martes, diciembre 21, 2010

This Christmas

This Christmas is going to suck.

That's what I've been thinking for months now. Thursday morning, I will be taking the bus to DC to visit my mom for the holiday. I don't want to go. I don't really want to do Christmas this year. Last Christmas was the end of it being a fun holiday for me.

Really, my fun Christmases ended when I was 16. That was the last one I had with daddy before he had his stroke. That was the last one that he enjoyed just as much as I did. For my 17th Christmas to my 22nd, he was pretty blah about the whole thing. But I had my whole month off of school to hang out, so I still got happy about it.

For my 23rd and all Christmases thereafter, I made up a routine:

Come home, sit and talk with daddy, go over the Christmas meal (yes, go over it. He had specific instructions - all food must be bland and relatively tasteless-while-being-tasty, just like the Christmas meals grandma used to make), supermarket list, chores, etc.

Go down to the mall and shop for last minute gifts. Go to market, buy turkey, etc.

Shuttle to mom's house. Have a great time with her while trying to relate to stepdad (a skill in which we both have improved tremendously). Bake stuff and make Christmas eve dinner.

Shuttle back to daddy's on Christmas day. Cook meal. Snap radio on to WPGC and listen to Donnie Hathaway sing Christmas songs while up to my elbows in homemade bread stuffing mix. While turkey cooks, go in to daddy's room, read the Post, and ask daddy all manner of questions like I did when I was little, all of which he'd answer lovingly. He liked it when I acted like a kid. Sometimes, I would do it on purpose. A couple of hours later, daddy and I would sit down to the meal. The worst parts of the holiday came in here: having to get daddy in his wheelchair and roll him out to the dining room, even though he could have walked it with his cane, and then having to serve him a plate and cut his meat for him. I never got used to those things. Of course, I would gladly do those things today.

Shuttle to mom's house for a few days. Hit Nieman-Marcus Last Call sale and get our hair did by Dusan, the hottest hairdresser on the planet (and straight!). Watch DVDs.

Back to daddy's.

Walk down to mall and sip a coffee while watching the ice-skaters in the courtyard.

Hit the after-Christmas sales with no one to tell me not to spend my money and not to buy this or that. Get daddy fast food for dinner (he loved his fast food so much).

See friends, but only if I absolutely had to. I much preferred to sit and read the Post with daddy and ask 50 gajillion questions, all of which were answered with a big smile.

Take a day to walk around DC and play tourist-in-my-own-hometown. One of the many things I loved about daddy is that he encouraged me to go out and do my own thing, and not to worry about him so much. Even on his death bed, I believe that he, if he had had the voice, would have said "Don't worry about me, Maria. I'll be OK."

This Christmas, I don't exactly know what I'm going to do, besides sit and have dinner with mom and stepdad, and visit daddy at the cemetery. Sounds like we are going to have a nice meal - tamales and all that Guatemalan food I really love. Mom is going to great lengths to make sure I enjoy this holiday. She knows it's important. And I love her so much for it.

One of the crappy things about death is that you can't curl up into a ball and ignore the world. You don't get to be selfish, if you have family or anyone that depends on you to keep a brave face. I don't know what this holiday is going to bring. I'm keeping my expectations low yet hoping for the best. Hell, hoping to just make it without crying.

Wish me luck.

lunes, noviembre 01, 2010

For Roderick, 1969-2010

Roderick was a close friend of mine who died last week of cancer. Doctors first found the colon cancer early in 2009, but since the cancer was detected early, the prognosis was good and he fought the first battle triumphantly. In the beginning of this year, he started to have pain in his lower back, and doctors found a mass, which they at first thought was benign, putting pressure on a nerve. They removed the mass, and Roderick was on his way to recovery, so he thought, and we all did, too. Turns out it was cancer. Last Tuesday night, 26 October 2010, he lost the war. Throughout his whole ordeal, Roderick, although he let us know how he was doing, never expressed his pain or any emotions. And that's why we all thought that he was going to kick cancer in the ass and live a long, happy life with us and with his family. But it just wasn't in the cards.

