Tag Archives: mothers

My Best Day

12 Aug

I think it is possible that today was one of the best days of my whole life. I made a roundabout trip from Providence to New York City with the cast of a show I am in. We are performing at Fringe Festival NYC starting this Saturday and today was our dress rehearsal in the theatre we were assigned to. The entire trip was daunting from the start; coordinating 16 people to be at a specific location on the Lower East Side by 2:30pm and then getting 14 of them back home again the same day was a logistical nightmare.

The very talented Hannah

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Hannah!

mapped out a whole chart for the next two weeks showing who was coming and going what days, who was staying in the city and where, who was carpooling, what methods we were using to get into the city and it was insane. Today was the one day that most of the group was traveling together both ways and it could have been a clashing of personalities and moods, but it just wasn’t. Instead I found myself stopping every few minutes and looking at the people around me, the sights on the journey and really absorbing every moment knowing that I was so fortunate to be there. I was lucky to be included in this group of talented actors

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The star of the show for me, Tammy

who I believe will light up Fringe NYC and I am grateful to be active in a hobby that takes me on so many adventures.

The past few days I have been in a bad headspace and I was dealing with it just fine but I was noticeably sad. I have been telling people about this festival for months now and only a handful of people shared in my level of excitement. Only one person had the reaction I had been longing for; the reaction my mother would have had if I had been able to call her with this news.

A mother is the person in the world who gets excited for their child’s accomplishments as though they are their own. I wanted to tell someone about this huge life event and hear that they were excited and proud. I don’t feel that I needed to hear this to be excited or proud myself, but rather, I was already feeling those things and it was lonely to be experiencing that alone. Like finishing a marathon only to find there is nobody cheering at the end. You cross that red tape and cheer and realize you are just a sweaty idiot alone in the middle of the street 26 miles away from where you parked your car.

Then there is Lisa. My best friend who told me over and over how proud she was and how impressive she thought it all seemed. Then she told me she had bought a ticket for one of the shows and said, “Seeing you perform in this festival is important to me.” It was said in a text message but it stopped me where I stood. It was the exact thing I had needed to hear to feel like I wasn’t alone. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of people in my life who have expressed excitement and enthusiasm about this opportunity, but this was the only thing that made me feel like it mattered to her as much as it mattered to me. I should mention that Lisa lives over an hour further away from NYC and has a husband, two small children and a full time job, but she is coming because she wants to be there. That’s a powerful sentiment that doesn’t always get noticed, but I felt this fully and it was everything.

Today was just the dress rehearsal. I wanted to write this at one o’clock in the morning after a 16 hour day because I didn’t want to lose or forget a moment of it. I want to move into the next few days with the knowledge that this won’t last very long, but I know it is something I will remember forever. This isn’t about becoming famous or making it big in acting or getting my name out there. If five people sit in the audience each night I won’t care. This is about a play I loved the first time we performed it, with a cast

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Kerry makes the whole group prettier

I believe to be exceptional and a director so wildly talented I fear I may never fully keep up. We are going to be in a festival many entered to be a part of and few in comparison were chosen. I want to see other shows and meet lots of other actors just as excited to be able to stand on a stage in New York City. I want to say that the stage I stood on meant something to me and that is enough.

Our number One and Director, Kevin

Mostly I want to remember the key moments from today, the first day before the real ride began:

  • Carpooling with three people who make road trips in movies look dull by comparison. We actually spent two hours driving home at midnight doing sing-a-longs at full volume to Madonna, Queen,
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    Puppi was upset that he wasn’t tagged on Instagram

    Led Zeppelin, Abba and Hall and Oates.

  • Laughing in heat so unbearable it was hard to find air to breathe but we kept on joking.
  • Squeezing 15 actors into one unisex dressing room while boys changed into speedos and nobody seeming uncomfortable or awkward; feeling like a big family.
  • Creating a count off system while walking through the city to make sure we didn’t lose anyone and realizing that we were shouting numbers like assholes in the middle of Grand Central Station (also learning that the concept of counting and numbers isn’t so easy for everyone)
    • Me: Let’s count off.
    • Kevin: One
    • Hannah: Can I be six?
    • Me: You are literally two.
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      Rico got to be number seven

      Rico: Oh! I want to be seven!

    • Me: That’s not how counting works.
    • Kevin: You’re realizing now you may not want to have kids, huh Sam?
  • Learning that your friends are even more fun and are filled with more patience and kindness than you knew before.
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    Justin & Foldie in the Main Concourse of Grand Central

    One actor carrying a metal folding chair in 100 degree weather through NYC to have it as his prop. Watching him open and use said chair in the middle of Grand Central as well as the middle of our subway car. Then arriving at the theatre only to find at least half a dozen identical folding chairs already at the venue. Then naming the chair “foldie” to give it importance so we wouldn’t feel silly for having lugged it in two cars, a train, a subway and a mile walk.

