What i’m doing in 2016… Isn’t everyone?

With my son sharing tales of his Drill Sergeant’s philosophy  during basic training in 2013, I got started with my annual list of priorities. A means to keep the important self-improvement issues on the front burner. Resolutions? In a way. But that has such negative connotations – who actually keeps resolutions?

These are goals – which require some degree of metrics, and accountability. By posting my annual goals, and then holding myself accountable to report out how I’m doing every quarter, it’s been helpful to keep me on track, working on the things I most need to work on.

For 2014, i focused on unfucking myself a bit. My possibly broken finger (and easy one to start with), my space (cluttered, heavy with stuff), and my body (fat, weak). Some progress in all three areas, but I wasn’t done at the end of the year with two of those…

For 2015, i focused on repairing important relationships that i’d blown up, continuing to get rid of the stuff that weighs me down, and keep working on being healthier and less fat. Some progress in all, but clearly not done with all of that.

What is common for the past two years? My health and fitness – this will likely be a lifetime pursuit. Well, it’s not exactly something i’ll need to worry about after i’m dead. i also need to get rid of ‘things’, organize what remains, and be ready to die.

What does this mean? i must optimize for life AND death.

The fitness habits forged over the past two years is entrenched. Three days a week, Studley and i do cardio on our lunch hours at a nearby fitness center. i am still riding a horse every week – and my instructor is fond of ‘calorie burner’ lessons. Balancing in the stirrups at a solid trot is a bit of work… Weather permitting, i’m on a bicycle at least 2-3 times a week.

Adding two high intensity interval training classes to my week this year, i’ve started lifting weights – and i love it! Muscles? Hello there! It’s been awhile! And my ass no longer brushes the back of my thigh in the shower! i look forward to these classes! One of my gym buddies uses the phrase “Harder to Kill”, and that really captures what i want – stronger, faster, more resilient…

Preparing to die is a bit harder. What are my goals for being dead? Not being a pain in the ass to my children. This has a few elements involved – minimizing my physical footprint (ie: purging stuff), financial planning and organization, taking care of unfinished personal business… i’ve been working on this, but it remains seriously undone.

This year i’m going with two goals – things that have really been at the core of what i’ve done for the past two years. i shall Prepare to Die while simultaneously making myself Harder to Kill.

harder to kill

 

Follow The Money

“You do realize that you’ve made the majority of your assets ‘payable on death’ to daisyfae.  The directions in your will do not apply to those assets – they belong to her the minute you die.  Are you sure that’s what you want to do?”

“I told her to divide by four.  She’ll divide by four.”

Mom didn’t even glance at me as she delivered the line.  She was not confused.

We met with Mom’s attorney about a year ago to wrap up loose ends of her estate planning.  Ken is a good ol’ country boy, close to my age, practicing law with two other attorneys out of a renovated house in a village near the Trailer Park.

“OK, then.  Let’s identify other assets you may have.  Do you have any cash around the house?” Ken was taking notes.  “How much, roughly, do you have on hand?”

“About $50,000.”

He looked up over his reading glasses – first at Mom, then at me.  Addressing him, i said “Excuse me…”.  Turning to Mom “What the fuck?  You have that much cash lying around the house?  You have been living like a gypsy for the past four years!  Jesus, Momma!  We’ve talked about this!  With all the workers and transients coming through there, it isn’t secure.”

“It’s in a locked box…”

“It’s in a locked box with a HANDLE!” i said, firmly placing my face into my palm.  Through my fingers i asked her “When was the last time you saw the box?  Inventoried the contents?”

“Well, I haven’t had a lot of privacy… Maybe two years ago?”

Ken barely raised an eyebrow. i apologized for the disruption and let them continue.  i was there as her driver and observer.

Through the course of the conversation, Mom laid out her financial soul*, and the circumstances of her life.  She declared her wish to leave the house, and the acreage, to my niece who had been taking care of her for four years.  Working through details for over two hours, Ken got a good bit of insight into life in the Trailer Park, and an introduction to the cast of characters.

