Happy Valentine’s Day, Davey. Thanks for the following things, among others:
- Still thinking my jokes are funny.
- Making me breakfast every single morning.
- That cute way you chew your gum when you’re focused on something.
- Making yourself into a lacrosse guy from the ground up, in service of your son.
- Getting up last night to find me some cough medicine.
- Always filling the tank in my car every week.
- Knowing that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of complaining I do about something, and how upset I actually am.
- Not giving even one single fuck about the fact that the kids call you The Ginger.
You’re my favorite. Thanks for being awesome.
Remember the new mattress? The one that came in a box? Dave and I have been giving that thing a chance ever since it showed up and slowly decompressed…. to a rather disappointing depth. Several of you sent me messages that the foam mattress would feel very different, and warned me that it might take some time to get used to it.
Um, it did take some time. The first week I could not, could NOT get comfortable. It was hard as a board and, instead of providing some give, the mattress felt like it was rejecting me. I was rolling around all night, trying to find a position where my bed was actively trying to push me off. I woke up every morning with tense muscles and a headache. But I got through that adjustment period…. and then: I just didn’t like it.
- Dave’s side was built with a different firmness than mine, and if I rolled too far in that direction it felt like lying on two different beds.
- As mattresses go, it was sort of shallow, so I would lie there feeling like I was on the ground.
- I missed the springiness of a regular mattress. This just didn’t feel soft and cushy.
- And most of all: I just felt like I was lying on a hard, flat, crappy surface every time I went to bed. I told Dave, “It’s like I’m sleeping on the concrete floor of a prison cell here.” I started referring to our bedroom as Cell Block H.
But!! As Dave predicted, I learned that I could, in fact, sleep on this mattress- I just didn’t like it. So if this had been good for Dave’s back I would have dealt with it. Lucky for me: Dave didn’t like it either. So yesterday, two new Luxury Plush Innerspring mattresses were delivered: a king for us and a full-size for Cam, who has been cramming his teenage self onto a twin for too long. They did not come in a box and in fact that would have been impossible; actual men came and delivered them. This thing is deeeeeep. It’s springy. I can sprawl all over it without encountering a different bed on Dave’s side. When I got up this morning, I actually slid down to the floor, it’s so thick and cushy.
This is what I’m freaking talking about. Bye-bye, Cell Block H.
I was just having a conversation about weird aversions that people have. I’m a treasure trove of germophobia- particularly surrounding food- and I’m famous for it which is embarrassing. I’m not proud of these aversions and it’s embarrassing to be at a party and have someone say, “Oh, try this- it’s so good!” And I have to try and politely decline, only to invariably have to explain that I CAN’T try it, I’m too much of a germ freak. (You guys are all really insistent that I taste your food!) I’m also very averse to the sound of metal scraping against metal or forks scraping on teeth. Oh, and I have a touch of misophonia too (I actually lead a pretty normal life, though, I swear). My family, though? My family is no better.
Gabby is horrified by the act of filing nails. She cannot stand to hear it or see it, so clearly she cannot file her own nails.
My brother Mike is afraid of lizards. Or as he calls them, “snakes with legs.”
My sister Betsy gets grossed out by the texture of cotton balls.
So, really: my thing where I push all elevator buttons with my keys.. -Sounds totally reasonable now, don’t you think?
Sometimes, I’ll be like, “Hmmm.. do I really need those new running shoes?” or, “Just because they opened a new Starbucks about 3 miles from my house, is no excuse for spending $20 on a round of lattes,” or even- “Oh my gosh, Julie: you have enough pens and Post-Its and assorted office supplies already…”
–And then I read that Johnny Depp spent $3 million to shoot Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes out of a cannon. And I go, “Fuck it, I’m getting the shoes.”
