Drowning in Death

I haven’t written about all the death around me lately because death is a bummer, but I found out yesterday that another friend of mine died unexpectedly on Saturday and I AM FED UP.

Since October, I’ve lost three friends, one to suicide and two to alcohol. Two-and-a-half weeks ago, my young cousins – brothers aged 16 and 17 – died in a car accident, and my best friend’s mom passed on Feb. 25th.

I learned when I worked in hospice that I separate myself from the passage of elders. (“Old people die.”) It didn’t occur to me to grieve for my grandfather until the oldest woman in Utah died at the age of 104. She was on our service. When she passed, I realized that she was three decades older than grandpa had been – a full adult lifetime longer than he had – and I was furious! It was the weirdest moment.

It was followed by all the stages, all at once, and then I was fine again. I wonder if Grandpa would still adore me like he did when I was a kid, or if he, too, would have written me off like my immediate family has, after it became clear that I’m not Mormon, and I’m not going to be. I was only 26 when Grandpa died. There was hope yet.

Now I’m just a cranky, middle-aged lady that grows more convinced every day that humanity is an invasive species, and all problems can be solved by Cat.
penny

I hurt when Judy died, for my friend, mostly. They were extremely close. She was such a beautiful, warm, kind woman. Interestingly, she taught me a lot about death when I was experiencing it for the first time.

In high school, a kid in my friend group was accidentally shot by another friend. Judy flew up from Texas. It’s my first memory of her, other than as some adult somewhere in the house (before they relocated to TX), of no interest to me. She didn’t say much of anything, just sat there. I remember being so comforted by her presence. She didn’t do a thing, but she has this “roundness of energy.” You know people like that? With that sort of enveloping coziness?

Two days after the accident, I went to the home of the friend who fired the gun. Everyone was there from my group. I was in hell in that room. I hadn’t gone to the bonfire, and as a result all of my friends were trauma-bonded without me. What the hell does a 17-year-old kid say to any of this? I remember Judy laughing at one point. She’d been saying something, I don’t know what, and she laughed. I was aghast! This was sacrosanct!

And life goes on, the sacred and profane. I’ve never forgotten that moment.

I didn’t visit Judy the last two times I was in Texas. She was literally steps away in the house across the pond, but I was sick one time and the kids were sick the other. We couldn’t risk her health. I keep feeling like I should’ve gone, but but but …

I loved Judy. She made me feel a part of the family.

I didn’t realize for another decade that I’d been traumatized, too, by my friend’s tragic death. I hated myself so much back then. Now I had to look in the mirror and wonder what kind of sick person wishes she’d been at the scene of her friend’s bloody death. I just remember being jealous (jealous!), feeling terribly alone, and hating everyone.

Years later, mom and I would agree that that was one of those moments my angels stepped in on. With the fragile journey I would take with my mental health, I remain convinced that I wouldn’t have recovered from witnessing such a thing.

Then you feel guilty feeling like someone or something interceded for you, and not for those who were there, or for my friend who caused the accident! They can’t unsee it either. Nevertheless, I feel like something bigger than me protected me from what I couldn’t handle. Perhaps it’s silly, but what isn’t silly about believing in an invisible, benevolent cheerleading squad?

Back then, I posited all blame for the aftermath of Matt’s death on my best friend. That’s been a trend in our life. Eleven years later, I’d picked some fight with her and she finally got mad. (She doesn’t do that.) “What!” she yelled at last. “What did I do?!”

“I’m mad at you for Matt!” I was stunned. I had no idea. I was horrified.

I realized when my cousins sons died earlier this month that there’s some deep shit buried in me still around that death in high school. I felt all kinds of anxiety and guilt about those boys. I didn’t know them. I’d seen them once at a family party. They were toddlers, tumbling over each other like kittens, for hours. It was so cute and funny!

I didn’t want to go to the viewing. I didn’t know why. But… ask yourself a question… I realized that the last time I’d seen a young man lying in a coffin, it was Matt. There’s just nothing okay about young people dying. Thinking about it even now makes me sick.

In fact, I got sick. I thought about my cousin in a wheelchair and how frequently ill she is. I couldn’t forgive myself if she got this awful head cold and didn’t recover. So I didn’t go at all, and then I got FOMO, for a funeral! What kind of sick person wants to be a part of such a sad occasion? And there was that feeling again, the one I’d known all those years ago as a teenager who wished she’d seen her friend shot.

That’s when I realized my sorrow was for Matt and myself, and not those boys – though my heart did break for my cousin, their dad, for their siblings, and their grandma, my favorite auntie.

And now Kenaram (that’s Kendall, after Hinduism). I hadn’t seen him for a long time. I’ve been sick all winter, and seeing Kenaram requires drinking to oblivion. I wasn’t up for it. Recently, I sent him a picture of a pair of Jeffrey’s boots – my friend Jeff was his brother – telling him, “I stole these boots off a dead man, and I think they should go to you!”

I wore them to E11 the summer Jeffrey died. I didn’t find out until two weeks later, just days before our local burn, and I felt him there with me, in his shoes, the whole time. I went stark raving mad, actually, and talked to him aloud all weekend. A crazywoman talking to herself out loud in a pair of boots she stole from her roommate.

People complimented my boots that whole festival.

“Thanks! I stole ’em off a dead man!”

I feel like I’ve unzipped from my body. Last night, I went to the grocery store and crossed against a light in a break in traffic. There was an oncoming commuter train! What the hell was I thinking?! It had to stop to let me cross! Good grief. I about died from embarrassment. I about died, full stop. Wtf?

I finally started crying this morning on the bus. I got a picture in my mind of his “tunnel” – color, color, color! – and the LOVE and relief he’s feeling right now, and I started bawling. Haven’t really stopped. Oh, I skipped work yesterday, just plain ditched, no message, turned off my phone and went back to bed, fuck-it-I-don’t-care. I came in today, asking what my boss had said. He told my colleagues I’d called in sick.

