Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I thought of you today when I made special scrambled eggs with cheese for Sissy when the rest of us were having sunny side up. "Dippy eggs" we call them in our house.  I thought of all the special meals you made my Sissy.  Peanut butter and bacon instead of our BLTs. No tomatoes...on anything.  I once saw my sister maneuver her tongue around the inside of her mouth, a big bite of food filling all the space, and precisely remove a dime sized tomato piece.

I remember happily and gladly getting up to make Lauren some eggs with cheese and bacon.  You said to me, "Only you would get up and cook a pound of bacon at 8:00 at night for your daughter!" That's how much I love cooking and sometimes it inspires me so much that the spirit moves me.  You noticed.  And I noticed all the years that you made dinner when it was the last thing you wanted to do.  Packed a school lunch or Dad's lunch for work when you'd have rather done absolutely anything else.  Eighteen years of packed lunches for me and my sister.  Thirty five years of shift work for Dad.  Black lunch box that was extra tall to hold a thermos on the top....it's location the top shelf of the closet nearest the kitchen.  I wonder what is in that closet now.

Styrofoam cups, extra tall in the small drawer nearest the linen drawer that only looked like a drawer, but pulled straight out from the right hand side hinge.  I wonder what that odd little area holds now.  Now that we don't call that house our own.  Dad's "to-go" cups for lots and lots of weak coffee.  He was an extra early riser.  He called my French Roast tar. A lifetime of memories and one week to clean out the house. Just 67 years old.  And I never thought you'd die.  I never thought you'd die.

We later joked in life that you totally babied Sis.  You were a short order cook and had patience when shoes were feeling weird on toes or tights were scratchy or a snowmobile suit made her look like a boy. You lovingly gave your all to our family.  Now, a mother myself, I know how easy it is to go to sharp words, hand slamming down, just wanting a tiny bit of quiet and peace. A tiny bit of something just for myself, no kid hands touching my precious one thing (which feels like the only thing) or climbing up my lap.  Big exhales that and she knows what they mean.  She's eight now.

I remember coming home from school, running off the bus to quickly find you in your bedroom.  How many hours had you been there?  You had mono and I can only imagine how tired you were.  Bone tired.  But you smiled and looked at our homework and listened to our tales from the school yard.  You still cooked dinner every night and made special deserts like pudding or jello in the Tupperware cups on Tuesday nights when cousin Robb came over.  You made the ordinary magical with me and my sister and later with our children. You always showed us that you cared.

You were recovering from a stem-cell transplant, still receiving chemo and you took the kids into the pine trees near the side of the house and created a fairy land.  All make believe and grandmotherly perfection. I recall Dad planting those trees, never realizing that they would tower tall and my children would run through their floor. Even in the worst of circumstances we could still laugh about something.  Sometimes beginning as a chuckle and ending in all out belly laughing.

You showed me how to be a mother.  You showed me as a child that you still needed something to call your own, beyond the world of mothering.  You were on a bowling league with your girlfriends.  The Night Owls. I still have your bowling bag, ball and shoes.  A reminder to allow myself a night out with friends and a cocktail or two.  To laugh, to fill your own self up so you have something to give to others.

You did ceramics, taking a pencil to your wet work and carving Terry K or TAK in the bottom.  You took a furniture refinishing  class at the high school.  You refinished every piece of wood in our house. You used coupons and rebated for a year or more.  The basement shelves were filled with clear plastic boxes and organized with an elaborate filing system. You saved every bit of money from this endeavor....so much money saved that we took a trip to Florida.

All along I was watching.  Observing and taking mental notes.  Auntie Ruthie always said I was an old soul. I think she was right.  Even at a young age I imagined what kind of mother I would be.  I wanted two kids. Only two, just like our family had. When I find myself yelling or closed in, life a constant hum of dropping and picking up, laundry that multiplies overnight and dishes that go in, go out, go in, go out of the dishwasher, I think of you.  I think of how your laughter sounded, your kind smile and desire to always help someone.

I think of the poem I wrote in Mr. Mauer's eighth grade English class.  The teacher who made feel like I could write, that I could act.  He filled my heart with so much confidence. I got an A on the poem. He read it out loud to the class and my heart almost burst with pride.  I couldn't wait to show you. Of course you kept it.  In a small pink envelope.  I keep it in the box of your stuff on my closet shelf.  All these pieces of paper and cards and handwritten notes...photos and things that connect me to you. I take the box off the shelf every so often and dump it out and in putting all the pieces back in the box I put myself back together. We are all missing pieces.

Mothers Hugs
by Tricia Kushman
The summer flies by and the months just seem to flow,
Everything is almost forgotten through the years...
The math quiz you flunked,
The guy you fell for,
That orthodontists appointment that slipped your mind...
The school dances,
All the faraway memories...
It just seems as if everything is suddenly somewhat forgotten
over the years,
But I don't think I could forget anything quite like a Mothers Hug.

I still feel the same way today.  Life is so ordinary and magnificent that it hurts sometimes.  I feel it like a physical ache.  But for the first time in a long time I know that everything is going to be okay.  I believe it. I know it.

Monday, April 21, 2014


I wrote this post months ago.  I've come a long way since this post, but some of the emotion still rings true.  I saw this post sitting in my draft folder and want to release it.  I want to put it out into the universe knowing my healing began when I wrote these words down.  My healing always begins with words and pen and paper. I make space everyday for my craft, my writing.  I show up.  Nothing else matters.  It sure feels good to care about this again, to honor my truth and words.  Thank you for joining me.

~I look perfectly normal and somewhat recovered from such a tragedy.  I smile and laugh and my social life points to many friends and good times.  I dress up and wear makeup.  I work out.  From the outside I look just like you.  But some days I am dying inside and missing my mom and dad so much.  It still seems unreal. How can it be real?  How can this be my life?  I want to rip this god-forsaken wig off my head and throw it into the wind.

