Sunday, August 27, 2006 - the big day!

Today's the big day. I'm surprisingly calm.

But, this whole past week I have been a little nuts. I am realizing that once the celebration is over, I have no more Mike-related planning to do. I also have this bizarre feeling that once the celebration's over, life will return to "normal" - meaning Mike back at home with Bax and me ready to move forward on our path together. But, you know what? Not so much. When the celebration is over, all the friends and family leave and Bax and I return home sans Mike. Still.

I received a beautiful book from our funeral director, Randy, about grieving the loss of a partner. It talks about most of the feelings that I've been having. It's odd that something so unfathomable is actually fairly predictable in terms of the havoc it wreaks.

I had the thought the other morning, that as unique as my situation seems right now, all the couples we know - assuming they stay in love and together for years and years - will go through the experience of one person grieving the loss of the other. It's just a fact.

So, I'm reading this book and it talks about the slow disappearance of the couples that used to be in your inner circle. Mainly because, people are uncomfortable with grief, people don't understand grief, and quite frankly, the widowed person is sort of a drag. I would like to think that that will not be my situation. But, then, my friend Cara suggested that it's possible that I may change. I may not want to be surrounded by all the baggage that comes with hanging out with all our couple friends. I sure hope not. Most of them were right there with us through the shit. I feel like because we went through it together (thanks in large part to the blog) that people do get it. They will be there and I will want to surround myself with them.

I had vivid dreams last night - the kind that crack Meh up for their obviousness. First, I was being trampled by elephants. Huge elephants with flat feet each about two feet in diameter. When I finally escaped through a doorway, some of my family members were just sitting there watching tv. When I tried to explain what happened, they sort of shrugged it off. "Well, you're fine now, so relax. " I freaked out. screamed and screamed and gave an aggressive middle finger to everyone in the room.

I then dreamt that I was back on my undergrad college campus (Univ of New Hampshire) as a single mom with Baxter. I was trying to figure out how to take care of him and raise him in my studio apartment while taking 4 classes and having no income.

Oy. That's all for now. I hope you enjoy tonight's show as much as I've enjoyed putting it together.

love to you all,

PS: There will be a donation table at the show, so if you are so inclined, you will have the opportunity (through cash or check) to donate to Jefferson, Baxter's education fund, or Comedysportz.

PPS: Attire for this evening: Whatever the hell you want. I'm dressing up, but that's because I'm thinking of it as my last date with Michael. I think most folks are doing upscale casual, but if you want to get gussied, I support that. Life is short. Do whatever makes you happy.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006 - 9:47 pm

[My new nemesis - marital status questions]

City Paper Story is available. Natalie did a very nice job. I can't really read it, in fact:


Went to UDel today for new faculty orientation. It was 8 hours of lectures on health insurance options, life insurance options, retirement plans and flexible spending accounts. It was refreshing to be in a space where no one knows my story. There were about 20 new faculty members there, and we shared laughs and mocking expressions at the banality of some of the information covered. It was a treat to make wise cracks that made folks around me laugh and break up the monotony of the day.

But, at the same time, there was the constant reminder of what is going on in my personal life: The summaries of the health insurance options discussing coverage of inpatient surgical care, the places where you need to write in the name of your spouse or beneficiary, the box where you need to check your marital status:

o Single
o Married
o Divorced
o Widowed

How fucked up is it that I'm a “W?”

As Tresa said, I'm “in the closet.” The widow's closet. I want people to get to know me as me and not be all weird about my baggage. If I get to know new people on campus, sure they'll find out eventually, but not now. No reason for it.

As I told Cheryl, who stopped by with a beautiful bouquet of gerbera daisies tonight, the worst part of today was knowing how excited Mike would be to hear about all the stupid details of my first real day on campus. He reveled in my successes and was my biggest cheerleader.

But, as I started to lose my shit into the boiling spaghetti, I stopped. “It sucks. It just sucks. No need to explore the various aspects of suckiness. I need to just..hover… and stop spinning around.” [see yesterday's post about “hovering”].


Info about Parking at World Café Live:

There is FREE PARKING after 5:30 P.M. on Walnut Street in Penn lot #1, just past the Left Bank building (before 33rd Street). In addition, there is also FREE PARKING after 5:30 in the lot under the Walnut Street bridge: just take a right onto 31st Street from Chestnut, drive to the end of the block, and park in the lot to your right.


August 22, 2006 - 1:53 pm - Bax's naptime

The past couple of days have been wrought with trickiness.

Glitch #1: Oaklyn experienced the worst fire recent memory right across the street from Haddon Learning Center. And while the daycare was untouched by fire, dealing with the smoke and debris has forced the center to be closed yesterday and today. Fortunately, Michelle was available to sit for Baxter for a few hours this morning so that I could at least begin to consider planning for my course (which I start teaching next Wednesday night at Udel).

Glitch #2: I have been having trouble accessing my bank account info online for 2 days – can’t get balances, Quicken isn’t synching up properly, and my on-line bill paying isn’t working. Problem? Mike is dead. They finally processed the death certificate and now all the on-line banking features that had been in his name don’t exist. It took an hour on the phone this morning, but I think I’ve reestablished the online accounts in my own name. But what a drag to sit down and quickly pay some bills only to discover a whole additional headache you didn’t know existed in the first place.

Glitch #3: I’ve got a LOT of logistics on my mind. Actually I could use some help with a lot of this. So, as I’ve done this successfully in the past, here I shall try yet again.

  • Is anyone available to pick up Lonia at the airport on Saturday at 8:45 am and bring her here to my house?
  • Is anyone available to be here at my house at around 10:00 am Saturday morning to drive Mia (from Csz Indianapolis) to the DMV in Cherry Hill (about 3 minute drive from my house). We need to submit final paperwork for the sale of Harvey and I think I’ll have too much going on to get to the DMV myself. I don’t need to be there, Just Mia does, with paperwork in hand.
  • Is there anyone out there who is not performing in Sunday’s show who might be able to be at World Café Live with me from about 2 pm on before the show – just to help me with all sorts of running around? I don’t know what I’ll need yet, but I figure I’ll need something. Like a drink…
  • Anyone able to come to my house to pick up the large fishbowls, table tents and tablecloth that will all be used on the donation table that Michelle Weissman will be sitting at right in the lobby at WCL? I want to make sure all these things get to the space at like 5:30 and are set up and ready to go so that when people start arriving they can just plop cash/checks into the fishbowls.