When Mom landed in the intensive care unit after being admitted to the hospital, one of the first things i needed to do was get that box out of the laundry basket in her bedroom where she’d hidden it.  She’d also told me where she’d stashed the keys.

Preparing to leave the hospital that night, i told my niece, DQ, that i needed to swing by the house to find the original “power of attorney” form, which i believed to be in a locked box.  She said she’d call her husband, BJ, so he’d be expecting me.

BJ and the 7 year old, DQ III, were happy to help me find that box.  In fact, they had the box sitting on a chair in Mom’s living room.  BJ asked if i knew where the key was.  DQ III piped up helpfully “We don’t have the key!  We’ve tried every key we could find and none of them work!”

Grabbing another file box, overflowing with papers, i also snagged Mom’s purse, hoping that i’d find the key she’d hidden the in the lining.  “Well, i’m sure the form i’m looking for is in there somewhere… i’ll go through this all tonight” and beat a hasty retreat to my car.

Getting home, Studley was there to meet me in the driveway with a vodka tonic, and had dinner ready on the table.  We inventoried the box.  It was all in there.  Neatly divided into envelopes, recipients identified, she’d prepared all the cash for distribution.  Other treasures as well, including my grandfather’s pocket watch, and jewelry that belonged to my grandmother.

This belonged to the woman who didn’t want to call a medical transport to take her to the hospital because it might cost $250.  This belonged to the woman who fretted over every penny she spent on herself.  Prepared for a rainy day, she was now in the monsoon season.  Too late to enjoy any of it…

~~~~~~~~~~~

The week after Mom died, i met with Ken.  He got me started on filling out necessary paperwork, and coached me on navigating the wickets ahead.  We went through assets that were likely to be outside the estate, and the few items that would need to be included.  When we were done with the formalities, he looked me directly in the eye.

“Your Mom knew what she was doing.  Given all the crazy business in your family, your niece exploiting her, she just left everything to you, didn’t she?  She appreciated that you’ve worked hard all your life, and that you’d probably go do good things with all that money.”

“Ken, you heard her say ‘divide by four’.  That’s what she wanted.  The house and property go to my niece, and everything else is divvied up between me and my sisters and brother.”

“Yeah, but you’ve been the one who has looked after her interests for all these years.  Don’t you think she really left it to you because you’ll end up taking care of them all anyway?  Why else would she have done it this way?  You don’t have to tell anyone how much is there – it’s all yours.  They don’t even need to know…”

i was stunned.  Was he really suggesting that i keep it all?

Leaning forward, staring him down. “Sir, you are looking at 200 pounds of pure guilt.  She said ‘divide by four’ and i’m going to divide by four.  There is no other option.”

He sprouted a huge grin, leaned back in his chair and said “And THAT’S why she picked you!  Ok, about transferring the title to her car…”

honest lawyer

*Mostly.  i’m still finding Easter Eggs here and there.  Places where she stashed assets and either forgot about or forgot to mention… Going through some of her papers, there are a few mysteries afoot, too.

Oh, Brother…

My brother arrived at the hospital before i did.  Mom had gone into respiratory arrest, was intubated and moved to the Intensive Care Unit.  It was the third time Tim had visited with Mom in nine months – and this visit was triggered by – and shortened by – a medical emergency.

When Dad was diagnosed with colon cancer, Tim lived in a house about a mile away*.  He didn’t visit much – “I just can’t bear to see him this way…” being the main excuse.  Apparently he couldn’t bear to hear him that way either, as he rarely called.

When Dad started his final lap, Tim showed up at the hospital.  Tears and apologies.  Seeking forgiveness and absolution from his dying father.  Dad gave him that… Tim promised to spend more time with Mom, and not repeat the same mistake.

No one was entirely shocked when he failed to keep that promise.  His third wife made a concerted effort to visit, but Tim would usually bail out – citing a ‘stomach bug’ or other obligations.  After Wife #3 took a walk, there were no more attempts.

