All of our mother’s plantings are gone

Yesterday my sister called to tell me– our dad had landscapers come and scrape the whole mad DIY gardening jungle into a sheet of lawn with a few trees for effect. As she recited the losses, she wept: “The jack in the pulpits, the wild irises, the roses–all of it gone, Sarah. All those plants I helped her propagate.” They gardened together for years before the dementia spun things entirely out of control. For a time it was their literal ground for connection, for crafting a living history together. And my father obliterated it.

I don’t know what to say to him. Of course I love him, which is always the first thing. But I’m having serious problems with some of the decisions and actions he’s made in later years. Growing up, I watched him and my mother wage simmering, bitter campaigns against their own parents. I’ve always tried to understand, even when it’s a struggle to empathize.

And I guess I do and I don’t understand my dad’s actions. My mother and all her array of damage defined the very parameters of my father’s life for long, long years. Nearer the end it grew intolerable. I understand the impulse he must feel to rid himself of all the pain and recrimination. I understand the compulsion to wipe the slate. But as our father he fails to consider how his actions might affect us. We don’t exist in his reckoning. Clean house. Check.

This sweep has gone on for months in donations to various organizations and enterprises. Longer than that– it started before Mom even died. When he gave away Uncle Sharkey, he said, “Mom agrees”– despite the fact that the dementia didn’t leave her with a whole lot of agency and decision-making capability. She sort of became an mostly-amiable, rather vague woman. My sister and I speculate that our father is building some type of legacy, but it’s a haphazard and idiosyncratic one if that.

As much as I try to wrangle the psychological reality he operates in, as a would-be parent, I just don’t get it at all. I would want my kids in better communication. If I were counting down my final days, my kids would be foremost in my thoughts. But as he systematically rids our childhood home of reminders and heirlooms, not once does he stop and turn us and say, I want this thing out of the house. Who will take it?

In truth we have never factored that prominently in his daily endeavors at all. So it’s really no change in behavior or outlook. It just comes into sharper focus when death enters the picture. We all want pieces to hold onto. When my mother died, I took a teaspoon of her ashes to keep in a cut glass perfume vial on my dresser. The dresser from my grandmother’s house. I have planted the Easter lilies I bought this year in her memory. These pieces continue and connect us, and they are important. And my father doesn’t see it, and I don’t know how to, or if I even can, tell him.



Facebook has become the standard vehicle for birthday wishes. It flags your friends when it’s your birthday and even gives a convenient little text entry box so users don’t need to navigate anywhere to dash off a quick wish. The result is a Facebook inbox suddenly overflowing with thoughtful reminders of friendship and connection.

For me this year the irony was poignant–especially that message that wished me a day surrounded by good friends and celebration. The contrast between the wish and the reality has sat in my heart these last couple of days like a fat clammy toad. I’m left asking myself how and why I’ve brought about such a sad and isolated existence.

The answer, like so many things, is at once simple and not so simple.

Simply, I have failed, for a number of years now, to build and maintain the very friendship connections I so treasure and crave.

The why of that is a more convoluted morass of depression and despondency. I’ve struggled with “the blues” for much of my conscious life, but for awhile now they have succeeded in circumscribing my daily existence ever tighter and smaller.
Unpacking the why of it may not even do me much good. Taking regular persistent steps to change the pattern seems the only beneficial course forward to daylight. I need to reach out and get out of the living grave I’ve dug myself– somehow, anyhow.



Someone used the word at dinner: stunted. Blunt and harsh upon my ear hours later.


Insomniac laundry folding

I am a disappointment to my parents. In terms of worldly ambition and achievement, I’m a disappointment to myself, haunted by my own phantoms of expectation. So often anticipation of the thing so far outstrips the thing itself, I’m psychically waylaid. Hobgoblins in the night.

Why have I so undermined my own worldly ambitions, time and again? Poor resource management and frittering only explains so much. There’s something damnably determined in the whole thing.

Sitting there tonight in that gathering of bright-eyed and ambitious whippersnappers tweaked the hell out of me. I grew dreary as a Gorey character, and when my turn came to tout my own achievements from the past year and hopes for the next, I opened my mouth, and toads fell out. They plopped around the tastefully laid table for awhile, until I swallowed them again and beat a hasty retreat back to the hermitage.

I used to be unbearably bright-eyed myself. I was effin’ dewy with earnestness. But I failed to bring it. Because I chose time and again to fail to bring it. Self-saboteur. But for why?