And That’s a Word with a Bark On It

August 22, 2015

11 285x300 - And That's a Word with a Bark On It


One day, a little more than two years ago, my mom stopped breathing.

Can you imagine?

The most important person in your life, the one who held you and taught you and spanked you and read to you and kissed you and bought you clothes and cried with you and watched movies with you and prayed for you and loved you loved you loved you, can you imagine someone like that dying?



My mom died.


Today was a day I felt like maybe I couldn’t deal with my life. I stood packing up a box full of old spices that I should probably have thrown away, packing them up for our move that we’ve been anticipating for months. A move we’re not ready for but we’re going to do anyway. Kids were fighting, the baby crying, someone pounding on the piano, sweat dripping down my back.

The tears started slowly.



Then they were coming fast

And suddenly I was hiccuping and whimpering and holding a bottle of chili powder and wishing I was no where.

Dear Nowhere,

Where are you? Can I come visit?




My mom had me when she was 42. I am 37. I am tired. I can’t even imagine having a baby again in five years. I can’t imagine having two kids after age 40 and teaching elementary school and taking care of teenagers and becoming a grandmother and being so smart and so good and so present.

How was she so present?

And how is she so not present now?


The other day I lied to the dentist.

My crown had fallen out for the second time in a year. This is unusual. Crowns are not supposed to fall out. He was perplexed.

What did you eat?

I shrugged. Just lunch.

Like a sandwich?

Sure, I said. A sandwich.

What was on it?

Uhhh, jam?

Jam. That’s so weird, he said. I don’t know what’s wrong. I mean if you’d eaten a Laffy Taffy or something, it would make more sense, but a jam sandwich? That’s really weird.

Yeah, I said. So weird.

Then I sat back in my chair and waited for him to put the crown back on and felt horrible because I had not eaten a jam sandwich. Instead I had eaten a pound of chocolate covered cinnamon bears. I had them hidden in my closet under my underwear and exercise clothes. They were beautiful and delicious and made me feel better when my kids threw books at my head or pulled all the folded clothes out of the hamper or pooed on the front porch. They also made my tooth fall out.


Did you ever lie? Did you ever keep spices eight years after their due date? Did you ever feel so alone your bones ache? Did you know you were going to leave me? Can you tell me what to do? I’m so tired.

The cinnamon bears aren’t working anymore. Mentos aren’t either.

I guess I thought when I got so old like 37 I’d know what to do. I’d be an adult. I’d be smart and good and I wouldn’t lie anymore.

I guess I thought I’d be more like you.






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  • Reply Emily August 25, 2015 at 1:59am

    This is really, really beautiful. And I know the secret about chocolate-covered cinnamon bears. Yes I do.

  • Reply Shar August 25, 2015 at 2:55am

    shoot. it sucks that some things can’t be fixed. and that chocolate covered cinnamon bears don’t always work. YOU ARE SO LOVED! even shouting it doesn’t necessarily work, but i hope you know you are. by many many people. gone people. here people. far away people. tiny little messy people. me people. xoxo

  • Reply Holly July 9, 2016 at 3:43am

    How have I never read this before? Yes yes yes.

  • Reply Brenda Bensch September 27, 2016 at 2:30pm

    Looking for writing subjects again, and found the above from about a year ago. My mother died when I was only 27, and my only sibling (brother) was still in high school.. Because I married wrongly the first time, and took a while to try it again, my mom (who would have been the world’s greatest Grandma — especially for my daughter and my brother’s three girls) never saw ANY of her grandchildren: I had no children before she passed. My brother ended up with 3 boys ad 3 girls, but they, too, all came after she was gone. Now I’ve read this beautiful and true cry you’ve put out into the universe, and I’m crying. And feeling guilty (again) that my children never knew their grandmother. And I’m missing her, too. And I’m crying like crazy. The same way I do when I read one of your books.

    Thank you. . . . I think . . . for reminding me .. . .

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