That was nice.

I’m so tired. I feel like I’m not even crying about Kenaram, or Jazzy, or Melissa, who killed herself in October. I’m crying because it was St. Patrick’s this weekend, and a little dip in mood often follows binge drinking.

I’m feeling sorry for myself. Death sucks, for me. I hate myself in its context, so I hate it.

The end.

kenaram and me

Burner Day in the Park 2014, a week after our first henna ~ Ginger4ever ~ © Rudy Van Bree

 

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Jazzy Blue Brite

Twelve years ago, a beautiful light of a girl caught my eye at Burning Man. I’d seen hula hooping before, even stop-in-your-tracks hooping, but never that. Jazzy Blue Brite is the quintessential picture of my first burn, and burned in my brain.

It was 2007, and I was afraid of the desert. As far as I could see, life was not meant to survive that ancient, desiccated lake bed, so I didn’t drink anything but water. I was dead sober, and Jazzy Blue Brite was the moment that trance entered my being.

We go to Burning Man for an altered state. It doesn’t take long. It permeates that city. But that night, that party, there she was. Magic. Light. Pure beauty.
jazzy blue brite burning man 2007I was transported, without a drug or a drop in my body.

I found out my campmates had taken me to Ganesh, a camp and artcar from Salt Lake. That makes sense now, but at the time I knew nothing and no one. I had only met the guy I went with a week prior to leaving. Everyone was a stranger.

They’re my own community now, but Jazzy eked out a special place in my heart.

I had been hooping a little that summer with Jeffrey, who had beautiful flow and energy, but I wanted lessons from her and signed up for a workshop as soon as I got home. I was so intimidated and nervous.

From that 6-wk course and a dozen years of festivals and festy parties, Jazzy and I formed a bond that is so dear to me. We never hung out one-on-one, but every time we saw each other we ran to hug on each other. It was so validating, to know that she was just as excited to see me, every time, as I was to see her. She loved me.

I loved her, too.

Jazzy died on the 4th of January. She had been in an accident almost 10 years ago that took her friend. She was on the back of his moped and sustained serious injuries herself, but it was her heart that never recovered from the loss and survivor’s guilt.

Her carefree partying morphed. We were losing her. She wasn’t as visible on the circuit as she had been. Then again, neither was I. But even I had occasion to see the change, a year and a half ago. She was wasted at an afternoon hoop jam.

In fact, a friend of mine said after we left, “What’s up with Jazzy?”

“Oh, nothing,” I dismissed her. “We’ve all been there.”

Frankly, I thought she was being judgmental. Lord knows I’ve been the drunkest at the party before, and will be again. And most of us have been sloppy, even embarrassing, in the company of sober friends a time or two. Big deal.

I confess I do feel a little guilty about that day. She was so obviously going downhill, I see now. Hindsight.

Anyway, I love her, that sweet Jazzy girl. She’s a great loss, to our community and to me personally. I’m pretty philosophical about these things, but losing her hit me hard. I cried quite a bit. I began to perceive that maybe I’m not so placid about life and death as I claimed, but used that belief to distance myself from loss.

I feel the loss of Jazzy, in my whole body. I feel a little punched in the gut, and I’m quick to tears about her. I was supposed to see her that afternoon!

She’d been in the hospital for weeks, with organ failure. First, doctors told her family not to expect her to wake up from a medically-induced coma, but she did! Her organs recovered, except for her liver, and she was on the list for transplant.

She had a long road ahead, facing mental health issues and the great heartaches she had drowned, and learning to live sober. Transplant, too, is never guaranteed. Even with the best immediate outcome, her body could reject it anytime.

As a community, we settled into a schedule of taking afternoon shifts, so her sisters could go home to their families. A friend and I were slated for 2pm, and then we got the announcement. She passed peacefully in the morning, surrounded by family.

I had a strange sensation of grasping for her, just missing her, but feeling simultaneously that I was with her. In that hovering between – especially right when they leave, I imagine – our friends and family must see our closeness to them in thought, love, and intention.

It was quite beautiful, honestly, but very discombobulating. Those of us who were on the roster for the day went to lunch (for hours) instead. I connected with old friends and strangers alike. It was truly one of my happiest days. Everything you can imagine about such a day: Laughing, hugging, sharing stories, holding hands, holding each other.

We’re having a big Celebration of Life on the 27th at Utah Arts Alliance, and the Hoopologists are putting together some choreography in memoriam. They want to include as many as would like to participate. For her, I really really do.

I’m terrified. I haven’t hooped at all since the last time I saw her, and hadn’t much in the years prior. I was never that good at my best. Another situation in life that I plateaued at a few fun tricks, but didn’t want to work for it afterwards. Taurus laziness, if-it-doesn’t-come-easily, familiar pattern…

But I’m doing it. I’m going to rehearsals with girls who intimidate me and I’m performing my part in the background. Think 1980s low-mid-high level aerobics, haha!

Jazzy inspired me 12 years ago and she’s doing it again.

Get up, Christie.

Live fully. Work through the hard parts and DANCE when you get past them!

****

Jazzy’s family is left with large medical expenses. If you’re in a position to donate and feel moved to do so, please follow the link to GoFundMe. Thank you!

Jazzy Blue Brite’s Medical Fund

jazzy blue brite

exactly who and how she is ❤

****

1.15.19 (payday 😉 ) ~ I don’t have much, but I figured 10 bucks every 2 weeks for a couple of months will add up, and it makes me feel great. I loved this girl.

Imagine my delight when I clicked on the donation page and realized that I needed only to up my bi-weekly contribution by $2 to get the grand total to date to my favorite number: 222, plus one for good measure.

