Real Moments: The Speed of Time

“But I also learned that it’s possible to go on, no matter how impossible it seems, and that in time, the grief… lessens. It may not ever go away completely, but after a while it’s not overwhelming.”

September 27th was the last day I saw you alive. Well, alive alive. The last day that I saw you as yourself. We hugged on Field Street.

I remember how, a few days later, on October 1st, the day that you died, I was sitting on the hospital floor and holding your right hand, crying. I held it the same way I did when we went to church and it came time to say the Our Father. That was my favorite part of church. That and kneeling next to you in silent prayer after Communion. I always wondered if you were praying for your mother and brothers, who had preceded you in death. We prayed in different ways. I had always known that. I think I spent my time asking God for ridiculous things. But I did always remember to ask that my family and friends remain happy and healthy and safe and strong. I still ask for that, but I send out the same plea to the Universe now too. For safety.

Everyone was crying, that day in the hospital. Obviously. We knew why we were there. Well, I didn’t know until I showed up and Mom told me “it’s really bad” after I kept trying to make myself stop crying. I wanted to be brave, like the time I showed up at the hospital early in the morning before you went in for heart surgery. You weren’t supposed to go in that early. I thought I’d get some time to visit with you before Mom got there and you went in that afternoon. I didn’t tell anyone I was coming up that morning. I called Mom from the hallway outside your room and told her that they were taking you in. She told me I had to be brave and that I couldn’t get upset because it would make you upset to see me upset. You and I didn’t say much to each other, and I know that’s because we were both trying to be strong for the other. You didn’t want me to see that you were scared. I didn’t want you to see that I was scared.

That was the trained nurse in Mom, though. While I sat there on the hospital floor, holding your right hand, she kept saying nice things like how much we all loved you and how it was okay for you to pass on. I was angry at her for saying those things, at the time, because, to me, it wasn’t okay. But that is what Mom does. She’s trained in end of life care. She’s seen this dozens, if not hundreds, of times before. She knows that these are the things you’re supposed to say so someone will let go, and not linger and suffer any longer than they have to. That didn’t make it any easier for her to say those things to her own father, I’m sure. The actual nurse that day assured us that you were too sedated to feel anything.

I remember the sounds of your last breaths, though. It sounded to me like you were fighting it. Trying to tell us that you didn’t want to go. Or maybe it was just me who thought that. Maybe it was just me who hoped that. Hoped that you’d decide against the whole thing and talk to us, tell us to get you a Budweiser and get you the hell out of there. Maybe it was just me who thought that you were stronger than death. You were the strongest man I had ever known! If you didn’t want to die that day then surely you wouldn’t have.

I’m sure we were only there with you for minutes. I think it all happened so fast after I got there from school. But it also felt like hours? I sat on that floor, and I held your hand, and I cried, and I stared at our hands together, and I realized, for the first time ever, under those fluorescent lights, that your arm hairs had a burnt red in them. I had noticed the same coppery redness in my own long brown hair a few years earlier. I had always wondered where it came from.

From you, apparently. I got a lot of things from you. Those chronic purple bruises and swollen bags under our eyes? Quite a few of us got those. The gap between our two front teeth, mine, which Mom tried to fix with braces 13 years ago, slowly widening itself back out again? The way our left eyes squint smaller than our right, and the roundness in the apples of our cheeks, when we smile? I noticed these shared traits only this year, when looking back through some of my favorite pictures of you, and while aching over how much life you managed to pour through into the stillness of a photograph.

There are other, not looks-related things, too. Our lower back pain, which gets particularly bad when we drive for a while. But, oh, how we love to drive. Our contentment to sit quietly with those we hold most dear, because we’re comfortable in that. How we can’t turn away from any opportunity to break it down on the dance floor. Our need for crunchy textures in everything we eat, and something sweet to cap off every meal. The way people treat us like their nucleus sometimes. I struggle hard with that one, I don’t know how you did it. Our love of solitaire, which you must have taught me how to play. The happiness we find in small adventures. Our preference for car radios.

It’s been five years, Papa. I’ve learned that that’s the funny thing about the speed of time. Some days, I feel like it was only yesterday that I was sitting on that hospital floor. Some days, it feels like 20 years have passed. I still find myself wishing for more time with you, but that seems to lessen as time without you stretches on. Instead, I turn to those photographs. I look at little me and younger you and I wish to go back to those times, the ones spent together in such obvious ultimate happiness.

For a little while, I was worried that I was forgetting you. But, it’s not forgetting. It’s being my own person. It’s being alive and growing older and filling my mind with new years of people and memories and experiences. I know that now. You were so much of my life for so long, and now you aren’t. What I have left of you is everything that you’ve left in me, as me.

I think this might be it for us, Papa. At least, for a little while. I could write about you for lifetimes, and I’m sure that I will, but not around here. What’s ours is ours now. See you in the morning.