"Glitch" #4: Mike’s gone and I hate it.

I hate it so much. I super-hate it.

My therapist talked to me this morning about recognizing the difference between pain and suffering. Pain is the result of the actual event itself. Suffering is what comes from thinking about and digesting the pain. Pain is unavoidable. Particularly in this situation. But, David suggested, while the pain is sharp and real, if I adopt an almost-Buddhist approach to this journey, I may be able to minimize the suffering.

To sit, as I did today in his office, and sob and sob and say over and over how much I simply “hate this” is to experience the pain itself. The goal is to say “I hate it,” and stop there – to avoid slipping down that slope where you ask “why” and “I wish it could be like it was,” and “Baxter will never know his dad,” blah blah blah. These kinds of thoughts swirl around me and I find them utterly destructive. Asking these questions is really just pouring salt into an open bloody wound.

So, pain = inevitable and necessary. Suffering = controllable and avoidable.

I’m thinking of it a lot like mediation. Acknowledging and floating on top of the hurt that I feel without feeding it with too much mental energy. Experiencing it physically and emotionally, but not with my rational mind.

It think that David was working on this little Buddhist theory over our last couple of sessions. Each visit I would tell him a new reason why Mike’s death sucks. Down to minutia: We’ll never go camping again. Christmas will be so lonely. Baxter’s first school play will be excruciatingly sad. I’ll never hear Mike make a new joke. He was and would continued to have been an amazing father.

Finally, David told me that there were too many IQ points sitting in my chair working with all their energy to come with new reasons why this is dreadful. But in the end, do all those individual fucking reasons really matter? No. It sucks. It fucking sucks. That’s it. So why even go beyond that.

The rest of these thoughts are what make the pain spiral into self-pitying, gut-wrenching, miserable suffering.

So, rather than feed that beast, I am going to try to write a whole lot of “I hate this. I hate this so much.” and leave it at that. Of course, I may continue to stew in my own creative miserable juices and come up with reason 58,563 why this sucks, but my hope is to avoid that kind of swamp and try to hover above it instead.


On a totally different note, Philadelphia City Paper is doing a story about Mike, me, the blog, and our journey. It will be in Thursday's city paper. www.citypaper.net.


Sunday, August 20, 2006 - midnight

I had a really good day today. Yesterday sucked. All around suck. I was “in it.” (Anyone seen Garden State?). Fortunately Sash and Dee came over and we had a great talk and lots of crying.

But today was better. Went shopping with the boy (“Shop-pING,” as he says), ate some lunch, went for a great walk, played outside, had a nap while he napped… And then, tonight, I decided to go to a party. I was shocked that I wanted to go, but I did. At the last minute I decided to go. Michelle’s sweet daughter came over and watched the sleeping baxman and I got a few hours out.

It was a get together at the house of someone who I don’t even know that well, but who I know tangentially through the theater scene. I so appreciated the invitation. He called several days ago to tell me about it and I told him I wasn’t sure if I’d make it but that I was so thankful that he had thought to ask me. And that’s the truth. A lot of people – particularly those who don’t know me too well – almost seem afraid of me. Not really afraid of me, but afraid of how uncomfortable they are with the whole freaking thing. I think what people often forget is that even though this shitty situation is mine, it’s not like I’m an expert. It’s not like I’m comfortable with it myself, or have expectations of what folks should say or how they should act. What I appreciate most is people just saying candidly, “I don’t even know what to say to you. This is just so weird and fucked up.” That is the truth. And there really is nothing much to say. But just saying anything is helpful. More helpful than distance and silence, that’s for sure.

Anyway, I went to the party, not knowing if I would know anyone there. I did know a couple of people. But I spent much of the night chatting with folks I didn’t know. People who didn’t know my story, but were just fun and smart and witty and friendly. It was such a breath of fresh air. And yes, I carry the weight of this shit everywhere. But it was different to feel like it was mine alone and not out there for everyone to talk around.

I left feeling proud of myself. Weird word, I know. “Proud?” But I think that’s how I felt. Like Mike would be so glad that I went. And that I was glad that even though I can be a cautious person, I force myself out of my comfort zone when I know it’s in my best interest.

I did have a sharp pain of sadness on my way home while getting on 676. I heard the words that Mike would always say whenever we were on our way home from Comedysportz or a party of gathering, “The best part is, I get to go home with you.”

And while it may seem oddly Oedipal, I thought for a moment that while I don’t get to go home with Michael, I do get to return home to Baxter. And the joy I get from picturing his sleeping little body in his crib makes it all a bit more bearable.


Friday, August 18, 2006 - 11:45 pm

Today =

Wegmans grocery store with Baxter (fun!)
Zoo with Bax, Taylor, and Jenny and family (fun!)
Long nap while bax naps (mmmm... nap.)
Walk with Baxter (fun!)
Playing outside (fun!)
Visiting Michelle's house with Bax (fun!)

Good day all around. Bax actually napped straight from 1:30 pm until 4 pm. I slept from 2:30-4. I curled up in my big pillowtop king sized bed and pulled the box of Mike under the covers with me, hugging it in the crook of my left arm where I usually keep Pongo, my stuffed penguin.

As I pulled the box close and cuddled up with it, I thought, "Is this f*cked up?"

The answer is, "Yes, this is f*cked up."

But after being in the hospital for 4 months watching my brilliant husband fade away and come back and get sick and get well only to ultimately die... how f*cked up is it really to take a nap with a box of his ashes ...?"

Until you're here in these shoes, you have no idea what's fucked up and what's not.

When Randy (the funeral director) first showed me the option of getting some of Mike's ashes placed in a locket or medallion that I could wear around my neck, I thought.... "Who the f*ck would do that? That's just morbid and strange." And now, I think, perhaps it would be nice...

Right now, as I write, the box of Mike is next to me under the duvet covers, sitting next to Pongo the penguin and leaning up on his pillow. And yes, of course it's f*cked up. And no, I won't do this forever.

But for today - for right now - this is what I'm doing. And it feels nice.


Thursday, August 17, 2006 - 11:40 pm

Anyone have an easel or two we could use for the Tribute Show on August 27th? I have about 5 or 6, but we need a few more. Email me at 185cranios@gmail.com


Tonight I went to see the movie "Little Miss Sunshine" with Kris O. We had a nice time.

