Thirty Thousand Pounds Of Memories

Holy crap that opened up an old wound.

Today I found myself humming bits from two Harry Chapin songs, both off of “Verities and Balderdash” – one of the tapes I inherited when my father died. I used to listen to it on and off when I was younger, and took it to California along with the rest of my tapes and CDs. And like almost everything else I owned then, it was in a shipping container in one of the parts of New Orleans that got inundated when I gave up the animation dream and moved back there.

It was never a favorite. But it was one of my few lingering connections to my father.

So when I found myself humming half remembered fragments of “Cat’s Cradle” and “30,000 Pounds Of Bananas” today, I pulled them up online and played them. And holy crap I was not ready for the upwelling of old loss and sadness that released. It didn’t help that “Cat’s Cradle” is the first song on that album, and it’s all about ruing the disconnection between a hard-working father who never quite has time for his son, until the son grows up to be just as hard-working and just as lacking in time for Dad.

And of course, for me, there’s no option of having time for Russell any more. There hasn’t been for about thirty-five years, now.

I’ve mostly dealt with it, over the years. Don’t think about him much any more.  Don’t have much cause to.

Mortality sucks.

the inevitable, really

Lying in bed, reading a book. I come to the end of the first part and put a bookmark in it. I think of the books I took from my mother’s place, each with a bookmark lingering in them. Stories she never finished? Stories she finished, stuck the bookmark into a random place, and never got around to putting back on the shelves? Stories she never would have finished anyway, the bookmark merely a testament to how far she got before deciding she’d given that story all the time she was willing to give it to get good? I’ve got books lying about the apartment with bookmarks in them for all those reasons.

And thinking about that, a wave of sadness and loss sweeps across me.

Christmas was her birthday. I didn’t really think about it today. Mostly I just watched the birds eat the food I’ve been putting out for them lately, and puttered around the apartment aimlessly. Put off washing the kitchen floor still sticky from yesterday’s hastily-cleaned-up accident with the shattered bottle of sugary drink; ate sparingly. Wanted to go out but not in the cold and snow that covered Seattle last night and today. A typical celebration of the Winter Family Togetherness Holidays, much the same as I’ve done on Thanksgiving or Christmas most every year for most of my adult life, not much less fanfare than Mom and I gave to those holidays after Russell died. If she was alive, I would have called her to wish her a happy birthday; we would have talked about the trip I’d probably soon be taking to visit her, carefully timed to avoid the rush of people traveling for the holiday. But it’s been long enough since her death that the habit of calling her every week or two is faded. And that, too, feels sad and melancholy.

Mortality. Fuck it.

I thought of picking up one of those books taken from her place, after she died, to read tonight. But I didn’t. Because I didn’t feel like I wanted to dig into the feelings I knew those would stir up. But here I am lying in bed with tears running down my cheeks, wishing she was still alive.

Winter solstice is passed, here comes 2018. I guess.

grief: an evolving process

Over breakfast, I read the first chapter of a book about what it’s like to be a person who works on dictionaries. “This is interesting,” I thought to myself, and bought the whole book. And then I had the sad thought that if she was still alive, this was totally a book I’d have recommended to my mother – I grew up in a house full of books, with one ever-growing section dedicated to books about the odd corners of the English language.

I shrugged, and sent her email anyway. It felt like the right thing to do, even as I was caught by a brief wave of utter misery and loss. I haven’t felt that for a while but it’s still there.

She showed up in my dreams last night, too. She was driving. We were on a highway through the middle of nothingness, going up and down its hills and overpasses, and navigating snow and slush with an aplomb I find rather absurd in a woman who lived almost her whole life in New Orleans. There wasn’t much conversation that I remember. Just the drive.

the dream of going home and visiting my mother’s shade

So there I was riding on top of a car, on my way back to the house I grew up in. I'd lost my socks on the way and my feet were chafing inside my shoes.

It was a bit of a post-apocalyptic hellscape but there were still a lot of cars on the road. Nobody was turning down onto Press, though. Everyone was staying on Chef Menteur. I hopped off the car and stood on the neutral ground, looking about. Even the fast food chains were abandoned on boarded up. Nobody wanted to live in this area any more.

