One passed in November.

Two in January.

One in…. February, was it?

And now July.

Another piece of who made me myself is gone.

With what do I fill these gaping holes? How do I know that I’m still me?


I just needed something to go right for me. Just one thing. Everything is weighing heavy right now.

I lost an aunt in November to COVID.

I lost another aunt about 2 weeks ago to a traumatic brain injury and its aftermath.

And now I’ve lost an uncle to complications with cancer.

I knew my trusty TI-85 calculator that I’ve had since high school had some screen issues last time I tried to turn it on. Like my dad, I tend to place things “I’ll fix eventually” off to the side until I get a free moment. As I googled the steps to fix this, one website cautioned, “unless this calculator is sentimental, buy a new one.” After following the steps on another site (well sort of; I really couldn’t find anything to “lift up” to press back down, but I just pressed all the circuits “back” down as well as I could), I put it back together san screws in order to power it up and see if I accomplished anything.

Reaching for a new set of batteries, I realized, “I just need to have some kind of control over my life right now.”

I don’t want to replace anything. I’ve lost too many people and replacing them isn’t happening.

I just want something to stay. I want to fix it, to make it right, to make it capable of being in my life again and knowing that it will be there for me when I need it.

Because so many people can’t be there for me right now because they are gone.

I’m glad for my mom that she’s reuniting with people she’s likely been missing on the other side of things, but I’m so lonely here as one by one they leave me.

Yes, my calculator works. I just needed something to go right. Something I could control as life spirals in ways I can’t adjust.


(Note: You’ll notice the dates are off on this blog post. It was originally written in June 2016, excluding the paragraph noted below.)

Growing up in a house where I was the youngest of five, it was rarely quiet. Not only did we begin with seven people, there were boyfriends, and friend-friends, and sleepovers, and a cat, not to mention at least 3 TVs, a half-dozen radios, and a typewriter. Something was always making noise.

As family members either died (in the case of my dad) or age out of the family digs (like everyone else), the noise stayed with Mom and me. We had news radio on in the kitchen while mom did dishes, some game show or some crime magazine show on in the living room, while Mom’s TV still blared some Hallmark movie or more news in her room. Even at night, when we were setting down to sleep, the Golden Girls laugh track oozed through the wall diving our bedrooms while I clicked on the 2009 Star Trek movie to lull me into my time warp to morning. Again.

Even away from the house, music or videos prevailed. When unpacking cartons of CDs at work, I had an MP3 player going to keep my focused. On the sales floor, I picked what tunes to crank out (and often pushed the line as far as I could with the boss). My employees constantly complained about the menu vamp for whatever children’s DVD was on in the kids section. (I’d tell them, “Dude. Press play. Problem solved.”)

There was at least one department store that I would shop in that drove me nuts. I hated it. No overhead music whatsoever. By the time I walked to the seasonal section in the far reaches of the store, the the unbearably quiet, library-like quality of the building was hell. I began to bring my MP3 player and headphones there, and then to the grocery store, and then to my next job, where I often sat doing data entry.

Mom and I shared at least one genre of music: Broadway musicals. I have piles of playbills and programs from shows I’ve seen, many of them multiple times. I grew up singing along to records, then cassettes, and now CDs of many shows. I’ve seen Ben Vereen reprise his role of The Leading Player in Pippin, Tommy Tune and Ann Reinking in Bye, Bye Birdie, Tim Curry in Spamalot, and Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp in RENT. Those last two were with Mom, in separate trips to New York, singing the librettos all the way up and back in my car.

As Mom lay in hospice care, we planned what music she wanted for her final hurrah. “Amazing Grace” in honor of Dad. “Hallelujah Chorus” in honor of her late little brother James and her father. And “Seasons of Love” from RENT, the song that describes how to measure a year among friends before ultimately deciding that love is the best measure of them all. Sister and I added a Barbra Streisand song, and the worship team and I fleshed out the music score for Mom’s service in those three weeks between Mom’s leaving us and the actual memorial.