2222 We love Jazzy Blue! 🙂 ❤
2222 i love jazzy blue

Conversation with Cricket

I had another session with Danielle Tremblay of Insight With Animals mainly to connect with Cricket. I checked in with Penny, too, just to make sure she likes the new apartment and to see if there’s anything more I can do for her right now.

Penny likes the new space, says it’s light and bright, and warm, safe, and comfortable. She feels like I’m not finished unpacking. In fact I am, but she complained that “all of the objects aren’t out for me to look at.” I think because we’ve had roommates for so many years now she’s used to seeing the bookshelf in my bedroom, where most of the chotchkies sit. It’s in the dining area now, the least used room in the house because I’m a bachelor and I eat dinner on the couch watching TV. They’re spread out on the mantel, as well, and throughout the shelving in the main entryway, and all over, really.

Actually, I don’t know what Penny’s talking about. I’ve downsized quite a bit, but this place is so small I feel overwhelmed at times by “visual noise,” still. My knick knacks, however, are sentimental and vital. In the last couple of moves, I’ve been strict and severe. Keep only what you cannot part with. What I kept I love and I have to see it. It’s out, on display, fussed with, futzed with, admired, enjoyed. Stuff!

Perhaps, like me, Penny is blinded by eye clutter. There isn’t a designated “place” for objet d’art, per se. It’s everywhere, scattered throughout. Maybe she’s just adjusting to the new space. It’s different from anything we’ve had. It’s compact, no question, but it’s beautiful! By far, my favorite home to date. In all my life, this is my favorite cozy abode to come back to. It’s me. It’s mine. It’s dripping with pretty, albeit a little too much of it.

It always amazes and amuses me when Danielle can tell me what my homes look like from what my cats show her. Penny likes one room in particular with a “wall of windows,” she said. “Wow! A wall of windows!” She also told Danielle that the ceilings are “very tall.” Well, yes, they are.

When we lived at Jax’s house, I asked Cricket how she liked it, and she did. She made sure to tell Danielle of another apartment she expressly did not like, showing her a narrow, dark space. “It’s true!’ I said. “I called it The Rail Car, because it was long and narrow, and it had such bad natural light that all of my plants died but one.”

Oh, Cricket.

First, she showed Danielle the image of her wrapped around me like a hug, while seated on a desk or a table. That’s exactly how we were! The exam table comes down at the vet, and I sat on a bench just below it. We were wrapped around each other, and I whispered my love to her while she purred to her last beautiful breath.

Next, Cricket gave a big sigh and told Danielle, “Mom has to know that I am so relieved.”

I knew she was. That last night was so hard. I told her a couple of times, “Don’t worry, honey. We’ll see the vet tomorrow, and you can go.”

She said, “Thank you.” She was so tired, and also, curiously, couldn’t seem to get out of her body herself, so she needed that support. “Thank you for understanding.”

Then I was scared that maybe I’d waited too long, that I shouldn’t even have made her suffer the ups and downs of never quite finding our stable dose, but for those last several weeks. Of course, she had told Danielle back then that she was content to stay in body while we sorted it out, even though she felt lousy.

Danielle reassured me that I hadn’t waited too long. “I’m glad that you tried,” Cricket said. “It would have been a bit of a shock to go sooner.”

“She loved being with you in the physical, and she continues to love being with you now,”  Danielle told me, adding that she sits on the bed near my head.

That’s where she slept.

Penny reported that she’s on the ottoman sometimes, too, next to the bed.

That’s how she got in bed, and she sat there often. It was hers.

Cricket told me that Penny needs extra TLC, even though she’s acting normal. She’s still adjusting and needs extra attention. Danielle reported that Penny didn’t go through a period of mourning. She understood that Cricket was sick, and she intuited and understood everything that was going on.

“This is what happens,” Penny said. She did agree, though, that quiet time is “extra quiet” without Cricket’s physical presence.

I asked Danielle if she could tell me about the days immediately following Cricket’s passing, and you’ll never guess. She tapped into that dream! I woke up with a feeling of her on my chest – and with a cat that girthy, it was unmistakably Cricket – and remembered her biting me in my dream. Cricket told Danielle that the bite was so I would know it was real, and that’s exactly what made it real for me! It was so physical and tangible, I couldn’t dismiss it as my imagination.

Danielle complimented Cricket on how well she got my attention. 🙂

I asked about the song, and Cricket’s reply was interesting. She didn’t send it. It was from the general universe. Of course it was! I believe in a random and loving Universe, and I see signs and magic every day. Of course someone had my back on such a day, losing my big fat belly cat.

I still marvel at the lyrics of that song, the timing of it starting – first strum of the first note – just as I turned the engine, and especially that it was a new to me. Having never known the words, I heard Cricket’s voice.

It felt as though she was speaking directly to me. I could feel her right next to me, separated by a millisecond. I could see what she must be newly experiencing, “standing at the center of time as it uncurls.”

It will forever remain one of the most miraculous things I’ve experienced.

Danielle validated Cricket amplifying the volume of crickets I heard in the evenings after she passed. She told Danielle, “I chirp,” and showed an image of a megaphone. It’s true! The crickets were louder in the days following her passing. I haven’t been in my home long enough to grow numb to the sounds of it, but already that chorus is quieter than those first astounding nights. It was deafening!

Danielle was quite amazed herself by the moments Cricket and I were describing, and Cricket said to her, “Well, it’s all real, Danielle!”

“I don’t doubt that it’s real,” she chuckled.

Cricket told her she knows that most people don’t often believe or understand.

Cricket also told Danielle that sometimes humans who are in distress at the passing of another “almost un-gel” from their bodies. According to Cricket, that’s why Penny sat on me like she did those first three mornings. If I hadn’t had to get up, she’d have stayed there all day. Normally, she’d wake me and then head straight for her food after a cuddle and a kiss or two. I love her for holding me.

