It is almost midnight. I am sitting on the toilet lid in my underwear, my hair covered with farewell-grays-goop, piled on top of my head. Metaphorically, I am wearing a head full of existential protest, with the dial turned to AGING. My head is covered in Already-Turning-Brassy-NO-NO-NOT-YET-NOT-ME. I am thinking of you.
Hi Dad. Welcome to my bathroom. I am always your daughter.
You died on Wednesday. I have been sad, and more than a little lonely thinking of you these past couple of days. I read your obituary tonight, after talking to Leigh, and I want to add some things, because right now I have some time to kill (25 minutes actually) so I thought that would work for us, because you and I were always Nice N’ Easy like that, no?
First of all, I was glad that your obituary mentioned that you were a master craftsman, but I wish people could have known about your beautiful hands. I always thought your hands were your strongest feature. I liked that they had a kind of square shape to them; I’m not sure why but something about them added to my understanding of who you were. I think it is because that your working with your hands and my writing (even when it includes bad hair-dye puns) have a lot in common – it is how we each make sense of this world.
Your hands were just as good at brushing long, tangly hair for three squirmy girls as they were at building and playing the guitar. I think master craftsman could also be extended to nice, neat braiding, and ponytails that turned out mostly straight. I even suspect that you could build such beautiful guitars because you got lots of fine-motor-skills practice by fastening the small buckles on sandals and delicately placing Hello Kitty band-aids on scraped elbows.
Listen. Its very comforting to remember the You from my childhood. Because the truth is, you, mom, me and Sarah and Leigh, we had a beautiful childhood together. There were birthdays and holidays and family trips to the beautiful blue Pacific Ocean. And the inevitable SEARCH FOR LEIGH ANN’S SHOES that precluded each outing. There was watching you fix anything and everything; cars, furniture, cabinets, floors, and countertops all come to mind. There was also just being at home and listening to you play guitar when we were supposed to be in bed sleeping. Or wishing you would not play your guitar while the Muppet Show was on.
Death sucks, Dad. I know you understand what I mean. Nothing is black-and-white. Life. Love. Death. It is all shades of Gray. Gray! Gray! Gray! Everything is gray, except, now, for my hair. For four to six more weeks, I have a reprieve from that, at least. But my scalp is tingling and my time is almost up too.
We forgot, Dad. I think that the five of us forgot what was important somewhere along the line. We were not brave and we each jumped through our own escape hatch. But I did not know it until after you were gone this week.
I am not blaming because there is no one to blame. But the thing is Dad, I can’t move on, we can’t move on, until we all figure out what it is we are moving on from – you know? I am the oldest. Older than Justin, even. By a few months anyway. So I have to figure this out because I am supposed to Take Care of My Sisters. Remember? It is my sacred charge. Girls are strong but not strong when it comes to their Daddy. Leigh’s heart is broken. Sarah feels abandoned. I don’t know how to make it better for them.
Because there was not much opportunity to see you or talk to you for a long time now. I know why. You did not want anyone to see you because you thought you were weak. I did not try very hard to see you because I was weak. I thought it would be an intrusion. But now that I am a mom, I can see the great value in intruding on those that you love. I should have pried-my-tongue-out-of-my-cheek, and intruded on your life at every opportunity. I am sorry. If I had been as intrusive I should have been, your obituary also would have mentioned that you had a laugh that reminded me of Garden Gnomes, and it complimented your crinkly eyes.
That said, I wanted to clear things from my end. You once sat me down and we had the first of many a great talk. You explained to me that you and Mom were going to get married, and that you were going to be my Dad. You told me that You and Sarah and I were extra special because we chose each other. I am grateful that you chose me Dad. I want you to know that I chose you too. Everyday. Together or not.
I was floored by your outpouring of concern for my uneven eyebrows and my poor punctured retina. I did eventually match my eyebrows up to the same thickness though, and you’ll be relieved to know that my eye healed up just fine.
Other matters have come up, that need your attention.
