Mid-life Meshugas and a Shameless Plug

It’s been a while since I published anything here. There’s been a lot of life going on.

I got a job in 2017, about 10 months after my mom died. In many ways, it was my dream job. The job stretched me and made me grow in a lot of new directions — which led inevitably, if not tangentially, to my desire to open up a yarn shop and build a diverse and inclusive fiber community.

I lost my job in 2019. The pain of that was nearly as bad as losing my mom had been. That threw me headlong into a heavy depression.

My son became increasingly anxious about school and his grades took a nosedive. Add worry to the depression.

Gradually, I started to put the pieces of my life back together. I started to dream of my yarn store and fiber community. I started a Facebook group and added a new Instagram account. I started attending Stitches and Vogue Knitting events, meeting some of my heroes and building a network in the process. Then I heard of someone I knew opening a yarn store with a dear friend of hers. My dreams started to look more real everyday. Even my ever-reserved and skeptical husband began to support the idea (he had always supported me).

I had even gotten a really cool playing gig. Life was looking up.

And then… well, you know. The ‘Rona.

Funnily enough, I had just gotten really sick with a weird cold/flu thing that was somehow… different. I had a fever and I was having trouble breathing. I’d had pneumonia before, but this was different. After 36 hours of trying to take care of myself and letting hubby pump me full of soup and toast, I went to my doctor. COVID protocols were already in effect at the office. My symptoms were like the flu — kinda — but the strep and flu tests came back negative.

In retrospect, my doc and I figured out I’d had the ‘Rona. The fact that I was fatigued for about 6 weeks after I “recovered” was a big hint. I was lucky.

My son’s last day of in person school for his junior year was on his 17th birthday. His depression and anxiety hit new highs.

My daughter had to leave her college campus right after spring break. There was no graduation ceremony.

We were lucky. My hubby can work from home and our financial situation is pretty stable. We have a lot to be grateful for.

None of that makes this easy: not the Corona virus, not the senseless murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and not the constant strain of living in this increasingly divisive political climate. Life has just not been anything approaching normal for months and it’s left us unmoored.

But dreams live on.

I have spent a lot of time, and a fair amount of cash, creating a new website and blog for my work in progress, For Ewe: an Inclusive Fiber Community. I’ve created a logo. I’ve started shadowing my friend at her yarn store to learn more about how it’s done. I’m knitting up a storm and writing about it. I’m creating a brand. Baby steps.

So, if you have followed me here at violamom2tellsall, please check out 4-ewe.com and follow me there too. Tell your crafty friends to follow me too. Help me build my dream.

Maybe writing there regularly will encourage me to write more here too. Stranger things have happened. Stay tuned.

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One Last Regret

Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to have lots of friends. I’ve been inclined to hold on to them to make up for the loneliness of my early childhood. There have been some I finally cut loose after years of putting up with obvious disrespect or malice, but those have been the exception. I love my friends and I’m fortunate to know they love me too.

A lot of my friends come from the ranks of old relationships with men I’ve cared for. Many of my exes are counted among my friends — I even married an ex (I wrote about that once…). There’s one person that is in a weird category: more than friend, less than ex. We never dated. Hell, he never even kissed me. That, as the title suggests, is my one last regret about that relationship.

There’s not a lot I can say in writing that won’t make it REALLY obvious who this guy is, so I’m going to avoid my usual “tell-all” ways. Shocking, right?

We met in grad school. We began spending a lot of time together simply through a convergence of circumstances. We were both in relationships already, and truly committed to them (he came to my wedding). Neither of us were looking for anything because we already had what we wanted and needed in someone else. It was simple: friendship was really the only available option, without question.

Life is rarely so simple or devoid of questions. That was never more true than it was in this situation.

He thought I was cute. I thought he was funny. We had long conversations about all sorts of things that precocious and well-educated 20-somethings do. We both liked to hug and we did so often. It was all well-intentioned and innocent.

One day it was different. Something had changed. I thought it was just me being silly or getting “cold feet” about getting married. I started to blush when I talked to him, think about him when we weren’t together, and actively look forward to seeing him. I remember the little leap my heart did whenever he smiled at me.

