Once upon a time, I wrote a special story for someone when I could not summon the courage to tell them what I felt. It worked out, so I’ve always had a soft spot for the story. The relationship didn’t go quite the way I wanted, but I made a good friend. Browsing through my writing in a reflexive mood one night, I found the story again, with the post-breakup addition. I still think it was a pretty good story, but the afterword was even better. Before I think better of it, I’ll share it here for you.

Once upon a time, there was an immensely intelligent but insecure woman who had two friends who claimed to wish her a happy life.  She had been alone for a long time, and these two friends knew that being alone was standing in the way of this happy life. So they encouraged her to find herself a man.

     However, the three ladies inhabited a limited social circle, so our heroine had a very small pool to choose from. After giving it much thought, she decided on someone, and when her friends asked her if she had made a decision, she told them of her choice. Rather than happiness at her decision, though, her friends cried out against her choice and instead suggested, then harped, on one of his friends. “He’s more responsible,” said friend A smartly. “He’s more mature,” claimed Friend C.

     Our heroine was unconvinced however. Finally, she settled on a perfect method of avoiding making a choice and risking her heart. “I tell you what. I’m not going to pursue anyone, so if any man should find me interesting enough to date, let him seek me out.”

     But her friends were not so easily discouraged. Suggesting the group visit another city to find other potential suitors, they dragged our heroine to a small gathering of like-minded individuals. Rather than finding new options, the ladies found themselves face-to-face with the two men already discussed. Our heroine chatted with both of them, and felt the evening had been largely wasted – until returning to her transport home, when friend C came rushing up to inform her that the Suitor the two friends found to be superior had inquired after our heroine.

    Flattered by the attention, but frightened that someone had apparently taken up her challenge, she agreed to spend the next evening with this Suitor at an informal gathering at friend A’s home. The two of them, Suitor and heroine, had much in common and enjoyed each other’s company enough that he proposed a date. Head spinning from such charming attention and his effusive flattery, she agreed with a smile, and the first ray of hope that maybe a happy life might be possible.

     And although our heroine did everything she could to discourage the Suitor short of saying no, she began to develop feelings for him. Evenings spent in his home provided a niggling sense of regret however, and eventually, she had to confess to the Suitor of her idea of dating his friend, the Magician. He appeared genuinely dismayed, but simply said, “You know he will never go out with you now, since you’ve dated me, right?” And she did.

     Our heroine’s feelings for the Suitor grew, and she threw herself, rather forcefully, into the relationship. They spent as much time together as he would allow, and did so many things together. But theirs was not an equal relationship, because of how “responsible” and “mature” he was. She let his feelings and needs dictate the course of the relationship, largely because she couldn’t see any other way to be together.

     In the meantime, our heroine’s friends became annoyed that her attempt to build a happy life left less time for them to have her at their beck and call. Rather than happiness for their friend, they offered her anger and distance, finally removing themselves from her life completely. She looked around in confusion, wondering how this was leading to a happy life, but continued to doggedly dote on her Suitor, aware that her social support had dwindled to this one person.

     Which reminded her that it had been too long since the Magician had joined them for any of their shared past times. And as if by magic, he slowly began to return. And suddenly life seemed less precarious, with fun and amusement seeming an absolute certainty.

     And then one morning, a mere six hours after leaving her Suitor, she found a message from him telling her, “I need to be direct and clear. I have decided that I need to go back to being single. This has nothing to do with you, and it’s not because of anything you did or did not do. I’ve been trying to make things work with us (or should I say myself) and it’s just not.” She was nearly crushed under the weight of the series of losses.

     But she refused to be driven away from her other acquaintances, some of whom were developing into true friends. With much fear, our heroine ventured to places where she would have to face the Suitor and the first few times nearly undid her resolve to not become a hermit. Her acquaintances tried to help her make sense of everything that had happened, and she loved them for trying, but nothing seemed to help.

     Until the Magician came to her rescue one weekend when she needed to visit a nearby city for an evening of entertainment. The long drive and the subsequent conversations eased something inside of our heroine. And so she began to spend more and more time with the Magician. At first, it was just nice to spend time with someone who got that it hurt, but didn’t expect her to hurry up and get over it. And then she realized what she had missed – this was precisely what she had wanted when her friends had poked her to find someone.

     Of course, she remembered the warning that her relationship with the Suitor would render her unable to pursue the Magician. And she genuinely worried that broaching the subject would damage the friendship she had developed. But other people had been watching them, our heroine and the Magician, and told her that perhaps she wasn’t the only one who wanted something more.

