[Looking Back: July 2006 - Baxter and Titi Dee]
PJ and I often marvel at the enormous task of single-parenting. Particularly when Bax is so BIG for his britches. Granted, Bax was younger then so the challenges were different, but I don't really remember how I did it. I remember being tired --- running to catch up --- and savoring my time blogging... those rare moments after Bax went to sleep when I felt the company of friends as I typed my every thought into the keyboard.
The entire time period when Mike was ill is a blur in terms of how I managed to take care of Baxter. Mike's mom was here for a few weeks in April. My parents came for a couple of weeks in May. But Mike was hospitalized from March 17th until July 19th. Most days were simple: drop baxter at daycare, take the train to Jefferson and arrive late morning, leave the hospital at 4 to pick up baxter by 5. Weekends were a challenge. One of the days I'd bring baxter with me for a brief visit to Daddy Michael. Perhaps the other weekend day, someone would step in to help so I could make a quick visit into the city.
[At Right: That same pool trip in July 2006. Bax with his juicy cup]
That is a time that...I do. not. visit. It's a time that doesn't bring me feelings of warm grief and connection to Michael, but rather feelings of anxiety and trauma and spiraling out-of-control. If anything, that time period makes me feel much farther away from Michael than I do on a regular basis - because the person I remember as my husband Michael is NOT the person who I visited at Jefferson.
So, today, I'm here on the computer, paying some bills, and I actually take a second to look at some of these jpg files on my desktop. This is Mike's iMac that I don't really use much outside of paying bills... so I don't really browse around here too much. But here on the desktop there are two pictures of Baxter, taken the weekend of July 1st 2005, by our friends Sasha and Dee.
I remember this weekend because it was the last weekend that Mike was at Magee rehab hospital before being taken back to Jefferson for the July 7th Hail Mary Pass surgery.
Sash and Dee played this role many times over that spring - stepping in to play parent to Baxter in my absence. On this particular weekend, they took Bax out to our friend Steiner's mom's pool for an afternoon of swimming.
I remember when Sash emailed me the photos a few days later. How grateful I was that Baxter was finding love and joy during this complicated time - and how sad I was at the intense disconnect between Baxter's naive bliss and Mike's impossible illness. Mike died 17 days later.
PJ, Bax and I had a wonderful weekend here at home - but it was supercharged with parenting issues with a smart and stubborn Baxter. It was oddly helpful this morning to momentarily recall how tumultuous his first two years were - and how remarkable it is that the struggles we face with Bax are the same exact struggles any parent of a 4 year old is going through. Defiance - Sassiness - Always trying to make you laugh, even when he's being wicked naughty - Not wanting to pick up his toys - Taking like 37 hours to get on his shoes and coat - Always wanting to eat something sugary.
What a blessing to have a child who is so freaking annoying in a very typical and normal way.
Yesterday afternoon, we watched the Eagles game at Heide and Daniel's. Bax played with Hazel and we sat with their chubby happy twins, Winter and Simone, to watch the game. PJ sat with Simone for most of the game - it was the cutest thing to see. Anyway, before bed, I told Baxter, "You know, holding the babies reminded me of holding you when you were a baby."
"Because you were so tiny and cute and you made little noises..."
"What did I say?"
"I think you said 'buh buh buh' a lot."
"Did I say Da-da?"
"Did I say Ma-ma?"
"Yes.... And, I remember you learned the word 'duck' really early, too."
"Did I have my yellow shaky duck when I was a baby?" (a duck with a rattle inside)
"You bet... Liz and Scott gave that to you before you were born. It was you first toy!"
He seemed pleased. He was quiet for a second, looking at the shaky duck in his hand. Then he lit up...
"And then Daddy Michael would tug the duck and say 'tug tug tug'!" He said, smiling....
And no, this isn't baxter remembering this event from his infancy. It's a charming anecdote I shared with him a few months ago that he loves to revisit.
"And would I would giggle and giggle?"
It's funny that something so hyper-loaded as impermanence is simply a part of Bax's vocabulary of the world.
We try to be quite mindful of this. That for Baxter, the disappearance of another human being - one who plays an integral role in your daily life - is a reality. you can't poo-poo it away when he says, "I don't want you to die." You can't say, "I'm not going to die." Because he'll say, "Then why did Daddy Michael die?"
And yes, this conversation has happened word for world - most recently just a couple of weeks ago.
We have noticed, though, that these questions and concerns are not always present. It seems that they are mostly around when our lives are hectic or unsettled. For about 10 days, our house was a bit chaotic, prepping for a holiday party, rearranging furniture etc.... His inquiries about death jumped that week. Cheryl (it's so good to have friends with PhDs in psychology) pointed out that for Baxter, an unsettled emotional state might simply activate other constructs that are unsettling - which, unfortunately for his way-too-experienced mind - have to do with death and impermanence.
But you can imagine that when I was at ComedySportz rehearsal the other week, and Baxter turned to PJ and said, "I love you dad. I don't want you to die." It tore PJ's heart out. I think his response was something along the lines of "I love you, too, Baxter."
And finally, another great Mike dream. (He's all over the place in my mind right now - which is quite cool because PJ and I are feeling really smitten and connected these days ... so to have that in real life and a healthy connection with Mike in my subconscious is helping me feel quite grounded.)
In my dream, we had rented a big house. I think lots of Comedysportz folks were there. I was cooking breakfast - ham steaks and other yummies sauteeing in olive oil, garlic, and onions. Now, remember, cooking is something I did NOT do at all until after Mike died and I had to fend for my damn self. So, in the dream, I reduce the heat on the burners, and go to the bathroom. When I get back in the kitchen - there's Mike - in front of the stove, collar-shirt, sleeves rolled up, black and white pin-stripe apron on. He has literally taken all of my dishes OFF the stove and placed them on the counter. he's started cooking his OWN thing.
"Smoosher!" I laugh, "What are you doing? I'm in the middle of making brunch?"
