She went her unremembering way / She went and left in me / The pang of all the partings gone / And partings yet to be.

At 4:45 I’m sitting in the vet’s lobby with my cat in carrier. She isn’t happy to be there. Neither am I. I’m just desensitized, really. I’ve spent the last few days off and on crying and right now I don’t want to cry in this public place, with someone’s irritating dog barking somewhere. Vet offices never smell very nice, either. And I hate that my cat is here, because she doesn’t like places like this. I wish she could die at home.

My kids are reading and playing with the coffee-table type books and Nels goes up to the receptionist and asks for a cardboard box, which he proceeds to affix to the back of his handmade clockface (complete with real “hands” secured by a brad) he’d brought with him. Sometimes my kids are so much help in difficult times: today, not so much one way or another. I stare at the wall in complete disinterest of anything but getting through the next few minutes. I have a job to do.

I’d asked for Dr. Keller, the same vet who ran the tests on my cat last Friday, the woman who made the difficult phone call on Sunday and who has been such a help to talk to the last few days. After a few minutes she approaches me and says something quietly and we go to the exam room. She tells me it’s best to put a catheter in the cat, as her veins won’t be easy to find – Blackie is very thin and a bit dehydrated. When the doctor brings the cat back, my son is with us. Nels keeps talking – he is unsure if Blackie is going to die, or be killed, or go to sleep (this kind of confusion is why I don’t use the “go to sleep” euphemism). He is attentive and a bit excited and apprehensive. I’m usually very keen to observe my kids and their reactions to life’s major events, but I can’t summon much interest. I know I am not there for the kids right now.  That’s just how it is.

I hold my cat and the doctor injects her and after a moment her head falls. And she is still so very, very soft and warm and it doesn’t set in that she’s gone even though I know it’s true. And I hold her and cry silently but violently, with my head against her for a while. I don’t really hear what my son is saying. And after a while I stand up and Dr. Keller tells me she’s glad I brought her in and she says a few more things. She has been a great doctor throughout this and she now has my complete loyalty. I wrap my Blackie in a blanket and walk into the waiting room and tonelessly direct my children to carry this and that and someone opens the door for me and I recognize that tender compassion from the small group in the room who know that something terrible has happened for me. I really, really don’t care what they all think.

I come home and I fold my dear girl into the same little position she always rested in – her head tucked on her paws, tidy in a little ball so small, so fragile. I wrap her in a yard of brilliant blue silk and tie her up with black velvet ribbon and she is a soft little bundle. The feeling of a body is so unique. It’s so obviously a body. I am between worlds, because she is no longer here, but I can feel her as if she is. I send my daughter to the store to purchase a few catnip mice – one to bury Blackie with, two for our living creatures at home.

Then I mix and knead rolls for tonight’s dinner and remove the pumpernickel bread from the oven and prepare chicken and broccoli and fresh lime bars and do laundry and I’m there with my kids but I know I’m not really doing a good job at it all.

I don’t like people telling me they know how I feel, or how I’m going to feel. Because I know how I feel and only I do, no matter if someone else has gone through something similar that person is not me.

Today, I am numb. I don’t feel things I normally feel. Like my love for my other cats and even though I know I care deeply for them and love my children and husband these feel more like small, remote facts, facts that irritate me in some slight way because I’d like to be alone but that isn’t much of an option.

I know I won’t always feel this way. I will recover quite a bit soon. I will never be the same. I sometimes feel loss chips away at me just a bit, every time.  I wonder if I’m not really a survivor, when it comes down to it.

My mom gives us $100 to help with the expenses and suggests we go out and do “something fun”. And I’ll have fun soon enough but that idea is tasteless and bland on my tongue, even though I am tired of being home and the little spot under the coffee table where she was resting is empty and cold.

My mom’s gift is such a nice gift.  And people write me emails and messages and DMs and I appreciate them, I really do.

I had to do a hard thing today.

a celebration; a summation

The activity and event dominating my last week (and my mother’s last couple of weeks) has come and gone: my father’s memorial service. I saved my mother some trouble by managing the menu and food delivery. I saved her more trouble by not arguing with her over anything; by making food for company the night before. By giving her the space to have a hard time if she needed to.

The morning of Saturday was hard. I’d given myself too much to get done. My friends Abi, Cynthia, and Amore stepped in and helped quite a bit. We had a friend on coffee detail (three carafes full) and we had music flowing through the house. Music I grew up with; music my father loved that I’d set aside.

