So the time my dad was in the hospital was a lot of back and forth. Most days, we didn’t go out because he slept almost constantly. A friend of his from high school popped in one evening–Scott, our wedding DJ, matter of fact–and my dad was awake for a little bit to see him, and Scott said it wasn’t the Brian he knew. It was the Brian any of us knew, and when he was first diagnosed, my fear was basically seeing him exactly the way we did, weak and thin and barely eating. It felt like being with a little kid some days. If one of us was there, my mom would usually go home for a bit with instructions to pay attention to what he ate and try to get him to eat a little more. We’d use Eliana to manipulate him, essentially. If he said he was full after a few bites of yogurt, we’d say, “Take another bite for Eliana,” and that generally worked.

The goal was to get him well enough to travel to Philadelphia for a new kind of treatment, but it just wasn’t working. There were a lot of emotional ups and downs while he was in the hospital–one day, he’d be doing well and looking at going home soon, the next he’d say he was ready to give up. Ultimately, when he was weak and things were just not looking good, he decided on hospice care.

I remember thinking sometimes about how while we weren’t exactly trying to get pregnant, part of me felt like being more deliberate about it, essentially rushing things to cram in as much as possible while he was still here. And now, having passed the frustrating, nausea-filled first trimester, I can’t imagine if it actually would’ve happened and how difficult it would’ve been to be pregnant with a terminally ill parent and ultimately going through a funeral. Sometimes, I’m the type who believes that things work out the way they’re supposed to, and this was one of those times. Because between Brandon and I, I have the more flexible job in terms of getting time off and at the time, he had a new baby and I did not. I could count on Paul to handle things like the house and cats while I did things like dog-sit…

…and help my mom with hospice care. The joys of being the elder child with fewer responsibilities, sort of.

So they brought him in, and I mostly wrangled the dog while he got settled. He was transported by ambulance, and I remember my mom worrying about the little girl across the street getting upset if she saw. She loves their dog, and she always said hi to my dad while he was out.

And then my mom, Uncle Eric, and I sat around the dining-room table while the nurse went over all of the care information. Uncle Eric was a medic in the military and worked as an EMT for a while in the last several years, so he was there both as an older brother and as a good go-between who understood more of the medical side than we did. I’ve mentioned some of these details before, but I remember thinking it was really bizarre to be talking about all this right down the hall from someone who was essentially dying. But I was also grateful, in a weird way, that when the subject of things like a Do Not Resuscitate Order came up, we were all on the same page and level-headed–not that it was’t a difficult conversation, but that we were realistic about what we knew he would want and what we thought made sense. At least from my perspective, why keep someone hanging on when the cancer is going to win eventually anyway? It felt selfish. It would’ve been for us, not him.

Also, for the record, although he was ultimately only home a few days until he died and I only interacted with two hospice nurses myself, they were both angels–nice, sympathetic, and as far as I can tell, great at their jobs. It has to be really hard work, but at far as my interactions went, they were supportive and helpful.

He was set up in my former bedroom. I popped in before I left and gave him a hug, exchanged a few words since he was awake, and headed home. It was the last time I saw him awake and talked to him.

On my way home while I was listening to the radio, a live version of “Landslide” came on that starts with Stevie Nicks dedicating it to her dad. I cried. Thanks, universe, you dick.


Some of the days that my dad was in the hospital were chaotic, especially at first. The second day, to help my mom out, we drove out and took my parents’ dog for a walk up in the mountains, then spent a few hours at the hospital. We’d kind of go in shifts–my mom was there a lot, of course, and if someone else was there, she at least felt like she could go home for a bit.

When he first went in, he mostly needed fluids and they felt they could release him, but my parents opted to keep him there overnight to get some rest. Somehow, though, he ended up getting worse. There were a lot of ups and downs–one day, he’d be doing a lot better and they’d talk about sending him home, the next he needed more care. And he started sleeping a ton at a certain point, to where visiting was mostly whoever was there sitting talking amongst themselves. After a few days, my mom told us not to worry about coming out during the week since we had an hour-long drive to get there.

The back and forth we did do, though, meant a lot of eating out. After the trip to the mountains, we realized we hadn’t really eaten all day and had dinner at a Mexican place in town before visiting Paul’s parents at home, because might as well if it’s all in the same area.

