Mom from Hell, Literally?

“My mom, my mom, I know you’re sick of hearing about my mom…” Eminem “My Mom.”

I read a blog post this morning that has engendered this response. Since I don’t think it’s fair to write long self-confessions as comments on someone else’s blog because it’s THEIR blog I’m doing this instead.

Rebecca Wallick, a retired attorney, author of “Wild Sensibility” today wrote a post about something she learned from her first pro bono client. It’s a compelling post and a good story. Like me, Rebecca had a narcissistic mom, and if you have also been so blessed you’ll understand how incomprehensible, hurtful and indefatigable those bitches can be. Rebecca wrote about her mom’s death.

As the responsible, good child in my family, it fell upon me to head up to Montana in the dead of winter, leaving behind my jobs for however long it was going to take to sort out what to do with my mom. She’d become suddenly very confused, and my Aunt Jo had taken her to the hospital. Mom was admitted. I was called. The docs were still trying to figure out what had happened. Ultimately [this is (one of) the funny part(s)] my mom had OD’d on Tums. She’d poisoned herself with excessive calcium self-medicating an ulcer.

The afternoon/evening before I left California for Montana, my truck broke down, my washing machine broke, I tripped over the door of my dishwasher and it broke. Even pushing the button 10 times wouldn’t make it run. A stray dog we’d taken in showed up with scabies and ALL six of my dogs had to be treated. My roommate and I had to buy and treat ourselves with Quell or Rid or whatever, too. My purse was stolen from my truck while we were parked at the vet. Yep. All that after I got the call about my mom.

I got to Billings just after a major snow dump — more than a foot — and though my aunts managed to collect me at the airport, they didn’t want to drive. I had my mom’s car and chauffeured people around Billings’ frozen streets, back and forth to the hospital. After ten days, my mom had to be discharged into extended care. I had to find her a nursing home. It snowed again, 18 inches total on the ground and more in open spaces and drifts. All in all, it had been a cold MF winter, 40 below for two weeks (the theory is that’s what drove my mom crazy but I think THAT happened long ago).

My mom hadn’t signed a power of attorney which meant that, compos mentis or not, she had to sign herself out of the hospital and into “the home.” I had to “force” her to do it. I found her a place. I then went to the hospital with the papers not knowing how in hell I was going to accomplish this. She’d already asked me one morning as I was helping her out of the bathroom, pulling up her diapers, if I was going to stay and take care of her. That moment was my first inkling of my real feelings toward this person, “I’d rather die,” I thought and it was the truth.

She was holding court — meaning entertaining visitors. She’d turned on all of her immense charm for them, the funny, sweet person she was to my friends, to strangers, to my second husband. Seeing me arrive, they got up to leave. My Aunt Jo and my Aunt Martha were already there, knowing what was ahead for my mom and for me. My Aunt Jo was right behind me. “We’ll wait outside, sweetie,” she said.

I put the papers in front of my mom and set forth the facts. “Mom, you have recovered enough that the hospital has to discharge you, but you’re not OK enough to go home yet. I found a nursing home for you two blocks from Aunt Dickie. It’s really nice and you’ll have your own room until you’re ready to go home.”

Her face darkened, every nuance of evil settled into her features. “I knew you’d do this to me,” she said, and grabbed the pen from my hand, signed the paper and said, “Are you happy now? You should stay here and take care of me but no. So you’ve finally gotten rid of me. Now get out. I never want to see you again.” The nurses came and, as I recall, had to restrain her.

It hurt, but I was OK with that. I didn’t want to see her again, either. Never, ever, ever.

At that time I didn’t understand the underlying dynamic of our non-relationship. I just thought I wasn’t good enough, and she was complicated. Thankfully the next day I would return to California, to my students, to my life.

Outside my mom’s room, I found my Aunt Martha waiting. Jo had gone home and Martha had stayed so I wouldn’t be alone when the ordeal was finished. “Jo went home to cook dinner,” said Aunt Martha

We sat together on a bench in the hallway for a few minutes. I was emotionally shot, I wanted to cry, but those Montana cowboys don’t cry, so I didn’t. In a way, what could have been better than my two aunts making sure they had my back and I knew it? It wasn’t like my mom was easy for anyone.