It’s so Penny to do so. In our first meeting with Danielle, Penny said it was her job to care for the grounds, to sweep energy. She did “rounds” several times a day, walking through every room but one in Jax’s house. (That was a curious detail to get right.)

I’ve always called her The Queen. I teased her that it’s all hers, everything under the sun. In fact, it’s hers because it’s her job. She’s proud of her work and takes it seriously.

I’m glad it’s her job to take care of me. Oh, Penny. You started it all, this feline magic.

Danielle was so supportive and validating. She said that the three of us are co-creating all of this together, and we have a beautiful connection that she appreciated witnessing.

I’m so grateful for her. It was everything I wanted and more.

Cricket’s paw print arrived just days before the reading, perfectly cricky, just like her.

Cricket's paw print

At first glance, I didn’t like it. You can tell she’s not pushing back and her claws are wonky. It quickly grew on me. It suits her. She was always just a little “off.” She reminds me of my disheveled high school English teacher, whose slip was always showing. Oh, my sweet Cricket.

Nightsong

It’s been a week without my little Cricket. While she was alive, I’d kiss and sweet-talk her during the night – when I could hear the crickets singing – and tell her how she got her name. I met her at 12-hours old, writhing and squeaking with her litter of mostly black sisters (and one gray tabby 😉 ).

I was smitten instantly. There’s something so enchanting about a black cat!

There were two, The Twins, we called them. Then there was Boots, and she was hard to pass up. Pretty little tuxy with 3 white boots and one sloppy stocking falling down her ankle. One day she was standing in the kitchen in the sunlight and her little whiskers were white, glowing in the hot sun! I was close to choosing her that day.

But I knew I wanted my little black kitty cat, and I knew her name was Cricket. I don’t know why, but they just looked and sounded like little bugs writhing in the night when I first saw them, and my kitty’s name was Cricket.

For several weeks, I went to my friend’s house and played with them. One day, one twin jumped up on the bed. I asked her, “Are you Cricket?” and held her to my face. She meowed in reply, the highest, silliest little mew you ever heard!

Right after her, the other twin followed. “Or are you Cricket?” I picked her up.

When she answered, my heart sang! “Rawwwr.”

It couldn’t even be called a meow! It was just a squeak, higher than her sister’s or any kitten call I’d heard before. In my mind, I could see the fine hairs of a cricket’s wings rubbing together to make that scratchy, chirping melody.

We locked eyes, and it was her! She was my Cricket!

I ran to my friend. “I can tell them apart! This is Cricket! This is my Cricket!”

The next week, I went over and my friend asked, “Which one is Cricket again?”

I picked them each up, made eye-contact, and answered. “Her.”

“Good.” He and his girlfriend smiled conspiratorially.

“Why?” I asked.

The girlfriend picked Cricket up and showed me a patch of tiny white hairs that had popped up on her belly that week. Not a white spot, just 3-5 hairs. They considered that a flaw. She wasn’t pure black.

She was perfect!

Even after I claimed her, even after I “met” her, eye to eye, I tried to talk myself out of taking her home. My boyfriend teased me daily. “Just because you’ve gone koo koo kitty crazy doesn’t mean you need two.”

“You’re right. Of course, you’re right. I don’t need two cats! Penny’s happy and so am I.” But my family was incomplete without my baby Cricket.

We were a fine trio.

****

Penny searched for her all day Monday. She looked to me with searching eyes, round like saucers, needing an answer, meowing, meowing, searching, meowing.

“I know, honey. Your sissy’s crossed the bridge. She’s all better now, but we don’t get to see her anymore. You don’t have to worry anymore.”

And she sure was sweet. Penny was always good at affection, but oh, she was gooey Monday night. And every morning we awoke in the old place, she was on me. That’s normal, except that it used to be that I’d wake and pet and kiss her a bit, and she’d jump off. Time for food, and getting my day started. Now, she’d stay on me all day if I let her.

****

This was a busy, wonderful week. I was glad not to put Crick through the stress of moving. In my mind, it was a short one-mile car ride to the new place. Cats hate cars. I thought that would be the only challenge for them. I forgot that before we move, my stuff had to move! It was a lot of banging, cleaning, flux, fear, noise. It was stressful on my Penny. Cricket was too sick for that.

I feel peace in my decision. I’m happy I let her go as soon as she began to suffer.

She was really sick for 4 days, and then she was free.

I miss my kitty.

During those 4 days of illness, I asked her to come to me in the nightsong of crickets. She does! She really does!

You know how you get used to the sounds of your own house and neighborhood, and stop hearing them? Well, that first night without her, last Monday, for some ungodly reason I was cold!

It’s a hundred degrees in July, and 75 at night! I never turn my fan off. It’s attached to my headboard and blows on me in my almost-nothing tank top and no covers, and still I sweat through the night. For heaven’s sake, I was cold!

I put on proper jammies, pulled the covers over me, and still I was cold. At last, I turned off the fan and heard… crickets!

“Hi, fat kitty!”

The next day was Pie ‘n’ Beer Day. (Pioneer Day, if you’re a good Mormon; The rest of us get drunk.) I went to a BBQ at the neighbors across the street of my new place. In his big backyard, with old, established trees and thicket, the crickets were deafening!

The next day, I was bringing boxes over to the new place. Molly, my landlord and friend since 2009, was having dinner and drinks out back with the neighbor, who had brought leftovers. Molly had Pandora pumping through the outdoor speakers. I went inside to fill a plate and heard a cricket! A single, solitary cricket so loud it had to be inside!

“Is there a cricket in here?!” I exclaimed to myself. “Oh my god, Christie, enough!”

I went outside and said nothing of it. I’m losing my mind!

And there it was again and again and again, blasting through the speaker!

