Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Collective words

In the hope that this delights you as much as it did me, I hereby inform you that the collective word for cats is an intrigue, a parade for elephants, a tower for giraffes, a thunder for hippopotamus and a conspiracy for lemurs. Also, a romp for otters, a crash for rhinoceroses and a murder for crows. 

Now excuse me while I locate an exaltation of larks.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


I got on the bus to find it filled to the brim with maybe thirty noisy, smelly, snotty, chatty seven year old kids. 

When we reached their stop the teacher asked "what do we say, children?" And they all replied in unison "THANK YOU BUS!"

It's barely the start of my day and I have already felt irritated, overwhelmed and delighted.
Kids. Tiny emotional roller coasters

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What does grief feel like?

Grief is personal.
You’ve probably read the 7 or 9 or whatever stages of grief but the truth is each person grieves differently and the stages happen in no particular order or not at all or all at once. When my dad died helpful people asked me why on Earth I wasn’t crying. I didn’t cry at all, not a single tear, for the first couple of weeks. After that I did, but never as much as would be considered by the general population the “correct amount”. Rather than sitting in a corner to sob what I wanted was to run. It was a fight; or a flight. It didn’t feel like I had lost someone. It felt like I was in danger.

The whole world is on another planet far, far away from yours.
It felt like time had slowed way down for me. I would compare it to being suspended under water, complete with muffled sounds, languid movement and refracted light. But the rest of the world keeps moving, fast, and the sheer frenzy of it exerts an unintended, relentless, exhausting pressure.

My dad died December 15, 2014, and through a few weeks that mostly felt unreal, everywhere I went cheery people would ask “how is your holiday going?” “What are you doing for New Years?” “Are you enjoying your time off?” and every time it caught me completely unprepared. It wiped me out.

Simple things can be hard.
We had to go through and sort my father’s things, his house, his clothes, his drawers and files. It might have been easier had we not felt like plunderers, invaders transgressing on a privacy he always guarded with such sacredness.

People tell you “things get better”.
You’d think this would bring someone solace. But here is the catch: in a way, your feelings are part of what is left of the other person. As such, you don’t want to get better. Not right away, anyway. Also, it feels like feeling better too quickly would be an act of betrayal. So saying “things will get better” can be an affront.

People say “don’t be sad”.
I don’t understand why we are so afraid of feelings. Happy is OK, but sad has to be “addressed”. It must “move on”. It calls for a “solution”. But sad is not a problem.

I’m sad, and I’m not ready to not be sad. I am going to sit here with my big bag of sad for as long as it wants to hang out with me. I consider sad to be essential. It respects the truth within me, and as such, it is beautiful.

(Of course I am not talking about clinical depression or a grief that has stayed with a person for whatever length is no longer “normal”. I am talking about natural feelings associated with losing someone you deeply loved and wanting to sort through every one in your own way. For clinical depression, talk to a doctor. I’m no doctor.)

People say “cheer up”. Or even “suck it up.”
I know they mean well, but this feels like you are being slapped. It’s a form of aggression. This sadness is mine, and you can’t touch it. So back off. But thank you.

You feel (and this is so horrible it hurts to write it) like you are going to forget the person that you lost.
It’s so shocking for a person to be there and then to not be there that it feels like everything they were will disappear. I fear I won’t remember my father’s voice or the glint in his eye or his clean smell or his soft white handkerchiefs or the way he put his foot up on something to tie his shoelace or the frequently astounding things he used to say when I asked for his opinion. 

So what does a grieving person want? For the whole world to grind to a halt? Why, yes. We want, in words of W.H. Auden, to “stop all the clocks.” We want “an airplane to scribble on the sky the message He is Dead”. We want “the stars put out, the moon packed up, the sun dismantled, the ocean poured away.” But we understand this isn’t reasonable, so ask instead for patience as we very slowly step back out into this new world that no longer includes a person who once determined its shape.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The truth.

The day before he died, my Dad was bedridden, delirious, anxious.

What’s next? He’d ask.
Why don’t you rest, and we will figure it out a bit later?
Yes, he’d say. I'm so tired.
What’s next? He’d ask in a panic ten minutes later. What’s next?
Why don’t you take a short nap and we will take it from there?

After hours of this, my brother came into the room.
What's next?
What's next, Pedro says, is that you are going to die.

My father, despite severe dementia, looked right at him and nodded.

Even when it’s terrible, there is nothing like the truth.

Sunday, July 12, 2015


Me: Life is so unpredictable. What do you think are the chances that we'll actually grow old together?
Boyfriend: we're already old.
Boyfriend. Incontrovertibly logical.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Make up

Mom: I just saw your beautiful new Facebook profile photo. You need eye make-up.
Me: Ick. I don’t like make-up.
Mom: Just a touch. To heighten the eyes. 
Me: Ick.
Mom: Just try it. And if you’re going to say no again, spare me.
Me: I don’t like the consistency.
Mom: I’m going to bed with my Kindle. Good Night!
Me: xoxo
Mom: Item. Do you remember my friend Constantina?
Me: Yes!
Mom: I just saw a photo of her. I couldn’t believe it. Shocking.
Me: What was shocking?
Mom: She looks so terrible.
Me: Why? She’s beautiful!
Mom: She's wearing no make up. Good night!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Instead of one

My sister in law calls the kids over. 
"Guys! Uncle Andrew and Auntie Dushka are leaving! Come say goodbye!"
My nephew turns to look at me, forlorn. He shuffles over, head hanging.
"Auntie Dushka."
"Yes, sweetheart?"
"When you come next time, can you please bring me two gifts instead of one?"

Thursday, July 2, 2015


We knew Christmas 2013 would be his last. 

I was walking in the garden and saw him through the window. Instead of heavy hearted he looked happy, surveying decorations and gifts. He caught me looking at him and waved. The reflection makes him look like an apparition.
I remember you angry and sick and scared and frustrated but mostly I remember you like this. The glint in your eye and the tailor made clothes and that swell of love I feel come towards me as if you were still right here.