In the midst of this, our siding was finally getting redone, after having started that process in the spring. What was supposed to be a few weeks before they got started turned into months when they got backed up and when our original sales rep messed up our order, which another rep came out to fix. So our old, faded green siding got pulled down and replaced with nice, new light grey, with a dark-blue trim around the windows. And at some point, I remember going outside to admire and thinking, “My dad is never going to see this.”

So it turns out that I left off on the life updates talking about Julie’s wedding and Katie announcing her pregnancy, and I mentioned in that post that getting pregnant hadn’t happened for us yet. Turns out I was pregnant when I wrote that and didn’t know!

In the months since, Meri went from El Paso to back here for the summer to D.C., and I went to dinner in Pittsburgh with her and Marissa one night in late July when Meri was bringing her cats up. We started at this really good little sushi place, had a nice dinner and conversation, then moved to a bar for a couple of drinks and hung out pretty late–late enough that Marissa needed something to eat and we ended up at a fried-chicken place close to 1 AM. And then I drove about an hour back home. Woof.

As it turned out, about the time I was getting home and going to bed, my parents were heading to the hospital, and from there, it was all downhill for my dad. He’d started having some issues overnight–at this point, I can’t remember what–and wanted to go to the hospital, and he was so weak that my mom had to bring the car around front and help him. She called around 7 in the morning, so we spent some time at the hospital later that day.

But at the time, my dad’s condition was better–my parents just opted to keep him in the hospital to get him some rest and fluids, both of which he was having trouble getting at home. The plan then was to get him out to Philly for new treatments. We knew by then the chemo had done nothing, and he was so close to his appointment. It was a matter of him being strong enough to go, but that never happened. In fact, he died about two weeks later. It’s weird still, and it’s weird to think that that first day looked fairly optimistic.

On top of that, that first day in the hospital was Paul’s birthday. I wish I could give everyone perfect birthdays, and this was just a rough one. But with things looking okay, we did head into Pittsburgh. He wanted to see the latest John Wick movie, and as much as it must suck spending your birthday with your father-in-law in the hospital, I could tell the movie at least raised his spirits some.

Of course, we didn’t know then that it was pretty much the beginning of the end and the start of a downhill slide.



There were two things I had my eye on doing this year that will be put on hold with a baby arriving in July: I wanted to redo our landscaping but don’t want to spend that money now, and I wanted to buy a nice, high-quality camera and start getting into proper concert photography, but I probably won’t have the time or motivation.

I expect 2020 to be similar to 2019 in that big changes are happening, albeit on the complete other end of the life spectrum, and therefore time will be limited and things will be thrown into chaos. That said, here’s what I’m looking to do.

  • Small projects around the house. Obviously, we’ll need the baby’s room done, which means ripping out built-in shelving that’s taking up an entire wall in that bedroom and fixing the carpet where Sarge, the new cat, pulled it up. But I’d still like to tackle one other small project since the landscaping is being scrapped, and I’ve got my eye specifically on replacing the hot-water tank. We had to have a part replaced on the furnace last winter, and while the guy was doing that, he pointed out some corrosion near the water tank and said it’ll need replaced soon-ish, and I want to go tankless anyway.
  • Find Paul a new job. I think his current one will still hang on a bit, but if he can get out of there so we’re not worried about what might happen and maybe even get a job good enough that would allow me to quit and stay home with the baby, that would be nice.
  • Get published. I’ve got one piece out in the ether I’m waiting for a response on, and I fully expect this is gonna be a tough one to tackle after the baby’s born–mostly. Like many writers, I have plenty of things written that needs homes, so if nothing else, my hope is to send some of that out when I have time. At least that’s a relatively short process.
  • Explore freelance opportunities. Look, a new job is out of the question. My current situation working from home is too convenient to ditch while pregnant or with a new baby, and frankly, taking on a lot of extra work is a dumb idea, too. But if I can find a few small things to throw in to make a little more money and/or get my name and work in the world more? Awesome.
  • Get physical. I have been knocked on my ass since I found out I was pregnant. The nausea and vomiting are pretty much gone now, but I’m so, so tired. But I would really like to get back to the gym just to hit a treadmill a couple times a week because I know it would be good for me, it’s just really hard to muster the energy.
  • Don’t neglect myself in the postpartum months. Obviously, I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know how I’ll feel physically or emotionally or what my kid will be like. I don’t expect to bounce back quickly, but I’d still like to get back into a good workout routine when possible and do what I can to make sure I don’t feel too overwhelmed. I don’t expect it to be easy, but I’ve got a great husband who’s been solid so far and I don’t doubt will be a good parent on his own but will also not let it all fall on me.
  • Be a kick-ass mom. When I think ahead to when the baby’s born, I keep thinking about the fun I think we’ll have. Everyone talks about how much things change and how hard having a new baby is and I believe them, but you know what I’ve also heard? That it’s exciting, fun, and rewarding, and I have plenty of examples around me of parents whose lives haven’t ended the way a lot of people like to make it sound like they will. As on of Paul’s work friends put it, if someone is still heavily into, like, late-night-drinking culture, sure, that’s done, but for those of us who stay in almost all week and venture out on weekends? We’re gonna be fine. So for 2020 and the six-ish months of it I’ll spend as a new mom, I want to take our kid out into the world to enjoy as much of life as a baby can, the way Paul and I have. Plus he or she will have two cousins to meet and get to know, plus grandparents and plenty of aunts and uncles.