My childhood home filled up with people: from my life as a child, family stretching back before my birth; friends from then, friends from Port Townsend, friends from now. Neighbors, coworkers. At one point on the sunny front porch I looked up and saw three of my girlhood friends – I’ve known since I was eight years old – running up the stairs looking for me. They looked curiously like three distinct kinds of flower. They were beautiful and I was glad to see them. They came back downstairs and we shared childhood stories, stories of high school and college and marriage and children we had and children to come. We laughed and laughed and laughed and told brash stories.

At about 2:30 on my mother’s request we gathered to speak a few words about my father. My mother was nervous and antsy. She tried to speak normally, but it came off to me as a sermon. Some things she said flowed well. I felt her real presence when she said, “we had two wonderful kids… and they each have some of David’s nature.” My sister spoke then and watching her, I felt myself break down a bit. People gradually offered up their thoughts and every word meant something to me.

I started speaking. I said I’d been here for his life fighting cancer. I’d been here for his last week, days, hours, been here more and more. I was with him when he died. I don’t remember what all I said. I do know I spoke my thoughts – wondering if, when he was dying, he knew what a hole he’d leave in our lives. I tried to say something of the blow it had felt like in the days after he left. At some point I realized the laughter in the room had turned to sobs – some open, some muffled in throats. I had more to say but I felt breathless. I had only wanted to say a few words but more wanted to spill out.

I did my best but I felt far from eloquent.

Others spoke and shared. Lots of laughter and a few tears. My mother’s coworker Lillian spoke of life in a way that so clearly communicated her dignity in the face of loss; her words were wisdom to me. Childhood friends Missy and Tony spoke words of my father that meant a great deal to hear. My friend Cynthia spoke of knowing my father through me, and how unique my father walked in the world. The room laughed and thought – not thought about only my father, but their own lives, their own loves. Do they think of them, care for them every day?

The ensuing silence was broken by my daughter, flashing in with ruffled skirt and holding my mother’s hands in urgency. Sophie tries to whisper, “Grandma, we need a jar – we caught a garden snake!” her pigtail braids electric with excitement. Laughter breaks like crystal and the sun settles on those in the room, moving on, moving up for more food and coffee and conversation.

Long after the party was over I came home and was gifted with an hour to myself. I ran the bath and laid on the couch and listened to the music I’d set aside for earlier. The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Willlie Nelson, Cat Stevens. Something about the song I’d heard so much as a child: “this is the peace train,” the voices break out with harmony, and I was suddenly flooded with memories of my childhood, the warmth, the music, the safety. Then overcoming me were some of those things I hadn’t loved. And then those things I’d loved again and I cried again. I felt my life telescoped, and how much my father had been a part of all of it.

I miss you so very, very much, dad. I always knew I would, and it’s still true every day.

i’m sorry for this horrible post title, but i’m really busy right now, napolean

After last night I wasn’t sure I could get through another night of staying up for my father, of spelling my mother so she could sleep. It was a hard night, mostly because I had to be up, and helpful, and compassionate, the whole night, sometimes more often than once an hour.

Maybe my father knew this, how tired we were. But maybe not, because I don’t think he passed away on anyone’s schedule but his own.

But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. My father died today at home at 3:35 PM. My mom and I were with him up to the end.

The hardest thing I’ve had to do today was call my brother and tell him our father had passed. There have been other very hard things, too.

Every person who’s read here, who’s talked to me, who’s sent us food, who’s thought of us but didn’t know what to say. You were holding my mother and father and I up today. I was bolstered by your presence.

sunny spring morning

I just received a call that a childhood friend’s father died last night. It took a few seconds for me to even understand what I was hearing. I am so incredibly sad about this news in ways only my friend might truly know. To say more would be insensitive to the family’s privacy.

Rest in peace, good sir.

a diamond is forever underwater

About six weeks ago our dear friend Cyn had asked to visit and stay with us this weekend. Since we moved she has missed us and we indeed miss her – she was our next door neighbor to the house we started our family in and many a night we’ve had dinner and a movie together. But there was another reason for her visit: her husband and partner of over two decades was, five years after their divorce, getting re-married this Saturday. And rather than staying in the hometown she and her beloved had met, courted, married, bought a home, started their family, built and then lost their life together she had decided to perform her own ritual. She told me she was planning to throw her wedding ring into the sea. It had suddenly appeared on her desk of its own volition a while earlier. It was time to let it go.