     And now, sweet reader, it’s time for a choice. Oh, did I not mention this was a choose-your-own-adventure story? Oops, my bad. So here are a few options for you:

  • You can fold this story up and return it to the author, gently saying you are not interested
  • You can find the author and give her a kiss, regardless of witnesses, telling her that any potential drama that may ensue is worth it
  • You can find the author, and quietly take the owner bracelet off of her wrist and hold it for your very own, showing your interest but desire to remain low key
  • Or, of course, you can do whatever you like – except for sharing this story with anyone else. It is a rather personal tale not meant for just any eyes.

     Congratulations, you chose wisely and learned a valuable lesson – not all fairytales have happy endings, but sometimes the stories and the bonds that they develop are worth a little sadness. I love you, and while I am sad  you were not able to feel the same about me, I am glad that I gained your trust and got to know you better. It was, as I had always suspected, a life full of interesting things, some light and some dark, but all worth knowing. You tell we ladies all the time that we deserve better in our relationships, but trust me when I say, the same applies to you.


Of my many hobbies and pastimes, my favorite has to be karaoke. I have always loved performing – I was even a theater major my first time in college – and karaoke is a social activity where it is easy to meet new people. And I confess, I may be slightly addicted to it – I have at least one spot to go every night of the week, and in some cases, more than one. And heaven forbid the karaoke jockey cancels one night – I’ll spend hours poking around on the internet and asking questions of friends and family trying to track down another spot if I’m really jonesing for some sing time.

Me singing Garbage

This me, doing my thing – singing some Garbage.

Over the many years I’ve done karaoke, I have witnessed a lot of fun and shenanigans, but I’ve also seen my fair share of ass-hattery. So I’ve decided to put together this little guide for the karaoke virgin or audience member. If nothing else, it will help you to avoid starting a fight or getting thrown out of the bar for being a jackass.

1. This is NOT an open mic night. What that means to those of you who don’t get up there and sing/screech/make an effort is that it is NOT okay for you to boo, heckle or otherwise make your opinions known to the entire bar. Sure, not everyone who does karaoke has a voice like a rockstar, and yeah, I have been known to make jokes at the expense of a particularly awful rendition of “Me and Bobby McGee,” but the key point here is I never do anything to make someone feel bad when we are all there to have fun. If you must complain about what you are hearing, do it quietly to your drinking companions.

2. Requests are acceptable. If you are too shy or full of stage fright to do your own singing, it’s okay to request a song from one of the brave souls taking turns on the mic. However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First of all, they have the right to say no – and usually it’s because you’ve asked for a song that they don’t think they can do justice to. You can either ask for a different song, or ask someone else. And secondly, if someone IS nice enough to sing a song for you, particularly if you are a stranger, it’s nice when you offer them something in return, be it a cigarette, an offer to buy them a drink or, as happened to one of my friends recently, even a tip. Again, they don’t have to accept your offer, but it’s the polite thing to do.

3. The person running the karaoke is a human, and has feelings too. If you actually want to sing, and the list of singers is longer than your arm, it is NOT okay to continuously go up to the karaoke jockey and complain that you haven’t gotten to sing yet. Even if they have let people sing more than once before you have had your turn – a lot of time, those people are regulars, and it’s in the kj’s best interest to keep them happy and singing because regulars are good for business. The same goes for asking for a particular song between singers for those karaoke shows that do music/videos while they get the next song ready. When you start screaming about how unfair it is you haven’t gotten what you wanted yet, the kj is just as likely to drop you back to the bottom of the list as they are to scream right back at you. Have some manners, and some patience.

4. Treat the equipment with respect – that shit’s expensive. Seriously, I understand that sometimes while you are drinking, clumsiness may become a problem, but that’s what the mic stand is for – so you won’t drop those expensive microphones. And sure, feel free to cut loose and dance, but avoid banging into or hanging on the speakers and the monitors. Keep an eye out for cords around the area where the kj has set up his equipment – one ill-timed trip will not only make you look like a drunken idiot, but could bring an amp down on your head.