My Aunt Martha and my mom were less than a year apart in age. They’d gone through school together, same grade. They’d been best friends their whole lives until, not so many years before, they’d had a falling out and my mom had ejected Aunt Martha from her life. It didn’t diminish my aunt’s loyalty or love for my mom, but Aunt Martha kept her distance. My Aunt Martha and I had always been very close. From the time I was a little kid, I adored her, liked her, appreciated her, enjoyed her and it was mutual. I am certain my mom was jealous because she envied anyone who had anything that she (felt? imagined?) she did not. She always saw herself as having been screwed over by life while other people hadn’t. The narcissist is always the center of the world and is incapable of empathy or perspective.

“I even gave you my family!” my mom said to my Aunt Martha in that fated fight. My aunt had remained single all her life.

I felt the turmoil of inchoate emotions and exhaustion. When I’d collected myself enough to go back out on the icy streets in February’s dim dusk, we went home for supper. My Aunt Jo had cooked the supper I liked best when I was a little kid and had stayed with them one summer.

My mom died a few weeks later, and I went back to Billings to deal with that. By then my brother (who was homeless) had arrived and was staying at my mom’s condo. The funeral ensued, I got pneumonia, yada yada and the day came to go to the attorney with the will. I drove my mom’s (new) car downtown to see the guy. Here’s the second funny part.

In her will my mom left my alcoholic brother her new car. The whole time my mom was in the hospital she’d said, to me, to my aunts, to everyone, “Don’t let that boy (my brother) drive that car! He’ll wreck it!” In her will she left me both of her televisions. Great except that for some 20 years we’d fought over the fact that I didn’t own a television and didn’t want one. When I told my Aunt Jo, she about died laughing. Everything else was divided logically down the middle…

Fast forward 20 some years to this past Friday and my fall (“Notes Smuggled from the Bunker”), my head bump, my black eye.

I have thought for a while that my mom is still doing things to me. I think that even as I think that’s a completely crazy idea. But it was only a few days after I arranged to read from the China Book at the bookstore in Alamosa that an insidious hiding rock on a soft, safe, dirt and grass trail, did a long-term number on my foot that put me out of walking commission for more than 2 months. Just a DAY before the reading, I reinjured the foot in my own living room on NOTHING. “Mom???”

Friday, my head-bump fall came more or less at the same time my Aunt Martha’s platter arrived at my door.

I think I need an exorcist.

P.S. This song by Eminem is great, and, for me, illuminating, but also a little “colorful.” You’ve been warned. 🙂

Thomas Hardy vs. Grief

In Tenebris

Thomas Hardy

“Percussus sum sicut foenum, et aruit cor meum.” —Ps. ci.

Wintertime nighs; 
But my bereavement-pain 
It cannot bring again: 
Twice no one dies. 

Flower-petals flee; 
But, since it once hath been, 
No more that severing scene 
Can harrow me. 

Birds faint in dread: 
I shall not lose old strength 
In the lone frost’s black length: 
Strength long since fled! 

Leaves freeze to dun; 
But friends can not turn cold 
This season as of old 
For him with none. 

Tempests may scath; 
But love can not make smart 
Again this year his heart 
Who no heart hath. 

Black is night’s cope; 
But death will not appal 
One who, past doubtings all, 
Waits in unhope. 

Long long ago in a dormitory not so far away — five hours — I was confronted with this poem. At the time my dad was in a nursing home in Colorado Springs, his life suspended between a reclining wing-backed chair and a coma. Most Fridays I got on the Continental Trailways bus which I caught at the terminal in downtown Denver. Thinking about it, I can still smell the winter air and diesel wafting from the cold garage into the bus terminal waiting room with its chrome-armed benches and light green plastic upholstery from which the original pattern of pale ice cubes remained only on the sides where no one sat. $1.85 to get to Colorado Springs. I always had that, whatever expenses the week brought.

I stepped up the three steps with my little blue suitcase carrying homework and underwear (backpacks hadn’t become “the thing” yet), and handed my ticket to the conductor and took my seat by the window. Sometimes there was someone sitting beside me with stories to tell, often not. I wondered if my boyfriend would meet my bus or my mom. Usually it was my boyfriend, a man I later married, but that’s a subject for a blog post that will remain unwritten.

“Go see your dad,” said my mom when I walked in the front door, as if I needed to be told.

