I am pleased and honored to share that my short essay about my mother, How to Remodel, has been published by the lovely folks over at Dead Housekeeping.
About Dead Housekeeping (from their website):
When people die we can still clearly picture the way they did things. We don’t remember our departed in a vacuum, but in motion, in particular. We can still see and sense “how they did it” years after the doer’s deaths.
This is a heartfelt look at loss through the lens of the home.
I highly encourage you to spend some time reading through the essays published on their site. Touching, funny, poignant, and raw – these stories will not disappoint you.
My mother and I in 1995 or so
I take seven pills every night. Don’t worry, I’m not sick. I’m just trying to stay healthy. A multivitamin. Three glucosamine tablets, for my joints. An aspirin because of that one a-fib incident a couple years ago. Two melatonins to help me sleep. There are too many to take all at once, and so I have to swallow them in three big gulps. Some of these things are huge.
“Horse pills,” I joke, every night.
When I travel I count out tablets into a ziplock bag. Three nights away means twenty-one pills. Seven nights means forty-nine. It looks like a lot of pills. It feels like a lot of time.
Our days are filled with activity: biking, swimming, hiking, a museum visit, even a horseback ride. Good thing for those horse pills, I laugh to myself. We stay up late; we sleep in. We hardly know what time it is. We don’t bother to count the days.
Tonight I weigh the bag in my hand. It’s light: only seven pills left. Seven pills between me and the end of our vacation. Seven pills between me and time’s inexorable pull.
Melatonin won’t help, I can tell. My brain is already tracing the route home, counting loads of laundry, making a grocery list. I reach for my glass of water anyway. The rattle of the pills sounds like the winding of a clock.
“Are you a writer?” asked the woman in the park. She’d seen my yellow field bag with the Ray Bradbury quote: You must stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you.
“I like to write,” I equivocated. It was my standard answer. It was true, after all, and got me out of committing to the word. And I had never published a thing, except for poetry and flash fiction on my own blog, which maybe fifteen people ever read.
“Who here is a writer?” asked the panel moderator.
I was at Long Beach Comic Con with the rest of the Yeah Write crew. It was the first time most of us had met in person. Rowan and I were sitting in on a panel about queer representation in the writing and publishing world before we went off to our own panel about storytelling in the internet age. The question took me by surprise. We looked at each other for affirmation or validation or moral support, and raised our hands.
“Are you a writer?” asked the man sitting next to me on the plane.
I was head down in my computer, wrestling with the final pages of edits on The Jade Dragon, the novel Rowan and I had been working on for years. The man was watching the World Cup quarter-finals streamed to his seat-back TV.
I looked up, a little irritated at the interruption. “Yes,” I said, and went back to work. Only fifteen more pages to go.
Sometimes it’s the smallest thing that causes a crash. In this case, it was a bug. It hit me in the eye, I braked – hard – with one hand, and flew ass-over-teakettle into the street.
“I’m fine,” I told the man who helped me up. My knee was scraped raw, my helmet cracked. I could feel my elbow swelling as I heaved the bike back up. (Later, I would need an MRI.)
“I’m fine,” I said when I wheeled into work, because of course I went to work. A crash doesn’t mean I can slow down. I have to be fine.
We got the kids’ school pictures yesterday. We send them to the grandparents every year for Christmas: four different addresses. Our mothers, our fathers. My wife shook the pictures out of the envelope, showed them to me: N’s goofy grin, Z’s untamable hair. Three sets of photos. Three sets, not four.
My mother’s death did not leave a gaping hole in our lives. She wasn’t woven into the fabric of my everyday. Instead, my mother’s absence is a series of tiny voids: eyelet lace. One less person to tag on the photo of the kids’ Halloween costumes. One less phone call on Thanksgiving. I decorated our house this weekend with the garlands and lights and red velvet bows that she brought me for the first Christmas after N was born. I snapped a picture on my phone, and didn’t know who to send it to.