Monday, April 29, 2013


My mom left her body last night.  My dad called my sister because it was the only number he could find.  My sister tried to call me but I didn't have my phone, I was at a party surrounded by lovely women and children, a baby on my lap.  I am sure if my mother looked for me as she was ascending she would have smiled to see me there happy and having a great time.

I am sad.  I really didn't think I would be.  I know that sounds terrible but I disconnected from her so many years ago, I made her a person in the background someone who had to be carefully watched and dealt with, someone you couldn't trust, someone who might do the wrong thing, someone you had to invite because it was the right thing to do.  I did it because she hurt me, hurt people I loved.

My mother was an interesting person and people loved her, she was loved.  She chose a family of friends, my father, a lifestyle that could not include me or my children.  She wanted it all, felt she deserved it but I wouldn't let her have it, wouldn't life in her world.  It really was not a punishment just a choice on my part and a relief to her sometimes.  What I needed from her was not something she had to give and being with me made that too clear to both of us.

She had a good heart, she loved me the best way she could, she wanted to be a part of my family, she wanted and needed me to remember how hard she tried when she was young to be a mother.  I remember, I know she loved us, I know she did the best she could.

I am not missing a "mother" today because I have not had one for a long time.  I am sad because it was such a hard life for her, it was a painful journey and she held on so tight to it anyway.  She was a strong woman in so many ways, it never made sense.

She deserved a better daughter, there are things I did not do that I should have and things I said I wish I could take back.  She made me strong, I would have to be strong in this life but it also made me hard.

I waited for her to visit last night, she promised she would.  It didn't happen.

She laid in her bed looking like someone I did not recognize.  I wanted to say she looked peaceful but she didn't, she looked like she fought it to the end, thats just the way she did things.  I pray that my grandmother came to get her and she is reunited with the people who loved her.

There are things to thank her for; introducing me to the paranormal, teaching me to sew and cook, giving us silly celebrations, staying up with me when I was sick, making me that scarecrow costume in 2nd grade, filling our house with music, terrible haircuts and handmade dresses, buying me crayons, teaching me to read when I was four, telling me that I may be an ugly duckling but one day I would be a swan.

Rest in Peace mama, then wake up and do this again, I know you loved life, and I think you could rock it in a healthy body with a healthy mind.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Wooden Chest

My childhood lives in a wooden chest in my house, bits of paper all piled up, stacked in no order just random snapshots taken on different cameras over a blurry time line.  My early years are all black and white, when photo's were a one shot deal, you had to peel off some kind of film after a certain amount of time, they are all fading to soft grey as a tiny me sits between my parents on old wooden steps in front of an army owned  house on a base in Kansas.  Then they slowly turn to color with pretty white borders as my sister enters the picture, an apartment building in Hawaii, my grandmother in a big blue dress, she has come to help my mother who is sick, has a blood clot in her leg from birth control pills she forgets to take and smoking cigarettes one after the other.

My brother follows my sister after several miscarriages, and alien abduction, and my fathers discharge from the army, the photos are all yellows and browns, there is ironed hair, long side burns, and mustaches where eyeliner and greased back hair use to be. We all have home made shaggy hair cuts, sun tans, and our little house on Guadalupe Parkway is full of ashtrays and spider plants in macrame hangers, bookcases made out of cinderblocks and wood planks, we play hand-me-down Masterpiece and Yatzee on  handmade rag rug my mother made.

Our teenage years are not as well documented, we are seen in a series of photos taken with stolen or borrowed cameras, 110 film, grainy, rounded edges, Poloroid with a thick pocket of processing fluid at the bottom, glimpses of a holidays, a birthday, a trip to the beach.  We are in houses and apartments, things are falling apart but we smile we don't know anything different, looking back only the three of us understand what all that stuff in the background represents, what it it triggers in us now that we are grown up.

I found most of these photos several years ago in a closet in a fourplex we all once lived in.  It was my least favorite place, too many bad memories, it was the end of my childhood, it was the last place I lived with my family, I left there to begin my own family at the age of 18, my sister and brother stayed behind a couple more years then left to start lives of their own.  We forgot the photos until my mother was arrested, I went back for them, it is all I wanted from that place, proof.

The picture taking changes when it is my camera, well Steve's camera, one he bought in college for a class.  We take photos of vacations, my growing belly the births of our children.  Slowly we take photos of everything else, with new cameras, hundreds and hundreds of pictures that fill the rest of that wooden chest.  I took photos of my babies asleep, of them staring out windows, I dressed them up in costumes and snapped them being fairies and bunnies.  Steve recorded events, he took a heavy camera with us where ever we went and would stop us to record a moment that was lost by the stopping but I am glad we can look back and remember it.