Whatever I found at the nursing home, I stayed. If he were lying in a coma, I did homework. If he were sitting up, we talked. By that time his speech was very garbled and he often used a Ouija board (imagine!) as an alphabet board to spell out the words he wanted to speak. He would point with his finger — spastic though his hands were, frustrating though it was for this short-tempered Irishman — and we would talk, sometimes for hours. He would tell me what to buy my mom to give her for Christmas, birthday, anniversary from him. His gifts to my mom were always something lovely. I would go to the new mall, The Citadel, filled with importance, carrying the checkbook that was our joint checking account, make the purchase and buy a mushy card on which Dad would scrawl what he could of the words, “I love you, Bill.” I always hoped that a gift would fix everything. I wonder if my dad hoped that, too.

Then the day came when I learned once and forever that hope is not enough. That paradoxical human thing without which we cannot live, but which cannot, in itself, keep anything alive, except itself. Hardy’s poem, which had been completely incomprehensible to me when I studied it the year before my father’s death, suddenly made too much sense, but it had a message I’ve retained all my life, “Twice no one dies…” followed by, “

… But death will not appal 
One who, past doubtings all, 
Waits in unhope. 

I spent the next three months pretty much alone at school, avoiding friends, studying, trying to make sense of life without my best friend. My dad’s death was a rocket that shot me into a universe none of my peers seemed to inhabit. I could see them from a distance, but I couldn’t hear them.

It took a L–O–N–G time to understand hope, and, again, Thomas Hardy (whose poetry I had in a HUGE book, The Poems of Thomas Hardy, by that time, not just in my even HUGER anthology of Victorian poetry) spoke to me in his poem, “The Darkling Thrush”

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

Featured photo: Bus station in Colorado Springs back in the day… My dad had multiple sclerosis, diagnosed when he was 27, died when he was 45. I was 20.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/10/09/rdp-wednesday-tenebrous/

Heaven is a Garage?

Last night I dreamed I hadn’t seen Dusty T. Dog in a few days, and I was worried about him. I looked every where. I finally found him in a garage with my affectionate, long-haired, long-ago tabby cat, Triffid, and my sweet black and white husky, Jasmine. I’m not sure Dusty was going to stay there. Maybe that’s Heaven’s anteroom or maybe animal Heaven is a garage.

Anyway, he seemed fine and Jasmine — Jammie — was there with him. When he was a puppy, Jasmine was the one who took care of him most of the time. My cat, Triffid, lived all his life among big dogs. Dusty looked a little hesitant in the dream until he saw me. He loped over to me, and I scratched his ears and snuggled his neck. I said, “I love you, boy. I’m glad you’re OK.”

And I woke up.

I guess I miss my dog.

I don’t know what happens when people (dogs?) die
Can’t seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It’s like a song playing right in my ear
That I can’t sing
I can’t help listening… Jackson Browne

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/07/06/rdp-saturday-sick/

Dusty T. Dog’s Memorial Service

Yesterday I had to have Dusty T. Dog put to sleep. He had a stroke — I witnessed it — and having experienced this with other dogs, I knew I wasn’t going to let Dusty have another. It wasn’t a difficult decision.

My favorite vet appeared at my house with his veterinarian truck — think a 2019 version of All Creatures Great and Small. When I called them at 1:00 he was out somewhere in the country doing James Herriot type things. I had to wait two hours, but I just put the China book on Kindle using new software. It was a good distraction.

By then Dusty had improved, but still couldn’t easily get up or stand steadily on his feet. Dusty loved this vet and tried to demonstrate happiness to see him at our house, but couldn’t really. Dr. Crawford greeted Dusty with a hearty, “Hello, handsome,” and scratched his ears. He did a thorough exam and except for not being able to stand and appearing confused, Dusty seemed fine. “All his vitals are good, but he’s not right, is he. What happened? “

I described it.

“He’s suffered what we call TIA in humans. He’ll improve, but there’s every chance he’ll have another.”

I said, “I don’t want Dusty to go through another day like this.”

“You must really love this dog,” said my vet.

He explained the procedure — which I’m either unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your perspective — familiar with. I said, “It’s OK. I know. I’ve had nearly 30 dogs.”

“Thirty?”

“Yeah. I like dogs.”

“A little bit, I’d say. So now you’ll just have one dog?” He knows Bear.

“No. I got a mini-Aussie a couple of weeks ago.”

“How do they do together?”

“They play all the time.”

“Thirty dogs?”

“Yeah, I always wanted a dog but my parents wouldn’t let me. When I was 35 I got my own house and realized I could finally have a dog.”