The following scenarios have met with some differing opinions around here at the Tao – as to the best way to tackle some of those pesky day-to-day chores. So how about it? You, there in Florida, peeking over your shoulder, wondering if something is wrong with your computer cable connection, hello! Ahoy, there, on Cape Cod, where you just choked a little on your lukewarm coffee! Please, I am certain there is SOMETHING you have figured out, but haven’t necessarily told anyone about, that makes life a little easier. Oh, yes, you have. Add your own tips, tips you’ve come up with in those desparate, “oh Christ, I live in ‘Hee-Haw’ moments.”
Okay, in no particular order here are some real head-scratchers:
1. In a large Stop and Shop paper bag you have the remains of your lunch, which consists of:
· An unopened can of organic/vegetarian chili. · An unopened Dannon Naturals vanilla flavored Yogurt · A half-drunk bottle of seltzer water. · An unopened plastic utensil set – napkin, fork, knife, spoon.
A.Take contents out of the bag, and put them where they belong- chili in the pantry, utensils in the drawer, etc. B. Leave them out on the counter. C. Shove the whole thing, paper bag and all, into the refrigerator and leave it right on top of the loaf of bread, where it is sure to cause maximum damage.
2. You have just finished your evening snack, which consisted of an entire bag of blue corn tortilla chips and a large glass of milk. The best thing to do with your dirty dishes is to:
A.Wash them and put them in the dish strainer to dry. B.Put them in the sink, it’s late, and you might as well tackle them in the morning. C.Leave the empty bag, crumbs, and dirty glass right on the end table, for a stunning visual effect.
3. You came home from work and changed into some comfy clothes, not that anyone can blame you, it’s been a long day and you’re tired. Your dirty clothes go:
A.In the hamper. B.On the back of the chair (you could wear them once more). C.Wherever they land, and it’s anyone’s guess, babe.
So, how did you do?
If you answered mostly A’s, then you my friend are the sort of folk that Martha Stewart might invite to a neighborly soiree. You can leave us tips, but we will probably scoff at you when you are not looking.
If you answered mostly B’s, then you are conscientious but laid back, maybe you don’t change your sheets weekly, but you deal pretty well with drafty windows, leaky plumbing, smart-mouthed children and the always in-style combo of sticky counters and floors. We probably have a lot in common, like inadvertently answering the door with lactating breasts untucked, to the delight or dismay of the FedEx man.
If you answered mostly C’s then you are a real charmer. You are among the Thoughtful but Slumming set. It might take you a while, but you can most likely identify the culprits in the crime-scene stains on your car seats. The floor of your car isn’t visible however, because there is a layer of empty chip bags and coffee cups to wade through to get to the pedals. You may want to take some time to re-familiarize yourself with trashcans and Oxy-Clean.
A small-shiny-black- something-or-other, in a plastic Ziploc bag with a sticker on it that says “WEAR ON YOUR LEFT ANKLE”.
I am soooooo ready for this.
“I am number 551!” I declare to my family.
“You’re gonna do just fine, honey . Don’t be nervous.” Chris can sense when I am on the edge of freaking out, and he’s got his best soothing-voice on.
“I am not nervous. Okay, yes I am really nervous. Look, they gave me a GPS-tracker-thingie to wear during the race. I have to WEAR IT ON MY LEFT ANKLE” I feel a little in awe of being monitored while I am plodding along in my own attempt at athleticism.
“Its not a GPS. It’s a time-tracker. So they can tell you your time after its over.” Chris takes it out of the bag and puts it around my ankle.
“Right. Okay.” It will heretofore be known to me as a GPS, even if its not.
I put all my things back into the bag and try to imagine myself running the whole half-marathon. For some reason I can’t visualize past the Kentucky Fried Chicken on County Street, but I try not to take that as a bad sign.
Fast forward to the morning of the New Bedford Half Marathon. Chris and the kids have dropped me off within walking distance of the starting line. I have on all the right gear even; Moisture wicking, unflattering and too tight in all the squishiest places. My shoes are laced and re-laced. I have peed six times and I have a hefty stock of gum, jellybeans, fishy crackers and tissues in both pockets.
My ipod is now snug in a plastic and Velcro band that wraps around my upper arm. I wanted it for weeks, but complained that it cost $24. So my mom and sister bought for me. And that is some love, because it is one flimsy piece of neoprene for twenty-four bucks. When they gave me the armband I tried it on and found a tiny pocket on the inside of it.