Following is a note that I ended up writing on Facebook and sharing with my friends. We did have two events , thrown in his honor, where people expressed their sadness and words for our dear Roddy. But I couldn't bring myself to say out loud what I wanted to say, because the sadness was just too great. I knew that if I even opened my mouth, I would fall apart. And I did anyway, but I wanted to share my love. So here goes:

One of the first times I met Roddy online on Yelp, we got to talking about our mutual love for Jonathan Rhys-Myers. He told me how raunchy The Tudors was, and I said that I MUST see it, but that I didn't get showtime. So he asked for my address and sent me a DVD of the first three episodes. I'll add here, just in case you're not sure, that we had not met yet. A few weeks later, a group of us met at Amsterdam Billiards on 4th ave and 11th for Pool Night the First. Julie K was there, making a mockery of the billiards institution, yet sweetly giggling her way through it. Sean T. showed us all how to play "golf pool". We met the fabulous Drew B. I walked over to the bar, famished, to get what turned out to be the most horrible plate of nachos in creation, and I looked to my right and saw this dude in a Red Sox cap. "Are you Roderick?" I took him over and made introductions, then we played our own game of pool. I think the Red Sox game was on tv, and I told him Dan Petry (pitcher for the Tigers and then the Angels in the 80s) was my cousin. Ok, twice removed. But still. I knew, without really knowing Roddy yet, that he would appreciate this. He was impressed. And I was impressed that he even remembered Petry. The first of many of my obscure references and factoids that he would "get" instantly.

And that was the beginning of a beautiful spring and summer, and then fall and winter, and then spring and summer again, and so on. Riding in the mirthmobile listening to Girl Talk, going out late on school nights (one night in particular, I was already in my pj's and winding down late on a Tuesday, when I get a Gchat - "Do you need a ride?" "To where, Rod?" "umm, to Gibney's. I'll pick you up in a few."). Izu with Audrey and the gang. The impromptu road trip to DC after the impromptu picnic in Washington Square Park. Javier getting all excited to see the Watergate in person. Renting a car from Benny the Walking Flirt. The AuJaMaRoRo take-over of Sugar restaurant and Mason-Dixon. Roddy's parking pimp-hand ("Ummm, I'm only parked across the street."). Bon-Chon chicken. Bibimbop at Sura (Chicken. White rice.) Verlaine, of course. Our Olivia Newton-John duet. A million more memories.

The way Roddy looked on at everyone else's bickering, online and off, without ever (ever ever) joining in or even taking sides. The way people, who might have had a lot of bad words for everyone else, and I include myself here, never ever had a bad word to say about Roddy. Javier mentioned to me last night that Roddy had the ability to be friends with everyone, in every crowd, because he was never so full of himself that he couldn't see the good in every single person he crossed paths with. Now, that's an ability I only wish I had, and I think I might be improving in that department. Slowly, and someday, surely. Only now in his death do I realize that that is my goal, to let go of my own shit and just let it be. I think maybe he knows how much he's inspired me, and I'm sure many of you as well. And though I'm distraught, although I miss him terribly, I know that he'll never let go of us, just like we'll never let go of him. Just as we all hold his hand, he holds all of ours. He was our angel, and it was just time to give him back. But he still watches over us. This both comforts me and scares the holy hell out of me. I better try and not mess up. I always did want to look cute for my Tito Rick.


The wake, mass and funeral were held this past weekend. The family apparently had no idea how huge Roddy's group of friends was, and we were a comfort to them. I'm glad for that. But as everyone was concerned about how the family would hold up, it was our group of friends who just completely fell apart. Each and every one of us, including people who hadn't seen him in a long time. Roderick really touched our lives in such a positive way, and unfortunately, we never realized the magnitude of that until he died. But isn't that always the way? One thing we always knew: he made us feel good about ourselves, and we all loved him so much. He was magic.

martes, agosto 17, 2010


I have been reflecting on many things over the past 6+ months. Nothing like death, or the threat thereof, to make you take a look at your life. Here's what I've learned so far.....

