I’m spending Thanksgivukkah with Frankie. Which is a little crazy-making.
It’s not the multi-cultural, multi-prepared feast itself that is mind-scrambling: turkey from Brushfire BBQ, latkes from Trader Joe’s, cranberry and turkey tamales from Tucson Tamale company, pumpkin bread pudding baked by my friend Rebecca, to name just a few of the meal’s highlights. I’m sure the conversation — and some of the spirits that lubricate it — will be sparkling.
It’s that the feast will be held at my friend John’s house, where Frankie’s ashes are currently residing because I couldn’t bear to pick them up from the funeral home.
The anger phase of grief
I HATE that Frankie had to die.
Damn death. And, especially, damn its aftermath, the physical detritus that’s not your loved one but that reminds you of what you lost — and that you have to deal with, whether you want to or not.
The decision to not deal with it is still a decision.
I wrote a few weeks ago that I wasn’t experiencing the type of grief that I was expecting to feel over Frankie’s passing. Well, I found a touchstone for that grief, a button to push to unleash the torrent of pain and tears: The thought of Frankie’s ashes.
I’ve discovered that every last bit of his DNA — from the diabetes test strip he peed on to the saliva-rich squeaky carrot he held in his mouth — is precious to me. Others have expressed similar sentiments on Facebook. Knowing that people held off cleaning everything from hair to blood spatters and snot from their departed dogs made me feel better about not wanting to remove that last little piece of Frankie poop from the back yard.
That’s all evidence of life. Ashes say nothing to me but loss. And anger. They bring back my mother’s death, and the fight over a cremation that she requested because “it was good enough for her parents” — a Holocaust/crematorium reference — and that other family members refused to honor because it went against their religion.
Don’t get me started.
The grief phase of grief
This has been a terrible week. It rained for two days straight. I woke up Saturday morning to a thud: A chunk of the roof/ceiling had fallen to the floor.
Clearly I wasn’t the wasn’t the only one this had happened to — we don’t deal well with rain in the desert — so on Monday every roofer in Tucson was busy looking at roofs. And no doubt raising their rates. The first person who came to do an estimate said it would cost $4,400 — just for patches.
Then I was turned down for a grant that I hadn’t realized I’d been really really depending on to write a book on my family history.
I have been grief eating so now I feel fat as well as stupid — and broke.
I know Frankie wasn’t always able to bring me out of my black moods, especially at the end when I counted him as one of my worries. But not having my furry best friend here, in any form, makes this all seem more unbearable.
What I am thankful for
I could never be accused of looking for a silver lining in grey clouds (I just realized that I don’t have a clue of what that means, meteorologically speaking. How can clouds be lined? In silver?). It’s not my nature. I tend to look for the lemons in the lemonade (a metaphor I do understand).
But it would be churlish — not to mention foolish, because of the comfort I’ve derived from them — not to express gratitude for the many kindnesses that others have offered. The wake that my friend Cynthia held for Frankie and all the friends who showed up to offer support. The wonderful Frankie art from AJ Emm and from my niece Rebecca. And all the nonartistic but heartfelt expressions of love and support that I’ve gotten from this community, here and on Facebook.
I’m thankful that most people — though, sadly, not all — have forgiven me for bad behavior I manifested under Frankie-inspired duress and grief.
I’m thankful that John is a good enough friend to take Frankie’s ashes home with him and to put up with the vagaries of my reactions to them — one minute being able to joke about Frankie not being allowed on the couch, another bursting into tears at the idea of Frankie being left alone when John goes out of town for a few months. I might have to bring the ashes back to my home before then.
I’m thankful that my friend Rebecca, who is not Jewish, is making sweet noodle kugel for me for Thanksgivukkah. I might regret some of the grief eating I’ve done because of low quality of the calories, but I will never regret a sweet kugel made in friendship.