Yesterday was David's memorial service. It was secular, but lovely. Knowing he probably didn't have much time left, he planned what he wanted--a celebration, not a service (he wasn't religious), a time for him to be remembered. He wanted people to laugh. He always made people laugh.
Sometime this summer, he sat down and made a video in which he talked about what was important to him--his family and his friends, music, learning, and travel. It was lovely to have him in the room with us. It felt like he wasn't gone yet. The saddest part was when he talked about not being able to see his friends as much as he liked as he got sicker. In the old days he was always going to concerts or out to dinner or for a beer. He kept all his friends from his childhood onward. A lot of them were there yesterday. It was SRO and then some.
Anyway, when he talked about missing his friends on the tape, he started to cry. So we all started to cry. I had teared up a little before that point, but I hadn't cried. But when David cried, I cried, and the Man cried, and everyone cried. We were so used to Dave laughing and being brave and philosophical. But when he cried we knew what of course we already knew on some level--that he had been scared and heartbroken, too, just like the rest of us. It was almost too much to bear.
And then when the service was over we had lunch in the next room and remembered David, the way he wanted us to. We told stories. The Man saw so many of his old friends from college--and girlfriends! I'm pleased to report that I have aged better than all of them. (O vanity, thy name is Frances!)
The Man and I were exhausted when we got home, and I thought I'd take a nap, but I didn't. And I had a hard time sleeping last night. It's hard to sleep with a broken heart. My heart was broken for David's wife Becky and his son Isaac, who is 24 and spoke beautifully at the service. But it's also broken for the Man. He met Dave his very first day of college. The Man was the first person in his family to go to college, and when he got there, he met this smart, friendly, funny Jewish guy from Connecticut the very first day and thought, 'College is going to be great!' And it was.
But the Man is never going to be 18 again, never going to stumble into somebody's dorm room and stay up all night discussing the meaning of life and R.E.M. lyrics with someone he'll stay friends with well beyond graduation He'll never have that history with anyone else. He'll make new friends, I hope, though like a lot of men I know, he doesn't make new friends easily. But he'll never make that kind of friend again.
So I didn't sleep very much last night, thinking about that, and now I'm tired. And I am really, really tired of cancer. Last night I learned that someone I like very much, someone who has been very kind to me and my children over the years, has Stage 4 lung cancer. Not a smoker, not someone you'd think would be at risk. But there you have it. Really, I've had enough of cancer. Enough.
But I will end this on a happy note, because there are always happy notes to end on if you look for them, and I didn't have to look hard for this one at all. My mother's birthday is today. She's 80, and she survived Stage 4 lymphoma. Quite frankly, she kicked its butt. Her best friend came for the weekend, and I think all they did was eat, drink and be merry (and go to church on Sunday, of course). So there are some happy endings to sad stories. I hope there will be more. Peace be with you, my dears.
I'll start with the sad news. I would be surprised if you remember this, but many years ago, I wrote about our friend David, who had been diagnosed with leukemia, and asked for your prayers. He quickly went into remission, but his doctors predicted that if the leukemia came back, which it most likely would, the second time around it would be virtually untreatable. They advised he have a bone marrow transplant, which he did.
In the four years since then, David's health has been spotty. He had some good months, but they always seemed to be followed by bad months. He spent a lot of time in the hospital. He went on disability because he could no longer work. And through it all, he remained his cheerful, witty, generous self.
David died on Tuesday. He was home, in hospice care, surrounded by loved ones. The day before, the Man delivered the quilt pictured above. I'd hurried to make it and hoped against hope that it would get months, if not years. of use. It got a day.
We are heartbroken at the loss of our dear friend. David was one of the Man's best friends. They met their first day of college, back in 1984. They traveled together, drank together, played music together, philosophized together, and mostly laughed together. I met David in 1991; he was one of the first of his friends the Man introduced me to. We hit it off immediately and have been friends ever since.
Here's one thing I know for sure: "why" is not a very useful question at times like these. David was among the best of men. He was beloved wherever he went, because he always saw the best in people, always made you feel special, smart, better than you actually were. We need more Davids, not fewer.
Now, onto happier tales ...
Here's Will on the first day of school. He's so big! He started 7th grade on Tuesday and seems happy with everything so far. This morning when I dropped him off, I saw a group of his friends--Ashaank and Henry, Win, Jackson and Jack--all these boys who are in the process of morphing into men. They're stretching out. Their faces are a little strange. They have acne and hair on their legs and it won't be long until they get little wispy moustaches. I'm not sure I'm ready, although I've been through it once with Jack.
Jack is at an age where his face is settling into place. He looks good. He and his long distance girlfriend are persevering. The Man and I have been good about not saying, "It probably won't last." It probably won't, but why spoil it?
It's been nice have long stretches to myself every day. I've been writing and getting organized, taking advantage of all this back-to-school energy. It won't last, but while it does, I'll work on updating my calendar and putting things into folders and making appointments, etc. etc.
This weekend I hope to get back to my book on architecture. I have two other books on the pile about houses and architecture--A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander and The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. "I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming," Bachelard wrote, "the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”
Alexander wrote, "To work our way towards a shared language once again, we must first learn how to discover patterns, which are deep, and capable of generating life."
I love looking for patterns. I think our brains are designed to seek patterns and to find them hugely satisfying.