5. Make sure you take care of your bartenders. The reason why bars have karaoke nights is to bring in business, so if you are going to sing, make sure you buy something from the bar, even if it’s just a soda or an appetizer. And you absolutely must tip your bartenders – especially on a crowded night. I get it, you are impatient and want your drink now, and couldn’t care less about the five people ahead of you, so if the bartender doesn’t ignore them and take care of your needs right away, you feel perfectly justified to not leave a tip. You are, in fact, wrong and quite possibly a self-centered prick. Bartenders, like karaoke jockeys, are people too, and are doing the best that they can to keep everyone hydrated and happy. So smile, leave a tip and thank them for your drink. This is also a good way to get better drinks/service in the future.

There are plenty of other tips I can give you, but I’ll boil it all down to this simple concept: we are all there to have fun, so make sure you aren’t spoiling it for everyone else. And a tip to the stage-fright sufferers or the wallflowers – it’s way more fun if you get up there and let loose a little. So what if you aren’t the best singer ever – it’s really a blast to get up there and sing.


Just wanted to share this article that I found that is extremely on point about the unintentionally harmful things people say to folks with chronic illnesses. I’m going to try to post later about something that relates to point #5, from this side of the equation.

15 Things not to say to someone with a chronic illness or invisible illness

*** Danielle

Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.” – Frank Herbert, Dune

This is one of those oft-quoted lines of science fiction, and it always struck me as a tad bit overblown. Until recently, that is, when I finally realized that I have allowed myself to become immobilized by fear in nearly all areas of my life. Not that I’ve let on that’s what is happening. To be honest, 2014 just hasn’t been a good year for me.

My last post talked about my emotional struggle with the idea of putting my grandmother in a memory-care facility. In reality, it was not nearly as awful as I had feared. Her time in the hospital to get her meds leveled out was brief, and we were allowed and even encouraged to come visit her. The most exhausting part of moving my grandparents into their new home was the manual labor required. She settled in pretty well, and someone from the family was with her there every day for the first few weeks, on top of my grandfather’s daily visits. So everyone started moving on with their lives, getting back to their regularly scheduled lives.

Every year my parents go to Florida for Christmas with my dad’s family – his mom, brother and sister-in-law and my cousins. When it was nearing time for them to leave, my mom invited me to come see her mom for her last visit pre-vacation. I admit it, I had not been down to see her as often as I should, but still, it had only been a month or so since I’d seen her last. And sure, I had heard how terribly her hair had been mangled by the nursing home’s in-house stylist. But nothing prepared me for the vast change in her demeanor and awareness.

When Mom and I arrived, they were just finishing up dinner in the main dining room. There sat my grandmother, staring mutely at the table in front of her, until her friend pointed us out. She looked up, but no sign of recognition lit her eyes, no greeting smile graced her lips. Not until Mom went over and hugged her and told her we’d come to play some Yahtzee with her did she react at all. She nodded briefly and said, “Okay.” My mom looked at me and asked me to grab Grandma’s walker and help her back to her room while my mom went down there and got the table and stuff ready. For an able-bodied person in charge of their faculties, that was probably a fifteen-second walk. But I knew Grandma wasn’t moving so well – the appearance of the walker gave that away – so I was perfectly patient with her as I guided her around the dining room tables and down the hallway.

We made it halfway to her room when I noticed I was holding up more of her weight than the walker was, so we stopped at the little sitting area at her end of the complex and let her rest. She looked confusedly around, and then at me, and I said her, “What is it? We’re just taking a little break because that’s such a long walk.” She didn’t really say anything, but looked a little more relaxed. We finally got moving again when Mom came out to look for us, and together, Mom and I got Grandma settled into her recliner. As I was putting the walker by the door, I whispered to my mom, “I don’t think she knows who I am anymore.”

“Nonsense,” my mom replied. Turning to her mom and gesturing to me, she asked, “You know who this, don’t you, Mom?” My grandmother looked at me for a moment, then said, “No.” My mom, a little worried, then asked, “Do you know who I am?” Another pause, then Grandma replied, “You’re Betty.” I saw my mom’s shoulders relax a little as she started setting up the Yahtzee game. We basically played for my grandmother, but somehow, she still won the first game, and my mom walked away with the second, as was their usual record. As we were cleaning up and getting ready to leave, something tugged in my brain.

“Mom, get down next to her so I can take your picture,” I said as I pulled out my phone. A couple of snap shots later, we traded places, and I sat next to Grandma while Mom took our picture. While my mom struggled to operate the camera, I whispered in her ear, “I love you, Grandma.” It’s the last photo of us together.