One rotation leads two another
Three trips ’round now, all four your mother
Make a five year window seem a little closer
Bring it on down, fly a little lower
Going six times now, and seven is getting closer
Eight my meals alone, I’m not over him
Nine comes round, so does ten
You’re my piece of heaven

Real Moments: Growing On Without You

Editor’s Note: This was written to be published last year but, alas, it was not. The why is because many things were happening. Many changes, many adjustments, many repressed, many too much. I’ll never force myself through putting something out here on Tales just to do it. So know now that it’s time.

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I say that I miss you and more and more, every year, it feels like I’m saying that to nothing at all. To myself and an otherwise empty room. I tried for a long while to pretend like there was something about you that lingered, like a piece of you was still hovering here somewhere with me. But I don’t feel that anymore. Or rather, I don’t trick myself into feeling it anymore. Why would you ever have come back here?

I do still feel the loss sometimes. The emptiness. The difference. I don’t remember most days but then when I do it’s in waves of anger, always ending on a begging question, the closure point to end the momentary relapse, the push back into accepting defeat. Why did you leave me?

You are the particular space that no one and nothing else will fill. Year after year I’m learning what it is to be on my own without you. Without your soul, your being, your life. Faced with the temporality that you were and now are not but that I still am and some day won’t be. Different people have different fears but that is decidedly the most significant of mine. Another conversation for another day.

You’ve never known me now, Papa. You never knew so much of this life that I’ve built for myself. You never came here. Never saw this place that I’ve turned into a home, albeit another temporary one. If you did, the pool would have been your favorite part. You loved the sun. We would have visited together and talked, but talked of nothing at all. Parting ways at the end of every night with a kiss to your cheek, a promise to see you in the morning.

I often wonder what you’d think of this life that I live. What you’d think of me. I don’t know that you’d have any particularly strong thoughts, if I’m being honest. But it took me a while to settle in that. You had so many quietly uncommunicated expectations of me and I went out and I achieved them all. But we never, not once, ever talked about them. Which leaves me now to wonder what else? What else did you see for me? Want from me? Want for me?

You never told me. You never gave me the rest of the plan. When you were here we walked my path together, then when you left I felt shoved right off the side of it. I remembered enough, the direction of the twists and turns we still had up ahead to keep me going for a little ways, but now here I stand beside Alice and her pup, watching it sweep the forest floor into nothing while patiently waiting for you, my guide, to reappear and show me what I’m supposed to make of me.

Do you want me settled, with someone who will settle themselves with and for me? Do you want me searching for the one that is the absolute, the soul piece? Do you want me with children, to grow and adore? Do you want me in a career that puts money above all else, or all else above money? Do you want comfort? Do you want success? Do you want happiness?

You’ve made it incredibly difficult to live this life for me when I’ve spent so much of it living always and forever for you. But I’m trying. Standing here in this unknown forest, moving onward in a way that I can only hope is the way. I’m learning. Learning to change things and choose things. But I still wonder what you’d think. Your silence feels so indefinitely loud. I still want you here front row to every change and every choice. Here for all of it. Here to tell me what you want. You are my soul, and my being, and my heart, and my home.

But now my life is what it is, and I am who I am. I’ll grow on without you.

Real Moments: Three Dreams

Editor’s Note: A significant gap of time exists between the day when this was intended to be published and the day that it actually was. Other family events were occurring around the intended date and it didn’t feel quite right for me to put this out there into the world. Months and months and months have gone by since, and here it is. Mostly for me, but a little for you. Entirely and always for him.

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“When I was a boy, after my mother died, I always tried hard to hold her in my mind as I was falling asleep so maybe I’d dream of her, only I never did. Or, rather, I dreamed of her constantly, only as absence, not presence: a breeze blowing through a just-vacated house, her handwriting on a notepad, the smell of her perfume, streets in strange lost towns where I knew she’d been walking only a moment before but had just vanished, a shadow moving away against a sunstruck wall.” – The Goldfinch

730 days without you, at the date. An eerie parallel to your age.

Dreaming of those who’ve left us behind feels very Shelleyesque, in a way. In dreams you never get the full picture of them all at once, like you do in life. Pieces get revealed bit by bit and some days I’m not sure which is which. Three already holds so much meaning for us. The number on the back of your jersey. My favorite for that very reason.

Three years since you left me. Three dreams where I got you back.

In the first, it was you and I in your car.

We were driving around the Island like we used to on any ordinary Saturday morning. You had that baggy fleece of yours zipped all the way up, the collar peeked out away from your neck. I can’t be sure if the weather was actually cold. Your calloused hands held on just barely to both sides of the steering wheel. A light grip. Every turn, I could hear the sound of your skin grating against it as you let the wheel correct itself. A beige, sweat-stained baseball cap rested comfortably on top of your head, little wisps of what remained of your dark hair combed neatly on either side. My left leg was crooked at the knee, tucked up under me in that comfortable way it always was when we drove together, resting against the middle console. The fabric of the seat was soft and warm from a sun I don’t think was actually shining. I can still feel that fabric, smell the pieces of bubble gum you kept in the cup holder, see the pill bottle full of quarters and the old green and metal tool you kept around for your hand cramps.