And really, that’s it for the year–I say that as though it’s gonna be a simple year. It’s a short list, sure, but because of huge changes coming. They’re already underway, really.

And it’s all too fitting that Paul and I are having a kid in the year that will bring out 10th anniversary as a couple. That’s insane. We’ve already spent a decade of our lives together! Ridiculous.


Like I said, 2019 was a ridiculous year, with my niece’s birth, my dad’s death, and my pregnancy, and just as things would settle down or we’d get into a normal routine again, something would happen. One week, I’d be in the gym almost every evening, the next my dad was in the hospital or my parents needed a dog sitter while they traveled to treatment. We’d have a good week of relatively healthy, home-cooked meals, the next we’re driving to my parents’ house or the hospital and the fastest, easiest option is takeout. We might have the time to do something but not the energy or vice versa, and getting pregnant only added to that–I’d been back in a gym routine for all of a month when I was either too tired or nauseous to go or even read a book or watch a movie. It truly knocked me on my ass for a few months there.

And so that meant goals for the year kind of were neglected, although when I went back and looked at this list I made at the beginning of 2019, I was pleasantly surprised to find I’d accomplished a lot more than I’d thought.

  • Home improvements. What I had in mind was either new paint or new siding as our big project, plus smaller things like replacing some old, worn doors and staining the deck, and looking further ahead like stretch goals on Kickstarter, replacing the water heater, upgrading our thermostat, getting the fireplace in working order, installing an electrical outlet in the main bathroom, new landscaping if the siding was done and the price was right, and new furniture, including a small china cabinet and something for recyclables. I zeroed in on paint and was looking into that when we got a really good offer on siding, so we seized that opportunity instead and since we dumped that much money into it, that meant landscaping and furniture were out of the question. But we did get a new thermostat when the current one ended up breaking in the summer, as well as recycling bins.
  • Keep a cleaner home. Eh, we did and we didn’t. It’s hard to keep your house tidy when you’re running all over the place for half the year then spend the tail end barely functioning as a human. I had a stack of dishes on my desk solely because even just taking them to the sink was too much–why do that when I can go straight to bed and lie down? But we at least did some things to help with organization.
  • Don’t say a fucking word about turning 30. My point here was that it’s insane that we act like 30 is old.  So I tweeted about how I wasn’t bothered by turning 30 and that was it.
  • Be a kick-ass aunt. I’d love to see Eliana more, but I think I’m killin’ it when I’m with her.
  • Have my own kid? My exact words last year: “I don’t feel like I’m ready to have kids, but I know everyone says you never are and I know myself well enough to know that if I ever do feel ready, it’ll be too late. So I’m leaving this up to fate. We’re not actively trying but not actively preventing, either, so whatever happens happens.” Well, it happened! I mean, sure, the child will be born in 2020 rather than 2019, but close enough.
  • Get back in shape. LOL no.
  • Get published. I’m not positive, but I don’t think I sent a single thing out in 2019. This was one of those things that really got put on the backburner.
  • Finish a library book without renewing it the max amount of times. I did it! Sure, it was a short book, but it counts!
  • Read more books than last year. So close. I was up to 18, got pregnant, and spent most of November and December in bed. I’m convinced I would’ve hit 20, maybe more, otherwise.
  • Travel. Another one that didn’t happen.
  • Cut credit-card debt in half. Another LOL no.
  • Entertain more. Kind of, maybe? Not as often as I would’ve like, but we did manage to have a few small get-togethers.
  • Get involved in politics. This was another one that got swept aside as things got busy.
  • Keep up with old resolutions. I said my main one here was to keep up with old friends, and I’d say we did a good job of that considering we’re all adults with plenty going on.
  • Keep prioritizing myself. This is a weird one in a year where there were plenty of situations and reasons where others needed to come first instead, although it’s fair to point out that there’s a difference between considering a dying parent and a new baby in the family versus, like, not putting up with other people’s stupid bullshit. I wouldn’t say that those things mean I, or anyone else, isn’t considering their own wants and needs, it’s just different–it’s the difference between self-care and selfishness. So as far as sticking to doing what’s best for my wellbeing, I’d call it a win.
  • Get a new job. Like publishing, I don’t know that I applied for a single one all year, again because it was not only the bottom of the priority list but also because it wasn’t the time to do it. The perks of my current job became really evident in 2019–I had three weeks’ of vacation time and understanding bosses who didn’t have a problem with taking time off on short notice when my dad was diagnosed, and then when I got pregnant, working from home while getting nauseous and vomiting occasionally was so, so much easier than having to commute and sit in the office and worry about having to book it down the hall to the bathroom. Now, working from home full-time with a new baby isn’t gonna happen without help, but it is a piece that makes this whole thing easier.

