Tag Archives: grief

On Love, Loss, and Laughter

images71V16YFPI know what you’re thinking – “Where the hell has Tracey been and what kind of writer doesn’t write?” (or, as my EIC would say, “If a writer isn’t writing, doesn’t that mean they’re not a writer?”)

In Hell. Literally (Ok, maybe not literally). A stuck writer. That’s what kind.

Grief has eaten my brain, and stolen my creativity.

I lost someone a month ago who was incredibly important to me. Well, I didn’t’ “lose” him. It’s not like he was a set of car keys, or a sock that disappeared from the dryer, or my mind.

Sorry for that. I have a habit of trying to compensate for emotional issues with sarcasm and lame attempts at humor. Let me try again.

My friend died a month ago.

Wow. There it is, in black and white. The phrase I’ve avoided. I know it’s hard to read, but trust me, it’s harder to write and practically impossible to believe. Timothy Leary was right when he said “Death is the last taboo.”  Nobody dies. They “pass on” or “leave us”, “slip away” or “go to a better place”.

I call bullshit.

My friend died.

Three words. So simple and so misleading. Here’s how dictionary.com breaks down the sentence:

My – belonging to or associated with the speaker.

Friend – a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual of family relations

Died – to cease to live; undergo the complete and permanent cessation of all vital functions

The thing is, Mario wasn’t just “my” friend. He was EVERYONE’S friend. Yeah, he was THAT guy. He was charming and funny, smart and kind. No matter where he went, he always ended up surrounded by a group of people who were jostling for position and vying for his attention. Mario, like my mother, seemed to believe that there is no such thing as a stranger. Strangers are simply friends you haven’t yet met.

He was my friend, but he was more than that. There are friends, and then there are people who are so much more than simply friends – we call these people our “family of heart”. We might not be related by blood, but we are joined by a love that is even stronger than family ties. Mario was my friend, my mentor, my brother of heart.

I met Mario when we were young and foolish, hopeful and fearless. He was dating the woman who ran the booth I worked for – the woman who would become one of my very best friends. In a blink of an eye, they were married, and raising 3 kids.

Mario and Virginia were playing house and being Responsible Adults while I was still trying to decide how to style my hair. It took me longer to grow up, but eventually I got married and had a kid of my own. I am incredibly lucky to have had their help in raising my daughter. Mario was a perfect example of a father for my spouse to emulate, and Virginia was the same for me. Their three kids are amazing people, despite the fact that their parents have a twisted sense of humor (It gave me hope that our daughter wouldn’t be Permanently Damaged). The fact that they were still wildly in love with each other even after 35 years together was inspiring – a testimony to the power of True Love.

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Mario’s kids asked us to write down things that we learned from him, to list our favorite sayings or quotes. I couldn’t think of anything at the time. I’m sure people remember a lot of “Mario-isms”, but I can’t remember anything other than him saying “OUTSTANDING!” when things would go less than perfectly, or when someone would do something that was extraordinarily stupid. But here are things that I learned from him:

Be kind. Mario was nice to everyone – no matter what they believed, what they looked like, how they dressed, how much money they made (or didn’t make). He was one of the popular kids, but he wasn’t one of the mean girls (which is not to say that he didn’t enjoy a little CCC* when warranted). He went out of his way to be kind to people who were often overlooked or ignored. He was even nice to the weird kid in the corner (What? No, that wasn’t me, why would you think that?).

Be polite We disagreed about many things (politics, religion, and whether the Three Stooges were funny). As strong minded (or, in my case, hard headed) individuals, we agreed to disagree. Having friends with opinions which differ from one’s own makes life more interesting.

but don’t be a pushover. (does this one really need explaining?)

Keep learning. Mario was always reading, always trying to better himself. As Albert Einstein said “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”

Make people smile Mario would do almost anything to get a laugh (that’s not exactly true. There was no “almost” about it).

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by embracing your inner weirdo – In a world where everyone worries about what others think/we struggle to fit in, to be normal (please note, “normal” is just a setting on the washing machine), Mario stood out as someone who just didn’t give a flying f…

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Don’t whine. (Aka “Suck it up, Buttercup”) The past few years were incredibly hard physically and psychologically, and yet, Mario was always smiling (or maybe it was a grimace). His outlook could best be described this way:

Be strong… Mario was in a lot of pain, but he never let it stop him from doing the things that he needed or wanted to do. Long days at work which required hours of driving? Every day. Trips to Yosemite, to hockey games, to shows and soccer games and even a longa** Christmas parade? NP. The thing that stands out most is the fact that, whenever I came to visit, no matter how much pain he was in, Mario always stood up to say hello.

but don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it (TBH I never heard Mario ask for help for himself. He was always asking for help for someone else).

and always offer help to those who need it. In a world where people rise above the masses by putting others down, Mario lifted people up.

Those are the things I’ve learned from Mario’s life. What did I learn from his death?

