Blog a la Cart

Category: Loss

XXVII

Hi, Mom,

I’m currently curled up on the couch with your snotty, phlegmy, pathetic grandson by my side watching marathon episodes of “Cars.” He requested that we get “cozy,” so we’re buried under blankets, snuggled up side by side. You always said the upside of us being sick as kids was how dang sweet we’d become, and boy is it true. He is disgusting, but very, very sweet.

We’re winding down from two busy, beautiful, celebratory weekends. While so festive and filled with love, I just miss you so dang much. After everyone departed this morning, I found myself carrying such a pit in my stomach. When all the noise is gone, I’m left with the devastating reality of your absence. Thanksgiving was another delicious, family affair with all of Jake’s family in the mix. And this weekend we once again watched the girls dance in “The Nutcracker” and Michelle and Dellie and our chosen family rallied together to support the girls. It was so lovely to have the house brimming with activity and love, but again so palpable that you should be a part of the energy. The memory of you is never going to be sufficient.

Sunny misses you particularly so. She’s really feeling your death during these big weekends. You made such an impact in the too brief six years you were her grandmother, and it’s fucking unfair that she has to live without you, too. You are her top request on her Christmas list to Santa. She understands that it’s not a realistic gift, but it’s her deepest desire regardless.

She drew a photo the other day of you as an angel with song lyrics about how she just wanted you for Christmas. She sat crying as she colored.

“Sometimes it feels good to cry. Because it shows me how much I loved her.”

Ain’t that the truth.

143 Your Ashley

XXV

Hi, Mom,

Yesterday was Halloween. And for the fourth year in a row, we executed another ridiculous team costume. The girls are currently steeped in the “Harry Potter” series, and so they requested that we each pick a character from the books. Sunny was Hermione, with her stack of books and wild hair. Courtland was Ginny, badass and strong and chalked with red hair for the part. Dad was Dumbledore, and ordered the most epic costume to complete the look. The man has never had to manage so much hair and fashion tap! James was Harry, and Sanderling his snowy, white owl Hedwig. And I wore Momo’s epic velvet cape to pull off Professor McGonagall. As ever, you were deeply missed.

143 Your Ashley

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 10.18.49 AM

 

XXIII

Hi, Mom,

Meg shared this poem by adrienne maree brown, and it spoke directly to the most broken pieces of my heart. I’ve bolded what struck my gut most profoundly. What I have discovered as my truth, that which she put to words so succinctly.

Spell for Grief or Letting Go

Adequate tears twisting up directly from the heart and rung out across the vocal chords until only a gasp remains;

At least an hour a day spent staring at the truth in numb silence;

A teacup of whiskey held with both hands, held still under the whispers of permission from friends who can see right through ‘ok’ and ‘fine’;

An absence of theory;

Flight, as necessary;

Poetry, your own and others, on precipice, abandonment, nature and death;

Courage to say what has happened, however strangling the words are… and space to not say a word;

A brief dance with sugar, to honor the legacies of coping that got you this far;

Sentences spoken with total pragmatism that provide clear guidance of some direction to move in, full of the tender care and balance of choice and not having to choose;

Screaming why, and/or expressing fury at the stupid unfair fucking game of it all (this may include hours and hours, even lifetimes, of lost faith);

Laughter, undeniable and unpretended;

A walk in the world, all that gravity, with breath and heartbeat in your ears;

Fire, for all that can be written;

Moonlight – the more full the more nourishing;

Stories, ideally of coincidence and heartache and the sweetest tiny moments;

Time, more time and then more time… enough time to remember every moment you had with that one now taken from you, and to forget to think of it every moment;

And just a glimpse of tomorrow, either in the face of an innocent or the realization of a dream.

This is a nonlinear spell. Cast it inside your heart, cast it between yourself and any devil. Cast it into the parts of you still living.

Remember you are water. Of course you leave salt trails. Of course you are crying.

Flow.