Twelve years (and one wife) later, he was a fixture at Mom’s hospital bedside.  He was attentive during the week – many tears, many apologies.  On the days when Mom was somewhat cognizant, she would become agitated whenever he spoke to her.  She had unfinished business with him – and that had become apparent to me as she made adjustments to her beneficiaries while we tackled her estate planning.

Needless to say, it irritated the shit out of the rest of us.  Reminding my sisters and niece that there was nothing we could say or do to take away the hurt Mom carried.  There was nothing we could say or do to change what had, or hadn’t, happened.  “Be kinder than you feel” became our mantra, and we kept our mouths shut to maintain peace, and avoid drama.

After Mom died, Tim asked to be involved with planning the funeral.  He joined us at the church when we met with the minister to plan the service.  My niece sent an e-mail to all, asking for any ‘recent photos of you, or your children’ with Mom.  Tim, of course, had none to provide.  Mom had given me envelopes of cash to deliver to her children and select grandchildren.  Tim’s envelope was a little lighter than the others, and had been marked with a $3,000 withdrawal – a loan he’d received from her to buy Wife #3 an engagement ring.

He asked me about some of the things from her home… Old jewelry… The coin collection… Some collectible items… “We’re not ready to deal with that just yet”, with the mantra “Be kinder than you feel” scrolling on continuous loop in my head.

Several cousins came for the funeral, but my cousin Penny and her family hadn’t been able to attend.  She still wanted to visit and pay respects.  We arranged for Penny and her clan to attend the annual “Remembrance” service at Mom’s church last weekend.  Inviting the entire local family, i offered to take everyone out for lunch afterwards to give us time to visit.

With a group of 18, we had to wait in the bar until our tables were ready.  i had Bailey’s and coffee, and bought my niece a mimosa.  Others had coffee or soda.  When Tim and his wife arrived, they ordered bourbon.  i was a bit surprised that they got through two rounds each before we were seated.

Over the course of the next two hours, they drank a lot of bourbon – ordering another drink before finishing the one in hand.  Tim’s wife seems able to hold her liquor, but Tim became loud and obnoxious.  As i chased down our server to get the check, Tim pulled out his phone to share a picture.

“I need to show you something.  If anyone ever thinks I didn’t love Mom and Dad…. This is something I built on my porch… It’s my shrine to them.”

The photo showed a fountain with an integrated propane torch.  “I have a ritual.  Every night, I light the torch and turn on the fountain.  I talk to them.  They know I love them.”

My cousin commented “It’s very nice…” and looked my way with a gently furrowed brow.

My intra-cranial chant was momentarily drowned out by a scream.

“WHY THE FUCK COULDN’T YOU TALK TO THEM WHEN THEY WERE ALIVE?!?!?”

“i like the combination of fire and water…” 

He is doing what he has always done… what he has to do to survive.  Revising history.  He is creating a relationship that was never there.  There is nothing to be gained by calling him out on this.  Nothing can change the hurt Mom carried… The one thing she couldn’t resolve before she died.

“Be kinder than you feel…” and move the fuck on.

The only rule

* When he divorced Wife #2, i loaned him money and cosigned a loan so he could keep the house.  It provided a home for him and his three sons, but it was also close to Mom and Dad.  In theory, it would be easy to visit them…

Synchronicity

“Hey, daisyfae!  Your Mom’s been here!”

Studley was on the lanai and grinning.  He had fixed our drinks and headed for the pool, as i finished the conversation with my sister, T, about the latest Trailer Park “scores and highlights”.

daisyfae:  What the hell are you talking about?

Studley:  Look!

On the concrete, next to T’s pool, was a single penny.

daisyfae:  You’re fucking with me, right?  You put that there!

Studley:  Nope.  Came out, set our drinks down and there it was…

daisyfae:  T!  Get out here!  Did you put this there?

Of course she hadn’t seen it.  Her partner, T, didn’t know anything about it either.  Her home is pristine and sparkly clean and modern.  Nothing out of place.  The penny had not been there earlier…

