Like a dagger, or a whisper

Recently, something happened that touched me, pleased me, and broke my heart all at the same time. A girl wrote me… well, let’s be honest, a woman wrote me, a woman my age, which is why I wrote girl just now… when will I start perceiving myself and my contemporaries as the old fogies we are rather than the adolescent I believe myself to be? Yet that is neither here nor there.

So this woman wrote me an email, she’d been reading my old blog, moomser, and was asking if I’d moved elsewhere, so I redirected her here. I asked a bit about her and the email that followed broke my heart and made me cry. Actual, literal, tears.

Many moons ago I wrote a post titled “There, but for the grace of God” ( , take a minute to read it if you’re up to it, because nothing I’ve experienced so far has once brought me that feeling of having barely avoided tragedy so much as the email I received a few days hence. This woman who wrote me, she could have been me, or rather I could have been her; her situation was so similar, so similar and yet, as she says herself, so different. And reading her email, it made me ashamed, because for months, for years, even now, I concentrate on the consequences of The Husband’s illness, and there are still many, but at the end of the day I still have a husband, my children still have their father. And she does not.

I cannot even imagine, my brain refuses to imagine, how that feels.

I’m going to be brutally honest for a minute here, please don’t judge me too harshly…. there are days, in fact, there are entire weeks, where the Husband and I don’t get along, at all, and I have more than once entertained the thought that my life would be easier if he had died. Yes. I actually just wrote that. Out loud, as it were. I can barely bring myself to reread the words. Not my children’s lives, of course, I would never wish something like that on them, but my life, yes. At times I’ve though that had he not survived the illness then I would have mourned for him, I would have grieved, it would have been unspeakably difficult, but I would have healed and moved on, as I’ve seen countless people do. I would not be fighting to fit this new person I am married to (because the illness has inevitably changed him) into a box shaped like my old husband. The leukemia and all that came after changed him, as it changed me, but sometimes it’s hard to be married to a person so different from the person you married. So I’ve (callously) wondered “what if” in my darkest moments. And now I feel ashamed.

The email I received was in no way self-pitying, it was upbeat, engaging and she spent more time talking about the similarities between our situations than the differences, but the differences are what broke my heart. I cried for this woman I’ve never met and I cringed at all the posts I’ve written complaining about the Husband for this and that other reason. Because I still have a husband, and my children still have a father, and that is a much bigger blessing than I often realize.

Over the years I’ve been contacted by several women in my, or similar, situation, but I’ve gradually moved away from the illness and that period in my life and I’ve lost touch with most of them. Although I still wonder about each and every one of them, how they’re faring, how their stories continued… but this last woman, well she touched me in a way few people have in my life, because, well, truly, there but for the grace of God go I.

All this to say, every time I get a comment or an email from a reader, it teaches me something about life, about love, about death and sorrow and pain, but also hope, and happiness and health, it touches my heart like a dagger, or a slap, or a whisper, or a caress, but it never, ever leaves me indifferent. So thank you. Thank you for reading, thank you for writing, for reaching out, thank you for being a part of my life.

Up, up, and away!

I wrote this Tuesday May 28th, but only able to publish now…

It’s a funny thing leaving your kids and flying across an ocean. Last year, right about this time, I wrote a post, much like I’m doing right now, on an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean. Last time I was going to Brazil by myself to see my ailing grandmother (who has since blown out 103 candles on yet another birthday). The Husband and the Nanny were home with the kids, and though a bit nervous and guilt wracked at leaving the kids behind, one parent was home so I was pretty fine and ready to enjoy myself on the five-day trip. This time I’m flying to New York with the Husband, and I no longer have a Nanny. My kids are with their Nonni (paternal grandparents) and right before leaving for the airport I found myself handing my mother in law an envelope containing my will, a video for the kids, and instructions on their caregiving should they find themselves orphaned.


