It was two days after Christmas, and I was tired of baked ziti. I know. What sort of a person gets tired of baked ziti? But three days in a row of it, and I needed to get out of the house and have something else for dinner. So we decided on a restaurant not far from my parent’s house in New Jersey and made the twenty-minute drive.
On the way there, we passed Wemrock Farms, a farmer’s market I’ve seen dozens of times in the last six months, but this time, all I could think about was Dad. The last time I saw him, we met at another restaurant near my parent’s house. It was a halfway point of sorts–he was coming from Staten Island after having flown in for a family party from Orlando, and I was driving in from PA and planned to go to the beach with my mom the next morning. It was June 2013, shortly after Jude turned 2.
It was a long lunch, and a good one. We had a nice time and a good chat. I worried about the way he looked, which was not well. He told me all about one of his favorite shows (Castle). I thought it was funny that he encouraged me to watch it, then spent much of the lunch spoiling the plot twists. But I didn’t mind listening to them.
He made it to NJ earlier than he’d expected that day, he told me, and so he drove over to Wemrock Farms for some apple cider donuts. Or was it apple cider? I wish I could remember.
Before we said goodbye, he asked me if I’d take a picture of him with Jude in the parking lot. I thought he’d want to come back to my parent’s house and was surprised that he didn’t. So I took a sweet photo of two of them, kissed him goodbye and went over to my mom’s house. In some small way, I am happy our last time together was so pleasant and special in it’s own, quiet way.
I didn’t know I would never see him again. In fact, when I got the news of his death, I was packing my things to visit with him during our stay in Disney. And these were all the things that flooded my mind as I turned down Wemrock Road. They’re painful, unexpected things that welled up in my eyes and my heart, but I pushed them down and away because I didn’t want to cry in a car full of people or at all, really.
The last time I saw my grandfather, it was a different matter entirely. Though he’d been diagnosed with stage four cancer the year prior, his Alzheimer’s disease had advanced, and he was in rapid decline by the end of August. Seeing him suffer was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, and I hated to say goodbye. I was leaving for a four day trip to Las Vegas, and my mom believed that I’d see him when I returned.
He wasn’t. And it was devastating. I wish I’d said more, and I think I’ll never forgive myself for it.
Photo credit: Amy Pinard Photography
I spent most of the Christmases of my life with my grandfather. I have a video from just last year of Jude playing catch with him. They’re both giggling uncontrollably, just totally enjoying one another. I don’t think I can watch it anytime soon, but I love that they met each other and loved each other so much.
It was a shit year. I’m sorry, but there’s no other way to say it. I’m happy to say good riddance to 2014, for the reasons above and some others. It was difficult and sad, and I’m still recovering.
But it wasn’t all sadness and loss.
In 2014, I was lucky enough to join the ComedySportz Rec League (competitive improv for amateurs), where I met the kindest, coolest, funniest people. We performed six shows together and learned so much, but the best part of the experience was the feeling of being genuinely accepted. I love the friends I met in the Rec League so much more than I can express, and I can’t wait to do it all over again. The confidence I gained from that experience lead me to perform in a Fringe Arts show (that I helped write and produce), take long-form improv classes (where I met more people I adore), and audition for an ensemble (and I am still shocked to say that I was cast).
I still can’t believe the opportunities improv has afforded me, and I am constantly in awe of the talented and hilarious people I get to meet and perform with on a regular basis. It is dream-kind of stuff for me, and it helps make everything better.
Though I didn’t do as much writing as I’d like, I did get help editing my novel from Betsy, and I have gotten tremendously helpful advice on my query letter from Carol and Robb. And I even made headway on a new novel that I hope to complete in 2015.
There were other high points, like running three 5ks with my dear friend Karin, and a story I told at a local story slam was published in a book. But best of all, Jude was funnier and sweeter and crazier then ever. I got to take him to Disney and to the beach, and we went on so many fun day trips together. Being his mom is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I look forward to continuing all the fun and laughs we have together in the new year.
Photo Credit: Devon Anne Photography
I am eager to begin 2015. Next week, I begin a sketch writing class, and the week after that, my house team premieres. On January 30th, I will see Jack White at Madison Square Garden. So, I’m cautiously optimistic.
No matter what 2014 brought all of you, I hope 2015 is joyful, prosperous, peaceful and so, so happy.