I said to Dave yesterday, while cleaning the kids’ bathroom, “Remember those days when the kids were basically babies, and their bathroom stayed clean at all times?” I had no idea, when they were young, what was going to happen in their bathroom as they got older. Sometimes it’s a straight-up biohazard in there, and while I’m on the topic: at least 90% of the cleaning done around this entire house is focused on hair. The dog and Gabby are the main culprits; however now that he’s working on his flow game, Cam is beginning to contribute at a significant level. And let’s be honest: it’s not like my head is part of the solution.
Guess what I’m doing this morning?
Dave has been working hard on the kids’ bedrooms. It’s been probably 5-6 years since we did anything in their rooms, besides repaint and throw new comforters on the beds. (Side note: I let the girls choose their own wall colors last time. Gabby chose two shades of “I Have a Bad Cold” green, and Addie had a dark blue & turquoise situation, which was supposed to match the colors of her comforter– but always looked to me like a colossal mismatch. I have hated their walls ever since I painted them.)
Gabby and Addie J asked for trees in their room, and so Dave painted trees: Gabby’s room is pale green with a maple tree in the corner, and Gabby’s walls are now sky blue with a stand of birch trees along one side. They also asked for loft beds, so Dave built loft beds. And he put together and installed new furniture. And he put in lighting, and the girls’ rooms look incredible. I leaned in the doorway last night, watching Gabby do her homework at her new desk under her loft, and I thought how I would have loved this setup at her age.
Cam is getting a new, full-size bed (enjoy that while it lasts, though, Cam: when you get to college, it’s back to the twin)– but the biggest change in his room is that he gave away his leopard gecko, Zulu. It was time: Cam got Zulu when he was a little kid and could spend all his time loving and caring for it. Now? Not so much. So Zulu has gone to the home of a family friend, to be the beloved pet of a boy who has been asking his parents for a lizard for years. And instead of a room covered in Tulane gear with a lizard tank in the corner, Cam’s room is now grey with pinstriped drapes and a desk installed in the corner. Bonus: I recently learned that my brother Mike is afraid of lizards- or as he called them, “snakes with legs.” So now the scary lizard is gone and Mike can feel free to step into Cammy’s room.
Cam gave me a big hug and said, “Everything is perfect. I love you.” Gabby came and snuggled up to me, told me she had spent an hour hanging out in her desk chair just for fun, and asked me to watch Hoarders with her. And later, when when I climbed up into her loft to tuck in Addie J, she said, “Mom, thank you for my room. I will always come back.”
Considering I did about 10% of the work involved in this project, I feel like I’m making out pretty well.
Five years ago today, we were sitting around Dad’s bed. We had been there for days, a large group of us- sometimes as many as 20 people but never fewer than six- continually surrounding Dad with love and witnessing his final battle. I will never dishonor his fight by referring to him as having lost. Dad fought for his life, the strongest and most determined fight I have ever seen, and he won peace. And as these five years have gone by (it’s been forever and it’s been no time at all), I have learned that he is still and always here with us.
He is here in all the jokes he made, which we repeat to this day.
He is here in the pennies we find and the songs that play at just the right moment.
His love for my mother pervades every room in their house.
Gabby has his silly sense of humor and his comic timing.
Addie J has a huge heart, just like her papa.
And as well as being his physical clone, Cameron also inherited Dad’s interest in cars, and his knack for relating to people, and his easy strength.
Not a single day has gone by that we haven’t talked about Dad, repeated one of his jokes, imagined how he would respond to something. He is still here in so many ways. And when I think of him now, it’s not as he was in the last few months of his life, when he was engaged in that final battle. Rather, he is once again strong and healthy. When I imagine him now, he is working on his race car (with just the right parts and all the right tools). Or he is having a beer with his brother and his uncles, and they’re all laughing and happy. Or sometimes I see just him, standing in the sun with that much-loved smile on his face.
I miss him so much, and I am so lucky to be his daughter.
Until very recently, I had a five-year-old bag of pistachios in my cabinet.
I know, that’s weird.
