Category Archives: Uncategorized

JULY 10 — The Miracle of Video

In the past hour, I’ve heard from a few people who said how nice it was to read Caitlin’s words, to “hear” her.

I’m going to share a few snippets of iPhone video here.  I often think that not long ago, people didn’t even have photographs of loved ones. All they had were drawings (if they were lucky) and memory. These are comforting when I can bear to view them. 

*Click HD in the lower right corner to enable HD quality.

Most of the videos are of Kitten joking around. She had a great sense of humor.

The next one was a year ago, at the Andy Warhol Museum. We both did “Andy’s Screen Test,” where you stare into a camera for 3 minutes. Playback is 4 minutes.

This was the first go. For some reason, Caitlin decided she wanted to go back and do a second one. She let her hair down and then, seemingly presciently, threw off her oxygen and smiled at the very end. We used the entire four minutes to conclude the tribute film

 

Pretending to be an old washer-woman, at our apartment in Pittsburgh. This was the fifth take. She kept laughing.

 

More joking around:

APRIL 20–Speak to Me in Joni

Somebody somewhere recently posted a meme I agree with:  Belief + Doubt = Sanity.

That said, I’m just going to relay what happened.

Previously, I’ve talked about the fact that three of us saw a couple of well-regarded mediums and that Caitlin ‘came through’ with details that no one could possibly know.

Here is a small part of the transcribed recording of my session. K is the medium:

K: She keeps also showing me that she’s very music-oriented. She’s saying, “I’m trying to send my mom music but she didn’t always like the same things that I listened to.” But she’s very music-oriented and she’s wanting to bring through speaking to you through music as well. She’s saying, “Just keep paying attention.”

K: Now, going back in time, she makes me feel like you love–I feel like there’s shared undertones of music that she grew up with with you. Did you listen to Joni Mitchell?    She keeps saying, “Listen to Joni Mitchell.”

Me:  Joni Mitchell??? (I was like, what???)

K: Yeah. Or something of this era, maybe?

Me: She loved Joni Mitchell. Loved her.

K: She’s saying, “Let me speak to you in Joni.” (laughs) “When you put this music on,” that’s what she’s talking about, when you want that experience, it’s like you have these express pathways to her, when you put that music on, you read her stuff, it’s like the sense of feeling her essence come to you, okay. She’s saying, “Mom, it’s more important than any words anyone’s going to say to you.” It’s the essence of her soul just being connected to you.

So that was in February. And we’ve been traveling and I haven’t listed to a whole lot of music. But last week, some of Caitlin’s close, local friends came to dinner here. Instead of my usual Pandora jazz stations that I put on for dinner gatherings, I decided to create a Joni Mitchell station. As I cooked, I noticed that it was playing no Joni, and that the songs it was playing seemed ridiculously message-like. I started jotting down the titles.

Spirit in the Sky, Norman Greenbaum.

Let’s Live for Today, The Grass Roots.

Turn, Turn, Turn, The Byrds (To everything/there is a season).

Stairway to Heaven, Led Zeppelin. (Aside from the obvious, we used to laugh with horror because a volunteer harpist who played in inpatient units at Brigham & Women’s Hospital always played that song!)

Last Dance with Mary Jane, Tom Petty. (This one has special significance because it was a lifelong joke. When her fifth-grade class was graduating from Lower School, they all got up on stage and sang their made-up lyrics, “Last Day in Lower School,” to the Tom Petty tune, and they sang in such a morose and funny way, we parents couldn’t stop laughing.)

The Sound of Silence, Simon & Garfunkle. (see earlier post)

Finally, a Joni song came on, one I didn’t know. At first I thought I wasn’t hearing correctly. 

Willy, Joni Mitchell. (Nick’s brother Willie died at age 29, when Caitlin was 5. Caitlin loved him.)

The friends arrived, and someone said, “Hey, this sounds like Caitlin’s music.” I didn’t really pay attention after that, but when we sat down to eat, I mentioned how the music had been a bit spooky. And as I was talking I realized what was playing. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “I can’t believe this.”