i was rattled.

Mom was a firm believer in “pennies from heaven” – the legend that states that when you lose a loved one, they will often throw you a penny when you need to find it.  A token to know that they are ok, and doing fine on the other side.

She almost got us both killed a few years ago chasing one such token.  We had taken Mom on a cruise to Alaska after Dad died, and she was at her peak “pennies are a sign from the afterlife” frenzy.

i’d rented a wheelchair for the trip because she’d lost a good bit of mobility by then.  Wheeling her across a street in Ketchican, Alaska, she suddenly put on the brakes, Fred Flintstone style.  Jamming her feet to the pavement, she said “There’s a dime!  It’s from your Dad!”

i looked up to see a tour bus headed directly for us.

daisyfae:  Mom, i can either pick up the dime or dodge the bus!

Her feet remained planted, and i snatched the dime from the street, popped a wheelie with the chair and avoided disaster.

My sister and i both remember Mom’s firm belief in the pennies from heaven.  T was rattled, too, and said that the kayak had recently been cleaned near that side of the pool, and perhaps that’s where it came from.

i grabbed my drink and got into the pool.  Studley had already jumped in, and lost his swim trunks.  He was still amused.  Shaking my head, i swam over to him and grabbed my drink.  To say that i was further rattled by what was on the can of Diet Coke holding my whiskey would be an understatement.

heads

There is a promotion by the Coca Cola corporation in the U.S. to randomly tag cans and bottles with names and nicknames – the “Share a Coke with…” campaign.  Of course this was random.

daisyfae:  i’m a fucking scientist…  i KNOW this is not a sign from the great beyond.  It is coincidence – confirmation bias.

Studley [still grinning]: Yep.  But you’re rattled, aren’t you?

daisyfae: ….

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A week later, i’d taken a day off of work to head to The Park to work estate-related issues.  That was the day my niece, DQ, surprised me with the little musical fella that Mom had asked her to give to me.

Arriving home, i was pretty beat.  Decided to park him on a decorative “table” i’d crafted from my Dad’s old steamer trunk.  The trunk that holds the few sentimental bits and pieces i’ve kept since he died.

Imagine my surprise to find a single fucking penny sitting on the trunk…  In the spot i had decided to park the music box….

tails

i am a scientist…. both by nature and by training.  i fully comprehend the concept of confirmation bias — we see what we expect to see.  Without a reservation, i can tell you that the penny must have been there for a month or more, and i just hadn’t noticed it.

But yeah… i was rattled…. again…

Sign language

While Mom was in ICU, and on a ventilator, she was still communicating with us.  She could nod her head, and even tried writing letters in the air.  i made a makeshift white board using a notebook and some dry erase markers, but her hand wasn’t steady enough to write.

We improvised – we played it as a cross between “Hangman” and “Wheel of Fortune”, with a little bit of “20 Questions” thrown in to narrow the topic.  One of us would slowly say the alphabet and she’d squeeze our hand when we got to the right letter.  “A… B… C… [squeeze].  C?  The first letter is ‘C’?” and she’d nod her head.

We’d move to the second letter… took some time, but she was able to tell us a few things.

First thing she wanted to say?  “I love you…”

Later that afternoon, she started writing in the air with her finger.  We played the game again and she spelled “C. O. L. D.” – she needed a blanket…

The next morning, she indicated she wanted to tell us something – she spelled “B. A. B….”

daisyfae:  “Baby?  You’re having a baby?”

Mom:  [glares at daisyfae and shakes her head]

She had been trying to spell out “Barb”, her best friend from church…. so we got Barb from the waiting room to come back and visit…

The last one was tough…  My sister, T, her partner, DQ and i were with her as she started to spell something new….   i used the white board to keep track of the letters, and help us guess what she was trying to say.

We went slowly through the alphabet, and came up with “N…   E…. E…. D…”  First word is “Need”….

Second word… “T”… “O”… “Need to….”