My parents travelled a lot when I was a kid. They travelled both with and without us, and they went all over the world. When they flew with us we all travelled together, when they flew without us they took separate planes. It was very matter of fact. They wrote their wills early on, they nominated a guardian for us, they took care of things. It must have been hard for them, but it was very normal for me. We knew about it, and it wasn’t weird.


So when the Husband asked me to go to NY with him for a few days, I immediately started thinking about the things I needed to do, not just the packing and the organizing, but the taking care of things. We’d been talking about it since The Boy was born, but I’m a world-class procrastinator and he’s Italian (that’ll become relevant in a minute) so it just never got done. When one travelled the other was home, and we know exactly what the other expects of us should anything happen. This time, though, we had no excuses.


Writing my will wasn’t hard. It was actually quite simple and straightforward. The hard part was thinking about what we’d want to happen to our kids. Have any of you had to think about this before?

Ideally, we would have liked young guardians so we went through all our siblings first… apart from the fact that we are total opposites on the religious, political, and quite possibly moral front, my brother is unmarried and still living the simple, single, lifestyle. Also, I’m not a huge fan of his girlfriend so his taste in what would presumably be my children’s mother figure did not bode in his favor. My other half-siblings are all in their fifties and their kids are all in their twenties and leaving home. I can’t imagine they’d want to have two preschoolers fall in their laps right when their getting ready to finally start enjoying some peace, quiet, and independence again. I don’t think I’d want my ability to travel at the drop of a hat and go out to dinner somewhere with tablecloths rudely taken away from me after twenty years of deprivation right at the finish line, would you?

The Husband’s siblings are more age appropriate but his sister is the one who wants to send us her teenage daughter to raise, so that doesn’t fill me with confidence, and his brother is… well… kind of an asshole.

And friends are always a tricky option when you have families as large as ours. So we were in a bit of a bind…

We finally settled on a joint, both physical and financial, guardianship of the two grandmothers. The kids have an awesome relationship with my MIL, and even though she’s older than my mom we think she’s a better option for when they are little, with the clause that they go live with my mom when they’re teenagers (unless they strongly object to this themselves).


Reading all this you’d think we were on death’s door. Of course we’re not, and we have a higher chance of kicking the bucket whilst driving than flying, but I guess it was as good a time as any to start thinking about it. But let me just say that it was absolutely, bar none, the hardest thing I’ve had to do. Ever.  Having to sit down and actually think about and imagine my children’s lives without me was enough to make me want to surgically reattach them to my body and never, ever let them free.

And it made me realize just exactly how precious, how absolutely, unquantifiably, important they are to me.


Doing all this also made me feel a little weird. In Italy people do not talk about death. At all. I remember when the Husband got sick, I casually told his mom that he needed to let me know what he wanted in case something went wrong and she completely freaked out on me, it was strange and pretty much incomprehensible to me, because my parents had always been absolutely straight forward and matter of fact about this stuff. When my dad died we all knew exactly what he wanted without even needing to read his will, this made things easy for us and avoided much pointless arguing. Of course this time was no different, I called my mom and told her about my will and what was in it, and all she said was to write the kids a letter to read when they got older (this being the digital age, I left them a video), my MIL, visibly tensed, got tears in her eyes, and told me to stop talking. This morning before we left she took me aside, showed me a secret drawer and said I should put “those things” I mentioned in there, and then shot off like a cat on fire.


It’s fine, we did what we had to do, and now I hope to enjoy the four days the Husband and I have in NY together. He’ll work some, I’ll shop loads, my mom is joining us there, the kids are having fun with their Nonni, whose action packed schedule for the week rivals anything the  Disney franchise could possibly come up with for coordinated family fun. And the small, innocuous looking, white, in case I’m gone, envelope sitting in the “secret drawer” has ensured my piece of mind.


Now tell me, have you done this? Thought about it?

On death and dying

This has been a strange week, what with the Boston Marathon and West, Texas, and I know I should probably be writing about that, but something else happened and it’s what stayed at the forefront of my mind.