The skies were gray; there was a hurricane coming, but we weren’t particularly bothered. We were listening to music on the radio and looking for something, trying to find it before we had to turn home, before the storm came. I don’t remember what we were looking for. I sang along with the radio like I always did. Never self conscious. Just you and I in the car. Just you and I, like always. My most comfortable place on earth. We didn’t talk much, but I remember we were speaking words at one point when we were in a parking lot, that parking lot we’ve been to a thousand times. We discussed looking for what we were looking for, decided to go home without it, not really that disappointed. There was a feeling, a sense in the car that neither of us acknowledged. We were together. We felt safe together, we were always safe together. But the clouds made us worried for one another, each secretly wanting to turn home and thinking it was a good idea, if only for the safety of the other.

I woke grasping at the memory, scared and shocked and happy to finally see you again; the first time I got to see you again since you left.

In the second, you were a ghost.

Only Mom and I could see you, only we knew that you were there. It was a secret, she told me before you arrived. It was just for the three of us to know. We were up north somewhere, in New Hampshire I think. A friend’s dad had found me a job. It was something great and important, just like you had always wanted for me. It came with a house big enough for the whole family to come up and visit. It was near the forest. The air smelled crisp, the way you liked it. It felt like places we had all visited as a family before, those weekends away to our makeshift highlands. Everyone came to move me in. Aunts, uncles, cousins. They walked from room to room, commenting undecipherable dream comments. Undecipherable dream me nodded along to them, but only cared for seeing you. At one point Mom and I were on a loft, away from everyone else, standing there with you, the ghost you. You weren’t able to speak to us, but you could smile. You never stopped smiling. That was more than enough. I had you there, you were there. Everyone else had to leave and go back home, they’d come back to visit some time, but they’d leave. Mom told me that you were going to stay there with me, in that house near the forest. My secret, our secret. You would always stay. I’d have you back. But this time you were something different. And this time I knew.

I woke to confusion, displacement, mumbling words of comfort to ease myself back to sleep, to not think about it. The foreignness. Grasping to remember only the parts that meant you were there again.

In the third, it was terrible.

We, the family, had all taken a trip somewhere. There were trains, a lot of trains. I think we were in Massachusetts somehow, but it was different. Industrialized. There was a large station with an upstairs and a downstairs. Trains coming in and going out. A lot of different, compartmentalized terminals. We, the family, were there with you in the station, but it didn’t feel like we were there for only seeing you. It was all together. We were all there intentionally, together. There was some different purpose for why. Time went on with whatever we were doing together but then in the end we, the family, had to leave. Not you, the rest of us. You didn’t come. Turn by turn, everyone else took their time to bid you goodbye. It passed quickly. They all disappeared up the escalators, upstairs, to the platform where our train back home was set to arrive. One by one, they all disappeared up, away. Smiling and laughing. Happy to have spent the time together. We, you and I, were left. I knew. As soon as it was the two of us left there on that platform, I knew. No one knew anything before. Not even me. There was nothing to know, there was no feeling of something to know. It wasn’t until right then, that exact moment, just you and I together on that platform, me the last one left of we, the family.

I asked you to come with us. I was confused why everyone else was saying goodbye. The confusion hadn’t been there moments ago. It was sudden. We were all together, we were all going home. It was a realization, right then to me, that you weren’t. I asked you why you weren’t coming. I started to cry like I used to when I was little and someone made you leave me. Kindergarten. Vacations. Work. College. You said something to me, and oh how I wish I remembered what it was. It wasn’t many words. I think you were crying too. You wanted to come, but you knew that you couldn’t. I felt that I didn’t want to make you explain it to me, and I knew that you didn’t want to. Your eyes were different. They weren’t your eyes. They were filled with something I didn’t know, something beyond. I hadn’t noticed until just then. Maybe I hadn’t looked. Maybe the whole time it was there.

We stood there together a few moments longer, close enough for an awareness of your body, your physicality, to come through to me. I hadn’t felt that in so long. It felt so present. You felt so present. We were so close. We were there together and not like the other times, this time more. We were present. Knowing. A noise sounded from upstairs, calling for passengers to prepare for the arrival of the train. It was time for me to join we, the rest of the family. You couldn’t come. It ached you that you couldn’t come but it ached me just as bad. We knew we had no choice, almost as though we knew that I would either leave up the stairs or I would awaken. Either way, we would part. We finally embraced and I rushed away, joining the family upstairs, slinging an arm around my younger cousins as we boarded together for home, feeling something I didn’t understand how to feel, a whisper of having you back, this time more.

This one was the worst. This one felt just like the very last one. The one where I was the last one. The last one brought home to you. The last one left begging in my head at your bedside for you not to go, feeling equally like the traitor and the betrayed, while everyone else spoke words of encouragement and love. I held tightly to your hand and prayed selfishly to myself words I knew you could hear, words I knew you so desperately wanted to obey, words of pleading for you not to leave me.