Very much like Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” as he used his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring to decipher the secret message…

Third word, first letter…. “P”

DQ:  You need to P?  But Granny, you’ve got a catheter…

daisyfae:  Do you need to poop?

Mom:  [vigorous nodding]

daisyfae:  [hits the call button to summon a nurse] Sweet wounded Jesus, you poor thing!  It took 20 minutes for you to tell us that….
whiteboard

Quarterly Update: Un-fucking myself

Despite the monkey wrench delivered squarely in my gut in mid-September, i have not forgotten my pledge to gently “un-fuck” myself.  The first two quarterly updates in April and June showed steady progress on my fitness goals, and slowed progress on the excavations…

When my son and daughter came home in July, they were both highly motivated to eat all of the pizza in town, while consuming gallons of tasty beer.  Being some what weak-willed when it comes to food and drink, i managed to gain back 10 pounds of the 25 i’d discarded in the first 6 months of the year.

Happy to say that i’ve unloaded most of that within the same quarter, and can claim a sustained net loss of 25 pounds for the year.  Given two weeks of eating meals from vending machines and gas station roller grills during Mom’s hospitalization, and funerary doings, i’m surprised i haven’t gained any more.

The German language has the most beautiful word:  Kummerspeck.  It means “grief bacon”.  Between the bacon and the booze, it’s a fucking miracle, but i’ve kept up the gym habit, and continue to load my fat arse onto my bicycle seat.  Will stay the course…

As for the excavations?  i managed to clear a bookshelf, and find a home for it, along with a few other small pieces of furniture.  Another trip to donate goods at the thrift store happened, but over all, not much done in this regard.

In fact, as executor for Mom’s estate, i have been hauling boxes and bags of shit back home with me, sorting out piles of bills and legal documents. Feel as though i went backwards in this one – at least for now.  i did manage to find some time this weekend to build some ‘piles’ on the top of the Murphy bed in my office to start to regain some semblance of order… For the past three weeks my dining room table has been a jumble of papers and envelopes and mail and…. stuff…

It will take at least 6 months to get all of it sorted and settled, so i am trenched in on this.  Mom did a good job with estate planning back in February, so it’s not nearly as complicated as it could have been.  But she left me with some rather vexing issues, and all i can do is… wait… think… and keep making piles.

We are moving slowly.  There is no rush to clear Mom’s personal effects, and my niece, DQ is sole owner of the home, so it is entirely up to her to set the pace for such things.  She was absolutely phenomenal during Mom’s last week, and has demonstrated tremendous grace throughout.

As we sat at her dining room table last week, sorting bills and transfers of utilities and the like, she had a few items waiting for me – things she wanted me to have.  Among them?  This little dude…  Mom told her that it was special to me, and that i should probably have it.

i may have been reduced to a blubbering ball of tears and snot…

He kept me company on the ride home that afternoon… Arrivederci, Roma… Good to see you again, kiddo.

Arrivaderci

So it goes.

On behalf of the entire family, thank you for being here today as we celebrate the life of our Mother.

Let’s start with a little word association – when you think of Mom, what is the first word that pops into your mind?

Anybody come up with “Tough”? Mom could be characterized as fun-loving, adventurous, generous, tenacious, big-hearted… So many words… But it seems I’m not the only one who thinks of her as ‘tough’.

The scientific definition of toughness is “Strength and Ductility”. Resistance to fracture while stressed… The ability to absorb energy, take repeated blows, without failure.

Tough as nails… One tough cookie…. Built Ford tough…

That was Mom.

We learned pretty early that she was a strong woman. Stick your tongue out in our household? Be prepared to wear a clothespin on it! Bite your sister? Be prepared to have Mom bite you back. Oh, and like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story”, we were all connoisseurs of a variety of fine soaps. She maintained order and kept us all in line.

