces.
Ucky I found this cat hair in my mouth. Would you do me a favor and dispose of it?
Ucky FYI, I just wiped a booger on the sofa.
Ucky What prompted you to feed this to me?
Ham (pron. "HAHM") A disgusting substance that my mother believes I should eat, and so she applies it to grilled cheese.
Hurts I need a kiss.
Nack What does a girl need to do to get something to eat around here?
Help me Do my bidding.

Friday, May 27, 2005

All creatures dim and small

Brooke just got home from her allergy shot. Muggle was sitting on the back step. Muggle is an indoor cat. You might say to yourself, “How would Muggle have gotten to the back step if he’s an indoor cat?” I would interrupt your private conversation and tell you that Muggle has a habit of breaking out of the house via window screens.

Earlier this season, I repaired two screens by removing the framing, resecuring the screen, and nailing down a new piece of screen bead. Both are screens that Muggle used to make a break for it. A third escape screen was so damaged that I’ll need to have a whole new 50x30inch piece of screen cut for it. Each time, we have come home to find him on the doorstep, though he has not consistently appeared at either the front or back door.

This time, he wasn’t alone. Joining him on the back step were a dead vole and a pile of vomit. He broke out of the bathroom window, ate grass, killed a vole, puked up his breakfast, and sat there waiting for Brooke. When she opened the door, he dashed in for more food.

Muggle the Indoor Cat

Monday, May 23, 2005

Many congratulations!

Cait from Addition Problems deserves your praise. She successfully tested her black belt in Tae Kwon Do on Saturday after years of hard work, during many of which she was treated for Lyme Disease, and after a horribly stressful year for her family.

For you, Cait: an organic cookie sweetened with unrefined sugar.


Well done.

Monday, May 16, 2005

T = -61 days

In two months, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince comes out. Have you ordered your copy yet?

If you’ve ordered it from Bounders or Bunns & Noodle (tip o’ the, uh, keyboard to Alison Bechdel), please do the right thing and pass it off to someone who doesn’t know any better. You know better. I know this about you. You know enough to order it from an independent store, a store owned by a woman, a feminist, a hot babe with kids. You know enough to order it from Flea. Do that today.

Do that here.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Nine thousand four hundred ninety-six days ago

By the way, tomorrow is my birthday. Send me your greetings, and I’ll reward you for your efforts.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Craftsman strikes again

My little worker

I told you we didn't get along.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Questions from portia

1) When, and how, did you become a vegetarian?

I started the process when I learned about trichinosis at age 12. I abandoned all pork products immediately. At 15, I learned about mad cow disease. That wasn’t so much the problem as the fact that many farms were grinding up dead cows and feeding them to the other cows. Turning an herbivore into a cannibal really upset me, so I stopped eating the meat or meat products of all mammals. When I started dating Brooke, a pesce-vegetarian, I left all air-breathing food sources behind.

With mercury, overfishing, and the general squicked-out-ness I experience regarding seafood consumption, I have pretty much stopped eating it. My philosophy on food ethics is that I have to be willing to participate in the manner in which the food is grown and prepared for consumption. I’m not willing to coat my yard with pesticides, so I have to be willing to buy organic food. I’m not willing to participate in large-scale agriculture, so I have to be willing to buy from small farms. I’m willing to feed chickens and take their eggs and feed cows and take their milk, but I’m not willing to kill them. Ergo, I can feel okay eating eggs and yogurt.

2) You and Brooke can live anywhere, because discrimination no longer exists. Where do you live?

Right here. Or in Chicago. Job opportunities are better in Chicago, but we sure do love our house and our community.

3) Are you two going to go to Montreal or Spain and be legally wed? Why or why not?

Plans to marry in Canada are in the works. It’ll be a small wedding, but we’ll have my dad, brother, SIL, niece, nephew and her mom and stepdad there for sure. We’re waiting for Brooke to get a job so that we can cover expenses for everyone without much fuss (bed and breakfast stay, meals, wedding costs). Brooke needs to hurry up, if you ask me. She promised that she’ll change her last name to mine when I marry her legally. I keep telling her to get that job.

We had hoped that my mother would be able to see us marry legally, but you don’t always get what you want.

4) If the answer to 3 is yes, would you be willing to be a test case in the US legal system?

Absolutely. I have to make some contribution to the world, don’t I? We couldn’t afford the legal costs ourselves, but there are a number of people and organizations willing to fund such a thing if they had any hope of making it work. As you’ll notice, nothing has yet been filed.

5) How many children do you want to have?

My old answer to this question was “enough for a hockey team.” Now, I think we’re aiming for two to three. The hope is that I’ll carry one, Brooke will carry one, and we’ll adopt a third. Depending on what happens legally and financially, those plans might change.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

I am the winner!

#1 hit for what makes a frog a good swimmer? Sorry, Frog. I won.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Questions from Frog

1) What’s your favorite part of participating in community-supported agriculture? And, the flip side, the most frustrating?

