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I went to what was once my house today. When the National Guardsman tried to stop me, I just said “No.” And he said “Okay.”

I will write more later. I am sifting through my feelings as I am sifting through the ashes. A hot spot here, a smoldering branch there. Lost love covered in clean snow. A charred ring box containing a Tibetan orb, the gentle chime it makes still as clear as it was on the long ago Christmas that my Mother gave it to me.

And most shattering, the bones of my best boy, Roscoe, in the spot in front of the fireplace where his bed always lay. I feel more like he was taken by the smoke, which is a whisper of comfort. I do not think I could survive had we found them by the front or back door. No trace of my Dusty, but he was so small that I don’t know if we will be able to find anything.

I am raw. Shocked. Enraged. Despairing. Lost.

My Roscoe, the best boy.

Silence.

It can mean quiet joy or unbearable trauma. For me, right now, it’s the latter.

My little 100+ year old house by the creek, beneath the cottonwoods, concealed by ancient fragrant lilacs in the best of spring, when purple iris clustered around the chimney, is gone. Reduced to ashes, along with my elderly dog and cat, by a capricious and cruel wildfire. A wildfire that was impossible to imagine in our little suburb that used to be a mining town, along with hundreds of other houses. All in the span of a few hours.

My ex-Pat lived there, in the first house we bought together, which we still amicably owned together. I remember when I committed to buy it. We’d been married about three months and I couldn’t reach him by phone. Then I asked several co-workers, “Would you be mad if your wife bought a house without asking you?” He wasn’t, of course. It was the first house we looked at. Across the road, unpaved those 30 years ago, from a cow pasture. We lugged our first Christmas tree there home in a snowstorm from a lot where they later built the town hall.

When I left my marriage, I tried to leave the house as intact with my things as possible, trying to create the least amount of disruption for our daughter. So much of my treasured past, along with her entire childhood, vanished in the flames. My great grandmother’s china. My grandmother’s barrister bookcases housing my all-time favorite books. My Mother’s champagne glasses. Decades of my journals. Most of my photographs. My wedding dress. My daughter’s childhood artwork. Her stuffed animals. Her red dragon that was a bubble blower. Her Legos and Yu-Gi-Oh cards. The little books my Mother used to read to her, that were mine when I was a child. My grandmother’s letters to a mysterious beau during World War I that I had been saving to read. A shirt from a beau of my own that he gave me to remember him by, a beau whose heart I sadly broke many years later.

All gone.

We keep thinking of the random things we’ve lost, as we try not to think about the two furry loves that we lost. I want to die myself, and struggle to believe that they didn’t suffer, that the smoke got to them, and not the flames. I am agonizingly desperate for that reassurance. And unspeakably guilty that I could not save them. The worst kind of ‘what if’ and magical thinking.

This is not the first time my heart has been shattered. It likely, poignantly, will not be the last. But the pain is paralyzing. I don’t want to be here anymore. I go into my niece’s powder room and look for something I can cut myself with, just to try to let out the pain, to ease it into something I can bandage. I don’t, of course, and almost hate myself for not doing it, but I don’t. For my daughter. For my husband. For my ex. For my niece and her husband and her almost three-year old son, who have opened their home to her uncle. I don’t want to make them hurt more through my own selfish act.

So I plod on. Days interrupted by wracking sobs and small episodes of abject despair. Dreamless nights with a few snatched hours of sleep. Waking moments when I realize it’s real and the evil pain rushes back in to consume my soul. Nausea that has kept me from eating for two days so far. Dimly reminding myself that it will get better and just not caring. The someday when it will feel better is too far away for me to see or give a damn about.

I know I have not lost everything. But I have lost enough.

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That chimney is all that is left of my house.

Come follow me at http://www.writerinthepines.com.

Poinsettias are usually not classified as things that last, but this one, scanty as it may appear, is special. It is ten years old. My boss gave it to me when I got back from ushering my Mother through her death. It was awkward, she said, because it was Christmas, and she wanted to give me flowers, but…it was Christmas, so she gave me a poinsettia. She was my boss then, ten years ago, and after the twisting, turning roads of the corporate world, she is my above boss-boss at my current company.