When facing heart bypass surgery in 2008, Mom was informed by her surgeon that if she continued to smoke, her chances of survival would be cut in half. On the spot, she decided that after 65 years of smoking, she should quit. And she did. Cold turkey, that very day.

While collecting information to settle Mom’s estate last night, I looked at one of her checkbooks to make sure I had the right one. Knowing that she would likely be going to the hospital on Monday, she paid her bills on Sunday. She wasn’t able to see well, write well, or even breathe easily… But she paid her bills.

Mom was an incredibly strong woman.

To complement her strength, she was also agile – able to adapt, improvise and overcome.

Fiercely independent, she was at first reluctant to let Dad into her life. He said he could remember the moment he knew he was in love with her – they were at the market, shopping for a block of Swiss cheese. She spent a great deal of time going through the individually weighed packages, trying to find the block with the fewest holes, because she wanted to get the most for her money. He was smitten! She wasn’t quite so sure…

She eventually accepted his proposal, and left the city for the suburbs. Neither she, nor Dad, knew the first thing about home ownership, maintenance, or gardening. She didn’t have a driver’s license. But she adapted, and together they created a garden, became neighbors, joined this congregation, learned how to camp, and raised a family…

Having given up her profession as a nurse to stay home with her children, and later to provide care for her oldest granddaughter she started back to school in her 50’s to brush up her skills. Returning to nursing, she quickly settled into a leadership role on the psychiatric ward at the county hospital – saying she felt right at home there…

She’d be unhappy at this point if i failed to mention that she was a straight-A student…

She was a devoted Mother, Grandmother and Great-Grandmother. Perhaps her greatest gift was her ability to understand each of us as unique individuals – she knew that one size didn’t fit all in her clan. She could coach and mentor us, knowing our capabilities, knowing our limits, and knowing when it was important to push them…

This combination of strength and ductility – her toughness – was apparent through the difficulty of the past week. There was never a doubt in our mind that she was calling the shots – even at the very end of her life. We have been fortunate that Mom’s oldest granddaughter, DQ, and her husband, BJ, have been able to care for her. She waited until they were by her side before she allowed herself to rest…

So we thank you again for coming together with us today to celebrate her life.

Life is short. Death is forever. Go joyfully! Nothing left undone!

MommaThis is the eulogy i delivered yesterday at her funeral… It’s been a pretty rotten couple of weeks, but it seems the worst is behind us.  She turned 86 on Friday, and died two days later… Not a bad run…

The Perfect Day

The dog was dying.  His owner decided to give his pet a perfect day.  i’d read this sweet story of how one man prepared for the loss of a beloved companion a few years ago.

Since then, i’ve given this some thought, and have planned to do something similar for my old pup, Mr. Pickles.  Rather than wait, i’ve thrown in elements of ‘perfect days’ for my dog as we go about the business of living – why give him just one?  Three weeks ago on a hot June day, Studley and i decided Mr. P needed to go out for ice cream…

He loved it…

Mr. P gets ice cream

Having a dinner of Mexican food and killer margaritas with my children, Studley, and his daughter, we discussed the elements of Mr. Pickles perfect day.  Discussing all the things he loves, we tried to lay out the things he most loves… Cheese.  Chasing a ball.  Chasing the cat*.  Naps.  Splashing in water.  Riding in the jeep.  Eating his own turds.**

i was interrupted during dinner by a call from my niece, DQ.  Mom had been admitted to the hospital earlier this week with fluid in her lungs.  Stepping out to take the call, i got some fairly grim news.  The lung cancer is probably back, and not treatable.  Mom was feeling rotten, also battling a staph infection in her blood.  We made plans to meet with a counselor from hospice.

Returning to the table, i kept the news to myself for a bit – not wanting to take a steaming shit on a really good time.  i filled my children in on the news from The Park when we got home.

