6 Month Anniversary, part 2: Afterwards at Shar’s

I’d planned out the day. I knew Saturday was going to be tough. We had the service in the late morning and then I’d have some down time which I desperately need but couldn’t allow myself to have. Not Saturday. My plans to clean and write and read and journal… a mustard burp in the wind. (Where did THAT expression come from? I don’t think I’ve ever said that before in my life…) I couldn’t muster the strength or energy for anything but lying in bed and staring at the pictures of Natalie, uncle Jeff, grandma and grandpa- all next to the Noah doll. Hm, masochist much?

Thankfully I’d already made plans on Friday with Shar. We were going to watch the season finale of American Horror Story: My Roanoke Nightmare and the premier of the “Killing Season”. Now you might wonder why I’d watch so much violence and gore… it takes a lot to take my mind off of Natalie and the horror of this reality. And, to be completely honest, I like to be scared. Reasonably, scared. Not like “hey, we just watched an hour and a half of a documentary on LISK (Long Island Serial Killer) are outside smoking and SOMEBODY, I’m not going to name name’s… friend’s brother… comes charging up the back step and scares the shit out of us!” God… Seriously, after that? I was afraid to go from her front door to my car. Then I had to drive IN THE DARK to get back home and get from the car to my apartment without  being hacked to death and thrown into the bushes for some golfer to find several months later… What? Of course the TV isn’t fueling my imagination… Pfffp.

Now during the show, there were a few crazy things that went on. The first being when we looked up the initials. A few days ago, Shar got on her computer and went to YouTube and Natalie’s account popped up. Now, they met a few times but I don’t think she ever showed up to Shar’s house. Even if she did, she certainly didn’t use her computer. How she was able to get there, I have no idea. There are 62 videos. Shar clicks on the first one. It came up with static and said “Sorry, this video is no longer available due to copyright infringement” with the initials UMG. They didn’t mean anything to me right off the bat. I asked my mom, she didn’t recognize them as anything significant but we all agreed Nat was/is trying to get a message across. I was talking to mom about it in the car, hung up and when I looked up, there was a car with the license plate UMG. Made a mental note to google it but forgot. Until Saturday night. Tons of stuff pops up when you google UMG. One of the first few though, take you to a website “Universal Music Group”. I’ve never heard of this company before. I don’t know if Natalie was in contact with them or wanted to be… Shar monkeyed around a bit on the site and clicked on something (related to Natalie, I don’t remember what) and was taken to the music video of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”.

After that, we go back to watching the show. A girl named Amber(?) was being interviewed and she said “I just want to know who killed my sister”. Then the tv froze. Shar had paused it and told me to took at the lamp in the corner of the room. I turned my head and saw this lampshade hula-hooping! Around and around it spun. I wasn’t doing that before. It wasn’t near a vent or heat register. It was perfectly still, like a lampshade should be. We just sat and watched it until it slowed and stopped. “It stared right when that girl said she wanted to know who killed her sister. Did you try to find out who sold Natalie the heroin?”

“Yeah, with NO help from her!”

Then I started shouting at the ceiling “You have to help me! All of the mediums we’ve been to tell us you refuse to let them know who is responsible! Meet me halfway.”

I go back to my carrots and Twizzlers, don’t judge me.

Finally, I get a text from Jess. She was checking in and wanted to know how I was doing. We talked a little bit but I wasn’t fully attentive as I was watching this A&E show. She tells me she keeps reliving it and having to call my dad and tell him.

This was something I didn’t know.

She told me about it and I didn’t think my heart could break into any more pieces but I guess- never underestimate the power of circumstance. It broke again. And again. And again.

We finish the show. I go home. I chat with Tayla for a bit and I am so exhausted, I am confident as soon as I lay down, I will fall asleep. No down time between the ears. Perfect. Until about 11:30 pm, then it all ganged up on me. The funeral home. The service. THE DAY IT HAPPENED. I’d so hoped I was over the screaming part of my grief… Nope. I woke up screaming and sobbing. I cried myself back to sleep only to repeat the process two more times.