And Baby Makes Three

The signs have there over the past few weeks–mentions of being tired, not having had alcohol since November, not feeling well, having news that I wasn’t ready to share…

2019 was a ridiculous year. In order, my husband found out he was losing his job to Mexico (the transition is still in progress over a year later…), my dad was diagnosed with cancer, my niece was born, my dad died, and then, just when things got back to normal, I got pregnant!

A friend of mine was turning 30 and having a party at her house, my period was late, and I was sure I wasn’t pregnant. Bur rather than go to a party and drink, I figured I ought to be super sure. So I peed on a stick, got distracted by Paul calling me while running errands, and let it sit a little too long–I was that confident I’d get a negative. Instead, I saw a very, very faint second line, so faint that I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. Erring on the side of caution, I didn’t drink at the party. I took a second test when we got home, and same thing–a line so faint that I wouldn’t have even seen it if I hadn’t looked closely.

It was Veteran’s Day weekend, and the next morning, we were meeting up with my mom, Brandon, Kelly, and baby Eliana to visit my dad’s grave and have lunch for Brandon’s birthday. As a doting auntie, I seize any opportunity to be all over Eliana, so when we were at the restaurant, I went right for her. Brandon has this running joke of saying to me, “Get your own baby!” so this time, when he did, I said, “Well…” and explained. Kelly happened to still have pictures of her positive pregnancy test and showed them to me to compare, and they were nearly identical. I figured I’d wait a week and retest.

And then, within 24 hours, morning sickness hit. Well, not morning sickness, exactly, more like evening sickness, but the typical pregnancy symptoms started appearing. Up to that point, I’d only had two hints that I was pregnant–one, my boobs hurt, which they normally do on my period so I dismissed it, and two, a sort of tight feeling in my stomach every so often. I did test again, mostly as a formality, and sure enough, that one was a very clear positive.

I’d been a little bummed that I hadn’t gotten pregnant up to that point, but man, getting a positive test is still kind of terrifying. My first thought, truly, was “Oh, fuck,” then, “I’m too young,” then, “That makes no damn sense, idiot, you’re 30.” It’s a strange mix of excitement and paralyzing fear that tend to alternate, although lately, excitement dominates, especially as we tell more and more people and everyone gets really excited. And then sometimes I feel like I’m not excited enough, like when I hear other women talk about miscarrying or infertility, like I’m taking it for granted. And then I think that this is probably some fucked-up thing that society does to women and that we do to ourselves–my kid isn’t even born yet and already I’m feeling pressure.

