Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, DEATH/LOSS, MENTAL HEALTH, writing

3 MONTHS

It has been three months today since my grandfather died, nearly to the minute as I am writing this – and that feels somehow both absolutely mind-blowing and impossible to believe, and also somehow … right. I guess. I honestly don’t know Forgive my inability to be eloquent, but time (and most everything) don’t make sense at all when someone leaves, and that is the one thing I have grown to know for certain in the months in his absence.

Grief. The big g word. What have these three months looked like, in my mourning? What has this GRIEF felt like? It feels like a million things, because it changes so often – I am powerless to it. Some moments, I think of him and smile at some silly memory of him being ridiculous and wonderful. Some times I hurt and tuck my tail between my legs in shame when I think about time wasted arguing about politics or other dumb time stealers that make me feel ashamed now, looking back. And other times, I find myself bent over and gasping for breath, waves of panic hitting me so hard, the world too small and the loss too big, only able to think about words like “finality” and “forever”.

I guess it really doesn’t feel like three months, now that I think more about it, and maybe that’s because I haven’t actively let time try to pass. Because I am so often in that room where he spent his final weeks, watching him sleep, trying to make conversation whenever he was able to rouse, and finally, telling him it was okay to let go. I spend so much time back there that I am not here, three months later, as much as I guess I should be. I really don’t know what I should be, or where – there’s no instructional booklet on how to survive a hole being blown right through your chest and consequently having to live around it.

Because that’s what it feels like. A hole that is still very much open, very much tender and sore, that I am trying my best to keep clean and dressed and live with. I am trying to live with this, and some days, I just can’t. Some days I lay in bed until it is late in the afternoon and I howl for him, some days I want to leave this world to be with him again, and some days all I want is just five more minutes, just five more minutes to make sure that he really heard everything I said in the end – and wanting and wishing and breaking down about it won’t change it. And isn’t that the frustration of it all? Nothing changes it.

My family has started to move on in a tangible sense, and we are doing it together. We’ve started to clean out closets, the spare bedroom – though his desk, his battle station, remain untouched – and he’s still a part of most every conversation we have. He’s here, as much as he can be. We talk about how we see parts of him in each other, and it feels good to be likened to him – even when it’s the bad stuff, like temper tantrums and mood swings (at least I got it honestly). We talk about his childhood, I try to commit every word to memory. And I think we love each other harder, make an effort to see each other more, bicker a little less. My grandmother is doing such an amazing job of commanding this ship that some days, I feel jealous of the way she navigates and wonder why I can’t do the same. But as Modest Mouse said, we all float on, and I guess we do. A quarter of a year has passed – my first birthday without him has passed. The first Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are to come. And more months will pass, inevitably, hastily, and with a hole in our chests that never quite heals.

As dumb as it sounds, this old Winnie the Pooh song “Wherever You Are” is what I used to describe today in my physical journal, so I’ll close out with some of the lyrics.

Continue reading “3 MONTHS”

Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, DEATH/LOSS, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, PHOTOGRAPHY, relationships

THE GO TO HELL HAT

I used to always beg to borrow this hat when I was a baby punk rocker in high school, and joked that I looked better in it than my grandfather did. Now it hangs in my bedroom and still smells like his cologne, and honestly, I’m humble enough to admit: it looks pretty damn good on both of us.

Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, DEATH/LOSS, FUNERAL SERVICE, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, PHOTOGRAPHY

I LOVE THE NIGHT LIFE

My grandfather’s memorial service was today. It was intimate, personal, and all about him, which he would have loved. I am eternally grateful to Lisa and the funeral home, the US Air Force, the pastors, all attendees (especially those who traveled great distances or in bad health to say goodbye to him), to my boyfriend and to my beloved friends, who have kept me afloat with their support.

Finally, I am above all grateful to Alicia Bridges for pumping out the disco hit “I Love the Nightlife”, which Grand adored and requested should close out the service. The family name “LAUGHTER” on the wall behind where his remains sat proved that while his time on earth is over, his impact in our lives is forever. Go chase the night life, Grand. You gotta boogie. 💡♥️

Posted in ASHLEY IN WONDERLAND, DEATH/LOSS, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, PHOTOGRAPHY

07/09/19

My grandfather and I have played a game for so long, I don’t even remember the origins of it. I would try – and always fail – to catch his pinky finger without him pulling it away from me. I absolutely NEVER could – the man was stronger than an ox, I could take my two little hands to his one pinky finger and still not catch it.

Even when he got older, weaker, sicker, he still had a phenomenal old man strength that allowed him to allude capture. It made me furious! He told me that I could catch it when he finally died, and I said that I would cut it off and bronze it as my trophy, and we would laugh uproariously, because my family is morbid and terrible.

It is obvious where this post is going and what I’m trying to say, and I initially felt really sad, and I thought it would just be hard and miserable to write it out – but that wasn’t really us. So here I am, victor at last, with my grandfather’s pinky finger finally all mine. He left us this afternoon, and it feels unfathomable and surreal.

My Grand, silly ole Grandy Bar – you put up a really, really good fight, prolific and skilled, and it was an honor to lose to you for these 32 years. I wish I could lose to you for 32 more. I will carry this victory with pride, and while I have the hand strength of a newborn and cannot carry on the physical pinky game, I promise to carry on your stubbornness with an absolutely earth shattering frustration to those around me, just like I know you’d want me to. I’m gonna make you proud, Grand. Thanks for everything, and I mean it – for everything. PS – “bullllshitttttt.”

Posted in DEATH/LOSS, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL

GRANDBULB

When I was very little, I told my Grand that he was “bald as a lightbulb”. In return, he gifted me … a lightbulb. With his likeness drawn on it. I have kept that lightbulb for over 25 years, and today, the wonderful Wren at Reckless Heart Tattoos in Greenville was kind enough to tattoo that lightbulb (now and forever known as #Grandbulb) on me. I told him I was getting it before I went, and asked him if he liked the idea. A routine hater of my tattoos, I was surprised when he immediately blinked once to tell me yes. After I got it, I came back to show him and asked him if he liked it. He looked at it for a long time, looked back at me, and immediately shook his head no … but his eyes were bright. A “hater” till the end, my Grandbulb. 💡