What the fuck? Snap out of it! You’re getting married, you idiot. That’s what I told myself. I actively said those words to myself practically everyday — sometimes more than once a day.

Aside from having everything I wanted and needed in the form of my fiancé, who is now my husband of almost 27 years, I had more than enough to be going on with in my life. This was not necessarily a welcome complication.

Did I mention that I rather stupidly didn’t believe that he felt anything like this about me? Of course I didn’t! My self-esteem would barely have filled a teaspoon back then. To me, my reflection in the mirror was a motley collection of flaws, not a picture of pulchritude. So my brain processed this whole thing as a stupid and unrequited schoolgirl crush that I needed to keep to myself. Duh.

So, why the hell did he keep SMILING at me? I think I actually may have said “stop it!” out loud once or twice because it was way too much for me. Fainting would’ve given away the whole show…

And why did he have to be so damn FUNNY? And smart. And engaging. And flirty.

FUCK!

There was no way to deal with this gracefully. Trust me, I tried and failed. I said dumb shit that seemed fall out of my mouth like rotten teeth. I acted like a silly teenager. I was a wreck. I didn’t want to be. I wanted to appear cool, mature, and self-assured. Nothing was further from reality for this tongue tied fool.

So, what happened?

Nothing. Absolutely nada. There were moments something might have, maybe. Despite my lack of sense, I apparently still had a moral compass and so did he. I felt like he teased me sometimes, which only made me think he knew what was going on in my mind. Turns out, I underestimated him. I wasn’t the only one confused. He just showed it in a completely different way.

Were we in love? Yes? Maybe? We were so young and neither one of us expected the other. I think I was with him. I won’t presume to speak for him.

So, my aforementioned regret about a kiss? I’m happily married, so what’s that about?

It is a very specific memory I have of a moment frozen in time. It would have been the logical conclusion to that moment, at least in some New York City early 90’s rom com. It was at the end of a walk just as we went our separate ways. It was dark and the street was busy. There was no intention behind anything. We’d done that walk before and it was a routine social interaction between two friends. There was something about the street lights and the outline of the trees in Central Park. It was windy and my hair was really long. We stopped to finish our conversation and the wind picked my hair up and blew it straight across my face. He reached out to brush the hair out of my eyes. We hugged as we had a million other times before and would many times after that.

For a brief moment, I didn’t want him to let me go and I didn’t want to let him go. Eventually, we both did and I found myself perilously close to his face, staring into his eyes, and he did exactly what you might expect.

He smiled. God dammit.

That moment could have been the one. He was there and I was there. It would’ve been easy — maybe too easy — but nothing between us was ever easy. The moment passed as quickly as it had come and we went our separate ways alone. That wasn’t the only moment it might have happened, but it stands out in my mind.

For years, I wondered what it would’ve been like to kiss him. At this point it’s all pretty academic. My regret that it didn’t happen is really quite simple. It would have been the end of the scene. He would know and I would know. There would be no what if. There would be an answer. I hate questions without answers, mostly because of the lack of symmetry.

Years later, after years of not talking that I am convinced was all my fault, a mutual friend carried my greetings and best wishes to him. Would you believe he had the temerity to call me? I couldn’t. I thought I was going to pass out from the shock of hearing an old familiar voice.

I was so happy to talk with him and hear about how life had gone for him. I’m still thrilled to talk to him even today. We are both married and have kids. We talk about life, the universe, and everything — just like we used to, but with more maturity and far less weirdness. We are able to say things we couldn’t then and there are finally answers to the questions that nagged at my mind for so long. After many long years, I finally expressed my one regret. It was hard to say out loud, mostly because there’s nothing for it. I just needed to get it off my chest. I needed to finally display some modicum of emotional honesty after years of feeling like a dumb little kid.

He and I are friends now, so I wasn’t really worried how he would react. In the end, he heard it and responded graciously which I appreciated. And I could hear him smiling.

That was nice too.