“You made up for lost time.”

“You have to seize the day,” I said, thinking of all the dogs I’d been privileged to love and put down when the time came. Dr. Crawford and I talked a bit about that, too, how the procedure for which we were prepping Dusty would have been humane for some people we’d loved.

Dusty went to the Enchanted Forest peacefully where he is now playing with his Siberian husky sisters that he loved so much. Lily was waiting for him, or, anyway, that’s how I choose to look at it. I miss him. We were together for fourteen years through all kinds of changes in life.

After I’d cleaned up the house I took Bear and Teddy for a walk and on the way back, we got to talk to the little girl, Michelle. She saw us and was so excited that she would get to see Bear and Teddy and talk to me. It’s amazing to be such an important event in a little girl’s life, humbling and a great honor.

“Teddy’s so cute,” she said.

“Yeah, he’s a good dog. Are you thirsty, Teddy?” I asked him. He was panting. “He can’t really talk.”

“Why?”

“Well, he’s a dog. I have to watch what he does to know what he wants to tell me.”

“Oh. Where’s Dusty? Was he bad?” I get from that that she and her brother get time-outs or lose privileges when they’re “bad.”

She only got to meet Dusty once, and she liked him a lot. That was only this past Monday. It just happened that I was walking Dusty alone, and it was easy to bring him to their fence to meet.

I don’t lie to kids. “Dusty is dead, Michelle. He died today.”

“What happened to him?”

“He had a stroke.”

“Oh. C’mere Teddy.”

“I have take these guys home for a drink of water.”

“OK.” So I walked along their fence (chain link, 3 feet) and Michelle walked beside me then, took off to run to the gate beside the alley, behind what was once a chicken house. When I arrived there she had the gate open and was ready. “Bye! See you next time!!!” Waving at us with all her heart.

I thought that was a pretty good memorial service for Dusty T. Dog

***

Today Bear is very tired and sad. She spent all of her life so far with Dusty T. Dog and they were friends. Because of her breed, its sensitivity to the feelings of the creatures around her and being unsettled by change, I think it might take her a while to return to the “real” Bear. Teddy is a puppy who only knew Dusty for 2 1/2 weeks.

I’m looking at my empty coffee cup and for the first time in many, many years I won’t put it on the floor for my big, black dog to lick the cream from the sides.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/rdp-saturday-peace/

Lamont and Dude, “Nobody Walks in LA, or How I Killed My Friend, Again) 3rd Episode in the great saga

________________________

— Your stragedy worked?

Yes, by the grace of, grace of, I don’t know what. I veered quickly right. I felt a splash of water and tar on my rear left leg. I turned and saw Dude lunge into the pool. He fought, of course, and the more he fought the more firmly stuck he became. He called out, in tiger, of course. I trumpeted my apologies and said I hoped I’d see him later when we weren’t in this miserable predator-prey connection. Soon bubbles rose to the surface.

— Wow.

Next time I saw Dude, we were both trees. But that’s LA for you. If it’s not traffic it’s tar pits.

Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with in 2014. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past incarnations which gives them an unusual perspective on life, the universe and everything.

A Letter

My aunt died this morning. I’m happy that she only suffered the terrible pain she was in for a short time. I’m happy my cousins did not have to contend with it for weeks or months on end, unable to do anything about it. My grandma said that death was merciful sometimes, and this is one of those times.

I found the actual letter my grandfather wrote his brother’s sons, and I sent it to my cousins. It’s a pretty amazing piece of literature in its way. It’s written in pencil on manila paper. I don’t know if that exists any more.

My grandfather was born in 1870 and grew up on a farm in Eastern Iowa. He was a brilliant man, self-taught, they say, but I have his 3rd grade math book and it has trigonometry in it, so that bit about, “He only went to third grade” is kind of bogus. It’s not how far you go in school, but what you learn while you’re there. He thought of himself as a philosopher which isn’t a very useful calling when you’re sharecropping a farm on the high plains of Montana in the 30s. I never knew him, really. I was 5 when he died.

The letter is a precious family artifact. It was written in 1941 when my aunt would have been 16.  It was kept by my grandfather’s nephew, passed to his son, and then given to my mom when she went to “find her roots” in Iowa. That’s how I happened to have it. It was one of the rewards of the “great garage purge of 2017.”

