Saturday, October 27, 2012


Another birthday of hers has come and gone. On Thursday, Oct. 25, she should’ve turned 54.


Not very old.

My mom was 52 when she passed away. That means she was 26 at her mid-life. She was 26 when she had me. And I was just shy of 26 when she died. Sometimes I wonder if I should believe these numbers mean anything. Mostly I just hope and pray they don’t.

I’m still sometimes overwhelmed by the emptiness I feel without her. It hits without warning. I was kind of prepared for it Thursday though. Which was good, since it hit twice before 8:00 a.m.

I try to be as happy as possible. I try to think thoughts like, “I was lucky to have her for nearly 26 years.” But it’s not always possible, and sometimes I sway more towards, “We got screwed out of a lot of good years.”

After putting in my 8 hours at the office, I headed over to St. Joseph’s Cemetery, just up the street from our house. It was a gorgeous day, and I was able to sit at her grave in the Holy Family Garden for about 30 minutes before I remembered that a woman was attacked in a condo fairly close to the cemetery a few months ago and I became increasingly paranoid sitting in a big empty space alone. Ah, sad and paranoid – a winning combination.

I brought over some pink carnations, which were her favorite flower. I could tell my dad had already visited because of the crazy daisies in the vase. I also brought a small pumpkin at TJ’s suggestion. Because why not?

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

We Have a Room Dedicated to Dining

That's right; you read it here first. We have a room specifically for dining. And because we inherited a full suite of furniture from my dad's house, it was the easiest room to finish next.

So this is the room we had to work with, viewed from the corner near the steps upstairs. It's a great size with beautiful parquet floors, lovely windows, and a very dated but useable chandelier.

Here's a better view from over near the windows. The colors were nice enough in theory, but not our taste. And the colors showed every scuff on the walls.

We painted the top half of the walls a deep red, and after three coats, managed to cover the sea green with a light ivory. Then my awesome father came over to teach TJ and me how to use the miter saw. (Ok, TJ learned. I took photos.)

With the miter saw, we made our chair rail. 
And by "we" I obviously mean those two.

And here's the end result for the walls.

And here's the total end result! All the furniture is, again, courtesy of my father who saw no need for a formal dining room. (In truth, I think we only used it three times when my mom was alive.) The bowl on the table is from Target, and the orbs inside it are from Target and Ikea. The drapes are also from Target, but my grandmother made the valances.

Here's another view from the steps upstairs/entrance to the kitchen. The pictures on the wall are also from my parents house.

And finally, this view. The closed door hides the steps and their dirty green carpet. (We'll get to that eventually!) But this view is special to me. I played the piano as a child, and my mom always told me I'd want this piano in my home someday. She was right. And the picture above it was painted by my dad in 1980. He's not only incredibly handy around the house, but a fantastic artist too.

Here's a better view of the art, and the knicknacks on top of the piano. The candle on the left is Febreze, as is the air freshener inside the backless shadowbox. The brown mosaic candleholder is from Michael's. The topiary is from Target.

Dinner is much more enjoyable in a completed room. Surrounded by such rich colors, I can almost forget that the rest of the house is still scattered with boxes from our move nine months ago!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What Not to Say

Over the 16 months my mom was sick, and in the 18 since she passed away, I’ve encountered many people who “want to help.” Some of these people were close friends; others were nearly strangers. All were appreciated.

But through those interactions, I identified two things people often resort to saying that are no help, and in my opinion, make it hurt a little more. I don’t believe anyone ever said these things to me with the intention of being hurtful. I think people just don’t know what to say.

Thing 1: “I know how you feel.”

Honest, direct thoughts on Thing 1: This sentence made me want to respond with, “Oh really? Your mom was diagnosed with stage IV cancer at age 51 and died at 52, leaving you confused, sometimes bitter, and scared out of your mind?” I never responded that way. I usually just let the moment pass. But unless you’ve been through an identical situation, there’s a good chance you don’t know how it feels.

I certainly appreciate someone’s attempt to empathize, but uttering these words to someone losing a parent can quickly put them on the defensive. Most of the time, I wasn’t looking for someone to tell me stories of how they know what it feels like because 12 years ago he lost his 90-year old great aunt to cancer. At the risk of sounding like a witch, I didn’t want to hear about anyone else’s stuff unless they truly needed someone to be there for them. A lot of times, the person wasn’t looking for that; they were looking for a way to show how they cared – “See, cancer affected me too!” Again, the intent was always kind, but it made me angry that people thought they understood when they clearly couldn’t.

Thing 2: “Everything happens for a reason.”

Honest, direct thoughts on Thing 2: This one makes my blood boil still. I don’t care if you believe this is true or not – don’t say it to someone whose parent is dying, or anyone going through a seemingly pointless tragedy. My response to this in my mind was typically along the lines of, “Ok, please, tell me what you think the reason for this would be?”

I get that death is a part of living, and that we all inevitably face it. But why was my mom made to face it at age 52? How come my family is trying to figure out how we keep living without her? The truth is that my mom was a genuinely good person. And the other truth is that my family never took her for granted. We really had it all – our home was full of love, respect, and all the things a family prays to have. So why her? Don’t tell me she’s sick for a reason. She did nothing to deserve that.

This is probably the whiniest post I’ve written, although my motivation wasn’t a need to whine or vent. These are things I genuinely want other people to know. Even though I’ve experienced some of the craptastic things other people have or will have to go through (cancer, death of a parent, learning to live after cancer causes the death of a parent), I still don’t always know what to say when others go through it. All I know is what did and didn’t help me. Those two sentences didn’t help me. And soon I’ll write about what did.