Summer Letter

Dear M,

I have so much to tell you. I’m sorry I haven’t written in so long. I was kind of holding my breath to get through our first trip back to Riverton without you AND the memorial at Riverton.  As you know from my father’s memorials I am NOT a fan of the two memorial approach. Your brother Doug wrote your obituary, which took took a big burden off my hands. However he ended it with the announcement of a second memorial to take place in the summer at the family home in North Carolina. It has been looming every since. I hoped he would forget, but he didn’t. I didn’t quite understand why it was so important to him, since the two of you seemed at odds much of the time. I think it was about tradition and appearances and the family name and such. In any case I did it. It was lovely in spite of my anxiety. Butter sprinkled some of your ashes in the Lumbee River. We kept some because he was really touched by the episode of This is Us, in which Kate watches football with her father’s ashes every Sunday. He wants to be able to do something like that too. 

Meanwhile our boys have been up to so much. IMac has fulfilled all of the volunteer hours necessary to apply for Bright Futures. He is in full swing with band camp. He secretly auditioned for the flute solo and got the part. He was going to surprise me but two of his band mates blew his cover when they saw us at the grocery store. He was able to keep the secret for all of two hours.

Butter called us yesterday from the top of Mount Baldy at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. It was fun to hear him chatting with iMac about their shared experience, with iMac having gone two years ago. Butter took your orange fleece jacket with him to Philmont. iMac is wearing your coolibar hat to band camp. His band mates call him the fisherman, because of the hat. We didn’t save much in terms of garments, but those two items seemed practical.

It’s already time to get ready for school to start. IMac is almost road ready to take his driver’s license test. I have made him drive us to work/volunteering. The drive includes the always harrowing stretch of I 95 through the city where the construction never ends, with jersey walls etc. They seem to move the road every week. 

Miss Murphy is 9 months old now and 40 pounds. I do think you would love her even though you claim not to be a dog person. Cha caught a frog for me today. He was so proud! He dropped it at my feet. Much to his disappointment it hopped away. That’s all for now.
Lots of love,


Summer Starts Letter

Dear M,

I almost wrote this morning, but I ran out of time. I had the dream I know I will have again. It woke me from a sound sleep. I was so excited when I awoke, just for a moment. You see, I dreamt you were coming home from a long trip.There were many long trips and homecomings in our 18 years of marriage. I was always unsettled by the travel. It reminded me of our impermanence. You were our joy bringer, our scheduler of fun. It was a big job. I never acknowledged it or thanked you for it. So Thank you. It is a hard job. I have planned a decent summer for both kids. I know that because Butter is already complaining that I over scheduled him. He had no schedule on the first two days of summer. By the second day of summer break I had already misplaced him. I called home at lunchtime and talked to imac. He said he didn’t know where Butter was, somebody’s mom had picked him up but he didn’t know who. Butter had left his phone at home.  I quickly deduced which mom had picked him up, texted her and confirmed his location. Growing up, we could never keep track of my brother Johnny Reb. Pre-cell phone era we usually just drove around the neighborhoods until we found him shooting hoops in a friend’s driveway.

It was Memorial Day weekend and I remembered the long hike we took from Arlington to Reston on the Washington and Old Dominion trail. I remember hearing rolling thunder go by while we walked. 

I cried on my way to work today, then pulled it together on the elevator for a day of anemia, clots and hemophilia. So wishing I could have brought Murphy to work with me today. I hope that you are proud of me. I am not functioning on all cylinders yet, but maybe 4 out of 8. I feel like I have my skin on inside out. I am able to fool most civilians most of the time. It takes a lot of energy. There doesn’t tend to be much leftover.

Sorry for rambling, but you know, that’s just me.
Love you lots,


At a Conference letter

Dear M,

I am in Fort Lauderdale at a medical conference, thanks to the generosity of your cousin Mary Mac. Mary Mac and her dog are taking care of the boys, Cha and Murphy. I slept a full 9 hours last night! Took an uninterrupted bath, read, walked on the beach.

Just now I watched Lucy Kalanthi’s YouTube talk. Before you died I read her husband’s book, When Breath Becomes Air . They made a promise to each other to say what they were thinking out loud. It’s a noble idea, but it didn’t work for us. I would have stolen moments of peace and joy from you if I had expressed my thoughts and feelings outloud. That’s how my blog evolved. The reality of your illness was brutal. If you didn’t see or feel the brutality of it, I didn’t want to be the one to point it out. It would have been to wake the sleeping before they’d had enough rest. 