I woke to the dark. This one there was no happiness at seeing you again, no confusion at your state of existence. This one I woke to our broken hearts, yours and mine.

I know that eventually you’ll come back to me again, in another land of my dreams. If soon to be once more, then all I ask is that next time you bring me your laugh.

Real Moments: Lost

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“Are you okay, Cassie? You look a little lost.”

These are actual words that someone spoke to me just a few days ago, seemingly out of nowhere. There I was at work, sat at the large conference room table in our team room, hands resting on either side of the track pad on the laptop whirring before me. The comment registered slowly, the words stringing themselves together one by one. First as a question, then more definitively a statement. Bold. Final. It took a few seconds for me to understand, to look up and realize that I had been eyes unfocused, completely still, and staring at nothing. Someone was expectant.

“I am lost.”

The words tumbled from my mouth before I had any reason to stop them, before I even knew what they were. Impulsive. Reactive. But veritable.

Someone had no follow up to my words; no question, no statement, no second glance. To them, the call and response was satisfied but to me, the damage was done. This was an attack on the state. A targeted polemic. This sparked an aberrant enlightenment, an existential crisis.

It was disturbing. I left the experience feeling slightly disturbed. Sitting there, in the same spot, at the same table. Hands in the same place, shifting my gaze back to the screen of my computer. Thinking to myself over and over again, “I’m lost?!”

Let’s take a moment to examine lost, AKA Etymolo-gee that sounds fun!:


  1. unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts.
  2. denoting something that has been taken away or cannot be recovered.

Great. Awesome. Boding well so far.

Surely this someone, this incomplete stranger who knows me but barely, must be referring to one of the many different states in which a person can be lost.

Physically (especially if someone tells you to get that way). Something fairly obvious about my corporeal presence in that room told me that their statement was not referring to the physical. Unless they meant health wise? Sure, I don’t exercise as much as I should. I get approximately 0 of the vitamins I’m probably supposed to in a day, unless Budweiser and Bourbon now count as ‘B’ supplements. My skin is slowly preparing to stage it’s revolt against my shoddy sunscreen shenanigans. My muscles left me high and dry a long, long time ago but I’m still breathing. I could always do with more water, but I’m trying. On the whole I am very lucky to be so healthy, considering.

Mentally, or intellectually, lost. I’m no Mensa candidate. No Nobel prize winner. A Pulitzer would be rad, but we’re not there yet either. Sure I wish I read more books. I wish I were still in school studying things of interest, expanding the depths of my intellect. I wish I encountered more stimulants, via people or materials or places or things. Again, on the whole, those are all matters of will power. The options are available to me should I seek them.

Emotionally, I am more in tune than any human being probably should be. Everything is felt at the extremes. Jasper Hale wouldn’t come near me with a ten foot pole. Sometimes unstabling events occur, but those occur to everyone, all of the time, all over the world. There are recoveries. The movie ends, the stubbed toe de-inflames itself, you work out the puzzle, the day takes a turn. Sadness, anger, frustration, happiness; the emotions are assuaged. In my case, they’re there to my beck and call whenever the need should arise.

Socially lost doesn’t feel right either. Employing as much humility as the sentence allows, I have friends. I have family. I don’t see all of them frequently, but the channels are there. I’m fortunate enough to have the relationships, to be able to pick up the phone or open my email, to jump on a plane or walk down the street. There are times when I prefer to keep to myself for a bit, sure, but I consider myself a balanced intrextrovert. Enough encounters occur that I couldn’t possibly declare social neglect.

Spiritual loss is too broad a piece of this puzzle. Shall I use the phrase once more? On the whole, I’m content with how this one gets worked out. True, I don’t attend mass as much as I should. Faith is there, in some way, but I’ll be honest I make half of this stuff up as I go along. I still repress thoughts that I feel less inclined to think these days. But do I feel abandoned or afraid or disavowed, in the spiritual sense? Absolutely not. I have breakthrough moments just walking down the street or after an adrenaline rush or lying on a yoga mat at the end of a class, feeling the heat of my physical existence rolling off of me in waves, awakening this inner spiritual sense of presence. Its practically factual that within us all, this is the sense in which humanity is most complex. It’s almost impossible to define for and measure against others. We all operate under our own plane of forces.

Major states examined, nothing notably out of the ordinary. Yet still,

“I am lost.”

To be honest, I’ve known for quite some time now that things weren’t all there for me. There has been a feeling, an off-ness if you will. Supposedly, this manifestation of loss is derived from said off-ness, but upon my detailed review of the senses everything seems fine (and not in the ‘Fine.’ way, in the acceptable way). Off-ness is not unusual these days, it is simply a product of change. This is the point in my life for adjustment. There are gears turning into and out of one another, anchor weights lessening, pendulums hitching, chimes changing. Is this not the first of two age brackets in which I’m supposed to be lost? My early twenties, the world at my fingertips, the limitless spectrum of opportunity. Then again later on in the mid-life region, facing enclosure, reexamining purpose.