It was weird seeing a movie in which someone dies (hope I'm not giving anything away here). It seemed so uneventful - "Been there."

It was also weird seeing a movie that would usually have had me crying. I am a big huge crier at movies. Garden State, Brokeback Mountain, Sleepless in Seatle - tears from beginning to end. But tonight? Nothing. Not even that tingling feeling inside my nose and eyes.

It was the first time in years that I have been in a movie theater without Michael. I can't honestly remember the last time I had been to see a film without him, other than those "reel moms" movies in Cherry Hill where breastfeeding moms take their little infants at like 11 am on a Tuesday.


At one point in the film, the characters were riding in a van. Music played while the landscape travelled across the screen. It's during moments like these that you turn to your partner and share a sweet moment. You don't even know you do it, I bet, but I'm sure you do. And, if you don't, from now on you should. These musical lulls are when Mike and I would smoosh a little and hold hands a little tighter.

Only at this point in the film did I momentarily feel like sobbing. But I didn't. Instead I ate more popcorn.

I looked at the faces of the couples around us and thought of the words that Michael said to me every time we went to the movie theater together (which was quite often)...

"My smoosher is so beautiful in the flickering blue light."

Goodnight smoosher. Time fo' bed.

Thursday, August 17, 2006 - 2:00 pm

Couple of random details about the August 27th Tribute show:

Only 38 general admission (standing room only) tickets are left for the tribute - and I think they had a total of 400 available.

Thank you to Alex S. who found and hired a videographer for this event. Not only will the videographer be taping the entire show, but he will also be filming friends/coworkers/family of Mike's who have a few words to say into the camera. The intention is for Baxter to be able to get to know Mike through the anecdotes of people who loved him. Of course, you could always write down meaningful ditties about Mike that I will then save for Baxter (some of you already have), but this is an opportunity to just say something into the camera .

The videographer will be there when doors open at 6 pm. If you would like to say a few words to end up on the DVD that will eventually be Baxters, please do. I believe the videographer will be set up in the lobby area. I figured people might want a heads up that they will have this opportunity to do this at the event, so that over the next week or so you could be brainstorming.

If you do not have a reserved table seat for the tribute show, you could always make reservations for dinner at "upstairs live" restaurant to eat before the show. If I were you, I would enter the venue at 6 pm, stake out seats, then go up to eat dinner and return for the show at 7:25 pm. For reservations, call 215.222.1400.

Also - A huge CONGRATULATIONS to ComedySportz Philadlephia for the honorary award they will be receiving at the Barrymore Awards this year for their 15 year contribution to the Philadelphia Theater Scene through improv! Mike would be so freaking psyched. Mike is so freaking psyched. Unless where he is is way more super fun than here, in which case he might be preoccupied.


Wednesay, August 16, 2006 - 10:00 pm

Just a reminder about the discounted hotel available for the weekend of August 25-28:

The Windsor Hotel at 17th and the Parkway is offering a discounted rate of $59 per night (!) to folks attending the bash. To get the rate, you need to call the Hotel Windsor directly at 215-981-5678 and ask for reservations. You should request the BigBash rate (all one word "BigBash"), which will be $59/night and available on Friday, August 25th; Saturday, August 26th, and Sunday, August 27th. There’s a parking garage attached and the rate for that is $24/night and the pool on the roof is open.
If people want to visit the website, it’s www.windsorhotel.com.


Yesterday was a difficult day. Heide and I went to the funeral home to pick up "Mike." Randy met us in the parking lot and brought us into the parlor in the front of the building. After about 10 minutes of conversation, Randy placed the cardboard box on the little coffee table in front of us. "Here is Mike." I couldn't bring myself to reach for it. I just looked and sobbed, hung my head and cried silently into my chest until Heide handed me a designer Kleenex from her bag. After more tears than I had shed in about a week, Randy handed me the box of ashes and Heide and I walked to the car.

I'm glad that Jenny SG prepared me for the experience of picking up the cremains inside a cardboard container that weighs a heck of a lot more than you would think it does. It was quite heavy. I almost found that comforting, though. Perhaps because it meant that he was really in there.

In spite of the horror of holding my vibrant, funny, irreverent husband inside a 10" X 4" X 6" box, it was nice to feel that he was with me, but without that devestating illness. I needed that month to get my shit together before I could retrieve his ashes. I was so angry at his body for failing him that I couldn't stomach the thought of bringing them into our home. I certainly couldn't imagine referring to the box as "Mike."

But, when Randy placed the box on the coffee table, I felt like it was a reunion with my smoosher.

Heide then dropped me off at the garage where Harvey (Mike's 96 Saturn) was getting a new muffler and tune up in preparation for his sale to folks from ComedySportz Indianapolis. I unlocked Harvey and placed "Mike" on the passenger seat. He and I drove home listening to the first mix that he ever made me in 2000.


Monday, August 14, 2006 - 10:45 pm

Below is Mike's letter to friends following the series of surgeries in late January and early February to implant the shunt. That shunt turned out to be infected and lead to serious cognitive complications throughou thte month of February. But upon his return home, he was feeling quite good. I gain a lot of perspective from reading this email. Such as... Mike hated the hospital. He always had a sense of humor about his situation. He realized how complicated his case was, even if he acted like it was fairly straightforward. And.. did I mention, he hated the hospital?

The following email was sent to friends on February 6, 2006. (See previous post for info on our March 8-12 trip to Charleston, SC):

Hello friends,

I am thankfully back at work today, having been released from the hospital last Friday. And since I’m not in the hospital, today is a good day.

I’ll recap here for those of you who may not have been on Danna’s email lists. On Thursday, Jan 26, I checked back into Jefferson Hospital for more surgery. A cyst had grown where my tumor was previously, apparently a fairly common occurrence for a craniopharyngioma (the fancy name for my brand of tumor). After consulting with the radiation therapists, my doctors concluded that it made the most sense to drain the cyst first before I started radiation therapy to kill of the remaining cells.

I had the surgery on Friday, Jan 27. Unfortunately, the surgeons were working somewhat blind. Last time, they went in endoscopically through my nose. This time, they went in from the top of my skull. Given the procedure, the top of the skull method was less invasive. They attached a frame (kind of like a halo) to my skull, and then took an MRI. This frame had to literally be screwed into my skull at four points, which wins for Unpleasant Surgical Procedure of the Day. Especially when you consider that the frame wasn’t designed for an enormous head such as mine. The frame gives the surgeons coordinates to orient themselves with, and a software program then directs them to the cyst. My surgeon wasn’t sure if he punctured the cyst during surgery, so he sent me for a CAT scan while still under sedation. The CAT scan was inconclusive: either he had punctured it, or he had just missed. Since it was possible that he had hit the target, he chose not to try again and expose me to greater risk. He ended the surgery, and scheduled me for an MRI to get more conclusive evidence. The MRI confirmed that he had missed.