Sunday sucked. Just walked around like a zombie, periodically bursting into tears with no apparent trigger. I just feel so fucking hollow. I never planned on losing Nat. That’s not the natural order of things. She and Justin… we’d all be together for a long time. That’s what’s supposed to happen, right? I know, “the cause of most people’s unhappiness is the picture of how it’s suppose to be” but this isn’t like I wanted to win an award or I wanted that person to do xyz…

Today, today doesn’t feel much better. And maybe it won’t until after Christmas. Or after New Year’s. Maybe it won’t ever happen. I don’t mean to be such a downer… I want to have hope and faith… She just loved the holidays SO MUCH… to not have her buoyancy, her charisma… it’s just tough.

End the Epidemic Expo- Recap

Oh shiitake mushrooms… (My way of saying I messed up on Sunday and I’m sorry, see how much shorter it can be?)

I started this blog six months ago and have written faithfully, twice a week. I did it when Noah died. On Mother’s Day. Right after Natalie died. What could have possibly kept me from the practice that I hold so dear?

Disappointment. Sounds pretty lackluster but I assure you, it was a SPECTACULAR disappointment.

I’ve spent the past several days looking for my spin doctors. After spending the better part of three months pushing myself to get this “End the Epidemic” Expo going, I’d expected big things. Or, at least bigger things.

Here’s how the day played out:

Saturday a.m. I am up and moving by 6:00. I type out a very rough draft of the timeline for the days’ events. I am a little panicky about the open slot from 4:00-6:00 but overall, impressed by how much came together.

Call from dad.

“Can you swing by the shop and pick up the little table and chairs that sit outside? Mom wants them for her tarot reading.”

There is some finalizing of details and the enlightenment that we don’t have to wait until 10:00 or 10:30 to start setting up.

“Great! I’ll see if Justin can help with that part then.”

A little time goes by and there is a follow up call.

“Ang has got a ton of stuff. My car is packed. I can’t fit one more thing inside. Can you find out if someone is coming over to help haul the rest of the stuff? I think Barb was going to help out…”

I call Barb. Voicemail.

I nervously hope she’s not answering because she’s driving.

I send a text, not realizing that’s probably worse.

I call my mom. Voicemail.

Text. No reply.

I’m supposed to pick up Shar at 9:30 and I still have to make copies at Kinko’s.

She can meet me at Kinko’s.

I forget to make the fucking copies.

I sit in the car, not knowing if I should go to Minneapolis to help the set up or head towards Eden Prairie for the rest of the display stuff.

I figured since I hadn’t heard anything… things had gotten figured out.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Just as we’re pulling into the church parking lot (a little after 10:30, expo starts at 11) the phone rings.

Honestly at this point? I don’t even remembered who called. The just of the convo was there was too much stuff to fit everyone in the vehicle and Mary Grace (17 year old cousin in from TN, super sweet & incredibly talented) needs a ride.

I turn the car around. I look at the time and it’s 10:45. I start laughing. A big, full, hearty laugh. Tears were not far behind, I was laughing that hard. Shar and Tayla look at me with a mixture of curiosity, amusement and a little bit of fear.

“What is so funny?” one of them asked.

I coughed the words out like a cat with a hairball. Between bouts and new waves of laughter, I say “It’s 15 minutes until show time and we’re driving AWAY from the church.” It reminded me of the time Don and I took a road trip to see my grandma. The nine hour drive ended up closer to 14 hours because we got lost in Iowa. Seriously? How do you get lost in IOWA? Anyway, the was an electric blue house that we’d passed several times before. Once we rounded the corner and saw the white trim of that fucking blue house… Don started to laugh. Hysterically. “We’re never going to find it” he said. “We’re never going to get there. May as well get comfy in the car, we live here now.” So, it was THAT kind of laughter. The laugh of desperation.

