Warning: Coarse language. Reader discretion advised.

I didn’t start feeling angry. I started wanting to break some new ground in my couple-times-a-week habit of taking walks around lunch time. I’d started using Daily Mile to track my distance and time and, not being a runner, the distance and “pace” it calculated after I’d painstakingly mapped my route and input the time were always more than a little underwhelming. Of course, walking 3 or 4 miles in 45 minutes or an hour is not shabby, but still. Unlike my default, today I felt driven. Ambitious. Like there was a chip on my shoulder, somehow.

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When you live in one place long enough, the memories start to pile up on top of the geography. In the course of everyday life, you end up bumping into them. Sometimes they make you stop.

Walking back to work from getting salad rolls I came across a very familiar place. It’s a few blocks from where I’ve worked for the past year and a half, and it’s on the streetcar line, so I go by this corner almost every week day. But whenever I do, even if only for a second, I can’t help but be transported back to an October evening in 1988. My first “date” with Julie.

The tears don’t come often, but when they do, it’s always songs that bring them on. Many months ago, when we thought we still had years, we only had one car, and I was feeling noble and green riding the bus. I had Julie’s iPod (it never worked very reliably after a trip through the washer in my pants), and on that day, for some reason, I let myself listen to songs I normally wouldn’t–songs about death, loss, thinking you hear someone you know isn’t there, unless you believe in ghosts. I held it together, somehow, on the bus, but when I got into the car (Julie would come and pick me up for the “last mile”) and saw the kids weren’t with her, I completely lost it. I told her how much I wanted to support her, to help her, that however bad I felt, it could never be as bad as she felt, and I knew that. But some days, it just felt like there was this unimaginably massive storm front, off in the distance. You couldn’t tell how far away it was, or how fast it was moving, but you knew it was coming, that sooner or later it would get here, that there was no getting away from it, and it was bad. Real bad. She was so sweet.

This has been a hard week. I don’t know why this week more than any other. It’s not like things have been any worse; they’ve actually been better in some ways. Fun times, work is “working” better than it has, making plans for trips big and small, connecting with old friends and new. But like that day, I let myself listen to songs I had no business listening to. Only now there’s a hell of a lot more on that list. And I can’t stop crying.

Ella (crying): “I don’t like this family without Mom in it!”

Me (crying): “Ella, I don’t like not having Mom in this family, either.”

I’ve been really, REALLY lousy about replying to each of you who have been so, SO kind, loving supporting, etc. From the really, REALLY nice kids I knew in high school, to my most recent Twitter/Social Media peeps, to everyone in between, across multiple continents and Lord Knows how many times zones, you’ve all been here for us, and it means so much. In fact, words just break and crumble at this point, so I’m just going to tag your asses and leave it at that.

Love,

Jay