Saturday morning, my surgeon suggests that we try again. He can send me home and have me come back at a later date, or he can fit me in Tuesday and just keep me in the hospital. I’m so ready for this to be done, I decide to stay. After an intensely boring weekend in the hospital, I go back to the pre-op area Tuesday morning. this time, they give me a sedative cocktail before screwing on the frame, making the experience much more pleasant. I awaken after surgery to find out that they did penetrate the cyst. Success!

Tuesday night, I sleep terribly. I run a fever as high as 103.9, similar to a problem I had last November. Wednesday morning, my surgeon stops by early. While they did penetetrate the cyst, they were a little too successful: the catheter is now very close to one of the main arteries in the brain, and my surgeon doesn’t want to scratch that artery by accident. He wants to go in one last time and retract the catheter a few millimeters. He thinks that might be the cause of the fever as well, since it may be upsetting the hypothalamus. I sigh in resignation. What else can I do? He apologizes, and says he’s never had this much difficulty with such a simple procedure. He orders me antibiotics added to my IV, and ups my hydrocortisone level.

Thursday morning, I once again am headed to pre-op. As I am wheeled down on a stretcher, five different nurses say, “Good luck, Mike.” You know you’ve been in the hospital too long when that many nurses can identify you by name. Finally, the procedure is performed and works. A CAT scan shows great placement, and that they’ve shrunk the cyst down when they withdrew fluid during surgery. Hurray!

Friday afternoon, I leave the hospital, thrilled to get out of there. Now I have to schedule followups with my original surgeon, my endocrinologist, and another radiation therapist. Originally, we were going to wait a couple of weeks before starting radiation, but my surgeon doesn’t want to wait for the cyst to reform, so he’s pushing a faster timetable. I meet with the new radiation therapist on Feb 14 to find out more.

Unlike last November, I feel just fine now. My energy level and stamina are fine, and I’m not suddenly wiped out. This allows me to be back at work and driving immediately. It’s a big relief. I do have a big shaved patch on my head. Fortunately, it’s placed in an inconspicuous place: the front of my head. Ah well. At least the scar is along my natural part, so it should eventually disappear beneath my usual shaggy mane. In the meantime, I’ve gotten my hair cut shorter than it has been since my college days. Tom Javian suggested I shave the other side and dress up as Lt. Worf from Stark Trek TNG. We could then tell people that a side effect of the surgery had me convinced I had become Lt. Worf, and I would wear a Star Trek uniform to work every day. Oh, the fun you can have with a brain tumor!


Monday, August 14, 2006 - 11 pm

[Photos of Mike taken March 12-14, 2006 by Victoria. Just after our Baxter-free March 8-12 trip to Charleston, SC (read more on that below) and less than one week before Mike was admitted to Jefferson. The photo on the left was pretty much how Mike was about 50% of the time in those weeks leading up to his hospitalization. He often wasn't even aware that he was sleeping.]

I've been busily working on things for the tribute show. Assembling the program, order of performances, burning CDs to play before and after the show. It's a great way to focus my energy. I'm so tired, but I feel almost manic in my need to do things. I have such frenetic energy that I've had an upset stomach for 2 days. Lovely.


After coming across these photos from Victoria, I started thinking a lot about the months of February and March. Mike had a series of three operations from Jan 27 to Feb 2 to implant a shunt to drain the cyst that had quickly formed in his head. The shunt turned out to be infected with staph which is why he appeared to be falling apart before my eyes throughout the month of February and into March. He was so fatigued, incommunicative, and occasionally confused. It was crushing to watch - especially since we had no fucking idea why.

I remember going to dinner with Sasha, Dee, Marianne, Heather and Michaela in February in Chinatown. It was Oscar night, March 5th. We ate dinner at Vietnam Restaurant, and talked movies. Brokeback Mountain was the subject. I admitted that Mike and I had gone to see the movie a week prior and that I cried from the second the music started until the credits rolled. When the ladies asked why, I took a moment and decided to say what I knew I wanted to say. It went something like this:

“I hate to be a downer, but the movie is about a love that is lost - and right now I feel like I have lost Michael. He's not right. I don't know if he's depressed or sick, but he's not right.”

I remember the girls just sort of sitting there stunned. I think some suggested that he was just in a post-op funk and others just sort of patted my hands, but this was a major bomb to drop in a circle of happily married friends. I could definitely feel the “holy shit” in the air.

In spite of the aggressive tumor/cyst that Mike knew he had in his head, he was set on going away with me for a much needed and deserved vacation in early March. The radiation oncology team outlined a general plan that would have started Mike in radiation therapy during the first week of March. Radiation has to be completed in 6 successive weeks, so interrupting the treatment for a vacation was not going to be in the cards. So, Mike made it passionately clear that he needed to get away before radiation started.

Throughout this entire chapter, something was not right with Michael. I discussed it in detail with Victoria and Deke when they came up two after the Oscars to watch Baxter while Mike and I went away to Charleston. They listened, but at that point, the only one who could really see the changes in Michael was me.

The Charleston trip (March 8-12) was wonderful and horrible. Mike was sweet and charming and funny - but not right. He slept about 16 hours a day, was viciously forgetful, and had lost all sense of direction. He left his palm pilot in a drug store (not like Mike at all), forgot to bring the camera, forgot to bring one of his medicines (DDAVP), and went for a jog one morning only to return 15 minutes later because he had gotten confused and counted find the water (1 block to our East - AND he had a map).

It was like watching the slowest car crash you've ever seen.

But, I do not doubt that the trip was what Mike desperately wanted and needed. Between his intense need to get away with me in March and his almost aggressive request to come home for the weekend between the March 28 transphenoidal surgery and the April 4th craniotomy… I wonder if he knew. Not in his rational mind, of course, but somewhere else - I wonder if somehoe he knew the importance of time. Time with me, with Baxter, and at our beautiful home. It sure seems that way in hindsight.