He laughs a little condescending laugh, and gestures with his left hand to "shush" me out of the kitchen, like saying, "oh, little girl, your ham steaks are so quaint. I'll take over now."
"Smoosher, I'm serious! I know what I'm doing. I'm cooking."
He doesn't even look at me. Instead, laughs a little more, staying put right where he is.
I was so annoyed with his cockiness. And it felt fun and wonderful.
So, (cut back to real life) - later in the day yesterday, I cooked a yummy vegetarian chili from Mike's favorite "Cook's Illustrated" Cookbook. PJ and I were quite impressed with the results. So, PJ, having been told about the "Mike boots danna from the kichen dream" says playfully,
"Tell 'Dream Mike' to Step Off. This chili is amazing!"
I was thinking of creating one of those Christmas Card inserts – you know, the kind with updates about the year’s events for the whole family… I’m not going to, but if I did, it would read like this:
House of Young and Gallagher 2008 Recap
Broad trends through 2008:
- Transition from the House of the Widow Young to the house of Young and Gallagher.
- Baxter is addicted to superheroes, fictional stories told by his dad, and the art of Kung Fu (which PJ claims to know). Bax also started digging phonics and sounding out words this fall…
- Baxter now calls PJ “dad.”
- May 23: PJ Gallagher proposes. Danna accepts. They’ll marry next Spring.
- June: Lonia (Mike’s mom) spends a lovely week visiting with us and has a family dinner with the Gallagher clan.
- June: Family vacation at a beautiful lakeside cabin in NH. Canoeing and swimming ensue.
- July: Big family house in Sea Isle with the whole Gallagher clan for a week of sun and fun.
- August: Danna starts rehearsing with ComedySportz again - with the love and encouragement of one PJ Gallagher.
- 3rd Annual Laughtastic Sketchopalooza raises another $2000 for the Mike Young Fund at
. PJ’s entire family is in attendance. The Fund is now up to approximately $10,000. Jefferson Hospital
- Autumn: PJ (an asst prosecutor for
) argues before the 1st Appellate Court of the Superior Court of NJ (again, with the whole family in attendance) and wins. The decision is going to be published… aw yeah. Atlantic County
- October: Danna, PJ, Baxter, and PJ’s parents spend a weekend together in
. Ocean City, NJ
- Also in October: Danna decides that the two cigarettes a day she's been smoking since Mike unravelled in March 2005 are no longer a necessary part of her life. Resolves to not buy another pack. As of Dec 18th, we're at 8 weeks of smoke-free living... and counting.
- October 12: Philadelphia Theater Company plaque is unveiled: Mike “Egg Foo” Young, Funniest Man in
, 1967-2006. Almost $5000 have been raised for PTC. Philadelphia
- October 25: Danna returns to the Saturday night ComedySportz Stage for the first time since 2004.
- Danna feels that the sun shines brighter since Obama won.
- Late November: Realizing she’s starting to forget the essence of mindful detachment, Danna starts paying more attention to mindfulness and resumes her yoga practice.
Bridging the Past and Present... through Musical.
So, last night, I had the urge to watch one of Mike’s favorite campy classics, “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” from 1954. Mike LOVED this film. Check out the email he sent in 2003 organizing an outing to watch the film on the big screen:
From: Mike Young
Subject: Greatest Musical Ever Made
Sent: 8/11/2003 12:38 PM
This Sunday at 7PM, you have a rare opportunity to see perhaps the greatest musical ever made on the big screen. The Prince Musical Theater at
Seven Brides (1953) stars Howard Keel, Jane Powell, and a very young Russ Tamblyn, who later went on to star as Riff in West Side Story. It's colorful, corny, campy, and a time-capsule of sexist
Danna and I will be going, and you owe it to yourself to go if you've never seen it. Tickets are $8.50.
The film is priceless for its un-ironic misogyny. I knew PJ would get a kick out of it for its insanity. I told him how much Mike loved the film, and PJ eagerly expressed interest in watching it.
That's the thing about Peej. He doesn't get caught up in the emotional baggage of it all. "Mike liked it? Cool. I'll watch it."
The premise of the film is that the protagonist, Adam, a frontiersman, goes into “town,” takes a wife, Millie, and brings her back home. Only upon arrival at the ranch does Millie realize that she’ll not only be living with Adam, but with his 6 unkempt, unruly brothers. Millie takes it upon herself to groom the brothers and teach them how to “go a’courtin.” The brothers try to court the townswomen as Millie taught them, but they soon become frustrated and heartsick with the lack of response.
Like any good older brother would, Adam, finding his brotherly brood … brooding… gives them an instructional and horrifying pep talk in the form of a song. He suggests that the brothers should borrow the approach used by the Romans on the Sabine Women (as in … the “Rape of the Sabine Women”). He suggests that the brothers should kidnap their lady friends… and that eventually the girls would fall in love with them. It’s a classic tale of “No means yes!” … in a very catchy tune:
Needless to say, the mantra of our house right now is “On her face she seems annoyed, but secretly she's OVERjoyed!” …nice.
So, we watched the movie last night and laughed our way through the film. PJ acknowledged several times how priceless it was and how he agreed with Mike in his assessment that it is quite the cultural artifact.
It’s funny. PJ and I have our own life together, our own relationship, our own dynamic… But it was so wonderful to feel like – for a brief moment – we were all three sharing something. You’d think that with PJ raising Baxter (Mike’s biological son) as his own child (he is currently working out the adoption process), that I’d feel that sense of togetherness all the time --- but I don’t. Baxter is so different from the toddler he was when Mike was alive and home. As a result, the role that PJ and I play as Bax’s parents now is cognitively distinct from the role Mike played as father to baby Baxter.