Superficially, it’s all about the kale. Curly kale, red Russian kale, dinosaur kale, kale kale kale kale. After that, it’s knowing the farmer. It’s intensely satisfying to know who planted the seeds and harvested the food that I’m eating. The world feels a little smaller that way.

Frustrating? Maybe the onslaught of beets near the end of the summer. That’s no good.

2) Describe your most romantic meal—real or fictional, and you don’t have to tell me which it is. In fact, please don’t. I have to see you again, after all. ;)

I’m not into that candlelight and wine stuff. Romance is lost on me, for the most part. My most meaningful meals haven’t been in any sort of context that we could call sexual or even sensual, but in the spirit of the question, I’ll steer my answer in that direction.

Dinner at my wedding reception. I honestly don’t remember what Brooke had, but I ate an eggplant dish with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and a tarragon cream sauce. There was wine and fruit. The cake was a hazelnut-mocha-butter cream tower covered with flowers and fruit.

3) What is your favorite part of your yard?

In the back of the yard where the clothesline meets the grape vines, under the plum tree. That is the ideal location for eating popcorn, drinking lemonade, and reading Harry Potter books aloud.

4) Tell me about the time/place that you felt safest.

When we still lived outside Detroit, we went to the neighborhood pool almost every day in the summer. I was probably four years old and too small to swim in the lap lane section by myself (pool rules). That area was always less crowded, and I was a good swimmer, so my mom would play with me there. I held onto her while she stood in the water. Her skin was warm. It was sunny. She was covered in sunscreen. She smelled comforting. It was a real, warm, human skin smell. I believed that she would never, ever leave me.

5) What’s your best memory of your mom?

Her smell.

Lemme know if you want to be interviewed, and I'll ask you five questions.

Good morning, migraine

I'd like to help you doctor
Yes I really really would
But the din in my head
It's too much and it's no good
I'm standing in a windy tunnel
Shouting through the roar
And I'd like to give the information
You're asking for

But blood makes noise
It's a ringing in my ear
Blood makes noise
And I can't really hear you
In the thickening of fear

I think that you might want to know
The details and the facts
But there's something in my blood
Denies the memory of the acts
So just forget it Doc.
I think it's really
Cool that you're concerned
But we'll have to try again
After the silence has returned

Cause blood makes noise
It's a ringing in my ear
Blood makes noise
And I can't really hear you
In the thickening of fear

--Suzanne Vega

Sunday, May 01, 2005

This is not uplifting.

If I knew I’d be dead in less than five years, what would I do today?

Read the juicy parts of the paper and forget about the boring stuff. Write letters to Hannah and Brock and Brooke’s baby sister. Buy that fancy bubble dress from the expensive clothes store in the quaint part of town. Buy the beautiful dress that Brooke found in the same store. Find a four-star restaurant and take Brooke. Go on at least one all lesbian cruise. Buy more life insurance. Take out a home equity loan and find a good fertility clinic. Hire a doctor to do IVF with Brooke’s eggs and transfer them to my uterus. Become a mom. Take Sunday afternoon naps with my child and my lover. Feel their breath. Be as present as I possibly can.

Why don’t I do this now?

With the exception of the money-related matters, I do try. I want to live like it could end any time, because I know that it could. Perfectly healthy women in their 20’s have been known to drop dead for no previously anticipated reason. My mother didn’t have the time she wanted to have. Her goal was to meet the five-year survival milestone, and she only had three years, nine months, and seven days. She missed a lot of things that she never thought she would miss, but she lived for what she wanted in that time.

We spent time weeping over fear of death and loss. I was terrified of losing her, and I can’t imagine what her fear might have been like. She tried to ignore it as much as possible while still being aware that her time was so limited. Dying isn’t something we can avoid forever, even if we might put if off through exercise, diet, and medicine, whether allopathic, naturopathic, or traditional. Something I read online somewhere—helpful, I know… it might have been on the website for a television series about death and dying—mentioned that we don’t ever die alone, that countless people have gone before us, that we are in good company. That’s reassuring somehow, even knowing that whatever is beyond this life is not something I can know.

To be completely honest, I don’t know if I buy the Christian concept of Heaven. Obviously, harps and clouds and white robes exist only as props for cartoonists, but I even mean the idea that upon death, our bodiless selves meet God, are measured by the Creator and finally understand right from wrong, and live in eternity close to God. I’m a member of the Great Jesus Fan Club often referred to as The Church, but whatever it is that lies beyond here is beyond me.

That makes me less concerned with getting my spiritual affairs in order before death. Sure, feeling a closeness with God in the last days of my life will be comforting and such, but praying every day that I accept Jesus Christ as My Personal Lord and Savior ™ seems disingenuous. I’m here on this earth to live and love and experience a fullness of life, not to win points to get to the next round.

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