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, Rolling Stones.

I ran upstairs and brought down the little notebook I recently found in her bedside table. She had only written on one page, back on January 14, 2014 when she was first on 24/7 oxygen and very sick, obviously ready to be listed for transplant.

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She had written, “You can’t always get what you want, and if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

She went on to tell herself to “Let go. Just be strong. You will not be able to predict the future. Accept that. You are getting what you need.”

But “It is going to be scary and you might die.”

Last Thought for Today, on this 4 Month Anniversary

Yesterday, I went to the mausoleum. I’d only been there once before. I don’t find it comforting, and I don’t feel my kittycat there. I mainly went there to cry, after a particularly good Daoist Yoga class. But while I was doing so, I realized a crazy thing. Kitten is in the space adjacent to someone whose last name is PARIS, and whose first name is BIRDIE.

I texted a few people to tell them. I wrote, Come on !!!

And as I drove out of the cemetery and merged onto the main road, I found myself behind this:

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You can’t make this stuff up.

Here’s a little more of what Caitlin herself wrote about writing, and inspiration, and music.

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Update

I published this post, got in my car, and this:

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Also, I’d almost included a link to this but had taken it out. Now I will put it back in, as a few people called my attention to it. The lounge-y cover of the song that played at the end of BIG LITTLE LIES. Have been listening to it over and over.

 

APRIL 13–Venturing Out

On Tuesday, I spent the entire day at Caitlin’s Boston apartment. I emptied the Pittsburgh boxes, decided what to do with the contents, broke down all the cardboard. I made the bedrooms look inviting again. I did laundry there for the first time since last summer, when we briefly escaped Pittsburgh for home and Caitlin got to spend a week there. ‘The best week of the last three years,’ she called it.

As I worked, I realized that Caitlin’s little laundry basket held more than just the two towels I thought were in it. I found one of her favorite head scarfs, the one she wore with such chic grace in the photo below. I also found the “MEOW” sweatshirt I had searched for and thought lost.

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Photo, against the found headscarf

These belongings–I truly wonder how much damage I’m doing to my heart when I sob over them, but…what else can you do? Repression seems worse. Better to grieve and cry and stuff the little meowing sweatshirt against my face and tell Caitlin how much I love her?

I think so.

The only problem was, Tuesday had seemed like the right day to stay in the city all day because I had planned to go to the evening book launch of someone I really like– someone Caitlin really liked, too: Randy Susan Meyers.

Randy used to work with battered women, and now she writes the kinds of novels that hopefully make people stop and think. She only started publishing when she was in her 50s, in 2010, and she has an impressive work ethic. On Tuesday, she was launching her 4th(!) book, The Widow of Wall Street, a well-researched and in-depth look at a character based on Ruth Madoff (what did she know??) The launch would be at Brookline Booksmith where she would be in conversation with Matthew Gilbert, television critic at the Boston Globe.

Randy and Caitlin met a few years ago when Caitlin interviewed her for the Literary Traveler website. Caitlin was so taken with her! She enthused about how smart and articulate Randy was, how funny and engaging. The admiration was mutual.

I had planned and really wanted to go to the launch, but now, holding the headscarf and sweatshirt, what had sounded great a month out, suddenly became something I began to dread. I would have to see people. People I like!–but that didn’t matter. All I had the mental energy to do was take those items home and flop on the couch and watch something like Feud.

I know I have permission to do anything I want right now. And I’ve been good about following that wise ‘rule of bereavement.’

But. I also want to be a person in this world. I always tell myself, when I’m reluctant to do something, that later I know I will be happy I did it.

And I thought of Caitlin, and how she would have trudged down the stairs to the Booksmith event area with her oxygen tank.

I thought of how, if all had gone well, she would have accompanied me, free.

I went. But I decided to show up right at 7, so I could slip into the back. Yet out on the street, the first face I saw was that of someone I adore, Delia Cabe, with her friend Meta Wagner.