We looked forward to her visit, especially on the tails of Ralph and my vacation (I don’t know if you could meet people more happy to have company than the Hogaboom foursome). But I for one felt like, besides the fellowship and meal-sharing that always happens with Cynthia and her family (including this weekend not her daughter but her two dogs), our role as hosts was somewhat suppressed. Our job was to give her space and facilitation for her mission; to help decide where she would cast the ring and to support her in doing so. Ralph and I had also wanted to go to the Saturday night showing of the Patron’s Pick film Animal House at the 7th Street Theatre and to show her the theatre. She seemed amenable to this plan and we formalized it.

I think the task ended up being a bit daunting for her, especially coming off a heavy work load during the week. On Friday afternoon she called practically from the road on the way down. Usually her visits and her excursions in general are accompanied by studied and detailed planning. Often on a visit to us she asks me for a list of the beloved sundries and groceries I would like from Port Townsend; she has not made a trip down yet without bringing us some beer from our favorite PT brewery. But this weekend she came down, as she put it, “almost empty-handed”, her voice betraying her surprise at the relative impulsiveness of the roadtrip. On the drive down she listened to music near full-volume – something she said she hadn’t done for as long as she could remember.

Ralph knows exactly where to deposit the ring: the jetty at Westport. “We can go to Half-Moon Bay, the moon was a half-moon the other night – one wedding ring!” he exclaims. It is a solid plan. After breakfast Saturday we pack a lunch and extra clothes for the kids and settle the dogs in the van and head out. The weather is stunning and the drive passes quickly. Westport is bright and friendly and busy and we wind our way to the jetty. There are more surfers there than I have yet seen; handsome, attractive sun-swept sleek-suited adventurers of all shapes and ages. The late-summer sun illuminates the mist on the beach and the air is, for a veteran coastal dweller like myself, nourishing as food. As we get out of the car Cynthia realizes with shock she has left the ring back in Hoquiam. We eventually decide this is a scouting trip; the three of us will return in the evening while our kids are being babysat by friends. We walk the jetty, beach paths, and admire the impressive and massive swells that roll into shore. Oily-looking seabirds bob and dive in the water. The sand is hot or cool on one’s feet, depending on where you walk.

After a trip back to town, lunch, nap, dinner, and packing the kids off it turns out our movie gets out later than we’d planned. Making a trip out to the beach again will involve either picking up the children or abandoning our threesome. Cynthia wishes for a place closer. When she says this I can picture the bay at the bend of the highway, out north towards Ocean Shores. It’s not the ocean but it’s a great spot for me – lots of memories, none of them poor. I remember several bonfires; one night “babysitting” two friends as they did acid for the first (and only?) time. I remember a few parked cars and one of Ralph and my first ever makeout expeditions back in the day. It is a peaceful place, a sanctuary for the young to get up to (relatively) harmless fun. We could go out together and be back in time to pick up the children.

The two dogs are excited, game, up for anything. The night is mild, with the languid promise of a slow summer night and the hint of the fall chill. The moon is waxing gibbous, past the half-point, brightening the highway and then the beach. We park and make our way down to the bay – the moon lighting our way and keeping us from spraining ankles. We see the lights of Ocean Shores condos and the industrial ports clustering around harbor. The moon dashes itself against the peaceful, cold waters and flashes in serene acceptance.

Cynthia is trying to find purchase to approach the water so she can really haul that ring out into depths; I know that the beach legs that look like solid footing are actually swampy marsh-grass, not navigable without getting mucky or downright soaked. We walk up and down the bay a bit and find the spot. Ralph and I join our friend, standing back a bit. She contemplates a while, ten feet away and facing southwest to sea. She throws the ring, tied to a rock with beach grass and it splashes distant. She stands one minute more then turns around and walks to stand with us. “Thanks, guys,” she says in a low voice. Ralph holds me and we stand looking out over the water. “It feels good to let it go,” she continues. “I feel sad. But I’m really ready to let something new into my life.” Her voice is thick with weeping and her eyes are smudged with tears.

We return back to town and drive through the night to our house. Cynthia says goodnight and heads to her weekend bed in my parents’ upstairs. Ralph and I drive to East Hoquiam to pick up our children; both have fallen asleep and the living room is a cozy composition of children swaddled in blankets, pillows, and pajamas as a muted viewing of School of Rock plays on the television. We carry our sleeping children back to the van and drive home, settling them in fully-clothed to their beds.

adios la mer

Today we say goodbye to the yurt, to the park, to our little vacation town(s), the surf, the wildlife (I saw two snakes on my morning mile walk), the unexpected and dazzling sunshine. I sit in a cafe / roasteria in lower Long Beach – a coffee shop that, besides plenty of seating and free wi-fi seems oddly discourteous and annoying. My husband bought an americano here but I snuck next door to the Organic Market for their superior brew. And yes, to answer your unspoken question, much of this trip has been coffee-centered.