1) I can get through most things and come out fairly unscathed.

I found myself talking to people who've lost a father just to see what was normal in the grieving process and what I should be concerned about. Turns out that everything I'm feeling is normal. That's the good news. The bad news is that the excruciating hole in my heart will never go away, and I'm told the only improvement will be that I learn to live "around" that hole. I'm still sorry for all the things I didn't do, and I mean stupid things, like chores that I kept putting off, like taking out daddy's old newspapers, buying him chocolates at the market or making a pot of the black beans he liked so much. I'm sorry that I didn't talk to him for over two weeks before he died (we had a habit of not talking for long periods of time - not because there was any love lost, but because he just didn't dig the phone). The bad news is that I will be sorry for the rest of my life.

We had the mass for daddy in March, the day before my birthday. The original plan was to take daddy's ashes and scatter them in several different places: at Myrtle Beach and Pawley's Island in South Carolina, in Baltimore at Camden Yards, in Tennessee at Morgan Manor (aka, my aunt Patty's old house), and a few others. But the priest told my mother that if we scattered the ashes, he couldn't give the mass. In Catholic lore, even if a person is cremated, his ashes must remain in tact because when judgement day comes around and everyone is risen from the dead, he needs to be complete with no arms or pieces of face missing. Something like that. Both daddy and grandma were Catholic, and grandma would have come down from heaven and gotten after me if I skipped the mass. Daddy would have said something like "Dammit, Maria, if you had any sense at all...." And so, a group of about 10 people, me, my mom, two of my high school buds and several of his old co-workers gathered at the church where I was baptized, sang a horrible rendition of Amazing Grace, in which I didn't dare open my mouth for fear of falling apart, and fell apart anyway. The image of daddy's bright, smiling high school self in a graduation picture sitting next to the box of his ashes was ironic in the worst way possible.

In June came the actual burial. Daddy did two years in the Navy, which he referred to as his "cruise", and for his honorable discharge, he earned the right to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. This came as a relief to us, mostly because we couldn't decide where to put him after we found out we had to keep him all together. So off we went, again a small group of us, huddled under a white tent on a beautiful Washington, DC, day. Not a cloud in the sky. To the left of the cemetery, in the distance, I could see the Prospect House, where daddy lived when I was little. I remembered standing on a chair and sloshing my hands around in the kitchen sink, "washing dishes", the planes flying overhead on their way in to National, and the afternoons at the park looking up at the Iwo Jima memorial, which was almost in daddy's front lawn. To the right of the cemetery, I could see the building where he lived for 28 years and where I became a teenager, horrible to every adult except daddy. I was fine up until the seaman played Taps. Ladies and gentlemen, what you hear in the movies is nothing compared to the real-life rendition. It's heartbreaking to an unimaginable extent. And so is the 21 gun salute. Another seaman handed me the flag, which had been folded into a triangle, each fold symbolizing something important which I can't remember right now. Then I carried the box to his niche in the Cemetery's Columbarium, and that's where he rests. I hope he's keeping cool in there.

Meanwhile, I had shut down, and it was showing at work. My two bosses, both ladies and probably the first ones I had actually gotten along with in that sort of scenario, sat me down to let me know that. Some people would've taken this negatively. I took it as a slap in the face. A good slap, the kind that someone who truly likes/loves you would give you so that you wake up to be your best self again. Lord knows I am trying, and most days, I am succeeding in being my best self again.

I've survived all of this, plus cleaning out daddy's apartment, which has been an ordeal. And somewhere in all of that I managed to buy myself an apartment, which is madness just by itself. I also managed to get a little closer to God and have a bit more faith, just as it was being tested.

