Last fall, I met a man in front of his home in Hamtramck. His told me that his name was Mr. Ben Jaros, that he was 97 years old and had lived each of those years in this very house (except for the ones when he was enlisted in World War II). I snapped a photo in front of the house with the intention of sending it to him one day and taking him out to coffee or breakfast or polish food and soaking up his stories. I knew he had many to share and our brief encounter gave me the impression that he just might like to tell them.
My intent was sincere but non-urgent and life is busy. I planned to get to it the next time I printed photos, but over a year passed and I never got around to it. Finally, I got the photo printed and a week or too after that I bought a frame. It sat in the passenger seat of my car for another while until I finally made the time to visit. I wanted to leave a large open window of time just in case the a spontaneous impromptu interview should await me. I knocked but no one was home, more time passed until I found a moment for another visit.
Tonight, I stopped by.
The lights were off and a neighbor was walking by with her fuzzy golden doodle. I asked her if her neighbor was home, pointing to the house that matched my photograph. She looked at me with confusion and said something polish until her husband stepped up. I repeated my question to him and he confirmed my fears: “That man, he died, about one month ago.”
He died. Continue reading “abundant brevity: an acknowledgement of Time”
When I was married, I thought I had the perfect plan to make the relationship work: if my husband and I both had strong feelings about a topic, we would compromise but, if one person didn’t care and the other had an opinion, then that person would get what they wanted. It wasn’t even clever it was just logical. In theory, it created a nice balance. In practice, it created a stable imbalance– He always knew what he wanted and I never did, so He ended up making just about all of the big decisions in our relationship.
Usually that involved some form of travel. He picked the destination when we studied abroad in Australia. He chose when we went to South Africa. He planned our honeymoon to Switzerland. He made the call when we lived in France and learned French (I preferred Spanish). I kept getting taken to amazing places so I felt that the system must be working, but there were more than a few times when I had the nagging feeling that this Thing that I was obviously supposed to be grateful for just wasn’t all that great. I was living someone else’s dream and, in many ways it was lovely, but that didn’t make it mine. Continue reading “Uncompromisingly Awake”
Tie breaker story for The Moth “Vices”
Dealing with my newfound singlehood after moving out of me and my ex’s apartment was all about self discovery. I wanted to find out who I was, what I liked. I wanted to exert my independence. And yes, I wanted to be more sexually self-sufficient. I brought out my old vibrator. I had never been against using it, but it hadn’t gotten a ton of use when I was married, especially because, at one point along the way, I had made a generous interpretation of the “splash proof” label and decided that maybe it was water proof. It’s not water-proof. Ever since I took it in the bath with me the battery contacts rusted and it started sounding like it had an outboard motor or maybe Hemi. rrrrRRRRarr. Continue reading “My Pleasure aka “Suzie””
For the first 14 years of my life, I really didn’t talk to boys.
It wasn’t really a problem in elementary school and, while it kinda sucked always sitting at the singles table in middle school, it wasn’t that big of a deal. But it was definitely an issue in high school. Girls seemed to measure how much they liked another girl based on on how much boys liked her, and I was barley in the equation. Somehow I was a member of the cool crowd but it always felt like a favor rather than a fact. It didn’t help that I lived far from school and had to ride the bus ride home while the city kids hung out. My friends tolerated me because I was easy to gang up on and I tolerated them because they were cool.
It was midway through freshman year and I got invited to an “away” basketball game with two of my friends who were both dating boys on the varsity team. While we were sitting in the bleachers, one of their boyfriend’s friends came and sat down next to us– next to me actually. He was incredibly intimidating, attractive, mature and just superly stupidly cool. His name was Josh. He tried making conversation but I found it almost impossible to talk back. Finally, I came up with the excuse that I had a headache to end the tortured interaction, but it backfired when he suggested we go to the vending machine to see if they had any Tylenol! I was not prepared for such an offer. I said “no,” “that’s ok,” “don’t worry about me” and that was it. He left and sat somewhere else.
My friends could barely hold it together. After the game one of them practically cornered in the parking lot: “MICHELE! What are you doing??? When a HOT JUNIOR wants to talk to you, you talk to him. When a hot junior wants you to go to the vending machine with you, YOU GO!!!” Obviously she was right. I completely blew it. Continue reading “The Fast Lane”
“One-year postscript to You Robbed the Right Girl”
Today is the one-year anniversary form the day my soccer team bought me a brand new computer. With one exception, it is also the longest I have gone without throwing up in 11 years. 5 years ago, I enjoyed a 3 month reprieve during which I truly believed myself to be free and clear and cured. I was wrong– I was far from cured and it was far from over. Of the 4,000 days in this decade-plus of addiction, I probably have passed 3000 of them with one, or two, or three, or a dozen violent acts of purging somewhere between waking and sleeping. For most of this time, a week without vomiting was a heroic and rare occasion. For much of the time, a day without it was impossibly hard. For a long stretch, every meal contained a sacrifice to the toilet and all that was digested was what had been absorbed before I got rid of it and what remained after the mighty tide took the rest away. I was not well.
