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Tag Archives: family

Secrets in a box….

Photos of smiling strangers,

letters from the hospital where Grandmother was kept locked, and Christmas pictures

of us all, with you closing your eyes to it all.

I could see the secrets in you,

The secrets, the secrets, the secrets

multiplied like cells, grew like dark rabid dogs traveling in a pack

You fed the secrets and kept them from me, and made them strong.

My one visit with Grandma wasn’t at a nice, warm, home with a fireplace and cookies baking;

It was sitting with you in a hospital with locked doors, and when they brought her in, and then went out,

they locked the door again behind us.

She didn’t know us, and had pictures of someone else’s grandchildren.

You took them away, and slapped down pictures of Steve and me.

The secrets howled in my ears that day, but I was too young to know how to kill them.

Same trip, same memory…

My half-sister was in another hospital, and not allowed to leave. We visited, she whispered,

and we went home.

You let that one out when someone else asked you –

That secret went off wild, shrieking into the night.

We went home, across the country, and no one ever spoke of it again.

And the secrets were growling, and the secrets were fed.

I listened to the silence, and I saw the questions,

raw, hanging in the air.

And the secrets gobbled the questions.

Later, Dad with his everyday beer – and we all had the key to that secret

and no one took it off the chain.

The secrets, the secrets, the secrets

built up,  bulked up, muscled, and stomped around, daring us to tell them

and kill them.

I was a problem to be corrected, by diet, exercise, church.

I starved myself at 14, a prisoner of my own secrets.

And church, where I was offered up for your guilt

and went to Mass afterward, where I bathed  in your guilt as if it were my own.

The secrets, the secrets, the secrets,

sat at my feet while I said the words and crossed myself, and licked at my wrists when I splashed on the holy water.

Mother, I remember.

I remember you singing in the dark,

and screaming down the hall.

Your secrets died with you –

and I am now the host

to the ghosts.

dad 2

I got the call at Mom’s at quarter after seven that night; it was the hospital:

“Your father has passed away.”

I’m not sure what is worse, being told

or having to tell.

Cancer had been eating my father

for months, and now it was done.

He was not supposed to die so soon – there was so much more to do.

My mother walked around for months like half of her body had been ripped from her,

and I went numb, like the body will from too much pain.

Tonight, I walked my dog, and thought about the man

who taught me how to spell before any teacher had a chance, how to color (“You want to stay in between the lines; look at my arm, the color is all there”)

how to shoot baskets, and how to play blackjack before I got out of grade school.

This was a dad who built a well in the front yard (no water, but it was pretty), and a tree house in the back yard.

This was a dad who would sit with me at the kitchen table, and go over the names of all of the sports teams in each state, so that I knew there were New York Mets, Jets, and Nets, just for starters;

This was also a dad who would take me to the movies on Saturdays, who showed me the best way to wash dishes  (I’m still working on that one, Dad), and  who I learned so much about,  after it was too late to talk to him about it all.

Since I can’t ask you about it all, Dad, there’s just this to say to you –

You were all right, Dad – you did all right by me.

By the sea,

I think of them

sitting in a circle with me on the beach; Mom, Dad,

Steve, Naomi,

Grandpa Toma, Uncle Paul

and Asia.

We’re under sunshine,

on the sand

next to the best waves.

Summer always comes and goes too soon.

I think of absent friends and family;

it doesn’t matter which season comes next,

for me, the next one always comes without them.

The calendar means nothing here;  Summer does its big finish when it wants,

in a ball of fire,

and a puff of smoke

and bows out

giving it over to Autumn.

In a moment, you were here;

you weighed two pounds, and could fit in one hand; you grew, and suddenly

had arms that moved  just like your mother’s, and could throw a glance

just like your father –

This is what we don’t talk about, but we remember – you wanted to go to UC Davis

and be a veterinarian.

You loved to play basketball, and, like any good auntie would do,

I was teaching you my favorite sport – shopping, what else?

Once, we were out, and  you said you were looking for size zero;

I said we would need to go to the invisible clothing section.

That made you laugh, and your laugh made me happy.

We lost your mother when you were seven, in the same hospital where you were born, and

you did the thing that sad girls do; you got up, and went to school, and kept the big pain inside.

When your dad was still alive, the three of us would go to bookstores in the afternoon and read –

No way for you to escape the love of books; your parents and I were smitten with reading, and you would be, too.

Then, in a moment, your dad was gone, and we both walked around with more holes in our hearts.

And three years later, in a moment, you were gone, too.

In a hospital, in L.A., in a moment, with one wrong move, you were gone, too.

A slice of life in a moment – and we are left here,

and we sew the shreds together, but the seams can still be seen.

(Inspired by Sylvia Plath) –


Across the bridge,

I bring flowers, and sit on the ground with them

They talk to me without speaking – no judgment, nothing wanting.

I listen, and hear the past, and remember how it was when they were here, and how they helped me just by being here;

I would watch TV with them, and they would argue over who was in what show: “Was that Eddie Albert or Van Johnson?”

They would ask me,”No big plans?”


It was enough.

I sat like that then, and I sit like this now – no big plans, and it is enough.

Good visit, M and D.


Here’s what I learned about myself when I was growing up:

My mother – “Your face has character;” “How are you doing with your weight?;” “Is that how you wanted your hair cut?”

My dance teacher – “Your legs are too short”

My boyfriend – “If you gain weight, I’ll break up with you”

My junior high school journalism teacher – “Be careful, don’t hit your head on the ceiling” (after I had been published in the literary magazine in 9th grade)

My high school counselor – “Dance is so competitive, you might want to think about another career”

Here’s what I do about it now:

I dance every day;

I write and publish myself, myself –  and people read it, and tell me they like it; and even if no one tells me , I do it anyway, because I have to –

And Mom? I wish you were here so we could argue about my weight now…and you would be pleased to know that I don’t just have character, I am one – congratulations.

The prince from so long ago who said he would break up with me if I gained weight?

I dumped him on his ass;

thirty years later, it’s still the wisest thing I’ve ever done…

I’m here now, to say – none of you broke me;

I may be cracked, but I’m still going strong;