Fifty Years: the gradual process of becoming me

Last month, I reached the half-century mark in my life. It was a milestone not achieved without great suffering and tremendous joy…

Oddly enough fifty feels both old and new. There are moments when I lament the way things used to be and others in which I enjoy the conveniences technology has brought to the life of this middle-aged woman. I don’t really look very different than I did at 35 or 40, but I feel different. There are aches and pains I didn’t have before, especially when I sit for too long. My hips take a moment to relax and get into the movement of walking. Of course there are other “changes” happening: menopause. I have become my own space heater, which is better in January than in July. The mood swings are manageable enough, but the sentimentality that causes me to cry at the smallest things really does get to me sometimes. It’s hard to be a cynic when you begin to weep when certain music plays or when a particular commercial interrupts your daily Jeopardy habit.

Then there’s my favorite part: the seemingly overnight removal of my last fuck.

Seriously, I feel so much more relaxed about so many things these days. Things that would have torn me apart with worry and anxiety now barely get an audible “meh”. It is the most incredibly liberated feeling! It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just that I’ve been around long enough to know that most crises aren’t, most roadblocks don’t, and most people can’t — so I just keep moving with full faith and understanding that everything really will be fine.

I would have PAID to feel like this at 25, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have really known how to handle it.

More than anything else, I feel a tremendous sense of freedom and accomplishment. I have a job that I love doing something that uses all of my skills and experience from 30 years of performing and teaching. I have a life where I can occasionally get to do what I want to rather than what I have to. My kids are closer to being independent and I am closer to having my husband all to myself without the daily grind of carpools, parent/teacher conferences, appointments, and endless activities that come with the blessing of having kids.

I am slowly inching up on a new way of seeing myself. I am further down the road of becoming me.

There are still questions and sometimes there aren’t enough answers to go with them. There are losses and setbacks. There are still moments of grief and despair. My life is better, but it is still far from perfect.

However, I am closer to achieving “me-ness” than ever before and clearer at articulating my thoughts and opinions in my self-hood. Not only do I speak my mind more than I have previously, I have a greater mind to speak and words worth hearing. I also don’t have the same urgency to speak, so I find myself listening more mindfully. Life is no longer a competition. How refreshing!

I still dream of the world being better and I try to be part of the change that will make it so. I still want to love and trust with my whole heart, even when my experience tells me how foolhardy and ill-advised that would be. I still cry at the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony just like I did the very first time I played it. I still smile at the sight of my children who are now both taller than me. I still look at my husband with the same feeling of wonder and awe that such an amazing man could ever love me in all my humble insanity.

Hope is still alive and well in this woman’s heart — even despite the current state of our nation and its “leadership”. The world is a scary place, but I still dare to dream a world filled with our better angels.

Fifty has really surprised me in all the best ways. I’m glad to be here and I wouldn’t go back to anything earlier for all the money in the world. Fifty is a pit stop on a long journey of self-discovery. I’m enjoying the ride.

Win of a Lifetime

I was raised in Philadelphia. Sports fans in Philly are hardcore and my parents were no exception. The early 70’s brought the Broad Street Bullies, aka the Flyers, the Stanley Cup. 1980 was the year of “you gotta believe!” for the Phillies. The Sixers had back to back championships in the early 80’s. Philly had Tastykakes, cheese steaks, hoagies, and ride or die sports fans.

None were more ride or die than the perpetually disappointed fans of the Philadelphia Eagles. I remember the first time the Eagles reached the Super Bowl. It was such a momentous occasion that even I watched with anticipation. I can’t remember who they played. I just remember that they lost.

My mom was more of a baseball fan than anything else, but she would watch and cheer on the Eagles. My dad was the diehard Eagles fan, though. In fact, it was really an unhealthy relationship he had with the team.

I could always tell when the Eagles were losing. Dad would be in a really foul mood, yelling and swearing at the tv. If it was really a bad game, he’d be yelling and swearing at Mom and me. A real debacle would cause him to beat our dog Max. Eventually, all of us figured out that we should keep our distance on game day. It wasn’t worth chancing a win.

In all the years since the annual football ritual known as the Super Bowl was born, the Eagles had never won. Not once. My childhood became my adolescence and then became my college years — still, no Super Bowl trophy for Philly. Our other teams waxed and waned, but the Eagles were consistently “better luck next year.” Unfortunately, next year never came.

