Bed Wetter

The alarm is angry drunk loud. It is called an Enuresis Alarm. Beginning in the 1930s, the alarm functioned as a bedwetting treatment, used to wake (thrust) a child out of a deep sleep, alerting them that they wet the bed! It worked by attaching a sensor to the bed, a pad, or your underwear. Once wet, the sensor alerts. I recall that the version I used looks like a vintage baby monitor. The alarm was attached to a pad-and-bell alarm, which meant that the sensor pad was positioned in the bed between the waterproof mattress pad and the fitted sheet beneath me. 

I worked my way up to this deafening, discordant, psychological warfare. For months, maybe my entire short life, I wet the bed. There were no Pull Ups or 5 year old child size diapers back then. I would have probably peed through them anyway. Honestly, I wet the bed so much that I dreaded going to bed.

At least one hour before bed, I resolved not to drink any liquids. Then I would find myself standing next to the kitchen sink, gulping down a refreshing glass of water. I can hear my parents’ voices,

“Beth, please, please stop. Do not drink any more. You will wet the bed.”

Once my bed wetting became a thing, I was advised,

“Beth, if you wet the bed, quietly change your pajamas. See if you can sleep on your (wet) sheets. If they are really soaked, you can get us. Remember, you don’t want to wake your sister.” (She and I shared a room.)

I was probably four or barely five years old. I was a barometer of the world around me. I dreaded that my older sister would be witness to my middle-of-the-night disruptions. I mean, she endured my fear of the dark. Because of me, we kept the door propped open and the hall light on. She was also aware of my vivid nightmares wherein alligators would eat my family, which always seemed strange because we lived in Minnesota. How much more could I ask of her? (A lot).

On those frequent bed-wetting nights, I recall that she heard the alarm before I did. I can picture her disorientingly calling my name,

“Beth, Beth, wake up. Beth! Please! Beth! WAKE UP!”

They must have heard her or the alarm because seconds later my parents’ footsteps weakly clumped down the hallway. “Not again!” sighs my step dad, (who I call dad), as he flips on my bedroom light.

 “Bethy, Bethy, you need to wake up,” My mom urges.

The alarm’s bleating is all encompassing. Utterly discombobulated, I try to move. My body feels like it’s stuck in quicksand.

“Turn that thing off!” Dad yells, referring to the alarm.

I watch the cord fly as it is yanked out of the wall. I am pulled out of my bed. I sit on the pile of wet sheets, out of the way.

“Bethy, you are all wet. Stand up,” Mom says.

“None of the other kids wet the bed,” one of them murmurs.

“Can you find any clean sheets? She does this every night. We need to keep a pile of clean sheets. It’s expensive to wash all of these sheets constantly. We need to think of something else,” Dad insists. 

At that, like the chaos during a hospital’s Code Blue, Mom runs into the hallway. I hear the accordion doors open and then the sound of her hands as they furiously dig through our linen closet. She returns with a mismatched set of twin sheets. My dad grabs and hurriedly examines them.

“Where is the mattress pad? Why didn’t you get the mattress pad? Do we have a clean one?”

Mom runs back into the hall and returns seconds later with a pile of sheets. Handing them to him she urges,

“Use these as a mattress pad.”

Hastily he begins remaking my bed.

“I hope she doesn’t wet the bed again. I don’t want her to pee on the mattress.” I hear him mumble.

Dad pauses. Mom walks over and finishes making the bed.

“Beth, someday you are going to have to do this yourself,” Dad says.

Mom interrupts, “Bethy, come here. We need to get you out of these wet clothes.”

Like a searing smack to an elbow, I am alert. Immediately I feel exposed.

“I do not want to take my clothes off.” I think.

I want to be dry. So I awkwardly take off my soaking pajamas and soggy underwear. I put on my dry pajamas. As I change, I look over and notice my sister. She is sitting up, wiping her eyes. She looks tired. I stare. She looks really sweet in her nightgown and tussled hair. Now I am horrified. I hear the voice in my head,

“Beth, you did this to her.” I start to cry.

“Mom, when will my bed be ready?” I ask.

I scan our twin beds with complementary yellow and green handmade comforters. I am really tired and wish I could climb into my sister’s dry bed. The yellow walls seem brighter. I cannot escape. Everyone is there because of me. 

“Bed’s ready,” Dad effusively says.

I climb in. My sister is already back to sleep. My parents leave the room, turn off the light.

“Please leave the door open,” I plead. (They do.)

A few weeks later, I found myself in the hospital. I was told I was there to have a special surgery to fix my bed wetting. Something about scar tissue. I remember people coming to visit me, and someone bought me a stuffed animal. I do recall getting an enema and the nurse explaining that they would insert a tube.

“This way we can make sure everything is out of you.”

I was awestruck as I watched the container fill with the contents of my insides. I know I was put under general anesthesia. I remember fighting the anesthesiologist as they put a big, black mask over my face.

The surgery did not fix my bed wetting. Nevertheless, by the next year, when I was six, I stopped wetting the bed (like most kids do at that age). 

Fast forward to now:

Recently, my husband looked at me, alarmed.

“You are holding your breath. Do you know you are holding your breath?”

I have been coughing since June. I have been coughing so hard that I would vomit. When I cough, I feel peoples’ stares. Several people have insisted that it was my cough that made them sick. I often lead a conversation with,

“You might hear me cough. I assure you I am not sick. If you would feel more comfortable, I am happy to leave.”

My big secret: I also cough so hard that I would leak. And what I mean by leak is I would pee a little. I didn’t want to, but I began wearing pads. I also began holding my breath. Holding my breath seemed to make it all stop, at least the coughing. 

Then I remembered that years ago, and after my c-sections, I had done pelvic floor physical therapy. Consequently, every time I coughed, I brought back to mind the exercises: Now every time I coughed, I determined to kegel my way out of every leaky, pee-filled moment. For months I existed in a slight panic, always knowing an extra bad coughing spell would equate to that much more urine. Resolved, I continued holding my breath and power kegeling every all-consuming coughing spell.

Then I heard it again.

“You are holding your breath.”

It was my doctor. She was trying to listen to my lungs.

“Oh, I do that. My husband says that I hold my breath.” I left out about the pee. She already knew about the cough. “I often coughed myself to sleep. I am so tired of coughing that I hold my breath.” I opined. “You need to stop holding your breath. You need to breathe,” my doctor advised. I tried to breathe. “In through your nose. Out through your mouth. Your chest shouldn’t move.” My chest moved.

