There are glimpses of moments when I forget and feel like nothing’s happened. Maybe it was a dream. That’s far from true, of course, but it’s a reminder that one day that feeling will become more the norm than the exception. I’ve come out of hiding, even working in an office a few days a week (more on that later) and I don’t mind crowds because I can be anonymous, but the truth is I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. Is it common to feel this?
And then there’s this: this seemingly random bubble event in the middle of the day in Union Square. It’s like every kid’s (and maybe some adults) dream to be surrounded by thousands of floating iridescent bubbles. They’re launched from wands by a force of air, but drift lightly until suddenly, they’re gone.
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The thing about grief is that eventually everyone moves on, but those who are hit the hardest stay suspended in time, frozen, unable to move. The strangest form of loneliness is felt when you’re out of sync like this with the rest of the world. I listen to music a lot. Sometimes I stare at nothing because I feel nothing and other times I feel too much. But most of the time I don’t know what to feel.
I spent 6 days in California last week, a trip that was often confusing, but necessary. Witnessed the worst, but also the very best in people. Sometimes with siblings it’s easier to remember how we were as children when we were still living under the same roof than to think of ourselves as adults when years of physical distance separates us. I know that he didn’t consider California his home–his heart was always here in NY–but what I came to know about my brother was that he was loved by his community. Our family always knew my brother was smart, but I don’t think we really ever realized how brilliant he was and that was something that came up time and again as we talked with his friends and colleagues. He was a dedicated professional, respected in his field of veterinary medicine, only 1 of a few hundred board certified critical care specialists in the world. More than that, however, it was clear from the crying faces of some of his clients that he made a difference in people’s lives.
I don’t believe that there is really ever any closure. You sort of just learn to go about your life with this new thread that’s knit into your being. I only hope that I too can someday make a difference in people’s lives the way my brother did in his.
P.S. thank you for all your words. I will always carry them with me.
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You’ve been gone now for a week. When I got the news at first, I didn’t feel anything. I couldn’t cry and I kept asking myself, why am I not crying? Maybe because I had been preparing myself all day for…what, I wasn’t sure, but I knew something was wrong. They say that twins have a powerful connection and know things about each other, like some kind of empathic telepathy. Well, we’re not twins–I’m your older sister by 6 years, but I knew something was not right. I keep thinking about how I called you on your birthday last Monday while we were driving to have dinner with mom and dad and the girls sang happy birthday to you on speaker phone from the back seat. Did you ever hear that message? That message we left you haunts me. You didn’t pick up the phone. I was on pins and needles all day Tuesday when I still hadn’t heard from you.
All last week people were paying their respects and posting public tributes to Massimo Vignelli and Maya Angelou and it felt weird because I kept seeing all these RIP posts and messages everywhere on the internet while I was in my own private grief state. Dad told me that he had to put away all photos of you from the house that night because he couldn’t bear seeing pictures of you right now. I understand why he did it, but it felt like we were scrubbing you from our memories. Maybe this is why I’m writing this letter and posting it here…for who to read? I don’t know, but I felt like I needed to do something so that your life–and death–was acknowledged.
I still keep replaying that night over and over, having to call mom to tell her that you were gone. How do you break that kind of news to a mother? The morning after, I ushered the kids downstairs to our neighbor’s house to be walked to school and I haven’t really left the house much since then. I’ve cried, looked at old photos of us when we were kids, retraced through our last texts and phone calls, and thought about what your last day might have been like. We had only spoken to each other 2 days before.
We really miss you, but I hope you are at peace now. This is the only thing that comforts me. That and thinking about some of our childhood memories. Remember how we were both super obsessed with watching the weather forecasts on the news? Or how we watched the movie Aliens a billion times and memorized all the lines to Spinal Tap? How you, me and cousin Jeanie felt some weird guilt about not going to church when we were left in the house while mom and grandma went, so we conducted our own “church service” just to make sure we didn’t go to hell? I think about the suspenders that mom used to make you wear or your favorite orange wooden block; how you were obsessed with the Dukes of Hazzard and how we used to threaten you with “No Dukes!” when you didn’t do what we wanted. It feels weird to think that I might be an only child now. What does that even mean? I still have a brother; you’re just not with us anymore, the same way that mom and dad still have a son and your kids still have a father. I hope you know that a lot of people are missing you right now. You were loved. You ARE loved.
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And the weekend came out blazing, all sunshine and warmth and intense rays of heat. At the beach today, I lathered everyone up with sunscreen, but in a senior moment of absentmindedness forgot to put any on myself, partly because I was stationed under the beach umbrella the whole time and wasn’t really thinking. So right now my legs are pink and the kind of itchy prickliness that you get when you’ve gotten too much sun–a feeling that I’ve forgotten, to be honest, since we’re usually so meticulous about sunscreen.
