if you see her, say hello (bob dylan)
I haven’t been posting as often this fall, as I’ve been so dang busy. Busy with good things– weddings, trips, work, projects. But I cherish the times sitting at my desk, looking out at the gorgeous glowing fall trees. Seriously, this year is the most beautiful autumn I have ever seen. Every day I am knocked out by tree after tree.
And we got kittens. Two deliciously adorable sisters, about 8 weeks old. Ever since Henry died, the idea of getting a new cat has been on my mind. Not because I want to replace him, he will never be replaced. When he died my heart broke, my heart that was already broken after losing my mom. Any tiny bit of it that felt slightly, delicately healed was ripped open again. The idea of a cat planted itself in my brain. I thought this cat would help me– through taking care of it I could heal my heart.
And it ended up being two tiny kittens who, in only three days, have already started healing my heart. I watch them interact with each other and this new world that is our apartment. Watch them play until they fall asleep, then wake up and play again. Hear them purr as I stroke their backs and tiny heads. I watch their distinct personalities bloom in front of my eyes, as Ingrid learns quickly to climb and jump gracefully, and Galactus cocks her head to the side and looks at me with her sweet concerned expression.
Somehow I am moving forward. I live in the same place I lived when my mom died, do many of the things we used to do together, go to many of the same places. I don’t want to move forward because that means getting further away from the time when my mom was alive. I’m pulled in both directions: forward and back. I don’t know how to keep living, how to get older and grow up and move on into the future of the whole rest of my life without my mom. But I know I have to. I found my wedding dress. My hair is growing out. I breathe, once in a while I manage to cry in front of other people. I take one small step at a time. And these kittens are little new lives, growing and learning every minute, and I’m helping them do that.
I’ve been working on this big cancer comic book, the first part of which is my mom’s cancer comic book she made seven years ago. On the second to last page she has written this quote from Paulo Coelho’s By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept:
“The moment we begin to seek love, love begins to seek us. And to save us.”
On the bottom of the next page, the last page, she has written a note in her quick cursive (handwriting that feels like home):
Ate: Nachos + Beer (I was very careful w/ the cheese) – chocolate – few nuts
Drank also champagne + pom juice
This song is called Playing Dead, by Breathe Owl Breathe and here is my cover on ukulele:
It’s unfair that my mom is not turning 56 today. It’s stupid and sad and dumb. I hate that she will never be more than 54. She would have been really good at being old– the coolest, most kickass, cowgirl boot wearing old lady on the planet.
I don’t really know what else to say about it, but here I am drinking a big latte (“Give me the biggest latte you have,” is how my mom often ordered at coffee shops) and I don’t know what I’m going to do with the rest of the day. I will probably do some drawing. Maybe see a movie. Have a really good dinner.
My mom was really good at birthdays. In our family we have the tradition of waking up the birthday person really early by singing happy birthday and bringing them breakfast in bed. I used to lie awake on my birthday morning, pretending to still be asleep, listening for that soft singing coming from down the hall..
Mama’s favorite breakfast was bacon (extra crispy), orange juice, and coffee.
My sister was born three days after my mom’s birthday in 1987. I was two and have vague shadow memories of the day which could just be impressions left by people telling me the story so many times. But I was there, running around the hospital room in my pink converse sneakers, holding the doll they gave me (Linda Lou) so that I had a baby too. “Mommy, let’s leave our babies here and go home now,” I have been reported as saying. Mama always called Phoebe the best birthday present she ever got.
I wish I could take my sister out for wine and chocolate today. I wish we could play cards and laugh and cry together and listen to the mountain sounds and watch our mom paint the sunset. But since we’re on opposite sides of the world right now, I’ll reach my arms out and we’ll hold the whole world and Mama will be the sky and all the people that love her will be part of it and we’ll all eat green chile and homemade tortillas and sing Long Black Veil. We’ll ask, “Do you want to have something or do something,” and she’ll reply “do something” so we’ll go to the movies or climb a mountain and dance all night drinking red wine (dry and cheap) or tequila (never waste good tequila) wearing skeleton dresses and long earrings and cowgirl boots (of course). We’ll wear straw hats and paint outside (en plein air). We’ll pop popcorn and each have our own bowls and paint our toenails and watch the Alice Neel documentary.
We’ll keep living and keep having birthdays and it’ll never be as good without her but we go on anyway. We’ll do the things we love. We’ll make our lives what we want them to be and use our own brains.
I love you Mama. Happy birthday.
I’m in the middle of a big project. When my mom first got diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 she started making a comic book. It was called The Adventures of My Left Breast, and chronicled her experience through diagnosis and treatment, her feelings and thoughts, frustrations and hopes. She wanted to make something out of what was happening to her, to be an active participant instead of a victim.
When her cancer came back in 2011, I started making comics about it from my perspective. I hadn’t fully processed it the first time, and wanted to document my own experience of what was happening. I’ve continued working on these comics since she died, trying to figure out the right format for this work, and now I’m making a big cancer comic book with my mom’s comics and mine together.
Looking through my journal and remembering all these moments and details while drawing them has been really healing for me. I feel like I’m working on a project with her. She made me promise I’d finish her comic book, and this feels like the right way to do it.
I’m making so many new pages! And I’ll post some new stuff as I go.
Her comic is called “Maldita” and here is the first one. If you aren’t already, I suggest you start following her so you can read them all.