Thursday, November 1, 2018

Hello Again

#writeyourgrief R1-Grief personified.
She’s got his long stringy hair. His guitar thrown carelessly over her shoulder. It bangs on stuff when she moves and makes ugly noise. She has a smug face but doesn’t say much. “I know who you are,” I say to her. Relentless fucking bitch. “I know what to do.” She won’t stop looking at me with those fucking eyes. Still my eyes. Just like before. She’s the same but--maybe tired? I don’t know. I don’t think she really gets tired. Maybe it’s me who is tired. When the light hits her just right, his yellow eyes. She reeks of warm beer. “I said I know what to do. You don’t need to look at me. Just go. I know what to do.” She’s on the floor now. Right in the middle of the floor spinning one of his spurs. Running it around like a toy truck. Tapping it on her hand for the jingle. She gives zero fucks that I want her gone. She looks at me, lights a cigarette, fills the room with smoke and then flicks ash on me. And that’s when I know she’s not going anywhere.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

I Know Kindness

#writeyourgrief  R1 from Megan Devine at Refuge in Grief.

What you held in your hand. A beer. A cigarette. A guitar. Reins. Saddle. A brush before you would braid my hair. A kitten.

A cuddle bear. The tube from the port in your arm. The hospital blankets. My nervous, freezing hands that made you jump.
Not your own cup of water.
Not a fork to eat the hospital food.
Not the phone when you talked to your mom for the final time on one of those last days after you called out “Mama,” and I swallowed my sob.
Not the reins or your guitar or even a beer.
Not rope to braid.
Not a pen and a piece of paper torn sloppily from a notepad with a sampling of the phone numbers you memorized over the years.

I’m supposed to be writing about kindness. I know kindness in grief. It’s writing. It’s feeling. It’s accepting offers of help and saying no. It’s setting boundaries. It’s breaking fucking plates. It’s music--the same song over and over. Loud. It’s numbing when needed. It’s quiet. It’s an extra cup of coffee. It’s drink water and floss your teeth. It’s a blanket fort and a familiar book. It’s time outside.

It’s their hands used to craft the casket, dig his grave, and then shovel the dirt over the casket.

It’s music celebrating his life and love played by family and friends.

It’s her voice singing over his grave (love you, sister).

It’s many hands joining to plan from afar.

It’s so much more, but I’m tired.

Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) -- treatment referral and information for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Tomorrow: A Funeral

#writeyourgrief Scent-memories: I imagine dirt and leather and fire and wood and cigarettes and beer. All of those all at once.

Dirt and leather and fire and wood and cigarettes and beer. Dad.

Tomorrow: A celebration of your life and love with family and friends and music. And I am really fucking anxious about the whole deal. We don’t do events together anymore. It’s been years since we’ve done an event together. How the fuck do we do this one?

The wooden beer crate and the short microphone stand and the potential to be like you--to sing and perform like my dad. How long ago was that? More than 30 years? I pushed my stringy hair off of my face as I knelt in front of that wooden box and microphone. And I probably had nothing to sing into the microphone because I can’t remember a moment of my life without stage fright. 

The girl I used to be. Could have been.
If I had grown up on THAT ranch in that log house on that part of Thunder Butte Creek.
Country music cowgirl?
Surely an artist. Probably a writer.
The horses. 


Instead we moved to that other ranch in that other log-sided house on that other end of Thunder Butte Creek.
And no more fucking horses.

I stepped back. It was easier, less painful to just take a completely different path than the one I started on. I was ok on the new path, but I came back. I sat with you and held your hand and gave you water and chapsticked your lips. I was there where I was meant to be after too many missed moments.

That fucking hospital. The slow, slow death in the air prevented me from breathing all the way in. The sound, yes, but the smell too. I tried to smell the sage bundle or just put my shirt up over my nose for a bit to get away from the smell. I tried to just get over it and breathe it in but then I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was breathing in death. That fucking hospital.