“What the hell is that?!” I demanded at last. “I’m haunted! I’m hearing crickets!”

“That’s my phone,” Molly answered. “Chris keeps texting tonight.”

How is it that I’ve never heard Molly’s phone before, and she had it connected to the speaker, of all things! Night after night after night, my sweet Cricket comes to me in a new way. “Mom, I’m here. You asked me to come, and I did.”

I dreamed of her Wednesday! She was only 2 days gone. It was a very physical dream, with weight and body. I could feel her. She bit me, hard. She liked to nibble my arm while I petted her, like she was grooming me for little vermin or something. It never hurt, of course, her little love nips. That’s what she did in this dream, only hard.

It didn’t hurt at all or break the skin, but it was a fantastic, dream-variety bite that I could FEEL. She’s with me. I knew that’s what she wanted me to know from that dream.

And then I was finished moving, sitting alone on my beautiful back patio, illuminated in the dark, listening to the nightsong of my new home. It’s so loud and melodious, the music of crickets here. It’s a beautiful place to sit and reflect on our lives together, to heal from the loss of her physical companionship, and celebrate our spiritual relationship.

She’s with me forever, I can trust that! I guess there was a part of me that feared I wouldn’t feel her or know if I felt her, or give myself permission to feel her.

I couldn’t hide from her if I wanted to!

“Sing our song at night, honey. Make me hear you.”

Boy, does she!

“Thank you, sweet girl. You always were a very good kitty.”

I miss my Cricket.

cricket's memorial

Cricket’s Memorial on the mantel of the fireplace of my new home. She’ll be with me by the fire, after all. Sept. 11, 2004 ~ July 23, 2018

From old, established trees and thicket
Sings the song of my sweet Cricket 

That couplet happened quite accidentally in the prose above. 🙂

Oh, my Cricky. How I love you.

patio

Welcome to Christie’s Corner! (Finally, a place to display my Queen of Hearts caricature from the set of Guys & Dolls, haha!)

Penny explores the new house, luxuriates all over. She’s out-of-place yet, but I think it was wise, quite by accident, to move so quickly after Cricket’s passing. There’s no reason to search for her in our new home. She was never here to be missed.

She is talking more, it seems. Penny was always vocal, but she has a lot to say right now. Out of place? Is she asking about her sissy?

“It’s just the two of us, honey. You don’t even remember when it was the two of us.”

Penny started limping a couple of months ago. It comes and goes, and she’s still jumping to and from tall perches. I hoped it was just an ache. We’ve earned a rheumatism now and then. 2 weeks ago, it became worrisome to watch.

I was prepared for Cricket to go. I didn’t expect to her to live to old age. Her whole life, she was sick with random, bizarro this-n-that. Penny, I never thought as mortal!

I have a sense of panic in the pit of my stomach. I’m trying to release it. It’s okay to be scared. With Cricket’s traumatic illness and passing, of course I’m raw and frightened.

But I never prepared myself for Penny’s mortality. It never even crossed my mind. I’m not ready to face the inevitable: Penny’s advanced elderly.

She sees the doc on Thursday.

“You’re my old kitty now, honey. My Pretty Penny. We’re old women, you and me.”

Little Black Magicat

Cricket’s at peace, and so am I.

Yesterday, Cricket told me she doesn’t need to come with us to the new house.

I regret not realizing my dream of holding her by the fire. I imagine she’ll be there with me sometimes, but there’s nothing like the furry, warm body of a big fat belly cat.

I walked to my car in a daze with her empty carrier. I turned the engine to hear John Florence announce the time. (He’s the only host on KRCL to do that.) 9:11, her birthday.

I got on the freeway, directly behind a license plate beginning with 999 – end of a cycle – as the song that started when I turned the key began its opening lyric.

Sliding on the shimmering surface between two worlds
Standing at the center of time as it uncurls
Cutting through the veil of illusion
Moving beyond past conclusions
Rendering all doubt and confusion clear

If I could be anywhere
If I could be anywhere
If I could be anywhere right now
I would want to be here

– Jackson Browne

cricket's pillow

She had a beautiful, peaceful passing on her pillow in my arms. She purred the whole time. I buried my face in her neck and told her how much I love her. “You’re a good kitty.”

saying goodbye

Sept. 11, 2004 ~ July 23, 2018

Four For Four

I had really hoped – and moderately anticipated – that, knowing I’m leaving Sunday, they’d leave me alone-ish this weekend. Instead, Jax’s behavior is second in brutality only to the 1st weekend, when this long assault began. He’s relentless.

This morning, I had a friend coming over to pick up and store some large items I hope to sell, or move to a roomier place in the future. Jax decided I had done property damage to a cheap door with an even cheaper coat of paint. I damaged a chair, too, which belongs to him, he yelled, and I’m “not to remove any property from the premises.”

“You wanted to donate that chair when I moved in, and I gave you $20 for it.”

I don’t have a receipt. It never happened. Fine, keep your chair. Fewer reminders.

But he wasn’t done screaming. I should have just paid him when he offered a “deal” on future utility bills, because now the heat is going to be ridiculous. “You leave it running at [blanking] 80 degrees when you’re not even home!”

“I had the heat below 70 all night and turned it to 76,” I answered calmly, “so it would stay on during my shower and get a jump on the house temp.”

He knows how low I run it overnight, even in winter. I had gone for 5 minutes to get coffee for my friend and me, and forgotten to turn it down. He was home when I got back, and he’d found something “real” to fault.

I took the bait. I lost it. I told him to go ahead and sue me for the utilities. I’d counter-sue for half my medical costs when I was sick, and full civil punitive for pain and suffering. I screamed at him all over again for intentionally inflicting mental duress. I don’t know that I’ve ever screamed like that. I wish I hadn’t, but I just lost it!