I have always hated this disease, have always known it was wrong. From the very beginning, I confided to friends and sought therapy and fought against it. But it was deceptively strong and I found I couldn’t control it so eventually I gave in to it. It demanded a lot from me: I lied, I stole, I wasted money and time, I lost my self-respect to keep my addiction alive. For as much as I gave to enable it, it is nothing compared to how much I have given to overcome it. I took medication and years of therapy. I went to rehab. I ended my marriage. I went to rehab again. I quit my job and walked 700 miles alone through the wilderness. I moved to Detroit. I went to rehab again. I got in a relationship. I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and flew a kite on the summit to symbolize my recovery. I ended a relationship. I got into a new relationship. I ended that. I got back with my old boyfriend. I broke up with him again. Each of these things played out in a concert of reading, writing, medication, hypnosis, self-intervention and public confession; each of these and in whole or in part was an effort to get well, to overcome my demon, to save my life.
One year ago, at some miserable point along that cycle, I took a routine trip to CVS to buy food for a binge. Returning to my car with a carton of Moose Tracks, a box Cinnamon Toast Cruch and a gallon of milk no more than 3 minutes after I had left it, I encountered a scene that rocked my entire world: broken glass, broken window, missing computer. The platform for all of my writing, the home for all my photos, the means for all my income– gone in a moment. And for what? a $9.00 8,000 calorie high that was destroying my body. Continue reading “You Righted the Wrong Girl”
As I laced up my running shoes I told my Mom: “I’ll be at the turn in the road where the asparagus grows in 15 minutes.” She didn’t seem to want to go unless everyone could come and went about trying to rally the scattered troops. I finally left, frustrated that mom was going to miss out on something she wanted because it wasn’t going to be perfect. “Let’s just do it!” I thought. “Why does it have to be all or nothing?” I made mental markers of various patches of roadside asparagus as I ran and shook my head that we wouldn’t pick it after all. And then, as I rounded that one dangerous corner where the road cuts sharply and you can’t see cars or pedestrians or even tractors from either direction, there was mom. There was mom! Continue reading “Gone Spargeling”
We went searching for morels. We knew, vaguely, where to find them– in moist woody areas along dead and rotting trees. We knew, more or less, what they looked like– small vertical sprouts with a white stalk and a dark cap. We knew that the time was right– more than a few of our tree-hugging Instagram friends had been showing off their bounty, and then there was also the man with waders and camo pants who had the decency to break the first rule of mushroom hunting and show us where to look. But that didn’t mean we could actually find them. Continue reading “Gone shroomin’”
The sunrise this morning is beyond description. Mom and grandma are perched on the couch, looking out the window at the horizon like children waiting for a mysterious visitor to knock on the door. Their innocence and wonder melts my heart and I join them. As the sun rises, is it pierced in half by a narrow thick cloud that creates two mini-suns out of the one. It looks like two egg yolks merging, or rather one egg dividing. I’ve this sort of thing in biology textbooks and through zoomed-in scopes but never at the macro level with my own eyes. We are watching creation, the origin of light, our eager anticipation is being rewarded.
Continue reading “Troopers- looking well”
This morning, the weather is clear. It’s time to go.
Everything mom does is slow. Maybe not slow-slow but slower than I would do it and it’s frustrating me. Why can’t I be patient? Why do I see in each moment an opportunity to show her what she could be doing better? I feel out of control. There has never been a car with so much steering from the backseat. “Maybe you’d like to drive?” Mom says and I agree but we don’t switch right away. We are going the same place, we are going there together, and when we get there, we will still be together. Breathe. Two minutes later, a car slides down a hill into our lane and smashes into us. Continue reading “Troopers- control”
Waking up in the hotel room is nothing like it was in the little cabin. There is no window to sit and watch the sunrise from. In fact, when I look out the window, I see nothing. The storm has subsided not at all and sunrise will serve only to change the hue of our blindness.
The storm is so serious that the people on the news have given it a name– Neptune. I am inclined to scoff at the dramatization borne of the 24-hour news cycle but there’s no question the storm is worthy of a proper noun. Downstairs, at the front desk I find out that all the roads are closed or closing. There is no way out of town. Snowmobiles are being blown off the road. “Would you like to make a reservation for anther night?” I’m sad to think about our little cabin, the place that mom and grandma love so much, sitting there at the opposite perimeter of that white throbbing blob on the Doppler. Reluctantly, we put that extra night on hold.
I take the opportunity to use the hotel sauna. It’s not the authentic Finnish variety that the UP is known for, but it’s something. It feels nice to be too warm, to take a break from my family. The only other person in the sauna is a middle-aged man who tells me about the ice caves he visited yesterday. I tell him I’d like to go with my mom and Grandma and he asks me if I’m married. I’m so caught off guard that I answer honestly– “no”– instead of appropriately– “what the hell?”
Being cooped up like this makes me think about the phenomena of “hurricane babies” where, in the prolonged absence of modern diversions of electricity and transportation, people commence to partake in some very old-fashioned distractions. Today happens to be Valentine’s Day and I smirk just to imagine the improvised celebrations that will come out of all those cancelled dinner plans. I predict that there will be a swell of bellies this summer, a sweep of babies this fall and that, for as may lives as he may take today, time will reveal Neptune to be quite prolific. Continue reading “Troopers- for the love”