Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


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Yarn Intestines


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So. Many. Rectangles.


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A Letter.

Mum suggested that I write a letter to my Grandfather, to help with the grief. My feelings on the afterlife are agnostic at best, but she believes that he may be able to hear me and for this week, that’s good enough for me. As with all loss, the pain comes in waves, and tends to sneak up on me when I’m not looking. It’s triggered by running across the things he loved, or hearing a snippet of a song, or in moments when I find myself stubbornly acting like him. So here it goes.


I guess my feelings about your death are as complicated as all the rest of my feelings about you, and I suppose that should come as no surprise to you or to me. First, let me say that I love you. Despite anything or everything else, that remains unshakably true. I’m so grateful that we got to a place where I can say that before you started to fade away. I’m grateful that we got to have an adult relationship, grateful that you softened a bit in your old age so that I could love you without being afraid. So many of my foundational memories have you at the center of them (good and bad), and I’m glad that I can hold those memories dear and without resentment or anger.

In the end, the only anger I still hold is residual, and on behalf of others. I forgave you a long time ago for your rudeness, your tendency to yell, your refusal to find value in so many of the things I studied or wanted to participate in. I know you were mad that I did all the things you did but did them my own way instead of the way you thought I should, and I don’t care. You were the one who taught me to ignore other people’s opinions, after all. I get all my stubbornness from you and Grandma.

As for the way you treated people I love, well, it’s up to them to forgive you themselves. I imagine they’ll have a much harder time than I did, as the sins were so much greater. I said it to you then and I’ll say it again: you were a jerk sometimes. I know some of that was the dementia talking, but a lot of it was your own anger and uncertainty and bad temper. You had no business treating other people badly; your inability to cope with basic frustration or communicate your feelings made you prickly, and the alcohol made you nasty. Remember that I love you, but I’m not going to mince words. You taught me that, too.

But you also gave me your love of music and the belief that good art can be transcendental. You taught me to love literature and words and poetry. You sang to me and read to me, and tried to understand the things I was doing in life and in school. Even when you didn’t really get it, you tried. You bought me books on symphonic form and theater, you contentedly listened to me bang through those painful early years of piano lessons, and sang along when I played the tenor parts. You gave me boat trips and sailing lessons, a sense of our family past and history, and above all a special place that gave me roots. You took care of me when Dan was born, you helped me learn to swim, and you were proud of me.

You also stood up against injustice where you saw it – against the homophobes at Eastmann in the 1950s, against racists in the Midwest in the 60s, against self-righteous right-wing nutjobs your entire life. You valued hard work, and education, and exploration, and a sense of adventure. You refused to bow to the tide of public opinion or the idea that you couldn’t do something.

Sometimes, that was dumb. But just as often, you would figure it out, draw on deep resources that you didn’t know you had, and you would make it work. It wasn’t always graceful, but you got there.

I don’t know what else there is to say. I will always treasure the things we shared and the happy memories. I don’t think I’ll ever hear “Danny Boy” without thinking of you, and I hope to someday make it to Loch Fyne in Scotland to see where all the McLaughlins came from. I promise to take care of Rock Haven and to keep it in the family so those bastards down the river can’t get the land. If Ryan and I ever buy a boat, we’ll be sure to name her An-Haga. I will read Shakespeare to my children, and I’ll always read A Child’s Christmas in Wales on Christmas night – unless, of course, we listen to you read it instead. And I will miss you, a lot. I hope that you have found some rest, and some peace. You struggled so hard for so long, and you’ve earned it. I hope that there are crossword puzzles in heaven. And I hope that you and Grandma are back together again, and better than ever.




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Today is December 21st, and here in the northern hemisphere it’s the shortest day and the longest night of the year. In Minnesota, as we creep toward the end of the year, the shortening days grow more pronounced. The sun sets just after 4, or so it seems, and the sky is so gray that many days it feels like it never really came up to begin with. I know we’re not Norway or Alaska or someplace where the sun actually doesn’t come up, but for those of us with finely tuned SAD spectra, it’s bad enough. I’ve spent most of the last week feeling more than a little overwhelmed, and like maybe I could just stay in bed until the new year. We have people coming over on Monday (and I invited them, so it’s my own fault) – and the house is a mess, none of the presents are wrapped, there are still hand-made gifts to finish that have no hope of being done in time. I have no idea what we’re eating, and I’m pretty sure there’s something developing sentience in the crisper drawer. R is suffering from a mystery skin ailment that periodically just shoots pain through his body, and a trip to urgent care today turned up a “Hmmm. That’s weird. Want some codeine?”