By October I was determined to breathe. That is when I found myself enrolled in eight physical therapy sessions. “I hold my breath. I have this cough. I think my pelvic floor could use a tune up.” I told my male PT. “I don’t do that.” He said. “I assumed so. I wanted to give you the big picture.” I answered. Without missing a beat, he asked if I had been to therapy.

“Coughing can give people real PTSD.”

I felt he was onto something. I also felt my tears. I tried to say something else.

“I’m sure some core work would help. Core work always helps.” He said.

In the next breath, he had me doing planks. My diaphragm hurt. I started to cough. My body was not ready. I began canceling our appointments.

Last week I made my way to a legitimate pelvic floor physical therapist. She is going to help me get my pelvic floor muscles back to their original strength and function. Yes. This also means better bladder control. We talked about how I hold my breath. I expected her to have me do some core work, planks or kegels. Instead, we talked.

“People in your situation think they need to hold tight and strengthen their muscles. These muscles are stuck in a fight or flight mode. What is going to help you not leak is to relax, breathe and heal.”

That is what I needed to hear. Over and over again I need to hear these words: “relax, breathe and heal.” As I relax and embrace my scars and my secrets, I also wish I had a time machine. I wish I could go back and tell little, freckle-faced me,

“Bethy, it is going to be ok. Relax, breathe. Your bed wetting days will pass. You will heal.”

Honestly, I wish anyone would have said,

“Hey Bethy, it is ok to wet the bed. Wetting the bed is normal and what some kids do.”

I cannot time machine myself back. What I can do is move forward. I can learn to relax my pelvic floor. And when I think the next cough or hard swallow will kill me, I can take a cleansing breath. I will be ok. Because I practiced the other day, I know this. I coughed. I choked. Then I remembered,

“Relax, breathe. You will heal.”

I am getting there. 

Sitting in that Same Hotel Lobby One Year to the Day (A Journal Entry Of Sorts)

Here I sit in this East London hotel lobby. The chair I sit in is green. The table my laptop sits on is black. My laptop and phone are plugged into a UK outlet with the adapter I remembered to bring. Last year I had to go back to my room when I forgot my adapter there. I remember that. I am sitting adjacent to the cafe. Bottles of San Pellegrino and iced coffee all facing the same direction, face me. An American man sits two tables away, equipped with buzzwords and catchphrases, makes calls as if he were the only one in the room. I can see the reception desk from here. I watch people check in and ask questions. I am sitting in the same spot in the same hotel lobby that I was sitting in 365 days ago. Truth is, I had to move. I am now sitting in the same lobby, in a different spot. I did not not expect to be here, in this spot, or at this hotel.

I wonder where my head was at then. I have yet to reread the post and do not want it to inform what I want to say now. My head is in a good, peaceful, and very exhausted place. Life is hard. I think I am finally letting go and accepting the fact that life will always be hard. 2022 swinging through 2023 has been an extra tough one.

My health is worse, or rather, I am more aware of my not-so-great health: autoimmune heart issues, lingering demon cough and unexplained anemia. My doctors are looking for cancer. There, I said it. They still haven’t found it. I still believe they never will.

Dave’s beard is gone. I liked his beard. I also like Dave clean shaven. Honestly, I really like Dave. We still hold hands. We still make love, (and with each other). We fight less. I honestly think we like each other more, better, I think we accept who the other is better than we ever did before. Is that what growing old together means?

We celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary in June. We were hiking Spain’s Camino Ingles with our hiking group. I coughed the entire time. My hiking friends, possibly now enemies, thought I had Covid. I did not. On the daily I heard,

“Beth, now so and so is sick and by the way, your cough.”

What I did have is some sort of persistent cough, a cough that has plagued me since May. My physical therapist believes I have PTSD as a result of said cough and suggested I see a therapist,

“People don’t realize how a cough can mess with someone’s head. Are you talking to anyone?”

On the day of our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary our group hiked to a beach. The sun was bright. Half the group stripped down to their underwear and swam in the cool Spanish waters. I did not swim. I could hardly get my socks off. Instead, I sat in the shade eating slices of turkey as I watched Dave devour an orange. That night as Dave ate dinner with the group, I was absent as a result of heat stroke. The texts arrived,

“Beth, the group toasted to you and Dave. It was weird that you were not here.”

I feel like I still keep waiting to “be here,” and celebrate our mighty accomplishment. Instead, I have been sick and been preoccupied with tests, blood draws and procedures. My sudden poor health has forced me to stop. For someone who does not sit still well, being stopped woke me up. I sincerely believe I did stop sweating the small stuff. I need to get well. Not setting boundaries was keeping me sick. Consequently, I started saying no to everything, and completely distanced myself from anything or anyone who caused my throat to tighten. I would text,

“I am sorry I cannot talk. I cough so hard that I throw up.”

It wasn’t a lie. I vomit-coughed every day. Twice I woke up and cough vomited so violently that I could not take a breath. I could not move air into my body. As I knelt naked on all fours on our bathroom floor, tears streamed down my face. In a quiet, desperate wheeze, I pleaded, “Dave, I do not want to die. Please don’t let me die.” I do not know how I moved from that one moment to the next. Yet, I did not die.

I spent a lot of time alone, trying not to cough. I started holding my breath.

“Beth, you are holding your breath.” Dave would say.

Then I would breathe. I spent so much time alone, trying to breathe and trying not to cough.Then loneliness sort of became my friend. I am still not a fan of being alone. I am a new fan of taking care of myself.

As I sat in my room coughing and watching a reality show literally called, “Alone,” I promised myself if I rested the entire month of August, we could make our scheduled trip to London in September. I rested and became more anemic. I still traveled to London, celebrating with Kyle before he headed off to New York. While here, we drove Kyle to Oxford to meet up with friends. Since then, Kyle’s light turned back on. What a gift. He and I talked about the moment everything shifted.

“Mom, you know when my switch flipped?”


“When I met up with my friends.” 

Dave traveled to Poland. I wanted to spend time with Kyle before he left so I decided to skip Warsaw and meet Dave here. Life is fleeting and I want to grab as many moments with my kids as they will permit.

Kyle drove me to the airport. We said what we thought were strange goodbyes.

“You’re taking me to the airport and you are moving later today.”

“I know. It is so weird. Sort of backwards and also right.” ❤️

Kyle landed in New York moments after I landed in London. Serendipity. 

I gathered my things and made my way to the Tube. As I watched people buy tickets for the Elizabeth Line, I thought,

“Suckers! Don’t they realize they don’t have to buy a ticket? They can simply tap on with a credit card.”

I caught myself and admitted that last year I was just getting comfortable riding the tube. I told myself that I preferred to walk or Uber. I think I was scared. Then after one exhausting walk from East London to Covent Garden to the British Museum and back, with an accompanying Banksy-sighting, I decided it was time to embrace London’s public transit system. I have never looked back. 