Similarly, I’ve thought a lot about the practice of not making an announcement until after the first trimester, when the chance of miscarriage drops dramatically. I understand the reasons for it. It allows you to control what you share, with whom, and when, which I think is very valuable and powerful. For me, if something had happened–and if something were to happen yet–frankly, I’d probably write about it anyway. And yet, with all that I knew logically, it hard not to think about if something happened that it would be my fault, that it would be something I did wrong, and that I’d be ashamed to acknowledge it, despite having zero of these thoughts when it comes to other women I know who have miscarried. It was so easy to get in my own head about it. Part of me wonders how much holding off on sharing the news might just be contributing to the stigma.

And, as it turned out, someone we know did miscarry and was just a few weeks further along in her pregnancy than I was at the time. I won’t go into details because it’s not mine to share, but someone, knowing this woman had just miscarried, chose to still tell them about my pregnancy. Paul and I didn’t know about it at the time, but I was livid when we did find out. It was about the most insensitive way to go about it, and had I known–and frankly, if she didn’t want us to know at all, that would be fair–I would’ve made it clear we wanted to give her time and space, as she deserved.

Otherwise, things have been going pretty smooth. I had a lot of nausea and some vomiting a couple times a week, and I’ve slept plenty, but over the past two weeks, I’ve felt more like myself. I was really knocked on my ass for a while, to the point that I wasn’t even keeping up with Netflix shows or reading. You’d think that those would be prime activities to enjoy in bed, but many times, I either just wanted to sleep or lie down and not focus on anything at all. Sometimes this was because of rough headaches, sometimes it wasn’t.

Looking ahead, I schedule my first ultrasound in two weeks. We do intend to find out the gender but will not do a gender reveal–we’ll probably just casually tell people. My mom is sure it’s a girl, as how I’ve felt so far is on track with how she felt when she was pregnant with me, and her pregnancy with me brother was different. Paul has been very, very picky about names, which I knew would happen. I’ve been joking from the start we’ll need the whole nine months to agree on a name. Of the dozens I’ve mentioned, he has liked two, both girl names, and singled out one as the frontrunner, but we still don’t have a boy name. We’re keeping the name semi-secret, mostly because I don’t want talked out of it. Not because we’re leaning towards the super weird and unconventional or a normal name with an absurd spelling, but just because I don’t want some people, like, say, certain in-laws, for example, talking us out of it if they dislike it.

All in all, being pregnant is scary and weird and cool and mind-blowing all at the same time.

Although Julie and Michael got married in Erie in May, they had a small reception/picnic back here at the end of July at a rec center nearby.

(Paul and I kicked off that weekend at a brewery that had this cucumber beer that I absolutely loved and sadly only drank that one time the entire summer.)

We were on cookie duty, as usual–Julie loves these strawberry ones I make, and his chocolate-chip ones are a family favorite–so that was how we spent our Friday night and Saturday morning before heading to his parents’ house for a nice dinner with nearly all of us. Emily’s girlfriend came to town, the two of us plus Jacob and Katie headed over, and we basically spent most of our evening in the pool. It was the perfect day for it, and we were content to cool off and talk.

The perk of having fallen so behind here is that in the couple months since, this information has since been announced officially, so I’m good repeating here.

So we were in the pool, as adults indulging in adult beverages, and naturally, I had to pee. I waited about as long as I could, then sucked it up and headed inside, where Katie and Jacob were, having just arrived. Katie said, “I have something for you!” and handed me this little bag with a smile on her face, and I was suspicious. Inside was a baby’s shirt–Katie’s pregnant! She’d already presented his parents with it, and my timing made me the first of the siblings/in-laws to find out.

And then my torture began. Of course I wasn’t gonna run back out to the pool and tell everybody, but that meant I had to go back, play it cool–which I think I did well, except for the occasional very impatient utterances of, “They need to get out here”–and wait for them. And they took their sweet time. Not necessarily intentionally to make me squirm, mind you, although Jacob definitely knew I was and definitely kind of enjoyed it.

When they did come out, they were kind of waiting for a good moment, and it never really came. It was kind of fun by that point–I knew and was waiting for when they’d drop the bomb, and if I remember right, Katie was gonna go use the bathroom herself when I was like, “Well, before you do…” so she decided to announce it then, and of course, only half of them were paying attention. Emily rectified that pretty fast.

They since used their anniversary to announce it on Facebook.