In the months afterward, it was quieter in our apartment without Mom’s TV or her CDs or news radio or printing something from her computer to the living room printer. But still, the living room TV was on most of the time, and I continued to fall asleep to either Star Trek or one of my many playlists on my MP3 player.

Once I moved, I had to create my own life and my own habits. At first, I wasn’t comfortable sleeping in a new bed in a new room (nor could I, with stuff piled on it), so I slept on the living room couch. My MP3 player and its charging base serenaded me to sleep often, but not always. The hulking black box of a TV stayed silent, without a cable or DVD player hookup for months as well. The only true noise around was either from an A/C unit or the fridge.

It’s been over 2.5 years since Mom passed; over three since her health’s swift decline began. Slowly, I’m hitting play more and more on my MP3 player before my head hits the pillow. Game shows, and some true crime shows, are playing on my TV. More surprisingly, I’ve my interest in singing has increased once more. I saw Pippin four times at my old high school in April (right around Mom’s 76th birthday, no less), and I’ve just come from a performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, directed by an old family friend. (The friendship’s old; he still isn’t yet.) I also credit my friends I have gained in the last couple of years: Aubrey, who I got interested in my favorite ska band of the late 1990s, and Lynne, a music therapist who sings along with her Sirius XM on our boondoggles.

[EDIT: Inserted ending] And now it’s been another year and another apartment and another computer and even another cell phone since I last touched this post. I realized this week that my current cell phone has enough storage in it to carry three of my iPods. So, instead of organizing my room like I’d planned, I spent several hours today culling though my music on said new computer, choosing songs for my Android phone. How does one choose what music to listen to after four years? I don’t even remember what I like, save for my two favorite bands. Which showtunes can I not live without? Am I really missing songs, or did I never own them in the first place? The number of plays/skips did not translate over to my new computer; the music on my phone is just a mishmash of stuff I knew I listened to a bunch. I’m hoping that I’ll perhaps listen to music at work, or, if I remember headphones, out in public. We’ll see.

I’d like to thank my friend Lynne, for whom life is a musical. She’s always singing. I should grab my iTunes gift card and start filling in the gaps of my iTunes with absent songs. This is likely one of my first downloads.

The Sound of Silence (written by Paul Simon of Simon & Garfunkel; performed by Disturbed.)


Hello darkness, my old friend

I’ve come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains within the sound of silence


In restless dreams I walked alone

Narrow streets of cobblestone

‘Neath the halo of a street lamp

I turned my collar to the cold and damp


When my eyes were stabbed

By the flash of a neon light

That split the night

And touched the sound of silence


And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening


People writing songs

That voices never share

And no one dare

Disturb the sound of silence


“Fools,” said I, “you do not know

Silence like a cancer grows

Hear my words that I might teach you

Take my arms that I might reach you.”

But my words like silent raindrops fell

And echoed in the wells of silence


And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon God they made

And the sign flashed out its warning

And the words that it was forming

And the sign said,

“The words of the prophets

Are written on the subway walls

And tenement halls.”

And whispered in the sound of silence



It’s my birthday today.

I don’t want it to be.

I didn’t want to turn 38 without Mom.

Mom was 38 when I was born. In 2012 and 2013, I’d known her mortal body was failing her, but I still hoped she’d see me turn 38.

I lost a sister (before I was born) to SIDS. Mom was devastated, and it was a pain she held onto for years. When I was born with a heart defect, Mom panicked. She envisioned burying another child before long. However, we lived close enough to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and I had open heart surgery to fix the major issues. Still, this was somewhat new medical territory. My parents were advised to be conservative with me: no flying, no organized sports, and compliance with anti-germ-laden habits that were uncommon in the 1980s (but perhaps standard in the 2010s).

The worst bullying I endured about my heart was some jerk in 7th grade telling me I’d die sooner than he would. I asked him what I meant, and he said I’d probably die in my 40s or 50s. At age 13, 40 was still a long way off; I had plenty of time to fulfill my purpose on Earth. I shrugged him off. What I didn’t know then was that a decade earlier, my parents weren’t so sure I’d graduate high school.

