Thursday, April 17, 2014

I'm the Friend

Guys, I've had a mini-epiphany this week about how I am "that" annoying person on social media lately.

Lately?

Always?

Ugh. Yoga and having two cats instead of just one has compounded the problem.

On Facebook, I am THE annoying yoga friend (to everyone other than my yoga friends, who must have more annoying yoga friends than me because I'm not that bad). Everyone has one and I'm the one for many of my friends. I do not want to be but since I work there and my friends are there and I'm there a lot, it comes up a lot. I'm sure it's boring.

On Instagram, I am THE crazy cat lady. Cats, the beach, the occasional kid pic--that's it. Ever. Often. I have to make deals with myself regarding how often is acceptable to post the cats and I really only post the beach or kids so I can get back to the cats. I probably take a photo each day but I try to limit myself on sharing. I also try not to ever harass my Facebook friends with the cats, because they already have to deal with the yoga.

On Twitter, I am THE boring mom who thinks her kids and cats are funny. I really only like to talk about me and I seldom participate in the posts of others. I've been doing it for years and I still don't really get Twitter. It's like a bunch of people talking over each other at a party. So clearly I'm doing it wrong.

On Google +, I am THE confused old person who has no idea what is going on. I only even try to do it every once in a while when one of my jobs reminds me that they'd really like me to have a presence there. But would they want me to have a presence there if they knew that I'm already annoying the rest of the internet? I don't really know whether to go with kids, cats, or yoga on Google +.

And I have a mommy blog. Ugh. The shame. I try not to self-promote and I think I'm great at not self-promoting, maybe a little too good but still, the truth is that I am one of them.

I don't plan on doing anything about any of the above, just wanted to declare my awareness of the situation in case you're one of my many internet victims (and clearly you are, you are reading a mommy blog!)

I'm sorry.

But I also  really want to tell you that I accomplished 30 yoga classes in the last 30 days, I want to complain about early release days at school (because what asshole came up with that idea, seriously?) and I'd like to share this picture of my cats (I think you will agree that they are extraordinary):


Thank you for tolerating me, internet. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

little bits of little kid

"Tatoes! How many tatoes could there be for there to be a whole tato store? That is ridiculous, a store full of potatoes." little kid declared on the drive home yesterday.

"That's a tattoo shop."

"Well, that makes more sense."

Later that day, I heard him tell Big Kid: "You're a jerk. Don't worry, it's in our family. It was passed down from our ancestors."

I didn't correct him, because he's right. IT'S OUR HERITAGE. Big Kid wasn't mad either, probably for the same reason. It's his destiny to be a jerk.

and then this morning, little kid suggested IHOP for Easter breakfast because it's in keeping with an Easter Bunny theme. I don't know if that's actually funny or not, but it cracked my ass up. 

He makes me laugh, and makes me want to strangle people, every single day.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mommy Makeover

Since I work at a yoga studio and do yoga almost every day, I wear a lot of yoga clothes.

Right now I'm annoyed at Lululemon because a size 4 gives me a slight muffin top and a size 6 fits like wrinkled elephant skin. (I know you're thinking that this is not necessarily their fault and I am thinking that's not what I want to hear at all, thanks.)

The other day I pulled on the more comfortable size 4s and a form fitting top and stared at myself in the mirror.

With impeccable posture, it's okay, I thought, standing up perfectly straight before slumping back to my regular posture because I know I won't maintain impeccable posture.

I grabbed the extra flesh at my midsection and squeezed it this way and that, deciding I looked really good when it was just folded behind me. Maybe I needed lipo or a tummy tuck. Maybe those kids really have ruined me, I decided.

I don't like my boobs in yoga tops either. I'm going to add those to the list of things the kids broke. It's really not fair, it's not even a vanity thing to want to have them fixed...more like reconstructive surgery. It should come free with motherhood -- a lift and maybe a small implant because, you know, while they're in there they might as well.

I fantasized about that for a minute, which friends I would ask for a referral, which bank I would have to rob to afford it. I looked in the mirror with my impeccable posture and sucked in stomach and pushed up boobs and thought that this would be perfect, really, and wondered how much time I would need off and how I would care for the children and if stitches would be gross and how much it would hurt.

Then I thought about all of that, what I was willing to put myself through, and I decided this could all be at least improved by eating better and exercising differently and really making a conscious effort with this impeccable posture business.

And then I decided I should just wear bigger shirts.

Problem solved.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

No White Lies

"Does my hair look too blonde?" I asked little kid when I returned from the salon.

"Up front it is. Like here and here," he pointed to the sections I thought looked too blonde. "I'm sorry, don't look mad, you asked. Bubby, come look at mom's hair. Is it too blonde?"

"Too blonde...?" Big Kid began cautiously, sizing me up, looking more into my eyes than my hair.

"See here and here, bubby?" little kid pointed out my problem areas.

"Mom, I think it looks...gooood." Big kid said with a false chipper tone that indicates lying."You look nice with white hair."

"White?!"

"You look like Elsa from Frozen!" little kid added.

I frowned.

"What's wrong, mom? Elsa is a PRINCESS! You like princesses! You like to be a princess!" Big Kid exclaimed. "I think you look pretty with white hair, white hair is really cool."

 So I guess there's my answer, my hair is too light since I was not going for Disney snow princess or whatever the hell Elsa is. 

I love and hate how I can count on their honesty.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Foreshadowing

The other day Big Kid and I were talking about nothing in particular when out of nowhere, with a slight defiant tilt of his chin, he announced, "When I'm away at college, I plan on spending at least one Thanksgiving with my friends. If I have any friends," he hastily added.

"You'll have friends! Of course you'll have friends, people always like you."

"Well, that's what I'm going to do," his 10-year-old self said, meeting my gaze.

I stifled a laugh that we were having this conversation right now and put on my serious face. "Of course you can do that! Have Thanksgiving with your friends, that sounds fun! You'll be an adult, you can do that." 

And then I casually walked into the kitchen so he couldn't see my glossy eyes. Yes, I was trying not to cry about a hypothetical Thanksgiving that may or may not take place in about a decade.

But he'll be an adult, and he can do that.

That has got to be the worst part of this whole parenting gig...the part where they become adults and can do that.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Kick Kick Kick Ass--My Messy Beautiful

When I was 20 years old, I thought I knew everything. Life was really quite simple -- you work hard, you act smart and you'll live happily ever after. I was doing those things. It was easy to do those things. I made a million plans; career plans, savings plans, life plans...as long as I had a plan, I could do anything.

By the time I turned 25, I knew I knew everything. I owned a lucrative real estate-based business, a home, investments, cars bought with cash, a robust savings account. I had a plan! That's all it took...hard work and a plan. I worked endless hours, I thrived on this busyness, this evidence of my success -- nothing in the world was as important as my plan. My entire identity was my plan.