“I wonder what this little pocket is for?” I wondered aloud.
“That must be for your cyanide pill.” Sarah raised an eyebrow and shook her head.
My family thinks its crazy to want to run 13.1 miles, but they love me and think I’m crazy anyway, so they just fret to each other and look at me with a mix of concern and pity.
At the starting line, we are all herded into a penned-up area and I watch as people warm-up, stretch, fiddle with their own ipod-armbands and get ready to run. I look for my family but there are thousands of people everywhere and then suddenly there is a loud “crack!” and we all push forward, but it takes a few minutes to actually run by the poster that says “Starting Line”.
At first, I think I am doing pretty well. Then I realize that I need to pee again. I’m not sure how that is possible considering the number of bathroom trips I made in the 30 minutes before the race, but there isn’t anything I can do about it now. Faster runners are passing me, but I am keeping up with quite a few others and I am feeling pretty confident. I see some folks I know from Sam’s school and they wave along with a lot of other people who have come out to cheer us on.
At mile 3, I am starting to get uncomfortable because I still haven’t come across a port-a-potty or even a private bush, but I’m still okay to run so I grab my water and keep on truckin’. The other thing I notice is that the crowd of runners has really thinned out and the only other runner near me has a large contraption around his left knee. He kind of runs leaning to the right and swings his left leg out really wide to lope forward. I start to wonder if maybe I’m not running as well as I thought, when he passes me and disappears around the corner. I keep my head up and try not to think about bathrooms, running water or the growing pressure in my bladder.
At mile 5, I am all alone. I either took a wrong turn, or am the slowest human being on the face of the earth. Eminem is rhyming “Lose Yourself” into my ears and I drop half of my jellybeans.
At mile 6 the knee-contraption guy stopped, adjusted his brace, tied his shoes and then loped past me again, disappearing up the road.
At close to 7 miles there is a McDonald’s. I know this is the absolute WUSSIEST thing to do, but I can’t possibly take another step without having an accident. I slip off the course and duck in to use the bathroom. Oh. Yes. I. Did. The manager looks at me and before he can say anything about the bathroom being only for customers I scream “I WILL PEE ON THE FLOOR!” and he turns away as I race to the bathroom. He doesn’t make eye contact as I leave and casually jog back out onto the course where the city-worker-guy-in-charge-of-picking-up-cones waves to me. I make a mental note to inform Chris that we will no longer be welcome at that McDonald's.
Mile 8 is uneventful, except I have started talking to the GPS band on my ankle. I name it Gloria Putnam Smith, because I am getting loopy, lonely and desperate to distract myself. Me, Eminem and Gloria are gonna finish this race, is what I tell myself.
Mile 9 seemed to be a good point to start crying. The worker-guy-in-charge-of-picking-up-cones has been driving slowly behind me. Every few yards he hops out and puts the cones in the back of his truck. When I look back at him he is smoking a cigarette, but gives me a thumbs up, so I keep plodding along.
By mile 10 worker-guy has had to leave me to my own devices, but he pulled up next to me and told me how to get to the Finish Line, because the rest of the cones would be gone. He said he hoped they still had the Finish Line banner up for me, because he was awfully proud of my determination. Then he waved his cigarette at me and took off. I tell Eminem and Gloria that I need to stop and adjust my shoes for a second. I think they are getting impatient with how many times I am stopping. I try to refocus.
For mile 11, some guy in cut off jeans and work boots seems to be also running the same route, but he doesn’t have on a number or anything. Maybe he just decided it was a good day to run.
Mile 12 brings some confusing emotions. At some point I decided I was mad at everyone for letting me do such a dumb thing. Obviously, no one at all loves me, or they would have stopped me from doing something this stupid. Well, I’ll show them all. I’ll just die right here in the middle of the New Bedford Half Marathon and no one will care but Eminem and Gloria, who are my two new best friends. Forever.
Mile 13.1 I DID IT BABY! That’s right! And the Finish Line was still there and I got a shiny medal and a bottle of water for my trouble. But then, Sam came running over and hugged me around the waist and said he was “SO PROUD OF MOMMY!” I absolutely can’t wait until next year.
Friends, I panic. Usually, someone nearby tells me not to panic and then I calm down, but there is no one "nearby" on Facebook.
