Mom's Brain, Uncategorized

I’m Never Going Home

“I’m never going home”.

Those words were the last to ever touch my ears from my mother’s lips.

Hitting my heart like a ton of bricks, I never could have believed it would the last time I would look into her pale blue eyes or see that broken body that used to store the strongest and most generous soul I’ve ever known. In that one fleeting moment of lucidity, she conveyed more truth than she’d been capable of in longer than I can remember.

Her words weren’t just true (she died 3 days later), they’ve also served as my vitality killing kryptonite for nearly twenty years. Racked with guilt, shame, and sadness, I’ve barely lived. Blaming myself for crimes I didn’t commit and searching painfully for things that don’t exist to fill the massive hole in my heart I thought she left.

The perfect body.

The perfect career.

The perfect relationship.

The perfect home.

The perfect words…

No matter how many times beautiful, loving people said “Your mom wouldn’t want this for you”, and my head bobbed up and down in rote acknowledgement, my heart locked down as if filled with fresh cement, preserving the hurt inside me like a crypt.

I’ll never know what I’ve missed.

It doesn’t matter now.

Somehow, and believe me I wish I had some brilliant little nugget of wisdom to convey rather than “I just woke up one day”, her words are now my mantra.

I’m never going home.

I’m never going home to that place where worry and regret are my roommates.

I’m never going home to that place where my success and self worth are measured by a full plate.

I’m never going home to that place where my head and my heart avoid play dates.

I’m never going home to that place where I believe it’s too late.

I’m already home.

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Uncategorized

Her Gift

me-and-janWhat gift can I possibly give someone who helped lift me out of the darkness?

What gift could ever convey “thank you for lending me your eyes to find my way and your heart to believe that tomorrow is always a new day”?

As I rack my mind to find that perfect thing, that perfect symbol to represent how grateful I am that you were born, tears fill my eyes and I realize the answer lies inside.

Words.

Words that for many years I feared.

Scared of failing.

Scared of succeeding.

Scared of even being.

A writer wasn’t who I was seeing when I looked in the mirror.

Over these last few months that image has finally become clearer.

When that darkness was about to win, there you were again like you’ve always been.

Thank you.

Thank you for finding me when you were just 17 and I was a ripe old 18.

Thank you for overwhelming them with your incredible power in game 1, making it possible for me to shine in game 2.

Thank you for playing along as I tell a story for the umpteenth time.

Thank you for making me laugh harder than anyone else can.

Thank you for all the times you’ve picked me up off the floor both literally and figuratively.

Thank you for believing in me even when I couldn’t bear the pain of opening my eyes to a new day.

Thank you for our first 30 years of friendship. I hope to be even half the friend you are in our next 30.

Cheers to my dearest friend and one of the kindest, most generous, selfless people I know.

Happy Birthday! Xoxo

P.S You’ll get a real gift too ūüėÉ

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Uncategorized

What She Taught Me


My adult brain was only about  half-baked when she left. To be honest, most of the time it feels only about half-baked now. If I was any good at math I could probably calculate the true fraction of understanding I had of the world when the person I relied upon for almost every answer was cruelly and without warning ripped from my life, but I’m not, so I’ll just round up and say “one tenth of not much”.

It wasn’t until she was gone that I realized how much she had taught me in our short time together. Even though I can’t pick up the phone and call her anymore, which makes my heart twist like spounge  any time I think about it, I still talk to her and she still reminds me that there are a few equations that solve almost all of life’s problems. 

  • People are always more important than things so give whatever you can
  • Smiling and laughing, even if you don’t feel like it, cures a bad mood
  • You can never earn more time so spend it like you know that

The detailed memories of our time together may fade with each year removed, but every Mother’s Day they burn brightly again and take up their rightful place in my over occupied mind.  Mom even calls me sometimes, like she did today, and gives another important lesson-

Always show your work

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Uncategorized

Why I Plan To Read The Bible

I had no clue where to find Matthew when my aunt asked me to set her handheld, electronic Bible to the first chapter of that book before leaving after our visit today. “It’s the first book of the New Testament” she said as a means to help, but not realizing how little that meant to me. I don’t feel bad about not knowing how many clicks forward from Deuteronomy or back from Acts I would need in order to get her all queued up for tomorrow’s lesson. After all, the Bible really isn’t my thing. ¬†And, although technology is my thing, her little gadget was just a simple black box with a couple of buttons, lacking amenities like a screen that could have displayed a table of contents and made the task much simpler for a King James novice like me. I managed to figure out the proper combination of key strokes to move between books rather than chapters within books and got on a roll. The deep, calming voice of the iBible began solemnly rattling off “Judges. Ruth. 1 Samuel…..Ezra. Nehemiah” and intermittently having its impecable pronunciation cut short by my frantic pressing of the downward facing arrow. “Am I going in the right direction?” Before she could answer, the speaker uttered “Job” and she told me to go ahead and stop there. I don’t know if she was just trying to give me a break or if something about the spoken-word trip through the old testament triggered a need to focus on that particular book. I’ve decided that I’ll ask her about it when I see her again next week.