When someone, or something, prompts this kind of self-examination, you begin grasping to find anything at all that might possibly be wrong, anything that might be different. Maybe nothing was wrong, nothing was different. Again, this someone barely knows me, but maybe barely was enough.

Imaginatively lost was as close as I could get to anything plausible. Things that once ruled over my imagination unbridled have since diminished. It’s something I’ve been cognizant of, but not attentive to. I read, but less than I used to. I write, but less than I used to. I watch and I listen, both less than I used to. I daydream just about every moment I can spare it, albeit less than I used to. But to call me lost for that seems heavy-handed.

On the whole, I suppose it’s fair to admit that there is a piece of me in flux. Not lost, so much as out taking a walk, hiding itself away for a while, subconsciously adventuring, seeing what it can learn from the bit of world within me that it feels a need to become more familiar with. It’ll return. It’ll get homesick and trek its way back to me and maybe some other piece will feel inspired to take a turn at expedition.

I, right here, right now, at this point in my life, am lost. I’m out looking for someone, something, someplace. And this will continue, on and on, likely to the end of my nights. Pieces out, pieces in. Coming and going. Lost and found.

Real Moments: On Remembrance

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“Oh you’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll be in Scotland ‘afore ye, but me and my true love will never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.”

First and foremost, this is for you. Not for them. I don’t need  to tell you that I miss you, but I do need to say that I’m sorry. I’m sorry that some days I try not to remember you.

There are so many things that could be said about the so many days that have passed since you did. What I will say is that I remember the sound of your laugh, the feel of your calluses as we held hands in prayer. How you loved Bob Marley, which still makes me laugh out loud. McDonald’s Apple Pies will always be our treat, Budweiser our beer. Rod’s “Forever Young” the song we never got the chance to dance to at my wedding. Your nee-nee alien hands. How you let me practice parallel parking between your friends’ actual cars. The feel of the bristle on your cheek when I kissed you goodnight, every night. The sound of the radio you hummed along with in the old black and white tiled bathroom every morning before school. The sight of you waiting there, at the end of the train platform, every time I came home from college.

The point is, just because I say I try not to remember you, doesn’t mean that I don’t. And I know you know that. I know you know that it’s just because it’s so hard, and it hurts so much. But I’m sorry for it anyway.

Now, on to a few words for them. But I promise that the rest of this lifetime is for you, Papa.

In the beginning, there was sorrow. Every single day.

Then came repression of the unhealthiest emotional nature. Focus on school, Cass. Finish school. You’ll have time to grieve later. Later came and school was finished. No, not now. It’s back to home and back to work, definitely not now. Work harder. Read books, devour books. Put yourself utterly and completely into those books and pretend you are anywhere but here. Wait for Ireland, you’ll be alone to grieve in Ireland. Get to Ireland and what nonsense! Enjoy Ireland! Keep your spirits up because you’re mostly on your lonesome. Look for ways to grieve but feel unfulfilled in that, feel uncomfortable at the idea of anyone else catching on. Do not grieve in Ireland, wait until anywhere else. Keep reading.

Ireland passes, you’ve gotta go home now. Time to prepare for Scotland, oh how you’re dreading Scotland. His place, his home, your first time ever returning without him. Please don’t send me to Scotland, why are they sending you to Scotland? Why has everyone insisted that this is a good idea? That you, of all people, are the choice? Are you not the most unfair of choices? Whatever you do, absolutely do not grieve in Scotland. More books, bring more books. Lose yourself again. You’re not there, you’re not here, you’re in between the pages. Do not mourn yet. Soon. Later. There will be a time.

Return from Scotland, now get through graduation. You only did all of this for him anyways but he’s not here so don’t look up into those stands, no matter what you do – do not look into those stands. Sit by yourself. Stare at your hands. Make the walk, do not look up. Mourn later, after the ceremony and the pictures. Later comes back again and still not the time. Pack and get ready for the changing of lifestyles, the moving away. Start your new job, focus on that. Get down there and wait until everyone leaves. When you’re left on your own in this new place, with these new people, then you can give yourself over to grieving. Months pass in this new place, with these new people, and still nothing. Little bits and pieces here and there but no big confrontation. No realization. No hit.

The Day comes back. It’s one year later. Force yourself, you have to force yourself. You’ve become an absolute professional over the past twelve months, one of the elite class of people able to utterly repress that anything like this has ever happened to them. Not today, no one deserves that today. Not you, not him. Remember it all, every last detail.

And I miss the way he was whistling, walking down the street. And every time I do something I think of what he would say. “Well, it’s cold today, wear a scarf.” But lately, I’ve been forgetting little things. He’s sort of fading and I’m starting to forget him. And it’s like… like losing him again. […] And sometimes, not always but sometimes, I can actually see him. It’s as if a cloud moves away and there he is – I could almost touch him. But then the real world rushes in and he vanishes again.
 Before Midnight (2013)

A man was sitting next to me on a plane recently. The stewardess came around to ask if anyone wanted anything to drink and he, being polite, reached out to tap me on the arm. I looked down at his hand, the wrinkled leathery skin that stretched across his knuckles, and I felt as if all the oxygen had suddenly rushed to evacuate my body. That hand, it was his hand, it looked just like his hand. What I wouldn’t give to see that hand again. I still have a tough time looking at most old men that pass through my life on a daily basis. Their mannerisms, their baseball hats, their hands, the way they walk. They all remind me so much of what I had.