Tomorrow is the last day of school. Tonight the Court of Honor for Boy Scouts. Butter has called me a few times as he prepares. He’s mad about the linens in his closet because it is the fault of the linens, placed there by his mother, that he could not find his merit badge sash. He did find it while we were on the phone. Really he is missing you and now me too. I cried last year during the May Court of Honor because they presented you with an award. You were at home on the sofa. You sent me in your place because your words were all mixed up. You felt self conscious and didn’t want the scouts to see you without your words. They spoke about you returning when you were better. I knew that you never would be. I’m grateful that Mary Mac is there tonight with Butter, though I know he wishes that you and I were there together.

You would love this hotel. It makes me feel like I have dropped into another era. I’m not sure whether I am in the 1930’s or the 1950’s. More later.


Anniversary Letter

Dear M,

May 9:

Happy Anniversary! Nineteen years today. I thought I might feel sad so I preemptively purchased flowers at Publix last night and cleaned the kitchen. Orange, yellow, green, and pink beautiful grocery store flowers in a blue vase greeted me this morning. I also set the coffee maker for 5 a.m, the same time we usually sat on the couch drinking coffee and talking before the kids got up. 

May 15:

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. The boys went all out. Murphy slept in Butter’s room so I could sleep in. Murphy awoke at her usual time 4:15 a.m. Butter took her out in the yard to play for an hour so she wouldn’t wake me. I woke up at 5:45 a.m. The boys brought me coffee and oatmeal in bed.

May 18

Wow! Our last middle school band concert. Both our boys in high school in the fall. Can you believe it? They are going to make their second solo trip to see Bolly and Mob when school gets out. Miss Murphy was up in the night vomiting. It looked like she had eaten her fair share of Kleenex yesterday. Mary Mac is coming to visit Sunday. She’s helping out with the boys while I attend a hemophilia conference. That’s all for now. Wish you were here.



Letter # 11

Dear M,

Letter # 10 is somewhere, saved as a draft, but I can’t find it right now, so I’ll start fresh. Cha has a cold. He has been sneezing for days, but seems to be eating and drinking well. I went to work today. Rose came to get the boys for an outing. Tomorrow they are going rock climbing with Miles at an indoor climbing gym. 

Things that are hard right now: leaving for work, coming home from work, opening mail and sleeping. Leaving for work is hard because it is Christmas break and I can’t spend it with the boys because I haven’t accrued enough leave since you died. It taps into my working mother guilt as well. Coming home from work is hard because you aren’t here. You always felt like home to me. Now our house doesn’t feel like home. It just feels like a to do list. The mail, lots of it is addressed to you. We got Christmas cards from people who don’t know that you are dead. Sleeping is hard because I can’t hear you breathing. I tried our nifty sharper image noisemaker with 25 different sounds. Last night I tried city which reminded me of our apartment in Tbilisi. We lived right next to a car wash. Tbilisi was a night time place, decidedly not a morning place. People took their cars to the car wash at 10 or 11 pm. So many nights I would briefly wake and ask,” Is it raining?” You patiently replied, “It’s the car wash, remember? We live next to a car wash.” I had high hopes for that overseas posting. It seemed like it was made for you. It all went South with the Georgian/Russian war. I was getting ready to take art classes. The kids were a few weeks from starting class at the international school. I felt strangely secure about our little plans which were as sturdy as a wet Kleenex. 

Tonight for my first hour at home there was the tacchycardia. This time I noticed it which is halfway to controlling it. I noticed the feelings, the emptiness of the house.  The boys were at Miles house. When they came home we watched the first episode of “This is Us.” You would have loved this show. I binge watched the whole first season on Friday and Saturday. Now I am watching it again with the boys. They love it too. The father’s optimism and playfulness remind me sometimes of you. It’s real life, real emotions, real joy, real pain. 

Tonight I am trying to decide between “Surf’s Up” and “rain.” I think I will start with surf’s up. It has a nice rhythm almost like an inhale and an exhale. I hope you had a good Christmas. I picture you with your cousin’s Charles, Roy and Jap, talking up a storm.