And it was great, how I felt instantly ‘normal’ and comfortable again.

We went down to the event area, the site of happy events of my own, where people were still standing about, talking. There was another writer friend, Laura Harrington. We had been planning to talk soon and now here she was.

The evening was excellent and uplifting and being there, surrounded by people who love and support what’s best about our culture, was heartening.

I have no real control over how people read what I write, but a consistent theme of mine has always been a preoccupation with the personal and cultural salvation that is art. And venturing out, when I really didn’t want to, reminded me of how true that is.

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With Laura Harrington & Monique Hamze

 

All the people I mentioned have books out or soon to be out, so here you go:

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Out Now

The Widow of Wall Street, by Randy Susan Meyers

What did the wife know?

 

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Coming in June

The Storied Bars of New York, by Delia Cabe

Cocktails! Stories!

 

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Out now

Off the Leash, by Matthew Gilbert

Pups! Dog park people!

 

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Just launched

What’s Your Creative Type? by Meta Wagner

Take the quiz!

 

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Coming in July

A Catalog of Birds, by Laura Harrington

Compelling family drama published by the incomparable Europa!

 

–Maryanne

 

APRIL 7–Paris Is Always a Good Idea


A couple of comments I received yesterday:

“Thank you for sharing more stories of Caitlin’s amazing life. I think once again of when you told us she tipped generously so that’s what I have been doing whenever I go out to eat. It is fun and I think of Caitlin when I do.”

“It’s funny, I think of her when I tip now, or donate. I’ve always been generous but now I’m over the top. Thank you for that.”

I love that. So much.

I’ve had some occasions, in the past few months, when I’ve gone over the top myself, and each time, I’ve felt like it wasn’t my doing at all, but Caitlin saying, go back and give her some money! Or Make his day!

Everyone’s been asking about Andrew and Jess. After Kenya, Andrew traveled to Vietnam. He’s teaching there for a while, figuring things out. This is a favorite dish of his:

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Bun Ca = Fish Noodle

Jess has been traveling a lot, as well. Every 3 weeks she goes home to San Francisco for her treatment, then takes off again.

She’s figuring things out, too.

As are we, though we are home now.

We were in Florida last week. Every time we asked Kitten for a sign, we got one, to the point that we were laughing. Here are a few pics. (I’ll explain the hawks one of these days…)

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She would be cackling.

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This was actually in Boston, before we left. xo

–M

MARCH 27–I Keep Thinking..

I’ve never been one to say “life’s not fair,” or to be angry about Caitlin’s CF, or about her (not-inevitable) decline and need for a lung transplant. I’ve always tried to be philosophical and optimistic and I truly do believe that tough experiences ‘grow your soul’ and make you a more compassionate human being.

But.

Nick and I are in Florida, at a hotel with an atmosphere that feels more like our beloved Virgin Islands than “Florida.” The hotel plays soft reggae in the background. There are palm trees and thatched buildings and the water here is a Caribbean blue.

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Norman Island, BVIs

Being an only child, Caitlin tagged along on pretty much every trip we ever took–either by herself, or with Katie, or her boyfriend.

So I keep imagining her here–ambling in her slow way across the pool deck. I see her big sunglasses, her long hair, and I keep thinking I was a fool to have had one hundred percent faith that the transplant would happen, and that she would prevail.

I want to go back and cherish every minute even more than I did.

I keep thinking of her first days on ECMO and how the surgeon said, “We’re going to get you transplanted, Caitlin.” And, “I have a good feeling about this weekend.”

He was trying to be positive, and I’m sure he truly believed his own words.

I keep thinking of my own words, written in Cascade, where I describe a feeling that has always haunted me and which haunts me now:

There had been other such days—the long-ago morning her mother took sick, the afternoon the telegram spelled out the fact of her father’s first heart attack. At the ends of those days, Dez had looked back through the blur of hours to the innocent mornings, which started so normally. An egg, a piece of buttered toast, plans for this or that. And if those days had stayed normal, if the flu had passed through her mother’s body, through her brother’s, if her father’s heart had not seized, there would be no marveling at the day’s normalcy, no reeling from being blindsided.