  • Walking into a beautiful theatre with a stage twice the size of the one we rehearsed on and realizing that we get to play in that space.
  • Arriving home exhausted and barely walking with a huge smile on my face feeling inspired.
  • Knowing that although the whole thing will fly by, right now it’s all still ahead of me and I’m lucky enough to have noticed the moment before it was gone.

Year One

4 Oct

One year ago today I wrote about my mother’s passing on day one. Looking back I see that much has changed but the missing her has not lessened. My Uncle Michael said to my Aunt, “The hole in your heart will never go away, but over time it will hurt less to touch it”. I’m not there yet, but I do take some comfort in knowing that the first year is the toughest and I have conquered it with gusto.

Within the past year I molded my life into something that makes me happy everyday. The constant sadness just below the surface runs through me but does not tarnish the parts of my life containing joy. The hardest part about being happy is wanting to share everything with her. I do find things slightly less satisfying without her telling me how proud she is or seeing her face in an audience.

Knowing that I have to self-affirm and hear her from within myself is sort of like having a big salad for dinner. I know it’s healthy and I know I’ll feel better and stronger afterwords but it’s less instantly gratifying. I tire of hearing, “your mother is with you and you know what she would say”. Yes, that is true and the sentiment is appreciated if only for it’s good intention, but mostly I just want her. My frustration at her being always gone is tangible and it makes the air somehow harder to breathe; yet I keep breathing because I have to.

I appreciated my mother when she was around, always. She and I got an extra amount of quality time in, between my illness and hers. We got the unique opportunity to truly take care of each other for an extended period of time and every minute was just me with my very best friend. She once told me while sitting in the DMV, “You make everything so much fun. It’s a talent you’ve always had.” I felt the same way about her.

She was at almost all of my chemotherapy treatments and I was at almost all of hers. I loved them and I know she did too. How we took something so terrible and draining and turned it into days full of laughter and fun can only be explained by our magic. Last week I found myself back in a Cancer Treatment Center with my Grandmother, specifically the one where I had received my radiation treatments and I felt panicked. Sitting in that waiting room I saw all the sick people and I wanted to scream and cry and felt an overwhelming need to just get out. I thought at the time that I just couldn’t take any more hospitals or doctors offices and that is part of what I was feeling. Mostly though I realize it was that I wanted to be there with her. I saw people sitting in treatment chairs and getting their blood-work and eating their lunch from the cart that goes around the room and It was all so familiar but now missing from my life. I miss those terrible sandwiches and I miss getting myself a regular V8 and my mother a low sodium V8 and then watching her add salt packets to it (the most adorable sight to behold). I miss waiting hours to see a doctor and having it feel like minutes because we could always talk indefinitely. I miss being able to make everyone else in the treatment room smile with our infectious energy. No matter if either of us were struggling through the process, we kept each other afloat. We were unstoppable.

I think that’s why I believed she would never die. I got better right? I’m healthy and strong now because of her, so I believed that our love could heal anything. The reality is that my cancer was more treatable and that she fought as long as she could but she was dealt a poor hand.  I didn’t face that until after she was gone. I wanted her to fight more and didn’t allow myself to see how tired and weak she had become because I always saw her as the strong, capable and beautiful woman who raised me.

I see that woman even more clearly now. Her absence has given me the opportunity to re-frame and see her in a new light. Losing her thrust me into adulthood even though I thought I was already there; I look back at her now as a woman and she is forever my guide.

In this past year I have learned that chasing a career that I am passionate about is worth all my best efforts and I will never do anything else. I have learned that I am capable of a type of love and nurturing that I only ever knew in that magnitude from her. I learned that I am everything she ever said I was and knew I could be. I’ve learned that family is worth the extra time and that it can be found anywhere, especially in good friends. I have learned to ask for help and give myself time to be sad. I have learned that I can live without her but I am allowed to still feel like I can’t.

Us at the beginning.

Us at the beginning.

To my mother on the one year anniversary of her death: To think this world has seen a year without you feels unreal and impossible but I have missed you every moment. Today does not mark the time when this journey gets easier, because you are worth missing for a lifetime. Thank you for giving me passion from your life and in your passing. I love you, I love you, I love you forever.

The Night Before

3 Oct

One year ago right now I was home. I was getting ready for bed knowing that I might wake up in a world where my mother wasn’t alive. A part of me was hoping it would happen in the night so I wouldn’t have to sit in hospice watching her in a state I knew she’d have hated. If it had felt like my choice I never would have spent even a moment in that hospice room. I was told that I would regret not spending the final days with her, and that she might need me there.

That was bullshit.