LEAVE ME ALONE.

He knew how sick I was. The look in his eyes at every confrontation over the last 4 weekends haunts me. He loves it!

The thing is, he knew I was suicidal, wrestled a pill bottle out of my hands this spring. It’s much worse, in my heart, than kicking a woman when she’s down. It’s getting her down, and then dealing the death blow while she’s down there. That’s how this has felt to me. And he just keeps doing it, weekend after weekend.

He knew his behavior could kill me. He could see, that first attack, that I was more frantic and terrified than I’d ever been before, even more than when I started swallowing a handful of pills that day in April and went to the hospital.

And he keeps at it. Every weekend. Cursing, mocking, utter hatred. Delight.

He loves it! His face, the sadistic delight. I can’t unsee it. And I just lost it.

I screamed today. I don’t remember yelling like that, ever. Even in my violent childhood.

He laughed and laughed. I’ve been in my room bawling. I haven’t eaten all day.

I tried so hard to stay above this. I cannot believe what a sick, cruel, petty man he is.

Jax spent the rest of a beautiful late season day to… stick around and keep me stuck in my room? Every time I walk out, he starts again. Last year, this was his busiest time.

I threw some things in my car and drove to work to donate them, just to get out of the house. I thought about grabbing fast food, but it’s making me sick again. I was excited on my day off to make a yummy, healthy dish – and hoping he’d have gone home to his loving family by the time I returned. Instead, she had joined him here. With the kid.

I’m starving, and terrified that they’re going to spend the night tonight AND tomorrow, just to stick it to me as hard as they can before I go.

I’ll never be the same. I know I’ll be alright. The biggest improvement will come on Sunday, just getting away from the fear of “What/When/How bad/How long…?” The rest will be continued healing, but I’ll never be the same. I’m changed.

Something broke this time, deep inside. I’m not the same.

I never thought I could feel regret like this again. After each relationship – good or bad – I’ve been able to appreciate and enjoy them, able to remember the love or the learning. Except one, who nearly killed me when I was 22. 22 years later, I’m leaving Jax, who has proven much worse than the man half my life ago. 2 men. At 22, and 22 years later.

When I realized it, I cried and cried. I begged the angels, “Please don’t take my beloved 222! Please, I can’t! Don’t poison my 222. I love my 222! I need my 222.”

Near-suicide after both. The scary difference is that suicide is sad when a person is young. She had so much promise, potential, intelligence, beauty, talent. If only she’d held on to learn that it gets better. When a middle-aged woman dies of mental illness, hey, I tried. I found out. I have an illness that kills people.

Why is it okay when a person dies of diabetes or cancer, but not mental illness? We all get or have something. With my disease, I might decide someday when I’m done, and it’s still just an illness. We all die.

Not today, but I don’t have delusions about the danger. Neither do I believe anymore that my condition improves over time. I’m worse now than I was 22 years ago, with no hope, fewer options, less money, faded beauty, and now serious, chronic physical pain.

I joke that I’m far too spiteful to kill myself. “I’ll die before suicide kills me!”

It’s probably still true. I am a Taurus, and there simply isn’t stubbornness like that in another sign. “I’ll be damned if…” is a very Taurean motivation. Little can threaten my determination to get through it, by god, but I don’t know the future. I don’t want to kill myself. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want this pain.

It took time but I was able, at last, to put my spin on that devastating perversion of my beloved 222. Now, I see it a wake up call to appreciate my vulnerability, and understand that I must always take care. It’s not enough to coast along in moderate health, or delude myself that I’m fine because “I’m not a tortured kid anymore.”

I have an illness that requires maintenance and vigilance, all my life. Okay is no longer good enough. The Universal Smackdown came to tell me: The time is now to choose optimum, and do the work to achieve it.

First, I have to get out of here.

I really believe the angels are telling me that it’s now or never. For years, I’ve been feeling the shift, the urgency of the work. DO IT, CHRISTIE. That’s what I started this blog for. What I’ve done instead is catalog years of me repeating the dynamic of my childhood in nearly every relationship and experience I have. It isn’t up to me what happened in my youth. It’s only up to me what happens now.

I must figure out how to flip that switch, and stop attracting and creating such ugliness.

I’m in so much pain.

I just can’t believe what Jax can do and say to a woman whose health is so precarious, when he shares 50/50 responsibility for risking that health, and 100% responsibility for abandoning her when she got sick.

Worse, he brutalized me before my meds could take full effect, knowing exactly where I was on that timeline. We were still “friends.” I thought he cared about my recovery. He helped me fall; It followed logic and love to lean on him.

Jax has known all along that his behavior had more power to do damage, precisely because of where I am mentally and emotionally. Further, he knows the layers of family trauma that coat every nerve he’s pounced on.

He knows what he’s doing. My meds might have kicked in by now, if not for constant abuse. He knows I’ve been having panic attacks, and crying for months. He enjoys it.

I just don’t understand.

Four For Four … 444 … 44  … Sturdy and built-to-last, solid, strong … 2×22 … 2222222222222222 … The first angelic hello I heard. “We’ve got you.”

Oh fucking kay.

Fun With Numbers

Today, my odometer passed 144,444 when the trip meter read 22.22.

Last week, I saw license plates with double ones, twos, threes, fours, fives, sixes, and sevens. “Alright, angels,” I issued the challenge. “If you show me eights and nines, I’ll be impressed.” I found eights, nines, and zeros! (I watch the road, too.)

On Sunday, I saw a plate that said Y73 9LV, which I took to mean 1973 9 lives. I saw a reminder to hang on. I don’t really want to anymore, but that’s what I read. Maybe it meant, “You’re almost done.” I like that better.