Time passed and I got married and moved away. I had kids. Life went on. The Eagles never won.

Dad died in 2013. Mom died in 2017. Neither of them saw a Super Bowl victory for their beloved Eagles.

Last night, against the New England Patriots, the drought ended. The Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII. Despite the fact that I don’t care at all for the game, I watched it some, hoping that this would be the big night for my hometown. I was watching as the seconds ticked down thinking all the while of how my dad would sit absolutely still and hopeful for one last turnover. I watched the clock run down on the Patriots. I watched the clock tick down the seconds to the Eagles’ victory. I watched the confetti fly and the Gatorade get poured over the coach’s head. They had finally done it.

The Eagles had soared to the top of the NFL mountain and summited. The Lombardi Trophy was coming to Philly.

Broad Street, as anticipated, was a fucking zoo. Years of pent up anger, frustration, and anticipation spilled out onto the streets of the City of Brotherly Love and folks celebrated like the world was about to end. Who can blame them? Eagles fans waited over 50 years for this and it was their moment as much as the team’s. It was earned lunacy and hard-won chaos. They can be forgiven for going ape-shit for a few days.

For me there is a lingering sadness as I think of how happy Mom and Dad would have been. This was the win of a lifetime — just not their lifetime. For a brief moment I was tempted to go adorn their cremated remains with green and white and commune with them in spirit. No, I thought. That would be awkward and weird. I let the moment pass.

Perhaps all that’s left is for me to thank the players and coaches of the Philadelphia Eagles. Thank you for finally winning and bringing unbridled joy to the people of Philly. On behalf of my parents and their love for the game, thank you for pulling this one out and going all the way. Even though they weren’t here and alive to see it with their earthly eyes, I have no doubt they had the best seats and saw it all. Just knowing that is enough for me.

Senza Mamma

I haven’t written in a really long time. It feels odd to write again. Good, but odd.

I’m sitting in one of my favorite coffee shops (which is next door to one of my favorite yarn shops… go figure). I’m sad. It’s three days before Christmas. My husband is sick. I’m just getting over the worst of being sick.

This is my first Christmas without my mom.

I’m not sure what about that is so hard for me. I don’t know exactly what about her loss has been the most complicated or difficult.

There are days when I’m not sure I know much at all.

When I walked into the coffee shop this morning, I was greeted at the door by a beautiful baby girl and her obviously tired mom. The mom was beautifully turned out with fashionable clothes and a face of impeccably applied make up. But I could tell the look on her face was secretly saying to the other moms out there, “I’m tired of chasing my kid around and I really just want to sit down and take a nap.” Any mom of a toddler, past or present, knows that face. We’ve all been right there in the middle of the tenth-time-my-kid-has-bolted-for-the-door blues.

Once I went through the line and had my enormous vat of latte and a scone with the raspberry jam baked in, I noticed that the baby was the younger of two babies (the older not more than 2 or 3) and that the dad and one set of grandparents were there as well. It was just an ordinary family. There was nothing particularly outstanding about any of it, except for the beautiful smile of the baby girl and the one fact that made my heart hurt: they were a beautiful family, together for the holidays and enjoying each other so much.

I never had that.

Mind you, I have a wonderful husband and two beautiful kids of my own. What I never had was the grandparent portion of that scene. My parents were not really interested in the work of being grandparents, and my husband’s parents were never really even in the picture at all. That Norman Rockwell scene I was witnessing was making me jealous of something I never had — something that I would never have.

On the outside, that little family, with all its internal flaws and foibles, seemed perfect. I’m sure it wasn’t. Logically, I know there’s no such thing as a perfect family. It’s easy for anyone on the outside looking in to think what they see is perfect, but familial perfection is a myth. Appearances are, indeed, deceiving.

However, for a moment, I just longed for a time when my kids were little and at least the possibility of loving and doting grandparents existed.

My girl is almost 20 and my boy almost 15. Their imperfect mom could barely make it through a high school swim meet last night without having a panic attack that put her in bed before 10pm. I feel like a failure this year. The tree is bare, the house undecorated, and the Christmas knitting unfinished — three days before Christmas. Part of it is my new job (which is a reason, not an excuse). Part of it is my son’s illness and schedule. Some of it is my own illness and some is my hubby’s.