JESSIE THIS IS FACEBOOK! GET CONNECTED! STAY CONNECTED! JOIN NOW! ANYONE CAN JOIN!
Well, I don’t know, I’m not much of a joiner and I’m kind of, you know… quiet.
THIS IS FACEBOOK! EVERYONE BUT YOU IS ALREADY ON FACEBOOK! DON’T MISS OUT ON ANYTHING!
Really? Everyone? Because that seems like a lot.
HERE JESSIE! SIGN UP NOW! ENTER YOUR PROFILE SO EVERYONE CAN SEE YOU AND DON’T FORGET TO ADD A PICTURE THAT IS CASUAL BUT FLATTERING! IT SHOULD SHOW PEOPLE THAT YOU ARE COOL ENOUGH TO BE THEIR FRIEND SO MAKE SURE YOU’RE NOT WEARING YOUR BATHROBE OR ANYTHING!
Here? Is this where I enter my information? Relationship status? But, everyone who knows me knows I’ve been married FOREVER. Hey, wait, how did you get me to do that so fast? Because now everyone can see me and everything about me. Did I just give you people my social security number?
WE ARE FACEBOOK! DON’T FORGET TO UPDATE YOUR STATUS AT EVERY POSSIBLE MOMENT! WHAT ARE YOU DOING RIGHT NOW??? QUICKLY!
Uh. Oh. Um, think of something interesting, no, funny, no, smart, no, cool, yes -that's it. Jessie is panicking, no, eating, yes, but no, biting her fingernails. No, wait, I can think of something! Um. Jessie is currently renovating her house, working on her Master’s degree and training for a half marathon! Oh. Yes. Soooooo much cooler!
GOOD JOB JESSIE! FACEBOOK APPROVES! BUT YOU HAVE NO FRIENDS. YOU HAVE NO ALERTS! YOU HAVE NO MESSAGES! YOU HAD BETTER FIND SOME FRIENDS. FRIENDS OF FRIENDS, EVEN, IF YOU HAVE TO. OTHERWISE WE MAY REVOKE YOUR FACEBOOK PRIVELEGES, AND THEN THINK OF WHAT A LOSER YOU’D BE!
Okay. Right. Friends. I know I had friends, but then I had kids and I haven’t left the house in 6 years. Oh wait a minute! Can my kids be my friends?
NOPE SORRY! FACEBOOK IS FOR GROWN UP FRIENDS! THINK! THINK HARD! YOU DON’T HAVE MUCH TIME! WHAT’S A MATTER JESSIE? YOU SEEM A LITTLE OVERWHELMED. FACEBOOK IS NOT FOR THE OVERWHELMED.
No, No! Please. Let me think. Okay, Leigh will be my friend, because she HAS to be my friend or I will tell our mother on her. Leigh can be my friend! How’s that?
WELL, WE AT FACEBOOK WOULD RATHER YOU WERE NETWORKING A LITTLE MORE EXTENSIVELY. BUT ITS WORTH A TRY. YOU MAY SEND LEIGH A FRIEND REQUEST, AND SEE IF SHE ACCEPTS OR IGNORES YOU.
What!? She can ignore me if she wants? Well, she better not.
OKAY, JESSIE. WHO ELSE? ONE FRIEND IS NOT UP TO FACEBOOK STANDARDS, AFTER ALL. HOW ABOUT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL? WHY DON’T YOU SPEND SEVERAL HOURS COMBING THROUGH ALL THE NAMES OF PEOPLE YOU WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL WITH?
High school? High school!? No, I really didn’t have a good high school experience. I doubt anyone would remember me anyway. Oh! Anyone except Catherine! She might be my friend too! Hey, Facebook, how do I find Catherine Corrine Childs Capolupo?
BUT, JESSIE, YOU ALREADY KNOW CATHERINE. YOU TALK TO HER EVERY OTHER DAY. DO YOU EVEN UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPT OF NETWORKING?? REALLY, DIG A LITTLE DEEPER. WE ARE FACEBOOK. WE ARE BUSY. WE CAN’T BE HOLDING YOUR HAND EVERY MINUTE OF THE DAY.