No, normalcy is taken for granted until it’s gone.

–Maryanne

MARCH 4–Knock knock knockin’

Yesterday I heard Knocking on Heaven’s Door (different versions) 3 times before 10am. That got me thinking about Caitlin, and about Bob Dylan. Here’s a text she wrote, in November, about him winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. Something to read on a frigid Saturday.

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The more I think about the Dylan thing the more I

think it is wrong. I think there’s a whole thing where

we’ve got this idea of the arts being lumped in

together. That all forms of creativity fall together

and — I think like Simeon said — create overlapping Venn

diagrams.

 

But what if they weren’t the overlapping Venn

diagrams that we all kind of just assume they are?

Perception is the question, right?  Music is words +

sound ….but it is reminding me of the arguments in

alternative medicine. Cancer feeds on sugar cells.

Cancer dies in alkaline environments. Subtract sugar

cancer dies. Drink alkaline water and cancer dies. It

misses the point that you can’t just add or subtract

things to your body–that the body is designed to

take whatever you give it and do what it’s going to

do to maintain homeostasis. You could say homeostasis

— the equilibrium we feel and enjoy as humans

physiologically — is the same as a FEELING,

generally. Ok? So like — maybe arts aren’t defined

the way we define them at all. Maybe they’re really

entirely separate. The feeling you get from a

painting that moves you is as separate from the

feeling you get from music as a worn out kidney is

from a worn out liver. Sure they’re all organs. But if

your lungs fail your homestasis will be threatened in

a way much different than if your liver fails. How do

we FEEL when we see a painting we love. How does

that compare to when we read a sentence we love.

And to when we listen to a song that makes our

heart swell. I know for me all those feelings are very

different. They feel different, they seem like they’re

coming from different parts of my brain. They aren’t

just all coming from the art department. Or the

creativity “side”.

 

I guess it kind of goes a step further though

because yes if I clang spoons together and start

yelling that can be called music. But what makes all

of these different forms GOOD. What makes them

provoke a feeling etc etc all the stuff that basically is

needed to win a Nobel prize. It has to be these

things that we feel and really it has nothing to do

with the fact that words were used. It’s like awarding

the best pie award to a cookie because it used sugar.

Also, the point isn’t the ingredients! It’s the result. And

what we get from music isn’t what we get from lit.

 

And they’re all arguing “well the cookie was too easy

to make” or “the cookie didn’t even taste good”

….but that’s not the point. The point is it’s a cookie.

 

Which some people were saying.

It just seems obvious now.

 

Regardless I am still weirdly glad he won?

 

–Caitlin

 

 

 

FEBRUARY 16–Back in the Burgh

On November 16, three months ago today, we took Caitlin to the hospital for the last time.

Now we are finally back in Pittsburgh, packing up our apartment. I’d been sick with dread, anticipating this, but I knew it was necessary to do it personally. My sister and brother-in-law are helping us, and that means everything. Also, our neighbors in this building, and the management team that runs it, are incredibly kind and supportive.

We were grateful for this place. Caitlin was so comfortable here. She was able to easily move between the living room, kitchen, her bath and bedroom.

It was pet-friendly.

It was exactly what she needed, what we all needed.

Over time, the good days here will be what we remember best.

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Some very favorite visitors

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Adoration from a Pup

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Bad ass Kitten

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She got herself some wheels and got back some independence

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Andrew & Katie running the 2016 Pitt 1/2 marathon for CF and Kitten

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One of our views from the 15th floor

 

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First Avenue in springtime

 

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Christmas, 2015

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First Steelers game

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Out at the PPG rink last February

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Cooking Indian with the wonderful Shreya

 

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The calm before the packing begins