2) You cannot count on anyone but yourself.

I'm more like my dad than I thought I was, and I understand him better. I am a loner. The older I get, the more solitary I become. Yet I expect that when a friend or anyone else offers to do me a favor, they keep their promise. I wouldn't offer help if I wasn't prepared to give it, and I am always prepared to give it. However, I may need to rethink offering it so much. Just like daddy on all counts.

When you have a death in your family, everyone comes to you with "...if there's anything I can do for you....". Most times you don't accept help because they couldn't possibly help you. I mean, it's a beautiful thing to know you have people on your side, but they can't imagine the pain unless they've been through it themselves. I hate asking favors from people. I don't like the position it puts me in, and I don't like the expectations and the subsequent let-downs, which are unavoidable. It's not the fear of having to repay the favor; I have no problem doing that. I've had some friends accept to do specific things for me, only to back out at the last minute. I've been told on several occasions that I shouldn't be afraid to ask friends for favors. Maybe this is why I don't: because I know I'll resent them if they back out. And sure enough.....

I want to add, in a separate paragraph so that it is not passed over, that others can truly surprise you. Friends that seem aloof or otherwise entangled in their own business can provide tons of comfort, and all they do is offer a shoulder to cry on. Others who have let you down in the past and who you may not have been on speaking terms with for the last, say, year and a half, offer their help as a complete surprise and do not take it back.

Even so, I'm not going to count on anyone but myself. And my mother. She's never let me down, EVER, even when I didn't deserve her help. If I don't count on anyone, I won't get disappointed and add more hurt to my life, because I take everything extremely personally. Despite all the encouragement to just let things roll off my back, I can't rid myself of that, and the last emotion I need to add to my current mix is disappointment.

3) I don't have to hang with anyone I don't want to.

This can lose me friends, I know that. My good friends are chums with a whole throng of people I don't particularly like. It doesn't bother me anymore that they ditch me to hang out with them. It does not bother me anymore that I'm sometimes invited to dinners or brunches that include the disliked ones(if I can accept the invitation, I will, with thanks and without "scenes"). What does bother me is the almost constant badgering to be friends with these people regardless of what it is I don't like about them. My friends might think I'm just full of negativity for not being chummy with whoever I tried to include in group plans and who made an ass-face through the whole outing, or who got drunk and started to pick on me relentlessly. Oh, that's just how she is? She's shy? Apparently, and I don't appreciate it. I've already had my share of making nice with people because I absolutely have to. I've already made up with people I've fought with in the past. I do my part. I'm tired of extending myself to people who don't need to take up my time. I'm not going to give people 15 chances to annoy me, because they will undoubtedly annoy me. I may be alone for the rest of my life, but I would have no one to blame but myself, and that's strangely liberating.

I look around me and I see oodles of people who are "set in their ways". This used to be a bad thing to me, and it continued to be until recently. As in, "she's old and set in her ways". The thing is, they're pretty happy people, but I am continually requested to change my shit, and it makes me doubt myself constantly. When do I get to be happy with myself? What's wrong with setting boundaries when it comes to the way others affect me? Why do I need to listen to people who tell me I should let things roll off my back, or try to get along with people because it makes it easier for others to be friends with both of us? What's in it for me? Should I really care if someone else thinks I am a negative person? I am who I am. Love me or hate me. What you see is what you get, and all that good stuff. This is of course not to say that one shouldn't be open and accepting. I'm just saying that you need to do whatever is necessary to be happy with yourself. After all, that is the most important thing. If your parents are anything like mine, that's all they want for you, right? It's all you should want for yourself.

I opened this year on such a positive note. I really had some high hopes. And God seems to have chosen this year to test the hell out of me. My father, who I adore, is dead. My mother is in almost constant pain yet still kicking. Two of my friends and my stepfather have cancer. One friend has diabetes. My cat died two weeks before my father. I'm trying to keep up those high hopes despite all this. It's been awfully hard for me to do that, but I realized I have to live in the now, for myself and not for someone else's viewing pleasure. Life is tiring enough. Keeping up appearances is positively exhausting.

martes, junio 08, 2010

They're not fighting. They're conversating.