Grandma and me

My parents and son left for Florida the next day. I was relieved, as I had just started a new temp job, and having them rumbling around the house while I was trying to get used to a new sleep schedule and new job strained my patience. Christmas was four days later. As normal, I spent the day alone at home, playing video games with a little liquid cheer and fielding the obligatory phone calls from family. Since the next day was a work day, I went to bed after watching the Doctor Who Christmas special, feeling like the day had gone as well as it could have.

The next day as I was on my five-minute drive home – the new job definitely had a few perks, including that – Mom called me to say that Grandma was in the hospital, with what they thought was pneumonia. My aunt Debbie spent her days down at the hospital as they treated my grandmother, and that was how I had my last conversation with Grandma. When Debbie accidentally Face-timed me instead of my mom, I was laying on the couch, trying to take a nap after work. When she showed me to Grandma, she recognized me that time, and though she was exhausted, she told me she loved me, and I told her the same.

I got daily updates and worried phone calls from my mom, trying to decide if she should come home early or finish out vacation. She ended up coming home on New Year’s Eve. Two days later, Grandma was released from the hospital so it seemed the danger had passed.

But, unbeknownst to us at the time, Grandma had a heart attack while she was at the hospital. That, combined with the rash she developed from them bombarding her with antibiotics to fight the pneumonia, left her unable to get around and in constant pain. She lasted three weeks like that. At times, it seemed like she would recover, but most nights, my mom was at the nursing home until the wee hours of the morning, and came home in tears, after spending hours listening to her mother beg her to make it stop, to help her, to get my grandfather.

The Monday before she passed away, my mom called me during my lunch break to say that the hospice nurse said it was getting close. I talked to my very understanding new boss, and flew out of the building, rushing to get to Grandma’s bedside. When I managed to get there, I found my dad sitting on a folding chair outside the room. I tilted my head wordlessly at him, and he shrugged. “It’s a full house in there. Just giving them room,” he said.

My uncle, his wife, one of their granddaughters (and her stroller), my mom, my aunt and my grandfather sat in chairs crammed around Grandma’s bed. There was one empty seat on the far side of the room and I scooted my way around the foot of her bed, trying to ignore the horrifying sounds she made as she struggled to breathe. She moved very little, but her eyes were wide open.

I’m sure it makes me a terrible person, but I wish more than anything that I hadn’t gone. As people trickled in and out, I just sat there and looked at her and felt so small and powerless. When the hospice nurse came in to moisten her mouth and change her diaper, everyone but my mom got up and left. I headed for the door myself, but my mom stopped me. “If you want a minute alone with her, you can have it when the nurse is done.” So I stayed, fortunately for the nurse, because I ended up having to help her turn my grandmother over and hold her up during the diaper changing.

That was the only time I was there that I heard Grandma make any noise besides the loud rattle of her breathing. She moaned and cried and feebly struggled against the nurse every step of the way. My mom was on the verge of tears, they stood freely in my eyes, and I knew that I had reached my limit. When the nurse was done, my mom started to leave the room, but I stopped her. I leaned down over Grandma, gently put one hand on her shoulder and kissed her on the top of her head lightly. “It’s okay, Grandma. We love you, but you can go now,” I whispered.

And then I hurried out to my car and drove home before the tears came and I couldn’t see to drive straight. Knowing what was coming, I sort of ran away from home. I hid out at my boyfriend’s house with him and his roommates to keep myself distracted. That’s where I was when my mom called that Friday night. After disconnecting from her tear-drowned voice, I just stood on the stairs for a moment, expecting my emotions to come bursting out of me. But mostly, I just felt empty.

The funeral and all of the family obligations that come with such an important death were not the egregious chores I made them out to be, but I was just running on empty the entire time, trying to keep myself together. I cannot thank my friends enough for their support during that week – I often wonder if they think I’m a monster because I never really broke down over the loss. Even in the midst of chaos like that, I tried to hang on to my unspoken number one rule – Never let them see you cry, because that is weakness and emotional blackmail.

(Yes, I know that grief is generally an exception to all those things, but I also know that if I had let it go that week, I might never have stopped. The service was the worst, with the open casket, seeing her lay there as people remembered her kindness and gentleness. I could feel my face trying to crumble apart but I just couldn’t – my tears wouldn’t be the delicate sniffles and light sobbing of the rest of my family. It would have been flat-out bawling and wailing – and I wanted to make sure everyone heard all those good things about Grandma, even though we all already knew them.)