Poinsettias usually only last a season. And they are toxic to cats. This one has lasted a decade, and Mr. Man has had no problems with it. It is special. It represents my Mother. These were her last days, ten years ago, and I was with her every minute. It is a difficult time for me. As I have said each year, I live through every moment on some subconscious level. This year, with the turmoil of the election and the issues that it has raised for many women, myself included, I have found myself reliving other tragic and traumatic incidents from my past, owning them, writing about them (and wondering if I should make these writings public) and trying to let them find their place in my soul. It is not a peaceful process, but it will have a peaceful outcome. Every memory, sweet or agonizing, is and always will be, a lasting part of me.

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Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “We all have our time machines, don’t we. Those that take us back are memories…And those that carry us forward, are dreams.” — H.G. Wells

Daily gratitudes:
Helping others
Fellow nasty women
Seeing MKL for the first time in three days
My giant coat on bitter cold days
That tickle of courage when I look at terrifying events of my past

 

 

Well, not exactly, but the blues are singing a song of me today, and kitties always seem to help, whether it is images on a screen, or the real thing sitting on my heart. Mr. Man does have a tendency to lay on whatever part of me isn’t feeling up to snuff. He’s a wise healing kitty. It was a lovely Thanksgiving, and I hope you all enjoyed it or at least kept family disputes to a minimum. I know it can be a tense time, especially this year.

For me now, we enter into a strange chrysalis-like phase that often lasts from after Thanksgiving until after the anniversary of my Mother’s passing. It will be ten years this year, and seems like yesterday sometimes. Two friends have lost a parent in the last week, and my heart goes out to them. It alters the character of the holidays when a loss is associated with days that the rest of the world associates with a certain celebration.

So for now, kitties.

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Littleton, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” — Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Daily gratitudes:
A lovely day
A lovely yesterday with MKL
A Downton Abbey marathon
A long talk with Kelsea
The East Simpson Coffee Shop

I remember December 25, 1996. Kelsea was 24 days old. We put her next to us on the floor as we unwrapped Christmas presents, and suddenly couldn’t find her, because we’d accidentally covered her with wrapping paper (a.k.a., glee debris). We immediately uncovered her, and she was happy as a little clam the whole time. That was a lovely Christmas day, full of family (because family comes where the baby is), and fireplaces, and good brunch, and cuddling, and naps.

The next day, we went to the House Up Top, since we had a second house in Black Hawk at the time. I remember sitting in the big taupe faux suede recliner, holding my baby girl, and watching the news about JonBenet Ramsey. I’ll never forget that…my little girl in my arms, while hearing about another little girl, blonde and beautiful like my own, whose life was snatched away at age six. It chilled my heart and made me hold her a little tighter.

I worked in Boulder. I had gone to school there. I had lived on The Hill. I had walked by that house. Boulder, at the time, felt small and safe. I walked everywhere alone at night without a qualm. People who lived there at the time were still at that six degrees of separation level. Everyone knew someone who knew someone who knew someone…you get the picture. An acquaintance was the stepdaughter of the District Attorney. Everyone was hearbroken. Everyone had an opinion on the case. Everyone followed every development. Everyone thought the police were totally out of their league. This sort of thing never happened in Boulder.

As a new mother, I felt for the Ramseys. I had my own opinions about the case, still do to this day, best left unsaid except to my closest confidantes. The Ramsey’s sold the house, they moved away. The city changed the street number of the house, because once it sold, it still garnered so many looky-looers that the new owners couldn’t take it. It became an albatross in the real estate market. And the Patsy Ramsey died of her recurring cancer. John Ramsey started a new life, and good for him. Patsy and JonBenet are buried side by side in Georgia.