My world hasn’t changed so vastly: No more random phone calls. No more small talk. No more once-a-year-if-we’re-lucky visits.
No more running across the state to the hospital.
No more we-didn’t-see-you-at-Christmas anway.
No more. 

Will I be able to drink another beer? The thought of it makes me sick. I’d love to enjoy a beer with some olives. I’d love to do that without having to think about how if maybe you’d been able to enjoy just a beer here and there maybe your body wouldn’t have been trashed and maybe you’d be here. Maybe we could have continued to make time and space with you. Maybe you could have given Elliott a couple more guitar lessons. He’ll get it figured out on his own I guess.
Maybe you could have watched Asher play football and Fortnite.
Maybe you could have gotten Sunny Lou to sit still for a couple of braids.
Maybe you could have. Maybe.
Maybe you could have gotten better.
And tomorrow morning we gather to celebrate your life because you died. You died because you drank. You drank and drank and drank. Why? 

I can’t stop imagining how your body will look in that beautiful casket. And smell. So many echoes of your alive scents. At least you’re not in that fucking hospital.

(Just for the record, “at least” can fuck all the way off.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Pancakes with Ice Cream

#writeyourgrief  R1d2 from Megan Devine at Refuge in Grief. 

What you don’t know about this grief and love and loss is that I have grieved the loss of my dad for years. Years. Decades (because I’m fucking old haha). I lost my dad maybe from the beginning. I’m not really sure how it worked, but I did not have him in my life as a constant figure. As a dad. He wasn’t a dad. He was a cowboy and a musician and a drunk. He was only 30 miles away for most of my childhood, but he wasn’t a dad.

What you don’t know about this love is that I loved him anyway. I loved him through my anger and broken heart and feeling like I didn’t belong fully in any family. I loved his singing and the sound of his spurs and the too few weekend mornings of pancakes topped with ice cream.

What you don’t know about this loss is that I cannot unsee that fucking hospital room. I cannot unhear the slow creep of death that literally filled his body until it came spurting out.

What you don’t know about this grief is that I feel guilty for leaving him in his final hours. I knew he wouldn’t want me sitting there. I knew this was not how he wanted to go, but I could have stayed. I didn’t sleep that night anyway. Why didn’t I just fucking stay? What you don’t know about this guilt is that I know it was ok that I left even while I still feel the guilt.

Because that’s how grief is. You can feel all of it at once--the love and loss and pain and guilt and peace and humor. And you can turn it off (maybe).

What you don’t know about grief is that if you turn it off for too long, it will come out. It will come out ugly.

What you don’t know about grief is that you can think that you’re doing it right and feeling it all and not numbing yourself. Grief is here to prove you wrong. Challenge accepted.

What you don’t know about grief is that she doesn’t give a shit about what you know or don’t know. She will burn it all down and then smile at you over a stack of pancakes with ice cream.

Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) -- treatment referral and information for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Correction: Was

#writeyourgrief into a monthly prompt from Megan Devine at Refuge in Grief. 

When I first read this prompt I had a much different line to pull, but I couldn’t get this one out of my head--an animal who runs and hides. That’s you. Was you. Was.

When we spoke on the phone, I could feel your anxiety building until you panicked and ended the call as quickly as possible. My own anxiety appreciated the end of the conversations because while I always knew that you loved me, you didn’t know me like you should have, so sometimes I just didn’t answer the phone. I couldn’t make myself go through the whole routine of mostly small talk which makes me uncomfortable especially when I’m small talking with my own dad. Correction: When I was. Was.

I know how terrible this sounds, but I did not treasure those phone calls. It was a gauge of how you were doing and a reminder of your absence. The phone calls weren’t easy.

We had more quality time in these final months than we’ve had for probably a couple of decades. But--again--I suck at small talk, so I didn’t have a lot to say. We were together, though, and that counts for something. You got to see Sunny Lou, your little prizefighter, and see how your description of her name definitely suits her. You got to play cards with Asher and talk football. You got to see some of Elliott’s art, but I don’t think you got to talk music. This shouldn’t have been a whole event. All of our memories with Grandpa Gregg should not fit in a neat little paragraph.