Nearly two months passed in a brain-numbed fog. There were moments of sobbing, striking randomly when I was alone, followed by numerous naps. I did not go back to the cemetery, in large part due to the polar vortex, until her birthday. I planned to go with just my mom, whose birthday is the following day, but she insisted we bring her sisters along with us. What should have been a simple trip to pay memory to my grandmother turned into a day long adventure, punctuated by sibling squabbles and another kick in the metaphorical stomach.

Before we could leave for the cemetery and lunch, my aunt called to tell us she was taking my grandfather to an emergency doctor’s visit. He hadn’t been doing well recovering from back surgery the week before, and the doctor was concerned about the swelling in his arms and legs. So we met her at the doctor’s office and it was there that my grandfather told them all – my aunt, my mom and his doctor – that he wanted to be done. Stop poking and prodding him, and just let him go.

And so it was not a great shock to any of us that he passed away three weeks later. While I loved my grandfather very much, his death did not rock me in the same way Grandma’s did. Mostly because I knew how much he missed her and wanted to be with her again. So this time around, I flew mostly solo, stepping into the role of family referee and comic relief.

DAD - Page 001

What does all this have to do with fear, you’re probably asking yourself (if you made it this far lol)? Death makes you think about life, that whole flipside of the coin thing. And as we put together my grandfather’s service, and talked about our memories of him, I found myself wondering if he’d ever regretted living his life for other people. He was about as traditional a man as you can imagine, working three jobs to support his family when times were tight, working six days a week (10 hours a day), with little time for hobbies or outside interests. When my grandmother was gone, he literally had no reason to be here anymore – his job was to take care of his family, and that was done now. But did he ever regret that?

Probably not. He placed a great deal of importance on being a hard worker and a bread winner for the family. To him, that was a person’s number one responsibility – not to change the world or make it a better place, but to provide for the people you love. And he taught that lesson to his children well – they are all very responsible adults, who take their roles as providers and caregivers very seriously.

But somewhere along the way, that priority of what I sometimes – in my snarkier moods – see as “Money, money, money” skipped over me. It’s not that I don’t think it’s important to have a good paying job and take care of your loved ones (be they family or friends). Somehow, I have simply prioritized having a positive impact on the world and a passion for whatever it is you do for a living as far more important than the size or reliability of a paycheck. But these priorities have warred in my head for years, and have left me all but paralyzed to do anything now.

I accept that depression has a lot to do with the initial pause – I sometimes just fall apart. But usually I am able to pick myself up, dust off and get back on track. But right now I keep going back and forth in my head about what I should do now that I’ve lost yet another temp job (four days before Grandpa died, no less). I have been a somewhat functional adult for the last four years, earning a steady paycheck, and able to provide for myself at least. But in the turmoil of the last four months, one question keeps badgering me – “Don’t you want to create something that will last beyond your days on this rock, and have impact on people far beyond your circle of friends and family?” (Yes, my brain is a little pretentious.)

The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes – but I continue to let my fear of disappointing my family, my fear of being able to provide for myself, my fear of failure and my fear of loss shut me down. Some days I will have an open, blank Word document open on my computer all day, and manage to type nothing into it at all – can’t right a letter, or a background, or even a list. Words simply won’t come.

So I do nothing – and feel my life slip a little farther away every day. It is like the world yanked the carpet out from under me in January, and I’m simply laying on the ground stunned. “I’m fine,” I say when asked how I’m doing – because I simply don’t have the energy to explain it all and really don’t feel like anyone needs or wants to hear my crazy spilling out in a river of words.

I am not fine. I am an excellent liar. As for this floor I’m laying on right now, not sure if I’ll get back up again anytime soon. But I promise to try. One way or another. Feel free to hold me to that.

DAD - Page 079

*** Danielle

P.S. If you ever want to find some good explanations for what depression is like from the inside, I highly recommend this group of comics and the blog at Hyperbole and a Half.





I’ve been struggling to put this post together for a week. Part of the difficulty comes from intense emotions, or what my friends might call too many feels. The other problem is multi-layered regret: regret that I didn’t do this sooner, regret that I will never know all the stories and details that could have added to the tale, and regret that I allow my cramped and stifled brain to push me away from my keyboard anytime writing gets too hard. But this is important and I will get this together tonight if it kills me – okay, more likely makes me look like a red-nosed, swollen-eyed, mushy middle-aged woman.

