Tag Archives: football

Rings, Clothes and Workdays

Dear Mom,

It has been too long since my last letter. Please know that it isn’t because I haven’t been thinking about you. You are always in my heart and there isn’t a day that you don’t cross my mind a hundred times. We have had many quiet conversations in my mind since my last post. But you know me. I can only get the words out through the keyboard when I get downtime and quiet – and there has been precious little of that lately. Working in higher education in August is a telegram from hell for us introverts.

I made it through my first birthday without you, and today is Jamie’s. She gave me the NFL Steelers ring she got you last Christmas, the one you loved so much, and told me you wanted me to have it. Of course I cried – and she knew I would. She even warned me not to in the card, but it had fallen to the bottom of the gift bag so I didn’t see the warning until after I was holding the ring. It is a pinky ring for me. Although your presence here was huge and the hole in the world since you left us is just as big, you were physically so much smaller than me, and that includes our fingers. I think my hands were bigger than yours by the time I started middle school! So I wear it with care and tuck it away safely each night so it doesn’t slip off in my sleep. And when I am typing away at work and it shines up at me, I smile and know you are there.

Hopefully the Steelers themselves will know you are too. They had a bumbling preseason. But we’ve been through that before, haven’t we?

You raised an amazing kid, Momma. Jamie, not me. She holds so much together without you there, and she does it like a trained acrobat juggler. Me? Give me three plates and two are gonna crash to the floor. You raised a weirdo too. Sometimes I look at us and think we are flip sides of the coin that was you.

So other than that, most of August has been work, work and more work. And when I’m not working, I’m recovering from work. I remind myself that this too shall pass – it is just that time of year, and try to breathe and carry on. I have noticed that it is much harder for me to deal with the long hours and the nonstop interaction this year, and it was never easy. Everyone gets so stressed and worked up because there is so much to do and so little time to do it, and we are all sleep-deprived and irritable. I used to be a like a sponge, absorbing all that anxiety and worry and frenzy.

I can’t do that so well anymore. I am in the midst of all the tasks and issues and concerns that have everyone in a frenzy, and I know they are important. But after the year we have been through, part of me swims through them like I’m in a calm lake instead of a river speeding towards a waterfall. My mind says if these are the biggest issues of the day, the worst that can happen is not so much to fear. The consequences are like a scraped knee or a bothersome mosquito bite compared to the jagged scars that watching you hurt and then go left.

I am pretty sure you would like that. My tendency to worry too much about everything at work needing to be right and to be done drove you batshit – if only because you saw how batshittier it drove me. You wanted me to accept that I am a person, not an octupus with 8 arms to tackle 8 different tasks at once, even if that was what others wanted me to do. You’ve finally gotten your wish. I didn’t just decide to stop sweating smaller stuff. I am truly no longer capable of doing so.

Yesterday I finally had a little time to myself, and was going through my closets getting ready for fall – my favorite time of year is just around the corner. There was the shirt you got me with the ferrets on it, and the tye-dye Steelers shirt, and the beautiful black dress shirt you got me that I wore to Grandad’s funeral. There was the sweater you got me that I adore but need to lose five or ten pounds to wear. There was the silvery scarf you picked out for me that I love wearing in the winter. And those were just the tip of the iceberg. Before I knew it, I was sitting on my bedroom floor bawling, surrounded by clothes and desperately needing something to wipe my sloppy face with but of course not wanting to use any of them.

That closet was like a book of memories – each one a Christmas morning or a birthday and then all the times afterwards where we did something together and I wore the gift and you smiled at the way it looked. You always saw me as so much more beautiful than I see myself. That was evident in the things you’d pick out for me. The things I’ve gotten myself that sit beside your gifts in the closet say ” gear for an aging work horse.” Your gifts say “something for a pretty woman to wear.”

I am picking myself up anew each day and trying my best to be the woman you saw in me instead of the one I see in myself. Some days, it works.

Love you Mom. Like a Dog.

PS – GO STEELERS!!

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My New Dysfunctional Relationship With Ed

If your name is Edward, Eddie, or just plain Ed, please don’t take this personally. I don’t mean you. Chances are I don’t even know you.

I’m talking about past tense Ed. As in watched. Walked. Talked. Hugged. Laughed.

That sounds weird coming from a storyteller. As a writer, even the stuff I make up comes at least subconsciously from personal experiences.  Past tense should be one of my BFFs.

In many ways, it has been. I try to live in the moment. But when going somewhere new, trying something different, or meeting a new quirky person, a part of my brain is already writing about the moment. I enjoy writing about life as much as I enjoy living it. When I go back and read this paragraph, I realize just how lame that sounds. Lame or not, I think many writers can relate. For us, writing is a huge part of living .

So it disturbs me that my relationship with Ed has grown complex. It still brings me joy, but I must now sludge my way through some super-sized puddles of sadness too. I have recorded some moments that I would gladly leave in past tense forever. But more often, I recall writing happy Ed moments secure in the knowledge that while the particular one I was describing was over, there would be more like it in the future. I watched a great show. I talked with an old friend. I walked an amazing trail on a crisp fall day. I laughed until I damn near peed myself. I wrote about those times knowing full well I would be walking, talking, watching, laughing and even nearly peeing myself again.

There is a huge piece of my life about which this is no longer true. When it comes to making memories with my mother, what is now Ed will never be Ing again.

This hits me hard in what look like harmless, innocent moments. I go grab some afternoon java fuel at the coffee shop at work, and run into one of my football buddies. It might be the janitor in our building, who like me is a Steelers fan living in Baltimore. Or it maybe it is director of another office, who is a die-hard Ravens fan and jokes that I must be confused about where I live. These surface relationships built on empathy or rivalry bring some fun to our long workdays, even in the off-season.

In June, we are all going through a bit of football withdrawal. We chat about the rituals we look forward to in the fall as we pour creamer into our coffees or stir in frightening amounts of sugar. Someone jokes that I must get locked in a room by myself when the arch-rival Ravens and Steelers meet. Surely not even my nearest and dearest would want to break up their sea of purple people with my black-and-gold-clad ass.

“Actually, I’ve got a group of Steelers girls here,” I reply. “And even when we can’t all get together, I always watch …”

I stop, stare into my coffee as if it can help me, and fumble over the word. “Watched with my mom,” I finish lamely. Those game days where we’d sit in our pub and gulp beers with one hand while we covered our eyes with the other, peeking nervously through our fingers because Big Ben was looking a little Forrest Gumpy on third down, are now Ed moments with no hope of future Ings.  Even the less happy memories, like when we watched a Ravens/Steelers game in the hospital last year and I brought a Steelers blanket to drape over Mom since she couldn’t wear her fan gear, are in the past.

I loved my football seasons with Mom. I loved being different together. I will still love football season, but being different without her is going to hurt. footballtime Then again, every day without her hurts at some point.

Everyone who loses a loved one goes through these moments of painful Ed-and-Ing insight when they are talking about a shared tradition and realize that memory making with that person is over. There will be more memories made, but they will have a huge hole in them where someone amazing should have been.

As a writer, there is an added strange component to this part of grief. It doesn’t just  happen when you are living those moments or talking about them. It hits when you are writing them, too. That is a blessing and a curse. I’ll make an effort to focus on the blessing side of it.

My relationship with Ed may be dysfunctional, but I’ll never let it go. Being able to write about Mom allows me to relive those precious memories, and while I am tapping away at the keyboard they are happening all over again. Stealing a bit of Ing where there might otherwise only be Ed is a gift.

Love you Mom. Like a Dog.