Five years ago, on a Friday morning, I was on the phone with my mom and I could hear Dad in the background. “Is that Julie? Tell her to get me some pistachios,” he was saying. Mom was trying to arrange something with me, I don’t remember what, and she was like, “Just a second, Ron.” He was not having it: “I’m just saying, tell her to bring me some pistachios….Joann?… Joann!….Tell her to bring pistachios!” (The memory of this is making me laugh, by the way.) I interrupted, “Tell him I’ll get pistachios, my gosh.” And we laughed, and she told him, and that was that. I did get him some pistachios that day, but Dad went into the hospital early the next morning, and he did not come home.
And then I didn’t know what to do with this fucking bag of pistachios. Give them to the kids? Throw them away? … What is the appropriate way to handle the last thing you tried to give your dad? Somehow they had attained some kind of weird significance in my head, like a symbol of everything we had lost. I couldn’t bear to do anything with them, and so I put them in the cabinet where I keep baking supplies. Way in back.
That’s where they stayed for years: behind the vanilla and the Christmas cookie sprinkles. Occasionally I would move things around in that cabinet, looking for baking soda or something, and catch sight of that bag. Every time it was jarring: Dad wanted pistachios. I bought him pistachios. But I never gave him the pistachios. I’m sitting here, trying to explain the tangled knot of sadness and loss that this stupid bag of nuts came to symbolize, and it’s sounding so trite and overwrought, and of course it is. But there you go: I couldn’t deal with an undelivered snack, and so they languished in the cabinet for five years.
I don’t actually know what happened to it. Over the holidays, I went into that cabinet to get something and realized the bag was gone. I assume Dave found the bag in there at some point, thought, “WTF is this?” -and tossed it. And as I stood there, waiting to see how I felt about this new development, I heard my dad in my ear, in his gravelly, no-nonsense voice: “Those nuts went bad four years ago, for Christ’s sake.” And like that, all the strange significance I had created around them disappeared.
So, anyway. Dave recently got rid of a completely unnecessary bag of pistachios.
Five years ago today, I knew that Dad was very ill but I didn’t know that we were going to lose him in less than a week. I would go back and tell that version of me, who is very different from today’s version, “It will be awful. But you will get through. And you’ll find Dad in the most unexpected places! Wait and see.”
Earlier this week, Dave was talking with a former colleague of Dad’s, who is interested in buying some of the MG parts Dad collected. Dave said, “I mean, think it over and let us know what you think is a fair price, and I’ll pass it on.” Then, laughing, Dave added, “I’m sure Ron will be in your ear.” The immediate reply, complete with exasperated chuckle, was: “Oh, he already has been! I’ve been thinking to myself, ‘come on, Ron, you gotta give me something here.’ ”
Of course: Dad still can’t stay out of a negotiation. Love you, Dad.
My sister-in-law, Erin, created a custom book about my dad to give to Violet when she was born. It was the best idea and it’s such a cute book. Yesterday I found in my drawer the little stack of photos I had found at E’s request, which she used in the book. I have been meaning to give them to Mikey. They’re amazing. Here are just a few:
*Four photos of Dad, Mike, and various cars. In most of these they are posing with the most comically serious expressions:
*A hilarious pic of Mom, Dad, and their beloved baby on some carnival ride, where Mom and Dad are having a ball and 5-year-old Mike is clearly the only one aware that there’s no safety bar in front of him:
*Two more vacation photos. I love the one on the left, where Mike is exactly copying Dad’s pose. (If you go back to the car pics, you’ll see him still doing that in his teens.) Mikey took one look at the pic on the right and said, “Look at Dad’s expression. Something definitely just happened with me and that fish, and he’s trying not to lose his mind.” Also please enjoy Dad’s cutoffs.
*And finally, this photo was taken somewhere in Ireland, and it is one of Mike’s favorites because of the weirdness of the bunny ears in the background. I just love it because Mike, Erin, and Mom are all smiling happily for the picture… and Dad has that unmistakable “shenanigans ahead” look on his face.