Another birthday, I can’t even believe it. You would have been 63 years old.
I joked with your mom the other day that grandpa had died when he was 70, you died when you were 60, and I just turned 40, so that means I have exactly one decade left. She didn’t think that was very funny.
I swear, I was just writing about your 62nd birthday—where has this last year gone?
Well, I know we had a pretty sad Thanksgiving without you, again. You always made that the best family day of the year and it’s gone to shit now.
I went to Australia in early December and picked up our Cocobear and brought her home. I had an unimaginable mother-daughter trip traipsing up and down the west coast from Brisbane to Port Douglas to Moreton Island to Melbourne. I’m a pretty fun mom, not anything like you were, but I know Coral cherished our time together. I thought of you the whole time. Like when we were on a glass bottom boat at Tangalooma and they’d been playing wonderful 70s music that always makes me think of you, but then Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World came on and I lost my shit. Or when your brother’s Australian twin took us on a safari tour of the island. Or when all we did was shop everywhere we went and had to buy an extra suitcase to bring our stuff home. Coral was bouncing on the suitcase while I tried to zip it and we laughed so hard we almost peed ourselves—you would have fucking loved that.
We came home and had a quaint Christmas in our rental/temporary home. Sisters and their peeps. Dad showed up for a bit of it. I think we’ll always try to recreate that last two PHENOMENAL Christmases we had with you holed up in my home for four days cooking and eating and laughing and reading and making gingerbread houses and watching comedians and annoying each other in that special way that only people who truly love each other can.
New Years came with a decision to not buy your property from dad because it was causing so much pain and heartache. It got really messy and I talked to dad and we both had come to the same conclusion. He tried calling me a few weeks later and I wasn’t ready to talk. I didn’t talk to him for a couple of months after that, and as I sit here in mid-August I think I’ve only spoken to him three times since then. He’s doing his thing with his new people in his new place and not making an effort to have us in his life. I think we all need some space from the horror of the aftermath of your death. At first we clung to each other so tightly to survive, but we’ve all had to wiggle out and fumble to stand on our own. It’s been a really rough transition this year for all of us. I haven’t even seen my older brother in a year. I knew you were our gravity, but you literally kept us all together. It’s messy without you.
In the spring we had this wild and crazy pandemic hit, and the world came to an unbelievable halt. I started working from home most of the time, and we had to shift our business model which took a bunch of extra hours each day to keep things going. Our advertising plan did a 180º and that kept me very, very busy.
We were also coming up on the end of our rental agreement and since we’d decided not to purchase the property, we were looking for a new home. Our plan was a home we could live in for at least five years until Camy graduates, and then we could aim for another piece of property to build and have a farm on. I was drawn to this one neighborhood in the school district and I would check Zillow several times a day for anything new that would pop up for sale on those handful of streets that I liked. I had alerts and monitored my emails. We were working with Amy again, my dear friend that helped us sell our last house, that our daughters went to kindergarten together, and that got me to run that damn marathon in 2005. She would jump when we saw something interesting and was an immense help. One friday we saw two houses within our price range go on the market, and there was also a house in my desired neighborhood that was certainly out of our price range. It wasn’t the model I had been liking, and I didn’t like the color of it. It didn’t capture my attention in the online photos. Amy took us to see one of the others that we thought might work, and then afterwards, Juan Luis and I decided to swing over to the open house of the one in my dream neighborhood, to get a look at the inside construction. As soon as I walked up the stairs onto the porch and took those first few steps into the house I was hooked. Our jaws fell and we gawked and dreamed. I liked the floorplan and the cathedral ceilings in the family room and master bedroom. I liked how the girls would share the upstairs with a fun second family room between them for their own space and privacy, and there was an adorable little dormer nook that would be perfect for my office upstairs. We talked the whole way home and we wanted to know if it was possible. Long story short, Amy jumped on it, texted our banker because she knew him, and by Saturday morning we had our offer in and Sunday it was accepted. My head is still spinning.
We spent April packing and cleaning and moving and getting the duplex ready to give back. We kept all of our belongings in the garage of the new house and decided to paint the entire upstairs, plus master bedroom downstairs. That took us about six weeks. Meanwhile, we decided to replace all the carpet and so we ended up living on our mattresses for about three months before we started to settle in. I love the house, and I can’t keep thinking how much you’d love to see us in it. It’s cozy, it’s humble yet somehow better than anything we’d ever had before. You’d love the decorating I’ve been doing and selecting of a few more furniture pieces. We’re even talking about how nice it would be to just stay here for the rest of our forevers and not have to work hard on a farm and not ever have to move again which I am completely on board with never having to move my shit again. I imagine the whole family here having Christmas like we did, and how HAPPY we all would have been hanging out here. I really, really miss you and the family that we had before. I look forward to Christmas with my sisters and their peeps here and we’ll have Big Ass Mom set out so we feel you here. Candles, crystals, the usual stupid shit we set out to acknowledge the loss of you with a pathetic attempt to bring your spirit back to us for just a moment.
I found a greeting card you’d given me once where you wrote how much you admired me and loved me and were proud of the woman I’d become and I have it hanging on my fridge now so I read it every day. I know your intention was to have me see myself the way you did, and while I don’t think that’s ever going to fully happen, I’m trying to saturate myself with your love.
This summer has been so wild with COVID keeping everything on partial lockdown. The biggest kicker: Pier 1 Imports is going out of business. I know! I told the lady at the checkout counter that you’d passed and would literally be rolling over in your grave if we hadn’t cremated you at the thought of the holy Pier 1 going under. Again, people just don’t think dead jokes are half as funny as I do. It’s just been like this weird phase—big retailers that have been around for ages are closing up shop and can’t wait this out. Everywhere you go people are wearing masks. Kids are being taught at home on computers now. Toilet paper (TOILET PAPER!) became a much bigger deal than it ever used to be. It’s just gone wild, and all I want to do is sit and have a conversation with you about what you think of this madness. Is this the end of the world you always expected to come the first half of your life? It this just a weird energy shift that is muchly needed by the planet? Is the world around me crumbling because my inner world has been shaken so much since you left? I wish I could know your thoughts. I wish I had you here in my new home to be able to spend your birthday with you.
I love you more than you’ll ever know. Happy birthday mom.