The Boy:  Maybe it’s time to craft a Perfect Day for Granny…

daisyfae:  i’ve already done a bit of that… but yeah, we could do more!

In January, i brought Mom to visit when my sister, T and her partner came to town for a long weekend.  We spoiled Mom with attention, and food and entertainment.  Not to mention blessed quiet, which is in short supply in her current living arrangements.

Last May, i had her up for another fun-filled weekend!  Cooked steaks on the grill on a Friday night, then went to a local women’s league luncheon the next day, where she was showered with attention amidst a great deal of silliness.  Putting on two ridiculous Derby hats that i’d crafted, we went to a bourbon tasting – where she enjoyed a perfect mint julep.  Sunday morning, we brought her to the horse show, where she got to see her “baby” compete in the arena with all the other kids…

The prognosis for Mom isn’t great, but it seems the cancer is slow moving.  She’ll need more in-home skilled nursing care in the future.  But she’s not quite dead yet, and finding ways to give her elements of “The Perfect Day” is deeply embedded in my brain.

Derby Day

 * The Boy thought it would be most fun if we tape the cats back legs together, allowing Mr. Pickles a better chance to “play”.  Although Huey is a team player, i’m not sure i’ll go that far…

** Nope.  Not gonna happen.

Just live…

“It’s not a wake.  It’s a ‘wake the fuck up'”.

Direct quote from my friend Denise as we planned my 50th birthday party.  i’d played with the idea of using a “Practice Wake” theme — to make sure the folks in my life know what i expect them to do when i die… but she thought that a bit melodramatic.

She’s right, of course.  So it’s just gonna be a big ass ol’ fashioned throw down.

My forties have been rather spectacular.  Not sure if my fifties can top them, but that’s the goal… Try as i might to ignore the significance of a milestone birthday, it’s tough not to notice that i’m well past the halfway point in my life, if things go according to statistics.

Which they don’t always do.

My imaginary friend inside my computer, Bad Yogi, has been my virtual muse for the past 18 months.  He’s done the hardest thing i can imagine.  He buried a child.

As i tried to support a friend who was going through it, Yogi was my spirit guide.  Reminding me to pay close attention 3, 4 and 5 months out — when others begin to pull away.  It was good advice.

He just marked the second year anniversary of the death of his daughter, Alysia.  He did it with this piece.

And this is just what i want my friends to know before i go “poof”.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“When you hear that I have died, think of this.

“Think of cool nights breezes while you walk to meet your friends for a beer on a Thursday. Think of waking up in flannel sheets on a snowy morning and kissing someone you love. Think of hung-over diner breakfasts and the best cup of coffee in the world. Think of the sound of tires on seamed highways while you travel, think of French kissing and leather jackets and push-up bras and bourbon, think of the joy of hard work with friends. Then think of me.

“Not sad, not the melancholy solitude of empty skies, but the full days and crowded bars and signed contracts, a smile too big for my face, remember I said I stay busy enough to fit three lives into one.

“When you hear that I have died, know that I want laughter, and dancing, real dancing, to music that makes you move without thinking, you’re wearing boots and jeans and a great t-shirt and wondering if the girl at the edge thinks you’re cute. And you motherfuckers had best DANCE, none of this bull­shit rock-nod hands-in-the-pockets shoegazer nonsense. No, make an ass out of yourself, feel your hips, kick off the high heels and sway on the shoulder of a stranger.

“When I die, you’d better be laughing your ass off on sidewalks, eating deliciously unhealthy food, drinking shots and tipping your bartender well no matter how much money you make.

“When you hear that I have died, the best thing you can do is to get laid that night with a comfortable stranger, use my story to get their sympathy, and when you kiss them for the first time, think of me then.

“When you hear that I have died, and you will, remember your best revenge is to live well, take risks, save up money and chase your perfect happiness. Beat the system and learn to make your art really support you, craft into something your audience can’t live without. Then make the world an even slightly better place ― stop throwing your cigarettes on the ground, vote in the next election, graffiti your life on the eyes of the hungry.