But clearly, the feeling I had watching one of Mike’s favorite films with PJ, while sitting on the big plum colored sofa – which was Mike’s sofa from the house on
I know this because Mike was in my dreams last night. It felt like he was around all night – and I could see him as though he is here beside me right now. He was healthy and happy. Thin and full of life. His hair was floppy and long. He was wearing a mustard-colored button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up twice and a watch on his wrist. And he was so smiley. His eyes were smiling. I could see the smile lines around his eyes as he threw his head back in laughter – with a sentimental head tilt as if to say, “Aw…. Smoosher, you’re so cute.”
But the best part was, in the dream nothing really happened. Mike was sitting on the sofa beside me – but more importantly, beside us… PJ and me. Mike was angled a bit so that he was looking at us, but PJ and I were the ones sitting up close next to each other. Mike reached out and took my hand in one of his, and then took PJ’s hand in the other. PJ was a little surprised and awkward at first, but he didn’t pull away. We just all sat there for a moment, with Mike holding our hands, head tilted, sentimental and smiling at us.
Two nights ago, I confessed something to PJ. He and I were snuggling up after Baxter was asleep, and we were listening to the new Ben Folds album, Way to
“Four, three, two, one… I’m letting you go.
I, will, let, go… If you will let go.”
That’s it. That’s what I confessed to PJ. - that I sing that chorus up to the sky - to Mike. And that I feel guilty about it. Guilty for feeling an urge to move forward, but knowing that it's the right thing to do.
For those of you who may be horrified by this little confession, please know that this urge is not about forgetting Michael. He is a part of our lives. His pictures hang in the house. We talk about him with Baxter. Baxter sleeps under a quilt that has pictures of Mike scanned in onto the fabric. For gosh sakes, Mike's ashes still reside in our closet on top of the bureau where PJ and I keep our clothes. So no - this is not about forgetting. It's about allowing myself to move forward.
The thing is – Mike isn’t holding on to me. I get that. But I feel like my asking him to let go of me is my mind’s way of reconciling the convoluted feelings of guilt I have as the wedding to PJ approaches. I feel like if I ask him to let go of me, then I can move forward without feeling like I’m turning my back on him.
(this video is all whacky, but the chorus starts at 2:37 min)
This whole thing is so fucking complicated.
I am glad to say that throughout this process, PJ and I have grown closer. But, I am definitely superstitious – like if the universe learns how much I love him – then shit will hit the fan. So, I don’t write love letters and get all gushy like I have done in past relationships. In fact, I remember taking weeks with Michael to write our own heartfelt wedding vows. I want no part of that when PJ and I have our ceremony. I want Mother Anne to perform the ceremony using simple traditional vows – but without references to “until death do us part.” I’m not going to do some crazy fancy personal disclosure of our courtship and love. A simple: “I do.” “I do, too.” Done. I realize this may sound cold or crass --- But it’s not about my not feeling strongly towards PJ. It’s about not wanting to draw too much attention to the wonderful second chance that I have found here.
Perhaps if we do it quickly, we’ll slip under the radar… and not tempt the hands of fate.I know, Mike, "it's not fate. It's randomness." I'm still keeping it all on the D.L. - unless the big puppetmaster in the sky is reading this blog. Then I guess the cat's out of the bag, huh?
For those of you who didn't vote for Obama, first, this entire entry isn't about the election, so fret not; and second, I sincerely hope that, in spite of your reservations, that you give him a chance to be your president. I hope that, regardless of your doubts or fears, you at least recognize last night and today for the momentous moment in American history that they constitute.
And as I wrote to a dear non-Obama supporting relative who emailed this morning to ask "What now," I simply say:
Just wait and see... and - i beg you - don't be cynical. Give him a chance - maybe he will make you proud.
And recognize that in 2000 and 2004 50% and 49% of us (respectively) had to contend with a similar feeling to that which you now have - unsettled and nervous. But we got through it, and you will to. That's the beauty of our system. The pendulum swings one way and then it swings back. It's self-correcting and peaceful. Regimes change and hands are shaken and through our differences, we can all be respectful and appreciative that our system is solid enough to endure dramatic shifts like this without imploding.
I voted for Obama because of his environmental views, foreign policy views, abortion stance, tax plan, energy policy, and most of all because he is a scholar of politics, economics, and history - and not one stymied by his knowledge, but a pragmatic one who understands the US as part of a delicate global infrastructure...
I understand that for many people, America's "reputation" or "image" in the world is of little importance or concern, but for me, the knowledge that people around the world are watching and saying, "Holy Shit. The American people voted for change," makes me feel proud and optimistic.
And though I didn't vote for him because of his race, i think it is crucial to recognize this win as a victory for our nation - especially for an entire segment of the population that has - until now - been *told* they have equal rights - but perhaps have never had reason to truly and deeply believe it...
I hope that you all share in at least some aspect of this prideful moment.
I just wish that Mike were here to share it.
The night before the election I dreamt of Mike all night. Just normal healthy mike, hanging out, laughing, wearing his blue comedysportz jacket and his fannypack (that freaking fannypack). So waking up yesterday morning was bittersweet. As PJ said, at least the dream was happy and peaceful.
Last week I had a gruesome dream that stayed with me for days. It was eating me up. I got more and more stressed and angry - ornery towards PJ and impatient with Baxter. Finally, days after the dream, I told PJ about it. As I heard the first sentence of the dream spilling out of my mouth, I lost my breath and sobbed - that hard uncontrollable shaking sobbing that reminds me of being in the Jefferson Hospital elevator with my sister, collapsing to the floor and just wishing I could vanish.
The dream was simple. Mike had died - but his body was in Europe. We needed to get him home. I was watching as they drained his head of these horrible substances. They manipulated his pale lifeless body and began to fill him with embalming fluid. Then he sat up, pipes sticking out of his head, and looked at me with pleading but naive eyes, "Smoosher, what are they doing to me?" he asked.
I think that's all there was to the dream. But it haunted me for days. It still does.