By the time I turned 30, I realized I actually knew nothing...and that's when I started to truly learn. Through a series of unfortunate (and agonizing) events, including but not limited to the crash of the real estate market, my plan fell apart. We lost our business, jobs, houses, savings account, credit, and, along with all of that, I lost my identity. Who was I if I wasn't successful? Who was I if I no longer had a plan? My plan exploded into a million pieces and all I had left of it was shrapnel and scars.

As I tried to figure out what to do next, I clung to my bed as if it were a life raft and sank deeper and deeper into depression. I was turned down for jobs at the type of places that hire people with words tattooed where their eyebrows should be. We ate oranges from the tree in the backyard of our rental, not because it was a fun and charming thing to do, but because it was our only option for breakfast. I used to pray to a God I no longer believed in to save me from waking up in the morning, and then wake up crying to discover I had opened my eyes for another miserable day.

Once, in the depths of my despair, I actually searched online for scientific studies that proved kids who grew up without a mom ended up fine. I can find a dark humor in that now—in that little bit of logic in that completely illogical mind, that glimmer of hope that the right research could set me free. There are no such studies, by the way. 

Obviously.

Finally, exhausted with myself, I went to my doctor. I gathered all of my strength, all of my resolve. I took out my list of physical symptoms, drew a deep steadying breath...and I laid my head down on the little desk in her office and ugly cried like a rabid snot-faced hyena/wildebeest hybrid. It went AS BADLY as it could have possibly gone. My doctor stood there, momentarily stunned, and then got on her knees in front of me and poured her heart out about being a mom and her struggles with her career and family and how this isn't abnormal. Then she put me on drugs.

With the anti-depressants, emotions left the equation, which left me alone with logic. I had a little mental check list when worries would arise:  Can I fix this? If yes, can I fix this right this very second? If no, find something else to do. 

I began to kick.

When my kids were learning to swim, we'd endlessly say, "kick, kick, kick, kick, kick, kick" as we encouraged them through the water, so I began say it to myself when life was hard, which, at this point, was every minute of every day. Kick, kick, kick. Just keep kicking and you'll get somewhere. So I kept kicking.

It took SO MUCH KICKING. Man, it's not easy work, that kick-kick-kicking. Sometimes I was only treading water and sometimes I was certain I was drowning and sometimes the waves forced me to retreat back to my life raft the bed, but I kept kick-kick-kicking because at that point, it was the only plan I had.

And in bits and pieces, I would find little slivers of happiness and I realized I needed to HOLD ON TO THESE. I needed to scoop these up and keep them and remember that they were evidence that there was more on the horizon. To keep kick-kick-kicking.

Eventually, after five million years of kicking (maybe it was less, I'm bad at math), I made it back to dry land. I finally remembered how to be happy often enough that I realized I was missing other emotions that had dulled. I went to the doctor to get off of the meds and stood on that new found, firm, real ground on shaky, uncertain legs. I still had no real plan, I had no real stuff, I had no real short blurb about who I was or what I did in life and it was still scary but in a real and gloriously beautiful way. I feel so lucky to have lost it all because that's when I truly found myself.

And if I had a time machine, I would go back to that version of me researching the lives of children without mothers and whisper, "Within five years you will be crying happy tears over the beauty of sunsets. You will get choked up by baby shampoo commercials. You will experience a delicious shudder when your feet hit the sand. You will feel overcome with choking panic that you ever wanted to leave. You will love more and feel more and do more and be more because you went through all of this," and then I'd hug her and maybe give her a bit of a "Get your shit together!" shake because, come on now, she totally needed both.

I still have no plan. I drive a crappy car and live in a little house that isn't mine. I don't have a ton of stuff. My job description varies and my income is a joke. I know now that I know nothing. And I have never been happier -- as soon as I let go of my plan, I found my way.

So if you ever find yourself feeling hopeless please keep kick-kick-kicking, my friends, you will get somewhere soon.



This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project, to learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!   

 http://momastery.com/carry-on-warrior/

Monday, April 7, 2014

Day at the Beach

We were at the beach Saturday for sunset when little kid came running up with something green and heavy in his arms.

"What does he have? Is that a coconut?"

"I think it's a watermelon?"

"It can't be a watermelon."

But it was a watermelon. He was laughing like a maniac as he zigged and zagged back and forth on the beach before unceremoniously dumping it at my feet. We were all cracking up by then because his insane laughter was infectious and the whole scenario was so strange.

As the watermelon rolled on the ground in front of me, a little triangle shaped plug popped out.

"Is that a...note? In the watermelon?"

"A note? In the watermelon?"

I peered inside and sure enough, there was a soggy, carefully folded piece of paper...inside the watermelon.

What the hell.

I carefully pried it out with my fingertips and slowly unfolded it, draping it over my chair to dry and praying that the only thing on it was watermelon juice.

Mr. Ashley told me to throw it away. CAN YOU IMAGINE? Throwing away a note you found folded up in a watermelon? He's a mad man. I carefully preserved it, scrunching myself up in the corner of my beach chair so it wouldn't touch me.


I just unfolded it to transcribe it to you though and it smells, so maybe he's right, maybe I should have thrown it away after reading it the first time.  


It says:
Dear Yemaya, 
I writing to you this letter because I need your help in take (guy's name) out of prison. I want a nice and healthy life with him and my son and his. I love this man, he is good to me and trys to help me anyway he can. He is not a bad man, made a bad choice but has paid for the mistake. Please give us a chance to live and love each other. I pray to my God and the saints to help him. Please I would like to change my life to be happy and I know he would do that for me. Please forgive him the wrong he did. I write to you with my heart in your hand to help us in chance to live what I have of life left until I go home to live with him. Please forgive.

and is signed with her name.

Kind of a sad climax to my exciting Scooby Doo mystery.

A quick google search reveals that Yemaya "is the great mother who lives and rules over the seas. Water is essential to life, so without Yemaya, life on earth wouldn't be possible." That's from a Santeria website. So, I don't know if little kid interrupted some voodoo magic or if our interference has ruined this poor desperate person's chances at happiness or not, but it made for a really odd day at the beach.  

I wish I could send her a watermelon back telling her to find happiness in herself, for her son. 

Super weird though, I couldn't make this kind of stuff up. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Strengths and Weaknesses

As little kid was showing off his new found ability to figure out square roots, I commented that as a pair of brothers they were awesome at everything since one's strength was the other's weakness and vice versa.

"What do you mean?" Big Kid asked.

"Just that together you will know it all! Like me and daddy. I'm naturally good at reading/writing/spelling and he's naturally good at math and...."

"Just math, pretty much," Mr. Ashley finished for me.

"Math and...muscles!" little kid added.

"Man, you guys are a tough crowd," Mr. Ashley said, shaking his head.