“Then just do me one last favor. Please. Love some thing. Anything. Start with your self, but find passion in everything, from an apple pie to a novel, make a family, get a degree, walk what ever path is yours with your chin up and feet planted firmly. Have the best stories to tell in the old folk’s home, about life long friendships and epic love affairs, about the time you lost every thing and yet found yourself happier than when you began.. and remember that time we got in SO much trouble…

“Poets, remember: This is the story that never ends. When one of us leaves, another walks through the door. The pages turn, the sun keeps rising. All you can do in the meanwhile…is to speak for yourself. Raise your voice high, tell your story, join hands against the dark and sing our souls to the sky. Know the best in me comes from the best in you, that as you tell your story, you will be telling mine, and our lives will be linked together for ever, and every one who hears you will become a part of the change we make.

“So when you hear that I have died… just …live.”

Gabrielle Bouliane

Only for now…

Already late for work, but still needing to walk the dog, i distractedly slapped a leash on the dog’s collar and headed out to the garage.  This was going to have to be a necessity run – walking only as far as it took for Mr. Pickles to deliver the goods, then turn back home to get on with my day. 

Mr. Pickles had other ideas.  It was one of those spring snowfalls.  Heavy and wet, clinging to the ribs of the bare trees, defining every branch against the gray sky.  With temperatures hovering just below freezing, it wasn’t all that cold.  The kind of snow that will be gone by noon.

At 10 years old, Mr. Pickles has lost a bit of his sproingy, youthful exuberance.  Unless there is snow on the ground!  The years disappear, and he’s a puppy again.

Watching him bound alongside the road, picking up his paws like a show pony, it hit me… “Will this be his last romp in the snow?”

For as long as i can remember, i see endings.  As soon as there is a beginning, i start preparing for the end.  Healthy?  Probably not.  Realistic?  Certainly.  i am acutely aware that nothing lasts.  Maybe that’s why i work at enjoying the good stuff, not missing the moments, and trying to cram as much into each breath as i possibly can.

The only thing i am sure of?  Nothing lasts forever.  It sure can fuck up my relationships when i start negotiating the end right up front.  Just being practical, though.  When i can’t get my head around something, i think “It’s only for now“. 

Which makes having a pet really painful, by the way.  Big dogs tend to have shorter life spans.  Oh, and if they’re pure bred?  Another strike against him.  Dreading the day i no longer have a dog to walk, i kept going.  He kept sproinging.  Work be damned, this was a far more important moment.

He enjoyed the romp in the snow.  i was late for work.  The snow was gone by noon.

Today arrived as a sunny and bright March day.  After running my morning errands, i couldn’t wait to get the windows open to let in fresh air.  The Girl grabbed her breakfast and headed to the back deck, keeping the screen door shut to prevent cat leakage.

Will the aluminum frame of a screen door stop 100 pounds of hound dog?  Nope.  Seems Mr. Pickles was just as joyful today as we were with the sunshine, and got up a full head of steam as he launched himself across the living room to take in the fresh air.  He knocked that screen door across the deck as if it hadn’t been there. 

Only for now…

~~~~~~~~~

Everyone’s a little bit unsatisfied.
Everyone goes ’round a little empty inside.
Take a breath, look around, swallow your pride
For now…

Nothing lasts, life goes on, full of surprises.
You’ll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes.
You’re going to have to make a few compromises…
For now…

For now we’re healthy.  For now we’re employed. For now we’re happy…
If not overjoyed.
And we’ll accept the things we cannot avoid, for now…
For now…

Don’t stress, relax, let life roll off your backs!
Except for death and paying taxes,
Everything in life is only for now!

Each time you smile…
It’ll only last a while.
Life may be scary…
But it’s only temporary.

It’s only for now…