I pull into my parents driveway and see a large SUV with all the doors and trunk open. The two little wiener dogs come outside and spill down the steps, anxious to greet us.

Barb is inside, sitting on the bottom step of the staircase, shaking her head.

I start to call for mom.

“There’s still two more crates downstairs that need to go…”

I pack the two containers in the back and that’s all I can take. I can’t put the backseats down because I’ve got two kiddos in the back.

So I floor it, go as fast as I can (within the legal speed limit, of course) and we make it back to the church by about 11:30. My only saving grace is that the itinerary I posted earlier didn’t show much of anything scheduled until noon.

Finally through the Sanctuary doors to find things… looking pretty good. A lot of stuff is set up. I grab a card table, tablecloth and set up my own stuff while trying to slow my breathing and reminding myself I didn’t need to rush anymore.

The first speaker is scheduled from 12:30-1:00. By 12:20, I haven’t seen or heard anyone come into the church. I’m starting to get nervous.

Instead of Natalie’s music playing, it’s some kind of religious muzak. The 14 foot (approx) big screen is still rolled up (instead of a slideshow of photos of Natalie or the music video for Soldiers of Love by Sade).

There are people in the church, maybe a dozen? They are all here to help us set up, offer services or be emotional support (or all three)

“It’s five minutes until the first speaker is scheduled to go on… where the hell are they?”

“Oh, yeah. He’s here. He’s here. He uh, locked his presentation and notes in his car. The locksmith will be about 20 minutes.”

FanFuckingTastic.

I had someone else scheduled to go on from 1:00-2:00, so my stomach is knotting up. In a weird way, not having anyone there was a saving grace. There was a lot of flexibility.

Locksmith shows up, speakers grabs his stuff and does his thang. He was from Progress Valley and knowledgeable with how the brain reacts differently to opioids than other drugs. It was fun! As odd as that sounds, it was interactive, informative, engaging, so interesting. I learned a ton! He spoke to our small group, which may have been smaller than 12 as people rotated smoke breaks…

The next presenter, from Valhalla Place, I was so excited to have come. I’d only met her once before and it was very brief but she is so good at what she does! So much to offer and share. She had to be somewhere at 2:30. I don’t remember what time it was, but it wasn’t looking good. Until a couple of coworkers showed up and were unwittingly volunteered to take her place. Because the day got off to a rocky start and we didn’t start on schedule, time slots were running into other time slots.

Jesse Seward, the musician who came to perform (and later I found out, actually knew Natalie) had also come early to help us set up. I had him down to sing from 3:30-4:00, he thought it was 3:00-3:30. There is a minor hysteria as I’m searching the church for the pianist (whom I hadn’t met, didn’t have a name so how would I know him/her if I saw her?).

The volunteers heard they got bumped back to 4:00 and had to leave. I wanted them to stay but there still wasn’t anyone there, not who didn’t come with us… I told them I appreciated their willingness to come and apologized for the confusion. He told me he felt bad and told him (in part to reassure myself) that this is merely a learning experience. It’s not going to run perfectly the first time out on the floor…

Jesse sang. It was beautiful. My phone ran out of memory and I didn’t get any of it.

 

“If anyone needs me, I’m going to my car to cry for five minutes, have a cigarette and come back in.”

There were a lot of sympathetic nods.

Tayla asked if she could come with. I told her of course. It’d been a long day in those few hours.

I get to the bottom of the stairs and start to push on the door when I heard a sickening crack and a thud from behind me.

Tayla had fallen down the stairs. She didn’t get up right away and she seemed very, out of it. She kept falling asleep. She didn’t look good. Someone suggested I take her to the E.R., sadly, this was the high point of the day for me. I was ready to change the name from End the Epidemic to End the Expo!

We drove to Fairview Southdale hospital where we received the fastest visit in history. Seriously, it was so fast, I considered pushing her down a bigger flight of stairs. Just kidding. Mostly.

