Never Again

Probably the most annoying bit of being a new member to the Dead Parent Club is the “never again’s.”  The first was me getting sick and realizing that never again woud my mother take care of me, holding back my hair or bringing me a cool cloth for my forehead. That was a “big” thing, which sent me spiraling to tears.  Another big one is cups of coffee. I almost always think of her when I have my morning coffee.  One thing I am deeply grateful for is that I spent the last year of her active life drinking coffee with her every morning.  Still, the “never again” hurts.

And the little things, like never again going to Home Goods or Clothes Mentor with her. Or even just not being able to call when I’m feeling icky in the brain. Yeah, I can call my dad, but it’s almost like switching to a new therapist…sure, he’s familiar with my file, but he doesn’t have the details of daily sessions. 

Valentine’s Day was a little rough.  Mom always made a thing if it, and when I asked Mark what he wanted to do this year, it was he who reminded me of my father’s first VDay as a widower. So, I went and made the dinner mom would have, a surf and turf situation with hot fudge sundaes provided by Bernie. It was a yummy dinner…but I started the day in tears, because no one was buying me Valentine’s Day cupcakes this year. Mom wasn’t there to call me first thing and wish me a happy day.

One interesting thing about our situation is that come late May…we will have already done a year, in a way.  Mom was here…but she also wasn’t. She peaced out around Easter last year, so I already had my first birthday without her, in a way.  But this one is going to hurt…she was planning a big party for my 40th. I am asking now that all my friends and family bear with me during my birthday week this year…I will be missing her. 

We also had many plans for this summer, you see. We didn’t plan anything for last year because we knew she would still be in recovery, followed by ankle surgery, as was the plan. So all our morning conversations were in regard to plans for 2023. We were going to go back to Stonybrook and go hiking.  We were going to renew her fishing license. We were going to go to the beach, and Lilydale, and there was even talk of finally attending the Country Living Fair. But it’s never happening…and that sucks.
Never again will we go estate sale hunting or eat bagels in the park at 6am or discuss 90s hip-hop superstars, a subject she knew a weird amount about.  We won’t sing along to Ellis Paul, or even argue about Catholicism and calories-two topics that drove us both crazy.

Damn, I miss my mom. Everyday IS a little bit easier, just a tiny shred, but right now at 6am as I sip my coffee?  These moments are the worst.


“Friends” in High Places

I wrote some time ago about my mother, and the fact that she was in a semi-coma after complications following a quadruple bypass.  While her condition has improved in many ways, she remains in the hospital, though she will likely be transferred to a rehab soon.  I visit, and she knows it’s me because she smiles or kisses my cheek, but I can’t talk to her.  She can’t speak, and I can’t carry a one-sided conversation very well.  It has been months since I have heard my mother’s voice.

Driving home from taking Mark to work this morning, I remembered something kind of silly about my mom; one of our morning conversations that wasn’t about anything pertinent or serious.  It was October of 2019, and I came in that morning all a flutter, because this:


That is the one and only Mr. Joseph Gordon Levitt, former child actor turned Hollywood star, now CEO of a social art platform built to connect creatives.  I am a BIG FAN, and have been since I was a 12-year-old watching 3rd Rock from the Sun. He was one of the folks I followed on Twitter early on, because Twitter suggested him to me.  Over the years, I watched as he started hyping HitRECord, and eventually I checked it out for myself.  Then I made my first post, and tweeted about it, just to drum up a reader or two…lo and behold, the above photo.

Anyhoo, when I tell my mother this, she finds it fascinating, because she finds Twitter fascinating.  She once asked if she should get an account, and I said no, and she replied, “well, if the *President* is on there, maybe I don’t want to be.”  Still, she loved hearing about the connections I was making around the world via my Twitter, and Joe Levitt is definitely her favorite. As time went on, she would check in.

“How’s your friend Joe?”  
“Who is Joe?”  
“From Hollywood.”  
“Ma, Nick lives in Hollywood; I don’t know a Joe.”  
“From that John Lithgow show…”

Sometimes I play along.

“Oh, he’s great, got a new film coming out.  Focusing a lot on HitRECord, too.”  
“Oh, good for him!”

Listen. I obviously do not know Joseph Gordon Levitt, but I think it’s adorable that mom sort of thinks I do.  And given current circumstances, I am loving that I thought of this little memory this morning, because it reminds me of all the fun, silly things about my mother that I have been missing, 

I won’t lie to you and tell you that the road is getting easier, because it is not.  It is still very much an uphill climb.  But at least I have moments along the way where I can throw my head back and laugh.

“Future Author”

Over the past year, my mother has gotten me a couple of poetry books.  One was called Fragility, by Sinead Tyrone, and the other was Tailgating at the Gates of Hell, by Justin Karcher.  They have VERY different styles, but I loved both books, and I loved that they came from my mother, who has been my biggest fan since day one.  It was for her I wrote my first story, and it was her praise that made me write the sequel. 