As many of my friends know, my maternal grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease. She was officially diagnosed around five years ago, but it was clear to the family what the problem was long before that. We had watched her mother suffer through it until she passed in 1992, and two of her older sisters had already been diagnosed with it. She was fortunate that she still has my grandfather there to care for her, but as he is three years older than her, his health and mental faculties have been in a steady decline for a number of years. There have been repeated attempts on the parts of my mom and her siblings to get their parents moved into a senior community that has “memory care” facilities, but my grandfather – stubborn, proud and frugal as he has always been – always put the brakes on the move at the last minute.

That has changed now. We aren’t even sure he’s able to care for himself anymore, let alone my grandmother. My aunts and uncles have pitched in along with my parents to help as much as possible. The men help by doing little repairs around the house and mowing the grass. The ladies handle the paperwork and the ins and outs of doctor’s visits, dealing with the insurance company and shopping for their mom’s clothes. My mom makes a point of going over at least one day a week to play Yahtzee with my grandma to help keep her mind stimulated at least a little bit. But the time has come for the family to accept that we are not able to take care of them and maintain our own health and sanity. My mother comes home frequently all frazzled and frustrated from her visits, and I can’t imagine it is any easier on my aunts and uncles.

And what does this all mean to me? It’s pretty simple – my grandmother is the one person I know without a doubt loves me no matter how badly I mess up. The horrible way I used to yell and scream at her over my (not yet realized) frustration at my parents for farming me out to her every summer? She would punish me appropriately, if a little reluctantly, and then hug me and tell me she loved me no matter what I said to her. Flunked out of my freshman year of college? Maybe it didn’t bother her as much as my parents because she never made it out of middle school – she had been recruited to work in her dad’s general store before she finished the eighth grade. My marriage failed? Not so much as an eye blink, which was a refreshing change from the intense sense of judgment I felt from my sincerely religious family. The depression that kept me a virtual prisoner in my home for nearly two years? She only wanted to know how she could help and when I might come and sit with her for a while.

What matters most to me is what I learned from her, even if it has taken me the better part of four decades to figure it out. She taught me how to love the people that matter to me. It doesn’t always have to involve words. Her love for me was there in every bowl of macaroni and cheese, plate of sliced tomatoes, and dinner of salmon patties and fried potatoes she fixed for me. It was evident there on her couch as she taught me how to play rummy and Yahtzee while her “stories” – those lovely slices of daily melodrama we call soaps – droned on in the background. Every stitch in a Barbie skirt, or a matching one for me, thrummed with her love. The yarn critters she made still feel like love, even after years packed away in boxes. There isn’t a thing my grandma ever gave me that reminds me, even a little, that I was a disappointment at times, difficult to deal with at others, and have made so many mistakes that not even I can honestly say I approve of what I’ve accomplished with my life so far. My grandma doesn’t care about any of that – she just loves me for being me.

So why is it so vital I put these words together now? She’s not dead, we’re only planning to take her to a place where people can give her more attention than our family is able to now. The problem is that in order to do that, we will have to medicate her into complacency so that she won’t fight leaving behind everything familiar to her. See, while I still see my gentle, good-natured grandmother when we visit, her disease has stripped her of most of her self-control and these days, when things aren’t going the way she wants them to, she lashes out – sometimes verbally, but occasionally physically. She has always had a stubborn streak in her, but before Alzheimer’s started slowly stealing her away from us, she could figure out why people were doing things. There is no explaining to her anymore that this move is for her benefit, and Grandpa’s too. The world is so confusing to her now she can’t stand for anything to change, let alone leave her home of the last 34 years.

And so this coming week, my mom and aunt will be taking her to be admitted to a geriatric psychiatric ward, so that they can stabilize Grandma’s medications sufficiently for her to move into the memory care unit of the senior community they and my grandfather have chosen. It is necessary, I understand that, but the realist in me knows that her already impaired mental faculties, memory in particular, will likely suffer for the stabilization process. And even then, once she is situated in her new “home,” we have been told that we won’t be allowed to see her right away, because the staff wants time to make sure she is well and truly acclimated and accepting of her new surroundings before any of us, even my grandfather, are allowed to visit. So she will likely spend weeks away from any familiar faces, any trace of her long life, surrounded by strangers who are trying to help her.