And now here I sit in our east London hotel lobby.  Eli texted moments ago. I love hearing from him. He thinks he sprained his wrist climbing. I feel far away. I hope he is ok. I also did not think I would be here. I am deeply grateful. [I write as my tears fall.]

The Heather B. Hamilton Armstrong, a.k.a. Dooce, that I once knew

TW: suicide, mental illness, mommy blogs 

Please know as I process, I am mindful of Heather’s children. I’m not sure these words will ever cross their path. I am also a mom and want to show compassion for their mother. This is a post I never wanted to write. I thought by the time we were old, we would have worked this shit out. God, how I wish I could say these things to her face.

Heather and I were journal writers and record keepers. For me, this document is important. I cared deeply about her, even until the end. When things were good and when she was on, I could be my completely unfiltered self. Our relationship was amazing. Our banter, gossip and deep conversations, inside jokes and eye rolls were a delicious treat. It often seemed no one understood me like she did. Making people feel seen was her gift. I miss it.

I believe the Heather B. Hamilton Armstong that I knew is the Heather the internet fell in love with. Her life was a Shakespearean play, with a little of The Taming of the Shrew and mostly Macbeth. Her life ended abruptly as a result of heartbreaking tragedy as a result of her Sisyphean struggle with mental illness. 

At one time, and for quite some time, Heather and I were very best friends. Then we weren’t. 

May 10, 2023, I received a text from my friend Sarah, with a link to an Instagram post: “I assume you saw this but just in case.” As the world was learning, I also learned that Heather B. Hamilton (Armstrong) died by suicide.

Tears streamed down my face. I did not know I was crying. Words came out of my mouth. I couldn’t understand what I was saying. My hand picked up my phone and my fingers began texting; words missing words and incomplete sentences. It felt like my fingers, my words, my tears were already grieving something my brain was not ready to process. 

Oh Heather.” I said out loud. For her, for her children, my heart broke.

…Salt Lake City is a small town. Heather and I lived near each other for more than a decade. I honestly believed we would run into each other at the grocery store. I hope we would make peace. We never did.

All these years later, she seemed broken, unwell, isolated and stridently enabled. By the end, and from the casual observer, it seemed her current boyfriend had built a firewall between her and the rest of the world. I wonder if he loved her or was more enamored with the status she provided him. I hope he loved her. I will never know. What I do know is something my husband, Dave, shared. In a loving tone he said, “She still has it. Her writing is so good. I am just sorry she felt so desperately lonely…We were just down the street.

As I reflect, I ache. The last words I spoke to Heather were, “fine, you fucking whore.” I hung up the phone. We never spoke again. I always believed we would. 

My sons were six and four. I vividly remember our conversation. I can see my sons’ tiny, desperate faces as they urgently clung to my legs: “Mommy, why is that lady screaming at you? Why is she calling you embarrassment? What does embarrassment mean? Mommy, please don’t cry.” Terrified, my sons began to sob. Heather’s shrieks stole the oxygen. I could not speak. I was shaking. I was shook. I was afraid. I could not get a hold of Dave. So I called my Mormon bishop, even though I didn’t go to church. He was also my friend. I wailed. Between gasps and heaves, I told him what had happened. I don’t know why. 

At that moment, I was a wobbly shadow of myself. Looking back, I wish I could have done it better. I wish I had held my boundaries or had more compassion or both. I also wish that in that moment I had the wherewithal to forgive both of us. We were both dealing with our own shit and traumas. Mostly, I wish I understood that what was going on with Heather had nothing to do with me. I did not understand her rage. I cannot express its power. We were in a feedback loop. It was a mess. It went well beyond a normal fight between two best friends, even a really bad fight. 

Since that night and through a lot of therapy, I have come to realize that we were both suffering. We were both triggered. We both flooded as a result. I had a dysregulated stress response to Heather as a result of the past abuse I experienced and my own unrelated traumas. At that moment, I could not see past her very loud shrieks and cutting, cruel words. This was not the Heather I knew. I one-hundred percent did not get it. Our exchange left deep scars that took years (on my end) to repair.

I will carry this. 

Way back when we were T9-texting, before there were blogs, and before people felt safe buying things online or making money from sponsorships and their social media streams, I met Heather. We became friends in real life because we were dating two dudes who lived in the same house.

We met in college. She visited when my oldest son was born. When she and I made our way back to Utah, we lived one block away from each other — by choice. Heather and I both worked in high tech. We both began blogging unrelatedly and at the same time. I visited her in the hospital when Leta was born. Leta wore my sons’ hand-me-downs. I brought Heather People & Us Magazines the day she spent in a Mental Health Facility. My favorite was a fleece jacket made for me by a friend. Heather was a brilliant writer. She understood me like no one else ever did. I bet she got a lot of people. She was whip smart and could be so absolutely kind. She cried at my sorrows and laughed at my weird sense of humor. 

Our college friendship was my favorite. Her boyfriend, Jonny E, lived with my Dave. Jonny was the person I texted when I received the news of Heather’s passing. When Heather and Jon E. began dating, we became a foursome. Jonny, Dave and I lived together and I recall the day I was sitting in my room working on my laptop. Heather walked in with a stack of books. “Beth, can we talk?” I looked away from my laptop and said, “Of course.” “Beth, I think Jon and I are going to have sex. I went to the BYU library and checked out all of these science books.” We were all LDS and working our way out of being LDS. I said, “well the first thing you need to do is set aside all of those books.” We laughed about this for years.

During this same time we watched a metric ton of Law & Order. Why? Because Heather loved Angie Harmon and we loved Heather’s love of Angie Harmon. Then we all loved Law & Order – only the Angie Harmon episodes. Heather was convincing that way. There was the time we were helping Heather and Jonny E. move. Dave gave them this old, giant, wooden console television. Jonny E. and Heather were driving a rented moving van. As they rounded the corner, from University Avenue to 500 North in Provo, Dave and I watched the television bounce out of the back of the van and skitter across the intersection. They stopped the van. We were all laughing hard. Heather and I kept saying, “I think I am going to pee my pants. Beth, I am totally peeing my pants.” (We may have both peed our pants.) Dave and Jonny E. lifted the TV back into the van and we followed behind to see that it made it safely to its new home. The wood was scraped up, but it still worked! When Heather and Jon E. moved to LA, Dave and I visited them there a couple of times. We strolled through their cool West Hollywood neighborhood. When Heather mentioned having painful constipation, Dave and Jon went to the drug store to buy her an enema. She was certain to tell me how it worked. “Ok Beth. I read the instructions. I held the water in as long as I could. Oh my God. It worked. I pooped.” I loved that unfiltered and delightful Heather.