"I still like you, dad," Big Kid offered.

"Thanks, Big Kid. I like you too," he said with a sigh.


Later that night I told Mr. Ashley that I had gained a few pounds and asked whether he thought it was muscle I'm gaining from doing a 30 day yoga challenge at work, or from candy.

"Probably a little of both," he answered all too honestly.

"Ugh. I should have done a clean eating challenge at the same time."

"Maybe you should just stop eating candy for like a week and see how that goes."

I considered that briefly. "Eh. I don't know. I'm thinking no," and then I ate half a bag of marshmallows on the way to yoga and the other half on the way home.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Epilogue

I can't believe it's been over 2 weeks since I've posted. I thought I've been doing pretty well, all things considered, but I'm just now starting to see the broken bits and pieces of things I have neglected or forgotten.

Like laundry. Everywhere.

It's like waking up after a huge party--slightly fuzzy, ill and disoriented, trying to figure out whose house you're in and why it's such a mess. And then realizing it's your house. And remembering that the party wasn't fun at all.

And you still have to clean it all up.

I slept for that one week, which was amazing. It's like my brain knew we had to have space between everything that happened and the rest of real life and it threw the emergency shut-off switch. The next week was hard though. I felt emotionally raw and my normal daily tasks felt impossible. People would complain about random things, minor complaints, valid complaints, and it was hard not to scream, "THIS IS NOT IMPORTANT!! I can assure you that it's not! I now know what is important and this. is. not. it!" But I would smile and nod and agree that yes, this was a problem and offer my sympathy or solution. I varied between wanting to blurt out what I had been through and also constantly trying to protect people from it.

No, I wasn't here last week. No, I didn't go on the retreat. No, the kids weren't on spring break. No, I wasn't away on vacation. Aw, that's nice that you missed me, I missed everyone. Yes, I haven't been here for two weeks, it has been a while. Where was I? My dad died. (Boom!) Yeah, it was sad. It sucked. I'm glad to be back.

I tried to protect you, sweet people who care about me but aren't necessarily in the know. I tried to save you from that, "Ah, fuck," feeling that would wash over your face when we finally got there, when I could save you no more. But you had to know. And I don't mean that in a snarky, wish-you'd-not-asked kind of way, I mean that these people noticed my absence, missed me, and have an interest in my life. It is a good thing. It is a fortunate thing. It was a difficult thing.

I cried hot, quiet, trailing tears every time I closed my eyes in yoga class. I had to remind myself to make normal people faces when working. I pretty much only ate applesauce in squeeze packs and little discs of cheese and the small offerings of coke and candy Mr. Ashley continued to bring. I stopped sleeping at night.

And one night, when I was in that odd space between asleep and awake, where you can feel the room around you but you aren't fully mentally there, my dad pulled up a seat next to me. A cooler, more specifically, which is weird but actually not that weird at all if you know my dad. I was so excited to see him, so thrilled to hear what he was going to say to me because I could tell he was about to talk...that I woke up.

Ugh. I woke up. Woke up! How could I have woken up?

I wept against my will all day long the next day, through yoga and work and life. I felt like I had missed an opportunity. It felt like I had missed many opportunities. It felt like the overall theme of my life is one of missed opportunities.

Why do opportunities have to be so damned tricky in the first place? Slippery bastards.

My mom asked what color the cooler was and I told her it was red. She told me that his work cooler, from his job as a medical courier (a job that he loved with an odd intensity, a job that kept him alive) was red. If you can do whatever you want in the afterlife, he is probably still doing that. My dad, medical courier of the afterlife.

I spent all of that night and many of the next trying to get to that in-between place of awake and asleep. The result was a cessation of sleep after a full week of overdosing on it.

We had a memorial dinner for him and sprinkled his ashes off of our city's pier. We walked its length under the cover of darkness, to perform a beautiful, dreadful, not-quite-legal chore. We grouped up in a corner and waited for my dear husband to retrieve my phone from our far parked car, so we could have music. While we waited, my mom commented that it would be nice if there were dolphins and my brother and I leaned against the pier's railing and laughed at the seemingly outlandish request.

"Yeah, really, dad...we couldn't get some dolphins? You couldn't send us a freaking porpoise? I mean, what else is he doing that he can't arrange for a fleet of dolphins to greet us?" As our chuckles died down I heard a commotion below us and looked down to see...a dolphin. Not just swimming by quietly as dolphins usually do, but breathing noisily and splashing directly beneath us for a moment, long enough for us to see its blowhole sink back under the water as it swam away.

It was pretty impressive. It still feels slightly impossible. My mom managed to miss it entirely.

We played the songs he passed to, Ralph Stanley's "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "My God is Real" by Krishna Das while we quickly and quietly sent my dad on his final journey, away on the current of the Gulf of Mexico.

A small group of fishermen and tourists remained with us at a respectful distance, observing us
and listening to the music. As my husband struggled with lighting the sky lanterns we had brought, one of them stepped forward.

"You can be ticketed for that, the fine for it is $150," he said, haltingly.

"That's okay, we'll pay it," I replied.

He joined our small group without further hesitation, helping to hold the lantern while it filled with hot air, lifting it to catch the breeze and float away. We all watched in silence, the whole end of the pier watching the ascent of the lantern, as "Let it Be" echoed around us. It was beautiful and perfect and painful, like life. The kids cried while the adults sat in tired, overwhelmed, peaceful, lovely silence.

Memorial lantern collage

little kid went home and drew a picture of the pier and of the moon reflecting off of the water.

It says, "Sadly, gramps died from long cancer. We threw flowers on the water and lit lanterns for him."

It broke my already broken heart with its sweetness.



We went camping in the Keys last weekend, a trip we had planned before everything happened and one I was dreading since everything happened. I am usually the packer and preparer and did a solid C- job at it this time. It was exactly what I needed, though -- the sun, salt, family and play. The time to think and talk and nap and work and play and be a real person who was physically away from it all.

So despite the fact that this will never truly end for me, I feel safe to say that I'm enough in the land of the living to not only pass for, but to truly count as, a real person again. I am picking up the broken bits and pieces and cleaning up. I'm finding things funny and people easy and work enjoyable. I am awake. I am doing the laundry. Things are getting back to normal even though they'll always be (and I'll always be) different now.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Small Successes

Today was my first day back at work and my first foray out into the real world.

Yesterday was supposed to be my first day back but I woke up and thought of all of the things I would have to do (mainly, put on pants and brush my hair) and decided it simply wasn't physically possible. That I could put on pants OR brush my hair and I could drive to work OR work but that I couldn't do any combination of those things.