Sunday, August 13, 2006 - 11:30 pm: "Time fo' Bed!" (a smoosherism)

[A summer day in Rittenhouse Square. Our favorite lounging spot in those early days - especially when I lived in the Wellington at 19th and Walnut from 2000-2001]

In the early days of our relationship, the joke was that I hated when our dates were over. I never wanted Mike to go home. I never wanted Sunday afternoon to roll around cause it meant another week of Mike working and Danna at school. I remember one night when I still lived in the grad towers at Penn (oy.). Mike went to look at his watch (as he often did as the night grew late) and before he could see what time it was, I grabbed his wrist, took his watch off and threw it under my bed with the dust bunnies.

I believe his response was, "What are you... eight?"

I also tried many times (unsuccessfully) to get him to play hookey (sp?). This was one of those times. The beginning of the thread is typical of the email banter that has kept me from my work for countless hours over the past seven years:


From: Danna Goldthwaite
To: Mike Young
Sent: March 7, 2000 2:04 pm

Mike, I just got this article from my public opinion professor … it’s a hoot.


…Who AM I?


From: Mike Young
To: Danna Goldthwaite
Sent: March 7, 2000 2:14 pm

It is a hoot. And that’s a word I use.

Even in its humor, it is revealing. Clearly, McCain is the least-insulted candidate, which I think shows the character respect he garners.

There was an article in the Sunday Inky about late-night shows and political humor. Did you see it? I think I still have it if you haven’t.


From: Danna Goldthwaite
To: Mike Young
Sent: March 7, 2000 2:27 pm

Garner? Like Parsley?

Your vocabulary astounds me. I would never use that word. Now I will, though.

I’d really like to see that article you mentioned, if you do still have it.

So, yeah tomorrow 75 degrees.
Libra, Wednesday, March 8:
There’s a time to work and a time to play. You usually don’t consider whether you can afford to attend an impromptu party, but today you may have to.

Ok ok… so I changed the word “tonight” to “today.” What can I say, I’m a scoundrel. And, Mike, I do hope you realize that I am in no way serious about running off tomorrow, so don’t fret. It’s just fun to make pretend though, hmm?


From: Mike Young
To: Danna Goldthwaite
Sent: March 7, 2000 2:50 pm

Gee, I never thought of my vocabulary being that astounding. I do use more words in print that I would in conversation.

And yeah, you’re “in no way serious.” Like there’s not a little part of you that’s hoping I’ll somehow take that dare and somehow show up with a picnic basket. And just maybe, because I surprised you last night, I could surprise you tomorrow too.

At least, that’s what I’m thinking. But there’s no way that’s going to work, OK? Because it would take me a good 30 minutes to get there and 30 minutes to get back. Though I don’t have anything scheduled tomorrow afternoon, so no one would miss me… but NO, I’m not going to do all the work here, and spoil you. I mean, I’m not going to rearrange my day just for one half hour of sitting in the sunshine with my head on your lap while you run your fingers through my hair…

Curse you, foul temptress!


From: Danna Goldthwaite
To: Mike Young
Sent: March 7, 2000 2:52 pm

I don’t really have anything to say, I just need you to know that I am laughing right now…


Saturday, August 12, 2006 - 10:30 pm

I spent most of the day today enjoying the entertaining antics of my beautiful son. After a long nap this afternoon, I packed up Bax and his toys to head into the city to visit Curtis and Matt. As I merged onto 70 West to head over the Ben Franklin Bridge I realized that I hadn't done this drive in a while - but that I used to do it every day. Going around that big curve before merging with traffic was usually when I took a deep breath and got myself geared up for whatever the day would hold with Michael. Today as I got on the highway, I thought that Bax might make a similar connection - that he would remember that this is how we used to go to visit daddy on the weekends. But then I was like, "that's nuts. He's not even 2 years old. He has no idea."

But then, as we passed through the EZ Pass toll lane at the booths just before the bridge, Baxter sat right up straight in the car seat, hoisted himself up a bit to look out the window and let out a string of squeals followed by, "Yay! Daddy! Go see Daddy! Daddy? Daddy. Go see Daddy."

I ignored it. I didn't know what else to do.

But after about a minute, I couldn't listen anymore.

"No, Baxter. Remember? We're going to play at Matty and Curtis' house. Matty and Curtis."

"Yeah," he said a bit calmer, "Matt-my and Cuh-kis."


Saturday, August 12, 2006 - morning

I feel like I may be trying to wean myself off of the blog a bit these days. Trying to do more and think less, I suppose. We'll see how long that lasts.

Last night was wonderful. Kevin and Beth came over and Cara stopped by on her way to the shore (and ended up staying the night). We talked and ate and drank and reminisced about Mike. I asked if they would be willing to watch footage of Mike and Baxter and Me that I have never watched. It was wonderful and sad. Most of the footage was filmed by Mike, but you can hear his voice throughout. It was so wonderful to hear the Mike-isms that I used to hear all the time.


While I was in the shower yesterday morning (with Bax parked in front of Blue's Clues - our foolproof system), I looked at Mike's shaving mirror that's attached to the wall and realized he would never use it, or his razor, ever again. This horrible feeling washed over me, and out of nowhere - I threw up... right there in the shower.


I have had a pretty "together few days here." Busily organizing and getting ready for what I am envisioning as a new chapter. But, you can never predict what is going to set me off. I'm sure many of you are experiencing that same phenomenon. It feels so out of control. Yesterday i went to Home Depot for air filters for the furnace and to Bed, Bath, and Beyond for random stuff. In both stores I felt like I could barely breathe. Especially in the kitchenware section of BB&B. No reason to poke around there anymore.


I had a dream about Mike - the only dream I have had about him since his death. In it, kevin and I were exploring this old abandoned neighborhood and came across a very sick but surprisingly alive michael living in a shell of a building. Mike was incoherent and not that shocked to see us. he was incontinent, delusional, and no STM. It was horrible. We were back on the f*cking roller coaster and I didn't know if we should bring him home, to jefferson, or magee.

When I woke up, I felt a clear sense of relief at the realization that he really was dead. And while it feels odd and crass to be feeling anything other than sorrow at the thought of his death - that's how I felt. I do wonder if that dream were Mike's way of helping me accept his death. All this looking backwards to remember who he really was is erasing his illness - as it was designed to do. But, the catch 22 here is that without the illness, Mike's passing is just an unacceptable outcome. But that tumor was never going to be cured. He was always going to be ill. And this dream reminded me of the horror that was the past 5 months.