It's interesting - my sister emailed me to share an observation - that October was the first month since Mike got sick that I didn't blog at all. She framed it in terms of the renewed stability I have in my life, the progress I've made, and the joy that PJ brings to us. I would add that now I have someone to whom I tell all this stuff: PJ. I work my baggage out just by talking with him. I also believe that it's fair to say I've been swamped with work and have not taken adequate time to explore my unresolved issues in the past 2 months. I think my lack of blogging and lack of communication is at least somewhat responsible for that awful dream. I think my subconscious just wanted to get it out of there - and without a regular practice of blogging, the dream was the only place for it to go.
So, I'm going to catch up for some lost time:
Mike, I miss you so much.
It continues to be incomprehensible to me: time goes by and goes by and you're still not here. and you're never coming back.
You've missed a lot. That young big-eared guy who talked at the 2004 DNC about how there's no red America and Blue America? Just the United States of America? He's our president? Crazy right?
Remember how we protested the war in Iraq before the invasion in early 2003? The US is still there. Still.
Remember how in Queen Village there were all those new homes and rehabbed homes and developments and $600,000 plus homes and we were like "Who's gonna buy these? Who has that kinda money?" Remember those interest only and subprime loans that you would tell me HAD to be a bad idea? Well - they were. The bubble burst. Home values then began to drop. People who bought houses with those interest only loans, whose home values had dropped, have become totally F*cked. Those shitty mortgages were sold off as securities in which lots of financial institutions - and foreign banks - invested... but with all the foreclosures, those mortgage-backed securities have turned to shit. So Wall St has taken a major nose dive. Major.
On a positive note, Baxter is doing great. He is so big - he looks like such a boy now. And he's learning stuff so quickly. PJ and I took him to Dunkin Donuts before we went to the kids' museum on Sunday morning and he stared at the men's room door. It was the first word I think he actually read: "Men." PJ asked how the heck he knew that and Baxter replied, "M" says "muh." "E" says "eh." "N" says "nuh." "Muh-eh-nuh. meh-nuh. men. Men!"
Then he went around the corner saying, "I bet the other door says 'girls'?" I said, "Go check!" and he ran back yelling, "No!!! It says WOMEN! I know because it starts with a "W"!"
And ComedySportz.... Wow. You would LOVE how the company is doing. Not financially, of course... But artistically. Jadico has the whole show so tight and organized. The space has been totally revamped, too. Last weekend I performed for the first time since Baxter was born. It was amazing fun. It's hard, though, without you there. I try to put you out of my mind in that space. Which is a little easier because of the renovations - and because the company has all these new and amazing younger players who have taken the stage since you were here. They are EFFing awesome. And some of the players who were just taking off a few years ago have totally come into their own - they have grown so much as improvisers, I know you would be so proud.
On your birthday this year, it was also (coincidentally) the unveiling of the seat plaque that your friends and I donated towards at Philadelphia Theater Company. We raised almost $5000 towards the plaque. It is located on the aisle, in the orchestra section, about 8 or 9 rows up. You'd like it. Actually, as Cara pointed out to me, you'd probably give the seat to me since it's on the aisle and my legs are like 2 feet longer than yours... You're sweet like that.
Side note: I asked PJ yesterday if it's weird that I refer to you in the present tense sometimes, "Mike is the kind of person who..." He said an unequivocal, "no. It's not weird."
The plaque reads "Mike (Egg Foo) Young, Funniest Man in Philadelphia, 1967-2006." Cheryl joked that Kevin and Don are probably going to buy plaques for themselves to put next to you, also reading "Funniest Man in Philadelphia." She's funny that Cheryl.
I still have a really hard time reconciling my life with PJ and my loss of you. He is a true gift to Baxter and me. He is sweet, kind, funny, playful, and tolerant of my bratty shenanigans. And I recognize that your death ultimately brought about the circumstances that allowed him into our lives. David, the still-beloved therapist, always reminds me that I never would have chosen to lose you - but that given the hand I was dealt, I did the healthiest thing I could do. I worked on my grief (which I continue to do) and Ihave tried to rebuild.
Today, with the feelings of optimism and pride that come with last night's election results, I miss you terribly. I spent some of Monday and Tuesday canvassing for Obama right near our old neighborhood. It was lifetimes ago that we lived there and walked those streets together - but it wasn't. It was just 4 years. 4 years ago I was preggers, we were getting ready for the next chapter with our baby. Four years and a lifetime ago.
I love and miss you, Mike Young. But you're not here.
There is someone here now who I love - and he is moving our family in a wonderful direction. PJ is youthful, vibrant, carefree, and is marrying me and raising our son as his own. He is an exceptional person, Mike. And everytime I tell PJ that he would have liked you - or if I think, "Mike, you'd really love PJ," I have to laugh at the absurdity of the premise.
How f*cked up this all is.
But, I'm doing the best I can - and amazingly, the "best I can" is usually pretty darned good.
ps: I wish I believed in a concrete notion of heaven. Days like this would be so much easier. You up there with all those old dead people, watching the election returns on a giant screen in the sky... ah well.
The tie between the election and Mike: For me, I think there are a lot of highly salient and emotional things at play.
1) Mike stayed up with me during the nights after September 11th, 2001 as I cried, not out of fear of another attack, but out of a fear of my country's response.
2) Mike and I protested the Iraq war in March 2003 in Philadelphia. That war is still being fought and Mike has been dead for over 2 years.
3) Mike and I sat together on July 27, 2004 and watched as Senator Barack Obama addressed the DNC. Mike and I were giddy with excitement and Mike announced that he couldn't wait for this man to run for president:
And as much as I am trying to keep my perspective in this election, I am feeling the same sense of powerlessness that I did while serving as Mike's advocate in the hospital day after day. It started with a sense of confidence - unflappable faith in our ability to overcome this thing. And suddenly, something rendered me weary. In Spring 2006, it was the one surgery that shook my footing in early April and changed the entire picture. And then, last week, with the announcement of Palin and the *excitement* surrounding her, I started to feel similarly weak in the knees.