The person I saw when I first got there was someone in so much pain that she couldn’t even recognize me. I left the room and sat in the hallway just outside the door. From inside her room I could hear her constant moaning and the nurse trying to reassure her that the medication would kick in soon. I wanted to run away. I was there because someone else had told me it was shameful that I didn’t want to be. I felt guilty and angry and horrified. Mostly I felt helpless. My grandmother arrived shortly after and I warned her not to go into the room just yet, trying to spare her the scene I will have forever burned in my memory.

My mother was in that room for only a few days. My aunt and sister rushed home and we all spent hours sitting around her bed. The days were endless so we would quietly chat or work on addressing Ricca and Shane’s save-the-date cards. We played Mahler, my mothers favorite composer, bouncing from symphony to symphony to convince ourselves she had something pleasurable. She slept; she had been asleep since the nurse had calmed her writhing that first day and they kept her comfortable until the end.

My aunt and step-father were dutiful. They were there first thing in the morning and I think even late into the night. I’m actually not sure how long they were there because I stayed 4 or 5 hours and could not take any more. I couldn’t be the one who put lip balm on her to keep her mouth from drying. I couldn’t talk to her like she could hear me or sit there for hours hoping that it was helpful in some way. That woman wasn’t her anymore and I resented all of it. I am grateful that my aunt and step-father could be there. Maybe having them there did comfort her, but I know my mother well enough to hear the advice she would have given me. It took me until after she died to push out all the other voices, all telling me what I should do regarding my own mother’s death; then there was just my voice and hers saying, “Go live your life.”

Of course the thing I’ve learned is that her voice and mine are one in the same now. I think like her, talk like her, make decisions based on what I know she would do and I live my life with her spirit and gumption. I’m angry that I allowed other people to sway me to choose something that wasn’t right for me. I wish I could erase the person I saw in that hospice bed or the hours I spent frozen in horror at the whole scene.

Tomorrow I will wake up and it will be just like a year ago; still living in a world where she is gone. I will have done that 365 times and somehow the repetition hasn’t healed the wound yet. I will get up and go live my life and strive to remember her as alive, glowing and vibrant. That is what she would want, and now more importantly I realize that it is what I want, and that is what really matters.

My mother the constant ham

My mother the constant ham

Thirty-One Posts

2 Oct

Last year in the month of November I committed to writing thirty blog entries in thirty days. This was admittedly a way to give myself a jump after the death of my mother in October. This year, with the anniversary of this loss looming, I’m starting the new challenge of writing thirty-one posts in a month.

Day one of the month I missed the very first post. I can say that it’s because I was in Vermont with no service or that I have an incredibly nasty cold, both are true, but I still could have done it. Excuses, even when they are real, are still no good.

For last years challenge I missed plenty of days and was left at the end with a lot to make up in just a few days. I had someone telling me that I should be content with having written more posts than normal and to just stop. I was told not to be so hard on myself to write so much in the final throws and I would do better next time. Well I didn’t listen to that; I wrote every single post that I had promised. Three days of sitting in my pj’s and facing delirium, writers block, pets who were determined to sleep on my keyboard or barf on my coffee table, and random fits of giggles didn’t stop me. When I hit that goal I knew I had done right by my mother and more importantly myself.

I have been afraid to set a goal that large for a while now, but I feel ready to take on more.

I’m sure in the upcoming weeks I will have countless reasons to skip a day or put off writing, and that’s okay. As long as when Halloween rolls around with that scary 31 on the calendar I finish my thirty first post by midnight. I missed day one and I will have to write multiple posts on another day to make up for that, but at least I didn’t let that first hurdle stop me. I could have moved the whole thing to November and excused myself by saying that I would make it an annual event, but I won’t take that road. I want the month I had first told myself I would do; the month that is longer, filled with more fun fall distractions and the month with the most emotional charge. Bring it on.

Look at that, I just finished the first post, bedridden with a cold and everything. Thirty left to go.

Grief.

14 Jul

My mother died.

Everyone knows. I say it to people I’ve only known a short while because it is so a part of my reality I feel it’s impossible to hold it in. I make people uncomfortable by blurting it out in a conversation about groceries or the weather or their dog. Everything makes me think of her.

I talk to her. I call out to her daily knowing she will not respond and still feel panic and grief when nothing comes back. Am I sensing that the air around me feels warm because I need her to be there or is she really there?

If I talked about my unending sadness as often as I feel it, I would wear thin the generosity of those in my life who I know would never stop listening. Some days I want to talk about it the entire day, cry and scream with someone else there. I am not sure why someone else being there would comfort me but it would. I don’t know how to ask for this type of support because having to verbalize my need for it degrades its constance. Saying the words, “I need to talk about my mother” feel obvious and weighted. Nobody would ever say no, but I cannot ask.

