The Tape

Hi All!

So re: my last post, I am doing much better. In case you do not follow me on social media (namely Facebook and Instagram), I recently lost someone in my life who was a supervisor at one of my jobs. And it was very sudden and I was not aware of just how sick she was, so it all came at a bit of a shock. Even though I only knew her for two and a half years, she left enough of an impact on my life that her loss deeply effected me. She was so kind and sweet and funny. I always enjoyed talking and laughing with her and so I will deeply miss her. What’s so strange is that about two weeks prior to her passing, I had requested her as a Facebook friend and she accepted. And I remember feeling trepidatious about reaching out (because of the whole employee/supervisor thing), but we got along so well and the night I sent the request (which was the night of the Golden Globes) I remember thinking, “Ah, fuck it”. And I think she accepted the next day.

It bums me out when people die, mainly because I think the simple reality of like, “Oh my gosh, I can never have this person anymore. I can never see them or talk to them or be with them ever again”, that’s a very traumatic, jarring feeling. The reality is so simple and plain but getting over it (or even through it) is difficult and exhausting, especially because I did not know how ill she was. It did take time, but as each day passes I feel as though I’m slowly coming to terms with it.

The thing about getting older is that death triggers other deaths you’ve experienced and it cause a chain reaction domino effect. And that can be a frightening thing to try to contain. I’m not sure if I’ve ever told this story on this blog, but a few years ago it was Easter Sunday. My family and I had just returned home from Easter dinner with our extended family and everyone was settling in, getting changed, and winding down. Days prior, I was cleaning out my basement and I found a strong box with a few of my great-grandmother’s affects (who had passed years prior), among them a unmarked, older looking cassette tape. I though that was curious and I had brought it up to my room to listen to it later.

So here I am, after Easter dinner. I go into my room to get changed and I stumble across the tape again and I figure, well why don’t I listen to it right now? I had recently got a record player which had an attached tape player in it, so I popped it in and began to listen. It was a woman speaking. No music. It was a woman and a man having a conversation. It only took me a few minutes to realize that the woman was my grandmother (my great-grandmother’s daughter-in-law, who had almost been gone 10 years ago at that point) and my dad’s father (my great-grandmother’s son, who I refuse to call “Grandpa” or anything because he was deadbeat alcoholic who I never met, whose voice I never heard).

I later learned this tape of conversations existed because my grandmother, Roselyn was in the middle of divorcing my dad’s father, Jack, and her lawyer told her the proceedings might go easier if she could get him to say something implicating to use against him on tape. Nothing was ever really captured from what I understand. But in these intimate conversations, Jack was being really sweet with Roselyn; He was trying to win her back and get her to come back home. And my grandmother would politely laugh and tell him to stop and knock it off and she’d ask about the cat and the kids (my dad and his siblings, who were all grown). See, my grandmother had gone to California to get away from Jack, as he was incredibly abusive. And one day she decided she had enough and left. And the tape was just filled with these beautiful, intimate conversations I had never been privy to listen to, aside from the fact I hadn’t even been born yet when they were had.

But as I listened and I listened, I began to feeling incredibly overwhelmed and unspeakably sad. Suddenly I felt as though I was holding back a dam of tears. See, Roselyn had passed away in 2004 (or 2005). And I remember being 14 and not quite sure how to take the news. I didn’t cry. It didn’t really effect me. I wasn’t sure how it was supposed to but it didn’t. Which was weird because I loved my grandmother very much and I felt as though she did play a hand in raising me. And she was always so sweet and kind and generous and gracious and a consistent presence in my life. I chose not to go to the funeral (my mom asked) and never thought much about it. When she was alive, we would go visit her every weekend. And as a kid I got sick of it; I got tired of going every Saturday or Sunday and wasting my time there. There were so many other things I wanted to do; As a kid, it was the last place I wanted to be. So when Roselyn died, it just felt like we got a break from visiting her every weekend; and I enjoyed that freedom.