I realize it may seem crass to make this comparison - but when I think about what is ultimately important, I feel very little distance between the health of my domestic family and the health of my world. I have always felt this way. I was raised being told that it would be disappointing to try to help outside your own family, that you can really "only take care of your own," but that just didn't sit right with me.
Among the things that I just don't feel the capacity to understand:
- Fear of a "dangerous" world.
- Prioritizing self over the health and well-being of the global community.
- Why "sitting down" and engaging in a discussions with with leaders of "unfavorable" nations is a bad thing.
- Disbelief in science that indicates man accounts for the vast majority of the rise in global temperatures.
- Any line of reasoning or faith that results in the belief that being gay is morally problematic or unnatural.
- Any line of reasoning or faith that suggests that gay couples cannot/should not be able to marry or adopt children.
- Why being a community organizer is something worthy of contempt.
- Why "taxes" are such a bad thing when they pay for our schools, infrastructure, and even our roads.
So, since Palin's nomination, I'm obsessed.
First, I feat that the media have tied their own hands because of the Bullsh*t in their coverage of Hillary over the past 15-16 years.
It goes like this: Hillary tries to work on healthcare behind closed doors and has a contentious relationship with the press. from 92 until 98, the Clintons develop a notorious and well-documention TENSE relationship with journalists.
2007-08: Hillary runs for the democratic nomination. Press is hard on her. I really think they just don't like her. I don't, on the other hand, think it was about her gender - but rather - a sincere lack of affection.
However, the charges are of sexism. So now, the media are confronted with Gov Palin. They now have another woman candidate, an outsider new to Washington. And so the kids gloves come on. NOT because the media are biased against liberals or anything like that - but because journalists LOVE: a) Novelty, b) A surprise, unexpected narrative, c) an interesting biography. And because d) they don't want to look like sexist assholes once again.
My request: Please oh please ask her about the issues (see NYT issue position comparison). Please. McCain's O.L.D. Need I say more?
I originally started writing this because I have been losing sleep this week, staying up to watch the RNC, and then lying paralyzed with too much anxiety post-convention-viewing to fall asleep.
Some more things rattling around in my mind here:
I am told that to think about Sarah Palin's family and children - or to talk about them is sexist.
The issue of the 5 month old baby is one that I can't get my head around and don't want to go near - because, for gosh sakes - I still want to run for office someday! But suffice it to say, watching her speech and that baby in the arms of Cindy McCain and then its father... there were a lot of questions in my mind about how that whole situation is going to work. I have no answers, just questions. (and remember, I AM a working mom, one who returned to her research when bax was 6 months old...).
However, we are also told that to discuss her daughter Bristol's pregnancy is off-limits.
If you are a candidate who does not support abortion rights - even in cases of rape or incest (see AP article) - and you are a candidate whose position on sex-education is less than clear (see LA Times article), I think it is fair to explore your policy positions in light of the relevant circumstances in which your family currently finds itself.
The McCain platform is strongly and clearly supportive only of abstinence-only education. And yet here - Bristol Palin - who, ostensibly was raised in a loving, supporting, Christian, abstinence-until-marriage-urging household, is pregnant.
For Bristol, the consequences of having unsafe sex is that she will birth a child, who will be raised by her and likely with the help of the family around her.
However, what if we're talking about sex-education to avoid more than mere teen-pregnancy? What if we're talking about AIDS in Africa? Sure, the highly inefficacious abstinence-only campaign might result in young American women saddled with babies for which they are utterly unprepared - but in the case of sexually transmitted diseases - particularly AIDS, we're not just talking about pregnancy - we're talking about an epidemic.
When Laura Bush introduced the President the other night, touting his increased spending on AIDS programs in Africa over the last 8 years, PJ piped up: "Ignoring the fact that a ton of it is dedicated to abstinence-only programs." The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) does provide much needed drugs to the region, but the prevention program is centered around Churches, and does not support condom distribution OR needle exchange programs. More here
Enough. For now. I will leave you with a couple anecdotes, beautiful and lovely.
Two things, actually.
The other night, PJ had plans and was scheduled to get home after bax fell asleep. At bedtime, Baxter said, "I miss my dad. I wish he was here to say goodnight."
And for the first time in a very long time, I could say, with all honesty, "He'll be back. You'll see him in the morning."
The second one: PJ is a huge phillies fan. Big time. And loves teaching Baxter about the game. Bax asks some great questions, too. Last night, out at a restaurant, the two sat opposite me in a booth, where they could watch the game. Bax was wearing his new Phillies jersey I just bought him, and he was snuggled up to PJ asking him tons of questions. PJ loved it! He was all Fatherly, instructing Bax in the rules to the sport.
At one point, Baxter sneaked under the table over to me to say hi, and then sneaked back to ask PJ another baseball question. Once bax got back up on the seat snuggled in next to his dad, PJ looked at me thoughtfully and simply said, "Thank you." I didn't push him to say "thank you for what." I got it.
And I leave you with this photo - Bax and PJ checking out a comic book at the restaurant last night.
The verdict: Last night's show was phenomenal.
Stats are in: 208 tickets sold, $511 in donations and raffle tickets. All told, this probably means about $2000 to the Mike Young Fund. As soon as I find out our most current total in the fund, I'll post it.
And the 50/50 raffle? Well, the winner of the drawing, Mike's friend from Penn, Mike Welch, gave his winnings back to the fund. Thanks again, Mike.
To see so many CSzers old and new, Nathan in the role that Mike wrote for himself back in 86... along with stand up comedians Doogie Horner and Steve Gerben (both of whom Host Don Montrey said I would LOVE and Holy ISH was he right)...
The Firing Sketch: "Too bad, Bob!"
The dedication to the "Ladies of N. P. R!"
Rowan and Hastings brought down the house yet again.
And ComedySportz? ComedySportz' 35 minute set for the Laughtastic show was once again SO high-energy, so filled with risk-taking offers and random crazy shit. A Kung-Fu Musical featuring Mary Carpenter doing cartwheels? need i say more?