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JonBenet Ramsey, age 4 or 5-ish

I know it has been 20 years since this happened, an anniversary. But I am disgusted by the massive amount of attention that the media is taking in this case, starting last month, and no doubt continuing through the year’s end. Maybe it’s only been three shows and some new stories, but I feel they’ve been constantly repeated for weeks. It’s all about ratings, I guess. I know that a lot of people who are in Boulder now weren’t there then, but for those of us who were, having such pieces be promoted (I haven’t been able to watch them) dredges up sorrow and pain that it has taken years to settle uncomfortably with. Maybe even by writing this, I’m giving validity to those bringing up old wounds, but I had to say my piece.

None of these exposes and “new” investigations are going to identify her killer. Nothing will bring her back. I think it’s time that we all let JonBenet rest peacefully. Whoever killed her will have to live with her blood on their hands until their last breath. After 20 years, that is, I think, punishment enough. Let’s not punish her spirit, and the rest of us who live with the memories.

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Kelsea at age 4 or 5

 

 

 

I don’t know. But I feel that there are people I love waiting there – people and animals. And there were people waiting for all of those who arrived so suddenly yesterday. I imagine that when I get there, I’ll see something like this. Peaceful. Beautiful. Tranquil.

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Somewhere over the sea.

Quote of the day: “As the rose-tree is composed of the sweetest flowers and the sharpest thorns, as the heavens are sometimes overcast—alternately tempestuous and serene—so is the life of man intermingled with hopes and fears, with joys and sorrows, with pleasure and pain.” — Edmund Burke

Daily gratitudes:
The concept of Bolivia
The man listening very intently to the pillar on the corner of 15th and Wynkoop
A little girl in the dancing waters
That Kelsea is (still) on her way home
How beautiful my cousin looks

Mugs
Some days I want to drink my coffee
From a mug that reminds me of my mother.
It’s one on permanent loan from
The work kitchen of a now-defunct employer.

It’s gentle curves are like a mug my mother gave me,
A fine sheen, ivory and green, embossed with seashell art.
I lost that in the divorce, along with many things,
And drawers and cabinets full of pain and dead dreams.

My mother doesn’t know anything about that.
She died before it happened.
I often wonder
What she would think of me,
My life,
My choices,
Now.

But this curved mug
Is brown and green and embossed with trees
Like the ones my mother loved so much.

One of my favorite images is of her
Hugging a pine tree
In Rocky Mountain National Park.

So when I fill
The mug that reminds me of my mother,
With Folger’s crystals like my father used to drink,
It is as if I am having a small cup of coffee with my parents
Each morning.

That is a very fine way to start the day.

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Denver, Colorado. (This is my alternative mug, purchased for
me by MKL. I love it.)

Quote of the day: “I am the way a life unfolds and bloom and seasons come and go and I am the way the spring always finds a way to turn even the coldest winter into a field of green and flowers and new life.” – Charlotte Eriksson

Daily gratitudes:
The flat fall of Snowmaggdon
Favorite movies on a snow day
A super snuggly cat
Experimental eggs
Having a warm spot on a cold day

 

I learned today of the death of a friend. Even though we hadn’t seen each other or even spoken in years, I still considered him a friend. Over the years, we were there for one another when things were falling apart in various sectors of our lives. It has saddened me. Saddened me because we hadn’t spoken in years. As I reach a certain age, I will lose more friends, just as these days, the world loses singers and actors that were icons of my teens and twenties. I love my friends and family, even if I don’t often communicate. And when they die, whether it’s sudden or slow, it’s always too soon. I am left with memories – good, funny, random, bittersweet. And never enough.

My wedding this summer brought me back to some of these people who are closest to my heart, and for that I amforever blessed.

It feels like it has been a year of passings for my friends, and we are not even a month in, and that makes me wonder. Why? Why did pneumonia steal away the larger-than-life man with the larger-than-life heart, whose loss has devastated one of my beloved friends? Why is another of my darlings, who so recently defied death herself, now faced with the slow, tender, painful, spiral of her mother’s passing? Why is a new daughter faced with the light of her grandmother suddenly extinguished?

I keep asking why, and there is no answer.