Tonight I visited my parents, the first time in over a year.  I don't do it because it is painful for me. I don't know how to be grateful or kind, I am still angry at them after all these years for being the wrong parents, for not returning me to my real parents.  I piled my kids in the car and my husband drove me out to San Jose where they still live so that I could say good-bye to them.  My mother is dying.

I didn't bring a camera to record this milestone, I just sat with her and said all the wrong things because it was scary, because I imagined this day a million times and never did I think I would be sad.  My parents once so young and strong, so damaged, bad-ass, law-breaking, drug-taking, were old and weak, and alone.  They surround themselves with pictures in old broken frames, of them young, of people who are no longer alive, their grandchildren that they barely know.

Tonight I flashed through our lives could see it all through the lens of a camera, and tonight I am not angry.  I see these people as people, I see myself in them, my children in them.  They are where my story begins like it or not.  This woman gave birth to me, this man went to a war in Vietnam because it was a job and he was 17 and I was a baby who needed to be fed.

I won't have a picture of my mother looking like a broken bird, or my father falling apart staying alive because he doesn't want her to be alone, doing all the things for her now he never could do before, both of them living out the last of their karma.  They are not old, only in their 60's but they have lived hard lives made harder by bad choices and mental illness.

My mother is cared for by strangers, hospice nurses that come and hold her hand because I can not, because we will not because those hands hurt us.  I made her the enemy because I had to be the mother.  I held my siblings close because I didn't want her to break them.  We shut them out of our lives because the lifestyle they lived could easily leak into better lives we were working hard to give ourselves.

I see tonight that none of it matters.

I told my mom to go, to let just let go and get the hell out of here.  It feels like she had done enough, lived through enough, caused enough pain, loved the best she could and I could not stand to see her suffer.  My sister like my dad are too afraid to let go and mad at me for giving up and giving in and they see me releasing her as unkind, as discarding her, what they do not understand is that I am afraid too.

I let Elliott touch my mothers hand and when he did I felt him say to her "You are only going where I just left, you will love it there"  Noah sang songs while he softly strummed his guitar, he was not afraid, he was kind and loving, he made us all cry.  My sister reached out past her fear and told my mother she loved her.  My dad cried, got mad at me, tried to take Noah into another room and introduce him to jazz and blues and share a little of himself, connect to my son through music.

One last good bye, and by the door a wedding photo, my Uncle Bill with slicked back black hair, my grandmother with a big corsage and lipstick, my mother young, in an up-do wearing pumps and a beautiful dress, her face is mine.

Friday, April 19, 2013



The sky is barely turning from night to morning but there seem to be a thousand birds chatting away in all the trees in our neighborhood, they woke me up, they know that today is the 19th, at least that is what it feels like.

I am remembering without effort your last day here with us in your body.  I usually slip easily into that memory, it is strong and vivid and it feels like pulling out stitches, this wound never heals, this broken place can not be repaired, it never will be but today I won't go there even though I have permission to, I won't, I can't.

There has to be a  new way to connect to you on this day, I need to find a way to celebrate instead of grieve,  I have to learn to honor you and I can not do that drowning in tears.  It's not fair to you that what hold close is the loss of you and not the beauty of the time you got to be here, all the smiles, and belly laughs, the tender late night talks, the sound of you moving through this house and your voice over the phone, your hand in mine as we drove to the next place.

You were and still are my person, my companion in this life.  I  believe we all get one true love and I was raised to believe the person who would capture my heart, save me, teach me, complete me would be a man, that romantic love was what I needed to be whole.  It isn't never was, it was you.  The love a mother feels for her child is the deepest place she will ever go, it is the highest mountain she will ever climb, it is the hardest work she will ever do, it is the easiest love she will ever experience.

When you and your sister and brothers were born something happened I can not explain it's like I fell open, parts of me were exposed, I was vulnerable, I could hide nothing.  I had to navigate differently in this world, feel things in a very different way.  All of you helped me grow, taught me life lessons that I could not have learned any other way.

When you were born I knew, I always knew...there was something different.  You were me, I was you but we our own worlds too.  You were aways so far ahead of me, you needed me, but I needed you more.  You were brave in all the places I was most afraid  You were always smarter and stronger, stubborn, and damn it you were always right and sometimes I hated that.  The thing I loved most was that you chose me, and let me love you and to this day I don't know why, you deserved so much more.