The past year has held so many lessons in remembrance for me. The biggest was probably my extreme fortune at encountering a family very similar to my own, in a distant emerald land, who had gone through their own loss of a beloved patriarch. I listened to their stories and their laughter, even offered up a few of my own every now and then. I thanked my stars for them every night, hardly realizing at the time that they were the first to arrive with the needle and thread to stitch me back together again.

Most of what I learned from them was that there is a way to talk about it. I still can’t have anyone bring it up to me, tell me what a great guy he was or how much they miss him. It has to be me, I have to tell the story or make the comment. I want so desperately to be like that family I met, to be the champion of all remembrance on behalf of our beloved Terry.

I spent a year repressing the tears and the thoughts and the memories. Something would happen, a catalyst if you will. I’d remember something or sometime and my chest would contract. The tears would start and I’d hold my breath, bite my tongue, blink up at the brightest light in the room, try desperately to calm myself. I got very good at that, the whole repression thing. I won’t say I didn’t encounter a few massive breaks along the way, because I did, but for the most part I was strictly composed. It got to the point where some nights I’d plan rare allowances, as if remembrance and mourning could be scheduled. I’d lay outside in the backyard of my childhood home or down the street next to the ocean, looking up at the sky and pouring a beer out into the waves surely like the kind of crazy person everyone already thought that I was. I’d pull out my favorite pictures and wish with every breath I had to rewind back to the moments they showed me. If only for one more hug, one more laugh, one more word.

I keep waiting, I’m still waiting, for it to just hit me. Last year I spoke about living within my little removal from reality. A year later and I feel like not much has changed. One of these days the gravity of it all will really register and I’ll just crumple to whatever ground I happen to be nearest to and I’ll sob and I’ll scream and I’ll clutch at the mud thinking that somehow that will fix things. Isn’t that what’s supposed to happen, when you really love someone? When you still feel like a child? You cry loud enough and eventually that’s the pain, that’s the release, it’s all over with. Is my inability to do that what it means to grow up, to learn that this is a part of life?

It’s okay to know that your heart will never heal. Time will not fix all wounds. It may make them bearable, but it may also fool you. There is a balance but I have not found it yet. I try, but there is guilt no matter which side I lean towards. My life is mine to live, and yet I feel I am forgetting him. All my time can be spent in remembrance, and yet too much of that will lead me to nothing else. My solution so far is this: if you begin to remember, remember. The good and the oh so terribly bad. When you have thoughts, think them. When the tears start, don’t stop them. Let your heart ache, let your chest feel like it’s caving. Sob as hard as you can and if you can’t then don’t grow frustrated at yourself because that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with a little repression. It’s when a little becomes a lot that you’ll get into trouble. Some day, you’ll let yourself remember. Until then take your time, take absolutely all of it.

As Alastair McDonald once said, “there is an old Celtic belief that when a man dies in a foreign land, his spirit returns via the low road,” a special road which the fairies take to carry him back to his home. To the man who raised me into the fantastical, life loving little sprite of a child that I am – I know that we’ll be meeting for many more adventures together on all sorts of roads. And until that day when we get to the last one, I will do all that I can to remember you.

Real Moments: Tales Turns One!

It’s been one whole year since I started Tales of Casstastrophe and look how far we’ve come! If you’re here anticipating styled photos of giant golden balloon numbers or letters, please kindly close your eyes and imagine them for a moment so you’re not disappointed and then open your eyes and continue reading.

First and foremost, let’s review some of the adventures we’ve been on since we got to know each other last July:

Secondly, I’ve made a few updates around the site. Nothing too fancy but allow me to direct you to the new home page. This Is Me and Casstegories have also gotten a little sprucing. Have no fear, navigation is still largely the same and I want to make sure that my past posts remain unaffected so if you see anything looking funky please let me know!

And finally, thank you to everyone who has come along on this whirlwind of a year with me! I appreciate it more than you know that anyone out there, even one single person, cares to read my thoughts and prose. Writing is fun for me; it’s a hobby, it’s a habit, and it’s a love. While I’m thankful to have these musings recorded somewhere for myself in the future, I’m even more thankful to think that someone out there might actually get something from what I write. If that someone is you – please write back.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Here’s to many more Tales of Casstastrophe!

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Real Moments: From Gardening to Glasgow to Graduation!

I’m well aware that there has been a lull in posts for the last few weeks – but that’s not for lack of things to say, trust me! An explanation by means of a life update felt in order.