A fair part of it is my own conflicting emotions. I don’t feel like I can communicate effectively with anyone in my house right now, and I’m not blaming them. I’m edgy and angry. I’m emotionally all over the place.

Christmas is in my face everywhere I go and I just want to go to bed and pull the covers over my head. I don’t want anyone to see my tears or ask me why hearing Nat Cole sing “The Christmas Song” is making me bawl my eyes out.

I’m torn between wanting Christmas to be picture perfect and not giving a flying fuck if it happens at all.

A year ago, my mom was in the nursing home for Christmas. The year before she was with us, complaining and ready to leave before anyone else had even finished dinner. She never made the holidays fun for my kids. There are no traditions of cookies or special recipes she passed on. My kids don’t have special memories of their Nana.

I swear to God I tried to make it happen. It was like nailing jello to a wall — fucking impossible. Just like my mom.

So why is her loss so hard? Why is Christmas so hard for me this year?

When my mom died, all the hope of change died with her. There will be no do-over. Pushing rewind can’t happen. The last word on our relationship is written, carved in stone.

The picture of the perfect family will never exist for my kids.

It sucks.

Death sucks. Loss sucks. Grief sucks.

Revisionist history is useless and not something I’ve ever indulged in. It is what it is. I don’t like it, but I can’t change it. I can go on. I can change me. I can move forward.

And now? What can I do now? I feel on the verge of tears and lost like a little child, all day everyday. I know I look like a functional adult, but I sure don’t feel like one.

Christmas will come and I will take whatever hope and joy I can from that. Despite my prayers for elves to come clean and decorate my house, I’m pretty sure that won’t happen. I don’t even know if my husband will be well enough to get up, let alone put lights up. I’m not sure my kids are tuned in enough to even notice, at least not enough to do it themselves.

Maybe I’m wrong and this is all just a big pity-party going on in my head.

Feelings may not be facts, but they are real. These are mine.

Regardless of whatever bah humbug bullshit this may all seem like, I am trying to hang on to some form of hope — if not for this year, then for years to come. After all, I’m not the one who died. I’m alive.

Where there’s life, there’s hope. I have to be the hope I’m looking for. Once again, I can only start with me.

From my imperfect little family and all its issues, I hope everyone has a happy holiday season. I’m just hoping to survive. Anything more will be gravy.

Hey Nineteen

To my darling Amazon, in honor of your birthday,

You are on a threshold, my love. You are at a time caught between childhood/adolescence and adulthood. It’s amazing that we all spend our early years longing for the freedom and independence being a grown up brings — mostly because we don’t understand how hard adulthood really is.

I remember turning 19 very clearly. I didn’t feel ready at all. I was afraid to leave my childhood behind, even though I had rarely felt safe or cared for in those years. Every fiber of my psyche was screaming for me to jump into the future and make my way in the big wide world. But the little girl inside cried softly in a small voice: “not yet” she said.

Where we differ is that you know and understand that this is exactly where you are. You know you are wrestling with these conflicting emotions and you accept this as part and parcel of this stage of life. Baby girl, you are so much more self-aware than I was at 19. You know who you are in ways I never could have nearly 30 years ago. I admire you so much.

You make me want to go back to 19-year-old Lisa and tell her all about you. I think we would’ve been friends.

But, as I’ve said so many times before, I’m your mom and that’s better than being your friend. Friends can come and go, but Mama never will. What we have is forever.

I want to tell you to enjoy this time of your life. With 26 years in the rear view mirror, I can honestly say that my college years were my most formative. Of course, I had a lot more growing to do than you.

That’s not to say you won’t grow. There’s room for growth in everyone.  Take this time to explore and take risks. Don’t be afraid to fail. Grades are important, but so is learning what truly drives you. Pursue your passions and enjoy being relatively carefree. Be brave, my love, and be courageous.

This time, sadly, will not last.

19 is a prime number. It’s also prime time for transition and reflection in a young woman’s life. Swim with the tide and go where it leads you. You may just surprise yourself.