As our family aged, Sister reached 30, the age Mom was when she was born. I assumed I’d match Mom’s 38 easily. But then Mom’s health began to deteriorate around when I turned 33. The stress had me worried that I’d come home to find her deceased; or worse, that my heart would give out prior to her death, expediting her own end.


Three years ago tonight, on my 35th birthday, I called 911 at Mom’s request.

I don’t want to be 38.


I recently tried a Myers-Briggs online test. One of my results includes that I have difficulty dealing with irrational people or situations.

Grief is so freaking irrational.

Why should I burst into tears at work nearly 3 years later?


we are all candles.

we are lit with life at the moment of conception, and burn as long as we can.

the desire to burn, to stay alive, is very strong. but the ability is limited to two factors.

one is internal. it’s one’s mettle, or testicular fortitude, or what have you. for a candle, its internal ability to stay lit is due to the wax with which it was formed. the amount and type of wax determines, for the most part, how strong the flame will rise, and how long it will last.

the second factor is external.

a candle cannot stay lit in the wind–no matter how gentle–or the rain, for even a drop can extinguish its life. some candles need to be watched carefully to prevent an early end to its light. but if the watchers turn away, even for the shortest moment, the candle can’t always hold its flame, no matter what it’s made of.


i am grateful to have known you. you fought far too long. please forgive me if i neglected to tend to your flame as well as i could have. please teach to me stay diligent; to protect the other flames around me from the wind and the rain.


AA April 2016 004.JPG


If you’ve been reading along, or–better yet–if you know me personally, then you more than likely are aware that I try to be as self-sufficient and independent as possible.

I know, shocker.

This self-sufficiency has shown up over various times in my life, but probably one of the best stories had to do with my allowance. I can’t even say I recall how old I was, but I know it was high school because Mom and I were living in this ridiculous two-story townhouse that I HATED. (I don’t think Mom was a real fan, either, but that would probably be its own blog post.)

Eighth grade Home Ec touched a bit on finances, but more on domestic stuff such as washing your clothes. By high school, I was a clothes-washing pro. Of course, this means that everything I own goes in the same load no matter the color, and is washed on cold. Anyways, I think it was the inspiration of Home Ec to want to deal with my “own life.” That’s in quotes because I was in high school, where “life” meant school and activities, and “own” meant whatever Mom was willing to permit me to do.

I had this fantastic idea. Let’s bargain on my allowance. If you give me this much… I can buy my school lunches (the youngest kid of the former school board president packed a lunch exceedingly rarely, likely because if I wanted a packed lunch, I had to get up in time to make it myself). I can… buy stuff that I want, if I don’t want to use the communal supplies that Mom bought (in high school, this was likely limited to my own brand of toilet paper). And I can buy my own clothes and food at football games and stuff from the school store and whatever dorky thing I used as ammo to reasoned with Mom.

It worked.

So where does a kid with money want to go? The mall, of course! Sister was home visiting that weekend, and all three of us went. I roamed around on my own, already considering myself an astute shopper. I knew exactly what I wanted! A replacement for something I’d used for nearly 15 years. Stained, gross, and covered with goofy suns… I needed a new bed pillow. I got the one with the foam balls inside they advertised on TV. I thought it was so cool! This would be a perfect pillow. (Side note: I totally did use it for about a decade.)

Mom and Sister weren’t surprised to see me emerge from Strawbridge’s with a bag. “What’d you get?”

“A pillow!”


“I needed a new bed pillow, so I bought one.”

By the look on my family members’ faces, I wasn’t entirely certain if we had ever met before. I guess they realized I was not a normal kid, an epiphany everyone I’m related to has had repeatedly over the years.



On a more recent note, I’ve finally been paid back for some of the things I had to do after Mom passed. Death certificates, obituaries, the programs we used for her memorial service, etc. Not that it’s a huge windfall, but I have a couple of dollars in case there’s anything on my “I need, but only if I have money” list.

And my seasonal allergies and allergy to dust mites keep reminding me it’s spring. One way to try to help my nasal passages and lungs is to lower the dust mite count in my apartment.

Quickest way to eliminate the dust mite population?

I just bought a new bed pillow.