On Wednesday, I had to go sign some documents with The Husband for the never-ending saga that is the house reno, and since we were done early we managed to get a rare, quick, lunch together. We were chatting about his brother’s baby’s christening that’s in a few weeks, planning travel (it’s in Milan) and dinner out with our friends and whatnot, and I remarked on the fact that I thought his brother would have asked him to be the baby’s godfather, whereas they decided to ask the other uncle and our niece. And The Husband’s matter of fact answer was that they made the better choice since his life expectancy wasn’t very good, and then he went right back to eating his sandwich.

I was kind of shocked and speechless by his answer. I was also surprised to be shocked and speechless. I know his life expectancy isn’t very good. He signed dozens of documents when he was undergoing treatment that stated that he understood the risks of chemo, and radiation therapy, and the transplant and blah, blah, blah. He’s been on some heavy duty drugs for the three years now. We know. But, since he’s always seemed so removed from his illness, he always seemed to do everything the doctors told him, but without ever truly thinking about it, he seemed to ignore the illness and his recovery in a sense, I always thought he avoided thinking about all the negative implications.

It shocked me because I had never really thought about the fact that he lives his life with the uncertainty of seeing his children grow up, with the thought that at some point, some possibly not too distant point in the future, he’ll leave me a widow and our children orphaned.

It shocked me to imagine that he doesn’t think he’s going to be around very long.

How do you live like that?

The leukemia is in remission, he should be relieved, he should be looking forward and thinking about his future, instead with every handful of pills he takes every day, twice a day, he thinks that his life expectancy isn’t very good.

I realize I’m not saying anything new, we were aware of this, but I never really thought about it, about how it impacted him (ridiculous, since he’s the one it’s impacting daily). It just made me really sad for him, to think that this is how he lives his life, with Damocles’ sword overhead. So with tragedy and death all around us these days, this is what I’ve been thinking about, the uncertainty of life and the gift each day that we have really is.

Monday Listicles – the macabre one

I can hardly believe that the only thing I wrote on the blog the entire week was Stasha’s Monday Listicle. Well at least I’ve got something to keep me writing; it’s like a compulsion, but not a scary obsessive one.This week’s listicle inspired by Mannahattamamma, based on Nora Ephron’s list of what she will miss and what she won’t, is a teensy bit macabre, yet also, right up my alley, as I’m always thinking of what would happen if I were to shuffle off this mortal coil.

Ten things I wouldn’t miss

1. Traffic

2. Rude people

3. Dirty bathrooms

4. Bad TV

5. Listening to people talk in the morning

6. Shoveling snow

7. Sweating

8. Ticking clocks

9. Fear

10. Spiders and Cockroaches

Ten things I would miss

1. My loves: the Boy, the Girl, and the Husband

2. My family

3. The perfect yoga lesson

4. The feeling of possibility and hope

5. Driving with loud music

6. Dancing

7. The sea

8. Books

9. Good TV

10. Dreams – awake and asleep

Ah, the hell with it, I couldn’t stop at ten:

11. Nutella

12. Snuggling in my bed

13. Kisses – friendly ones, slobbery baby ones, passionate ones, tentative ones, loving ones, even perfunctory ones.

14. The perfect peace of when I’m alone, doing my thing, late at night, no one to see, nothing to do.

15. Autumn leaves

16. Thanksgiving

17. Seeing my children turn into adults

I could go on and on with the things I would miss, but the more I write the achier I feel in my chest. Honestly, I think the worst thing that could possibly happen to me would be to know I’m dying ahead of time, it would be torture, hell on earth. In fact, I think I’d probably miss the things I wrote I wouldn’t miss too! On the one hand I’ve always thought I’d want to know, so I could prepare my loved ones, so I could tie loose ends, so I could write letters and give advice and direction where needed, but really no one can actually do those things. Better to just go suddenly, poof. But of course, as the Husband’s illness taught us, we have no control over these things, we die when we die and we live while we’re living. And we write lists on Mondays.