I’ve been crying since Friday. I finally told my father what my sister’s husband did to me 5 1/2 years ago. Naturally, I thought he’d be disappointed in his son-in-law and feel for me, but he dismissed the whole thing as my “perspective,” which clearly deserves no credence or compassion. I told him to ask my brother, who overheard it (and didn’t even come out of the room). (There was time.) I told him to ask my sister, who held her husband off of me, though she still denies it came to that.

My dad told me that if someone crossed the line in his house, he’d make sure they left, too. “You’d tell them to leave,” I said. “You’d be firm. You might even be angry, but you wouldn’t scream and curse at them. If they refused to leave or became combative, you’d remain calm and involve the police. They’d understand you were serious about protecting your home.”

“That’s what I would do,” he agreed.

“You would never physically threaten, menace, and terrorize a woman, run at her from upstairs, with your chest puffed out, purple-faced, fists clenched, veins popping, in your holy garments!”

“No,” he conceded, “I wouldn’t.”

He wouldn’t, but he clearly doesn’t believe me that Dan did. That’s not the most hurtful thing right now. Dad’s unconscious bias favors Dan’s account, that I was out of line in some way. I wasn’t. I was talking to my sister. Talking. Is my dad sexist or is it just me he hates? It could be both. Like wicked Biblical Esau (also a redhead), I sold my birthright when I left the Church. I might have walked into the angel/whore dichotomy years ago that every wicked woman confronts. Did I disqualify myself from consideration – ever? – when my father could no longer hope that “Christie would come around”?

It’s true that Melanie and I were having a disagreement, but our voices never raised. I believe we would quickly have come to understand each other, if her husband hadn’t attacked me. I’m certain that my nieces, who witnessed the whole thing, didn’t notice the conversation between their mom and their favorite auntie at all. they were chattering and giggling in their sleeping bags. It wasn’t extraordinary.

He crossed the line! Even if Mel and I had been fighting, nothing can justify what Dan did. It was disgusting. It was violence intended to make me very aware of my vulnerability. I was meant to be terrified. And he didn’t tell me to leave the house. He just screamed, “Shut up, you bitch!” over and over and over. (I left.)

I told my dad that all these years I’ve dreamed that if he knew, he’d tell my sister’s husband he didn’t appreciate how he treated his daughter.

He defended him.

“Maybe you don’t consider me your daughter anymore.” He didn’t say otherwise. I really thought he’d find Dan’s behavior inappropriate. I would, even if I hated the person he did it to. It was wrong.

I don’t think I appreciated what that daddy rescue fantasy meant to me. It was ridiculous. My mother beat me for 19 years. He was there for 9 of them, and did nothing. When I finally punched her back… Well, she had me on the ground again, kicking the shit out of me. I finally stood up. Dad’s the one who kicked me out, and that was that. No one’s ever apologized.

(Incidentally, she had ripped my pajama top off. My father saw my naked breasts. In fact, he kicked me out while I standing there topless, still catching my breath.)

What should I have expected from the man who, when I confessed on my 17th birthday  that I wanted to kill myself, explained paternal responsibility to me?

My father said that when he married my mother, he had made a commitment to God that he would protect and provide for our family.

“I’m the head of this family,” he explained. My heart was pounding so hard I could hear it. I thought he was about to say, “And without you, we wouldn’t be this family.” I thought he was going to tell me I mattered.

Here it was! He was going to tell me he loved me. I was special to him. To someone.

“Until you’re 18,” he continued. “I’m responsible for what happens to you.”

“Kill yourself next year,” is what I heard.

He was afraid of getting in trouble with God! He didn’t care about me at all. He should have wrapped me in his arms. He should have cared that I was in pain.

He thought of himself. I was nothing to him. I’m nothing.

Not one person in my family has apologized for what Dan did to me. Not to take responsibility; Only he can do that and he’s not sorry. But I want someone to see me in here, to see that I’m hurting, that 5 1/2 years later this hasn’t gone away for me. Not one person has hugged me, held me while I cried, or told me they were sorry to see me in pain. Not one person has said, “I’m sorry that happened to you.” No one cares.

I should have protected the dream, I think, and never asked them to.

I was stunned to learn how truly unloved I am. I really didn’t understand how complete their disregard was. As far they’re concerned, I don’t deserve their concern. I’ve chosen a life of sin; I don’t matter. They absolutely do not care.

My heart is breaking.

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt loved. I don’t know that I could at this point.

I didn’t expect to be so upset. I just didn’t get it. I was living in a fantasy world. Well, yeah. The angels speak to me through numbers, but I believed this one. I needed it.

I don’t think they’re awful. I know they mean well. That’s different from saying they did their best. They didn’t, but it’s still true that they’re decent folk. They mean to do good, but they’re profoundly misguided. They’re sick. I mean, I’m sick. There’s a reason.

It’s best to divorce them for good. I’ve tried everything. I can’t keep doing this to myself. They literally make me sick. I need to recover at last and let these wounds become well-healed scars. I know that others have survived worse things. Some have gone on to live fulfilling, joyful lives, so certainly I can at least get by without this searing pain.

I have 9 lives. I have to be close to the end of those. Surely, I’ve saved the best for last.
chosen family

Oh God, this just keeps getting worse. I just asked my brother Aaron why he never stepped up for me, and he said I’ve rewritten history. He said he doesn’t remember Dan ever saying, “Fuck you, you bitch.” Neither do I. I’ve never said that.

Aaron just told me basically what my dad believes. So they’ve talked about this before. HE’S REWRITTEN HISTORY, TO DEFEND DAN! He told me he doesn’t remember any cursing or profanity, and that Dan never raised his voice!

He did! He screamed, “Shut up, you bitch!” over and over and over. I know, because I was screaming back the whole time, “All I’ve ever said to you is thank you! Thank you for being a good provider! Thank you for being a good father,” which is easier than the truth, that my nieces know their daddy loves them, so long as they don’t deviate from his very narrow command on what they must be and act like. Over and over and over and over, until my sister screamed his name and I ran upstairs. (Melanie almost never yells, and she was pushing her whole body weight into her husband to counter-balance the rage of his violent lunge at me.)