Right now I am only capable of:

1. Not wearing pants
2. Watching House of Cards
3. Napping

I don't ever cry, I just sleep. People greet me cautiously with comfort, as if I might cry, and I want to assure them that I am way too busy trying to stay awake; that they are safe. I don't know if I'm catching up on all of the rest I missed last week or if I have sudden onset narcolepsy or if my brain is simply not being a jerk to me for once but I sleep from around 9pm-8am and then still need a morning and late afternoon nap. It is ridiculous and delicious, these deep rests without dreams.

But because I love my job at the yoga studio and was curious about how the outside world is these days, I pulled my hair into a (truly) messy ponytail and went and I'm glad I did. It was worth the effort of putting on pants. I don't know how worth it my presence was for them, since I spent an inordinate amount of time carefully re-folding blankets and arranging items by color and staring at things instead of catching up on more pressing issues but it was good for me, as I love the people and the quiet there. And I love color-coordinating.

Also, I stayed awake for a record-breaking 5 hours in a row today, which is great progress. I am even wearing pants right now (mostly because I'm too tired to take them off but I will still celebrate it as a success).

I am slowly transitioning back to the land of the living, full of reluctance and hope.

But right now I think I'll go to sleep.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

On the Road Again

So, it's over now. After the intensity, and drama, and action and inaction in waiting, and the struggle, the absence of all of "it", and him, seems impossible and bizarre in its own way.

On Thursday morning, after an unbearable night of realizing it was easier to be in the room with him than at home and in my own head (and after some late night texts assuring my mom that if there are ghosts there, she's really not interesting enough for them to bother) I packed a bag and moved in to hospice; my mother and I creating the saddest sorority of wondering and worrying and waiting as we helped care for him, the most dramatic and often horrifying slumber party of all time.

I ran home to shower and out for Starbucks only once before realizing that the outside world was even more difficult than that darkened room. Seriously, people playing tennis at the country club next door? You can just PLAY A GAME at a time like this? Under that traitor of a shining sun? Do you even know what some people are dealing with while you enjoy your sunshiney day? Bastards. Everywhere.

It was just too cruel "out there."

So I stopped going out. My husband brought my children to me and we enjoyed dinner at the dining room in the hospice house each night before retiring to the formal living room to wrestle and snuggle on the couches while watching Cartoon Network. I came up with plans to slay evil cheetahs with my 4-year-old nephew who happens to be the real Spiderman. I checked up on homework projects, because little kid dressing up as George Washington was of paramount importance during this time. I would hug and kiss them goodnight in the lobby and return to the room I snuck back to at least twice during this "family" time.

The days all run together, the endless hours, and I want to forget them and never forget them all at once. I'm not sure what my brain is going to do about that, I hope it works it out satisfactorily.

At one point I feared death with an intensity, and it was a concept that never really bothered me previously. It seemed so unfair that the heart could continue once the body had given up and as I looked down at what was left of  my dad, I told myself that there was no God. I believe there is something but there could not possibly be a benevolent, all-knowing being out there looking out for each of us. I felt alone, I felt like we are all alone, and life really is just what we make of it and that's that. I made plans to convince my husband that I could never let myself end up like this, to make sure I never ended up like this, to have the courage to help me not ever end up in this kind of diseased purgatory if I couldn't take care of the situation myself.

It was grim.

Things shifted though and I eventually decided it wasn't that bad. That I was in no hurry for him to go because I could sit here and hold his hand for a few more hours, a few more days once I realized how final the end would really be.

That there was a sacredness in this time of waiting.

The nurses would make me promise to get some sleep and I would promise that I would and they would promise they would wake me if there was any change and I promised that my fear that there would be change was exactly what prohibited sleep. THAT I COULD SLEEP FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE but could only hold his hand now. I was sleeping just fine on these two upright hospital chairs with a sheet, my hand jammed through the metal bars of the bed rail, there was really no reason to retire to my hospital bed (that many people have died on), thanks.

So we would listen to country music and hold hands and occasionally talk about whatever, and I know he could hear me even though he wasn't really there, and my brain would tell me this was scary and my heart would tell me this was my dad.

On the last night I knew it was the last night and after dinner I asked the boys if they'd like to say goodnight. little kid wanted to but was afraid, so he stood behind the curtain. I went around to my dad to loudly tell him that little kid wanted to say goodnight to him and heard the little voice from the other side of the curtain say, "Goodnight, Gramps. I'll see you--uh, hmm, I love you. Goodnight," and my heart broke into 9 million little pieces.

A nurse came in that night and shaved my dad's face and washed and combed his hair, a final act of kindness for a condemned man, and one that I will never forget for as long as I live. To give him that dignity, and to give us the chance to see a shadow of his former self was such a thoughtful and compassionate gift. Instead of the vague non-answer most nurses gave when asked for an estimate, she told me that we were in the last quarter run here, probably hours, and I told her I knew but was so grateful to hear her say that.

When I reluctantly, exhaustedly retired to my own hospice bed that night, I told my long-dead relatives that since they'd waited this long, a few more hours wouldn't hurt. I selfishly hoped he'd still be there in the morning, and he was.

I was up that Sunday morning at 5:30am. The sky was pink from the sun rise and it was reflecting off of the lake outside of his room, which had fog skimming over the top of it. I knew today would be the day. I opened the blinds and tidied the room and played our music and washed his hands and tidied up his nails. I told him that Steve Jobs said "Oh wow" three times as he passed and that I was excited about whatever was next for him. I told him to say hello to certain lost relatives of mine and to send me a sign from the other side, preferably in the form of making his lotto number finally win. I told him that we loved him and knew he loved us. I read the relevant Psalms scriptures. I held his hand and my mom and I rested our feet on his bed and talked about family memories while we drank coffee.

When Ralph Stanley's "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" started, the pause between his breaths deepened and we knew. We said our goodbyes softly, calmly, with me still holding his hand. He took his final breath to the song, "My God is Real" and the whole scene felt holy and beautiful.

An answer to my question doubting God's existence? Maybe so.

As his breath left, mine returned. He immediately looked at peace and more like his real self. I felt deep relief for him, even while feeling great sadness for us. We sat for several minutes, in awe of how peaceful and lovely it was, how very perfect it was, before I went to get the nurse.

"He...went," I told her, unable to say anything else.

"Your dad?" She asked, knowing.

Yes. My dad.Went.

We later asked her to help dress him. Being a long time Willie Nelson fan and a lover of shock humor, my dad used to tease that we should roll him up and smoke him when he died, inspired by the song of the same name. We insisted that we would most definitely not be doing that, but I did buy him a shirt that says that for Christmas, which he loved. I guess we should have explained that to the nurse because she came out looking rather concerned.

"Thank you so much for doing that," I said.

"You're welcome. So...is that a new shirt?"

"No, I got it for him for Christmas."

"And...he liked...that?"

My mom and I had a quiet fit of laughter in the room afterwards and then a minute of panic as to whether it was too distasteful. The whole scenario was right up his alley though, I have absolutely no doubt that he would have loved it. We decided not to change it or explain it.