This is the second Fall season of my life that is occurring without my mom.  Without the house....without plane trips to Jersey and handing out candy at the door.  Without cards and $2 dollar bills sent to the kids. I'm just so damn sad.

I think of you all the time Mom.  When I ride in the car.  When I hear songs we heard together.  When I see my daughter's face and know how you would cherish her as she grows up.  I know you would say "Who is Grandma's girl?" and "You are growing up too fast, you are just getting too big!"

Some days I just feel so ugly and worn down.  Who is this woman behind this fake hair?  Who do I see when I look at photographs?  It isn't me.  It is some impostor.  A poser.  Fake hair and a fake smile.  I fluctuate between all out tears and raging anger.  Will it ever go away?

When Dad died it was devastating to all of us, but mostly you Mom.  But deep deep down I thought, I've still got you.  Everything will be okay if I have you. And years passed and hearts mended some.  But now you are gone and some days I cannot bear it.  I cannot bear the thought that you aren't HERE.  Living your life, driving you car, going out with friends....going to Walgreen's and getting a twist cone.  Stopping by
Grandma's house and going to church on Sunday.  Calling me and laughing and calling me again to say you forget to tell me this or that.

Some days I feel nothing.  Some days I wonder why I am not sad or crying.  I wonder in a passing moment if I'm over it all.  What is wrong with me that I'm not sad, not thinking of you?  And then everything and nothing trigger a floodgate of tears and sorrow.  The thought of "I need to tell mom this" just never goes away.

Where are you?  I'm more confused that ever before about God and the afterlife and church and faith and all that stuff.  I am still angry at God.  And I'm angry that the hair on my head is only on one side, patchy at best. I'm not normal internally or emotionally, but I can put on a good cover so it would appear so.  I hold tightly to the thread that continues to unravel.  I search for fresh baby hairs to crop up, to show me that this will soon be over.  That I can move on and look back at this time in my life and know I was strong and able to handle anything.  But right now I don't want to handle it anymore.  I'm so sick to death of rising above, putting on a smile and a brave face and moving forward.  I just need you to tell me "this too shall pass" and fill me with reassurance.

When I see your handwritten note on the desk it feels like you are still here.  I search for clues everywhere to tell me it's all a mistake.  I see a black Lexus and think its you.  I see a glance of a woman who looks like you or wears the same perfume as you and just one for second I forget.  I think about everyone else's broken, wounded, sorrow hearts.  What are they thinking?  What are they feeling?  We are all the same.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spatial Relationships....

Years ago I stopped at a local estate sale.  It was the house of a family going through a divorce and basically everything in the house was for sale.  I was pretty weirded out, walking through this house that contained all their personal items.  Looking through clothes in closets and walking in the kids bedrooms.  A few professionals were handling the sale.  A table was set up by the front door.  There were lots of people. There was a line to check out.

I remember thinking that the kitchen must have been custom.  Somebody must work for Sub-Zero because nobody has a Sub-Z in their garage as a beer fridge!  I saw a black jacket hanging in the closest with an embroidered Sub-Z above the right chest.  Empty boxes and piles of clothing....holiday decorations scattered on a table.  The prices were too high.  I picked up a resin Easter bunny inside of an egg.  The bunny had whiskers made out of taut fishing line.  I need more Easter decorations.

The whole scene made me sad and kind of sick to my stomach.  How quickly the life you have created can turn and you find yourself on the brink of divorce with kids ready to go off to college and a big house with a big mortgage and a big tax bill.  You can't afford any of this on your own.  On your own. How would that feel?

I was ready to leave but felt like there had to be something to buy.  I wasn't ready to give up yet.  All this stuff in this house and I can't find one thing to buy?  I can find something to buy in the worst of thrift stores.  I headed to the basement which was dark and contained so much stuff my eyes didn't know where to land.  I saw a big print leaning against a metal shelving unit.  Tools and paint cans and random things that come with years of marriage and kids and upgrading your life.

The print was a map of Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands. It was nicely framed and the background was yellow with some blue to identify the waterways.  Sepia colored boats scattered the edges and gave a description of their history.  I love a good map.  I love boats, particularly sailboats.  There was not a price tag on it.  I had to haul it upstairs and wait for the professionals to figure out how much to charge me.  I thought of how much money I wanted to spend on this.  The number would be too much.  Everything is overpriced. "How about $10?" Great.

One of the professionals asked me if I needed help carrying it out to my car.  I think I had a kid with me.  I said no.  I still felt icky. But also kind of excited about this cool map for such a great price.

The map was hung in my son's room.  We recently painted and redecorated the kids rooms so the map got relocated to the office.  At some point after purchasing my ticket to Write Doe Bay I realized I had this map. I put my finger on the glass and traced it from Seattle to Bellingham to Anacortes to Orcas Island.  I had this treasure in my home, a map guiding me to my next big adventure, and I didn't recognize it.  It was so loud and I didn't hear it. I started to cry.

Last night I attended a small gathering at my friends house.  Multi-level marketing at its finest.  I went to support her and buy an overpriced lipstick or bottle of lotion.  The last woman to arrive was tall and blond and kinda kooky in a cool way.  She talked a lot and was outgoing.  She was the neighbor who used to live across the street.  They all hugged and talked about how much they missed her.  The neighborhood just wasn't the same without her.

"Did you have an estate sale a few years ago?" I asked.  "Yep, did you buy anything?" she jokingly asked me.

Yes I did.  I bought a passport. A talisman that will forever hang in my home.  I will take my finger and retrace the path that I took to find myself.  It was a long journey.  But as my friend Chrissy said, Sometimes you have to travel far to find a lost you.