I dreaded going back to the church. To dealing with the emptiness. The deep well of sadness that was threatening to overflow.

We were pulling into the parking lot just before 6:00 and almost everything was packed up. People were leaving, the people who came with us. “There just wasn’t anybody there” someone said in response to the question I didn’t ask.

I dropped my head back and saw through the partly dark clouds, a rainbow. A rainbow that I saw both end of. It felt right, to see it but not in response to how the day went.

It wasn’t just how much time I spent making the flier or how many people got them, it’s that almost everyone was EXCITED to come. “I’ll for sure be there!”, “Oh man, I’ve got a couple of friends who NEED this, we’ll be there”, “This is a wonderful thing you’re doing, see you Saturday” … it just didn’t make sense that from 11:00-6:00 no one. showed. up.

In the car on the way home, Tayla asked me if the day was a complete failure.

“Ya know honey, it kinda looks that way doesn’t it? But we don’t always (in fact, rarely) see how our actions or words might affect someone. At the very least, there are now seven more people who have Naloxone and can possibly save a life. I personally got a lot out of the first speaker. Who knows what someone else may get out of having gotten a flier? They didn’t make it this time, but maybe it planted a seed… maybe they acknowledged on a very small scale that they have a problem and need help… You just don’t know.”

So that’s the story I’m sticking with…

WTF?

Lately, I feel like I could start every post with that title. Hell, every conversation even.

But today included a serious WTF moment.

It’s not often you can pinpoint the exact moment when the shit hits the fan… but for me today, it was 1:58 pm.

I was on hwy 77 South, just starting to cross the bridge and it came out of nowhere. “IT’S THURSDAY! IT’S BEEN 6 WEEKS SINCE NATALIE DIED!

I felt ill. How could I forget? I mean, the past five weeks, I’ve dreaded each Thursday. I usually started on Sunday night or Monday morning and it would grow with each passing hour. By Wednesday, I was trying to hide out in my bed for as long as possible. And for what? To avoid thinking about THAT DAY? That doesn’t work so well. I spend almost as much time/energy/effort on trying to avoid thinking about Thursdays  as I do on actual grieving!

Last night, watching the home videos, I don’t know. I don’t know if that was such a good idea. It was almost like watching the impossible. The past came back to life. Grandma and Grandpa Scott at Christmas… hearing their voices, hearing grandma say my name again, such a double edged sword.

This time period was way before Justin was born and I don’t think I ever realized how much we depended on each other for … everything. Sharing, loving, trading, goofing off, teamwork… And I realized I never thanked her. I mean, we told each other we loved each other but we veterans (of sorts) who served together in life’s unavoidable war. I don’t think she knew how much our shared experience and the individual ways we dealt with it meant to me. I don’t think I knew how much it meant to me.

I pulled over to wipe my eyes and clear my head. I took a deep breath and saw her at two years old. Four years old. Pre-teen, with braces and a mouth guard. Those ridiculously high teased bangs and premature makeup. I saw her grow and mature. Get swept up in friends. In boys. In drugs.

My heart started to race. “I have to call her. I need to talk to her right now!”

I pulled up the keypad on my phone and realized she wouldn’t answer.

Where was her phone, anyway? Still at the police station? In a baggy, locked in an evidence box? Did the phone company take it back?

“Fuck! I have to see her, where is she?”

The Rolodex of memories flip to our first house. The second house on Hidden Oaks Drive. The last house. Her apartment. The skyline. How long was I staring at those buildings six weeks ago? Oh Jesus. She’s gone. I see the casket. The flames. Ashes. The urn…

Oh my God, she’s gone.

In my mind, I run to her empty apartment. I break down the door. I search frantically for her, but of course, she’s not there.

Just some clothes and makeup. More shoes than any human could possibly wear in a lifetime.

I resume my freak out in the car. Crying and screaming. Damn, I was so hoping to be done with the screaming….