We have a few pictures I’ll be uploading tonight – camera phone, unfortunately. Ralph is chomping at the bit – so sayonara, vacation!

a breakdown of how it goes in more detail than you care about

We are broke, and it ain’t no joke. Ralph gets paid on Monday (direct deposit, yay!) and until then, we have no cash. Guess what I mean by “no cash”? Zero. Yesterday we stole over to my parents’ house and scored $19 for their quarter jars (we Hogatrash secretly love this kind of scavenging). So I fed the family with $6 last night (black bean burritos with garlic and jalapeno, steamed broccoli, carrot sticks). It would have been less than $6 but we are also out of gas – hee hee! – so we shopped at the mom ‘n’ pop which is a bit expensive. Tonight’s fare:

Calzones with spinach and homemade ricotta*
Dipping sauce (red sauce w/garlic and basil – yay canned tomato products!)
Sweet and sour asparagus salad

Today I ventured to the somewhat ghetto, rather hilarious, and always thrifty Canned Food Outlet today for our groceries (side note – this was after biking the kids up to my daughter’s last-day-of-school picnic at Sam Benn in Aberdeen – up hills!). My aim: the produce section. A bit scary: “Fresh lemons”! the sign reads (needed for my ricotta) and well, a good 15% of the lemons are moldy. But here’s a life lesson for you: amongst moldy lemons are very ripe, juicy lemons. Then spinach – a huge bag of it reduced to 49 cents. w00t! Asparagus, young and fresh-looking with decent savings of $1.29 for a large bunch.

All told these groceries came to just a little over $3. Yes, I’m awesome.

After Ralph got home (biking the cool seven miles that is his commute, addendum: sometimes getting yelled at for being on a bike: “Jackass! Fucker! Faggot!”), he cleaned up and took Nels to their shift at the 7th Street Theatre working concessions for the movie (which had, I believe, the highest attendance for the film program yet). Sophie helped me fashion calzones and we had a mellow dinner together before our boys got home. I was so, so pleased to see that my produce was fine – no slimy spots, no wilty brownness. Saving pennies is fun but eating partially-spoiled food is not really an option.

Yesterday was also my daughter’s preschool “graduation”; she received a diploma and a special award for “Knowing the Names of Lots of Dinosaurs”. At our picnic I ended up talking to moms I hadn’t previously spent time getting to know (Chris, Kim, and with me being a Kelly we have an oddly unisex parental nomenclature). It was a happy occasion but as these moms are sending their children to different kindergartens (they live outside HQX) I also felt the tinge of “goodbye” which is something that speeds up and hurries along more and more as you raise children. Sophie’s teacher, after seven or eight years at this school, will be moving on to a new position. Both of my children gave her a tender hug before we left. This teacher was a very inspirational and amazing presence in our lives, all the more appreciated as acclimation to our new township.

Summer break has officially begun!

*A friend brought me some raw milk from the creamery in Sequim; sadly, as I thaw out each half gallon they seem on the verge of spoilage.

on the road again… [ kegger at my parents’ place! ]

Yesterday my father, mother, and their wee little dog loaded up in their homebuilt motor home (actually a converted logging crew bus with black-purple and gold detail, solar power, and an elevated roof – it’s a trip) waved, and headed off for a 2+ week trip to Montana – the Tetons, Yellowstone, friends.

My brother gave long, sincere hugs goodbye. I felt just too rotten to do that so I pretended I didn’t feel bad and held Nels on my hip (my god… he’s three years old! I don’t really have the baby-on-hip thing going on anymore, do I?). I occupied my mind thinking of how I was going to steal their lawnmower for a few weeks and pick up some of my mom’s flower starts. But really, I felt just inexplicably shitty and couldn’t get away from it; as they drove off I thought, well it makes sense I feel bad. My whole life we’ve been a foursome; we’ve always been together. And as they left I felt a keen separation as I will when either parent succumbs, and I wonder when that will be. My mother at least is mostly convinced my father doesn’t have much hope of holding out much longer; his chemo treatment is losing efficacy and there isn’t a backup plan after it stops holding the fort. Daily I go back and forth between letting them do the thing their way and just supporting and loving them; or inserting myself more aggressively: asking them to seek more opinions, going online and looking up experimental treatments. Daily I yo-yo between being allowed to accept his death and the peace and sadness this brings, and fighting for more life. It’s an odd state of being that protracted illness and long-looming death can beget.

