gratitude-a-thon day 414: saying goodbye, and why we ever said hello to start with

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Today I will go to the funeral of my friend Katie. It will be a hard day.

Some people are surprised I knew Katie, because of the 23 year age difference, and because my kids were older than her son. It’s funny how during the school years, your schedule often only allows you to pair off with the people who are doing exactly what you’re doing, or who have children who are close enough in age, that you can throw them all together while you have an adult conversation, or make a meal, or polish off a bottle of wine (or two).

For a while I thought I might open a store, and for a few years I sort of set up a store in my living room with a mix of what I would sell in a real store, as kind of a test kitchen. It was also kind of a party, with food and wine and girl talk. Anyway, that’s the first time I met Katie. Someone brought her over to shop. And I was literally stunned by how beautiful she was. I think I said to her, “You are gorgeous, Who are you?“She was like 5’9, with long hair and perfect features, and a great body and killer style. Anyway, I talked to her and we clicked in some funny way, and then I saw her at a party not long after, and then we just sort of had this funny little relationship, in which we didn’t spend a ton of time together, but we messaged a lot on Facebook, and we just got each other. There was some sort of no bullshit zone we got into. She told me her whole story, because as she said to me, “You’re so open, it makes me want to tell you everything.” She acknowledged it was odd, that she didn’t really do that a lot. But I understood, and appreciated it. Because that girl had a lot of story. And I could hear it, I could take it in, because I am older, wasn’t her contemporary. And because I have very openly on this blog shared my own difficulties, with my dad’s alcoholism, and how that has affected every part of my life. She liked that age hadn’t diminished me. She liked my kind of 55, and knowing that’s what hers could be like. She appreciated where I’d been and wanted to know what I thought about things she struggled to try and figure out, that I’d already been through, stuff lots of 32 year olds struggle with, and then some. She loved the blog. As for me, I loved her incredible energy, and her quick mind, her take on the world, and the way she worked at her life, to make it good, to make it right. It wasn’t easy for her. She had such a brilliant mind. It was unusual in its brilliance, like the brightest star you’ve ever seen in the sky. Amidst all the serious talk, we would also talk about clothes, and where to get a good blow dry, and girlie stuff like that. It was kind of hilarious to be in the middle of some intense topic, and at the same time discuss the merits of highlighting your hair.

The last time I saw her we had lunch at Rifrullo. She wore a shirt with a big heart on it. And we talked a lot. And I ordered the gluten free bread, which I’d recently had there for the first time. And Katie was on a no carb diet, but she had to taste it, and she went bananas over it,  just like I had a few weeks earlier. I told her  that Colleen the owner had given me the recipe. She messaged me later in the day for it. I sent it. Ironically, It was called The Life Changing Loaf of Bread.

I am going to miss that girl, that sparkly, ball of brilliance. I will really miss those conversations. She had zillions of friends, so I feel lucky she streaked through my life. Because I loved our funny little friendship. It made me think, and made me laugh, and made me better.

gratitude-a-thon day 365: grateful for Louie

This is Uncle Louie’s truck. A long time ago, he used to use it to sell fruits and vegetables on the back roads of Connecticut. His son Paul brought it up and parked it outside the house as we mourned.

It’s been a week since I last posted. Death will do that to you. Especially if it’s someone you love very, very VERY much and you will be helping to make the funeral happen. And that was the case. Yes, I know that at 91, you have gotten a longer run than most, but still, this death shook me like a martini at Harry’s Bar. I felt raw and numb, and disoriented and grateful and like I wanted to cry about everything bad that’s ever happened to me since kindergarten, all at the same time.

The thing is, the experience of losing Louie, had some moments where gratitude was monster big. Beautiful flowers and cards, meaningful and supportive words from friends, all felt like a warm blanket on a 2014 winter night (or March day, for that matter–it’s 16 out there this morning, people). It’s sort of amazing what a few words will do for a person when they’re in pain. If you ever think, “I should send a card,I should call” but then you get busy and forget, get unbusy and do it. You might just have an overall impact on someone’s shitty experience that will make a profound difference.

Two of my oldest friends, one from fourth grade, and one from freshman year of high school came to the wake and surprised me. Seeing Linda and Steph really soothed me. It was an effort for them to come, but it was a game changer for me and really helped me through an unspeakably painful night.

Being with my extended family, who came from all over the place to mourn the loss of our family’s patriarch, was perhaps what I am most grateful for. Because it reminded me where and what I come from. I am made up of aunts and uncles and cousins, and drop in visits, and picnics and days at the beach and weddings and babies and holidays and shared happiness and sadness. I grew up in the belly of an Italian family who nurtured me and gave me security to be the person I am on this day. I carry that family with me in my heart whether I’m grocery shopping or using my favorite swear word (say it with me, “fuck”). They give me strength when I feel like a 95 pound weakling. Although the first generation all lived in the same town, we’re  now all spread out in California, New York, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Now we don’t see each other unless there’s a funeral. And that, is maybe sadder than the funeral itself.

Anyway, I am back to the blog I’m so grateful to and the readers who I appreciate enormously for making me laugh and cry and continue to remember to be grateful every damn day. And while I didn’t think this was what I’d write about to celebrate my 365th post, I guess that’s what makes life interesting. As Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” But maybe it’s a good way to celebrate the gratitude-a-thon’s year anniversary, being grateful to a man who gave me a dad when I didn’t have one, and modeled a really beautiful way to live: in the present, doing what you love to do.

This was what we called “Big Lou’s garden.” He loved to grow things. His is one of my most favorite backyards.