And in the end, the odds of my grandmother really being there when we are finally permitted to go see her is fairly low. It hurts to know she likely won’t recognize us anymore, or at best, that we will be permanently confused for younger versions of other relatives, most long since dead. I am glad that her needs will be met by capable and trained professionals, and that my mother won’t have to worry if her mom has been left unattended in her locked house again. But in a very real way, it feels like our weekly lunch tomorrow will be my last chance to look my grandma in the eye, tell her thank you and I love you, and know that some part of her will actually hear and understand me.

As much as my emotions have been wreaking havoc with me, I only hope that I can keep it together until we go our separate ways. If there are tears in my eyes, or if I look sad, I know her well enough to know that she’ll worry – not about herself, mind you, but about me. I know she’ll tell me to come see her soon, like she always does, and that it’s going to break my heart a lot when I promise her that I will. But I’m going to do my best this time – I already failed to say my goodbyes to one grandparent with a lingering illness, and I refuse to make that mistake again. And I will do my best to live what she has shown me. I know that I am flawed, but I will try to make sure that the people who matter to me know that they are loved – even if they are flawed too.

*** Danielle

Update:  I surprised myself at how well I did. When Grandpa was ready to leave, I went over and took both of her hands to help her stand up. She started to hug me while she was sitting, but I smiled and said, “Let me help you up first. I’m already too tall to hug you properly.” She laughed and stood up, then wrapped her arms around me. I leaned in close and just said, “I love you very, very much.” She asked her question after she told me she loves me too, and I told her I’d do my best. She even snuck back for another hug before they left. My eyes misted up a bit when my aunt hugged her for so long, doing the same thing I was, saying a last goodbye, but no one noticed. The mandatory throat lump was there as I watched Grandma, her hand on Grandpa’s arm, toddling out to the parking lot, but I feel good at least knowing she had a good lunch with her family. And I took a nap when I got home, because that sort of emotional restraint is just exhausting.

Never have dealt well with emotions.

Never have dealt well with emotions.

*** Danielle

After my last post, regarding the concept of love, I realized that it had been nearly 2 and a half years since I had posted here, or even hopped on just to check stats and comments. That picture I posted in October 2010 was not really any attempt to keep myself plugged in here; I was just testing the WordPress app on my then-new R2D2 smartphone. I was sort of dumbstruck at the absence and started thinking about why I just gave up on this, and in effect, my writing career, at that moment in time.

It took me a couple of days to piece it together, but as far as reasons for writer’s block go, it’s a humdinger. On September 30, 2010, I got on Facebook before work and was going through my daily ritual of checking up on all my friends when I saw an article that had been linked by one of my former journalism professors. One of my fellow non-traditional students had been found murdered in her home, by her husband, who then killed himself. While it would have been a shock under any circumstances to read about someone I knew being murdered, the whole thing hammered me pretty hard.

Melissa, Lissa to her friends, and I had gotten pretty close while we were at UC. I first met her in my magazine publishing class, where we ended up being assigned to the same group. We brainstormed like crazy and came up with the Rewind magazine concept together, drawing on our mutual longing for the good old days when we were young and carefree and we wanted to grow up to be Molly Ringwald or Ally Sheedy. The class required us to spend a fair amount of time together outside of school, and as luck would have it, we only lived about ten minutes apart.

I was super excited to have a classmate who lived up here in the northern suburbs, and it was just a bonus that she was also a mom and non-traditional student. She and I started hanging out more on campus too; we became each other’s sanity anchors and sounding boards over assignments we were dreading or the fun and sometimes aggravation of listening to our younger classmates go on and on about their super exciting extracurriculars. It was just such a relief to have someone who got how odd it was to be sitting in a classroom with people who were closer in age to my son than myself.

And then I graduated. Lissa still had a couple quarters’ worth of classes to complete to get her degree, so we spent less time together, with her focusing on her internships and my need to focus on finding a job. We still managed to get together a couple of times over the next six months and then all of our activities seemed to swallow up even those brief interludes. I felt bad about it, but at the time, I had so much going on between working my part-time job and applying for something in my field and spending time with other friends that I just shrugged it off, figuring I’d have time to catch up with her eventually.

In the three months before her death, Lissa stepped up her efforts to get in touch with me. She called a handful of times, and even stopped by my house twice, both times while I was at work. The last time she was here my parents told me she seemed in good spirits, but seemed sort of pressed to get a bit of my time. That was two weeks before she died.

When I read the article, and subsequent posts from other classmates on Lissa’s death, I was just in shock. It took me a couple of weeks to get to guilt and anger, and they just sort of swallowed me for months. I kept doing what I had to do (working) and spent the rest of my time trying to escape and cope through my favorite past-time, role-playing. I even made a character who’s driving purpose was to punish abusive men. And the whole time, I was busy thinking about the whole awful situation.

