Grief and Tattoos

I want to feel whole and I haven’t since my mother died. I want to tattoo my arms with words that make me feel solid. Words like here, now, loved, enough, healed, whole. They don’t need to be large just big enough for me to see when I have my glasses off and I am lying down. It is at night before I fall asleep that I need to feel whole the most. When the stress of the day weighs heavy on me and I feel the filmy edge of sleep and panic trying to creep in. I stare at the tattoo on my wrist, words that my mother left Kiaya, and remind myself how much she loved us.

One of the many problems with my tattoo obsession is that if Amyloidosis hadn’t killed mom, my desire for tattoos would have. Mom was very proper and I loved that about her. We once took her to see Bon Jovi and she wore jeans, a navy turtleneck, navy pumps, and a vest that had dolls embroidered on it. We walked past the security guard and he tilted his head at mom and said, “She with you?” “Yeah.” I said and ushered her to the seats. The people in front of us rolled a joint and my mother, in not quite a whisper said, “What’s that? Why are they licking the paper?” She had a great comedic timing but had no idea that she was funny.

I want to wear the tattoos as armor to keep out the feeling that I am alone. I want my skin etched with words that remind me that I am solid and here. They would guard me against the feeling of hopelessness that I sometimes feel at night. When my day has gone bad and I want my mom to tell me it’s going to be okay. I could look down and see the word loved and know that although death put a chink in my armor I was loved to my very core.

My ability to cuss is legendary. I can weave a cuss word into a conversation like a blue ribbon through a lace edged slip. This skill of delicately interweaving the word “fuck” into a conversation was horrifying to mom. “Heather Renee, how could you say that?” I did it to watch her reaction, while horrified; I secretly think she was proud of my ballsy manner. I found this to be true at a Neil Diamond concert. The women behind us had passed the point of intoxication. Slurring their words one of the ladies told the entire arena that she had found Billy Joel tickets in her pocket from three years prior. The entire concert they talked in our ears about every song being their favorite and randomly yelling “Woo Hoo” at the top of their lungs. I just knew a “play me some Skynyrd” was coming. Or at the very least, they would throw a pair of off-brand Victoria’s Secret panties on the stage. I finally had enough and yelled at them. I just knew that prim and proper mom was dying that I had publicly yelled at someone, but she just looked at me and said, “About time.” I think she approved of my occasional brashness.

The tattoos would anchor me.

Here. I have to be here, in the present. Retreating to my room to watch old episodes of Sex and the City is not an option. My life needs to continue even if it hurts and feels empty.

Now. Now is the time that I stand up and do what I have always been scared to do. We are not guaranteed a tomorrow.

Loved: She loved us. She loved us fiercely.

Enough: I am enough. I do enough and do not need to prove myself to others. I have merit.

Healed: Mom is whole and does not hurt.

Whole: Although my heart is broken because I do not talk to her every day; she is always with me. Shaking her head at the newest weird thing I’ve said. I am whole and not broken.

She loved us fiercely.

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A Lesson Learned

For the record I do not believe that over sharing exists. I love details, and it matters not if they are gross, sad, funny, embarrassing or any other adjective, the more details the happier I am. This is why I am going to tell you a story about my vulva. See, there was a time when I treated my body with kindness. I shaved my legs every day, and shaved them all the way to the top. Not the “to the knees if I’m in a good mood” shave that I do now. I had my hair colored on a semi regular basis. I rubbed my skin with sweet thick peach lotion, and I bathed in sesame oil. Most importantly my pubic hair was trimmed and maintained at all times. That is until I had to have a cyst removed.

The cyst was not a big deal and required just a little procedure at the doctor’s office. The healing, however, took about a month and in that time my “garden” became a little overgrown. While walking the aisles at Wal-Mart I decided that this would be an excellent time to try a little at home waxing. So I placed my supplies in the buggy and be-bopped my way to the check-out line. I was proud of myself, this was a genius idea, I would not need to garden for some time. I was patting myself on the back the entire drive home. After I fed the kids some dinner I closed my bedroom door and got down to business.

Something you may need to know about me is I do not follow instructions well, at all. You can look at my report cards and see year after year of teacher remarks. “Heather has a difficult time concentrating.” “Heather does not apply herself.” “Heather does not follow directions.” While, I see myself as more of a free spirit my teachers may have seen me as an idiot. If they read this blog post they will know they were right. I dumped the wax and the applicator onto the bed and was soon liberally applying the wax to my nether region. Pleased with the full coverage I grabbed one of the strips and applied it to my nether region. I vigorously rubbed the strip to warm the wax and started to pull. HOLY MOTHER OF GOD, I cannot express to you the pain. It was like the world’s largest band aid being ripped from the world’s largest knee. I stopped and took a deep breathe. I tried again. I could not do it; I did not have the inner strength to just rip the strip off. This was a two person job and I was beginning to panic. By the time I removed the strip only one hair was gone. One hair! Not two or three, but one sad lonely little hair. To fully grasp what I had done to myself I want you to grab a child’s Barbie doll take it outside and then catch its head on fire. The matted burnt hair will basically resemble my vulva on that fateful night. I quickly grabbed the directions and looked for an emergency exit. There was no emergency exit, but there was a vile of tee tree oil that said “for excess wax removal.” To remove the amount of wax I had applied I would need a forest of tea trees. I opened the vile and silently prayed that this oil was blessed like the oil in the Hanukkah story. I stood up to walk to the bathroom and I quickly realized that I had glued my vulva to my left inner thigh. This left me with a slight gait that was reminiscent of John Wayne after he had been out on his horse for an extended period of time. This was my hell and when in hell you should always start making phone calls.

