whirlpooled topics unbackspaced. streams of consciousness. blurts. scribbled notes. outlined ideas. velocity waves. snatches from icloud. because self-editing is a writer’s cowardly way of preventing a reader from fucking the writer's confidence. dates don't matter. memories and moments aren't chronologically marked on the soul.

In Gratitude

I knelt down at Mass this morning. I made the sign of the Cross. And, I started to pray.  I do say the same prayers each morning: Morning Offering, Our Father, Hail Mary, Prayer to Saint Michael, an Act of Contrition. But throughout the day - I just talk to God The Father. Like I’d talk to my best buddy. Only I don’t edit. I just blurt through my day. 

So this morning as I knelt, I began with an Act of Contrition. And then I said to God, “this just sucks. I hate it. Imagine if you were me, wouldn’t you hate she was gone?” And I remembered a lesson my Mother taught me, “Don’t just ask for things. Baby you’ve got to thank God for everything. Even the things you hate.” And so I began: (And this was important to me, so I made myself remember.)

Thank you God my Mother is dead. Now she isn’t suffering anymore. (She had a horrible death.)

Thank you God my Father is dead. He would not have wanted to live without my Mother. 

Thank you God I’m sick.

Thank you God I’m sitting beside my sister Carol. I wouldn’t want to mourn alone.

Thank you God I’m a Roman Catholic.

Thank you God I’m an American.

Thank you God for my house. I’m glad I have a place to live.

Thank you God my fence is falling down. 

Thank you God I can see. And hear. And taste. 

Thank you God I know.

Thank you God I see where you are and what you’ve done. 

Thank you God I know when I’m wrong.

Thank you God I’m not afraid anymore. 

Thank you God I had someone worth missing.

Thank you God my feet hurt. 

Thank you God I still have feet.

Thank you God I’m lonely.

Thank you God I know someone lives on earth besides me.

Thank you God you fixed my teeth.

Thank you God Debora’s coming home.

Thank you God I’m smart.

Thank you God I’ve never felt unloved. I’ve felt unchosen, but never unloved. 

Thank you God I had parents who taught me how to behave.

Thank you God I had parents who taught me how to share.

Thank you God I had parents who taught me it wasn’t mine. 

Thank you God for every spiritual and material thing you’ve ever given me. 

I slid back onto the pew. And I lifted my head up and I felt grateful.

The Knowing Why

It’s important to defend what’s right.
It’s more important to know when you’re wrong.
It’s most important to know why you’re wrong.

Grief

Grief demands to be addressed. As much as hunger. Thirst. 

I can listen to her songs. I don’t grieve. I can see her picture. I don’t grieve. But I grieve while I breathe. Grief is like stepping into a sudden shadow. My soul unexpectedly seems sallow: unhealthy - deprived - bloodless. I feel shaded from the shines. And trapped inside glass. Removed. Grief has drawn me from humanity.

I've Learned ...

I’m typing this on my iPhone. I don’t have the energy to properly edit or to expand. But I feel the need to express.
 
Things I’ve learned:
 
1. Men aren’t allowed to express grief. An outward showing is permissible and welcomed. At the funeral. Any extended time is met with “pull yourself together eyes” or embarrassed expressions from the periphery. Grief doesn’t mean a man is out of control or mentally unbalanced. It means he recognized someone beside himself or aside himself is gone and he’s acknowledging that loss. I find it refreshing when I realize others realize another human being exists. Or existed.
 
2. Men aren’t allowed to caretake their parents. Those who do are considered less than masculine -“mamma’s boys.” I told this fact to my primary care doc this week. His response, “I’ve never known a man who was a caretaker.”

3. My Mother and I had the opportunity to discuss everything before her death. She knew she was dying. It was a lengthy process. I asked her questions. I interviewed her. One question I asked her: an honest assessment of my character. I knew she’d be honest and her words weren’t shaded by jealousy or a devious personal agenda. I asked her to tell me my strengths and my flaws. She answered with candor and without fear of reprisal. It was the greatest gift a human being has given me: the truth.

4. I learned the quality of healthcare my parents received was in direct correlation to my involvement in their care. Their doctors/nurses/physical therapists knew: I cared, was actively involved, watched, and held the professionals to a standard of care. They rose to that occasion. I demanded it. I owed it as the son.
 
5. I learned our elderly are afraid. They’re experiencing everything for the first time too. My Mother used to say, “the greatest gift you can give a child is to remember how you felt at his age.” I gave my parents the gift of remembering they were adults who no longer retained their control: when they ate, drank, moved. I reminded myself they were adults and treated them as adults.

6. I learned not to make death about me. They died. They grieved their lives - each other - their children. I learned the dying grieve. I stepped out of myself and constantly reminded myself that my feelings were secondary. I wasn’t the noun. My job was adverbial.
 
7. I learned no one can have it all. You’re bleased if you’ve found someone willing to share his/her some. And will share your gift of your some.
 
8. I learned sympathy / empathy haven’t adequate words. People struggle with the adjectives on both sides of a coffin. Remember that.

Forced

I sat in the lab at the clinic on Tuesday and I remembered I sat there with my Mother in January.
 
And then I remembered I sat with my Father in the lab last fall. The remembrance shook my soul with a profound sorrow. I realized he was dead.

I didn’t mourn my Father at his death. I was too busy. Too concerned with the care of my Mother. I didn’t have time to grieve; like Lucy grasping at the candy assembly line, I had constant tasks.

Tuesday my tasks were as absent as my Father. And I started to grieve.

My Father was a good man in the shadow of a great woman. How good? He always basked in the shine of his soulmate. He wasn’t jealous; he felt toasty in her warmth. Like a Price Is Right showgirl, he stood aside and directed attention to his prize.
 
When my Father left the police force, he worked in labor relations. A union man. I saw my Dad in his professional set. He was beloved, admired, dynamic, feared. A force.
 
My Father loved classical music, his Rosary, clothes, sports, Austria, handball, his country, police work, his children, and most importantly - Patty.
 
Yesterday the Men’s Club at our parish sent snail mail announcements of the cribbage tournament. Each year my Father and his buddy entered. Each year he didn’t want to go. My Mother insisted. My Mother insisted he played on a bowling team - played pickup basketball games through his 50s - and went fishing. My Dad just wanted to be home. With her. With us. An unhappiest childhood made him grasp his wife and his children. He felt satisfied. Happiest. Content in his matrimonial cocoon.
 
My Dad and I went through a spell when our frictions chafed. Truthfully, I was this problem. My Mother made it quite clear: we were a happy family. I was causing conflict. I could change or leave. Concise. Simple. “If it’s between you and Mac Trost (she called him Mac even to us) you’ll have to go.”

Tuesday I remembered I sat beside my Father. He held my hand. Near his end he’d hold my hand.
 
I miss my Father.

Empty

For the first time since 2017, I’m home alone. I didn’t realize how lonely I’d be. How quiet it is. Even at their ends, when they slept all the time, I listened for their breaths. Their stirrings. There is no sound as loud as death. The echo of emptied.

My Buddy

Last night my friend came over. He brought dinner. We shared a beer. We talked. He signed our table. 

I realized I’m not alone. Life endures. Continues. He left.

I realized a heart can beat while broken. Lungs can breathe even while shallowed by sorrow.