Years later, as we slow-rolled out of our friendship, Heather was ascending, stratospherically and ultimately became the most famous mommy blogger ever on planet earth. Selfishly I wish she would have been able to feel the pride I felt for her. I wish she would have been able to feel my honest friendship. I wish Heather was able to understand me. I wish she knew I was safe and someone she could trust. I wish she did not feel the need to actively shun me. We were no longer participating in a reciprocal friendship. She was famous and from what she communicated to me, she wanted me to be her fan. I was confused when she called me jealous. I had no idea why she could not feel my support. Mostly, I did not know or understand the voices that were in her head.

Let me be clear: There was so much I loved about Heather. I helped build our wedge. I did not know how to handle fame, or rather, my weird relationship to fame. The constant onslaught of people trying to get closer to her through me was confusing. Have you ever had a best friend suddenly become famous? I made mistakes. I experienced Heather’s rise in our neighborhood, online and via our mutual friends. I had a neighbor who constantly complained to me about Heather and Jon. She would come to my house and say, “can you believe Jon and Heather.” Then allegedly, she would return to Jon and Heather to report what I said about them, (at least that is what Heather shared with me). The need for people to get close to Heather through me never seemed to end. We shared mutual friends who were annoyingly and stridently neutral. I think their behavior and refusal to set a boundary with me or Heather was equally damaging. I wish our neutral friends had picked sides, or better, picked her.

The sycophants and haters were also real. Bloggers reached out to me so they could get closer to her. It was all new territory. It was the Wild West of the internet. I should not get a pass. However, those neighbors, friends and internet people who used my relationship with Heather to leverage their relationship with her are also responsible.

In the purest form of the word sycophant, they used Heather to get what they want and to get a price of what she was having. I am ashamed of the moments I fell for it. I am sad I got caught up in it. It did not take me long, however, to see how unhealthy and unkind it was. It all sounds so petty now. I wish I had not been caught up in it. Heather was not something to use to prop myself up. Heather was my friend, albeit a very difficult friend. I also cannot imagine what she was going through.

Near the end, I was frustrated that our friendship was not withstanding all of the craziness. I wrote something. See, her written words, especially the ones about me and Dave, were often biting and cruel. I told myself she could handle it. She did not handle it. She screamed that I hurt her feelings — deeply. She told me she cried for a month, that she could not get out of bed for a month. “Beth, you are my very best friend. I don’t know if I can forgive you.” 

Honestly, I thought she was being unfair and overly dramatic. I did not grasp her mental illness. I make no excuse for her cruelty. She was brutal, cold and absolutely mean. I remember, and to quote her, “I will send my minions” to DOX anyone who trolled her or “hurt her feelings.” And then she sent her minions, who caused so much pain and suffering as a result. She openly stated that she hated to be opposed or pushed back on. Ultimately, this was the breaking point. I no longer knew or liked or felt safe with this version of Heather.

I was absolutely terrified of her. I also did not get it. I did not understand that maybe there was actually some truth to her words. Maybe she was actually upset for a month and struggled to get out of bed. Sure, I get depressed. Yet, I have never known a kind of suffering that causes you to stay in bed for a month. I did not comprehend.

What I also did not realize then and what I see so clearly now is that there was nothing I could do to fix her, to make her trust me, trust my intent or heal her brokenness. I am just not that powerful. I think at times I thought I was. I feel selfish. I am not sure she could be the person I wanted her to be. My guess is we were destined to end, which totally sucks.

Now as Heather fades away, I believe we all know what an absolute tragedy this is. I hope she finds peace. I hope she knows she was loved. May she find rest.

(PS: I am currently in Japan and wanted to get this up before another day passed. I would like to add links to this post/and maybe more edits.)

Amsterdam to Melbourne then on to Sydney

Our bags are packed. We are (almost) ready to go. We fly home tomorrow. We will arrive on Thanksgiving afternoon. We ordered our Thanksgiving dinner while we were still in Melbourne, from a popular and hip restaurant in Salt Lake. Eli has graciously offered to pick it up so we will  have a feast ready when we roll into town.  (Thank you, Easy E! ❤️)

Five weeks plus one day ago, Dave and I set out for our epic (work trip) adventure. We flew to England then Amsterdam (where Dave’s wallet remains), and then to Melbourne, Australia via Chicago and Los Angeles. On our Chicago to Los Angeles flight, I glanced at the lady sitting behind Dave. She was pilates-fit. Her forehead looked pressed like a starched shirt and plumped like all the best fillers LA can serve up. As I glanced, she glared, which forced me to abruptly move my head.

“Wait? That looks like Christopher Loyd, the guy from the “Back to the Future” movies.”

I turned my head back and quickly googled Christopher Lloyd and his wife, which I believe is his fifth wife. The woman sitting behind Dave looked exactly like her photo pictured in my search. It was Christopher Lloyd. Dave did his best to take a photo surreptitiously. As we exited the flight, Chris (that is what his wife called him) said, “Chris, will you grab my hat?” He did. We were inches from one another. I made eye contact. I smiled; he smiled back. Truth be told, if it had not been Christopher Lloyd, I would have started talking to him, but it just seems weird to make chitchat with a celebrity.

Me making eye contact with the actual Christopher Lloyd

It has been a long, strange, happy, exhausting adventure. The time flew by and often I threatened to fly home:

“Dave, I think you should stay. I already looked at flights and it will only cost 65$ US to change my ticket. You will be fine!”

Dave was never thrilled that I wanted to go home. I wasn’t necessarily homesick. I was tired of traveling. I know. I am the one who is supposed to love, love, love travel, planes, lounges, foreign grocery stores, and exploring new destinations. I do. In fact, this trip has been largely wonderful. 

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Me in front of the women’s hospital Melbourne

One of the sources of my malaise was that, as soon as we landed in Melbourne, well actually like two days later, I was bitten by a completely insane flying Australian insect. Dave and I were walking to a new park. I was bitten between the Melbourne Women’s Hospital and Royal Park. I felt the sting immediately. I also noticed the accompanying and prompt blood blister that appeared on my arm. The blister was followed by swelling, big red bumps and strange red spots. I truly wanted to itch my arm right off my body.

Then I was assured,

“Beth, it’s inflammation. You know you are allergic to everything!”

It is true. I am allergic to a lot of things. I was not dead yet, so I assumed I would be ok. 

Docklands, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

That was until like three nights later. It was 1:03AM. I shot right out of bed grabbing my throat. I could not breathe.