Yesterday, while at the office, my mom called. She likes to call me while in her car, then tell me she can't talk long because she is in her car. Anyway, I realized, once I got off the phone with her, that we have the loudest conversations, and it must bother the hell out of the chaste and hushed people I work with. I felt self-conscious for about two minutes, until I used my better judgement to decide that they could all fuck right off. But, my colleagues must think that my mother and I have the worst relationship because we "yell" at each other all the time. But really, we love each other to pieces, and we are just conversating.

When on cell phones, people talk just a bit louder because of the inherent cell phone issues, kind of like when one talks long distance. My mother and I bring this to a new level. I've always thought it was because:

1. We are both Latina. Therefore, even though we love each other, one of us has to speak the loudest. The other one loses. Now, I do not mind letting mami win, for it is my duty as daughter. I know my mother will raise hell on earth if she doesn't get her way. But sometimes, I get feisty, which is what happened yesterday.

2. We are both impatient. If she doesn't get something I say, I sigh audibly and explain. She gets all bent out of shape. Yet, if I don't get something she says, she sighs audibly and explains. BUT, we are only conversating at this point.

3. We come from a big family. My mother grew up with two brothers, and everyone knows the Latino baby is the little king of his castle. So imagine my mother trying to be sweet and girly when she has to compete with two spoiled little boys. Not happening. Now, the family has expanded in a crazy way, and I was always taught, if you see something you want, ask for it loudly. If you don't ask, you don't eat.

I am unapologetic for my volume. I don't see why I should apologize for being a product of my culture. I hate being shushed. If a man is out with me, he needs to know better than to shush me, for if he does, that's the first and last date.

As for my mother, if we STOP talking to each other, THEN there's a problem. But as long as we are yelling at each other, we're good. And I love that. So when you go to your Puerto Rican friend's house or you marry a Mexican with a huge family, do not get all upset when you are at the table and suddenly can't hear yourself think. They are not fighting. They're conversating.

jueves, febrero 25, 2010

It's been a month, and I still think you'll answer your phone.

The title of this post is also my Facebook status message for today. A friend from college asked if it was another poem. Not this time. But she doesn't know why I posted that. Other people who don't know might ask if it's some sort of plea to an ex-lover or something. No, I don't really do that anymore (for if they leave I'd rather them stay gone).

I haven't told about 85% of my friends that my dad died one month ago. It's not that I don't want them to know. I'm not embarrassed. But I am always such a happy person, I feel like people count on that, and I really don't want to bring my sad news into the mix. Plus, there's no way for me to know that I won't start crying. I almost did that with one friend when we were having lunch and talking about dad. I'm also not sure if people will be able to handle it. I told MC and not 10 seconds later she asked me "Well.....Are you at least getting laid?" I realize she's one of those people who's never experienced death, so she wouldn't know what to say. She's also one of those people who thinks that fucking some random guy will fix everything. But I digress....

The time gaps between crying fits are getting longer every day, and that's how I know that I'm getting through this. My mom said that she thinks I'm being very strong with this and that she's proud of me, which is really something because it takes a lot for her to tell me she's proud of me. That's the other way I know. But I still do silly things. I call him, only half-realizing that he won't be picking up, and only remembering that I had his phone shut off after the recording does its thing 3 times. I have to write letters to friends and family (only 2 members remain) to tell them that daddy's dead. I was having trouble finding an address for our cousin Sister, so I decided to call daddy and ask. It took me a while to remember that he's the reason I have to write these letters to these people in the first place. I went to my exercise class on Tuesday night, and when I thought of daddy looking down at me from heaven, scotch and soda in hand and laughing hysterically as I sweat and cursed the instructor, I started to cry. In the middle of class. And I'm not good with embarrassment. But he would have said "Awwww, pumpkin, you look cute jumping around like that."

