a conversation with mom, dad & other saints present and passed/past


Facing the day

I’m writing this laying in bed.
I’ve just checked email, read your words on Facebook, cried and found myself utterly paralyzed. I don’t want to leave my bed today.

It’s hard, our routine has already begun. The sunshine is beaming in as bright as it can. I look over the sheets and there you are in my head, I’m thinking—kitty in the sunshine, where aaaaare yoooooou? If you aren’t right there surely you’ll be kitty kitty underfoot waiting for her drive by pets while I’ve got a moment to “myself” on the potty.

If you aren’t there, I know you will greet me on the landing of the stairs, perched to take a step forward but not until I’m just one step ahead of you. We’ll take the stairs down together, you ambling and adorable doing your little hop hop hop like you do and me trying to get past my morning aches and go as fast as I can towards your special dish.

You’ll meow—it’s the only time you ever talk with words—and I’ll tell you I’m going as fast as I can. I’ll call you a hundred names, click click click my tongue and tap tap tap the edge of your bowl and suddenly the morning will have its first breath, ahhhhhh.

Baby girl—I’m choked up just typing these words—you are my day. You are my heartbeat, my rhythm and I don’t want a new routine. I loved our little life and language and way. I know you loved it too, though your cat nature kept my knowing anything about you—you were the boss and fully in charge of what we know from day to day—fully.

I think that was true, right up till the end. In the end mama ratchet really got to be in charge, huh? Scoop a kitten? I mean who knew you loved being held? Ratchet did, well and Papa Phil knew too. You were my baby girl who quickly became our baby mitten. You let ratchet be fully mama, not like any other person I ever loved before.

You knew. You always did. And now that well of wisdom, that fountain of kitten, she is gone. And I don’t want to get out of bed without her.

I will, but today I am grateful I can take my time. Like you always did.

1995 – 2013 Tigger “Gunther” Mitten Bean Frickle Baby-girl, rest in peace—the kind that you brought us, the kind that passes all understanding.

please don’t go, we’ll eat you up we love you so

“I cry a lot because I miss people. They die, and I can’t stop them. They leave me, and I love them more.”

Maurice Sendak

Over the years I’ve thought about—and attempted—quitting blogging. I began blogging back in 2006. I’ve gone dormant for long periods of time (especially on the sweet bi and bi—eee gads), but somehow I’ve always ended up starting again.  I’ve tried sussing out why I write and for who, trying to come up with some logical reason that anyone would want to know anything about what rattles around in my head. Then someone or something dies, and I am compelled once again to take heart to keys and get. it. out. Friends, someone and something has died again, so here I am.

This past month my cousin Pamela passed away. She was my dad’s sister’s middle daughter. She had brain cancer. I didn’t know her; our families stopped being family in the late 80’s early 90’s. Not knowing her, I am sure, will turn out to be one of my life’s biggest regrets. My side of the family has been estranged from hers for a long time; I don’t know why. I only know it was a source of great pain for the whole family—her side and mine.

For those of you who know me, you may think this sounds a little like déjà vu. It is, a little. Before my mother disappeared, I was estranged from that side of the family as well. In many ways, I still am, though not for lack of trying—on their side and mine.

It’s hard, the whole family thing. For me, it’s tied up and tangled in with grief, loss, pain unimaginable. It carries rumors and accusations, stories that sound more like fishing tales than real life. I wasn’t there for most of these events, and my connection to these stories are only through the shaping of my own life by the people who lived through it. I love my family, but dang there is some rough choppy water under this bridge.

This past week I lost something, some part of me I can’t quite out a finger on yet. A few friends held up a mirror in front of my face and I did not like what I saw. Most of you know that this time of year brings about some generally unwelcome feelings for me: its mid-winter and the anniversary of my mom’s disappearance. It is effing cold out and the sky is perpetually some shade of grey. This friends, is when depression tends to settle in for a long winter’s nap. Despite my best efforts, and the efforts of those around me, I have not been able to keep it from coming around again. So I say to you, welcome back depression, welcome.

However, I am now declaring that this year will be different. Today, is different. Here is why: I will just get up and do*, again. I will welcome the depression in like a long lost family member. It will be awkward and uneasy, of course, like my other familial relations. But this will not stop me from welcoming the gift it holds. I will take little steps to be who I think I can be and who I am.

I will reach out to my family and face the discomfort and love that it holds. I will say I am sorry when I am sharp in tone and content. I will listen to people, ask good questions, and I will not listen to the made up bullshit story in my head. I will ask and not assume. I will hear my hearts deepest longing to belong, and know that I am, and I do.


*get up and do: a famous direction my mother often gave. Sort of her own riff on nike.

fourteen years later

mom pink001Mom,

You never were a huge “Dark Side of the Moon” fan (yes, I know ‘The Wall’ was always your favorite), but as I sit here listening to it play, I can’t help but think of you and wish you were here. 14 years ago you took your leave from us, and God damn it all if it doesn’t still hurt like hell like a motherfucker a lot.