“Dave, I cannot breathe!”

I tried to point to the location of my inhaler and any other medication I thought might help. Dave tried to help. We were a disoriented mess: two people in REM sleep, startled awake to a medical emergency. I could not catch my breath. I could see it in Dave’s face. He was scared. I was scared. In seconds I went from coughing uncontrollably to wheezing. I sounded like a crackly-chested seal. I asked Dave to put my Apple Watch on so he could check my oxygen levels. They were good, which gave me peace of mind.

I also knew what it was. I have asthma. I was having an asthma attack. Asthma has never woken me out of a sound sleep. I used my inhaler. Usually after two inhaler puffs I start to feel better. I was not feeling better. I could not catch my breath.

I asked Dave (repeatedly),

“Why am I having an asthma attack? We are in a hotel!”

Docklands, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Tears flooded my eyes. Then they covered my face. I looked at Dave and asked him to look at me. Then I said,

“I need you to hear this. I am really scared. I also want you to know that I have been in regular contact with Eli and have been struggling to get a hold of Kyle. A few hours ago Kyle messaged me. I am so glad. See, if I die tonight, I am glad for him that we connected.”

I am not trying to be dramatic to be dramatic. The dramatic moment and the fear Dave and I felt, stands all on its own. 

Flying Foxes, Yarra Bend Park, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Seriously, I have never felt the sustained loss of breath like I did right then. I tried to calm myself by sucking on a cough drop. I took some other drugs and noticed the prednisone my allergy doctor urged me to keep on deck:

“Beth, you travel all over the world. I would hate to see you suffer.” I settled on the couch and asked Dave to cue up Netflix. I followed with, “I will not sleep. I will be sitting upright watching a show.”

Flying Fox (Fruit Bat) Chau Chak Wing Museum, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

True to my word, I sat upright all night long. Every time my head dropped, I started coughing and then I would choke as I tried to catch my breath. It completely sucked. A few episodes in, I noticed that Dave slept with the door open in our “upgraded from a room to a suite” room.

“He will hear me. I will not die alone.” I was relieved. He tells me, “Beth, I did not sleep. Instead, I listened.” 

The next morning we were exhausted. I was also feeling better. We decided to go to a pharmacy for more meds. On our way out of the hotel, I asked the lovely front desk person where the nearest hospital was in case I needed to make a visit. That is when they talked to me about allergy season:

“Well mate, it’s really bad this year. And we had a thunderstorm last night.” What did not compute to my northern hemisphere-brain is that it is spring here in Australia (and the rest of the Southern Hemisphere.)

“You have asthma? You need to be really careful this week. There have been warnings all over the news.” The front desk person stated.

“WHAT?” I said.

“Yes. They call it Thunderstorm Asthma. It is really bad.”

I really thought they were joking. I was like, “Thunderstorm Asthma. That sounds like something from Mad Max.”

Beth, (because we were on a first name basis), you have to take it seriously. Please be careful. PEOPLE DIE!” 

Hours later the hotel sent me a news article and that we were indeed visiting during the height of  the apocalyptic phenomenon known as Thunderstorm Asthma, which involves high levels of grass pollen. And grass is the thing I am most allergic to. Oof! Yes. You read that correctly. In 2016, 3,400 Melbourne locals were hospitalized and ten people died. I decided to do all the things I do to calm down my inflammation response, which included asking our hotel for a non-feather blanket and foam pillows. After receiving approximately ten additional feather pillows and after speaking with the night time housekeeping dude, (who also assured me that “you know Covid is a hoax,)” well, after he spoke to his staff and I asked him if we could avoid the Covid conversations,

“I really like you. You have been good to us. Let’s just agree to disagree on all the Covid conspiracies.”

He reluctantly, yet sweetly complied and two foam pillows were delivered to our room. 

I survived. We truly had a lovely time. We were in Melbourne for two weeks. While there we explored the Southern Coast. We also explored Melbourne. Every night we set a goal of walking another direction, to another park, museum or landmark. We loved the National Gallery, walking back and forth over all the bridges that cross the Yarra River, walking through the Docklands neighborhood at night, and peering down seeing beautiful graffiti line the ally way. Our favorite city grocery store (Woolworths) is located on the 2nd floor of the Southern Cross train station. And then the day we bailed on the rental car, we had the amazing adventure of learning that flying fox is just a cute word for toddler-sized fruit bats. We learned this because on the edge of Melbourne is Yarra Bend Park where 50,000 fruit bats gather and sleep in the trees. In the evening all the bats fly a few miles and hang in the trees at Melbourne’s Botanic gardens. We walked under for what seemed like miles underneath and near those bat filled trees. One fruit bat pooped inches from my head. It is the stuff of nightmares.

We connected with dear friends. One hosted us at their beautiful farm, which included wrangling and penning sheep, kissing a lama, petting horses and wrestling a gigantic piece of black netting over six large fruit trees to keep the birds out. Our other gave us a tour of their stylishly cool and very grown up office space. 

Today we are in Sydney. We have been here for eight days. Sydney has been good to me and my reactive self. We enjoyed our favorite Messina gelato/sorbetto, our favorite Sunday ferry rides. This time we took the ferry to Watsons Bay where we visited Morton National Park and walked to Pointer Gap Lookout. We visited the Chau Chak Wing Museum at The University of Sydney, walked new neighborhoods and familiar one. We also discovered that are in town during the blooming of the vivid purple flowered Jacaranda trees, and found a groove that made Sydney feel right. In fact, just last night near Bondi Beach we enjoyed dinner hosted by Dave’s delightful French colleague and her delightful French partner, who both love to surf and stated,

“Beth, the way you say that, you get the timing. Are you sure you are not French?”

That was one of the best compliments I have ever received: two French lovers who relocated to Sydney told me, the American, that  I remind them of their homeland. Dave chimed in,

“She is. Beth has family from France.”

Then they said they would protect me from Melbourne and its allergens next time we are here: “We will watch Beth.” I quickly interjected,

“Dave, I will connect with a Hemsworth brother until you return.” We all laughed. It did feel like home. 

Thank you, Sydney! Dave and I have been staying in the lovely Darlinghurst neighborhood, which is east of Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD/downtown), if I have my coordinates correct. Each morning, wherever we are, I wake up with Dave and walk him to work. This is the first trip that I have done every single day, except on thunderstorm-asthma day. Today, I walked Dave down Darlinghurst Road, took a left on Williams, and walked down the big hill past the giant Coca Cola sign. Then as we did our usual diagonal walk through Hyde Park to Pitt Street, I was filled with melancholy.