I would never see this beautiful, confident, slightly irreverent woman pulling up outside my house in her white convertible. I had spent hours hanging out with her at home, and met her husband Dale. He seemed like a good guy, and from the times we three had sat on their back patio, smoking and talking, he seemed supportive of Lissa following her passion and trying to make a go of following her dream to be a writer. She had even had a book published while she was still a student at UC, a little local history book about the inclines of Cincinnati.

Had she been trying to reach out to me, as a woman who had gotten out of her unhealthy marriage, for help? I will never know. And that’s the thing that sort of killed my spirit. While I was struggling to process the whole thing, I wanted to write a scathing blog post about how terrible abusive relationships were, and why gun control was a good thing, and a number of other related topics. But I just couldn’t get my thoughts together enough to even try to write something.

And that’s when I gave up on my writing. I couldn’t seem to string together three sentences on any topic, no matter how far from the subject of Lissa’s senseless death it might have been. And it only took me two and a half years to figure out that I needed to do this, say goodbye to my friend and acknowledge how much it affected me, if I ever wanted to give this dream a chance.

I have driven past her house once since she died. It was probably six months after – up until then, I couldn’t even bring myself to drive up Kemper Road in that general direction. I turned around in the driveway of her house after sitting there for a couple of minutes trying to figure out what had happened. And I ended up pulling over before I managed to finish the ten minute drive to my house, because the tears simply would not wait.

After this epiphany I had about how deeply her death touched me, I realized how awful and wasteful my inaction has been. Lissa was driven to do this thing, just like I am, and she had been making real progress before her life was cut short. And here I sit, bemoaning that I can’t make a go of it as a real writer, when I have time and support and people who care about me who want to see me succeed. It’s a terrible thing to let something you love sit on a shelf because you are afraid of rejection or failure; it’s an absolute travesty to do that when you know there are others who will never have the opportunity to even try again.

So I am going to do this. It may never amount to more than my rambling here on the web for those few, you brave few, who want to see what I have to say. But at least I am going to try. To be perfectly honest, I made need your help, darling readers. If I have been silent for too long, feel free to give me a shout and say something. Want to hear my thoughts on something? Ask me – if I have anything to say, I’ll do my best to get it out here.

Finally, I just want to leave this video. My last chance to say goodbye to my friend, and promise her that I won’t let this gift we shared go to waste any more.


*** Danielle


*(Much Thanks to P!nk for the Title)

So I’ve spent a lot of time today thinking about what is happening in the Supreme Court and what it means to me. My initial knee-jerk reaction is to say something like, “Everyone should get a shot at marriage – not like they could do it worse than I have.” But snark isn’t helpful, it just encourages people to fire back with their own version and a genuine conversation doesn’t usually emerge from a snark-fest.

More thought needed to be given to the subject and I kept circling back to the idea that this is all about love. Equality is the headline of the day, but ultimately this is really about acknowledging as true and real a form of love that an ever-shrinking portion of society has deemed as “wrong” or “bad” in the name of religion. The irony in this situation is very rich to me, given that I was raised under the general umbrella of the very faith that people use as a weapon in this fight against same-sex relationships.

Love is the very foundation of Christianity – at least the way I’ve always understood the Jesus of the Bible. Not only did he love and accept everyone, but he specifically drew to him those who were considered unworthy of love or acceptance by the society of his day. So, yeah, I’m guessing He’s not really impressed with the way people use their faith in Him to justify being hateful towards anyone.

But putting matters of faith and belief aside, I realized the idea of legislating love is ridiculous. Love isn’t rational, reasonable and refuses to be confined within safe, arbitrary boundaries any group or individual might like to place on it. Love is breathtaking, amazing, brutal, awe-inspiring, terrfiying, fantastic and unpredictable. Seriously, if love was even remotely rational, would it be able to drive us to such lengths and make us all just a little crazy?

However the Court decides this week, and whatever the outcome of the various legislations addressing the issue of same-sex marriages across the country is, I just want to say that love is a slippery little thing, and if you find it, grab it, hold tight and ignore anyone who tells you it’s wrong because the Bible told them so. Love is such a rare thing to find and keep that anyone who tells you your notions of love are wrong may just be jealous that you found it and they haven’t yet.

*** Danielle