Tag Archives: losing family

Lessons Learned: 2013 Edition


This year, I slow danced to the rhythm of two eulogies and shimmied into black lace dresses and bow-topped heels.

I passed easy on the Interstate and headed straight for arduous. I dipped my knees into rough carpet when being new felt like a curse.

It was hard. It was painful. It was unexpected almost every week.

Nobody sashayed up to me with a roadmap and said, “You are here. Where do you want to be?” I had to ask myself that question: Where did I want to be?

Happy. I wanted to be happy.

The weight of loss will drown you if you let it. Sorrow will envelop you. Wonder will destroy you.

He might’ve come storming into my kitchen with a shy apology and laugh thick with missing me, but he never did. She might have learned to smile under dull streetlamps but she hasn’t. They might’ve stopped pushing piles of guilt my way for moving too far from home but they haven’t.

I had to step outside and grab onto my own little slice of happiness. I had to build a life that felt good inside first, then outside.

I lost a lot. I don’t know if we think we’ll win just because we want it badly enough, but we don’t. We were set up to find the things we most fear losing, and then, eventually, setting them free.

Last October, I shared 32 lessons from 2012. And then, as so often happens, my life unraveled dramatically in November and December. I spent Thanksgiving giving thanks to timing. Because if you’re going to lose somebody you once loved like fresh cut grass and mint chocolate chip ice cream, it’s better you’re with family. It’s better to have a warm fleece blanket and pay-per-view and frozen yogurt with rainbow sprinkles.

It doesn’t hurt any less. But the loneliness is not just yours.

In these last months, I’ve learned so much. So in honor of last October’s tradition, here is the 2013 edition:

  1. Surprise yourself every day by taking well-deserved risks. The risk is in doing what frightens you. The reward is in realizing it wasn’t quite so deserving of your fear.
  2. If you want to make a change, make it. Don’t wait for someone else to take your hand and pull you forward. Do it today and commit to it wholly. I spent too many months wavering over major decisions that, once I jumped, didn’t feel so major.
  3. Justify your time only to yourself. If you have to tell your friends and family why you do what you do, either they don’t understand or you need to reevaluate your decisions.
  4. Hold close old friends. You will stretch your heart across this country like a canvas. And it won’t always feel good. But when you find your feet in front of familiar territory, remember how to say hello and embrace the people you’ve always loved. They’re waiting for your hand on their doorknob, even if they haven’t said so.
  5. Balance your life. It’s not easy. There is no guidebook. You’ll wonder if you’re doing it right. But with any luck, you’ll get better at it each year. Find time for work and play and don’t worry about one in the midst of another. Get to that point and treasure it.

What has 2013 taught you?

Average Joe’s Team // The Answer To 135 Crossword Clues

In 1999, New York was much more than a city to me. It was a promise.

I was nine years old. He was fifty-eight. I was a softball player. He was the biggest fan the New York Mets have ever had.

That day, I was special. I knew the sacred nature of the team, had buried myself in the blue and orange varsity jackets in the laundry room coat closet during many a round of hide and seek. And yet he could fall asleep to the game on the TV set, awake one minute and dozing the next. Love didn’t always make sense.

That day, in my striped Old Navy muscle tee shirt, I was his pride and joy. Two car rides, a round trip on the ferry, and nine innings held us together. I could appreciate his passion because I saw it in myself, albeit in different places.

On that day, I learned to love baseball because it brought me to the center of a man who was always a bit of a mystery: a quiet family man who walked three miles a day and rubbed the salt from his pretzels and feared the ocean and kissed our heads at all hours of the day and sang us soft, sweet songs out of tune.

For nine hours, I was closer to him than I’d even been and ever would be. In the thirteen years since, I stood outside his heart in the pouring rain. He loved me, really loved me, but I didn’t know as much about him as I wanted to. Some days, I kicked the door hard with my foot, scuffing the bottom and rattling the hinges. Other days, resigned, I leaned back, knees curled to my chest, and waited for him to let me in.

He never did.

I don’t have any more metaphors left. I just miss him.

Back then, I still had time to learn the joy in his steps and hold the sorrow of his wife’s death and wait to grow up so I could meet this strange stadium where my parents spent the sixth game of the 1986 World Series, only a year older than I am now, in love and without kids.

There are approximately 135 potential crossword puzzle clues that lead to one answer: SHEA. And because I have an outdated book of a thousand and one New York Times crosswords, most of them maintain that the Mets still play there.

The most straightforward clue: “where the Mets play”.

My answer, for better or worse, will always be in his heart. Because the glory of Average Joe’s team sits in those quiet afternoons where the only sound in a stadium of New Yorkers is the crack of the bat against the ball, the thumping feet toward bases, the second before a game is decided once and for all.