My beautiful baby girl, you are essentially a woman in all but name. You inhabit your body with such poise and confidence. You delight in the world of the mind and rejoice in the pleasures of hearty laughter. You aren’t ashamed to cry when you hurt or rage aloud when you’re pissed off. You are bigger than life in so many ways. I’ve never known anyone like you.

Keep being you in all your glory. Whatever you become and wherever you go, always know that you are loved and that your dad and I are here for you.

Everything will be fine is more than a cliché: it’s true.

Enjoy your life both today and in the many years to come.

I love you to the moon and back,

Mama

Sanctuary 

I’ve been writing poetry since I was quite young. Poetry has always been my sanctuary: my most preferred and clearest form of verbal communication. I’ve written all sorts of things. I love to read poetry, particularly ee cummings and Pablo Neruda. I love the way they are able to play with words and use them to paint pictures and evoke emotions. I have always tried to do that in the poems that I write, with varying degrees of success.

The most successful poem I ever wrote was about my husband. Contrary to what you might think, it was not a love poem. I wrote it our senior year in high school when we were first dating. The poem, entitled UP THERE, was about the difficulties in our relationship and the feeling of being stifled I was having. We broke up soon after. I have not ever really written a poem for him since.

Mind you, John and I have an incredible relationship. After nearly 25 years of marriage, we still love each other very much and I would consider our relationship to be very passionate indeed. Perhaps I don’t write about how I feel because I am able to show him every day. Perhaps I have only ever been able to write poems about men that I might have loved before but was never able to sustain a relationship with. I have never been sure why it is that my favorite method of expressing my emotions in print has never worked for my relationship with my husband. Surely he is deserving of the very best poetry I could ever produce.

With all this baggage in mind, I am going to try right now to do what I have felt thus far was impossible. I’m going to take a stab at writing something specifically for him. I don’t know how it will go, and I admit that I am terribly frightened that it will fail. Still, I truly believe that I need to give it my best shot. Here it is:

Here with you my breath is calm and even
My pulse slows
I can relax my tired body and rest

Your arms surround me and I sigh my relief
The world cannot touch me now
And the screaming stresses
Are drowned out by the gentle lull
Of your heartbeat

This is where I land
When I fall
Here, in your arms

My head tucks neatly
Beneath your chin
Your lips brush my forehead
My fingers seek the stubble
Of your cheeks

Turning my face upward
I catch your eyes in my gaze
The corners of my mouth turn up
Slowly

Everything I need is here
With you
You are my home

Laugh, moan
Sigh, sob
I let them all go here
My heart is open like the clear blue sky
And my defenses break like waves on a rocky shore

Your kiss is my sunrise
And your arms provide the sanctuary
I’ve waited a lifetime to find

Grief

It’s been three days since my mom passed away. I’m numb. There’s too much to feel all at once, so my psyche has decided to spare me by not allowing me to feel anything most of the time.

Actually, I’ve laughed quite a few times over the last few days. I actually laughed right before she died. She stuck her tongue out at me and I cracked up through the tears I was crying. I’m glad I have that memory. It was so totally her. It was so completely our relationship. It was perfect.

I’ve also laughed about the little ironies that remain in the wake of her passing. They are far too personal and intricate to enumerate here, but they are with me in abundance, trust me.

As she drew her final few breaths, I cried out from someplace deep inside myself — “oh, Mommy!” I hadn’t called her Mommy since I was a small child. In that moment, that small child losing her Mommy was my reality. I sobbed like a baby. The tears were cleansing.

Tears are part of my reality now too. I was listening to a U2 song that doesn’t even remotely remind me of Mom, and I broke down bawling in the middle of it. Here is what did me in:

If I could through myself
Set your spirit free, I’d lead your heart away
See you break, break away
Into the light
And to the day

To let it go
And so to fade away
To let it go
And so, fade away

Wide awake
I’m wide awake
Wide awake
I’m not sleeping
Oh, no, no, no

This is how I felt during the time I sat vigil waiting for the end. Hearing this broke my heart all over again and I fell apart. Our relationship was so complicated and it will never truly be sorted out. I could just as easily be hearing these words to heal my own soul as I could be singing them to my mom. I would have done anything to take her out of the pain and helplessness of her body as it shut down and give her some peace. I would have given anything to have her love me for who I was.