There are so many things you’ve missed out on, so many times I’ve tried to call only to realize there was no number where you could be reached. You’ve never been a frequent visitor in my dreams, I wish you would be. I sure have a lot of questions still. And I need a hug. Stop by will you?

Mom, I want you to know how much I miss you. I want you to know I haven’t forgotten. I want you to know when I toss a salad in a bowl made to feed a small army and then proceed to eat out of that bowl, I think of you. I want you to know that I still rock a mom scarf every once in a while—silk and yours—beautiful and timeless. When I ride the spin bike (yes, I am working out now) I think of you on that damn airdyne for hours at a time. How on earth DID you do that?

Most of all, I want you to know that when I do something good, something you would be really proud of, Ratchet looks at me—much like you did—and tells me how proud she is. Sometimes I feel like it’s you that is really there, behind her eyes, loving me from the other side.

no – vember

I went to RESILIENCE  group last week … hmmmm … or was it the week before? Recently—there we go—I went recently. We were given a writing exercise, and I am not sure what it is about me but when I write, it doesn’t feel “real” unless I post it out here on the web. Perhaps I am an writing exhibitionist. The following is not altogether pretty, rather, it is fairly dark and well, raw. Our leader asked us to write about our November, the month and the idea. So, here it is, this is what I wrote.

“My November is the very thing that brought me here. My November is my depression.

For two years I have been better, distracted blissfully by my work and worth. Recently a button was pushed–like an old fashioned light switch, and the light just came on. Angry moments followed by overwhelming shame that drives me inward, to my couch and pjs that keep me inside on the last beautiful day of the year, and inward to my monkey mind. Flags of symptoms fly, falling faster than the leaves on my front yard boulevard. I tell myself that everything is dying at this time of year—its natural. And it is. But my natural feels imminent and I am afraid. So I am here to remember. November.”


learning to walk on water

I’ve never been more relieved to have a date come and go than I have for August 1, 2011. What a gigantic tear there is in this life since my father—Philip Swan—has left.

Sunday we gathered, his friends and loved ones, to remember the life and mark the day he was still among us. While I am grateful for the event, the gaping hole was obvious, the glue that held us was gone. It felt as if our chief storyteller was waiting on US to fill his shoes—and the truth is—no one can.

People often say we should celebrate (or laugh, or eat, or live) because that is what the departed would have wanted. But honestly, I don’t know what he would have wanted—for me, for all of us. I don’t know if it is what we look like now. I imagine he is a little like Jesus at the side of the boat, laughing, saying “oh ye of little faith” watching us all try to walk on water like he always did. I need more time with the master.

We spread some of his ashes into the lake, just off the dock—one of his favorite places on earth—yesterday. Des spoke with him and spread the dust; I found myself clinging to each moment as it clicked by … birds singing their timeless song, me drinking in each Kodachrome frame.

I still feel lost without him. A year is like a moment. I don’t know yet how to feel or what to make of life unfolding without him, but I trust I am not the only one.

the road to 40 is paved with …

In a week from today I will be 40.
(Holy crap.)

Birthday Candles

birthday candles by andrewfristoe

Leading up to next weeks milestone, I thought it might be fun (or at least a good exercise) to reflect on where I’ve been, and where I think I am going. As usual, I am not to make any promises about what I will write. But—with that said—I hope to look as objectively as I can at my life thus far and see if I can’t find some sort of nugget of truth, some kernel of hope, a thread of a God-voice and purpose.

Are you 40? What milestone birthday got you reflecting? Was there a birthday year you remember that felt particularly anxiety producing?

Friends, I hope you’ll join me in this little cathartic exercise, if only to bear witness and help me make the transition. First reflection up later tonight.

on the occasion of your birthday


I always struggled with your birthday—so close to Father’s Day—and trying to find you, the man who had everything, a gift. What on earth could I possibly give you? What would go with that smile, could go with that look on your face—the one where you throw your head back in a fit of laughter, then wipe away your tears because you’ve been laughing so hard?

Nothing. No earthly thing could measure up—no amount of perfect shopping would ever evoke that response. No button down shirt or gadget would compare to the gift you gave—joy and love for LIFE and all its offerings.

I know it probably goes without saying, but I miss you. I miss your big hugs where I almost couldn’t breathe you were squeezing me so tight. I miss your phone calls reminding me that it had been a little too long since you’d heard from me. I miss your stories—shit I miss your stories. I never grew tired of them; I feel like I only heard a small sliver slice of the treasure trove that would have been shared eventually, across Easter eggs benedicts and Des’s thanksgiving dressing.

I miss you more than tears and jumbled up half baked words can express. Its not poetic. Its not all wrapped up. Its rather a mess actually, but its what I have—its all I have. I wish you were here so I could tell you—just one more time—but hindsight is always 20/20 and if you were here, tomorrow would be another beautiful day, sun shining and flowers bursting and the 10 am phone call from me and sweetie.

Happy birthday dad. I love you.


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