The heaviness, oh the heaviness

22 04 2014

Kathy’s death has really thrown me to the ground.

Chris‘s death was a surprise; Tracey‘s wasn’t.

Kathy’s was somewhere in-between: I’d known her cancer had recurred, but somehow didn’t think through what that meant. And because I didn’t think, I didn’t make the effort to contact her, to let her tell me how she was, to tell her how very much she meant to me.

With Chris and Tracey, things felt “even” somehow. Chris and I had been in at most indirect contact for years—with which we were apparently both okay—and C. and I did what we could to be with Tracey as she rounded that last curve.

They died too soon, but the loss is the loss of them, not also of unsaid words and unspent moments.

Not so with Kathy. I feel like I let her down, that there was something I could have given her that I withheld.

I don’t want to blow this out and make it sound as if  ‘but for me, she died alone': Her family was with her at the end, and I’d bet her many friends and colleagues were with her before then. No, Kathy would not have been alone.

And yet, I would have liked to have given back to her at least some of what she gave to me. She deserved that.





Tracey ‘Quinn’, 1965-2014

2 02 2014

She lied.

“If you text me, Terri, I’ll text you back.” I laughed as I headed for the door. “I will. If you text me, I’ll text you back.”

~~~

I first met Tracey at my second Big & National bookstore. She was a cashier, not much bigger than me, with a leprechaun tattoo and a scowl.

If you’ve ever worked retail, you know how it goes: You’re new, so nobody knows you or has much use for you. You have to show that you’re not going to make your co-workers’ lives harder, and prove that maybe there’s some point to you, after all.

Nothing personal; that’s just how it is.

I worked front desk with a bunch of people, among them C. We became friendly pretty quickly—she’s one of those people who others are drawn to—so when Tracey would lope over for some conversation, I tried to join in.

She wasn’t having it. She didn’t say anything nasty to me; she just looked at me like Who are you and Can’t you see I’m talkin’ to C.?

The Bronx accent; did I mention the accent?

C. was my in with Tracey, the signal that maybe I was okay. We talked history and World War II—Tracey read everything she could about WWII—and finally bonded over, you guessed it, cats. She and her girlfriend had a beautiful kitty Sammy, and whenever I asked about him her scowl would transform into this huge, toothy, smile, and she’d show me pictures of Sammy on her phone.

The day she put her arm around me and told me Sammy died, I cried.

She and E., her partner, got Piper, and oh did Tracey love that cat, pouring herself into that kitty. Unsurprisingly, Piper is as irascible as Tracey was.

C. has her now.

~~~

Her last name wasn’t Quinn, but it’s what she’d sometimes tell people. I didn’t know her real last name until this past summer, when she went into the hospital for another round of cancer treatment.

But, for whatever reason, she wanted to keep her name to herself, so I’ll keep her alias, for her.

~~~

When Tracey got sick, it was E. who told everyone.

E. and Tracey fit together, although you had to get past the “Really?” to see that. Tracey was almost twice as old as E., but it was E. who first hit on Tracey. And E.’s as open as Tracey was wary.

They took such care of each other, and as Tracey got sicker and sicker, E. stayed right there.

They loved each other; they were lucky to have each other.

~~~

It was fall when it was determined there was nothing more to be done. A year, maybe.

C. and I trekked out a couple of times to a neighborhood hospital in Queens, where Tracey presided over her room. This table had to be here and that table there, and the chairs just so and don’t mess with the curtains or anything.

When she wanted to move out of her bed she needed her morphine drip unplugged, so I did that. Whenever she shifted, I’d jump up. “Not so fast. Stay away from that plug, Terri. Whaddya trying to do with that plug?”

Don’t ask so many questions and don’t make any decisions for her. She knows what she wants, so just do what she says.

And give her a kiss before you go.

~~~

At her sister’s, yesterday, she held court over the chairs in front of the t.v. She was comfortable, she said. She could lean back in one chair and put her legs up on the other, and her nephew’s cat would jump up on her and they would fall asleep together.

I brought her peanut butter (Skippy’s, creamy) and C. brought her cookies and E. helped her into her over-shirt so she could “look presentable”.

Her stomach was hurting her and it hurt when she laughed but she wanted to laugh, so she did. I nagged her about her pain meds, but not too much: Tracey wanted to remember. She didn’t want to go before she was gone.

Tracey asked about Piper and C. mentioned that the cat was, ah, difficult. Tracey and E. laughed. Yeah, that’s how she is. Get a towel, Tracey said, and throw it over her. Something soft. She spied her blue robe. Like this. Take this.

Put your scent on it, E. suggested, so Tracey wrapped herself in it, rubbing her face and hands into the soft blue.

As we got up to leave, she directed me to take the robe. Fold it nice! she demanded.

I went back over to her chair. You want to move this? What about the stuff up here?

Don’t touch anything! (I’m not! I’m just pointing!) Don’t you point at anything!

I laughed. There it is, I said. Now I feel better that you yelled at me.

I hugged her, longer than I ever hugged her, and kissed her goodbye. She hugged C., then got a little time, too little time, with E.

We’ll see you soon, we said. I’d text you, I said, but you never text back.

“If you text me, Terri, I’ll text you back. I’ll text you back.”

~~~

She died in her sleep, early this morning. She was there, and then she was gone. Just as she wanted.

Tracey to the end.





I just died in your arms tonight

11 01 2014

What song do you most want—or not want—to hear as you shuffle off to Buffalo?

