Monday, January 21, 2013


It is January.
It is late.
On these long, sullen
winter days,
I deeply miss your
coming home.

I am diligent in this,
the waking, sleeping, and eating.
In washing dishes and crumbs off countertops, pulling the trash can down to the curb on Mondays.

Nightly alone
after she sleeps,
walking around in slippers
to the sound of the heat going on and then off.
I speak your name with wet hair after my diligent shower
and often I am angry with you
because you seem more real then.

I read the Catholic mystics and the dead poets.
I dog ear the pages
of words I am hopeful will embolden me
before I slip them in the metal slotted box outside the library.

And in mid-afternoon one day
I fall asleep in her little girl bed for just a few moments
and dream that you have returned.
I think it's an intruder coming inside our house
so I call out loudly with trembling voice,
"Who is there?"

I know it is you-
and I am terrified.
Your hair is longer, disheveled,
and you are bending down over your daughter who has already run to you.
I wait for you to lift your head-
our eyes meet, though in dreams they usually do not.
They meet.
"I know...I know..." yours say.

Before I diligently go to bed,
before it gets too late
on this late January night,
I turn off the switch to the lamp post outside.
Always the mournful creak
as the door of the vestibule is shut.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


My silence here began after the shootings in Connecticut.   It felt wrong and disrespectful to write in the wake of their fresh tragedy.  I cried daily trying to imagine the horror the victims and parents experienced- to enter into their pain, surprised again by the breeds of darkness that exist here in this world.  It brings wordlessness.  Amidst all of the finger pointing, the only word that someone posted on FB that felt right to me in those first few days, whether it has any merit or not, was just one: "Maranatha," "O Lord, Come."

The 17th- three days after the shootings- was your birthday.  I planned nothing with others and embraced it as my own.  We picked up flowers and cheesecake to sing Happy Birthday later and drove to the cemetery in the rain.  There was a bitter chill, so we didn't stay long.  I left three bouquets- white roses from your parents, pink carnations from Audrey, and red ones from me.

Audrey and I continued singing Christmas carols into Christmas.  Our first Christmas that we didn't travel somewhere to get away from being at home for Christmas.  It was fine.  We bought a tree and decorated it.  I set up a small paper winter village, arranged tall red winter berries with white hydrangea in an antique enamelware pitcher, and decorated our porch with white lights, wreaths with red bows, and Christmas balls.   I only broke down one time on Christmas Eve just after Audrey had gone to sleep and I gathered all of the presents I had to wrap on the living room floor by the tree.  I told myself it was festive- grabbed a glass of red wine, put on "It's a Wonderful Life" and the tree lights.  There was a package from a friend that had arrived and I opened it up to find a thermos for me and a craft project for Audrey.  The Amazon card for mine said something like,  "I wish Dan could be there with you," and with that, I wept on my knees.  Then, I went back to wrapping.  This is how it is now.  Another young widow, a friend of mine now that you knew from college, gave me the analogy of a suitcase.  Your grief and heartbreak is something you always carry around with you, she told me, but in the early days everything explodes out of it all over the place when you open it.  Later on, it's more contained- you put things back inside quickly and neatly and pull it along.

I wrote supportive comments on a widow blog to a widow asking about suggestions for New Years' Eve, "No, I wouldn't even think of watching the countdown," I wrote quite pleased with my wisdom.  I encouraged this one woman who had no plans and no children or friends to call a friend and do something simple.  New Years Eve I think, happened to coincide with the day she lost her husband.   But then after an early dinner with another family at a Mexican restaurant that provided noisemakers and balloons for young kids, I found myself sitting in bed and trying to find a live streaming page of the countdown on my computer at a few minutes to midnight.  I'm not sure why.  I guess just because I was still awake and it was almost midnight. As they started counting down, crowds in Times Square waving and screaming - all crammed together in this moment of human communion-  I felt overcome and remembered my own advice on the widow blog.  With maybe ten seconds left, I quickly escaped- click- closed the window and went back to the Korean drama I had been watching with my earphones while Audrey slept beside me- the sound of muffled fireworks outside.

Friday, January 11, 2013

September 2009- September 2010

When Audrey turned one, I worked for hours editing down the thousands of photos we'd taken of her since birth and putting them together in a clean, professional looking album I created on Shutterfly.  I planned to do so each year.  But during her second year, everything changed.  Making albums were no longer a priority.  I focused on getting myself out of bed and caring for my almost two year old.  On thank you notes, completing paperwork, and leaving an hour or so a day to cry by myself.

By the time of my move this past September, I had photographs in multiple places- your old computer, multiple hard drives, my old laptop, new laptop, and our old camera.  The idea of sorting through all of the photographs of our last year together from all these different places, making some chronological sense of them, and steadily climbing through until the day that made each day after it "After" ...was overwhelming.  But recently the thought of losing the photos, of Audrey not having a guide for what our life was like then, and of year after year continuing until I could never make another album again because there were just too many photos- weighed on me heavily.  And so, for the last few weeks, I've slowly been sorting, uploading, and creating.

I work on it a little at a time until it becomes unbearable.  I wish that I could say it was mostly therapeutic, but it has been hard.

From a CD labeled, "Pics for Julia," I uploaded the photographs I had asked someone to take at the funeral incase Audrey would ever want to see them.  As I scanned through them quickly- my whole body began to tremble violently.  

As I continue on with the other photos from that year, I glare at the old me: so careless, such arrogance.
I strain to see photos of you- and the album gets longer and longer because I can't leave out that one of you at that particular angle, or the one with your elbow, or that one with that surprised expression you had.

It is difficult to edit a compilation of photos when you feel your actual life and family has already been edited down to the bare bone.

So- it is long.  111 pages.

And as I neared the great chasm...I started to date things in a way I usually don't in photo albums  "6.28.10 Monday"  And then to label certain pages, "Last Family Photo,"  "Reading Bedtime Stories with Appa for the last time."

The work is tender and cruel.  I am almost finished.

I debate about whether or not to include a photo from your funeral.  It was, after all, a divisive part of that year of our lives.  Of her life, whether she knew she was at a funeral or not.   There is one that jumped out at me when I saw it going through that disc, as I trembled.  I place it on one page in between the play date the day before, July 5th, and the day before that, July 4th, when she found Petey the Parrot at Trader Joe's in the bread section and got her red lollipop; and the photos that follow- Audrey lying in the middle of my bed with a sippee cup- all of the paperwork and sympathy cards fanning out on the floor around the bed, Audrey trying on sunglasses at Duane Reade, and Audrey sitting at your desk in your chair, still with the shirt you left there hanging around it.

I place the image on a page all by itself in between these two lives...but very a small square in the center of white.  I have always been slightly irritated when others who have not lost a spouse and been left an only parent tell me how lucky I am to have my daughter.  Of course, I love and adore her, but to hear her scream out for her father in the middle of the night, or be faced with the daily caring for a not yet two year old by myself while I grieved the sudden loss of my best friend- the feeding, bathing, changing diapers, the infinite pressure to somehow still provide what she needs when I myself felt like a shell- I would never have chosen the word "lucky."  

But in this photo- I see and know...that you, my daughter, are the reason I have survived.  Thank you.