But I had to turn the tape off. I was still holding back this dam of tears that was about to burst forth. I went back downstairs, sat down, and tried to pull myself together. And then suddenly, I couldn’t hold it together anymore. And I just broke down. I sure scared the hell out of my parents, who had no idea what was going on. Remember, we had just come back from Easter dinner where I was emotionally together for the entire day. I think we all actually had a nice time. It took awhile for me to get the words out, to tell my parents the story about the tape and how it affected me. And it was like all those years of not grieving just caught up with me. I think I cried for over an hour. I never realized how much I missed her. How much I wished I could talk to her again, now that I was older. I still have those wishes. The family members who passed away when I was young, I wish I had the chance to be with them as an young adult because I think I would appreciate them more and enjoy their company more. Especially my Poppy (Nonna’s husband, my grandfather), my Zia Angelina (Nonna’s sister), and of course my grandma, Roselyn.

Everyday I wish they were here with me. Not just in my heart, but really here with me. And I could talk to them in a room and we’d sit around a table sipping espresso. But I know that won’t happen – though maybe in dream.

I know death is a part of life, but it doesn’t make it any easier when it happens to those you love. It’s still hard.

It’s still hard, but it can get easier as time goes on.

I believe in that for sure.

Yours,

-RKB

Vulnerable Snapshot

Last week I cried watching Dead Poets Society.

I don’t know why this is important, but I feel like it is.

Maybe it’s because seeing Neil kill himself and knowing Robin Williams suffered a similar fate…I don’t know. I used to cry watching the movie before, but now it’s a whole other ballgame.

My Nonna came home from her rehab center today. Now that I think about it, she’s been gone for about a month. She was at the hospital before the rehab center. She basically threw herself into congestive heart failure in the hospital emergency room, freaking out and being overdramatic about pain in her knee. Not to discount her pain. I know she was in a lot of it. But if you know Nonna, you know she has a flair for the overdramatic. Her anxiety and constant hyperventilating was more than enough to make her body fill her lungs with water. The doctors called it “flash pulmonary edema”. I was there with my mom that night, and I meant to write about the whole experience but just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I kept procrastinating it.

And maybe there’s not so much to say anymore aside from the fact this was the second time I accompanied my mom to the hospital for a Nonna-related incident. This trip scared me the most though. I tried to breathe with her to steady her breath as the doctors and nurses and technicians were hooking her up to machines to get her to breathe right; In that moment I felt my tears well up. I tried to ignore them, realizing I was breathing more for me than for her. My mom and I didn’t get home ’til about a quarter to four in the morning.

The first Nonna hospital emergency room trip I experienced, I couldn’t help feeling that it was some coming-of-age trial that Life was throwing at me. Demanding me to grow up. Life gets real serious in hospitals.

I don’t know if there’s a point in telling you all this, but maybe I just felt it needed to be said.

I baked Gluten-Free/Dairy Free Orange Creme Cupcakes today, for Nonna. She liked them. She seems to like everything I bake so I’m not sure if she really did or not or if she’d ever tell me otherwise. And although I grated part of my thumb while making orange zest, I’m definitely getting better at making icing. Definitely not one of my strong suits. I always tend to fuck it up somehow. Today was the closest it came to being perfect. I think I had too much liquid/not enough sugar. Next time. It’s always a learning experience and that’s okay. And that goes for everything.

I’m really glad Nonna’s home. I thought I wouldn’t be. No offense to her, but it was kind of like a nice break for my family and me. I could be more liberal with dinner choices, my mom was sleeping all the way though the night without having to wake up to check on her. I could also walk around my room as early or as late as I liked (she sleeps in the room below mine). But now it’s nice to hear her voice again and feel her skin and give her hugs for no reason and have her taste my cupcakes. She’s definitely stronger and in less pain than the last time she was here – and I’m happy for that.

You know, last week I did take out a part of my day to mourn Robin Williams death. I made sure I was alone and just encouraged the tears to come. They did. And after I had cried I felt like a weight had been lifted, and I’m still not sure why that happens – why it feels like such a relief. My head felt lighter. I talked to the air for a bit and then got a tissue and cleaned myself up.