I still walk around not really seeing or noticing anything but my shuffling feet. When I hang out with friends, I have a hard time paying attention to what they're telling me and often have to ask them to repeat themselves. Work takes all the energy I have right now, because here, I have no choice BUT to be coherent. Everyone's been really nice and understanding, but there's only so much slack they can give me. And there's only so much sympathy I can take. At the end of the day, I am drained.

On the other hand, I can now make it through an entire Blossom Dearie song, as well as Thelonious Monk, as long as it's a short piece, without bawling. Still can't do "April in Paris" or "The Man I Love" (original or with Miles Davis). Those are a tad longer than usual. I'm hoping to take a Boot Camp class three times a week in March. I'm sure it'll give me back some energy, and give me some drive to switch my eating habits back to what they were when I first took Boot Camp. I've been ODing on sugar since daddy died. Not because it makes me feel any better, but because I stopped giving a shit about a lot of things.

Really, I just want to close the shades, turn off all the lights, watch sad movies, drink bottles of scotch and have absolutely no contact with the outside world, save only for a few friends who are close to me and who have been very supportive. And I'll thank them one day, as soon as I can do it without crying. My consolations are these good friends: JT, AJ, Khi, JM, and poor DG, who leaves my house with his t-shirt soaked with tears every time. I don't really care to talk to anyone else but these people and my mother. I had to push myself hard to go to AJ's birthday karaoke last week (I wouldn't have gone for anyone else, though). On certain days I will say that work saves me, because I'd be a hermit without it, and it would be 50 times harder for me to get out of my haze.

Daddy would disapprove of this, of course. He would say, "Come on Maria!!!! Run yo' feets!!!! Hop to it!!!!" And that's what I hear in the morning, and that's what gets me out of bed. All he wanted was for me to get the best out of life. He never pressured me to be a certain thing, like a doctor or whatever. He just wanted me to be happy, smart and practical. I joined this group on facebook yesterday for people whose fathers are dead. The question of the day: "Who do you get your advice from now?" My answer: No one. I never asked daddy for advice. But he would let me know if I was wrong as well as if I was right. He gave me his values. And that's how he shaped me into who I am today. No one else's opinion really counts for me. It seldom did. It was all about daddy. And I thank God He left him around for as long as He did. Now I just have to learn to live until I see daddy again.

martes, enero 26, 2010

KCM, Jr., 1935-2010

When daddy had a stroke in 1993, when I was 17, none of us thought he'd make it even 5 years. He lived for another 17. There were arm spasms and a seizure and subsequent hospital visit, and he was left almost paralyzed on the left side of his body. He could walk, but very slow and with a quad cane. No driving, and he didn't go out much. But nothing major happened until this past December.

A couple of weeks before I arrived in DC for Christmas, daddy had a mini-stroke and lost the ability to read or do his beloved crossword puzzles. We both wondered what he would do with himself without these things. But he regained those abilities two days later. By the time I saw him, though, he was fine. Last Sunday, he had another small stroke and again lost the ability to read or write. The major stroke that eventually killed him happened sometime on Tuesday afternoon (19 January). The doctors did a CT scan and saw massive bleeding in daddy's head, as well as the damage from the other strokes, which was more extensive than we thought.

By the time I got to DC and saw him on Wednesday morning, daddy was still holding on, but he couldn't (technically) see, hear, or feel. I asked him to squeeze my hand if he could hear me, though, and he did. He even opened his eyes and looked at me for a nanosecond, and I am positive he saw me. However, when we went back to see him that night, he was super agitated and trying to take out his catheter and fluid tube and get out of bed. This time he couldn't hear or see me, and he kept trying to let go of my hand so he could get out.

