Necromancy and Parallel Universes.

When I was younger, I used to think I could write my father back to life. Life played out just like a novel. The big events, strung together, comprised the plot. But the beauty of the narrative was in the details. As a rational human being, I know that not even the written word has the power to bring people back from the dead. But it doesn’t stop me from trying.

My alternate history. The family formerly known as the widowed and the fatherless.

We live in the same place. My parents are proud of the little house they paid cash for, even though a loan had to be taken out to afford the remodel. One bedroom doesn’t house three growing boys very well. My dad went back to school, after the cancer was gone. Got his teaching certificate, and then a job at our local high school teaching English. Or history. We don’t live a life of luxury, but we appreciate the stability of a tenured teaching position. It beats the short-lived stints at insurance companies, followed by months of unemployment.

Because this is an alternate history, I avoided the years of cutting and pill-popping that were my actual junior high experience. I got a 4.0 every semester, went on to be VP of the Freshmen class, because the gpa requirement was higher for vice than for president. I was not, by any means, the obedient daughter I was raised to be. But I was open about it.

There are no secrets in our family.

Today, I am in my final semester at Princeton. Chuck is about to start his second semester at USC. We are both on full-ride scholarships. Evan is a musical prodigy, who has absorbed Dad’s talent for both composition and playing by ear. Dad even broke out his old recording equipment, and hooked it up to the Clavinova. Paul is Mom’s sport star. He’s a free spirit, and that irks Dad. But Paul gets spoiled, nonetheless.

Mom went back to school and got her Master’s degree in Social Work. She works part-time as an LCSW for a clinic downtown, and talks about going full-time when she and Dad are empty nesters. Dad is still head-over-heels for Mom, and she feels the same way about him. 23.5 years of marriage will do that to a couple.

We all volunteer whatever free time we have to people going through cancer treatment, whether it’s to babysit while they see the doctor, or to read to them so they have visitors, or to stop in and bring groceries to them. We know our family could not have made it through the havoc that tumor wreaked on my dad if it weren’t for kindly people who looked out for us. We do all we can to give back.

And each year, we take one big vacation as a family. We are aware of how short life is, and how dangerous it is to put everything off until someday. Someday never comes. We only have right now, and we intend to use that time with the people we love. We plan on hitting up the Heritage Jazz Festival in New Orleans, after my graduation.

Only Dad and I actually like jazz, but I’ve been lobbying for a Dixieland trip since I went to the Fest in high school.

Dad has been in remission for ten years, come March. Mom says a happy, healthy family is all she could ask for as she turns 45, but Dad’s going to take her to Victoria anyway.

All things considered, life is good.

And it will be, for years to come.

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

But despite the craziness that is my actual reality, I do not know if I would trade in this story for that one.

I would like to think, on some level, that doesn’t make me a terrible human being.

But, all things considered, life? Life is good. And I intend for it to continue to improve.

For years to come.

My Brain as a Medical Drama.

I’m back. So soon? you say. Yes. I cannot sleep. A mixture of fever and panic attack and my usual insomnia. I sufficiently freaked myself out, and now I’m in that 45 degrees reclined position that you sit/lay (lit? slay?) in when you read, with a heating pad against my neck in the hopes that it will relieve some tension and allow me to sleep.

I have a terrible habit of reading myself into every text I interact with. Text, of course, is extended from the written word to include movies and music and such. Anyway. I was watching¬†Parenthood on Netflix, because that’s the show I watch when everyone else in Mom’s house is asleep. Jennifer comes home from his Holiday family visiting experience at some point today, and I was thinking about how…quiet? my life is when he is gone.

And then I realized that I have done it again. And I panicked.

 

I was thirteen. I finally spoke to this boy. James. Such a beautiful name. I had plans for that name. I’d become best friends with the boy, and some day I would name a child after him. James. I was thirteen.

James became my entire world. For eight years, James was my universe. And then he wasn’t. And I was so…alone.

I promised myself that I would never let myself be in that position again. I would never let one person be my entire universe. And now I am awake at 4:30am, having a panic attack and blogging excessively, because I watch too many sappy TV shows and I realize how lonely life is when Jennifer is gone.

I broke my promise to my commitment issues, and I went and made one person my entire world.

Fricking genius move, on Dani’s part.

He isn’t. My entire world, that is. But he is a big part of it. And that terrifies me. Because I am learning, slowly, that in spite of their best intentions, people do not stay forever.

How do you cope with the fear of your world being thrown off its axis, concurrent with the fear of being unable to trust people? Person. Jennifer. Who I do trust…more than I trust anyone else, or have ever trusted anyone else. How do I let myself be vulnerable when I am petrified of how broken my life is going to be once Jennifer can no longer be the integral figure in it?

And so I’m having a panic attack. I will be fine, and I’ll see Jennifer tomorrow or the next day, and life will be good. I’ll remember to not over-think things, and I’ll remember that Jennifer is the commitment phob — not me. I’ll remember that if my world falls apart, I can pick up the pieces.

I’ve done it before. I can do it again.

In the meantime, I’m going to try my darnedest not to push away my best friend with my craziness. Perhaps attempt to sleep. Most importantly, have more 30-second dance parties.

Because I’m secretly Meredith Grey and my dark and twisty needs to be alleviated by some dancing.

I guess that makes Jennifer, Cristina.

Christmas Memories: Part One

The Holidays. Theoretically, the most wonderful time of the year. Yes?

It can be.

I remember being…little. I must have been eight, because it was a year when we were at home for Christmas, and not visiting my grandparents in Arizona. My dad was still alive. I was the proud big sister of two brothers. I must have been eight.

Dad had been out of work for awhile. My family jokes about me being able to remember everything. Truthfully, there is a lot I don’t remember. I don’t remember how long my dad had been out of a job. I don’t remember if the company he had been working for was the insurance one, or the marketing one. I don’t think it was the computer-ish one, because that was the last job he worked before he died.

Actually, it was the computer one. It was my last Christmas with my dad, if I am remembering correctly. He’d been out of a job since October. Like many of the Christmases I remember from my childhood, we had the “talk.” The one about money being tight, and Christmas being small. I didn’t care, because I never really cared about the stuff.

I’m going to go ahead and assume that it was a couple days before Christmas, because the box contained food. So, a few days before Christmas, there was a box on our doorstep. A big box. Inside were presents and food from people I didn’t know. But I did know the box was for us. From people who wanted to give something to someone whose Christmas was going to be small.

I don’t believe in big turning points. I don’t believe that the course of an entire life can be whittled down to a bulleted list of phenomena that directed the trajectory of one person’s existence. I am comprised of some big moments, and innumerable small ones. My story is composed of a handful of “aha”s, but the pages are filled with details that are seemingly inconsequential.

Like a box on a doorstep.

But each Holiday season, I think about that box. I think about what it means to be grateful for what I have. I think about how fortunate I am to have had the experience of receiving kindness and generosity from those who were in a position to give it. And I think about the position I am in now, and whether I am becoming a person who remembers with gratitude the help she has received throughout her life — and whether she’s becoming a person who will extend help toward other people.

I don’t really have an answer for the question posed in that. I cannot tell you with certainty that I remember, or that I give. Sometimes I do. Sometimes, I do not.

But like clockwork, each year, I do remember — even if it is just for a few moments. A line in my story. A fragment. And I hope to someday be a person who affects change in the lives of others. To leave a box on someone else’s doorstep, and ease a little anxiety and heartache.