The Very Happiest Thing

The worst part of the big dates on the calendar – anniversaries, birthdays, days we shared, days everyone still shares in capital letters on the calendar – is the anticipation.

It’s the pattern. And I know it’s the pattern. But when I’m in it, it hardly matters that it’s a predictable pattern. All that seems true is that I’m swimming in dread and remembering, and anxiety squeezes my entire body like a blood pressure cuff until I really can’t stand it one more minute and I’ll do anything – anything – to make this stop.

There was a point last week when the messages of “I’ll do anything to make this end” were louder and more powerful than the messages of “This is part of the pattern and tomorrow will be better and easier. You are okay.”

If there had been alcohol in the house, I would have drunk it all. If there were mind altering drugs, I would have taken them by the handful. Consequences be damned. Just let me end this. Let me stop feeling. I was terrified of myself.

My crisis team surrounded me, in body and on the phone. If I said the magic words, we were off to the hospital. If my therapist knew we were past the point of management, we were off to the hospital. I didn’t have the courage to say it myself, but I would have let them take me anywhere.

In my bed, weeping, I listened to Jana’s voice on the phone.

“Tricia, you are okay.”

“I am not okay.”

“Listen to me. You are okay. Your mind is wound around all the things that this week represents, with your birthday and your anniversary, and a dozen other smaller things. Your mind is begging you to stop thinking. Your number one job right now is to go to sleep. I want you to take your sleeping pill, lay very still, and whenever anything comes into your mind, you can tell it, ‘Not now. I’m not thinking about this right now. I’m going to sleep.'”

I’m going to sleep.
I’m going to sleep.
I practiced the mantra.

“That’s right. Just like that. Right to sleep. Call me in the morning, or you know I’m going to harrass you with phone calls and texts until I know where you are and how you are.”

She’s not kidding. I love this about her. There could be no better therapist anywhere, no one more suited to me.

I’m going to sleep.
I’m going to sleep.
I practiced the mantra.

“Mommy? Are you crying?” Tyler stood in my doorway.

“Yes, baby. I’m crying.” I’m crying a lot. A lot.

Tyler is a fixer. He is impelled to bring me things that might help the problem at hand. He brought me tissues. He brought me the Cinderella doll. “Here, Mommy. Here.”

“Here, Mommy. Look at this.” I opened my eyes to see the picture he had drawn and framed himself (he took a different picture out of the frame by my bedside, replacing it with this one). It’s a picture of our family of four, and we are all a bunch of floating heads. The boys and I are clustered together, and a couple of inches away toward the upper right, is Robb. He’s portrayed with a good measure of black. “Here, Mommy. I made this. Look.”

“I can’t look at that right now, lovey.”

“I’ll be right back.”

He came back with his bound book of pictures, Tyler and Daddy. “Here, Mommy. Look at this. When you miss Daddy, you should look at this.”

“No. No. No, Tyler. I cannot. I can’t.” I felt the panic rising again, and I was afraid I might lose myself and yell at him. I was supposed to be falling asleep. That was the plan.

He climbs into my bed and sprawls himselff across me, his head resting on my heartbeat. “Hey, Mommy?”

“Yes, buddy?”

“Do you remember the night when daddy died?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Do you remember when you needed to give him medicine, and you asked me to go away?”

I do not clearly remember this, but I can picture it. I probably needed to give Robb some dosage of something, and at the same time, three-year-old Tyler was trying to climb into the recliner and into the middle of everything. I’m sure I said something like, “Tyler, not now. Please be somewhere else.” And this is what he remembers. On the day that daddy died, I asked him to go away.

“Mommy, I watched and I watched. I stared and stared. And do you know why? It’s because I wanted to see what someone looks like when they die.”

It doesn’t matter that in this story, the part he remembers, we had no idea that death was imminent. His memory is his reality.

“And now I know what happens. They just – poof!” His hands model a small explosion of pixie dust.

“No, baby. That’s not what happens.”

“Oh, I mean the person becomes invisible.”

“No, that’s not what happens either.”

“Well, what happens?”

I am supposed to be sleeping. That’s what Jana said. But there is a six-year-old in my arms, listening to my voice through the muffled, echoed caverns of my chest.

“His spirit left his body. But his body stayed.”

“Then where is his body?”

“The doctors took it.”

“Well, I want it.”

“No, you don’t, sugar. You think you do, and I know how that feels. But you don’t want his body. It’s not how you remember him. His body is empty now. His spirit is what we loved most, and his spirit is in heaven with Jesus.”

“Oh. Well, I want his body. I want him.”

“Me too.”

And suddenly, I realized that this is another moment he will take with him. He remembers that fleeting moment when I asked him to walk away, and he was only three. Now he is six, and memories have more cognitive space to take root. He will remember this night, his mommy and her puffy eyes, her frantic voice that became softer and softer as the sleeping pill took effect. He will remember how he tried to help. He will remember that I had no answers that were good enough. He will remember this.

I breathed deeply. I stroked his hair. “Tyler, do you know you’re the happiest thing in my life?”

He lifted his head to look at me, “What? No, I didn’t know what.”

“Oh, sweet boy. You are. You are the happiest thing in my life. You’re the reason I am alive, buddy.”

His smile consumes us both. “The very happiest thing?”

“The very happiest thing.”

Dear God, let this be what he remembers of this horrible night on the edge of my existence.

A Word to Spammers

Oh, spammers. How clever you think you are.