The guy who picked him up was my dad's type of guy--a little rough around the edges, funny, an ironic and worn tattoo of a devil on his forearm. He liked the shirt. In our brief time together, he happened to bring up the fact that he had scattered his parents' ashes in the same place my dad requested...a logistically tricky, not quite legal place. We appreciated the advice and felt he was in good hands and gave this stranger a warm hug after saying our final goodbyes.

As we stepped back into the sunshine and back into the land of the living, I turned to my mom. "That was good," I said as we hugged. She wondered how often people said that upon leaving there but agreed that it was.

And I went home and cried my eyes out, for the loss of him, and for everything he went through, and for everything we experienced, and all of the emotions and the unfairness of it all. I cried and asked my husband, "How will I do this?" meaning how will I manage all of these thoughts and memories and emotions for the rest of my life...and then I slept for 18 solid, blessed hours.

The human body is an amazing thing. And I'm not afraid of death as much as disease, and I know I am not alone, and I know I can do anything, and I need another nap or ten.

I will miss you, dad. It was an honor to spend the last week, and such a spiritual experience, with you. I'm so sad that you've left us, but I'm glad that you got on the road again and are going places that you've never been, and I feel so grateful to have seen you off on your journey.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Still

I'm still here. Still doing it. Checking to see if dad is breathing, checking to see if I'm breathing. We're both breathing and I'm not sure either of us wants to be. We're listening to Willie Nelson and enjoying laborious and mostly spilled sips of water, and occasionally playing the most depressing game of charades in the history of mankind as I struggle to understand his last requests.

Thankfully, hospice is full of real, live grown-ups. Upon this realization, the complete terror abated for the most part but it's still lurking around, reminding me that this is scary and horrible and we can't do it, even while we're doing it. While trying to fall asleep on my roll away bed at the foot of his, I would find myself hoping he would still be here in the morning and then praying that he wouldn't. This constant push and pull of the inevitable and what is the best for him, and the unthinkable and what is the best for me. Hoping for the end seems both insane and humane.

On the advice of the pamphlets they keep bestowing on us, I've told him he can go. I've promised him that what's next is a great adventure, and that he already won this fight and it's time for the next big thing. Last night he told me he had to go, and I thought maybe we were finally on the same page so I said, "Yes, you should go. Go ahead and go, dad, we've got it covered here," but then he asked where the car was and was trying to get up. I told him he was being picked up and that he was ready, that whenever he wanted, he could go. But I guess his ride still isn't here.

The hospice people are so nice. Sometimes I'm unsure if they are trying to keep me company or if they need me to keep them company. Okay, I'll pet your therapy dog, I say more for their sake than mine, wishing my hands weren't about to smell like dog. Okay, we can say a prayer, I say before retreating back to my own thoughts as they start. Okay, we can talk about how long I've lived here or the island I grew up on, if you want. I've even considered crying for their sake, because I sense an air of concern and expectation that I should. I encourage my mom to run her errands in the morning so she can miss these well-intentioned but exhausting social endeavors. These are good people, these are amazing people, I am just not capable of being one of them right now and luckily, I'm sure they understand.

And every few minutes, I think, "Oh God." It's not a prayer, or a plea, or an admonishment. It's more like my new version of breathing. I've tried actual praying but it doesn't bring me any peace. Instead I visualize every loved one I've ever lost, in every minute detail I can recall, each one of them individually, and then I beg them as a group to please come get my dad. That if I've ever needed them, if he's ever needed them, if we've ever needed them, it's now. That we're tired and we can't do this and to please come now and save us all.

And I spill water on him and ask, "What did you say?" so often that I cringe to hear it and sit here and listen to Willie Nelson with my dad while we wait for his ride.

I dread its arrival, with every ounce of my being, and yet I hope it comes soon.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

In Limbo

I wasn't sure how to handle my dad's impending death with my boys. I've had plenty of practice thanks to our streak of bad luck with pets but I'm still not sure there's a right way to do this. How do you gently break the news that their gramps is dying?

I had been mulling this over in my mind time and time again, trying to figure out if transparency was the best way or if a surprise would be easier to digest. But the other day while driving in the car, little kid asked (as he does every day) if gramps was better yet.

I simply said, "Gramps isn't going to get better."

Big Kid quietly sighed and looked out the window. little kid looked perplexed.

"No? Well, does he feel better though?"

I wasn't sure if he got it, or if this was the right way. "Well, he's sleeping a lot now," I offered.

"At least he's getting good rest," he said, sounding tentative. It didn't feel like a success but it was all I could manage.

I'm in the thick of it now though, this muck of life, the residuals of it clinging to everything and all of us and it's overwhelming and unbelievable and appalling and indescribable. The other day he asked again, "Is gramps feeling better yet?" most likely in response to my quiet weeping and I again said, "Gramps isn't going to get better. That's how cancer works sometimes. Some people don't get better."

He put his arm around me and rubbed my back. I willed myself not to cry, remembering how scared I felt when I saw my dad cry about the death of his parents and brother.

"Do you know what that means, little kid; when I say that?" I asked, with a hint of desperation in my voice.

"Yeah, mama, I know. And I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for you. That's really sad," he said softly and sweetly. Instead of staying strong and keeping it together, I buried my face in his little neck and cried quietly while he rubbed my back. Just for a minute, just one delicious, ill-decided moment of comfort.

Yesterday was the meeting with hospice, a meeting put off for far too long due to his wild and impractical hopes of continued treatment. I had an intense moment of wanting to stand up and apologize, to explain that there's been a terrible mistake because I'm not a real, live grown-up despite my ability to fake it at times, and that I simply wasn't going to be able to do this at all, and then I wanted to run and run and run and run like Forrest Gump going cross country, just to run until I fell down (which wouldn't have taken long, as I'm recovering from the stomach flu since life is a bitch like that.)

I went to K-mart to run an errand too morbid to share and felt light headed and sick and didn't know if it was from the flu, the situation, or K-mart. Naturally, they chose that minute to test the fire alarms and despite the sirens and lights matching the intense urgency I felt on the inside, I wanted to throw myself on the ground and demand that it ALL stop that second--not just the sirens and lights, but everything, as if the fire alarm maintenance people at K-mart could just put everything to rest for me. An exhausted, maniacal laugh/sob tried to escape at the absurdity of it all but I knew that would be the end of me, that if I leaked any emotion at all, I would deflate completely so I quietly finished my purchase and did the whole, "No, I don't want a Kmart rewards card," routine as if I wasn't about to rip out of my own skin and run screaming.