Finally, an anecdote that I haven't yet shared on the blog:

On the morning of Mike's death, Dr. Andrews and I stood beside Michael's bed about 30 minutes after he had passed. We patted his legs through the blanket and both cried. Finally Andrews broke the silence when he looked to me and cautiously said,

"I know it's a terrible time to talk about this... but if you want a full autopsy, that's something we're going to need to know from you now."

I turned to Dr. Andrews and said, completely straight-faced, "You think he was murdered?"

Somewhere, Mike was laughing. Andrews? not so much.


Wednesday, August 9, 2006 - 11:30 pm. I need to go to bed earlier. This is way too late.

[(L) At Sasha and Dee’s wedding, from Marianne; (R) Bad Hair promo shot, from DonDon]

Thank you for the great photos that are coming in via email. One thought that’s been driving me crazy lately is that I’ll never have the opportunity to have a new memory of Michael. I’ll never hear him make a new joke or say something sweet to me. But, through these photos – many of which I’ve never seen – I am having the chance to make new memories of him even without him here.


Note to generous folks sending money to Baxter’s education fund: I’ve talked with a friend who specializes in non-profit law. She said it’s important that people make checks out to Baxter Young Education Fund – or simply Baxter Young. Using the term “Charity Fund” has particular implications, and since Bax isn’t really a charity, you can’t use that language. And please use the following address: P.O. Box 233, Collingswood, NJ 08108. Your generosity towards Bax and me has been and continues to be amazing. We are so very lucky.


And, coming on the heels of my visit with the financial planner yesterday, your generosity is super helpful. It looks like I’m going to need to supplement our income with the small bit of life insurance money we received. Then, in a couple of years when (or if) that insurance money is gone, I’ll need to bring in income from Mike’s 401K which I’ll need to roll into an IRA. Or something like that. Ask Mary Javian. She was there with me and knew a hell of a lot more about our finances than I did. I asked her to look through our finances before the meeting with the planner and thank god I did. The conversation looked something like this:

Financial Advisor: “So, you own your home?”

Danna: “Yes.”

FA: “What’s your mortgage?”

Danna: “Ummm… each month? Or total? With taxes?”

Then… he asks me, “What’s your rate?” I shrug and look to Mary who jumps in.

Mary: “5.5”

FA to Danna: “Good. Now is that a 30 year fixed?”

[Again, Danna with the blank look, turns to Mary.]

Mary quickly replies, “Yes.”

Needless to say, when I made our appointment for next week when he's going to give me some options... he suggested Mary accompany me.


And, because I’m exhausted, here’s my last question of the day:

Can you put feelers out for people in need of a full or part-time live-out nanny in South Jersey (haddon area)? One thing that Elizabeth from Haddon Learning Center suggested was that perhaps Lonia could work as a nanny in someone’s home and bring Baxter there with her during the day. Lonia doesn’t think that situation will present itself – but we won’t know until we try.


Monday, August 7, 2006 - 4:45 pm

[Bax's favorite song: See his artistic interpretation down below]


Today I did the first real academic work I think I've done in four months. A colleague at Annenberg was working on a study of the Daily Show and generously asked if I would co-author it with her for the American Political Science Association Conference on Labor Day Weekend. I kept swearing that I would fulfill by obligation to her and the paper - even though the days were slowly disappearing. Today I finally did it. Not a great job or a thorough job, but... i did it.

It felt so good to get in the zone. I haven't been able to focus at all on work. I try and try and it just doesn't happen. But today, for a period of several hours, the world fell away and I was totally in it. It felt wonderful. And the conference is the weekend after the celebration. It's right here in Philly. A very nice way to transition into the fall.


Thank you so much to the anonymous Jess, who doesn't even know us, but who bought Lonia a plane ticket for the weekend of August 27th for Lonia. Truly. What's up with you crazy people? This could be a giant hoax! I might have made this entire thing up to capitalize on the goodness of others...

I wish.


I had a wonderful weekend with Liz and baby Noah. Liz is my best friend from college who brings a lot of the same kind of calm positive energy to me that Michael did. Being with her was such a gift. Even if she did mock the fact that when I put my mouthguard in at bedtime I have a terrible lithp.


If you have awesome photos of Mike that you would like to add to the collage that the art department at Discmakers is working on, please email them to me at 185cranios@gmail.com. The more the better. And if they are hard copies and you can't scan them, send them to me snail mail and I'll get them to the folks at the art department. The sooner the better so I can make sure they have enough time to get it all together.


We've opened up the tix to the general public. Publicity will start late this week. So, if you haven't gotten your tix, get on it quick. Tables are sold out, but general admission is available.


Today, Radio Times on NPR was talking about new and different funeral rituals. So, for whatever reason, I called in. I called with the intention of just talking about the celebration, but I sort of ... i don't know. I talked about Mike and his body, and the ashes and I'm sure I sounded as f*cked up and confused as I feel.

Both guests suggested I retrieve Mike's ashes from the funeral home and keep them in the house with me. They said I'll know what to do with them when the time is right. I think they were right.


Finally, cute Baxter-ism: He now sings all the time. One of his favorites? Twinkle twinkle little star. It goes like this:

Tinkle tinkle li-uh tah.
Ow I won-duh whatcha ah.
Uh uh-buh duh wuh so I,
Lie uh di-muh inuh ky.
Tinkle tinkli li-uh tah.
Ow I won-duh whatcha ah.

Love to you all.


Saturday, August 5, 2006 - midnight

Thank you to all who replied to my desperate post in need of help on various fronts. It seems will still have a lot of research to do into childcare regulations... but we'll get there.

Ever since Lonia and I spoke this morning and she expressed her desire to come here to help Bax and me, I've felt so much lighter. She and I need each other right now and it almost seems silly for us to be apart. Yes, it's going to take some adjusting for her to live here - but we'll work it out. I know it's the right thing for us to do because after she told me that she's going to try to come here, Bax and I ate lunch and both took a restful two hour nap. I felt so refreshed afterwards - and calm.

Yes, life is going to be different from what I had imagined. But, that's life. And the thought of having Lonia here with Baxter and me makes me feel close to Michael. And she's said the same about how she feels being with us.

And most importantly, Baxter LOVES his Grandma. She's been back in Ohio for like 2 weeks, and yet, still... when Bax gets up in the morning and starts to go down the stairs to get breakfast with me, he stops and says, "Grandma? Downstairs?" And each morning I sadly have to say no.