There is no way to take away the pain of loss. It does fade, gradually, like a well-loved shirt, laundered and worn until it comes apart at the seams and transforms into something different, or gets tucked in a drawer to stir memories when you catch sight of it as you’re looking for something else. But it is always there. Pain of loss transforms us in ways we cannot understand. I would hope it makes us kinder, gentler souls, who handle other souls with greater care, but I don’t know if that’s always so. The pain reshapes us inside, and we are never quite the same person as before, even if we think we are.

We are all treasures in process, I suppose.

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Quote of the day (and one quoted before): “You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” — Anne Lamott

Daily gratitudes:
Memories
MKL, always
Kelsea
The mystery of life
Walking

 

 

 

December 12, 2006:

My uncle and my brother both marked the time, the exact time – somewhere around 3:43 am.

We sat for a while with her, there in the darkness, holding her hands, holding her heart.  I could still feel her.  Still feel her.  Someone turned on the lights, blew out the candle, started doing the practical things.  Calling the mortuary people, calling my “Aunt” who had been my Mother’s oldest friend – the one who had  aided in my parent’s elopement, had driven her to the hospital to give birth to me, who now lived just upstairs.

It felt wrong to have all this stuff going on.  I stayed in the room with her, pulling up her covers so she might not get cold, trying to fully close her eyes.  They wouldn’t stay closed.  I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror and saw her looking back at me through my eyes.  I saw her eyes in the mirror, in my face.  I called my husband and told him, had him tell Kelsea.  She wrote the date and time down on a napkin and put it in a special scrapbook that she has.

My aunt came.  She put her arm around me, and I said, “I don’t want her to go.”  And she said to me, “She’s already gone.”  I did not know what I was going to do.  I loved her so.  We were such a part of each other.  I just did not know what to do.  As the minutes passed , her body looked less and less…occupied.  I could feel it, feel her soul moving away, as the minutes passed, drifting away, flying away, floating away, soaring away, farther and farther away, without even turning to say good-bye, just excited to be free and exploring.  Leaving me behind.

Things happened then.  My brother put ice around the back of her head to keep her brain cool for the Brain Autopsy Study she was a part of.   I knew it was still nighttime, the middle of the night, but time had become irrelevant.  I just remember again the light, the brightness of incandescent bulbs all over.  The night nurse had slipped out.  She had been hiding in the other bathroom for hours.  She never even came in the room.  She was afraid of dead people.  Everything just felt so surreal.

The funeral home men came, two of them, with a stretcher and a big plastic bag.  Somehow, though she wasn’t a big woman, they just couldn’t seem to manage her.  I don’t know why.  But I wound up helping to put my Mother’s body in that bag.  Wrapped in one of my sheets, one of my favorite sheets, that looked like a sandy beach with seashells on it, that we had put on her bed particularly because she loved those sheets too.  I could never have that sheet back.  That action was the worst part of this whole memory.  I should never have done that.

Then everyone left.  It was morning.  I called my best friend at work.  I started making calls to the people who needed to know.  It was horrible.   I heard her dear friend, whose wife I spoke to, explode with grief – “Oh, GOD!”, he said.  I let her go to him.  I lay down to try to sleep and I just cried.  Cried and cried and cried as if my heart would break.  But it was too late, it was already broken.

I thought about the morphine in the refrigerator.  I could do it.  Could do it so easily.  Just take the rest of it and follow her.  I wasn’t thinking about Kelsea.  I wasn’t thinking.  I was so consumed with pain, I didn’t feel like I could live.  I didn’t want to live.  I was tired and tormented.  I was mad with grief and exhaustion.  I wept myself to sleep.

Later, I told E-Bro about it, and he said he would kick my corpse if I did such a thing.  We started to pack up her things.  We went out to dinner.  We didn’t feel normal.  We were orphans now.  At least we had each other.

Now, four years later, I have come to have some peace with her death, but it has taken almost this entire span of time.  But it has happened.  I still miss her.  I know she’s still with me in her own way.

And I know, with all certainty, that she is having a marvelous time.

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