This is something my cousins might want to pass along to their kids. I hope so.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/mercy/

Real Fame

I had six aunts. I now have two. Last night I learned that the youngest — Dickie (Madylene) — has gone into hospice with a large mass in her lung. She doesn’t want to go through the misery of tests and so on, so she’s asked her kids to just let her go. I don’t know how that is for them, but she is a nurse, she is not in the least sentimental, and she is very, very practical. When I read my cousin’s message more-or-less conveying this, I heard in my mind Queen’s song from The Highlander, “Who Wants to Live Forever?” No one does. I don’t. I am sure my aunt doesn’t, either. The second-to-youngest of my aunts is at “the home” with pretty advanced dementia and doesn’t want to eat or drink. Both of these women are in their 90s.

I’m very sad. My relationship with some of my aunts has been important to me and, I hope, vice versa. I grew up around these women. My mom felt her family was important, she relied on their being there, so we spent time around them. This aunt — Dickie — has kids around my age, in fact, one of my cousins was born a month after I was. We grew up as friends.

One thing I learned from these women is that OTHER adults — not just parents — can be important in a kid’s life. I reached adulthood wanting to be that OTHER adult, not the parent.

A few years ago I decided I wanted my Aunt Dickie to know who I am. We’d been close, but had gotten estranged as a result of family stuff, and I didn’t like that. I have always liked her. I sent her a letter and a copy of Martin of Gfenn. She loved the book and wrote me a letter with two messages that meant the world to me. She was proud of me and she loved me.

I sent her Savior which she liked even more and then The Brothers Path. She really loved that book. Last winter her church book group read it as their winter book. She wrote me that and said, “I’m making them order it from Amazon so you’ll make a little money.”

Later I heard how the book group went. “Please keep writing the story of my mother’s family,” she said. “I’m very proud of you and she would be, too.”

This year I’ve ploughed through the sludge of disillusionment over writing, publishing, promoting, etc. Afew weeks ago, — after months and months — I looked again at what I’m calling “The Schneebelis Go to America,” and saw it’s a pretty good story. I wondered if I should keep going, or? My aunt’s words, “Keep writing the story of my mother’s family” echoed in my mind. “That’s a good reason to write,” I thought, “so my Aunt Dickie can read my book.”

My grandfather, my aunt’s father, in 1941, wrote a letter to his brother’s kids when their dad died. He wrote:

“I’m awfully sorry but it is a natural condition to make a change. It would be too bad for us to have to be bothered with this old body for ever. It seems sad but it might be if there was no death, that life would lose its meaning and love would perish from the earth and I would rather live where love rules and death is sure as to live forever in a land without love — but I am very sad.”

I can’t say it better.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/sludge/

My True Calling

It’s always a question. You’re a little kid and people say, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This is a drastically irresponsible. What does a kid know about being grown up? I think I even said, “I don’t know,” a time or two. I don’t know if I ever had an answer to that question. And why should anyone “be” something? Maybe the kid just wants to go skiing…

A friend of mine has been having a hard time at his job. I told him to write down a list of stuff he liked about his job and stuff he didn’t like. He thought I meant pros and cons. I didn’t mean pros and cons at all. A “pro” can be something we don’t even like but we have the idea it’s beneficial to us in some way — like he had a private office which sounds good and he called it a “pro” but he didn’t like it. It took me a long time to figure out the difference myself, and it was impossible for me to illuminate it for him.

The thing is, now I know.

The happiest I have ever been in  my entire life was on skis. I was not a very good skier and not very clear about my skiing goals or direction other than down the hill, or across the mountain, depending, but I loved it.

So now I’m 65 and arthritic and stuff. I have to use a famous ski technique just to get down a hill; I side-step. I can’t blame skiing for my arthritis because the knee I hurt skiing isn’t that bad, and the leg it bends is still mostly straight. It’s the OTHER one. So every other day, I ride an Airdyne, a total-body-workout kind of stationary bike made by Schwinn. It drastically improved my ability to walk so I keep at it. Recently, I discovered beautiful videos of bike rides in Europe that I have been watching while I ride. They’r nice, but kind of tranquil, now somewhat boring. I imagine my “skill level” on the Airdyne has surpassed them.

Sunday I put in a DVD I bought a long time ago in a set of “Classic Ski Films.” It’s “The Last of the Ski Bums,” made in 1969. I’d seen it once and loved it. In it the main character and his pals bum around the Alps and ski. The storyline is cute and funny, the skiing is beautiful, the mountains more beautiful, the underlying philosophy is harmonious with mine. As I watched the first half I realized that I would really like to be a ski bum.