I loved waking up knowing you were in this world, I loved arguing with you, I loved sitting next to you and I loved it when you wanted me to go away at that concert in Berkeley.  I gave you space but I watched you from the balcony always protecting you but filled with pride as you swayed to the music, danced and fell in love with boys who played the piano like rock stars.

You filled my life with moments I want back, I want to live them over and over...

Where are you now Stevie?  I will make my way to the cemetery to be close to your body but where are you now?

Do you miss us like we miss you?  I pray that you are so happy, so busy, (maybe even living again in a new body) that you don't have time to miss us, we are a fuzzy memory.  I am selfish and sometimes I want to believe that you never left that you are here with us waiting and guiding us, and we will all go to heaven together.  Last year I thought maybe I could bring you home...

How can it be six years sweet girl?  I don't know how we got here, how we survived.  I am living in a world that doesn't know you.  You have a little brother who will never finger paint with you or play Guess Who.  You will never see the new kitchen, we have new Christmas decorations, and you never got to see Tangerine.  New cousins have been born, I have new friends you never got a chance to hate.  Ben brought back the Postal Service for a concert, Andrew got married after his cancer got it's ass kicked.  Our town looks different, new places to eat you would have loved.

People ask me how many kids I have...I say four ( I don't count Claire which feels wrong but she was never a child here on earth, only in my body and heart) then I have to try and explain that you are no longer here without making it sad, without seeming like I am trying to get sympathy, your death is not my calling card, being your mother is, and I am so grateful and proud.  I say I have a 27 year old my youngest daughter would be 25, my son is 13 and my baby boy is 7 months old.  I don't like to think of you as 25, in my heart you are 19, always 19.

Stevie I wish you were here, I wish you were in this bed, in this room, sleeping in until 10, I wish you had plans for the day that did not include me, that you were busy with your friends, school, work, a life you had created for yourself.  I would get a few minutes with you as you made coffee, cut up some fruit,  I would love to listen to you and your brother talk about music, you and your sister fight over who gets the shower first, watch you kiss Elliott (he would love your face).  I want to live in a world with you in it.

Today I will fight the memory of your last moments here and instead I will imagine that you are visiting from heaven and I will talk to you, share all the love I have for you, make you a part of this day in a good and positive way.

Baby girl my sweet little bunny, my friend, my daughter, my teacher, my heart, thank you, thank you for being in my life, for choosing me, for giving to me all you did, for sharing with me all your secrets, for loving me so well, for letting me love you and forgiving me when I did things wrong, for liking me anyway.

Thank you for 19 of the best years of my life...

Wait for us in heaven, be happy baby, be happy.

We are Ok Stevie, we are Ok.

I love you so very much,  "I Love you the whole world"


Monday, April 15, 2013


I am sitting on Stevie's bed which is the place Elliott and I share now, we have turned it into our little nursing nest.  This room still smells like Stevie but little by little it is changing.  There is a mobile of brightly colored baby dragons hanging from the ceiling, a wall shelf with red gnome, a firetruck and a little hand stitched monkey sitting next to a well worn teddy bear that we bought for Stevie who passed it to Noah who gave it to Elliott.  There are baby boy clothes hanging in the closet from little green hangers, two baskets filled with cardboard books, and a small crib in the corner filled with colorful toys and soft blankets.

This life of mine is morphing, all the familiar things are blending with new experiences that remind me of everything that came before.   I am paint mixing, tides moving in and out, time passing, a loop of memory that plays around and around.  I am seasons, cycles, time that is passing.

I am awake at two in the morning with a song playing in my head, a song I can not name but it belongs to Stevie.  I am remembering those last days because the sky is the same blue, the trees are full of leaves, the air smells the same as it did that April she left.

I have not been to the cemetery since, well it had to have been right before Elliott was born.  This is the longest I have gone and I feel it, it hurts, it feels like a broken promise.  The baby hates the car unless I am in the back with him, where he can see me, still he will only ride in that big car seat for a short amount of time.  That is my excuse.  The reality is that I am busy with a new baby, all of Noah's activities, life...

I ache to go and bring her new flowers, sit and talk, lay down on that thick grass under the sun and fall asleep in a forever sleeping place.  I am also afraid of it, afraid of falling down a rabbit hole where are that pain and memory is.  I love my girl and I wrap her around me like a blanket everyday of my life but I am so afraid of falling into a sad place I won't be able to get up from, my tough places have been softened by baby kisses wiggly toes.