P.S. If there happens to be a multitude of griefs upon you, individual and collective, or fast and slow, or small and large, add equal parts of these considerations:
– that the broken heart can cover more territory.
– that perhaps love can only be as large as grief demands.
– that grief is the growing up of the heart that bursts boundaries like an old skin or a finished life.
– that grief is gratitude.
– that water seeks scale, that even your tears seek the recognition of community.
– that the heart is a front line and the fight is to feel in a world of distraction.
– that death might be the only freedom.
– that your grief is a worthwhile use of your time.
– that your body will feel only as much as it is able to.
– that the ones you grieve may be grieving you.
– that the sacred comes from the limitations.
– that you are excellent at loving.

You taught me that last one.

143 Your Ashley

XX

Hi, Mom.

Recently I heard asked, “What lonelier question is there than “Who do I want to be?”

And for me, the loneliest question is related, although not exact. “Why do I matter? Why do any of us matter? Why do how I chose to spend my day and live my life and raise my children and spend my money and love my family and grieve your death and invest in my community and care about the world matter? Why does any of it matter?”

I am currently sitting alone in tiny cabin on the MASSMoCA campus willing myself to write. As though securing a “writer’s retreat” for an afternoon and secluding myself in a vertical pine box, something so akin to a coffin, will inspire the words and knowledge to capture my grief. As though language will suddenly come, language that will defy cliché. Profound, insightful, moving words will spill on to the page and finally capture my pain and sadness and gratitude and love and loneliness and anger and peace and anxiety in all their complicated, contradictory, mixed up forms. As though this exercise in intentional loneliness will somehow negate the inherent loneliness I feel.

I realize it will not. But still I try. Because what else is there but to persevere? What else is there but to believe that I matter. That you mattered. That all of this living and dying and loving and losing matters. The impact may be small, and yet, even the smallest stone can move an ocean. 

143 Your Ashley

XVII

Hi, Mom,

The other night I dreamed about you. This is a fairly common occurrence, although often they feel more like a nightmare than a dream. I’m haunted by visions of you dying, your medical emergency at our home in Pownal three years prior, what it felt like to hold your hand as you lay in an ER in Albany, how desperately I wished that that moment would transform your awareness and approach to your own well being. How Valentine’s Day 2016 proved otherwise.

But this dream was in fact that. A dream. We were seated around our dining room table and you were schooling me, Kimmy and Dad on the proper pronunciation of some French word or the correct etiquette for some antiquated behavior. I can’t recall the specifics, but I can recall the physical happiness I felt, the comfort, safety and familiarity of that scene and that experience. In my dream, I consciously paused to connect with that feeling. And I awoke happy. Contented. I relayed the feeling to James, and tears prickled in the corner of my eyes, that ever constant balance of yearning and gratitude that so defines grief.

I miss you, Mama, and those animated conversations around your dining room table.
143 Your Ashley

XVI

cartkidssept17

They all share your darling half strawberry nose.

XV

Hi, Mom.

I dropped my phone in the toilet this weekend, minutes before I had to give a work presentation to a room full of eager alumni. It didn’t stand a chance. James had run over it the day we left the hospital with Sander, along with his computer, our camera, and a myriad of other less expensive belongings (Long story. Sleep deprivation, grief, post-partum life created the perfect storm for careless behavior), and it is a miracle that it had survived that incident. But this spill in the toilet bowl sealed its fate. Arguably, I was due for a new one 18 months ago.

I emailed Kimmy and Dad to let them know that they should connect with us via James as I awaited a replacement. Kimmy reminded us of the vacation when Cousin Laura hurled Dad’s cell phone into a toilet. Dad was always an early tech adopter, so I envision the phone as one of those ginormous black boxes from the mid-90s. I remember him being none too pleased either.

I believe I backed up my phone. I’m almost positive I made the intentional effort to archive all of its contents, most notably the final text messages and voicemails I have saved from before your death. There’s a voicemail you left just ten days before you died. I’m always struck by how vibrant and enthusiastic and ALIVE your voice is, rambling on about impractical cashmere baby clothes you had purchased for your soon-to-be grandchild and stating over and over “Love you” at various intervals during your three minute message. It’s a cherished message, but a punch in the gut every time. How dramatically and unexpectedly things can change. That is all I want retrieved back from my phone. Your cheery voice and over-the-top affection.