Sometimes I feel like the phone will ring and her voice will greet me on the other end. Her absence in my life is so new and it feels like a scab being ripped off when I remember she’s gone. I think about the arguments and disagreements we had and they seem so hollow now. I wonder why we couldn’t just get along.

I write because it helps.

Mostly, I watch tv and snuggle with my dogs. Pit bull therapy is a thing. Really.

My husband is a saint with the patience of Job. He has held me together for a while now. I couldn’t do any of this without him.

The kids are grieving in their own ways. I try to help when I can, but I can’t really help them through something I haven’t finished dealing with. I’m still staddling the line between being the grieving daughter and the comforting mother. I feel like I’m being pulled in half.

I listen to a lot of music. It helps to turn it up and sing and dance along.

My friends are fantastic. They call, send messages, and come visit. They reach out and say some of the most beautiful things to me. I feel humbled and loved. I feel held up in my grief and sorrow. I feel comforted.

Each new day is a new challenge. I never know what’s coming emotionally so I don’t think about it much. I just let the feelings come and I feel them, no matter how awful they may feel. I am trying to let go and have no expectations. I tell myself to take my time. It is what it is. I’ll grieve until I’m done and not one moment less.

I’m an orphan. Not really, but it sure feels like it.

I’m sad. I’m hurt. I’m angry. I’m depressed.

I feel the loss and the grief and it will be my constant companion until it decides to let me go. Mourning is a journey. I’m on my way.

Vigil

My mom is dying.

Though I’ve said that quite a few times and it’s been said to me by various medical professionals in the last few days, this is the first time I’ve seen the words in print.

My mom is dying.

The nurses say that the stage she’s in now is “actively dying.” Her blood pressure is too low to sustain life, but her heart rate is a steady 68-70 bpm. She’s not ready to let go yet. She will when it’s time.

That’s between her and God.

Mom is quiet and peaceful, which she rarely was in life. I spend most of my time alone with her being quiet myself. Sometimes I read the psalms to her, especially her favorites: 23, 91, and 121. Sometimes I just talk to her. Someone suggested I sing to her, but I can’t. I’m not sure why. I just can’t.

I cry. I talk to friends. I answer texts and emails and reply back to the hundreds of expressions of love and support I’ve received. Mostly I’m silent.

I’ve worn a heavy coat of pain, fear, anger, and grief about my mother since she first went into the hospital in June. Ours was always a difficult relationship, and that’s a very diplomatic way of saying it. We never really understood each other and I never felt she liked or respected me. Honestly, I’m still not sure she ever loved me. I tried like hell to be perfect so I could feel some sort of acceptance and praise from both my parents. After a while, I stopped trying and just reveled in all the ways my life choices confounded them. I pulled as far away as I needed to in order to have the freedom to be myself. Still, I was never completely free. The pain haunted me and manifested in tremendous doubt and self-loathing.

None of that matters now.

I’m here now. I’m with her in a way we’ve never been together before. I am sitting vigil, waiting to bear witness to the end of a life and the end of an earthly relationship. Even after her transition to the next step on this journey, she will be my mother and she will be with me somehow. At that point, it’s up to me alone to determine how I deal with that. The healing will need to be solitary and the words she might have said will go unspoken.

I have left nothing unspoken or undone.

All that I can do for her has been done. All that’s left for me to do is wait. The waiting, as Tom Petty so eloquently says, is the hardest part.

I want this to be over for her and for me. I want her to be at peace, not hanging on to life by a slender thread. I want to go back home. I want things to at least seem normal again.

But somehow I really don’t want this to be over because I know what that means.

I will never hear her voice again. That bothers me even though she could sometimes make me hate the sound of my own name. I won’t see her smile or hear her laugh again. There won’t be another birthday or Thanksgiving or Christmas. After this vigil ends, there is no more.

I say “I love you” often, as if each time could be the last.