“Trey, I have glued my vagina to my leg.”

“You’re an idiot.”

Click.

“Mom, I have glued my vagina to my leg.”

“Why would I have any idea on how to help this?”

Click

“Amy, I have glued my vagina to my leg.”

Uncontrollable giggling followed by, “Can I tell Terry?”

Click

“Angela, I have glued my vagina to my leg.”

“What I think you need to do…”

Finally, someone had a plan. By this time I had already made my way to the bathroom to soak in a hot bath, and Angela agreed that this was a good plan. I leaned the phone against my right shoulder and casually talked about what was happening on Dateline. I attempted to shave the waxy mess off and finally felt a pop. I was free from myself. A pack of razors, a hell of a rash, and two hours later I was free. I dried myself off and walked back to my bedroom gabbing with Angela for a little longer. As we said our goodbyes I realized that I had glued myself to the cordless phone. The next day I raced into work, with some chafing, and announced, “No one work wait until you hear what I did last night!” I really wish there was a moral to this story, but if there was I guess it would be that some jobs require two people and never be afraid to ask for help.

The Art of Being Poor and the Fresh Fruit Problem

The Art of Being Poor and the Fresh Fruit Problem

 

I like stuff, all kinds of stuff, and shopping soothes my soul in only a way that I imagine medical marijuana would. Walking into a TJ Maxx and seeing rows and cluttered isles of stuff fills my heart with glee. This is why I am always broke. The kind of broke where you stop answering your phone to avoid the bill collectors, and checking your mail becomes a panic attack inducing event. I am to this day broke, we currently have $11.86 in our checking account, but I was never as broke as I was the year my children went to Florida for spring break.

I had for weeks made endless lists of what I would pack for them, taking the time to arrange each carefully selected outfit so all they would need to do was reach in the suitcase and pull out an appropriate ensemble. Each child’s toothbrush was packed in a zippered bag and each child’s sandals carefully placed in the suitcase. I knew they would have a great time with my mother, and was excited that they were allowed such great adventures. However, what I most was excited for was I didn’t have to feed them for a week. Money was more than tight; stretched as thin as an aging socialites face, but for this one week I would have two less people to worry about. I devised a plan. I had exactly enough money to make one homemade hamburger ranch pizza. If I divided out the pizza into squares I would have enough to eat for four days at two meals a day and the other meals I would supplement with ramen noodles. I had my grocery list and a battle plan. It was time to visit the Food Giant.

I find no more stores as ghetto-tastic as Food Giant. It smells of fried food with a hint of desperation. In my mind those with money shop at the glamorous stores like Wal-Mart where you can buy your tuna fish, a pack of underwear, and a lovely vase for your mantle. The Halle Berry’s and Angelina Jolie’s of the world shop at Whole Foods and Target; which is not even a possibility in Paducah, KY. When Demi Moore lived here (for all of about 10 minutes) I can only assume she walked the isles of Food Giant and said a prayer to the Gods of whole wheat while turning up her nose at the processed squishy white bread. But I digress…

I walked the isles and carefully picked out my two cans of off brand Pillsbury pizza dough, the store name bottle of ranch dressing, the pound of hamburger meat, and a bag of shredded cheese. I strolled through the store with store with my five items and started making my way back through the store to the checkout. I passed the deli and was not tempted, until in the cooler I saw it, fresh fruit. There in a plastic cup covered with saran wrap sat my Holy Grail. The cantaloupe was the perfect shade of orange. The grapes were still green and plump. The sliced strawberries had left their red juice on the cantaloupe. My mouth watered. I needed this fruit. A debate was raging in my brain. I knew I had just enough money to buy the five ingredients but I argued that without the fruit, scurvy could be a real threat. I again argued that I only had enough money for the five items, and again I argued back that this was late on a Monday and I was paid on Thursday. Any person who has been truly poor; for any amount of time, can tell you the exact number of days it takes for a check to clear at any given establishment. At Food Giant it was two days. With no doubt that check would clear on Wednesday night, but my lust of fresh fruit and fear of scurvy won and I put the cup into my cart and walked up to pay.

All of these years later, I still remember the drive home. The fruit sat in its bag and glared at me to eat it. My purse lay haphazard on the floor and my check book spilled out from the top. I drove home and unloaded my six items. I grabbed a fork and sat on my couch to taste my forbidden fruit. It was cold and wonderful. I ate each piece slowly, my eyes closed to block out any other sensations. Soon the cup was as empty as my checkbook. I resumed my life and began to call my bank’s 1-800 number at what seemed like intervals of 30 minutes. Just like clockwork the check came out on Wednesday night, the cup of fruit that had been priced at $2.11 cost me $38.11. It is still the most expensive and the most delicious cup of fruit I have ever had.