Over the past couple of months I have been visiting my aunt in her adult foster home.¬†I spent a good deal of time with her as a child, but we haven’t been a part of each other’s lives since. I can probably count on one hand the number of times we’ve seen each other outside of funerals over the past 30 years, so finding talking points can often be difficult. There is only so much reminiscing that can be done to fill the time. Upon arriving for our visit today, I started with the usual inquiries like “How are you feeling?” ¬†“What’s going on in the world that I should know about?” “Did you eat lunch yet?” She answered all of the questions, some with more gusto than others, but today would end up being about more than small talk. ¬†I recently learned that she loved to write and that she even saw a few of her stories and poems published during the 1970s. I had those writings with me today. Since she is no longer able to see small print, I asked if she would like me to read them to her. “Yes, that would be nice” she said, still stunned that her sister-in-law had held onto the original publications all these years and then passed them along to me.¬†Seeing her smile as she listened to the words she’d penned so long ago, discussing what had inspired them, and then sharing some of my own work with her made for a very special day.

So, what does my fumbling around in the Bible at the end of our visit have to do with this story? ¬†Whether she was writing a poem celebrating the second coming or a short story that illustrated the kindness of strangers when her family was new to town and her father fell ill, my aunt’s work was inspired by her Christian faith, something that is almost totally foreign to me. I realized today that we have a real connection through writing and I’d like to foster that in any way I can. Who knows? If I study her book maybe we’ll have more to talk about or even write a story together. At the very least, I’ll be able to find the book of Matthew the next time she asks.

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Valentine
Uncategorized

Don’t Be Mine

I’ve never been a big fan of Valentine’s Day as an adult. Sure, during my early twenties, before I came to believe that February 14th was no more than a day to get all “show offy” with romantic gestures because we had all been so crappy toward each other the rest of the year, I stressed over planning the perfect expression of my undying love, which usually manifested itself in the form of an overpriced dinner at a restaurant that made both me and my date completely uncomfortable paired with the obligatory flowers and chocolate. When I see those boxes of tooth shattering candy hearts with their sappy beseechings and earnest promises begin to takeover shelves and endcaps of every grocery store, I’m not overcome with a longing to wine and dine anyone; no offense to my partner. This year I discovered why I am so strongly indifferent to the holiday as it’s celebrated today and why I want something different.

The first thing that invaded my thoughts as I woke this morning was a note¬†that was included in the Valentine care package my mom sent me when I was 24. Even though I didn’t know it at the time, it would be the last I would receive from her; less than a year later she would be rendered incapable of putting together care packages or writing notes. Somehow, despite the fact that I’m a fervently adept minimalist, this note managed to survive that time when I was unaware how important it would become and has made every move with me for the last 22 years.

valentine note

This note got me thinking about the Valentine’s Days of my childhood. It made me think about the year that Dad bought a single red rose for all three of his girls. It made me think about how Mom required that I bring a card for every student in my class, even those I didn’t like. “Yours may be the only card someone receives. Think about that.” she would tell me, needing no further explanation to make her point. It made me think about all of the special dinners Mom planned for us to share as a family. I’m sure there were times when Mom and Dad celebrated as a couple, but it always seemed more important to them that the holiday have a wider reach. It was a day to share with all your loved ones, not just your romantic partner. So, when Dad called to ask if he could take us all to brunch I guess it wasn’t surprising. It made perfect sense for my sister and I, our partners, Dad and his girlfriend, and our aunt to all share a meal today.

As we reminisced over old photographs of those family members who are no longer with us and laughed as long forgotten stories were remembered, I could feel Mom there too, urging us to make this our new Valentine’s Day tradition. I’m pretty sure she also told me to get a frame for that note if I intend to keep it from getting ruined.

 

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housecall providers
Uncategorized

Hospice Volunteering – Not Always What You Expect

This is a story I wrote about my experience volunteering for¬†Housecall Providers, a non-profit organization in Portland, Oregon that provides both primary care visits and hospice in the patient’s home.¬† The story was published this week in the quarterly newsletter that goes out to all of their donors.

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My phone chimes and the pop-up notice displays simply‚Ķ Jean, reminding me that it‚Äôs time to get on the road. I hardly need the prodding, for Wednesday has quickly become my favorite day of the week. When I enter Adella‚Äôs Adult Foster Home, the women she cares for are sitting around the dining table in the cozy, warm common area, finishing up their breakfast. I am always struck by how perfectly kept this home is, how comfortable all its residents appear, and how welcoming Adella is to me. All of my preconceived notions about care facilities were quickly forgotten when I began visiting Jean. ‚ÄúMiss Jean, Chris is here!‚ÄĚ Adella says with an enthusiastic smile and then quickly gets Jean settled back in her room for our visit.

Continue reading

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Virginia Woof
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Why I Love Virginia Woof and Outside In

He’s long and lean with sinewy muscles that contract and ripple as he runs his abbreviated routes. Golden hair with swirls of black accents give him an exotic look. When he arrives the place becomes electric with happy, anxious energy. He’s greeted with a boisterous “Neil!”, much like the portly accountant Norm was whenever he planted himself in his regular spot at the far corner of the bar in the television show “Cheers”. He excites the crowd as he prances in, towering over all of them and grinning big under a nose that can’t help but lead the way. He’s Neil the brindle Greyhound, one of about 40 dogs that spend their weekdays at Virginia Woof Dog Daycare while their people toil away in the city. Continue reading

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