That “Only the good die young” is not a meaningless phrase. Neither is “Life’s a Bitch, and then you die.” That we need to find make time for those we love. When I was a kid, I thought nothing of knocking on my friend’s door, and asking if they could come out and play. We lose that ability when we grow up – we get busy with life – with school, with work. We worry that our houses are too messy for guests, or that our friends are too busy for us. We SCHEDULE our lives and our visits, instead of just “popping in to say hello”. We text and skype and send messages via snapchat or twitter. We brag about the fact that Facebook has allowed us to “reconnect” with old friends and family members, but we don’t take make the time to see each other “IRL”. WE NEED TO STOP THAT, RIGHT NOW.

What did I learn from my friend’s death? Life is short, and none of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Mario’s younger daughter got married in November. At the reception, he asked me told me to stop by after work for a “beer and bitch” session, but I assumed it was the whisky talking, and that we would have a chance to catch up “soon”. Please believe me when I say that “SOON” DOESN’T COME SOON ENOUGH.

I know this was a long post, so, in the immortal words of Inygo Montoya “let me sum up”. What did I learn from Mario?

Live fearlessly, love fiercely and laugh at all that life throws your way.

And, oh yeah, always pet the puppies.

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*Catty Corner Commentary

My Dream Audience

Blogging 101 Day Four – Identify your audience

Today’s Assignment: publish a post you’d like your ideal audience member to read, and include a new-to-you element in it.

When I first read today’s assignment, a little cocky grin popped up. Easy peasy. I’ve been blogging for a while*, so I know my audience – SSAUPWSTSOH (Sarcastic Suburban Adults Usually Parents With a Sick andTwisted Sense of Humor)**. Then I took another look at the assignment. “Maybe it’s your dad, so he’ll finally understand your life choices. Maybe it’s the head of Random House, so she’ll skyrocket you into literary limelight.Whether serious, frivolous or purely hypothetical, focus on your dream reader and write a post — about anything — aimed at him or her.

And a little voice popped up into my head, a little voice who whispered the name of my dream reader – the one person who has never read my blog, who can’t read my blog – my mother.

My first thought was “Oh HELL no – I don’t want to talk to/about my mother” and I got up and ate a cookie. The chills down my back and the tears welling up told me that I needed to/wanted to/had to. It’s been twenty years since my mom died.  I would give all my earthly goods if Mom could read a post. Not that I have alot, but I would.

In my mind, she is eternally 36 (not 37, since she said she would get her ears pierced when she turned 37) with huge frog-like sun glasses and an umbrella hat on her head. That’s the image that sticks in my head, even though at one time (Before Motherhood), she looked like this: 10418450_10205358163211283_8291370969382353911_n[1] She hated having her picture taken. She thought her face was too round, her smile too crooked, her nose too big. At least I think that’s what she thought. It’s what I think, and I am becoming my mother, despite my best efforts.

When I was growing up, I loved my mother. She talked to everyone (strangers as well as friends), laughed all the time and volunteered in my classroom and at the soccer fields. She and the other mothers would sit in front of our house, drinking bloody marys and watching us parade down the street or put on a show.

When I was a teenager, I hated disliked was embarrassed by my mother. She talked too much, she laughed too loudly, she volunteered for EVERYTHING/was always around, she talked to strangers and she TALKED TO MY CLASSMATES (and, oh yeah, she drank a little…ok, a lot). I vowed then that when I grew up I would never have children, and I would NEVER be like my mother.

My daughter is 15, and I talk too much and laugh too loudly and volunteer for everything (although I am learning “the N word” ) and talk to strangers and TALK TO HER FRIENDS….and I drink, a little. (or a lot, depending on the day).

I have become my mother, despite my best intentions, and I am so very, very glad that I did. My mom wasn’t perfect, but she was pretty damn awesome. I wish my mom could read this post. I would love for her to meet her granddaughter, to thank her for all of her love and support through all the years. I wish I could apologize for not inviting her to see Reba McIntyre with my friends and me. I can’t do that, but I can share this video (maybe, fingers crossed). And I can read my post to my mother, if only in my dreams.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgNIKabg_fE 10306472_10202700817139292_9117299692987768535_n[1]     *Or I was, before my brain melted

** Not only is my acronym too long, but I was wr….wro…I was mistaken.

Au Revoir

I don’t know about you, but I am getting a little tired of loss and other four letter words. I promise, no matter what happens in the next few days, my next post will be happy (pinky swear). This weekend I lost two people who were important to me. One was a new-found forever friend, the other a woman who created a magical, safe place for people to learn and play. Vickie and Phyllis, until we meet again…

This, then, is the hard part. Not the holding on, but the letting go.  We’ve been taught that good-byes are a time of sorrow, with death being the hardest parting of them all. I chose to believe that death is not a final good-bye, but an “au revoir.” Think of the caterpillar left behind, looking in vain for his friends, and wondering at the winged creatures who flit about above him. So let us not spend our time with heavy hearts and weeping eyes. Let us choose to remember our love with joy and laughter, and raise a parting glass to those who go before us.

I can see them, with their wings of many colors, and I can hear them asking “Where have you been?”

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