I also harbor this sneaking suspicion those sneaky bastards that are my Mom, Dad, and brother know something I don’t and are keeping it from me. Like that the doctor only gave him a few weeks to live and that’s why they’re having this roadtrip. I wouldn’t put it past that trifecta of non-communication. Last week he was so not-sick after his chemo I grew alarmed and point-blank accused him of not having treatment Tuesday, which he denied. Five minutes later I then ambushed my mother, coming inside the house with my kids: “Did dad really have chemo yesterday?” Her innocent and surprised reply, “Oh yes,” was clearly honest. He just lucked out and wasn’t very sick. The first time in six years we’d seen him feel good post-medicine, and I’m suspicious about it.

It’s hard sometimes to remember that it isn’t the cancer that makes him feel so bad, it’s the medicine. I can’t believe he’s even gone through it for all these years with scarce a complaint (to anyone else; I know my mom gets a more full story). Sadly thought, it’s also the sickness that contributes as he can get depressed. The depression changes him. I have known and loved him thirty years and up until he got sick I’d never seen anything like the depression, I would not have thought he had it in him. I don’t talk him out of it, I talk to him. Sometimes he barely answers. I have found if I keep talking to him eventually he pulls his head out of whatever mire he was in and answers me. I go home, then come back the next day.

I like being active; on their trip, I email them. I work on a care package to send general delivery to whatever township they name. I thank Sweet Baby Jesus in his Golden Fleece Diapers that we moved here. It has been so nice spending time together and I love, love watching my children with my family. Yesterday at breakfast my father and my son sat together and my dad helped him eat breakfast and they fit together like peas in a pod. Nels put his hands up to grandpa’s face and said in surprise, “You have glasses Grandpa!” and tenderly stroked his face. My father acted casual (his M.O. even at his most demonstrative) but his entire body leaned towards his grandson and they touched frequently. My dad wiped strawberry preserves off Nels’ face and said, “Oh, I let you get some on your shirt. Your mom’s going to be pissed.” I ignored this. Then he said, “You’re mom’s going to have a heart attack, she’s going to have kittens.” so I looked at Sophie and said, “Should we get some kittens today?”

At the table I said to each of my parents: “Ralph and I think you are a good grandpa. And we think you’re a good grandma.”

Buen viaje, mi padre y madre.

thank you for the music

Today we four journeyed to Port Townsend to clean our previous house and establish closure on our tenure living there. Originally it was to be a “girls’ day” where I came up alone to meet with a group of friends to help clean, but these last few days I have felt a lack of family time; I ask Ralph and the four of us make the trip together.

Two friends are a no-show but the other three are there – and have already started cleaning my house! A small setback: no water. It takes me a while to figure this out and Ralph has to go to the local auto parts store to find a wrench. I find out cleaning with tubs of water from the neighbor’s hose really sucks: mostly from the cold. When Ralph finds the solution and hot comes streaming from the tap it is almost a luxury to clean. Stephanie scrubs walls and floors with a thoroughness I just can’t muster from within myself. Abbi, Ralph, and Christee take turns with the fridge and I ask if anyone there knows who stole my placenta from Nels’ birth? I am not kidding; it went missing. Spooky.

The entire job takes about an hour and a half. Thank God for a rather clutter-and-dirt free life and thank Sweet Baby Jesus even more for friends who are there for me. Thank you, really.

As I finish rooms I say goodbye to each: “Goodbye, Bathroom Number One.” The bedrooms Ralph and I fought in and loved in and nursed new babies in. The shower where I miscarried and the back bedroom where I birthed Nels. A family made in love, error, and intention; now poured out of our crucible and forged strong for a new life.

Abbi joins us for lunch at the Water Street Brew Pub and we dine majestically, and for me this includes a fine Bloody Mary and delicious fish tacos, plus dessert besides. We talk and talk and share lives that are forking in the road but cannot be torn asunder.

We hug Abbi and say goodbye, then hit the road. Coming back to and leaving Port Townsend has been painful, a last booty call in a relationship moved on from. As we drive my daughter asks us to say goodbye: as we pass through towns, “Goodbye, Port Townsend!” “Goodbye, Hadlock!” “Goodbye, Chimacum!” A pause, then Nels: “Goodbye, Ghost Rider!” Whatever the fuck that was about.

The kids fall asleep soon and Ralph and I discuss, mostly, computers. We’re home by 6:30 PM to my mother’s homemade burgers. My father has eaten even more of that pie, by the way.