Well, I have to start somewhere. And Catherine has a real life and a job and knows LOTS of people. She might make some of her people be my friends, if I ask her.
HEY, THERE YOU GO JESSIE! NOW YOU’RE GETTING INTO THE FACEBOOK EXPERIENCE! BUT, WE HAVE ANOTHER PROBLEM, JESSIE. NO ONE HAS POKED YOU. NO ONE HAS SUPERPOKED YOU. HAS ANYONE EVEN THROWN A SHEEP AT YOU YET?
Well, no. I don’t think so. But I’ve only been on Facebook for like, 15 minutes. Doesn’t that take a little time? Hey, wait. Did you just say “throw a sheep” at me? This is a good thing?
YOU HAD BETTER GET IN THERE AND SUPERPOKE SOME PEOPLE, JESSIE. NOW.
WE’LL BE BACK TO CHECK YOUR PROGESS. REMEMBER WE AT FACEBOOK EXPECT YOU TO HAVE MANY, MANY FRIENDS, WHEN NEXT WE CHECK ON YOU.
I’m on it Facebook! No Worries.
Jessie Davis and Sarah Finlayson are now friends.
Jessie Davis has just popped the “enter” key off her keyboard, trying to ROCK THE GRANNY PANTY with Sarah Finlayson.
Jessie Davis and Christopher Davis are now friends.
Jessie Davis is flailing wildly at her laptop, trying to get Christopher Davis to write back on her wall and let her know if he’s coming home for dinner.
Kathleen Stillson and Karl Coleman have accepted Jessie’s friend request! Happy day!
Jessie Davis poked Kathy Stillson.
Jessie Davis poked Karl Coleman.
Karl Coleman and Kathleen Stillson are now friends.
Karl Coleman superpoked Kathy Stillson.
Kathy Stillson poked Karl back.
Kathy Stillson and Karl Coleman are now better friends than you or Karl or you and Kathy could ever hope to be.
Jessie Davis has just thrown Good Karma at herself by mistake.
Catherine Childs took pity on Jessie and threw her a Zamboni. Click here to see it or send something back.
Jessie Davis got so excited to get a Zamboni that she took forever trying to pick out something to send back. When she finally picked something, Catherine had logged off out of boredom.
Jessie Davis’ brain hemorrhaged. Causing her to fall forward and turn her laptop off, thereby logging her out of Facebook.
“Do not go running if you have had a chest cold and a fever.” EB is a good friend, and a much more experienced runner than me. We have been training together for the half marathon for weeks.
“I will not go running. I will wait until I feel better.” I lie.
“Because you should not go running if you have a chest cold and a fever, at least not for a few days. Because you could get pneumonia.” EB has a tone that tells me she totally knows that I am still going to go running tomorrow.
“Nope. I definitely won’t.” Still lying.
The following afternoon, my lying ass is wheezing and hacking in Dr. Butler’s office, as he informs me that I have pneumonia. I want to yell “MY BAD!” in the middle of his office, but that would require a level of oxygen that I am not currently producing. He hands me a stack of prescriptions and a coupon for Mucinex.
“Do you promise that you will go home and rest, or should I just admit you into the hospital now?” his dialing finger is twitchy and I know which way he’s leaning.
“No. I. Will. Rest. I. Promise.” I wheeze in defeat. This time I mean it. I go back out to the waiting room and hang my head in shame as I tell Christopher that I have really done it to myself this time.
“Lay down on the couch, or you will die.” He declares, once we are back home. (Despite what you may think, Sam does not get his flair for drama from me).
I lay down dutifully and try not to panic. Whenever Christopher is the sole able-bodied adult in the house, I have to remind myself not to panic.
Mostly, I panic because Christopher is, well, let’s use the term distracted. For the most part, it has a kind of “Absent Minded Professor” appeal. He has Other Stuff on his mind, like the three or four ongoing games of Scrabble he is playing on Facebook. Or where he left an 8 inch stack of bright yellow legal pad notes, or his wallet, keys, ID, cellphone, shoes, laptop, coat, gymbag, etc… that have inexplicably and suddenly disappeared, through no fault of his own. This leaves him incapable of seeing, say, a giant puddle of sticky, dried apple juice flecked with crumbs and dust in the middle of the floor. He simply crunches his way through it. Onto bigger and better, as they say.