I think since we included performers like Doogie and Steve (who never knew Mike) it took that heavy "memorial" feel out of the show... And that is a good thing, not a bad thing. It felt lighter, happier, quicker...
And PJ's entire giant family was there along with his friends. And (thank god) they had a BLAST! Let's be honest here... this could be really Effing WEIRD, right?
Like right now,shouldn't I be planning our May 2009 wedding? Instead, I have been too busy planning this tribute to my dead husband to have enough time to plan my wedding to my soon-to-be husband. (...It's so wrong, isn't it? Don't worry. They're both laughing.)
Mike's nurse practitioner Judy from Jefferson was there, along with his occupational therapist, Ellen... both of whom worked with us day in and day out through the hell that was spring/summer 2006. SO many people that I love and who loved or cared for Mike - or who didn't know mike at all but wanted to support the event.
It is a lot work putting this event together... NOT the content of the show (the performers show up and make magic happen onstage), but the PR, marketing (anyone out there see one of my FaceBook Ads for the show? Ask PJ how nerdily excited I was about tracking the "impressions" and "clicks" on those puppies), assembling info for programs and publicity stuff, nailing down performers and their acts..
But somehow... after all the work and the madness that is our ONE (yes, one) and only tech run-through (one hour prior to curtain), it all just comes together. Right there on stage.
So, Next year? Will we do it again? How can we NOT?
I am, however, toying with a show date in late September instead of late August. POST-Fringe, POST-school-back-in-session. Pre-holiday push. Thoughts on that? performers? Show-goers?
I got a great note from Mike's old college buddy Andy's wife, Barb. She said that after every act she turned to her husband and said, "THAT one was my favorite... no no... now THAT one was my favorite."
And... what was YOUR favorite part of the show?
Show's going to kick booty. Get Tix HERE.
Speaking of Mike... his friend and longtime colleague, Jim, from Discmakers just uploaded a super extensive photo album of Discmakers photos dating back to 1996, including some of Mike. These shots are sooo great.
Seeing new footage or photos of Mike is such a gift. It's the rare opportunity to have a new memory of him, or a new experience with him.
At left: LONG haired Mike, circa 1998-99
At right: Mike hosts DMpalooza with Dre. Mike LOVED this event. He thought Dre was the coolest guy he would ever have the opportunity to know. As he put it, "He wears COWBOY boots... and still looks cool. Who does that?"
Below: Mike dressed up as a pregnant king for Halloween - probably 96 or 97. When this photo was taken, I was probably a 21 year old, studying abroad in france, chain smoking while eating brie. Crazy stuff.
And now... cause we haven't seen him in a while: Baxter Newland Young.
Cracking up PJ and me... like usual.
First: Bax's Jingoism comes out as he sings a patriotic lil' ditty -learned at daycare - in "Spanish"... his label, not mine.
Second: Baxter masters the concept of narrative structure. And superheroes kicking ass.
Finally: This lil video speaks for itself. Enjoy our gifted son.
3rd Annual Laughtastic Sketchopalooza. A Comedy Benefit Event. Sun Aug 24th. 7:30 pm. World Cafe Live Philly.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
7:30 pm. Doors open at 6:00 pm
World Cafe Live, Philadelphia
Click HERE to purchase tickets
The Laughtastic Sketchopalooza is a celebration of Mike's favorite artform with some of his favorite performers. The show will kick off with a sketch that Mike wrote for Mask and Wig at Penn circa 1986 and the remainder of the event features some fantastic talent from the philly sketch and improv circuit (incl. ComedySportz, Bad Hair, Rowan and Hastings, Stand up comedians Steve Gerben and Doogie Horner) and all proceeds will go to the Mike Young fund at Jefferson Hospital.
This year, I will be co-hosting this event along with Don Montrey.
Come. Celebrate. Laugh.
For more show info, visit our website: http://dgoldyoung.googlepages.com/2ndannualworldcafelivecomedyfestival2
Sunday August 24th
7:30 pm@ World Cafe Live Philadelphia to benefit Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience
Tix $15 available through world cafe live: http://tickets.worldcafelive.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=2582
Hosts Don Montrey and Danna Young of ComedySportz Philadelphia
Bad Hair Sketch
Rowan and Hastings
Stand up Comedy by:
I have a new life. A very different life. A new love. A new job. A new sense of who I am and how strong I am.
But it seems impossible that this man, whose energy informed the world and everything around him so much... could have been gone from us for two entire years.
I have been "in it" since yesterday. Not awfully like debilitatingly in it, mind you. Just sitting with an aching hole in my heart, still going about my business, laughing with PJ and Bax, getting work done... but aching and crying at everything and nothing.
Yesterday, PJ, Bax and I went to see the new Pixar movie, Wall-e. In the movie, Wall-e is a trash compacting robot who lives on an uninhabited earth 700 years in the future. His only friend is a little cockroach. Wall-e spends his off hours collecting odds and ends of human society and watching an old video of a musical in which two people fall in love. Then, one day, a spaceship comes to earth and out pops Eve... a white, streamlined flying robot sent with a "directive" to find something to bring back to the "mother ship."
Eve and Wall-e become friends. He shows her all his odds n ends and introduces her to the musical. He falls in love with eve. And then he shows her the latest addition to his collection of junk, a small green plant. At the sight of the plant, Eve's alarms go off, and her belly opens up and she puts the plant inside. It turns out that gathering the plant was her directive.
Once the plant is found, her entire system shuts down. Her head and wings close in and she becomes a hovering egg-shaped capsule, with a small green light indicating the contents contained within.
Wall-e is heartbroken. He says her name over and over. he tries to get inside. He takes care of her. Thinking that exposure to the sun with recharge her, as it does him, he wraps a Christmas light string around her and drags her outside into the sun, day after day. When it rains, he holds an umbrella over her. He drags her to the edge of an overlook where he watches the sunset next to her, still trying to reconnect. He tries to pry her wing apart from her body to just get the feel for holding her hand - but the wing snaps back and pinches his hand.