Megan Seling, formerly of the Slog, wrote in to her old paper to note her horror at almost meeting her maker to the sounds of Coldplay.

Coldplay! Yeesh.

(Okay, yes, I have that one Coldplay cd, A rush of blood to the head, or whatever, and I even listen to it sometimes. But it’s pretty fucking insipid music and I’d be pissed too if that were the last thing I ever heard.)

Commenters noted their feared last notes, with the Eagles’s “Hotel California” getting a couple of votes, as did Toto generally. Oh, and DOUG linked to a great Ellen Forney comic on the horror of going down to bad tunes.

I don’t know that there’s any song that I would absolutely hate hate hate to have playing when I die—I mean, there are so many crappy songs out there it would be tough to choose—and, frankly, it would it makes own absurdist non-sense if I died to something ridiculous.

I have thought about what I’d want played at my funeral. Poi Dog Pondering’s Bury Me Deep gets a nod, and at one point I considered (for reasons which aren’t really clear to me, except for the Emmylou part) Emmylou Harris’s cover of Ballad of a Runaway Horse, but I’ve since dropped that. Prayer in Open D is also nice, albeit much more spiritual than I am.

There’s also Talking Heads’s Heaven, which is a bit of a downer, actually (and I want people to have fun at my final going-away party!); Eurythmics’s Heaven, if only because it has that nice Eighties beat; but I’d prefer Heaven or Las Vegas by the Cocteau Twins, because, really, that’s the kind of choice every corpse should get to make.

Then there’s Happy Trails, but since the Van Halen version was my high school graduating class’s unofficial song (the school wouldn’t let us play it at graduation), I don’t know that I’d want to double-dip.

I might go with something grand and sentimental—the Waterboys’s This is the Sea is a song that demands teary drunken tributes—but maybe I’d like a bit of a twist in that Irish whiskey.

So Kate Bush’s Jig of Life it is. Big drums and compellingly obscure lyrics and oh, a jig to send me on:

“We are of the going water and the gone.
We are of water in the holy land of water
And all that’s to come runs in
With the thrust on the strand.”

Just so.





Bless the beasts and the children

30 10 2013

These folks are unclear on the concept:

“Larry and Carri Williams are two of the truest and purest people on this earth,” said Ruth Dueck.

“I have known Larry and Carri to be loving parents with the ability to raise children appropriately,” said the family pastor, Richard Long. “I also firmly believe they have the ability to be healthy, contributing members of society.”

Really? ‘Cause Larry and Carri were convicted

of denying their children Hana and Immanuel food, beating them and making them sleep in closets or washrooms. They were fed a diet of sandwiches that had been soaked in water and vegetables that were still frozen. Some of the couple’s seven biological children sometimes took part in the abuse.

The judge, however, seems to have a better grasp of just what kind of people the Williamses are, and it ain’t loving, true, or pure:

“What I see is one child dead, one child with PTSD, and seven biological children who apparently believe that degrading and dehumanizing another person is completely acceptable,” said Judge Cook.

She sentenced the mother to 37 years and the father to 28 years in prison.

~~~

h/t Cienna Madrid, Slog





Lord, I was born a ramblin’ man

13 05 2013

So, shit happened and it wasn’t awful and it wasn’t unexpected but it’s still shit and I need to just deal with it but before I deal with it I need to breathe and say Yep, shit happened and it wasn’t awful and it wasn’t unexpected and it can in fact be dealt with and I will in fact deal with it but first I need to breathe.

Oh, and when NPR tells you that the story about rhinoceros horn smuggling includes audio that might upset some listeners TURN THAT SHIT OFF or you will end up listening to a rhino crying as it tries to escape poachers and goddammit a crying rhino will ruin your whole damned evening and make your anti-capital-punishment self want to kill every last poacher if that’s what needs to be done to save the rhinos and elephants and lions and tigers and bears.

Oh my.





La la how life goes on

1 10 2012

Funny how the disappearance of someone you hadn’t seen in 20 years, might not have seen in 20 more, can nonetheless knock you sideways.

I don’t know if I would have seen Chris again, but I took for granted that I could: the possibility was always there that I’d run into her back in a Wisconsin bar, buy John and her a beer, and catch up on the lifetime or two since we’d seen each other last.

Now I know that will never happen.

Chris is not the first person around my age who’s died—an old boyfriend died in a car crash half a lifetime ago, another guy who I partied with in high school was killed in a snowmobile accident—but she’s the first one who I know who died for health reasons. Her death in an accident would have been shocking and sad, but that she died because her body gave out is. . . well, I was going to say incomprehensible, but, really, stunning precisely because it is so comprehensible: this is, in the end, what will likely happen to me and everyone I know.

Are you more prepared in your sixties for this? In your seventies and eighties? Not that you get used to it, the disappearance of people, but is it less shocking? Is it worse for being less shocking?

Chris’s death has meant a peg has been kicked out and away from my own sense of self; I left a bit off-kilter, for she has carried a piece of me away with her.

And that’s how it is, I guess. I mourn the loss of her, mourn the loss of the possibility of her, and mourn the loss of myself, in her.

I can scarcely imagine what her family and close friends are going through, to lose someone so central to them, so central to who they are; they have lost Chris and thus are themselves lost.

So in their grief, through their grief, they’ll try to find their way back, without her.





O bla de, o bla da

29 09 2012

And so my eldest niece (mid-twenties) said yes when J., her smart and funny boyfriend of 3 1/2 years, asked her to marry him. I am so very happy for her.

A funeral this week, a wedding next year.

Life goes on.








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