So I thank you for reading this vulnerable snapshot into my life. It just feels nice to share sometimes.

Robin Williams

My dad says something like, “Every 100 years or so, the world goes completely berserk”.

Think about it: Iraq, Gaza, Ferguson, Tea Party, government shutdown, Syria, airplane tragedies, Washington mudslides and forest fires, Ebola outbreak, Hawaii hurricanes…This is all fairly recent stuff, but I could probably go on for awhile.RW

But I’m most deeply heartbroken by the passing of Robin Williams. Not only that he died, but the fact that it was a suicide. Those are always the types of deaths that cut the deepest, especially with those as exquisitely talented as he was. I could understand old age, natural causes, a freak accident even. But a suicide? Oh my god, my heart has collapsed at the mere thought. For a man I never met, the impact of his life, and now his death, has been so profound. But that’s what’s so strange about celebrity, isn’t it? – The ability to touch the lives of those you’ve never even met. I always knew this day would come but not this year, not now.

To those who knew him and loved him personally, I cannot even imagine what they are going through. Here I am a microcosm of a microcosm of society and I feel this undeniable, superficial emotional pain. It must hurt 100-fold for them. And there’s nothing that can be said to alleviate the pain to something that doesn’t seem real, that’s nightmarish in a very frightening way, mostly due to the fact that it is reality.

This past April, another one of my favorite comedians died – John Pinette. Only 50. And I felt so upset. Again, almost like I knew him. I had seen him do standup at the Wellmont only a few months before. Pinette was no stranger to health problems (his whole act based on food and struggling with weight), but when I saw him on stage he looked so great! The best he’s ever looked. It was unbelievable to me that he died of a pulmonary embolism, though it was probably caused by his unhealthy eating habits over the course of his life.

I think there’s a dark side to any funny person. I suppose it goes to show that money, fame, and success are never enough to sustain one’s demons forever. I’m sure it was difficult for Williams to top his best work. It is for any great artist. I mean once you’ve made it, it’s gotta be difficult to stay up there. Sometimes that captivating dynamism we fall in love with as an audience transforms into an all too silent void when the door closes and they find themselves alone with only their thoughts. One can get lost in a bottomless pit of emotional oblivion there.

The fall semester of my sophomore year of college, two days a week, I had 3 classes back-to-back-to-back. When I finally got let out for lunch I’d buy a sandwich, a bag of chips, and a soda. I’d hurry back to my dorm and spend my lunch hour watching comedy specials illegally uploaded on YouTube – namely those by Kathy Griffin and Robin Williams. I’d laugh away my afternoon and get out of academia for awhile. It became a ritual for the rest of the year.

The day before Robin Williams killed himself, I had convinced my brother to help me set up the VHS player in our living room. We chose to watch Aladdin and cracked up all the while. A few hours before it was announced, we had found and watched a home recording of an episode of Star Trek Voyager called “Death Wish” about an omnipotent, immortal being wanting to commit suicide. The timing of the news report was eerie. My brother said he saw it on Twitter. I immediately refused to believe it. It was a hoax – had to be. But as I saw the mainstream sources of Entertainment Weekly, NBC, BBC, and CNN trickling in, my heart sank into my stomach.

So yeah, you can go on about how God needed another angel or how heaven needed more laughter. But to those who don’t subscribe to the Judeo-Christian denotations, I prefer to think that this is how new talent is brought forth. I know that sounds harsh and possibly nonsensical. But honestly, it’s the only way I can justify it in my mind. Because as Life shows us time and time again, with death comes rebirth. We always reject it at first and get angry about it, but maybe there is someone new waiting in the wings. He or she can never replace Williams (or Pinette) but maybe will help us laugh in new ways, ways that would not have been noticed or appreciated if Williams were still alive.

I know. I hate it too. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. But you know what? At the end of the day, the only thing we can do is to celebrate his life by remembering his love, vitality, and unparalleled sense of humor. There will never be another Robin Williams.

Never.