For days and weeks and months, I was Wall-e.
So, there in the theater, I tried to swallow my nausea and hold in my tears.
Soon, Eve's mother ship returned. it sucked her up and started to take off. Wall-e panicked... took off after the ship and latched onto it as it took off. And there, on top of the many piles of junk left on earth, was Wall-e's one little friend, the cockroach. Watching as Wall-e disappeared into the stratosphere.
From in between PJ and me, I hear a sob coming from the seat. It's Baxter. He's a wreck. He's crying so hard.
"What is it, beaner?" i ask, thinking that he dropped some popcorn or something.
"The bug is going to miss Wall-e! I don't want him to go! I want him to come back down! I don't want him to Goooooo!"
Fucking hell. Now Pixar has successfully ripped open two grief wounds in the Young household.
PJ and I console bax and explain that Wall-e will return. We explain that he is in love with eve and so he's following her into space. Finally Baxter calms down.
Later in the film, when Wall-e is almost entirely destroyed up in space, Eve, who has been reconstituted, remembers that Wall-e's spare chips and other parts are back on earth. She flies him back home, puts him back together, and he comes "back to life."
But for a good 1-2 minutes, Wall-e the robot is back, but his soul is still gone. He starts functioning again, rolling around to crunch up trash, but not acknowledging Eve, who's trying to reconnect with the person she loves. Wall-e looks through her, disconnected, until finally she holds his "hand." His binocular eyes begin to dilate and finally he says her name.
Even writing it now, I'm crying. Here are two inanimate (sort of) objects who engage in dialog that consists of no more than 3 words each. And I feel like I've been ripped open. I don't think I have felt such a gut -wrenching sense of what it felt like to sit in a room hour after hour with a man who's not there.
After we got home and put Bax to bed, I sat on the porch with PJ and told him the full, detailed unabridged version of the hell that was 2006.
The unresponsive face, the blank stare, the slumped head, the torso and hands strapped down to the his side. Then at Magee, coming into the hall to see the man I loved sloppily dressed, his clothes falling off of his slumped shoulders, sitting in a wheelchair across from the nurses station gazing at the floor... knowing he had probably been there for hours. Wanting to throw up every day, but just trying again and again to find him in there, to reconnect, to find a glimpse of this person whose spirit made life brighter for everyone around him.
Bringing Baxter in and just wanting to curl up and die as the father to my son was, in many ways, more of a child than the 18 month old in my arms.
Then the last day. that awful last day. Watching his blood pressure drop point by point, until the nurse asked if we could shut off the monitors. Taking down things that I had posted on his hospital wall, but this time not to move them to a new room - just to take them home (which I never did). That fucked up feeling leaving the hospital that day. The hospital that had been the center of my universe every day... and now it was a big empty crater in the middle of philadelphia.
Going to daycare that afternoon, opening the door to see the tear stained faces of the women who worked there to care for Bax. Entering the room to see Bax in the teachers arms. He was smiling and happy. Unaware.
I told PJ all this sitting on the front porch last night and he held my hand and stayed with me as I cried. Speechless.
I have come so far. Things in my life are so very good. But there is a hole in my heart that will be here until the day that I die. It will be there on my wedding day. It will be there when PJ and I have another child. I will not subtract from the beauty of these moments... in fact, it will make me feel them even deeper. But it will be there, nonetheless.
Literally just woke up in this hotel bed with Baxter (in Cape Cod) and feel like I was just hanging out with mike… but I have to share this amazing narrative that my mind constructed to “give me permission” to me to be with PJ.
I dreamt that 2 years ago, Mike, me and all of our friends were on a huge trip to
BUT, after some digging in the UD library, I found some indications that perhaps he was being held hostage by a militia – led by Jamie Lee Curtis – and he wasn’t dead at all.
So, with the help of a team of cartoon woodland animals – inspired, I believe, by the team of Kung Fu students in the film Kung Fu Panda – I went to this jungle land, battled the local security force, and found, deep in the jungle: Mike and about 12 other hostages.
We hugged and kissed and next thing I know, I had brought him back to the
“I thought you were dead. I’m in love with PJ and he asked me to marry him. He is an excellent father to Baxter… But I love you and loved being your wife, so I have no idea what to do here. We need a plan, Mike.”
Mike looked right at me, “I don’t know. I love you, smoosher, but you really want to still be married? I've changed a lot. We've both moved forward. It feels like it would be too much.”
Basically, I learned that, in the jungle, Mike was the leader who kept all the hostages happy, strong, entertained, and optimistic. Apparently, he had also had some wonderful flings with the young female hostages and was feeling attractive and invincible – ready to take on the world… and women.
“Really???!!” I said with a smile, “For reals? You’d be ok if we just stayed best friends and I married PJ?”
“Where is this alleged ‘PJ’” he asked with his air quotes and a smile.
PJ was inside, holding Baxter. Bax ran to me and asked to use the bathroom. So, I left PJ and Mike to chat, and was trying to help bax in the bathroom, meanwhile trying to explain that Daddy Michael was back. He was all kinds of confused.
When I came out of the restroom, Baxter ran right to PJ. Mike slapped PJ’s arm as they were joking about something. Mike chatted with Baxter a little bit, nothing huge or dramatic.
I noticed that Mike had put in his earrings again… but they weren’t the gold hoops. Instead, they were big diamonds.
“What are THOSE,” I asked, pointing at the earrings, as he pulled out a ridiculous pimpish hat from behind his back,
“Hey honey, I have things to do,” he said in a fake condescending voice and then laughed, “I think they’re kind of cool!” He put on the hat, I gave him a huge huge hug, and then he was off…
PJ looked at me, waiting for the verdict, with an expression that said, ‘will my fiance’s dead husband be taking back my fiancé and son? Or will my life go as planned.’
I hugged and kissed PJ with Baxter sandwiched in between.