This morning, James and the kids all biked to school/work/daycare, as has become possible and habit thanks to a year of life on Main Street, USA. As they pulled out of our driveway littered with colorful foliage from our line of maples, I reached instinctively for my phone. I wanted to capture Sunny confidently peddling up hill with her classic blue LLBean backpack bobbing along with her efforts. Courtland more cautiously and rigidly beginning her ride with the air of a recent two-wheeler, her bedazzled helmet glinting in the early morning light. And James, taking up the rear, with Sanderling merrily singing in the bike trailer, pink leopard print helmet atop his head, waving and shrieking “buh byeeeeeeee” as they happily rode off to their destinations.

Instead of watching this scene behind the filter of a screen, I stood on our front porch, in one of your Calida nightgowns, waving  and smiling and tucking that happy sight into my memory stores to recall on a day when the sun may not shine as brightly or the children may not smile as widely. Life is indeed beautiful. Complicated and complex. And today I had no filter with which to mark the scene but my own time and memory. And for that, I am grateful.

143 Your Ashley

XIV

apples2017

apples2017-6
I wish you could hear the coos of comfort as he nestles in to sleep.

I wish you could see the gentleness with which she holds the world.

I wish you could taste the sweetness of sticky cheeks and sugar-dusted fingers.

I wish you could touch the leaves as they dance ’round her limbs.

I wish you could smell the powder and peace on their pillows each night.

I wish you were here, sensing their world and all its simple, broken splendor.

XIII

Hi, Mom,

I don’t even know where to begin. I have felt at a loss for words since the election. This whole year is like one gigantic steaming pile of horse poo. You would be horrified by the state of the world. Of this country. Reading the news kicks my anxiety in to high gear. What ugly times I fear we are living in, made all the more hideous by your absence. The holidays have been wearing away at me. I miss you so fucking much and am so angry that you are not here.

Despite the fear and ugliness and hate I see swirling in my newsfeed, there is still beauty and hope and love and joy. And above all, I hate that you are missing that.

You missed a beautiful, tasty, festive Thanksgiving with the Fricke family. Our first Pie Breakfast in our new home. The girls yearly Nutcracker performance. The decorating of our home in Christmas cheer. You weren’t there when I needed to whine and complain about a stomach flu that took out all five Cart family members. As I’ve been making and assembling and ordering and planning gifts for all my loved ones, you aren’t on my list. As I addressed and mailed our holiday card, I had to delete your name from Dad’s address. And I have to do this, every year, for the rest of my life.

Everything hurts when I let myself absorb that reality.

But because you are the one who instilled in me the joy and tradition of holiday card sharing, I wanted to share this year’s greeting in this space, to add to our growing collection. As always, I turned to Minted, and found a fitting French greeting as a nod to you, the ultimate Francophile. James and I took the kids back up to the farm to snap photos among the fall foliage, and I spent hours reworking a message of both devastation and celebration, loss and love. I think you would have loved the result. And I framed all of our cards, which we started sending the year Courtland was born. They are now prominently displayed in our front hall. Another little touch of which I know you’d approve.

I miss you, Mom. Always, but during these darker days of December most poignantly.

143 Your Ashley

minted2016holiday_cart-1

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-1-05-36-pm

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-1-06-03-pm

minted2016holiday_cart-2

XI

Hi, Mom.

People often tell me how much I remind them of you. At your Celebration so many people commented on it, not just how I look, but my voice, the way I speak, the way my hands are accompaniment to that expression. And of course there are “isms,” specific behaviors or tendencies which I emulate more and more as I tread deeper into adulthood/parenthood.

Like wearing my pajamas to the girls’ bus stop earlier this week. Hot dang, my transformation to Allison Motherhood is nearly complete thanks to that choice. But when the PJs are this cute… you taught me that trick. I’ve got an entire drawer full of Calida nightgowns to show for your commitment to luxurious, comfortable nightwear.

I haven’t ventured out in public in a nightgown (yet), but there’s time to get on your level.

143 Your Ashley

img_0226