“What time does Sam get out of school?” he asks as he measures out my first dose of codeine-laced cough syrup that will render me a drooling lump on the couch for the rest of the day.
“2:30” I say.
“2:30, as in be there at 2:30, or 2:30 as in be there at 2:10 or 2:15 or 2:20?” this is going to be a LONG ordeal, and suddenly, I am looking forward to my cough syrup. For an absent-minded person, he is appallingly precise.
“2:30, as in he walks out of the school building at 2:29, but you have to pick up Hannah first and you won’t get there until about 2:25, so you should make it, but you’ll have to park down the street.” Is he sure I am only supposed to have 2 teaspoons of that stuff?
“What time does Hannah get out of school?” He is starting to pace back and forth, which, since he took Trial Law last year, has not been a good sign.
“2:00.” I don’t volunteer any additional info – Christopher coaches me as a witness quite often, as a way of either keeping himself in practice, or because he finds it amusing. I am not sure which.
“2:00, as in 2:00, or 2:05, or 2:10?” He stares at me. When, oh when, will my cough syrup kick in?
“2:00 as in she gets dismissed any time between 2:00 and 2:20, but she is three years old and if SOMEONE has to WAIT for SOMEONE, it’s better if it’s not Hannah sitting on the curb. Capiche?” Things are starting to go a little fuzzy, finally.
Christopher frowns. I think he is trying to decide if it is time to MAKE A LIST. Whenever he is processing new information, he feels the need to MAKE A LIST. This is okay, because it works for him, but when we are forced to communicate and process something together (which, I can tell you is UNAVOIDABLE if you want to stay married, and believe me, I have tried), he tells me to MAKE A LIST. I sit with a sheet of paper, but usually aside from a general description, such as “new storm door” or “lack of funds to pay big stack of bills” I am clueless as to what useful information should be on my list. This usually leads to an argument in which I compose a smart-assed list that I find highly amusing, and he finds childish and entirely unhelpful, like;
a. The Strong Wind b. Blew the Storm door back c. And bent the door frame d. We need to replace e. The Storm door f. But g. I am currently unemployed h. And i. We are broke j. Hence k. No new Storm door, right now.
Since I am now comfortably stoned from my cough syrup though, I decide I feel cooperative.
“Want me to MAKE A LIST?” I ask.
“Thanks, but no thanks.” He sighs and covers me over with a quilt. “I’m going to pick up the kids, don’t get up. Just try to sleep, okay?” he points a finger in my direction. “Seriously, stay on the couch and rest. I’ll be right back.”
I dozed off and in what seemed like five seconds, he had returned with both kids. And they were even both ours. That was a good sign I decided. The kids and I hung out for a while, and Chris helped Sam with his homework. Things went smoothly, then they got hungry.
“Can I have something to eat?” Sam is standing over me and shouting really loud. He thinks pneumonia has something to do with your ears.
“Mommy is sick today buddy. I’ll make dinner in a few minutes.” Chris looks up from studying at the kitchen table, from where he has supervised all goings on, including my bathroom trips and how I am ‘dawdling’ because I don’t want to lay down.
Sam and Hannah simultaneously turn and look at me. “Daddy is going to COOK?”
Even stoned, the smell wafting in from the kitchen was not appealing. Christopher prepared a box of Hamburger Helper, Lasagna flavor, precisely according to package directions, to which he added a leftover carton of fried rice, a few chunks of pineapple and some steamed peas and corn. He mixed in the remains of a jar of salsa and a few spoonfuls of mustard. And you can’t imagine how delighted he was, then, when he found three old Stand N’ Stuff taco shells in the back of the cupboard to complete the meal.
Hannah climbed up onto my lap and took my face in her hands, because that is what she does when we are having a serious discussion. “I am not hungry Mommy. Not hungry.” She insisted.
“I AM hungry. But I’m not eating THAT.” Sam also gets his tact from his father.
“How about if we order pizza?” I suggest, trying not screech.
Chris looks a little hurt, but does not try to defend his dinner. At all. Instead he dials the phone in answer. Sam and Hannah immediately jump on the couch to watch for the pizza guy, and I happily accept my second dose of cough syrup.