“Dave, I knew this would happen and I am not sure you will believe me. I recognize I threatened to go home, especially during the allergy stuff, but come on, that is totally understandable, right? Today, I feel a little sad. I am not sure I am ready to go. I really like the rhythm. I have enjoyed my time here.”

Sydney’s Jacaranda Trees, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

True to our boys’ assessment,

“Mom, you love-hate everything!”

This trip has been no different. I love connecting with old friends. I hate thunderstorm asthma. I love where we are staying. I hate that it was not clean when we arrived. I am sad to leave. I am really excited to get back home. Five weeks is long. Flying from London to Melbourne is really long. Five weeks also flew  by. 

This evening Dave & I had dinner in our Darlinghurst neighborhood at an amazing place with an awesome name, #eatfuh. Yes, that is what it is called. We returned to our rental making plans for tomorrow’s flight. After stress eating 3 gluten free Hob Knobs I picked up in London, I felt a disturbance in the force. It took me another five minutes to realize my jacket was missing. Dave and I walked back to #eatfuh. As we stepped inside, our sweet waiter was holding something in his arms. It was my jacket. Thank you Sydney.

#eatfuh: dave with our waiter, the one who rescued my jacket, Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

We arrived at the airport this morning. As fate, or Hollywood, would have it, I spotted another actor: Richard E. Grant.

Richard E. Grant (Wikipedia)

I was like,

“Hey Dave, it’s that actor guy. I really like him. He looks better in person.”

And now we are waiting for our flight. ❤️ Until next time Australia.

Dave wanted me to add this photo of Richard E. Grant as Loki so I did.

Contemplating Life In Our London Hotel Lobby

(Me in the Lobby)

We are currently staying at a modern, well-styled, fairly new, and well-trafficked hotel. As a result of the high traffic, I think the hotel feels older than it really is. It is located at the edge of the newish, trendy Spitalfields neighborhood. Spitalfields is a gritty, urbanized, hip area of East London. As we left our train the other night, two local London girls asked me where we were staying. “Near Aldgate East Station.” They looked concerned and as we parted ways they said, “Please be safe.” So far so good. 

(July 2022, Spitalfields, East London, United Kingdom)
(Ocotber, 2022, Spitalfields,East London, United kingdom)

We love the neighborhood. We like our hotel. Our hotel is close to Dave’s London office. We are surrounded by graffiti-covered streets, immense cultural diversity, yummy noodle restaurants, bronze elephant statues on sidewalks, and the super cool Spitalfields market. We also like that our hotel is not in London’s tourist neighborhoods such as Covent Garden or The Shard. Better, we like that we are amongst the people, the Londoners, or that is what we hope.

(October, 2022, Me & Dave, Straford-upon-Avon, England)

Here I sit in the lobby – for the second time. A few moments ago I gathered all of my work stuff, left my room, took the elevator to the wrong floor, made my way to the right floor, and found a semi-quiet place (there are no quiet spaces). I pulled out my cords, my laptop and my giant Bose noise canceling headphones. I looked for an outlet and began plugging in my 100% dead laptop when I realized there was a problem. I was in another country. I did not have my adapter. In fact, I left my US to UK adapter up in the room. I admit I actually tried charging my laptop from the very tiniest backup battery. That was a bust and I am sure someone will tell me that I was lucky I didn’t short out my laptop. I didn’t. I paused to think if there was any other way I could just stay put: “Can I work on my phone?” I knew the answer. As a result, I packed up my laptop, giant Bose headphones, cords and batteries. I walked up to the front desk and asked the dude, “Hey, do you have an adapter I can borrow?” In the self righteous tone of a pubescent teenager, this grown man said, “Um, no. There is a Tesco down the street. Maybe they will have one.” I looked at him, perplexed. Sensing my confusion, or sensing he had crossed a line, he said, “Well, we used to sell them here.” I assured him that I have an adapter in my room seven floors up (in this nine story hotel). “Well, why don’t you just go get it? Did you lose your key? I will make you another key.” I took a deep breath, looked him directly in the eyes, and responded, “It was just easier to ask you.” 

I grabbed my two backpacks, (I travel heavy), and made my way back to our room where I promptly scared the lovely housekeeping lady, who was quietly cleaning our room. I quickly pulled the adapter out of the wall, flashed it at her, apologized while thanking her and left. 

(Us, Upper Slaughter, Cotswolds, England, United Kingdom)

I am back in the lobby. My laptop is plugged in. So is my phone. I am wearing my giant Bose headphones, listening to music very loud, and trying not to get too distracted by Social Media. I cannot resist. I skim Twitter. I interact. I fall down a rabbit hole. Oh no!

My mind is back looking at my laptop. My body never left. We are in London until Saturday. First, we were supposed to take a sleeper train to Edinburgh. As a result of some last minute business plans, we switched our plans to fly to Berlin. There was trouble with our Berlin plane tickets. I often think (hope) Dave married me because I am flexible and in seconds, I am willing to change plans and then change plans again and again. Now this weekend we will head to the South Downs. I believe we are staying on a farm that has horses and llamas.

(Us, Beachy Head, East Sussex, England, United Kingdom)
(Kyle, Beachy Head, East Sussex, England, United Kingdom)

I have a jet lag headache and could use a little horse therapy. We also plan on driving to Beachy Head, a stunning place covered in rolling hills covered by vivid green grasses, lined with dramatic white chalk cliffs in near Eastbourne in East Sussex on the south England coast. We traveled there eight years ago with our boys and Dave’s mom. It was a rainy, magical day and I am desperate to feel some melancholic nostalgia. Consequently, there is nothing like a visual/sense memory to get you in the feels. Crossing my fingers. Time flies. I miss those days. I ache for them. [insert deep, longing breath here]

(Me on our flight: San Francisco to London Heathrow)

As you can imagine via my sentiments in the above paragraph, for me (and many), traveling as a recent, empty nester is painful and a little strange. (By the way, I also feel like I am writing a non-sequitur, letter-from-camp to the world.):

Hello World, 

Now just traveling as the two of us, Dave (my husband for those of you who don’t know) are figuring our new life out. Happily, we are making serious breakthroughs in our jet lag issues. We (both) own that we can be super crabby bitches as we adjust to new time zones. Dave admits that he did not have to be such an ass when he gave me shit about leaving my big bottle of sparkling water in at our Cotswold hotel. I quickly apologized after criticizing him for leaving his special allergy meds back in Utah. “Dude, I reminded you like seventeen times. It was on our list! How could you forget?” “Beth, I looked at the pills. They were both tiny, white and round. They looked the same.” “OH MY GOD! Didn’t you read the bottle?” “Why would I do that when I could look at the pills?” [insert my head exploding here]

(Dave, National Trust, Snowhills Manor and Garden, Broadway, England)

I know what you are thinking. I am totally justified. We all wish Dave would have read the name of the prescription on the pill bottle. Even though he will edit this before I post it, please don’t tell Dave we all know that I am right. Rest assured, Dave and I also stopped at Boots, the local UK pharmacy yesterday. And as they say here in the United Kingdom, “everything is sorted.”