A couple of times he said, “Don’t you ever stop talking!?” Hahahahahaa! and “You ARE a bitch!”  (That’s my favorite. He actually thinks I didn’t know his opinion of me. God, he’s stupid. All strong women are called bitch.)

“Shut up, you BITCH!” (I was playing nice for 20 years! I coulda made him miserable! “You call me bitch? Watch out! You’ve never met my bitch!”)

I didn’t say that. I just said thank you. Over and over and over until Mel yelled his name and I ran upstairs. IT HAPPENED.

I can’t believe this. I can hardly breathe. I was counting on Aaron. At this point, I don’t think he’s lying, but he is wrong. He was my only witness. I thought he’d step up for me, but he forgot the truth and sold himself and the whole damn klan a lie. He lied! To protect him! I’m losing it! They care so little they’ve rewritten a history that completely and utterly vilifies me. It nullifies me! It erases me.

Aaron, the one ally I thought I had left, has rewritten a history that protects that man.

That’s it. That’s all I can handle. That’s it. I’ve found it. I cannot handle any more than this. It happened. I’ll tell you what it is: It happened to me. That’s why it doesn’t matter.

And I’ll tell you who remembers: Dan. He knows what he did.

I’m not kidding, I can hardly breathe. Aaron was the one person I thought had my back. He was the one person I trusted. And he’s been telling them the whole time it never happened! Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.

I’m such an ass. Of course they’ve discussed this before. That’s what they do. They get together and judge me. Then they find ways to make it all my fault, so they never have to take responsibility for the things they do to me. Then they tell themselves they’re good people, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Oh my god, I’m so stupid. I don’t want to wait another 5-10 years for my cats to die. I want to kill myself today. Oh my god.

(Aaron took me to the bus station the next morning. “I don’t want to put words in your mouth,” I said to him, “but I wouldn’t mind if you told Dan you didn’t appreciate how he treated your sister.”

He said nothing. Now I know why. It happened to me, so it didn’t matter. And now he’s rewritten history. Worse, he’s forgotten. Dan first screamed, “Shut up, you bitch,” from the top of the stairs. He was right next to the room Aaron occupied with his brand new bride. What followed is not just my perspective. It happened. My brother heard it. Dan yelled again and again, “Shut up, you bitch!” until I ran upstairs and hid, crying, not sleeping until I could get online in the morning and find a bus. It happened. And, like them, Aaron doesn’t care. It happened to me, so he said nothing. He did nothing. He lies like all of them. And he believes it. They all do! I don’t matter. Period.)

I’d love to know what Ali thinks. I’m afraid to assume – now that I have a picture of how the incident has shifted, at least in Aaron’s view, and what he’s shared with our father – that she, too, has forgotten the seething, violent rage, the hatred of women-who-don’t-obey-men that Dan betrayed that night.

I can’t imagine it, though! She’s such a strong, self-assured girl. I just can’t fathom it. However, I also can’t imagine Aaron and Ali not discussing it thoroughly. They’re such a strong couple, with strong opinions, each, and respect and love for one another. I have to believe that she shares his memory of the event?

I’ll tell you, the only eye-witnesses other than my sister were my nieces.

My sister denied the whole incident completely, days after it happened, only to admit it when faced with evidence. Then she excused him, because I “didn’t act afraid.” (I was perfectly groomed after a life of violence to never show fear, duh. I’d die before giving him that. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t terrified. I was. It doesn’t mean he didn’t do it, simply because he failed to frighten me, or seemed to.)

My nieces were very young, but I can’t imagine they don’t remember the night Daddy’s thinly-veiled hatred for Aunt Christie finally boiled over into dangerous, violent rage. The night Mom yelled at Dad for the first time ever, probably the last. Melanie’s gentle, but she was scared, too. I can’t imagine the Christmas that Daddy called Fun Aunt Christie a bitch, over and over and over, at top volume, isn’t seared on their brains.

They don’t have challenging personalities and they’re all decidedly, devotedly Mormon. And they love him. He’s Daddy, their hero, as well he should be. I want that for them. That’s why I thanked him that night. I’d been thanking him, aloud, for years.

It’s true I’ve never liked him, or what he’s done to my family. He’s a shameless racist, homophobe, misogynist bigot. We didn’t spend every meal denigrating Others and explaining and rehearsing our hatred of difference until Dan joined our family. I’m endlessly disappointed my dad didn’t notice the shift in conversation, but instead joined and emboldened it.

Years ago, I consciously chose to focus on the positive. My sister was happy. Dan had succeeded in ways my biological father hadn’t. And he had a talent with animals, which says a lot about a person. So I started pointing out his strengths and successes. I even gave him a church magazine I found about Daddy/Daughter dates as the oldest, Rachael, was entering her teens. He didn’t know what to do with kindness from me, so after a brief experiment to reach out, I decided to live side-by-side in the same family, with no personal involvement together. I would always speak up against prejudice. It was never a secret where I stood or when I disagreed. It’s wrong not to speak out against wrong. And my nieces needed to understand that they were never alone, no matter who they were or would become.

There’s the slimmest chance Rachael would remember accurately. She’s the oldest, and she’s an artist. She’s had the most challenging relationship with her father, but that’s still cohesive compared to anything I’ve ever known of relationships.

Finally, I could never ask one of those horrified innocents to recall or report on what they witnessed. But having lost my one ally, I’m sorta dying here. My mind clamors for anyone else that was there, anyone to remember me. Anyone to see. Anyone to care.

They don’t. It happened to me. Disobedient women deserve it.

I’m a bitch. I had it coming.