I scream alone, I cry so hard that I emit guttural sounds that alarm even me. If someone else were there to see it, to accept it, to hold me and encourage my screaming I might feel better. When I weep in solitude it feels like an effort to connect with her, to smell her, to feel her big red hair engulfing me, to sense her presence. I feel her everywhere and nowhere all at once and it takes my breath away.

My sister got married this past weekend. Her wedding, her dress, how incredibly beautiful she looked all exceeded my expectations. She was perfect, he is perfect for her and every moment was so effortlessly “them”. Their friends, the food, the venue, the ceremony, it was all this beautiful reflection of how happy they are and although I knew it would be an emotional time, I didn’t know I would feel it so deeply. We all cried the whole day. We cried because we were happy and we cried because we were sad. My mother would have sobbed the entire day; nobody I have ever known cried so many tears of joy as she did. A few stray notes from a symphony or a hug from a loved one could hairline trigger her tears.

During the ceremony the officiant announced they were lighting a candle to honor my mother. I knew about it beforehand but apparently not the timing of it and I was so overcome with grief I felt I wanted to run away. Instead I cried uncontrollably in front of everyone. Seeing dozens of guests sympathy and personal sorrow while I stood on display made it more impossible to get my weeping under control. My eyes searched the scene for anything, I don’t know what I was looking for but I found my sisters face and she found mine and for a moment we both reached out our hands. I have never loved a person more than I loved her in that instant.

It was knowing that she and I understood the loss in the same way and moreover, that we were in this together. That connection with each other would have made my mother weep with joy.

This week I need my mommy. The world is an intensely scary place.

I am an adult. I am an adult. I am an adult. Right? Some days I am charged by a motivating force and I can accomplish anything I tackle. I want to make my mother proud and show her that she doesn’t have to worry, I am doing it. Other days I am a six-year-old lost on the beach, frantically looking for my mothers umbrella. The waterfront is long and the people on the sand are dense. All I can do it search under the dozens of umbrellas I think are my mother, feeling I will never find her. I need to find her because she is my mom, an everyday concept I never and always took for granted when I had her.

I read a book by Ann Hood called Comfort; it is about her passage through grief after losing her 5-year-old daughter. Although I couldn’t relate every experience that came from her specific loss, I couldn’t put the book down. I have never read a whole book in a day, until now.

In the prologue the first sentence is, “Time heals.” Reading that arrangement of letters on the page I found myself wanting to trust that it was true. I read it over and over with purposeful breathing willing myself to believe it. If time heals then some day I will ache less.

On page 133 a chapter begins with, “Time doesn’t heal.”

I suddenly felt that Ann had betrayed me. She had lied to me and was taking it all back; I could no longer believe that someday I might be lighter again. It doesn’t surprise me how quickly I let go of the original phrase from the prologue, somewhere in my mind I knew it was never true. Yet the latter sentence made me feel better; it let me know that if I miss my mother this much every single day forever, that is okay. I am allowed to feel emptiness and fear, I will even admit that I want to feel those things. The idea that I will never get over this makes her special and she was incredibly special.

I do not remember the good in my mother because she is gone, I remember it because it is all that she was; good. Even the things we used to fight about or the times when she made me cuckoo came entirely from her goodness. We would fight about a bill I had neglected or I would get mad when she gave me advice I didn’t want to hear. That was just her being a mother, caring for me and guiding me through life. It made me insane that she didn’t get out enough or that she held on to so many things in her house. Tiny, curled up her on the couch with a book and a pen to mark the words that moved her or write he thoughts in the margins. There are shelves of books with pages containing bits of her and her experiences with novels she read over and over. She would wrap up one bite of food to save for later if she didn’t finish it so that she wouldn’t waste even one morsel and tall glasses with one sip filled the fridge in her house. It’s too much for that to be gone. To open the ice box at my parents home and see normal leftover portions or the lack of a phone call to yell at me about a parking ticket is a loss of so much good.

I want to write forever to tell about how extraordinary she was. If I can just make others see what the world has lost then somehow I will find her, or feel it less. How can people not feel the difference in the energy the earth is missing? I want to shake strangers and say, “Don’t you sense that?! The air from the world is gone and you act like everything is the same.” The best way I’ve ever read this sentiment came from an article in the New Yorker written by a girl with an experience so similar to mine I now reread the article regularly. She says, “A man was out on the street walking his dog. I stared at him, waiting for some sign of acknowledgement that the fundamentals of life had changed. He kept on strolling, of course. How stupid of me, to think that everyone knew.”

These times occur when the normal everyday stresses of life seem so petty and cumbersome on top of my grief that it all spills over. I have to still push forward, find joy, work hard and live fully in spite of this void.  Some days I hope that “time heals” and on others I know that “time doesn’t heal”. I will navigate the eternal struggle and even find comfort in knowing I loved someone that much.  I am grounded and managing in the unalterable reality that strikes me time and again. My mother died.

Us.

Us.

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