Typically, the etiquette would be to not announce this at someone’s wedding, even if it is a relatively informal reception, but Julie would much, much rather know than be made to wait. And she was so excited that even to me, it was worth it.

Paul and I are looking forward to become an aunt and uncle again, of course. In fact, if a sibling could have a baby every year or so until this becomes totally unreasonable, that would be super fun.

As for us, it just hasn’t happened yet. Not actively trying, not actively preventing, but I am a little surprised that so far, nothing.

The wedding party–they weren’t really calling it a reception–itself was laid back and fun with great food Julie and Michael made themselves. The favors were bottles of their homemade wine, which we still haven’t opened, but I look forward to when we do. I’ve spent a couple nights at their place drinking far too much of that wine.

And because I’m me, I had tickets to see The Struts that night. In my defense, I didn’t plan it that way. Julie was originally aiming for the following weekend and I already had the tickets when it got moved up a week, but because it started early in the afternoon so they could hit the road back for Erie before it got late, we had plenty of time to head home for me to cover myself in glitter to prepare. Turns out it probably wasn’t enough glitter.

Brandon was gonna go with me originally but ended up having drill, and Kelly was welcome to but didn’t, probably because of Eliana. So I got Paul to go instead. The Struts put on such a good show that I’m confident taking people who aren’t super familiar with them.

I’ve sung the band’s praises before and then did it again on my Medium blog, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much, but shit, do I love that band, especially live. They’re so fun, so energetic, and have just the right amount of glam, hence my glitter quest.

And then, a few days later, Meri was back in town, so I went out with her and Marissa.

Every year, my mom goes to Hallmark’s Christmas ornament premiere–which falls in early- to mid-July, woof–and I typically go, too. In the past, this was to spare my dad from going and my mom from listening to him complain, and this time, it was more because he was mid-chemo and certainly not up to it.

So I got up, made the drive out, and of course my mom was with my Aunt Gina already in line, so I stood with them like I have pretty much every year I’ve gone.

So, I usually do get a few Wizard of Oz ornaments every year, but my mom would grab them regardless. My being there is less about me participating in the thing and more about keeping my mom company. I’m not on the hunt, it’s not a huge thing for me, it’s more of a shopping trip than anything else. But the woman right behind my mom and Aunt Gina went off on me for cutting in line, adamant that it was unfair. I admittedly didn’t do a great job of explaining that I was with my mom and not really, like, cheating her out of whatever ornament she wanted, but she was rude and unwilling to listen from the start–one of those people who has a tone with you immediately but then the second you call them out on that, they insist they “asked nicely,” aren’t being rude in the slightest, and are actually speaking normally, despite a clear increased volume and attitude.

My mom’s reaction was basically, “Just get out of line to shut her up.” I’m more stubborn than that, but I listened to my mother and just stood against the wall to wait for the doors  to open, go in after everybody else, and meet up in the store. You’d think this would’ve made it obvious that I wasn’t a threat to her precious ornaments–if I’m not even bothering to get in the line, then I don’t really care and it doesn’t really matter. And it would’ve been one thing if that had been the end of it, but she kept on going at me until the doors opened, just wouldn’t leave me alone, asking how I would feel if someone cut in front of me in line, at which point I said I wouldn’t care if someone was just meeting up with someone else like I was. I’ve seen it tons of times in just about every scenario where a line is involved, and so have most people. It’s just a thing most people accept.

It ended when the doors opened, but because I’m me, it bothered me the rest of the day. This is why I pay a therapist, although we never did discuss that fact that I dwelled on this enough to have been able to write this blog a few months later. We’ve mostly discussed, you know, the fact that my dad died in the months since.

I hung out at my parents’ house after. I had this sense over the summer and post-diagnosis in general that I ought to hang around while I was in town, with this looming thought of, “In case our time is limited.” I feel like there were a lot of unspoken moments like that. So I spent some time there.

Back home, Paul and I met up with Brandon, Kelly, and a tiny Eliana for the Whiskey Rebellion Festival in town. We mostly got food and checked out the vendors and hung out at our house for a little bit–the cat was very interested in the baby and ran to her when she cried.

The following weekend brought Julie’s wedding reception.

I have already mentioned this, but I decided to start writing about music over on Medium, and although current inspiration over there has run dry temporarily, I’m only just now getting around to the last few months, when I kind of dropped off other posting here.