“Mike said he loves me, but he doesn’t want to be married. I think he has a lot he wants to do now that he’s back and he feels like he wouldn’t know how to start where he left off. We’re ok. We’re a family.”
And we looked over as Mike was joking and laughing with the entire ComedySportz crew (who, I guess, were also interested in this big Asian quilting show…), reveling in the love and attention of the many friends who had missed him so much.
So, it took cartoon animals, Jamie Lee Curtis, and an Asian quilting exhibition, but my mind found a way to rescue Mike, get him back to his life and his friends, and still be able to move ahead with PJ and Bax.
As I used to say to Mike after I did something I found to be particularly smart,
“Awwww yeah… Who’s your genius?”
Been on vacation since June 13th up here in New Hampshire. I'm renting a small lakefront cottage about 12 minutes from my parents' house. The cottage is adorable. rustic, small, amazing views of the lake. The house is literally about 20 feet from the water. There's a screened in porch that runs the length of the cottage, and two cute lil' bedrooms. Baxter is LOVING it here.
PJ drove up here with us on June 14th. (Fortunately, the sting of Mike and my wedding anniversary was countered by the fun of the first day of a great vacation...). He spent the whole week here with us and departed last Sunday, June 22nd. We spent each day just hanging out with Bax, canoing, attempting hikes (that we had to bail on because of INSANE mosquitoes), picnicking streamside, playing baseball in the Hebron village square. PJ loved it up here.
Functioning without him this past week was interesting. For about 7 months now, I have not been living the life of a single parent. I have come to rely on the energy he brings to the house as my partner and best friend and on the integral role he plays with baxter, as his dad. This is the first time we've been apart, really. We fell in love fast, saw each other daily from like week #2, and by month 3 we were cohabitating.
PJ and I have both been a lil' nervous about the "missing father" thing since he returned to NJ - wondering if it would stir memories or fears about a dad that leaves and does not return.
Related incident: On thursday, Bax and I had a lil date night, saw Kung Fu Panda, went out to dinner, and went shopping.
On the way back to the cottage we saw a beautiful sunset and I hear from the back seat in a happy voice..."Ohh.... look mama, at the beautiful sunset! PJ is up there, in heaven!"
I almost passed out...
"What, bax?" I said, as we stopped at a traffic light and I turned around to look at him.
He squinched up his eyes and nose, smiling, "I'm just joking! My PJ dad is on Melrose Avenue with Maggie cat!"
I can feel my appreciation and love for PJ growing each day we're apart. The difference between being up here this summer and last is HUGE. I do not have that subtle sadness that clouded my every experience. I don't feel like the poster child of widow like I used to. I don't feel old and worn. I feel really young. I feel in love, too - which is such a fantastic feeling - and probably the driving force behind what's making me feel so young.
While he was up here, Mimi and Poppy took baxter from 5-8 pm on a couple of nights so PJ and I could get an actual "date." We went out to dinner at this local Irish pub, saw Irish music, sat at the local bar that overlooks the lake and watched the sunset... and by ourselves! Dreamy.
And we laughed... a lot. Each night - giggle fits. like WAY past our bedtime. laughing our asses off - so loud that I can't understand how we didn't wake up Baxter.
Since PJ left, it's been mostly rainy each day. I'm speaking literally here, not figuratively. Baxter spends a couple hours with Mimi in the morning so I can get a lil' research done at the cottage. We've also gotten a lot of time with Jae and Kylee. The 3.5 year old and the almost 7 year old play together better than ever. It's a riot to just sit and watch and listen to the exchanges between them. (Photo at R, Kylee reading Dr. Seuss to Baxter).
Right now Mimi, Poppy, Bax and I are on Cape Cod, in Falmouth, MA. My mom spent every summer here from the time she was a kid in the 1940s. Her sister, Debbie is out here from Wisconsin with her kids and grandkids. I hadn't seen Aunt Debbie since our wedding. Uncle Bob, her husband died in the winter after Mike died. It's so weird that my Aunt Debbie, 76, and I can talk heart to heart about what it's like being a widow. It's so so weird. But it's also so wonderful to feel everyone's love and encouragement about my engagement to PJ, or Peter, as they all like to call him - and to watch as Baxter plays with his cousins and relatives that he has never met before.
We'll go back up to the lake together tomorrow morning. Tuesday, July 1, Crazy Susan arrives from Philly!! Hurray! I love watching as Crazy Susan transforms into Chillin' Susan before my eyes up here in this lake and mountain paradise.
And now, if you don't already hate us here at the house of Young and Gallagher for our extensive vacation... you will in a second:
After we drive back home on Saturday, July 5th, Bax, PJ and I head right down to Sea Isle City for a WEEK at the Jersey Shore with the whole Gallagher clan. It feels nice to be the person that others might be jealous of... instead of the person who people might look at and say, "Thank effing GOD that's not me."
It's funny. I always thought that the summer when I was 14 would go down in history as the best summer ever... no job, beach every day, crush on a boy i met at day camp...But this one is coming in to be a close second.
Yes, I have shitloads of research to do.
Yes, I have 2 revise and resubmits to complete and a paper to prepare for presentation at the end of August in Boston.
Yes, I'm teaching an intensive 5-week summer course July 14-Aug 15th.
But, I also have two summer scholars who are kicking ass at UD on a couple of projects for me, and I feel like this time maxin and relaxin is going to make me into one focused cat.
Oh right, there's also the BIG BIG EVENT OF THE SUMMAH:
Mark your calendars for the 3rd Annual LaUGHTaSTIC SKETCH-o-PaLOOZa
Comedy Show to benefit Jefferson Hospital for Neuroscience
Sunday, August 24, 2008
World Cafe Live
Doors open at 6 pm
Show at 7:30
Tix $15 available NOW at:
Don Montrey and Danna Young
- ComedySportz Philly
- Bad Hair Sketch
- Masters of mic and powerpoint, Rowan & Hastings
- Stand up comedy by: Steve Gerben and Doogie Horner