These are the comments I’ve received in the last week or so. Don’t they just evoke brilliance and personal connection?

They’re barely coherent.


“Navy maintains no such experiment occurred. Only in the final decade has there been an explosion on solar conversion technology.”

Ah, yes.  And I write so much about the Navy and experiments with solar conversion technology.  I can see you have read a plethora of my posts related to this one.


“What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious knowledge concerning unexpected feelings.”

Extra points for ‘preserveness.’  What a stuff.

“It is estimated that more than half of adult Americans use vitamin supplements regularly. Most diet plans mention and briefly tell people that they need to exercise but only give a little bit of information about the subject. Probiotic supplements will give you the same benefits as food sources.”

So, are we Pro Exercise?  Pro vitamins?  Pro biotic?  Pro supplements?


“One can easily bluff about themselves in online dating, but this will be quite tough when someone is meeting with their counterpart face to face. For your online dating profile, that means using attention-grabbing headlines, regular updates, and maybe a line or two that shows how witty you are. Women will now view us as the ones who should be chased.”

First of all, I do not bluff.  Let’s get that straight right now.  Second, I don’t have an online dating profile.  Unless you consider this site to be one big first date.  And I, by the way, do not consider it as such.  Women will view us as the ones to be chased? Um, I don’t like being chased.


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Just a Little Bit Odd

No air conditioning.  That makes two places I’ve been so far without air conditioning, since my hotel didn’t either.  And I called down to the front desk, the old 0 on the hotel room phone, to say that perhaps my air conditioning is out of order.   Turns out, “There’s no air conditioning in this building, ma’am.  So you’ll want to make sure your windows are open and your blinds are closed.  Also, there’s a fan in the closet.”


Well, okay then.  That’s embarrassing.  I imagine the hotel clerk looked at his compatriot for the evening hours at the front desk, and he probably said, “Spoiled girl from the suburbs.  That’s what you get when you bid low on priceline, darlin’.”


I’m actually okay with this.  I can handle.  But Robb couldn’t.  I’m sure he is much happier in his perfectly temperatured heaven than he would be in this stuffy town.  (And I do realize that is a ridiculous statement of its own.  Of course he is happier there.) If he were here, he would declare we were never coming back.  I can hear him.  “Vail is hot.  You’d think for such a beautiful and expensive city, they would have A/C.”


The coffee shop is my favorite kind… albeit hot.  All the baristas have their hair piled high, up off their necks.  I wonder if each one has a wet, cool paper towel folded inside her bra.  That’s a waitressing secret.  Learned it when I was 16, a new waitress in the food industry.  One of the Lifers told me that secret.  It’s the only way to make it through a shift without sweating into people’s drinks.


In this place, there is eclectic furniture, chalkboard menus, exposed brick walls, distressed wood accents.  Such charm.  I’m sitting in a booth that should really belong to a party of four.  But as long as there is one other table with four chairs, I’m going to assume nobody needs this one.


Things here are just a little bit odd.


Women keep walking in here in dresses that I cannot wrap my mind around.  Largely because the dresses can’t really wrap themselves around these bodies.  There are two firemen, though.  And I’m pretty confident that there must be a prerequisite of ‘exceedingly handsome’ in the job description.


The girls sitting at the table next to me… three girls, every one of them obnoxious.  They’re all on their phones.  Talking excitedly about whomever they get a text from.  And the loud girl slips into the negro jive of a large black woman when she answers her phone.  They burst into song, a few phrases at a time.  Loudly.  And I shudder to think how I must have been at their age.


Self awareness comes with age and time.  And sometimes, it still doesn’t.


A guy walks in with long blond hair, cargo shorts, black socks and sneakers, and a skateboard between his back and his backpack.  “I just got done with like a two-and-a-half hour skate.  I want to take a shower and then go lay in the river.  Can I have one of those peach pear yummy-dums?”


I didn’t see ‘yummy-dum’ on the menu.  Clearly he’s a regular.  With his own language.  And his own flirty relationship with the baristas.


It’s all just very odd around here.  In a lot of the best ways.



The MotherLoaded Tavern  

103 S Main Street

Breckenridge, Colorado


I come here every time I visit Breckenridge, except for one sad day during mud-season when they were closed for a month or something else eternally long.  But today they are open, and thus I am here.


The silverware is clustered on the table in a Family Size can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup.

The salt and pepper are in old-timey Coke bottles.

My water pitcher is a square green bottle, no label.  Just pouring myself a glass of water, I felt like Miss Hannigan pouring vodka in her knickers.


The restaurant raises her glass in honor of mothers and grandmothers everywhere, those who have fixed us our favorite meals that have never tasted quite so good since we left home.

The decor boasts framed pictures of random moms with random kids, and quotable words on the wall.


“All Mothers are Working Mothers.”

“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?”

“A Freudian slip is when you say one thing and mean your mother.”


The menu is just incredible, really.


Naturally, they’ve got homemade mac ‘n cheese, meatloaf, and chicken fried chicken, but they also have fried chicken waffles, deep fried pickles, and The Pregnant Elvis burger (complete with peanut butter, bacon, and pickles).  The list goes on.


I’m having a Monte Cristo Panini, grilled and encrusted with Cap’n Crunch dust.


And you bet your sweet bippy I’m saving room for the Fried Twinkie for dessert.  Unless I opt for the strawberry cobbler or the make-my-own s’mores over a hibachi at my table.


But really, I think I’ll go with the Twinkie.


Eat here.  It’ll change your life.