The cares and problems of my friends feel even more overwhelming – a child with cancer, losses of loved ones, a messy separation involving baseless criminal charges, and a couple of scary car accidents. Compared to what they are coping with, my craziness is small – which makes me feel more like a failure when I can’t seem to get my act together. The dark, ooky cold of December doesn’t help.

Today, the Yarn Harlot put it well: this is the darkest night. When the sun rises tomorrow, we will be back on the upswing. It may happen slowly (and in MN, it always does), but tomorrow the day will be one minute longer than it was today, and that makes me happy. Unlike the YH, I don’t have little thoughtful gifts or beautiful food smells to give to those I love today, but when I get home tonight I will light candles in the windows and wash some dishes and fold the laundry. I’ll be one step closer to welcoming our friends on Monday. And you know what? They’re our friends. If they come over and all the snacks are from Costco instead of homemade, they’re not going to mind. And you know what? I’ll be so glad to see them that neither will I.

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I’ve been trying for the last few weeks to find a way to talk about the death of an old friend from college. Every time I’ve sat down to write about him or the stroke which took his life after an agonizing 10 days in ICU, I’ve come up short. I think it’s a thing that happens to us when we grieve – the hurt and the memories take up so much space in our heads that our language centers become unavailable for a time. We say “words fail me,” but what we really mean is “I fail words” – the words to describe what we are going through exist, but we are unable to grasp them. Like a sound repeated too many times, they lose their genuine meanings, and we fall back on cliche and platitudes.

A little time has passed, and I’m ready now to talk about the regret I have of letting go of C, his wife E, and the loving family of friends we shared in college. I had seen him last on the 4th of July, at one of the two annual gatherings that R and I usually manage to make it to. In recent years I’ve felt necessarily outside the group. It’s that thing that happens so easily in our business – you work nights and weekends when most of your non-theater friends work a regular 9-5. Over the years, you turn down invitations to Saturday afternoon movies and Friday night poker games. People start to forget about you when they make plans, or they don’t forget but assume you’re not available – which is usually true. And you, because you don’t see them often, forget to include them in your activities on the rare nights that you ARE free. Suddenly, you wake up one morning to discover that your friend is in the hospital – someone you used to know well – and you haven’t seen him in six months. You spend every spare thought hoping and praying that he’ll wake up so you can tell him you’re so, so sorry, that you will do better, that you have learned. And then he doesn’t, and you’re stuck trying to put words together with a brain that can’t comprehend them anymore.

I write this in the quiet aftermath of a mass killing in Connecticut, where at last count 20 children and seven adults are dead. My Facebook feed has exploded with expressions of sadness, anger, horror. Many of my friends are like-minded and so the calls for stricter gun control laws and better mental health services are loud and clear. Each new shooting incident rips open the old wounds of the survivors of previous ones, and so the pain for people in Minneapolis and Red Lake must feel fresh and raw all over again. Someone today observed that there are no wrong expressions of grief; that each of us must do what we feel we must do to make sense of these things. Silence and screaming are both appropriate.

I guess my answer to the shock of the many is to mourn the one. Death isn’t fair, no matter how it comes, when the person it takes is so young. C was the first among us to go; E is the first to survive and feel what it is to have to live on after the loss of the person you love. I do not have a child of my own and cannot imagine what the parents of those children are feeling tonight, but I know how it feels to grieve. I miss C, and so I will feel that ache as my way to relate to the more general pain. I will let my regret for things unsaid and unshared shape my empathy for those who are feeling those regrets for their loved ones today. As time passes and we regain our ability to speak, I hope we can take these feelings and voice them in a way that produces change. For myself, the loss of C has taught me to say yes, to love deeply, to throw myself into the lives of others. As a nation, I hope we can learn similar lessons that lead to fundamental changes in the way we do things. Now, however, it is time to acknowledge that words are inadequate, and observe a moment of silence.

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Yesterday marked our first attempt to integrate the two cats. We’ve had them separated for the last week – one upstairs and one downstairs. Smee’s been transitioning nicely to his new home, and has come to trust me and R completely. Inara, on the other hand, is not happy about this new development, and hasn’t been fond of the idea of having a brother.

We opened the door to the basement last night and let Inara find her way up on her own. There was the expected hissing and snarling, but they seemed to be tolerating the other for most of the evening. Smee chased Inara upstairs at one point and she hid from him under the bed – and then he hid from her at the other end of the bed! Later on, Inara chased Smee into the basement and took a swipe at him, and that’s when we called off the experiment for the night.

Today, things were a little rougher. There was much more growling and snarling from both of them, and I had to break up the beginnings of a cat fight. I’ve isolated them from each other again, and tomorrow, we’ll try to feed them together on opposite sides of the basement door. Hopefully taking a small step back will make everyone happier and more comfortable. All-in-all, though, I don’t think it was too bad for a first try.

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