Thursday morning, we met with the palliative care doctor and his nurse. The prognosis was very poor, and even if daddy did make it out alive, he would be a vegetable. I honored daddy's wishes and let him go. I watched the nurses take out his feeding tube along with everything else. I freaked out. He was moved to another room, where he got a morphine drip to keep him relaxed. He held on, and when he awoke from the haze, he would moan. Just short moans. But mostly, he slept. We went home and I called the phone company to have his phone disconnected. I called the Washington Post to have his subscription cancelled. I called the cable company. Wrote his obituary.

Friday, I went to daddy's room to meet the hospice care worker, Betty, a very nice lady from Georgia. She told me that they would keep him at the hospital for a few more days on the morphine drip, and if he survived until Tuesday, today, he would be moved, morphine and all, to a nursing home where they often tended to terminal patients. After Betty left, I stayed with dad and held his hand. That night, my mom and I decided I would go back to NYC and then come back for the service and the "administrative" stuff, like the bank accounts, the house, etc. Throughout all this, I was terrified that he would die alone. I didn't want to leave him. But I had to continue my life. He would have wanted that. So I bought my bus ticket.

On Saturday, I went to the hospital to say my goodbyes. I cried a lot and I prayed with him. I held his hand. Noticed how his fingers were like mine, short and chubby. His hands looked like crinkled paper. His cheeks were sallow, but he looked so young. When I left, I gave him a kiss on the cheek, told him I'd see him again, and although medically speaking, he was completely out and couldn't feel anything, I saw his head turn towards me, the corner of his mouth turned up slightly. I know he was smiling, and if he could have talked, he would have said something like, "Don't worry about me. I'm OK." He always said that. Mom and I went to his house to start the clean-out process. I thought I wouldn't be able to do it, but I surprised myself.

I went home Sunday. Sat on the couch and watched TV with my cat, JP. I eventually fell asleep. At around 5 am, I woke up to find JP sitting next to me, staring up at me. I had a picture pop into my mind. It was just for a second, but I remember it clearly.

Daddy was in his hospital room, lying in bed. He wasn't moving, but his eyes were wide open, looking to his left. He had a slight smile on his face. His cheeks were full and young. Standing at the left side of the bed were a huge group of people: grandma and grandpa were there, as well as aunt Ida, Ruth, and the rest of my grandma's brothers and sisters. I had never met grandma's family, but I knew Ida and Ruth from pictures. Grandma's parents were there too; I recognized them from pictures. Great-grandpa was wearing his dark hat and thick mustache. My grandpa's parents, who had died when grandpa was 14, were also there, and I recognized great-grandma from a picture. Uncle Walter, also known as Big Sonny, was there with aunt Patty and their son, Little Sonny. I didn't recognize the others, but I knew they were family. Grandma and grandpa looked as they did in their fifties. Ida looked as she did in her thirties or forties. Grandma wore a white dress.

Then I got the call from daddy's nurse that he had passed on. He was calm and comfortable, she said. I thanked her and called my mother to tell her.

I surprised myself again, and I got out of bed this morning. I breathed in and out. I cry every so often, when I see his picture or listen to his favorite songs or read letters he wrote to me. I missed having someone to talk about the new senator from Massachusetts with. I never got to discuss with him the biography of RFK that I've been reading. I want to know more about Jimmy Hoffa "pleading the fifth" before the Rackets Committee in the '50's, but I can't call him. These things I cannot discuss with my mother. Daddy and I did not just have the typical father-daughter relationship. We were best friends. We were supernatural. We were devoted to each other in a way that few people, including my mother, understood. No one could ever make my eyes light up with pure happiness just on sight like daddy did. And I just really miss saying, "Hi daddy", and hearing him say, "Hi Maria", in his slight southern drawl that made my name sound much longer than it is.

Yesterday, I had to sign the authorization form to have daddy cremated, and it was the most surreal thing I'll probably ever do. As I walked home, I laughed to myself and thought, "Just like daddy to kick my ass into adulthood."