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The Gold in The Golden Girls

“Picture it” Minnesota, 2016. A mother shares with her daughter a tradition of friends, feelings and food! This May will mark the 24th year since The Golden Girls closed the book on the four roommates that proved to be more family than anything else and yet my preteen daughter and I still gather around the TV to watch the decades old show.

What is it about this show that is so endearing to us? I know for me, at least part of it, is it reminds me of times I spent with my grandmother. She was a culmination of the four women, embodied as one. She most physically resembled Rose, (mainly they shared a similar shade of blonde) but they both had an upbeat demeanor and a positive outlook on life. She had Blanche’s southern charm and hospitality, not to mention a great love of the men in her life! She was a wonderful listener and very compassionate, like Dorothy and had Sophia’s wisdom. I remember during the times we stayed with her, I’d lay on the floor propped up on a giant pillow and grandma would sit next to me, rubbing my back and laugh along with me at the antics on screen.

Of course that’s not the only reason I love these women. My daughter loves watching them too. What it is that keeps her attention, watching a full episode after episode of a sitcom revolving around 4 “old” women?

I knew she didn’t understand all of the jokes nor could she relate to the issues they faced yet we watched these women overcome every obstacle and become better for it.

Here are some ways their family brought me closer to mine:

“Hello, hello, hello!” Dorothy announces as she walks out onto the lanai for the first time this episode. “Blanche, I need you to give me a manicure, Rose I need you to lend me your pearls and ma, I need you to stay off my back!” Dorothy is a woman who knows what she’s wants and how to get it. She’s the take charge type she is independent in a way that doesn’t isolate. Plus, she talks back to her mother, defending herself before there’s even been a chance to attack! What child doesn’t want to tell her mother to butt out? 

A big component to the shows’ success was the alliance between Dorothy and Blanche as they picked on or made fun of Rose. Occasionally, one of them would hit her with a rolled up newspaper as punishment for another ridiculous St. Olaf story. Tempers (not to mention nostrils) would flare momentarily, but you always knew they cared.

Aside from the ribbing and verbal jousting, they occasionally had live animals! Dogs, a chicken (that played a piano!), a duck, a couple of ferrets they tried breeding… My favorite was the pig, Baby, who came to live with the girls after a cousin of Rose’s passed away. There was also a visual feast with fun costumes! Remember the time Dorothy and Sophia dressed up as Sonny and Cher? Or when Blanche and Dorothy went to the aerobics class- in sequins? What about the time the four starred the children’s production of “Chicken Little”? They’re couldn’t have been a more perfect Chicken Little than Rose Nylund.

There was something for everyone. They tackled the tough topics. They addressed issues then that are still prevalent today and I have no doubt that if they were still around, they’d be weighing in on pansexuality, sex trafficking and the heroin epidemic. Even though my daughter may not understand everything that’s being said or the gravity of the situations, she still gets a kick out of the expressions on the women’s faces when Sophia offers up a one liner or Blanche says something racy to make Dorothy go “Woah”!

Another thing The Girls have modeled for us was the need to splurge or indulge once in a while. Blanche’s new car or (almost) breasts. A shopping spree to fill the hole Rose left when she moved out (temporarily, of course) and the cheesecake. I’m not suggesting anyone go out and gorge themselves, (it’s noted that the women were estimated as having eaten approximately 700 cheesecakes during the show’s run) but it can be a good comfort to go along with the usual late-night problem keeping everyone awake. These were four independent women who were lucky enough to have found each other and formed a strong support network, without the dependence of a man or the codependence of each other.

The most important lesson I learned from the show was touched on throughout the series but really hit home for me with their final episode. When Dorothy is on her way to the church to marry Lucas and is kidnapped by her ex-husband Stan. There’s a sentimental moment where the two tell each other they love each other and will always be a part of each other’s lives. Then he takes her to the church to marry another man and I learned you can truly love someone, deeply and thoroughly and still choose to say goodbye.

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