I didn’t believe the motherless friends of mine who said it would get easier, that grief will wane and the good memories will return, and not everything will be pain and tears. I mean, I knew it had to be true, but at the time my well-wishers tried to help two years ago, I didn’t want for it to be so.

I craved that feeling of pain, that initial wail of despondency once Mom was pronounced gone. I desperately wanted nothing to change ever again. I wanted the past to be the final time I was ever joyful or content. Here I had been given this imperfect parent who did her best to love me perfectly, and I hated myself for every last thing that I had ever done to upset or disappoint her.

I’m now in my second year since calling 911. On my birthday. Just after the Flyers played a rare game actually on my birth date. I still remember the ambulance number on the back of the vehicle I tailed for the long drive from what had been home to the new ED at Mom’s preferred hospital. I recall making very detailed Facebook posts, updating family and close friends on Mom’s decline and eventual death. And I lived and re-lived the worst 4 weeks of my life for the first 52 weeks without her.

In that year, I had to change names on bills that I’d actually been paying previous to October 2013. I had to find an apartment. I moved. I sold some stuff at a yard sale. I slept in the bed that was passed from Dad, to Mom and Dad, to Mom, and now to me. (The same bed Mom was on when the 911 guys came to pick her up.) I said goodbye to furniture that had been a part of my life for almost 40 years. I lost people who I thought were my friends. I realized some of my acquaintances were really my true friends. I had to face my birthday.

I assumed I was out of firsts.

But in the last year–the second year without Mom–my world that I so wanted to declared closed to the outside began to expand again. In that year, I gave out Hallowe’en candy to about 75 kids. I shoveled snow off the steps to the apartment I chose. I worked a stint at a local convenience store. I took books out from the library and began to read again. I had a firm grasp of the intensity of grief of losing a parent that I was able to share and comfort two different sets of cousins on the passing of their dads. We finally buried Mom’s ashes next to Dad. I was laid off. I was on unemployment. I found a new job. I wrote a walking tour of my hometown (which actually began only as an update to the one Mom wrote last decade). I had an article published in a local magazine. And, something which didn’t happen last year, I faced the Flyers playing on my birthday.

Successfully, my friends and our shared escapades kept me a bit too busy to focus on the date. While I did have some tears, a Flyers win and a need for a REALLY good shower after some hands-on historical preservation overshadowed the hurt.

“How are you, really?” you may ask. I’m okay. I’m mostly at peace and stronger than last year. I’m moving forward, wanting to make more firsts as the years go by.


I’m not a very organized person.

There, I said it. Admitting your problem is the first step in solving it, no? Well, it’s never worked. And now I have twice the stuff that I did prior to November 22, 2013, and at least four times the chaos.

I work well with lists. At my new job (which is okay, at least, and keeps me off suburban streets in the daytime), when a caller has a problem, I write their order number down and what I’m doing to solve it. When it’s resolved, I cross it off. It’s a never-ending cycle of black squiggles on lined paper–something Sister says I picked up from Mom.

So why not break my apartment into a list? Each room is its own line, and when it’s done, I can cross it off.

For my first trick, I present…. “room” number one, completely organized and decorated in my apartment. My deck. It’s as organized a location as can be until I finally have my house-swarming and perhaps get some things (like a projector to watch movies on the wall) that would make it even more awesome.


Fuzzy, but the 2 chairs that came with the deck and apartment, a white table likely over 40 years old, and the solar lights on my deck.


Another view, but this time you can see my pet rock, which makes a good footrest for short legs. For Malvernites, it’s a rock from what was Mrs. Goshorn’s garden.


Yes, my deck is pretty big. The black orb in the middle of the right is the grille that came with the deck. No, I haven’t used it yet. The lights in the distance are from “the monstrosity,” and the inhabitants of the house seen through the deck rails have two barky Jack Russells.


When I sit, this is the view of my patio door. On the left, a brick from my childhood home. The orange mat was a gift… birthday?…from Mom. “Why are you giving me an orange doormat?” I asked. “For whenever you get your own place,” she replied. It was in my bedroom in our old place for years.


A panorama of my deck lights.