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The most perfect of white camellias – which I cannot take the credit for finding. Tony, the head gardener at Inish Beg, discovered this beautiful botanical gem buried back behind the hydrangeas.

Apparently the letter ‘G’ has been the flavor of the past few weeks for me. What felt like immediately after my return from a month and a half of gardening in Ireland, but in actuality was only a week or so later, I set off on a trip to the homeland with my grandmother. My maternal grandparents hail from Glasgow, Scotland so we went over to visit a few relatives for two weeks.

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The view of Princess Street and beyond from Edinburgh Castle.

As I’ve been to Scotland a fair few times throughout my life prior to this trip, the travel bug wasn’t that strong and we didn’t venture off too far… with the exception of a day trip to the capital city. I must admit that I’m very proud of my 72 year old grandmother for trekking all over Edinburgh with me and not complaining once! We had a bonnie wee time to ourselves, we did.

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Took some time to go see The Elephant House – otherwise known as the birthplace of Harry Potter – while in Edinburgh. My nana was abhorred by the “graffiti” on the wall of the bathrooms but it’s common practice to sign a message when visiting.

I kid you not, the very next morning after flying back to the States from Scotland I drove off for a weekend of glowraging with my favorite girlfriends down in Maryland. The five of us met back in Cambridge, England last summer and this was a reunion mixed with a last hurrah. I’m so thankful to have made such lasting friendships with these ladies. They’re some of the most impressive, inspirational young women I have ever met and I just… well, I’m really grateful to know them. It was incredible to be down on their turf for a little while. Our weekend was over much too soon.


Upon returning it was straight on to preparing for the final tassel on the cap – my graduation! Technically I finished school back in December… and received my diploma in January… but the formal ceremony was in May and I did it!

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Took my family to one of my favorite spots after the ceremony – Punter’s Pub. A blurry cheers to 5 years was certainly in order!

I’m officially officially really definitely done with my undergraduate experience now. Please excuse me while I take a few seconds to mime the word “WHAT????” to this empty room I’m sitting in. It truly went by too quickly, but I’m thankful for the people I got to experience it with… most notably getting to go through it all with my very best friend in the whole wide world. It’s thanks to our alma mater that we were even brought together in the first place so leaving for the last time was a little bittersweet.

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This photo is the most tear inducing thing I’ve ever been a part of! 5 years later and still my absolute soul sister, twin moon, best friend. Cannot wait to see what the heck we end up making of our lives.

Now, it should come as a shock to no one that I’m pretty big on reflection and introspection so I’ll wrap this up with a few things I have to say about this here life I’ve been living lately. Over the past 3 months I’ve been unsettled in the best of ways. Most of my time was spent outside of my comfort zone, pushing personal boundaries, and learning new things. From the correct way to plant a tree to why patience is the ultimate virtue, from how to enjoy those precious few moments crossing the stage (instead of panicking about tripping over yourself in front of your entire class) to the significance of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and way, way more. But most of all I’ve been questioning whether, at the ripe old age of 23, I’m on the life/existence/etc. path/journey/etc. that I want to be on. My answer?

For SURE, I am. In the past year alone I’ve spent 1/3 of my months abroad. I attempted to list out all of the different things I’ve studied (in some way, shape, or form) over the course of said year but let’s not double up our word count, shall we? Instead let’s just say that it has been quite the experience, the last 3 months I’ve recounted to you in this post especially.

As always, thank you kindly for following along on all of these adventures with me! We’ve got a many more ahead of us, so stay tuned for the tales.

Real Moments: Shipping Up to… Ireland!

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My Essentials: new Helly Hansen jacket & Timberland hiking boots (thanks Mama!), more heavy sweaters than anyone really needs, the camera I rarely find an excuse to use, and a selection of stimulating reads (that copy of ‘Wuthering Heights’ goes everywhere with me)

“What are your plans for after graduation?”

Drinking game to how many times college seniors get asked that question in their final semester. A few months back, I shrugged my shoulders and avoided talking about it. My career plans were set almost a year ago: I’ll be moving to North Carolina in July. But as for the six months between finishing up school in December and embarking on that move down south – I wasn’t really sure.

Well, now I get to announce a change in that – I’m heading off to Ireland for seven weeks!

Those of you who follow my Casstastrophes may recall a quick gloss-over reference to a very stressful trip I took to Dublin last summer. Have no fear; I love that part of the world so much that even that experience couldn’t dissuade me from returning. I’ll be, as the kids say, WWOOFing in Ireland for a little while. What does that mean, you may ask? WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. WWOOFing is agreeing to be a volunteer on one of those farms in exchange for room and board.

Caveat: my personal experience will be a little different from what you might be envisioning after reading the word ‘farm.’ I’m actually headed off to help out on the gardening team of an estate in County Cork.

Every time I travel, I’m never sure about how the internet and modern technology situation will translate so I may or may not be able to maintain this blog while abroad. I’ll try my darned best and if I can’t, well you’ll have that much more to look forward to when I return!

So. Many. Voyages.

Real Moments: “To Everything Its Proper Time And Place And Turn.”