(Dave, Great Coxwell Barn, Faringdon, United Kingdom)

Moving on, please also know that as I mentioned, we had a breakthrough, I mean, days of breakthroughs. We started with admitting we were really tired and irrational. “Dave, I am really mean. Wow!” We pushed forward, recognizing that we both could be more patient with one another and on to forgiveness. “Beth, I am sorry I said something about the Queen and laundry and the cost of laundry. The Queen is dead and you are really good at laundry.” Ok. That is not exactly what Dave said. He did however apologize for his mean laundry comment and yes, his comment also mentioned the Queen in reference to me doing laundry, may she rest in peace. 

(From a Memorial Poster for Queen Elizabeth, Great Coxwell Barn, Faringdon, United Kingdom)

Ultimately, I think the observations of me and my life are funny, better, they only grab a slice of reality. I am sure I do the same to others. In our case, my friends and family are always like, “Beth, you love to travel. You always travel. It’s always happy happy joy joy magical wonder.” They are correct. I love to travel. I am not sure if they understand why and I am not sure it matters if they do. 

(Dave & H’angry Me on the Tube after our first train broke down, London, United Kingdom)

In case you are curious, I love to travel because it is extremely difficult. Every day is an unexpected puzzle and all of the puzzles push me out of my comfort zone. Whether it be sorting through severe melancholy, finding the correct adapters, remembering the sparkling water, or trying not to kill your husband because he cannot read a pill bottle and then explains why not reading a pill bottle is the most logical thing one can do, well, traveling places me in a position to learn, to communicate, to figure my shit out, to work on my marriage and to see the world from someone else’s point of view. 

What a gift travel is. 

love, Beth & Dave

(The most amazing couple I saw from afar, National Trust, Snowhills Manor and Garden, Broadway, England)

I wanted to take a family picture

I sent a message in our sibling group text. I said something like, “at our dinner Friday evening I hope we can take some sibling group photos.” Of course I thought to myself: I bet mom would love it if we took a picture of all six kids together. I hope we can make this happen.  

After years of battling illness, my oldest sister, Brenda’s husband, Ted, passed away. My family was gathering in Minnesota for his funeral. We would all be in Minnesota at the same time for less than twenty-four hours. My oldest brother, Brian’s, plane landed in Minneapolis at 5:30PM on Friday and my flight departed at 5:14PM on Saturday. Friday evening was the time to make our photo op happen. 

Getting us all together in the same place has not been easy. The last time the six of us kids were together was at a very carefully orchestrated, boundary-intense family reunion we held in Minnesota eight years ago. At the time we planned pictures for a Saturday morning. I recall one of my sisters was not in the mood for family pictures and asked if we could reschedule. I was grateful when she showed up to the site of our photo shoot: the backyard of our childhood home. During the shoot, we managed some happy jumping photos (my personal favorites). Before our family reunion, it had been fifteen years since we all were in the same space. (I believe it was for Brenda’s and Ted’s wedding.) 

We are much older now. I am keenly aware that this may be the very last time all six of us kids will be in the same place, that is to say, alive and together. Maybe that is why my mind drifts to my best friend Marianne, and the picture she recently shared. The image is beautifully heartbreaking. In the photo, Marianne, her twin brother Michael, and oldest brother David, stand around the casket of her youngest brother, Jay. Jay had suffered a tragic accident and after fighting hard for the past two years to survive, succumbed to his injuries. In this photo, Marianne’s brother David looks completely disheveled and grief-stricken. Michael appears earnest, eager and sweet. I may be partial. (I totally am.) Marianne, who stood between her two living brothers, looks as if she is not only holding them up; she looks like she is also holding up the world. Michael is standing next to Jay, (and appearing to act as if Jay were still alive). Instead, Jay lies peacefully in his coffin. I had not seen Jay look this good since before his accident. Then I wondered how long it had been since they had a picture together. Their mom passed away in 2006. Maybe it was then. 

I am sure there is a connection and that my plea to take a sibling photo is because in truth, I didn’t want Marianne’s sibling picture to become my own reality.

Life is real. Life is uncomfortable. Life is beautiful. Life is ugly. What my life is not is a carefully crafted photo of six adults standing shoulder to shoulder, smiling, while appearing to exist in perfect harmony. 

Here is the deal: My brothers, sisters and I are not a close, connected group. We are a bit broken and bruised. Occasionally one of us goes to therapy and sometimes others of us seem to heal. Other times, we seem excruciatingly awkward and completely weird. Then when things seem to be smoothing out and settling down, someone inevitably does or says something that rips us apart, intentionally or cluelessly. (I believe my family thinks that someone is always me a.k.a., the scapegoat.) Of course, we get triggered. Then we retreat. We lash out. We struggle to forgive. We are determined to hold our boundaries. When boundaries fail, we disconnect, quietly relieved as we return to our own lives. These lines of hurt, regret, and misunderstanding go every direction. So do the lines of love, understanding and forgiveness,  at least, that is what I hope and want to believe. 

This time we left our lives and came from near and far to be with my sister, Brenda. As I made my way to Minnesota, I pleaded to the heavens and really to anyone who would hear me, “I hope we can set aside our differences for a five minute photo shoot.” 

It was me. I wanted to take a picture together. We are all adults. There was no mother, no father or parent insisting we show up, comb our hair, smile and show our teeth. (I had a huge gap in my teeth and never liked to show them.) It was our choice to be there.

Before making my way to Minnesota, I coordinated with my sister Brenda and brother Bill for Friday evening’s family get-together. Brenda made a few suggestions. So did I. Bill is my other brother. He has currently blocked me from seeing his Facebook posts and has actively avoided speaking to me since I flew to Minnesota for his wedding reception three years ago. I do not know why.

I care about him. I worry about him. I love him. Long ago I considered him a best friend. This same brother suggested a lovely, local park near his house. We agreed on the park. As we texted back and forth, I took deep, careful breaths, hoping I would not text something that would set him off. I did not want to blow it, and I also realize that writing my reality here may also blow it. I knew what a big deal it was that he was exchanging texts with Brenda and me. Nevertheless, for me, my sanity is about truth. So, I tried to be true to myself.