Recently, I sent my chapbook into the world to be examined by both friends and strangers.  My mother read it first, not even because I meant her to, but because she was the only person who asked daily about my progress.  I was reading the books she gave me and having moments of panic, because both had such beautiful lines that made me feel inferior as an author, and it made me think of the time we were in a store and I saw a pin that said “future author.”  I asked mom if I could get it, and she looked at me, puzzled.  “You’re already an author.”  I mean, technically I was.  I had written two plays that had been performed.  I’d had a couple of poems published.  None of this made me feel like an “author,” though.  She bought me the pin anyway, and it is stuck to the corkboard in my kitchen as a constant reminder that the bar is always rising.

The other night I went to a poetry reading.  This was a big step for my anxiety.  It was an even bigger step than expected, actually, because we all sat in a circle and shared our work.  I couldn’t just hide in the back.  Some people read from their already published books.  One guy was brand-new to poetry.  Some people read something they had written that day.  I read one of my favorites and one of my mom’s favorites.  It was nerve wracking but wonderful, and I wish my anxiety had held off a little longer and let me mingle afterwards.  Anyway, about halfway through the evening I realized that one of the women sitting in the circle was Sinead Tyrone.  This is interesting, because I put great stock in the universe sending me signs.  I’ve already met Justin Karcher-we were seated next to each other at a cast party many years ago, before his book-so I’m surprised by this new development wherein the other author I recently read is now a player in my world.  Or will be, should I get the guts to go back to that poetry group and tell her I liked her book.

I came home and saw my “future author” pin.  I would consider myself to be such now, I suppose.  I’ve had several poems and a short story published.  But I haven’t seen anything in print yet, and that’s where I am setting my bar.  Actual ink on paper is my goal, and will make me feel like a real author.  Or will it?  When Sinead and Justin put their words into print, did they suddenly feel like authors?  Did they feel like one before their first book?  Or do they feel like there’s work still to be done to attain that title?  I don’t know that seeing my book come to fruition would really make me feel like an “author.”  Or maybe I just have some terrible imposter syndrome.

You know who believes I’m an author, though?  The woman who buys me poetry books.  The lady that told me I deserved the Newberry when I was in 3rd grade.  The biggest fan I will ever have, even when she doesn’t understand what the hell I’m writing about.  My Momma.

Mother’s Day/Week

Yesterday was Mother’s Day.  I spent the day with the kiddos and had breakfast with them and my mom.  It was nice.  The girls made me cards; the boys gave me hugs. 
This week I am going to experience full-time motherhood for the first time.  M is staying with us for the next week, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous.  He’s 14 and fairly self-sufficient, but I am concerned that myself or Mark will encounter a situation we do not usually deal with and as a result may make some kind of parenting faux pas.  I know logically that there is no one handbook for parenting and that I have 20 years of child care experience to lean on.  I am, despite not having any kids of my own, more prepared to raise a child than my husband who has four of them.  This however does not comfort me, because when they’re your own it’s different.  M isn’t some kid at a school or daycare that I care for from the hours of nine to five.  He’s my little buddy, the boy that I admire more and more as I watch him grow into an amazing young man.  When I’m working I can make decisions easily.  I can tell a parent about their child’s day and then walk away.  This time around I will be the one that can’t walk away, the one that takes that kid home with them, and those decisions become more difficult.  Part of me says it will be easy and I have nothing to worry about.  He’s a teenager not a toddler, and giving him some freedom to walk home from school or up to the store is natural.  Still, I sit here fearing the worst because for once I am on the other side of the coin.  What if something happens at school?   Or on the walk home?  Or at any time in the next week?   Mark has been nervous for weeks and I keep telling him to relax, relying on my past to provide all the knowledge and preparation I need.  Now the moment is here, he’s coming tonight, and I am freaking out a tad.  What if I’m not attentive enough?   What if there’s a problem at school?   What if he gets lost or hurt on the way home?  All these thoughts are seeping into my brain and I don’t care for it.  I sit here and tell myself that I am great at kids, because I am.  I don’t brag about much but I’ll brag about that.  I’m the kid-whisperer and always have been, but do these talents still work on teenagers?  Do they work on the kids that come home to you at the end of the day?

M is very much looking forward to his visit. In fact, he wanted to come a day early. I am excited, too, but I have these little worries that gnaw at my brain.  It reminds me of yet another reason I’m not planning to have children: the constant worry. I am already constantly worried; I don’t need some kiddo adding to it.  Yet here we are. 
I love this kid and am so glad he gets to spends some time with us.  I am hoping that this week is fun and productive for everybody.  In fact, I’m sure it will be.  Mark is ecstatic about having his eldest around, despite his worries.  I need to tap into that, because I remain a nervous wreck, terrified that I will mess up somehow.  I don’t feel this way when the kids are here on the weekends, which is interesting as there are many of them and they are far more likely to riot. One kid should be no problem, right? 

This is what I’m telling myself, at least.