But it was a pretty glorious, care free weekend of no work and eyes off the computer with multiple outings, made possible by working double time during the week to meet deadlines so that I can have a proper long weekend. Mark did, of course, work the market on Sunday, but when you have a good day and things sell out like limeade and fudgesicles, it makes working the weekend quite worth it.
Our neighborhood was quiet and eerily empty with plenty of empty parking spots dotting the streets (this is how you can tell when the neighborhood goes away on a holiday weekend–by the abundance of street parking), but as soon as we got off the bus to Brooklyn Bridge Park to go visit Mark at the Flea, we were hit with waves of crowds taking in the views of Manhattan across the East River and waiting on lines at various food booths. We were just talking the other day about how eating at outdoor markets is such a “thing” now, a social activity like shopping or going to see a show with your friends. It didn’t really exist before on this scale, did it? I mean there were always food at street fairs and festivals and even some farmer’s markets and those come close I suppose, but they aren’t a permanent fixture like Smorgasburg or as massive an operation–not to mention all the small businesses that it’s incubated. It certainly has changed the food culture of the city from all angles.
On the car ride to the beach this morning, I asked the girls whether or not they thought the year was flying by too fast. I know that time moves differently when you’re young, and as expected they couldn’t really grasp what I was getting at, but they did agree that the winter felt long. It feels like summer already even though the solstice is still a few weeks away. Memorial Day weekend has a way of fooling you like that, so much so that it almost feels weird to wake up the next day to normal school day routines of packing lunches and walking out the door at 8:20 in the morning with backpacks. But I know that the next few weeks will go by in a blink and before we know it, summer will be here for real.
P.S. Our annual Father’s Day gift boxes are now for sale.
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The issue of independence is coming up a lot in our household and among our friends with kids the same age.
We talk with other neighborhood parents about the right time to allow our kids to walk to and from school by themselves. We were already doing it at their age when we were young. We had a lot more independence and autonomy at an earlier age than kids do now; it was socially more acceptable to leave us at home while our parents did errands, to allow us to walk to school, the store, our friend’s house. But is the world really so different that it gives us pause as we struggle with a decision that our parents already made at this point in our own kids’ lives? Couldn’t you argue that NY is actually safer than when we were kids? Or is it our generation’s parenting style that has changed (more coddling and helicopter parenting)? I don’t really know. Our kids won’t learn how to be independent unless we trust them with opportunities to be independent, that’s the thing. But letting go is hard. To think about our kids out in the world by themselves is a weird thought–sightly uncomfortable, bittersweet, but also exciting too.
I think about how in a year or two our lives might change if we no longer need to walk our (older) kids everywhere. The afternoon weekday hours are a blur of pickups and drop offs from various after school activities. We’re constantly in and out, retracing our steps multiple times on the same blocks, to the same buildings, in a span of a few hours. We spend so much of our lives in close physical proximity to our children for so long that when they get old enough to start doing things for themselves, it’s an adjustment for us too. Some of these milestones of independence and freedom is a relief. We celebrate when our babies learn to walk, when we get rid of the stroller for good, when we no longer have to help them in the bathroom, when they can take showers themselves, fix themselves their own snacks and breakfast. But other milestones, like when they start to take steps out in the world on their own, make us realize that they are starting to pull away from us. At that point, we learn to become independent from our kids too.
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Thinking about how the year is already half over. This month, in particular, went by in a blink. I’ve given up trying to get a handle on time–it’s going to keep flying by.
Thinking about food and recipes that have particular significance to our family. It’s harder than I thought.
Thinking about how I dislike when people make judgements on what other people eat. You know–the food snobs; the ones who guilt us about certain aspects of our diet, the ones who judge us based on our kids’ diets, the humblebraggers, the sanctimonious eaters. Eat what you want and what makes sense for you. End of story.
Thinking about how I read more books in the last 2 weeks than I have in the last 4 years. Now that the weather is nicer and we’re spending more time at the playground and the parks, I’m taking books with me while the girls run around because I no longer need to keep constant eyes on them. It’s such a slight change in our weekend routine, but life changing in a small way.
Thinking about how I’m still struggling to simplify my schedule and consolidate all my projects, particularly in preparation for the summer months which is coming all too fast. I have my hands in too many things right now.
Thinking about cold brew coffee.
Thinking about abandoning what I thought 2014 was going to look like, way back when I was setting loose goals in January. You can only plan so much. Besides, sometimes the universe has a way of giving you what you want when you’re ready for it. You can’t always plan that because you may not even see it even if it’s right in front of you and you may not even know if it’s what you want. I’m just rolling with it.
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