In need of some help. Sat Aug 5, 2006

I have a bunch of things that I need a little help with.

1) Researching airfares for Lonia to fly from Cleveland, OH to Philly for the weekend of Mike's celebration. Probably flying in either Friday night (Aug 25) or Sat morning (Aug 26) and flying back on Monday, Aug 28th. Cheap - non-stop.

2) Researching the regulations on in-home childcare in Haddon Township, NJ. Lonia is looking to move here. She will be staying with us for a while and hopes to care for children here in our home. While we L.O.V.E. Haddon Learning Center, we will probably be taking Bax out and keeping him here with Grandma and paying her for childcare so that she has an income here. There are several other friends who have expressed interest in Lonia caring for their kids (after all, she is absolutely amazing with little people). The question is, if Lonia took care of 3-5 kids in my home, in order to be over the table and legal etc, what are the rules (if any)? Are their laws about inspections, number of entrances, number of kids etc? I just need someone to get all the info and see if she'll need a license to do this in our home for 3-5 children.

3) Asking around and keeping your eyes open to see if anyone in the Westmont area has an apartment or in-law suite that they would be willing to rent or offer to Lonia for very little money. She will be staying with us for a while, but obviously, both of us would like her to have her own space.

4) Someone handy to come and replace my miniature basement door that's pretty rotten.

I'm sure there's more that I need help with, but I can't think of anything right now. Thanks in advance.

Have a wonderful weekend,
Danna and Bax


Friday, August 4, 2006 - midnight

I've had two very good days with friends. Last night, Russ, Curtis, and I talked for hours. Today, Michelle and I went to Toppers for massages and pedicures where I redeemed my gift certificates from Nicole and from a generous anonymous parent of one of Bax's buddies at Haddon Learning Center. Tonight, Julie and baby Jack came over for dinner and they're sleeping over. Very nice to have wonderful people around me. It fills me up.

Today at the spa, I was nervous about the stillness of a massage. Sure enough, it brought tears and sadness. But it also felt wonderful to be touched by another person. Not to be weird, but having someone touch my back, legs, arms, feet and neck was a reminder that I exist. I feel like I have basically been a floating head for about six months now. No connection between mind and body. I'm in my head 24/7 and don't even consider the physical parts of me that keep me going each day (except for that one day I was in the bathtub and remembered that yes, I do have legs and arms and feet). The massage must have done something, because after Michelle and I ate lunch at Pietro's, I came home and slept for a solid hour. More than I've been able to in the past week or so.


Bax saw Mike again. We were in the master bedroom this morning. I was getting dressed and Bax was standing in the doorway to the closet, looking out into the bedroom. He was playing with my belts and simply looked past me, over my right shoulder towards the bathroom door.

"Bye-bye, Daddy."

"What?" I asked, somewhat annoyed. Truly, I feel like I wish I could get baxter to tell me exactly what he sees. Does Mike talk to him? Do they play? Does Mike just walk on through? "Baxter, who did you see?"

"Daddy," he says, going back into the closet to rip another belt down from the hook.

"Where?" I asked. He pointed back in the direction of the bathroom. "You saw Daddy?" I asked again.

"Yeah." he said nonchalantly and proceeded to whine as my woven belt got stuck on the hook in spite of his tugging.


I have said this a lot to friends over the past week as I have lost my shit randomly here and there throughout the day and night. I don't think I had any idea of how strongly I would mourn Mike's absence. I think in my rational mind I thought since he hadn't been in the house for 4 months (except that amazing weekend April 1st) and had been so sick and exhausted for so long, that somehow him passing away would not devastate me as much. But what I failed to realize was how much I was getting from being with him - even as he was so sick. From touching his face, bringing him clothes to wear, putting on music for him, giving him a shave, lying with him for hours in his hospital bed - and towards the end, just feeling him squeeze my hand. It connected me to him. Even if the "him" that I was interacting with wasn't "real" Mike - it was still him.

I've described it this way... You know when you are at a party and there are certain people who change the energy of the room as soon as they enter? You can sense where they are at every moment because of the light they carry with them. Mike was one of those people. But, to me, Mike's energy didn't just alter the feeling of a room - it affected how it felt to be here on this planet. I carried his energy with me everywhere. Whether at school, out for a walk, or away at a conference, Mike's presence in my life changed what it felt like to be me. Whenever I had a dumb anecdote to tell, or a little annoying thing about my day - it wasn't real until I shared it with Mike.

And now I feel like I'm walking around with half of me missing. Not all the time. Much of the time, just to go about my day without collapsing into the fetal position, I think I pretend he's still around (which, according to Baxter, isn't "pretending" at all).

But then I take a moment to process that fact that Mike is not at the hospital. He's not at work. He's not away on business. He's not at rehearsal. In fact, he'll never be anywhere again. He's gone.

That's when I feel lost - like I'm floating around with no home, no path, and no destination. That energy, that guiding presence that came from Mike is missing.

And yet, as I write this, I do feel a version of his energy. But it's not coming from outside me like it did from Mike - instead, it's inside. Perhaps from the memories of Mike, or from the person who I became from my seven years with him - or maybe from something more other-worldly - who knows. But I do feel a piece of that energy. Unfortunately, as much as I would like to say that it's comforting to feel it in spite of his absence, it certainly doesn't feel as nice as it did when it came from real live Mike. It certainly doesn't provide me the sense of direction I had from him being in the world.


In an effort to try to figure out who I might be without Mike, I thought back to who I was before him. I started listening to music that I listened to before we met, wearing clothes I wore before we met... What a stupid idea. I am not that person. I don't want to be that person. Mike changed who I am and how I see myself - even if he's not here anymore. And it felt so hollow and horrible to try to reclaim my pre-Mike identity. It lasted all of one day - then I put my polyester hipster clothes and REM CD back where they belonged and popped Jack Johnson back in the CD player.

Off to the next batch of coping mechanisms...


Thursday, Aug 3, 2006 - 10 am

[Album: Iron and Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days]

In 2004, Mike and I went on a date to see the movie "In Good Company." We fell in love with a song by Iron and Wine that's on the soundtrack: "Naked as we Came." It is a beautiful smooshy song, with great acoustic guitar, but I never actually listened to the lyrics...

...until today.