“The very first moment I beheld him, my heart was irrevocably gone.”

Life events are difficult.

When I was a kid, an imagination was something I developed to pass the time. As an “adult,” I’m seeing that I might have let it grow beyond the healthy levels for someone my age. I live what is probably close to 65% of my life with my head lost in the stars. Walking to classes, being in said classes, sleeping (literally perchance to be dreaming), sitting through mass, driving to get coffee… I’m far from the grasps of the real world, off in the midst of my wonderful daydreams.

But I’ve created a dependence on my removal from reality; a reliance, if you will. It’s a huge part of who I am as a person, which I’m not necessarily sure I feel is a bad thing – it just also happens to be a huge part of how I cope with life around me. Real moments occur and suddenly I’m caught between how I’m supposed to deal with them and how I want to deal with them. Don’t tell the right hemisphere of my brain that I’ve caught on, but I think it might be putting in some extra hours lately as an effort to protect me. That’s code for “I’m not really sure it’s hit me yet.”

I don’t think I’m going where you think I’m going, I just wanted to share some thoughts.

So set-up over, here’s my point: there are no specific steps to cope with anything in your life, be it a breakup or a rejection or stress or death. There is no one-size-fits-all and I think people forget that. They assume that if you don’t want to talk to them, you must be depressed. If you don’t go out, you’re antisocial. If you just aren’t in the mood, you’re a hazard to yourself. To the masses, there is a set way to grieve or to move on or manage but – that’s their way not your way, so why follow it? It’s okay to not answer a text simply because you have nothing to say, or to tell someone that you don’t want to go because you just don’t want to.

Seriously, deal with it how you need to deal with it and don’t for a second feel like you owe anyone an explanation for that. Sit by yourself drinking gallons of apple cider and reading complex Russian novels and playing solitaire if that’s what it takes to cope with a real moment. I want to remind the world that nothing about that is not okay. In fact, the very definition of coping features absolutely no stipulations as to how it’s done. According to Google, all that’s needed is to deal effectively with something difficult. Read: get from point A to point B however the hell you want, as long as you get there eventually. I cannot shut down my life, I understand that. But I’m going to need some time to “let it hit me” before I can even think about point B.

Abrupt change here, but I like quotes. Apparently Mike Tyson once said that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Well, I had a lot of plans. And this real moment punched me square in the heart. It got me in a deep, permanent way and while that damage will never be fixed, or healed, it has to be coped with because that’s what life means. We all go through these things, there are no specialties here. It’s just the first time I’m going through it too, and my imagination and I don’t really understand exactly what it means to start coping yet. But eventually I will, and eventually I’ll continue on in the same way that we all do because life keeps going, and whether we understand it or not, we all keep going with it.

Life will not wait for our broken hearts, but it will try its damn best to ease them along the way. We all get to point B eventually.

Why Am I Doing This?

In this post I am not going to go on about being a millennial. Or about what it means to grow up in the digital age/information era.

I am not going to go on about how adventurous my life is (because letsbereal, I’m munching on chocolates while I write this from my bed). Or why my experiences are the most deserving of being shared with the world at large.

And I’m definitely not going to not go on about how hilarious I am. Wait, wait, I take that back. I might very well go on about that.

I feel like I owe the universe an explanation for why I made the decision to publicly share a blog. Maybe its the cynic in me that has always envisioned my friends and family eye-rolling at me when I share a creative project like this with them. “Oh, you like to write?” They’ll say. “You think your blog is going to be different from the millions of others already out there on the internet?”

Why yes, that is precisely what I think! I DO like to write and I DO think this is going to be a space entirely different from anywhere else online. I think that for one specific reason: this is mine. No one else on the internet can say that their words/thoughts/experiences directly match mine because those people are not me! (That is an actual fact!)

Now, let’s hasten on and jump to the quick version of why I decided now is the time to do this, why this site is going to be the blog I actually commit to and develop (as opposed to the now privatized 6 others I have abandoned over the years).

I have 2 motivations.

  1. I am an obsessive list-making, note-taker. I like recording things and I like sharing my opinions and I like defying grammatical convention and I like emphasis. I like making people laugh. I like to create (though I’ll be the first to admit I struggle with overinspiration). And last but not least, I really like to experience. I feel like I might, from time to time, actually have something to say about what or who or where I am experiencing and this is the place to put it.
  2. Life research is HUGE. As my This Is Me page tells you, my life has been changing a lot these days. I’ve searched for bloggers telling me about everything from “what its like to move to Charlotte, NC as a young twenty-something” to “how do I fit in while in Cambridge, England” to “comprehensive list of all possible ways coffee can be prepared.” Unfortunately, I’ve come up pretty short on returned material – with the exception of the coffee preparation (people go hard with coffee blogs). I thought to myself… if I want to know these things to help guide me in my own life decisions, chances are someone else in the world might want to know them too.

And with that I’ll impart one final entreaty to you, my dear reader: please do come back and enjoy my Tales of Casstastrophe.