The thought of what's happening haunts my every second, even while asleep. All of that complicated relationship shit? It goes right out the window when you begin to realize life is never going to be the same, and that all you can do is wait and slowly watch this come for all of us. Sure, I've had five years to consider it but it's impossible to conceptualize until you're actively doing it. It's scary and horrible and scary and horrible.

And scary and horrible.

Every few minutes alarm bells go off in my head and I take inventory of what's wrong. What can I fix? My dad is dying, I can't fix that. Then I realize I am not breathing, that my brain is so very busy that it has seemingly left my respiratory functions to fend for themselves. So I take a big gulp of air and feel a moment of success at having fixed that. Then again I remember that my dad is dying and I can't fix that. It's a cycle that doesn't stop, what should be the natural cycle of my breathing has become a constant battle of its own.

When not in action, I feel paralyzed. My body feels like it is weighed down and I feel on the verge of sleep at all moments, but never actually able to sleep. My kids and cats snuggle me constantly, sensing that I need it, knowing that for once, talk of Minecraft and Pokemon might actually be the distraction that I need. I try to listen generously while my brain continues its internal, non-stop, not pretty fireworks show, knowing that I'd rather think of Minecraft this time, I really would.

My dad often wakes up weeping and I wonder, is he thinking of the end at all times? Was he just dreaming of it?

And then I wake up weeping and I know that he is, that he was.

He's still him, despite no longer resembling the version of him that I know. He fell down the other morning and my brother ran to the room and asked, "Are you alright?" and he dryly replied, "Well, I've been better." Ever himself. He occasionally shouts, "One less dog," because his Chihuahua is too attentive of a nurse. Upon seeing me yesterday, he asked how my cat's tongue was (because my cat burned his tongue and needs daily vet visits in the midst of all of this), barely able to speak at all anymore but still curious about this mundane detail of life.

It's killing me. My childhood best friend has been through this twice and a long time ago when I told her she was strong and I wasn't sure I would be, she said that you just do what you have to do, and people interpret it as being strong. She told me that I would do it, in a voice with no uncertainty. I'm still not so sure.

In the meantime, I wake up in the middle of the night already crying, feeling too heavy to change positions and reminding myself to breathe. I wake my husband up with my silent sobbing and tell him that it's scary and it's horrible and it's scary and it's horrible and that maybe I can't do it but I have to but how can I?

The wonderful people in my life want to be there for me, want to help, are probably waiting for me to reach out to them and I just can't form words. I can barely breathe, I certainly can't say what I need--what I need is for this not to be happening. I need a time machine, I need my brain back, I need to breathe, I need Kmart to be quiet, I need people to know I'm not a real, live grown-up, I need this to happen quickly and quietly and to stop being so scary and horrible.

But no one can fix that.

So I remind myself to breathe and I do what I think a real grown-up would do and I guess that's working for now.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Coaching

So the Odyssey of the Mind competition went.....oookaaay. There was one really good part, which was the ending.

Neither of my kids made it to the competition because they were still busy barfing. I drove the rented minivan full of props up there by myself and encouraged, cheered on, and instructed kids that weren't my own all day long, with hours of waiting between each division of the tournament. It's a good thing I really like those kids.

And they got it done. I thought they did alright but according to their score, the judges disagreed. Oh well. The kids thought they did great, and said they had fun doing it and that they were sad to see it end. I am not necessarily sad to see it end (at all) but I did decide to have a party for my team on Tuesday...maybe because I might miss them a little bit. I couldn't let that crazy day be our good-bye.

And during their party, I will maybe forget to tell them their actual numerical score (I sent them home before we got the results, since it was late, taking forever, and we had a long drive back). I will play up the positive feedback and add some of my own and feed them pizza and cupcakes and this will have ended well.

This will have ended well FOREVER because I'm not doing it again, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER.

Amen.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Odyssey

So, I coached another Odyssey of the Mind team even though every volunteer position I have ever taken on has ended up being a total nightmare.

This was a good reminder of that.

I love the kids. I always love the kids. I rock with kids even if they sometimes drive me crazy.

But the janitor threw away all of their materials, set pieces, and props. I had to chase a bunch of people around to get the team officially registered. Many of the meetings were extremely frustrating and felt unproductive because working with kids, on a tight schedule, in a program where they have to do everything without help is some frustrating and unproductive shit some days.

But we persevered. There was talk of forfeit when their stuff got tossed, but as a team, they voted to rally. There were thoughts of just...not chasing people around to get the team registered and to go ahead and let the blame of not being able to compete fall on those who needed chasing. There were (brief) moments of thinking maybe just letting them fail might be a lesson in itself--a lesson on the benefits of productive behavior and team work.

But, man, I love them. Frustrating and all. They're so clever and funny and determined and creative.We kept going. Sometimes I drank after the meetings but we kept going.

Our last two practices were this week. The first one, I was convinced they were doomed. It just didn't go well. The odds had been stacked against them and despite their best effort, they just seemed unlikely to experience any great success and barely seemed like they even cared. The second meeting, they pulled it together. In a remarkable way. I felt so much relief. I knew they could do it.

little kid is on another team coached by a friend and we have commiserated about the trials and tribulations of this labor of love. little kid's skit is hilarious and he has a big part in it. Big Kid is also a huge part of his team, both in performance and in leadership.

The competition is all day tomorrow, in a city about an hour away.

Big Kid started barfing tonight.

As I held a bucket for him to puke into, mind racing with how my team was going to come back from this, little kid woke up and started puking.

Mr. Ashley rushed to his side with another bucket and we looked at each other over the hunched backs of our vomiting children and shook our heads and then, inexplicably, because what the hell else could we do, we laughed.

I feel like I might barf, but I don't know if that is because I feel like I've done all of this for nothing or because I'm next. I have all of their props and paperwork and I absolutely have to be there, regardless of what happens. Even if I have to bring a barf bag.

What are the statistical odds? Really, I'm asking, I don't math.

My poor kids. All 14 of them.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Presidential Power

"Who shot Abraham Lincoln?" little kid asked.

Big Kid answered, "John Wilkes Booth."

"Why?"                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
"I guess he didn't like how he was doing things. You know, if I could bring anyone back to life, it would be Abraham Lincoln."

I was surprised, "Really? I would have guessed Ben Franklin or Teddy Roosevelt. Why Abraham Lincoln?" I was dying to know if Big Kid had some big civil rights question or assassination mystery to solve.

"I'd bring him back to watch Lincoln: Vampire Hunter with him. Just to see what he thinks."

I laughed. "He'd probably think it was pretty weird. Like, 'Really? After all that I did, this is how they've chosen to remember me?'"

"I'd bring back George Washington. He would be the best at killing zombies," little kid interrupted.

"That makes no sense, this has nothing to do with zombies," Big Kid clarified.

"Still couldn't hurt to bring someone back who could fight zombies real good. He was a war general. I'd ask him how he died, nothing I read ever tells me."