One of those things that overlaps, though, was going to see Rocketman, which was very good, and driving to Ohio for Anberlin’s reunion tour.

I cover much of this in my post on Medium, but it went like this: my brother and I have loved Anberlin since we were teenagers, but they called it quits a few years ago and we never made it to the farewell tour. It never came to Pittsburgh, and neither of us was really in a position to travel for it. But one day, Brandon happened to notice that they’d mysteriously updated their social-media pictures, which these days only means one thing. Sure enough, they eventually announced a reunion tour, but like the farewell tour, there was no Pittsburgh date.

We missed the farewell tour. We weren’t gonna miss the reunion. We narrowed down a few cities within reasonable driving distance but settled on Cleveland, in large part because it was July 3 and we’d both have the next day off of work. It’s also a pretty short, easy drive, considering.

My only concern was that by the time the show rolled around, Brandon would have a baby just over a month old and would have just returned from a nearly month-long military training trip, and although Kelly gave him the go-ahead and only asked that we not get a hotel and stay overnight, I thought maybe she’d change her mind, and honestly, if she had, I wouldn’t have blamed her. She was well, well within her rights to say, “You’ve been gone for almost a month and we have a new baby, you are absolutely not going to a concert with your sister while I stay home.” I even made sure to only do e-tickets in case she did change her mind, that way I’d have a much easier time reselling them. Not that she’s that type, just that, again, new baby. But bless her, it didn’t happen, and Brandon came to my house the afternoon of the show, we grabbed some supplies, and hit the road.

Now, ticketing apps haven’t been great with differentiating between when doors open and when the first band hits the stage. Generally, doors open an hour before, and because I couldn’t find a time listed elsewhere, I assumed that the time listed was the start time and that doors were an hour prior to that. I was wrong. The good news was that our supply run took longer than expected, so we got there later than expected, and rather than arriving after doors opened like I thought, we were actually there a half-hour before. I was pretty happy about this.

The show was amazing. We sang every word, we screamed, we danced, we gaped at each other with every beloved song in the set–including those really early ones that got us into Anberlin to begin with. It was a perfect night, really. We had so much fun, we were back in front of a band that defined our teen years, truly, and that we’ve never stopped loving, and it felt just like we were there again. And that’s not a matter of nostalgia or wishing we were still teenagers, because believe me, I do not wish I was still a teenager, but rather a statement about just how much Anberlin has meant to us over the years and how not only has that not changed, but the band played like they’d never been gone. At best, I was in my early 20s the last time we saw them, maybe even my late teens, depending on the tour, and here we were, both there again, this time with me newly 30, both of us with spouses at home–in my case, in our house–and him with a baby, too.

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It was worth the excitement, the money, and the drive. Worth the wait? Nah, I’d have much rather spent the last few years hitting Anberlin shows once or twice a year like we used to. But whatever. I’m glad they’re back, one way or another.

And look, it was a nice sibling night, too. I mean, outside of the show, we had a couple hours in a car each way and over an hour waiting in line, so plenty of talking was done.

We got in around 2 in the morning, which is honestly not terrible under the circumstances, and Brandon told me the next day he was still too amped up to sleep when he got home. As for me, I passed right out.

Paul and I spent the 4th chilling at home and running errands, mostly, and spent the next few days getting dinner in Washington, hitting brunch in Pittsburgh, shopping, and tending to the garden.