“It’s kind of late, Martha,” I said. “All that’s left for you is ‘stationary bike bum.’ I think you’re doing that pretty well, in spite of the inherent stability of your lifestyle.”

“Yeah, but maybe next time?”

“You mean your next life?”

“Yeah, my next life. Riding the Airdyne is great for developing quads, glutes and even calf muscles.”

Now I’m training for my next life in which I will be a ski-bum, maybe even a pro skier for a while so someone else pays me to travel. I’m already training, and maybe the head-start will help. I hope I remember the intrinsic futility of striving for success on my next pass and can jump right into my new life of chasing powder around the world.

 

Poem for My Mom

The process of sorting and packing uncovers many surprises. I found this poem (I hardly ever write poetry) I wrote in 1996 when my mom was in the hospital about a month from death. Our relationship was difficult — she was difficult and very messed up, much more than I knew when I wrote this poem. I spent as much time as I could with her in the hospital. Otherwise I was driving or slogging through the snowy and icy streets of Billings, MT, looking for a nursing home where she could live after she was discharged. I loved my mom — but, as with many loves, it was not unalloyed with sadness and even hatred.

Helen

Winter light fades,
Short days shorten, then are gone
The last beam of a dogged sun
Bends ’round the pines
And drops.
You press my hand against your lips
And drift into sleep.
The afternoon slips away.
Tulips on the windowsill and get-well cards can’t stop
Anything.

Kindness of the Gods

In 2010 my brother — a hardcore alcoholic — died. None of his friends or family knew about it until five months afterward. I was devastated, naturally. I’d “cut off” my brother six years earlier when his constant demands for money and his absolute lack of awareness about anything in my life or his daughter’s life was too much. I always hoped that he would want us enough after a while to stop drinking. I have known people who made that choice — family vs. booze. My brother chose booze. And, right now I do not want to hear anything about “it’s a disease; they can’t choose” because the reality is that yes, addiction is a disease BUT the only cure lies in the hands/mind/heart of the addict. There is NO OTHER cure. Simple cure, horrendously difficult to accomplish. If you believe otherwise, you’ve bought into the addict’s con and my prayers go out to you.

When I learned of his death, I contacted one of his friends. We did work to confirm it. I was left, then with finding his body. After some effort it was delivered to me — ashes — by my sweet, friendly and dog-loving postal worker. She had no idea what she was handing me over the fence, but there was my brother.

My brother was my best friend. I loved him with all my heart and soul. So, as it happened, did many others. When the news got out I made a Facebook group for his friends. My brother was an artist and soon photos of his works began to appear on the page. Memories and stories appeared, also. Then, one of his friends from high school — Lois — held a wake for him. I couldn’t go (it was in Colorado and I’m in California). They filmed it as it was going on and I watched it on Facebook and commented — as if, almost, I was there. I saw my brother’s friends, all of whom were from his teens and twenties. I felt I had met them and knew them and loved them, but I only knew a couple of the

Three years later I went to Colorado to give a paper. By then I’d made Facebook relationships with some of my brother’s friends. We planned a small “service” for him and a dispersal of some of his ashes which I shipped ahead in case TSA didn’t like the stuff that looked exactly like gunpowder. I met some of these people for the first time. Others for the first time in more than 40 years. My new/old friend, Lois, and her husband cooked a brunch for everyone who would be coming. We sat in her living room and talked about my brother and about addiction and about each other and where life had brought us all. When the time was right, we took my brother’s ashes up to a place we had all loved as young people, to rocks on which my brother and I used to climb. I put some ashes between a cedar tree and a juniper tree, and one of my brother’s friends tossed some of my brother into the air.

I did not know these people. Many had not seen my brother in decades. ALL of them — all of us — had had some terrible experience with him. They were there to memorialize my brother, but they were also there for me. Never in my life have I experienced anything like that. I felt as if my brother — now in some place where he’s no longer tormented by the demons that pursued him — brought me to his friends. Perhaps he was finally able to see how golden they are. Perhaps  he knew I would love them. In any case, out of it and their kindness, have come friendships that I treasure with all my heart. I almost cannot believe my good fortune awakening from the sorrow and darkness of my brother’s life and my life with him into such a circle of kindness.

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