"We looked it up on Wikipedia, remember? It sounded like pneumonia and then they kept draining blood out of him and we decided that was probably the ultimate problem." I reminded him.

"Oh right. Well I'd still pick him because of the zombies. What if you brought him back and then he just had a heart attack and died of the surprise? That would be a bummer." I agreed that yes, that would be a bummer.

"I think Ben Franklin would think we were lazy but would be amazed by the technology. I don't think Lincoln would be impressed with us or the movie. We're kind of terrible people," Big Kid offered.

"Really? We're doing pretty well with civil rights, I think, comparatively speaking. He might be impressed," I said.

"Maybe," he conceded. "But definitely not with the movie."

No, probably not with the movie.

I think it's safe to say that if we ever get the power to bring one person back from the dead, my kids shouldn't be the ones who get to choose who and why.

Reading Level

So Big Kid's teacher approached me and told me he was assessed at reading at a 11th grade in the 9th month level. He's in 5th grade.

This is not a humble brag because I thinks it's a little ridiculous and I don't really understand the metric. I will brag all day long about how he loves to read, but I don't really care what level he's reading at.

She said at school he now has to read books that are 11th grade or higher. Kind of a problem when he's an emotionally young 5th grader--this is a child who refuses to read Hunger Games because he disagrees with the premise.  She said the school was having to order books specifically for him and I asked that I have some input in this process, and offered to buy the books, but didn't hear back. So I guess that was a no.

He was pissed about the assessment though. He was certain it meant more work and no more kids' books. I assured him that was not true, it just meant actual literature--that THIS is when he'd learn to love all of the different combinations of words in the world. Then I promised he could read whatever he wanted at home.

He got in the car the next day and handed me his first assigned book. By Ayn Rand.

"Tell me it's not boring, mom. This IS boring."

I read the first two pages. "It's boring. Terribly so. A lot of people like her though. I am not one of them, but maybe you will be. She has some...very different ideas on society than I do but feel free to form your own opinion. You might like it."

He did not. I told him he didn't have to continue to read it, that I would tell the teacher it was too dry and philosophically mature for a 5th grader, but he insisted that he would finish. In the meantime, I bought a stack of stuff I'd rather he read. He started with "Of Mice and Men."

As a Steinbeck lover, this thrilled me. When he was a newborn, I spent two weeks reading East of Eden out loud to him, more because I didn't know what else to do with him than any attempt at Baby Geniusing.

He came out of his room on the first night. "Mom, I just want to tell you something about this book."

Ugh. I was a bit worried we were going to go the way of Ayn Rand, and ruin his love of Steinbeck before he was actually old enough to appreciate it.

"Steinbeck gets REALLY wordy with descriptions. I like that about him but some people don't. If you don't, feel free to skim that stuff, I promise the story is still good." I assured him.

"No, it's good. It's just that...there's curse words. I like the book and I want to read it but thought you should know in case you forgot."

Oh, Big Kid. Wonderful, honest Big Kid.

"Well, John Steinbeck's allowed to curse, baby. You're not. As long as you know that, I don't really care. Sometimes 'bad' words add emotion that is necessary for the story line. A 5th grader doesn't need to add that level of emphasis in his own life, but I really couldn't care less if you read some curse words in a book. You don't have to read it if you don't want to, though."

"To be honest, that's kind of why I want to read it." 

He read it, and he loved it. He was sad at the end. He went on to read Animal Farm and is now reading Lord of the Flies. 

I gave birth to my own book club. And now I'm probably one of the few 5th grade parents seeking out great literature that includes curse words.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lean In

I had the longest day today. I had to be at the studio to train someone. Then I had to be at a lunch meeting for (gasp!) a new social media marketing job. Then I had to coach that Odyssey of the Mind Team. Then I had to go back to work at the studio because we had a visiting teacher who is a big deal, and we needed help checking people into the class.

It was exhausting and chaotic. One of my friends from teacher training asked if I was going to take the visiting teacher's class and I said I was so freaking tired that I truly didn't think I could. She said it would be good for me. I wanted to point out that 90 minutes of hot power yoga on an empty stomach in an exhausted, dehydrated person might really not be a good idea but instead I said I would lie down the entire time if I wanted to and no one better say anything and she agreed that would work. She gets me.

But once I was on my mat, I gave it my all. Our teacher was Sid McNairy who looks more like a football player than a yoga teacher and he filled the room, both physically and with his presence. It was so nice to just get lost in the sweaty, real, grounded, physical practice. Sure, my vision got a bit wavy at one point and I checked the thermostat and its clock a few times (I shouldn't be allowed to practice in that corner of the room. It got up to 96 degrees if you're curious) but I kept going. Until sweat was running into my eyes and blinding me and every bit of me was trembling.

We got into half pigeon near the end, which is a hip opening pose with one shin parallel to the front of the mat, and the other straight out behind, folding forward over the front knee and breathing into the comfortable discomfort, as they like to call it. He wandered over to the ipod to turn it on and then this gigantic, powerful man began to softly sing "Lean on Me" and invited us to join him. Slowly and softly at first, probably feeling a little unsure about singing during yoga class, people joined in. Not long after, I think most of the 66 students were singing along.

It was so lovely. Probably like church if church were full of sweaty, half naked, trembling people who take the lord's name in vain during chair pose (fucking chair pose).

Church should totally be more like that, by the way.

Anyway, as I sat there with my forehead resting on my arms, I was overcome with emotion. I thought of the friends on either side of me, and those that I've made through yoga, and my "real life" friends, and my family, and I also thought a lot about you guys. About how many people I have to lean on. Shit. If that's not lucky, what is? What more can you really even ask for? I've spent so long feeling alone and not only am I NOT alone, I never was alone. I just didn't realize what was available.

I saw a friend today and she asked how I was and I told her I needed a hug. Not because she would expect a hug or I felt like I had to give a hug...because I needed a hug. And it felt really good, to literally lean on someone for a moment.

I have people to lean on. I need them.

Thank you for being so giving of yourselves through your comments and even just your presence.

Thank you for letting me lean on you.

Brainstorming

I'm so tired right now that I just had a completely crazed, day-dreamy thought that if I lost one of my legs, people would HAVE to understand my need to slow down. I was starting to think of the easiest and least painful way to lose a leg before I realized this was probably not one of my better plans.

I'm that tired though.

I made a list and I have 8 jobs now. Some small and some that don't really pay me, at all, but 8 different people/places that expect things from me professionally and semi-frequently. How the hell did that happen when my main career goal was NOT to ever work again? But quitting 8 jobs seems like a shit load of work. And I like doing each of them, just not all at once.

I could do almost all of them with only one leg though, so that's not a solution after all.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

This is Hard

Life is so messy. Why does something so beautiful have to be so awfully, heart-wrenchingly, terrifyingly messy at the same time?