The Friday-evening-family-event-text-planning continued. After making various food suggestions, we decided on pizza. I offered to order it and then naively realized that offering to order the pizza meant I needed to pay for the pizza. I was frustrated (with myself). I struggled with the assumption that I would pay for the pizza. Consequently, I believe my unresolved baggage allowed me to believe that somehow my family was taking advantage of me. As a result, I fumbled for words and fumbled on my actions. I made a suggestion that everyone pitch in and then made a joke about ordering Dominos instead of the more expensive Punch pizza.

I am sure I annoyed someone. Bill stopped responding. Soon my mom was texting me privately to ask, “who is paying for the pizza?” I also privately shared with her my gaffe. As I was responding to her in a private text, she responded in the group text that she would pay for the pizza. I know she does not have the money to pay for a pizza party. I felt selfish, ashamed and incapable. Quickly, I texted everyone regarding how sweet mom is and said, “Of course, I will pay for the pizza.” Of course mom followed with, “I will pitch in.” And finally, I took time to process all those deep and buried feelings. After downloading to Dave what we now affectionately call, “Pizza-gate,” I realized I would be ok. I took a cleansing breath and Friday night I ordered six Punch pizzas. We ate three.

I think it was Thursday when Bill shared that my step father would be at the pizza picnic. My step dad and my mom have been divorced for thirty years. 

Friday night arrived. My step dad and a woman who is apparently his much younger girlfriend arrived with him. She was wearing a black t-shirt with an American flag and the word, “freedom” printed across her chest. She spoke confidently in a thick New York accent. She openly vaped her way through the evening. I brought Marianne, who also lives in Minnesota. Marianne wore a blue sundress. I was nervous and tried to talk about anything other than uncomfortable family issues, politics or religion. Naturally (not naturally) I talked about board games. Trying a little self-deprecating humor, I said and I quote, “The only area I am competitive in is board games.” My mom quickly piped in, “That is not true. You are a very competitive person.” I cringed and tried to defend myself. Then I tried to change the subject. I felt stupid for trying to defend myself. I stopped talking. I think it was Brian who interrupted and said, “Beth, what is your favorite board game?” I appreciated the redirect.

Bill was a no show. Sure, I wondered if it was because my stepdad was there. I did not want to infer. Instead, I asked why. I asked where he was. I asked if he would be at the funeral the next day. I asked if he was ok. I hope he is ok. I also made light of him not being there. Then I asked about taking a group picture. Brian assured me, “Beth, I will make sure he is in the sibling photo.”

*By the way this might be a good time (or not) to mention that Brian and I have had an incredibly rocky relationship which includes years of false accusations and actively disparaging me to his children and my own family of origin.

All this to say that before traveling to Minnesota and also at our dinner family Friday night, I mentioned to Brenda, who does know most of the story, that Brian and I would be ok. “Watch us talk to each other. We both know this moment is about you, not us. We will put aside our stuff and be kind. Watch.” And true to my words, Brian and I were kind. (In fairness, we have had practice.) He maintains that he has no issue with me, or no real memory of his decades of cruel scapegoating. I definitely still have issues with him. He was emphatic, so I decided to trust him when he insisted that he would talk to Bill and that Bill would pose for a sibling photo at the funeral the next day.  

The funeral was beautiful. I sat to the right side of Brenda. I did not hold her hand. I touched her shoulder and kept telling her (during pauses in the services) what a lovely funeral this was. It was. Ted’s brother Kim and his niece Erica spoke. I teared up when I spoke to Erica and her sister, Melissa. I felt seen when Kim’s step-daughters talked to me about religion and race. (Thank you ladies.) My cousins on my mom’s side also came. Brian pointed out that they were not speaking to each other. One of them quickly left after the other arrived. “Kind of like our family,” I thought.

Bill, his new wife, and one of Bill’s sons arrived right before the funeral began. I tried to speak to him. It was awkward. He did not respond. I don’t know. Maybe he did not hear me? In the family prayer, which is held right before the service, I handed him a little paper bag filled with postcards. On several occasions a few years back, Bill asked me to buy him postcards. I travel a lot and thought, “Happy to.” At the time he said, “I collect them.” As a result, I spent many trips searching for the right postcard and then searching for a post office so I could send them to Bill. Bill rarely, if ever, told me he received them. Dave often asked, “Does Bill like your postcards? You really worry and spend a lot of time trying to get this whole postcard thing right.” “I don’t know.” I said. “He doesn’t say anything unless I ask and then I feel weird asking.” One day after spending hours trying to find just the right postcard, Dave proclaimed, “Beth, enough! You don’t even know if he wants you sending him these postcards. I wish Bill would say something. I wish he would let you know. Please stop.” So I stopped — until last spring. I wanted to offer an olive branch so-to -speak. I wanted Bill to know I care.

Consequently, on a recent trip, I searched for postcards that I thought would make him smile. I brought those postcards to the funeral and handed them to Bill. I said, “Here are some postcards I picked out especially for you. I hope you like them.” He stared at me for a second and looked away. Maybe he said something. I am not sure. Maybe he nodded. It felt cold. Then I took a deep breath. My guess is that even if I did upset Bill that ultimately whatever is going on is not about me. It’s about what Bill is dealing with and working through.

After the funeral, Bill, his son and his new wife stood in the gymnasium, where Brenda’s local church congregation was holding a luncheon. My mom and Brian went to talk with them. I wanted to talk with them too. I tried to speak to them twice and was feeling super self conscious and defeated. I looked away. I looked back and saw them walking out. Brian and my mom followed them out of the building. To answer your question: No. We did not get our six-siblings-together picture. Today I am certain we never will. (*Maybe my feelings will change.) Seconds later, one of my sisters turned toward me, hugged me and cried, “You aren’t going to leave without saying goodbye, are you?” I assured her that is why I was standing there and hugging her now. “I came to say goodbye. I love you.” I said. Then I left.

Now thousands of miles away on a trip with Dave and Kyle, I think I have been able to process. What seems clear is that my family was upended by layers of grief. Nevertheless, they seemed to feel more pain as a result of Bill’s confusing behavior rather than the loss of Brenda’s husband, (or maybe I just felt more pain as a result of Bill’s confusing rejection). It makes sense. Brenda’s husband, Ted, was terminally ill and in so much discomfort. His death, as hard as it is and probably will be, for my sister, came as a tender mercy. My brother is still alive and we seem irrevocably broken.

At the end of this day and after reconnecting with my family, I recognize that perspectives’ and vantage points of every individual vary and will probably vary now. I hope for compassion and forgiveness. I always will. I also own and realize I could have gathered the other five of us siblings and taken a picture together. I really wish I had. 

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