Some Post-Funeral Thoughts, in No Particular Order

  • I’ve been pretty up front about the fact that my dad and I never had a great relationship. A lot of people talk about how in the face of terminal illness and death itself, they make amends or regret the past. I don’t, at least not right now–I concede that I may one day. But he could be difficult and frustrating, and we got along better when we weren’t under the same roof. That’s just how it is, and I don’t see any sense in devoting emotional energy to dwelling on other possibilities. We did exchange “I love yous” once in the midst of all this, and I did give him a hug when I left the house the last time I saw him awake a few days before he died (I’d been there the day he died, as I said, but he wasn’t awake at all). And I think for whatever our relationship may or may not have been, saying that and expressing that kind of affection did what such things are supposed to.
  • I did lose my foodie buddy.
  • I appreciate my family’s attitude towards death. Years ago, when my mom’s coworker’s son was killed in a car accident as a teenager, conversations inevitably came up in our family about things like life support, and I think those conversations then paved the way for blunt and necessary conversations now. No one avoided them and no one shut down when they happened–they were matter-of-fact, and I’m glad.
  • I was getting really aware of the reality of it lately, even in the little things. Our new siding was going up on the house while he was declining in the hospital, and I remember thinking, “He’s never going to see it.”
  • The little things do matter. Kind of. I’ve known this since my grandfather died. Those little shared moments are the things you remember and miss most. One of my favorite quotes from The Crow is, “Little things used to mean so much to Shelly. I used to think they were kind of…trivial. Believe me, nothing is trivial.”
  • It still doesn’t feel real, and my best friend, who lost her dad a few years ago, said sometimes for her it still doesn’t feel real. I know enough to know that grief is weird and there’s no “right” way to do it, but sometimes I just sit and think, “My dad is dead,” like I can’t really grasp what that means just yet or I’m trying to see how I react and if that reaction is changing. And yes, I’ll be calling my therapist. It was just luck and good timing that I met with him a week before all this, too.
  •  It’s weird to say that a death in the family and a funeral make you feel loved and supported, but…it’s hard to ignore when people show up for him but also for your family. Our friends and family kept us fed, people reached out directly to express their sympathy and ask what they could do even when the answer was, “Nothing,” or, “Take me out for drinks when this is all over,” there was a line out the door of the room where he was viewed of people coming in and talking to mostly my mom but my brother and, I too, people donated hundreds of dollars to the organization that flew him to his treatments for free, people did a round of shots with us, people stayed at the house and got food ready between viewings and made sure that everything was taken care of and tackled what they could so we didn’t have to.
  • I’ll be blunt, we thought some of my dad’s opinions of the afterlife were dumb. We used to tease him about it. He believed that when the second coming of Christ happens, the dead would need to be intact. So we respected it. He’ll have his glasses and even his cufflinks when the time comes. We also figured if his suit wasn’t arranged exactly the way he would’ve worn it in life, we’d all be haunted.
  • I couldn’t help but think about the fact that when he deployed, we were a trio at home faced with the very real possibility that it would stay that way, and if not for a few seconds and him reacting fast enough to throw a grenade out of a tank, it absolutely would have. And we’re a trio now.
  • Speaking of throwing that grenade out of the tank, the passing of time and return to, you know, our everyday lives in the 15-ish years since made it easy to forget how big a deal that actually was. Guys who were in the tank with him came to the funeral–guys who would be dead if not for him–and one of my uncles really wanted to meet them. His awards were on display in the casket and news clippings were among the pictures of him we put out. It really hit me at the burial, though. Of course, he always bragged about how he was eligible for a full military burial, but actually seeing it was another thing. His casket was draped in a flag that was presented to my mother, he got a gun salute, they played “Taps,” the whole thing, and I had a moment of, “Oh, shit, this is kind of a big deal.”
  • My mom always used to say she was gonna outlive him because she had so much stress as work she figured there was no possible way she wouldn’t go first.
  • When I looked at all the flowers around the casket and who showed up and, in some cases, how they were taking it, I thought about how my mom told me once that he used to think her side of the family didn’t really like him on account of the fact that I was, um…a surprise, as my mom likes to say. And I know he did send her siblings and their spouses a lengthy, heartfelt text after he was diagnosed. I wrote this essay once in middle school about him, which naturally turned into a whole to do because, you know, no one saw that coming, but it fit the assignment. It was about how he didn’t really care what people thought of him, for the most part, and kind of just did what he wanted to do–and yet it bothered him to think that maybe he was disliked in the family when it probably wasn’t true. And I realized probably for the first time that that’s me to a T. That’s where I get it, although I’m sure there are other factors. But I do the same thing. I present myself in a very give-no-fucks-way, and for the most part, it’s genuine. I can’t be bothered to consider outside opinions about how I dress or what I enjoy. I love that about myself, and I respected about my dad–obviously, or I wouldn’t have written about it as a pre-teen. But if I feel like someone doesn’t like me? If I think they’re an asshole or I don’t like them, by all means, I do not care, but if I do like and respect them? It bugs me. Funny how it’s probably our biggest personality similarity and I only just now figured it out.