You can listen to the song on iron and wine's myspace site (http://www.myspace.com/ironandwine) by clicking on the song "Naked as We Came" within their media player.

Mike always mocked my tendency to pick a favorite song or album and play it over and over and over and over again. I'm sure he's laughing at me right now that the playcount on this song is up in the twenties. That's ok. He's allowed.

Iron & Wine Naked As We Came

She says wake up it's no use pretending
I'll keep stealing breathing her
Birds are leaving over Autumn's ending
One of us will die inside these arms

Eyes wide open
Naked as we came
One will spread our
Ashes round the yard

She says if I leave before you darling
Don't you waste me in the ground
I lay smiling like our sleeping children
One of us will die inside these arms

Eyes wide open
Naked as we came
One will spread our
Ashes round the yard


Wednesday, Aug 2, 2006 - SHOW TIX and CHEAP DIGS!

They opened up the Mezzanine tickets tonight. (Thanks for the heads up, Liz!) The tickets on the Mezzanine are already almost gone, though ($#&*?) - so move fast - go to WorldCafeLive.com . However, they also made additional general admission tix available for purchase.

So, tix are still available for the show... but who knows for how long.

I was just informed that someone who had had tix for table 404 on the floor switched out for tables in the mezzanine, so table 404 for 6 people is now available - along with a few seats upstairs.

Remember, general admission tix say, "standing room only" but that is a misnomer. There are lots of theater seats available.

If you learn that tix are sold out (again), you must email me at 185cranios@gmail.com.


DISCOUNT HOTEL (thanks to Maria! yay!)

The Windsor Hotel at 17th and the Parkway is offering a discounted rate of $59 per night (!) to folks attending the bash. To get the rate, you need to call the Hotel Windsor directly at 215-981-5678 and ask for reservations. You should request the BigBash rate (all one word "BigBash"), which will be $59/night and available on Friday, August 25th; Saturday, August 26th, and Sunday, August 27th. There’s a parking garage attached and the rate for that is $24/night and the pool on the roof is open.
If people want to visit the website, it’s www.windsorhotel.com.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006 - Show is selling out.

Dear... family, present and past CSzers, friends, DiscMakers folks, Penn Alumni, Wiggers, Without a Netters, Annenbergers, UDelawarers, and of course all Jefferson and Magee nurses, therapists, techs and doctors --

Ok, so technically World Cafe Live has the entire show listed at SOLD OUT... BUT, they have yet to open up the 50 Mezzanine tickets. I think they may also release more general admission tickets for purchase, but I'm not sure. So, keep trying and keep checking in here on the blog. Cause for sure within the next 24 hours, the 50 Mezzanine tix will come available.

This is insane.

love you, danna


Tuesday, August 1, 2006 - 8:30 pm

So, today I was low. So low. Saw my therapist this morning. helpful. Indeed helpful - helpful in that I now realize that I should feel like total shit. But, oddly, that is helpful. Helpful in that I see that for the past couple of weeks I have probably been in shock. Like the whacky lady who gets in a car wreck and walks around in a fog looking for her car keys.

About 4 minutes after Mike died, I remember going in the little room off to the side surrounded by friends and just saying, "Do Bax and I have health insurance? Our health plan is through mike. And Mike's dead. Are we uninsured?"

I realized how insane it was to ask that right then, but... it's where my thoughts went. Shock does weird things. It gets people planning parties and writing thank yous and promoting celebrations when they should really just be sleeping.

Now that I'm starting to work through and get past those horrible memories of the last months and (especially) days, I'm remembering real Mike. My Smoosher Mike. And now I'm crashing. I picture him in this great ribbed rust colored sweater (his favorite color) with a cream colored button down underneath. Olive cords and rust colored socks to match the sweater. - He always matched socks to shirt. Very meterosexual that way, among other ways. - I picture him laughing and smiling, entertaining a room with just a quip. I picture his smiling eyes. Not his sleepy hospital eyes, but his smiling happy eyes. And these pictures make me feel crushed.

I do feel like it's helpful realizing that I share this loss with so many people. Mike wasn't a typical guy. He was connected with so many people in so many circles. So, it's not like friends are just here trying to help me get over this, but rather, we are all helping each other.


I had a great surprise visit from Tracie today. She came over at just the right time. Rock bottom. After Tracie came over, Heide tagged her out and we had a great lunch out. I napped for an hour and was woken up by a sweet flower delivery guy from Collingswood delivering a beautiful arrangment.

He looked at me as though he wanted to say something for a couple of seconds, then said,

"I think I remember delivering some flowers here just a couple of months ago for your graduation."

"Yeah, that was me."


"Did your husband die?"

"Yeah, he did."

"I'm so so sorry. That's awful. I'm so sorry."

"It's ok," I nodded, looked down and thanked him as I turned to go back inside. I must have looked like the picture of grief. Dishelved, unshowered, pillow creases on my face, sweaty, wearing a dirty wrinkled t-shirt. Whatever.

And, "It's ok?" I find myself saying shit like this. Like when I tell people the news for the first time and they are devastated and I try to ease their pain and discomfort by saying, "He was sick for a long time. It's for the best really." What the f*ck is that? For the best? Not exactly.

On a very positive note, my friend Maria, the mom of one of Bax's daycare buddies, knows people in the hotel business in Center City. She is working on getting a reduced rate for us at the Hotel Windsor (all suites) at 17th and the Parkway. The rate appears to be unbelievably good. I'll have more info for you all tomorrow. Just know, if you're coming in from out of town and need a place to stay, you will probably have amazing digs for Fri, Sat, and Sun night for cheap. So keep your eyes out on the blog.


The show: we've already sold almost 150 tickets! If you plan on going to the celebration, buy your tix now HERE. The show is going to be publicized within the Jefferson University Hospital system in about a week, and will be publicized in the Philly weeklies and Inquirer in 2 weeks. I want to be certain that all friends, family, coworkers, colleagues, acquiantances, nurses, therapists, and doctors get their seats before having to compete with the general public. I think the capacity for the space is around 3-400. While the table seating is going quickly, there are many general admission tix still available. General Admission does NOT mean you're going to spend 2 hours standing up. There will be many seats available - many theater style seats in the center section on the floor that are not shown on the website floorplan picture. But they do exist.


Ok. I'm tired. Susan cooked me a yummy dinner and flagged the Mr. Softee truck down so I have a 10 gallon bowl of soft serve waiting for me. love you. Danna