Will and I have been watching "Love It or List It" on HGTV. Have you ever watched this? People who are unsatisfied their houses get them renovated while at the same time looking for a new house. At the end of each episode, they decide whether they want to stay in their newly renovated home or buy one of the new homes they've been shown (and therefore list their old home). They almost always want to stay in their renovated home, even when they've been shown a house that's superior in every way. This doesn't surprise me, but often the shows end with me and Will moaning and groaning at their decision. It's fun.
It's Friday night. I'm going to sleep in until 7:30 tomorrow! I can't wait. Have a good weekend!
Artsy picture of the quilt I made for my mom's birthday
It's 10:11 on Monday night, and I'm tired and ready to go to bed. But I'm trying to form a new habit--to blog on Mondays and Fridays. Now this has been a particularly busy Monday--tomorrow is the first day of school, so we've been going to back-to-school open houses and putting together binders and buying shin guards for soccer and baking pumpkin muffins and mixing up french toast batter for the morning. So you can see why I haven't had a second till now to write.
I've been reading about habits lately; in particular, I've been reading Gretchen Rubn's Better than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. I love Gretchen Rubin's books (The Happiness Project, etc.). They are sensible and orderly and offer helpful advice. She's the one who suggested you have one empty shelf in your house. I love that suggestion! I think everyone should follow it.
Anyway, I started reading Better than Before because I want to give up eating goldfish cheese crackers, and I find it so awfully hard to do so. As it turns out, the book is more about adopting good habits than getting rid of bad ones, but it still fills you with a can-do spirit. And there is one bit of good advice about habits that applies to eating and imbibing--one should decide if one is an abstainer or a moderater. I think most of us are both, it just depends. For instance, I have no problem moderating my consumption of alcoholic beverages, but if there is a single potato chip in my house I will track it down and eat it, even if it's dusty and stale (okay, not really--or at least not always). Over the last few years, I've cut down my sugar consumption drastically and as long as the cookies are behind the cupboard door, I don't think twice about them. Pumpkin muffins? I must abstain entirely or grow another dress size.
In terms of developing good habits, sometimes it's better to do something every day, like exercise, than to say you'll do it three times a week. And I've decided that if I'm going to stay current with my blog, I need to come up with a schedule. I'm not convinced I can do every day, so Mondays and Fridays it is. Now I know. Now I can commit.
I would also like to develop the habit of sitting down for fifteen minutes every evening with a glass of tea and commenting on all my favorite blogs. Maybe I need to put that on my calendar. It helps for me to see stuff written down. In neat letters and bright colors. Large print.
Tomorrow Will starts 7th grade and Jack starts 11th. I think they're both excited. I'm excited--I love going back to school. I think I'll get up in the morning and organize my desk and sharpen some pencils.
I'm reading a wonderful book I want to tell you about at some point. It's called The Architecture of Happiness by Alain De Botton. It is a book about buildings and houses (which are of course buildings) and beauty. And desire. And how lovely, tidy room can make us feel as though life were indeed good and worthy of leaning into.
But I'm too tired to write about it now. Maybe Friday. I'll just say that I'm enjoying thinking about houses and what makes a house a good, comfortable place to be. But enough. To bed!
My dream house: please note the white picket fence and turquoise shutters!
Lately I've been having dreams where I find new rooms in my house. I think these are dreams about creativity and possibility more than actual houses. But might they also be dreams about finding unexpected riches in my very real house that seems to me without surprise or enough light?
This summer we've been working on a big decluttering project. I feel like I'm always working on a big decluttering project, but this one has had some real muscle behind it. The Man decluttered his study, and we completely emptied out Will's room to paint it and refurnish it. It's now a whole new room, with a futon couch and orange chevron curtains. Will went through boxes of stuff and threw a lot of it away or sent it to Good Will or the recycling bin.
As a result of the decluttering project, I now have an empty wicker trunk in my front room. Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, writes about the importance of having one empty shelf in your house. The wicker trunk is my empty shelf. It feels so good to have a box of empty air where a bunch of papers and old videotapes used to be stored.
The quilt I just finished for my mom--she turns 80 this month!
We are not that far from the end of the summer. The boys start back to school on the 25th. Jack is eager, Will is not. Same old story. I think they've both had good summers. Jack went to an academic camp at Georgia Tech and got himself a (long distance) girlfriend, his first. I'm excited that he gets to be sixteen and in love. And I'm proud of him for not being afraid to fall in love. It's a scary thing, but worth the risk.
Will has been lazy, lazy, lazy. No camps at all. But he has been working on a big multimedia project about college football, which has included keeping a blog. He's done a ton of work on it, and I can't help but wish he'd work this hard for school. But frankly I was the same way. I fed my passions, ignored the rest. It's amazing I ever graduated from any institution of learning, given that I only learned what I wanted to.
One of the best things I've done this summer is go to the Quilt Alliance conference in northern Virginia. Two days of talking about quilts--heaven! The Quilt Alliance has some quilt documentation projects that I hope to contribute to some day. Go here if you want to find out more: http://www.allianceforamericanquilts.org/projects/
The garden is wild and overgrown. The house is decluttered and still messy. I'm dreaming about houses and trying to make mine loveable and liveable. I'm dreaming about fall. What are you dreaming about these days?
I'm a writer and a stay-at-home mom who keeps meaning to mop the floors because I think it would make me happy if I did. I love books and music and writing, spend entirely too much time in the dentist's chair (I bet I have more crowns than you do), and used to think I was sort of bohemian, but now I wonder. No tattoos. Minivan. That story.