But I went in. Passed a couple people walking. Got hassled by a dude on a bicycle with a lot of attitude. Who clearly was looking for someone to kill but I managed to get him to give up with the force of charisma. Hey, it was my dream, I can be incredibly charismatic if I like.

I made it to the house I grew up in. It was a giant mess. But my mom was there. Well, mostly. Her bedroom was dark and there was a vague shape on the bed, and a couple of things I was pretty sure were store-bought Get Well Soon balloons attached to various weights. But I couldn't see a damn thing in there. She was also puttering about the house, pointedly ignoring the fact that we both suspected that was her corpse in there.

Between intermittent attempts by that guy to kill me (and rollbacks when he succeeded, sometimes by really over the top methods like four airplanes firing grapples into the house and dragging it up off into the sky to uncertain doom), my mother took me up to a second floor that didn't exist in reality and showed me an old Bible. It was my grandfather's, and she wanted me to have it. I wouldn't read it, you know, I told her. And that was okay with her. She didn't care. But it meant something to her that I should take it. I dithered a bit, and accepted it.

Briefly it looked like things were getting better for the neighborhood – we thought we saw a taxi, there was a big crowd of policemen on bicycles passing through – but then it was just us and the guy who wanted to kill me, and the IR-sensing killer robot in the guise of a 3' tall grey-fur-covered rabbit, and his missile launcher. Cue a bunch of rapid rollbacks where I managed to evade this combo for about ten seconds longer each time, while trying to explain what was going on to my mother and pull her to safety too.

I woke up in the middle of that.

I'm going back to sleep. I don't feel ready to deal with the world after a dream like that.


One of those nights where I think about how much I'd like to call my mom and chat about nothing much important but I can't any more and then I end up lying in bed in the dark cuddling a plush raccoon and crying.

I mean it's not like I'd tell her anything major about my life. I've been drawing an album cover for an imaginary band instead of working on my next graphic novels. I've been playing video games. I upgraded to the latest version of Illustrator and it seems to be stable, unlike the last one I was stuck with for about six months. I've read some books. And she wouldn't have anything earth-shaking to say either. She'd tell me about books she'd read, or having to get the car fixed, or how she worries about her friend who lost her husband a few years ago, or whet Jason and Jennie's kids were up to. It would always be a pretty mundane conversation that we'd have pretty much every week, usually somewhere around the weekend.

I kinda stopped thinking about that regular conversation a month or so after she died. But tonight I'm thinking about it and missing her.

Fuck death.

mopes that I have

When sorting through the pile of clothes I washed yesterday so I can get dressed for the day starts to feel like a huge, unsurmountable challenge, I am probably kind of depressed.

I’m pretty sure this is coming largely from still dealing with my mother’s death. Both emotionally and otherwise – I still have a bunch of bureaucratic stuff that needs doing. A lot of it got put off for a while because the funeral home took forever to get the death certificates to me, and the stuff that needs those has just been… sitting… in a circle on the floor near my work desk, reminding me that it needs doing. And just looking at each of those piles and figuring out what to do next feels like a huge, overwhelming task every time I look at them.

Having Rita stalled out about four pages from the end isn’t helping my mood, either. I can’t really commit to any new projects until I finish it. But I don’t want to just sit down and finish it. In part because – and is this a surprise? – I want to fill in one of the last few empty timelines in the climactic spread with something relating to my mom. So again it’s something that involves confronting this big void of misery and loss head-on before I can deal with it.
Blah. I guess I’m going to try and make myself sort through this stupid pile of Bureaucratic Mail and at least label everything with the next action to take, so I can pick them off one at a time and deal with them. Or something like that.


Oh yeah. And I’m probably also at a low energy level this morning because of burning my hand while trying to make a steak by myself last night. Some drippings splashed while I was turning it over. I got it cooled down fast, it’s not a Serious Burn or anything, but it’s definitely an injury that my body is going to want some time to heal.