I wonder if I said it enough when I was younger. I wonder if she really meant it when she said it. I wonder how she could tell she loved me and then do the things she did. There are many unanswered questions.

None of that is important.

What is important is that I am here. I am present. This is the last gift I can give my mother and I give it freely. One of the last things she said to me was simple, yet profound: “let me go.”

So, I’m letting her go.

She’s surrounded by love, respect, dignity, and compassion. So am I and that is a tremendous comfort to me. The support system I have in place is generous and beautiful of spirit. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

But, the end result is heartbreaking.

One of these breaths will be her last. One of these heartbeats will be final. The clock is ticking and time is running out. All I can do now is wait.

And wait. And be grateful for my mom’s life. And accept the blessing witnessing her passing will be. And say I love you as though it’s the last thing she’ll hear me say — it may very well be.

My watch continues.

Note: within hours of this writing, my mom passed away quietly and peacefully as I held her hand. I have no regrets.

Dear Mr. Trump

Dear Mr. Trump,

This is not a letter of acquiescence. This is not a white flag of surrender. This is my national anthem.

I am a citizen of the United States of America. My parents were born here as were their parents before them. I am descended from both slaves and native Americans, as well as one or more parts of the United Kingdom.

Because I am African American, I rely on the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution to guarantee my citizenship. Because I am female, I rely on the 19th amendment for the right to vote. Brown v. Board of Education is a decision that allowed children like me access to a quality education. The Voting Rights Act of 1964 reiterates my rights as an Black woman to vote, without impediment, anywhere in the country. Finally, Loving v. Virginia abolished the miscegenation laws that would have made my nearly 25 year marriage illegal in 17 states.

I am afforded the same rights and privileges as my white, straight, cis-gendered male spouse, but only after 4 Constitutional amendments, two Supreme Court decisions, and an Executive Order. Our founders (both male and female) didn’t envision a world where all humankind would be free to exercise the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Because of their limited vision, the document you and many others believe should be interpreted “as the founding fathers intended” has needed 27 amendments: not including the few others that have been proposed but not passed, like the Equal Rights Amendment. If we only look at the Constitution as it was originally written and adopted in the 18th century, there are millions of people, including myself, who will be left with no rights at all.

That cannot stand.

Your campaign was conducted with the intention of scaring straight white working class men into thinking something had been taken from them. Your call to “Make America Great Again” sounded like salvation to those men and their brow-beaten and brainwashed female companions. What exactly does this restoration to greatness mean?

What rights have these men really lost?

The civil progress made for minorities, immigrants, women, LGBTQ folks, and children was not an assault on white maleness. It was a balancing of the scales — the righting of centuries-old wrongs. No one took your privileges away; you were just made to realize that they were never meant to be exclusively yours.

And that’s the problem.

Our liberation is not your oppression. This is not a zero sum game. We can all live together and be free to be entirely who we are without stepping on each others’ toes. Folks just have to stop thinking of their preferences and opinions as rights.

No, you don’t have the right not to have Blacks, Jews, or gays live in your neighborhood. That’s not a right. They, however, have the right to live wherever they can afford to live. Your disgust doesn’t entitle you to take away their rights to make yourself comfortable.

See the distinction?

The “Father Knows Best” white man of the 1950s is not a standard for decent American living. It’s our country’s attempt to whitewash history. White men are not kings to be exalted. They are people, no more or less than all the rest of us. The clock should not be turned back to suit them.

Which brings me to the point of this letter: I am now a member of the loyal opposition. Since I am a US citizen, you are my President. I did not vote for you. I have actively written and spoken out against you, as is my Constitutional right. I want to believe you want what is best for all Americans, but I have serious doubts. So I will fight.

I will work to continue the progress this country has made in the last 250 years. I will write and speak out whenever necessary, and I will do all I can to be sure my children continue to have the rights that were fought for by brave men and women who went so far as to lay down their lives for what they believed. The poor, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised have benefitted greatly from the reforms of the last 50 years in particular. We cannot go back. We must not go back.

We will not go back.

We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We will fight on, Mr. Trump, not because we hate you — rather because we love this country.

My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Let freedom ring.

Respectfully,

A Very Nasty Woman