I was hopeful after your first hospital stay. I knew you were very sick and that your time was ticking down, but maybe you’d get years. Maybe some really great years. But no.

Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) -- treatment referral and information for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Happy Trails

#writeyourgrief  into a monthly prompt from Megan Devine at Refuge in Grief. 

The hardest thing I ever did was kiss you goodnight and goodbye knowing that it was probably the last time. Choking on the words I wanted to say to you as I did every time I had something important to say to you.

Happy trails. 

That’s all I wanted to say when I walked away from you, but I choked it down and walked away to the sound of the suction.

Stop drinking, Dad. 

That’s all I wanted to say every time I talked to you and every time I didn’t talk to you over the years. Thirty years give or take of choking on that sentence.

And now I’ll always wonder what would have happened if I could have just gotten that sentence out a couple of times. I know you heard it from others, but maybe my voice could have had more power. Maybe. Probably not.

You left us with the memory of you confined to that goddamn hospital bed and the sound of you choking on all of those unsaid sentences. They just gurgled up and out of your mouth that should have been singing on Saturday night. You weren’t that fucking old.

Dad. Stop drinking. Dad? Stop drinking. Why didn’t you stop? 

You said I was sassy. And tough. Not tough enough to say three words, though.

I love my dad and told him often. Addiction sucks for all involved. Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) -- treatment referral and information for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

To Hear You Say Hug-a-Buggy

I haven’t been breathing tonight at my dad’s bedside, so I dug up the very first monthly prompt from Megan at Refuge in Grief around Mary Oliver’s poem “When Death Comes.”


“and I think of each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy, and as singular,

“and each name a comfortable music on the mouth, tending, as all music does, toward silence,

“and each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth”

Tonight, Dad, breathing has been difficult for both of us. So I’m doing my thing and writing into the grief.

“each name a comfortable music in the mouth tending...toward silence”

Rooster Juice playing you out of this life as your eyebrows and legs start dancing.

I can’t get “Bottle of Whiskey” out of my head these days, so I’ve just got it on repeat in here. It’s a really good fucking song.

“comfortable music...tending...toward silence”

There is nothing comfortable in here tonight. You are making quite the racket as you go. I know this isn’t how you wanted things to end.

So many people who know and love you that I’ve met in random places over the years. that have called and messaged me in these final weeks. that have stopped here to say they love you.

It’s always weird for me. I’m socially awkward and have no skill for small talk. They say how much they love you and how you always talk about us—Sunshine, your grandkids, me—and it’s not that I don’t know. It just makes it even more awkward. Most of the time the unsaid hangs over us: You don’t know us the way you could. should.

Because you’re a bottle of fucking whiskey.

Dying in a hospital bed.
It really fucking sucks—

People keep sharing pictures of young Gregg and Dawn.

My parents.

But you’re unrecognizable. Young Gregg. Healthy, beautiful young man.

But I didn’t ever get to see that.

I saw the bottle of fucking whiskey
Bottle of whiskey—

Now I keep staring at the half full container of your secretions hanging above your bed.

It didn’t have to end this way.

I know you would have been present for your daughters if you could have.
I know it.
I know we missed out on so much—all of us.

We’re ok, though.

We’re taken care of and loved and have more siblings and parents and each other partly because you’re a fucking bottle of whiskey.

And I’m not mad at you anymore.
I’m sad.
I hate the fucking disease—
I’m afraid some of us you’re leaving behind will struggle with addiction.

I’m hopeful that your
will wrap around us—
protect us from the disease.

We know it’s there
We will hold one another
We will reach out for support
We will breathe.

To hear you say hug-a-buggy one more time.

That’s what I want tonight.

I love you, Daddy—


Saturday 9/29/2018