I may have mentioned, probably around 5 years ago and never again since, that my father has stage 4 (that's the really bad type) colon cancer. Then I mostly stopped thinking about it--of course, that's not really possible but cancer is a sneaky bastard, particularly in this case, and allowed for long moments of coasting quietly through this roller coaster ride for life, and during those moments, I just tried not to think about "it."

"It" is complicated and maybe even more so when the relationship is complicated. My dad is an alcoholic. Not the terrible monster beating and molesting people type, just the selfish, indifferent, occasionally absent kind. Man, this is hard to write. Because it's not cool to say, right? About a dying man. About a dying, not-certifiably terrible man. So not only do I feel limited in speaking of my grief but I feel even more limited because who thinks like this? Who says things like this? What kind of jerk...? I want to delete that last paragraph more than you'll ever know. I want to protect him, and this awful side of me, from you.

There was a moment that I blurted this horrible personal truth out to my hairdresser (the keeper of my soulful secrets) and admitted that there was a time after his diagnosis, that along with our confusion and sadness, the rest of the family felt a bit like he just got a free pass now. Without much familial investment at all over the years, he was going to need us and it would be inhumane to not just drop our former issues and be the kind of people that we would prefer to be in this situation. To be that kind of family, the kind of family we all wished we were, with the devoted wife and children beating their chests and crying to the heavens over the injustice of our lost patriarch.

But again, life is messy. Particularly when any form of addiction is involved.

(And my hairdresser laughed and cried at the same time, hugged me, and told me her story was very much the same and that I should write a memoir of my grief, for people like us. But I think this will suffice. That is why she is the keeper of my secrets, though.)

He has had good times and surprising stretches of being sober where he is enjoyable, and he has had bad times. He can be difficult to be around (this is the diplomatic way of stating this point).

The last time he was in the hospital, we were alone when the doctor came in and lectured him about drinking after his story changed a bit about how much he'd been doing it.

Finally, the elephant in the room had been unleashed.

When the doctor left, my dad said he didn't want to live if he couldn't have a beer with his chicken wings, and I told him that it really was his life and he could live the rest of it however he wanted, but that if he chose that to understand that he was basically choosing suicide--a long drawn out version, but suicide nonetheless since the tumors on his liver left no room for messing around. I reiterated that it was his decision, that it wasn't my life, but that I wouldn't bother with all of the chemotherapy and experimental treatments if he was choosing to give up in this way. I said it with kindness and without judgment, just a matter of fact way to say he was welcome to do that but let's call it what it is.

He quit drinking. For a while.

Through this ordeal, this fantastically shitty ordeal, we are closer than we've ever been in the past. He calls to update me on the progress of his illness and treatment and when sober, he would call frequently and we would talk about how a beer is just not worth it. When he quit calling, I knew.

His doctor called my parents' home at 10pm on Friday night and said based on some blood work he was reviewing, my dad was in liver failure and needed to go to the hospital now. He thought he was having a shunt placed in his liver and when I visited the next morning, we chatted casually about the time of the surgery and hospital food. There was a bright yellow unsigned Do Not Resuscitate form on the bedside table that matched the pallor of his skin and the whites of his eyes.

Since the beginning of his illness, we have this verbal dance that we do. He likes to point out that he will die, I think needing to talk about it but not being sure as to how, and then gives an estimate for that. My job is to acknowledge it and then refute it.

"I could be dead in 6 months," he'd say bluntly, waiting for a reaction.

"Yeah, you could," I'd reply. "Or you could step out the front door and get hit by a bus this afternoon, or you could live another 5 years. They gave you 6 months to live almost 5 years ago, so who knows what other odds you'll beat. You have no way of knowing, no one does."

"There are only two forms of chemo left I can try," was another intro to this conversation. "I could be dead within the year."

"Yeah, that's true, and it's a scary thought," I'd say, taking my turn. "Or this round of chemo could hit the 'reset' button and science could catch up and you could live for years still." That was one of his favorites, we repeated that dialog many times in many different but strikingly similar forms.

But this past weekend they had decided that his liver was inoperable and his favorite nurse gave him a kiss and a hug and tearfully told him it would probably be weeks.

This news was delivered as I sat waiting for the Lego movie, and I left my kids and husband at the theater without a car and drove back to the hospital, all the while thinking, "What do you say to someone who just found out that they are under hospice care?" or even more importantly, "What don't you say to someone who has just found out they are under hospice care?" Don't ask me because I still don't know. I was also wondering on the way there, is there anything harder than seeing your dad cry?

And then I found out that there is.

It's seeing your dad scared out of his mind and trying not to cry.

"They said weeks, but how can they know?" He asked, forehead furrowed, eyes watering.

"They don't know. They said months 5 years ago. No one knows," I said my lines, knowing that they know.

"They said weeks but it could be months, don't you think?"

"You've been feeling great. It could definitely be months," I lied to the yellow man before me.

"But I guess months isn't a whole lot better than weeks," he said with an air of defeat that I hope you'll never witness in your own lives.

"Of course months is a whole lot better than weeks. Every additional day is better."

He nodded.

I told him it must be scary right now and asked if he would rather this or something unexpected and without hesitation he said he would rather this, knowing it was coming. I'm not so sure I agree. From the outside looking in, this is torture of the worst kind.

I pointed out that while he still felt good, he should think of things he would like to do. That we would make it happen.

He would like to work and be with his dogs. That's all. He said he was so glad that they would outlive him, because he couldn't stand to lose one of them--forehead creasing, eyes watering overtime at the thought. He has a tiny, nervous little Chihuahua mix and a Dachshund, to better paint the picture of this "tough farm boy" and his beloved pets.

We spent the rest of the afternoon talking about what money was in what accounts and how my mom will be okay and how weird and morbid funerals are and who to tell and how to tell them and the importance of accepting the help of hospice, like this was a perfectly average way to spend a Saturday with my parents, casually discussing the end of someone's existence with that someone.

In a surprising (and messy) story twist, the liver doctor came in at the end of the day and declared the cancer doctors to be full of doom and gloom and said let's give it a few weeks and see what happens. Told him to go home and have a drink if he'd like. Thanks, guy, good looking out. How's that Hippocratic oath treating you these days?

But he is happy to be at home and with his dogs. He is happy to have his hope for a "few more months" confirmed by an outsider of our regular routine. He is happy to hold on to what is most likely a lie. As far as I know, he did not have that drink.

And in the background the rest of the family has whispered and texted talks of hospice and palliative care and arranges for special food and tries to give him a good balance of space and company. He fell down on Monday while feeling weak and told my mom he thinks it will be days and not weeks. He seemed surprised.

Out of habit, I fell into my role and thought, "It could be weeks, no one knows."

As if days and weeks aren't awfully close as it is.