April is hard, spring has all these beginnings, she went to sleep when everything was waking up, all her favorite things.

I am feeling sorry for myself this morning, sitting in the dark wondering what I could have done to save her, wishing I would have done a million things differently, said more, given more, been smarter, braver...wishing I could have been more for her.  I don't need to go to the cemetery, that rabbit hole has found me at two in the morning.

Noah and I were eating lunch outside yesterday and we both agreed that we wished there was a God, wished even more that there was a heaven.  We both didn't want to believe in a biblical God, someone that was too much like us, like a dad or a president.  We wished for a God that was more like stars and magic and love.

Since I am indulging myself in dark thoughts and self pity, since I am allowing myself to grieve I will say out loud that when Stevie left I needed to leave too.  I wished for my life to be over, I needed to be with her, I didn't want her to be alone and I couldn't imagine being her without her.  I feel differently now, not because I miss her less but because I feel needed here more.  I want to watch Noah grow up, I want to be a part of his life, I want to raise Elliott savor every milestone.  I want to be witness to Aly's life as it takes her by surprise and she falls in love and explores the world.  Now I fear how fast my life is moving, I fear that all this will end and there will be nothing, no Stevie, no heaven, just nothing and I find myself awake when I should be asleep checking on Noah, making sure the door is locked laying here listening to Elliott breath.

I count the years I should have left, wonder if my heart is strong enough, if my brain will stay wet and alive, conduct electricity like it should, if my cells are programed well and will keep reproducing at the rate they should for as long if not longer than the women before me.  Elliott needs a mama, and I am an older mama, 47 is not old but I will be 77 when he is 30 and 87 when he is 40 and I don't want to be falling apart I want to take care of my grandchildren on weekends, make sunday dinner, have Christmas morning at my house.

I miss Stevie and if I could believe with all the parts of me that believe and disbelieve things that she was waiting for me in heaven then I could sleep, and not worry.  If I could restore the faith I had when I was a kid in a God that had his hand on me, then I could breath deep and trust.  

It will be six years and still these moments when I can't accept that this has really happened, it's like I keep waiting for her to come home.  Last night I was nursing Elliott in the big chair in the living room.  Steve was working on taxes and making beer, Noah was in his room listening to Bruno Mars new CD, Aly was at work.   The lights were all on in the house, it was warm and cozy and I was flooded with nursing hormones touching Elliott's new hair when I heard a click and the front door gently opened.  Then I heard the whole house creak a little like it does some winter mornings.  My first thought was "Stevie is home"  I smiled.  Then I felt so very sad.  

Grief is tricky, you never know when it will swallow you.  You live with it everyday, it is a part of you,  but sometimes it is bigger than you are and you can't stuff it back into your pocket, you have to let it do what it does until it is ready to curl back up and be manageable again.

Next week I will go to the store and buy flowers, the fake ones, I will try to find something simple and sweet, I will include yellow tulips even though I feel like I need to bring something pink.  We will load up the car Steve, Noah, Elliott and I ( Aly refuses to go) with pic-nic stuff from Whole Foods, bring a blanket, some toys for the baby and take the long drive to Oakmont.  My heart will beat hard as we climb the hill that leads to the road the winds and winds to the place where Stevie's body is.  We will sit and talk and cry and I will tell Stevie about Elliott, he will play in the grass, he won't know where we are, he won't understand this place, he is a baby he is spring.

I will remark like I always do how pretty it is there, peaceful, the view breathtaking.  I will tidy up, replace old flowers with new, trace "Stevie-Christine McMoyler" with my finger.  I will tell her I am sorry it took so long to come back, I will tell her about the baby and the new fence, and the garden beds.  I will tell her the daffodils came up and only a few red tulips.  I will tell her that I found a whole tin full of satsuma soap she left and that I almost passed out when I opened it, that it reminded me of her and that last day.  I will tell her how much I love her and I will beg her to find a way to come home and tell me she is OK.  I will say I need more than the front door opening, it could have been the wind.  

I need to find a way to go back to sleep, it is going to be a busy day.  I have lunches to pack, a house to clean, a studio to move back home, and a baby boy who needs my every moment.   I need to find some peace before my house is awake, I want my boys to wake up to the smell of something sweet baking in the oven, old school music playing on the iPod, my smiling face and mushy kisses.

I am grateful for my life, even the parts that hurt.  I am sitting in this bed, in this room and it all seems so  tragic and beautiful.  It is all a circle really.