And We Danced

I dialed the stereo up to 68, pressed play on my phone and we got to it.

I had had quite a day, nay, year, and I needed to get some things out. Bevan was off at a school board meeting but Sidney was home, stretched out on the sofa poking at some iDevice, the television set aglow in front of him.

"Will you do a thing with me?" I asked.

"Okay," he said.

We started with "Baba O'Riley" by The Who, taking things slow at first, stiff and smiling and uncertain, choosing each move with far too much care, but by the time we reached the bridge any order we were holding onto was set adrift, the music passing through our bodies like a storm, and we danced.

We danced in the living room and the dining room and the kitchen. We danced down the hallway and up the stairs. We danced through doorways and in front of windows. We danced to songs by Rex Orange County, Blink 182 and Calvin Harris. We danced by ourselves and together and with Ellie. We danced our heart rates rapid, jumping up and down, spinning sloppy circles and screaming the lyrics up at the ceiling, neither of us worrying about Jorge and Martín in the apartment below us, certain they'd understand.

We danced hard and fast, setting caution to the wind and fire to our feet. We danced into madness and joy, through heartbreak and pain. We danced for our lives, for time gone by and for the adventures that lay ahead.

We danced.

And we danced.

And we danced some more.

Finally, as the last note of "Mr. Brightside" trickled through the speaker above our heads we collapsed onto the living room rug, legs trembling, toes raw, chests heaving, rills of sweat slashing down our faces, and for a good long while we stayed that way, soaking in the silence.

We danced.

And I'm okay now.

This Beautiful Woman

There was a moment on Sunday afternoon when I was missing my mom so much I could hardly breathe. I was lying on the sofa flipping through pictures and videos of her on my phone and there was a clip, a year or so before she died, where she was trying to get Harrison to smile. Her voice was shot and her breathing was labored and after a few seconds I lost it.

For the next little while I laid there trying to remember my mom before she got sick. I must have a million memories of her healthy but on Sunday I couldn't think of a single one, and it broke my heart. After dwelling on that for some time I decided to do something about it. I picked my phone back up, clicked on her folder again and scrolled through the hundreds of photos I'd saved of her before ALS. I starred a handful of my favorites to print and of those five I agonized over which one I would get framed for the living room. In the end I decided on a photo of her blowing bubbles at my sister and brother-in-law as they left the church on their wedding day because she looks gorgeous in it and it's so completely her, my mom.

I sent the files off to be printed and later that evening while he was out running errands Bevan offered to pick them up. On his way home he sent me a text message that let me know I had made the right choice.

I told Kari about the pictures over FaceTime tonight and her response was, "I love that because that's exactly what your mom would have done."

It's true, she would have.

Now when I make my way around the house I see my mom everywhere, standing outside a bakery in the Mission District, snapping a picture of a sunset in Italy, posing with my dad and I on a summer evening near a park in our hometown, and in every photo she's herself, happy and healthy and smiling, which is how, from now on, I will choose to remember her.

The Last Word

While I was home on a visit a few months ago I asked my mom if there was anything she wanted me to say on her behalf to wrap up the eulogy portion of her funeral celebration and today, in front of eight or nine hundred people at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Muskegon, Michigan, I shared the words that we came up with.

Enjoy the hell out of your life. Enjoy every single moment. Go do things, preferably outside. Put your toes in the sand and your feet on the grass. Feel the rain beat down on your face. And if you can help it, don't ever miss a sunset. Hug your loved ones, every chance you get. And take risks, big fucking risks. And for god's sake laugh. And dance. And try to worry a little bit less. And lastly, and most importantly, live simple and love like crazy.

On Today's News

This morning in a place where laws are made a handful of people in robes decided that men can marry men and women can marry women in every single part of this big and beautiful country that I live in and my Facebook and Instagram and Twitter feeds exploded with rainbow-colored messages of hope and love and pride and I was happy and I liked a lot of things and I favorited a lot of things and as I got under the covers tonight in the guest bedroom of my parents' house in the small town that I grew up in I thought about how, for a great long time starting when I was very young, I was at war with myself because I knew that I was different and I didn't know anyone else who was the same kind of different and I didn't want to be different in this way and so I hid it for years and years and years and then one day too many years down the road I decided that I couldn't hide it anymore and I told someone and then I told another someone and another and another and another and soon every someone that I loved knew this thing about me that made me different and every someone that I loved still loved me back and suddenly I wasn't at war with myself anymore and I felt lighter and a great many things felt easier and I started to think about my future in ways that weren't sad or scary but happy and hopeful and so now, on days like this one, when anything and everything seems possible, I'm reminded of that sad little boy who carried so much hopelessness around in his heart and I get overwhelmed for a moment as I recall the dread and the fear and the tears and the wasted time and the worry and then I take a breath and remember that because of days like today some other little boy from a town just like mine will grow up never hating a great big part of himself so much that he's scared to tell even the people who love him most and my heart glows for that little boy and for the little boy that I was and I guess all I'm trying to say is I'm very lucky to live in a place where I can be different and gosh today was a really good day.

Scenes From a Time in Autumn

I want to remember this week forever. I want each and every detail of the past five days to return to me just as they happened, to spill over me fully in crystal-clear vignettes of crisp gray mornings and warm blue afternoons spent in a simpler place with the people I have always known. I want to be able to call upon these memories whenever I need them.

My nephew Harrison at eight months old, bald and toothless, the tip of his nose reddened from a cold caught during his first weeks at daycare, leaning into my side in the big chair near the window as I read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" to him once and then twice and then a third time while he slaps lightly at the pages and makes soft sounds, looking up at me with wide eyes and a wet grin before falling slowly to sleep, his head in my lap.

My mom and I standing on a sand-blown sidewalk near Pere Marquette Beach, my hands on her shoulders, the dunes at our backs, watching kitesurfers float in warm October gusts above cresting cerulean waves before drifting back to the surf, their kites—fluorescent greens and yellows—carving slow circles in a cloudless blue that spans forever.

Pushing my mom's wheelchair down a leaf-strewn path in Beechwood Park, Harrison asleep in his stroller, the rows of ancient oaks blocking the sky with their canopy of orange and red and yellow and we stop to take pictures, attempting to capture a single falling leaf or a lasting burst of yellow, faces from the neighborhood nodding greetings as they pass.

Sitting on a leather ottoman in the middle of the living room, the sounds of Broadway musicals from another era playing softly from the stereo, the evening sky dimming over the lake while my mother and I look through old photographs until so much time has passed that I have to get up and turn on table lamps so we can continue.

Smelling dad's stir fry from the kitchen table, candles lit, drinks poured, my siblings and their partners and I laughing with one another, teasing each other about the young things we did long before we called places like Chicago and Dallas and San Francisco home, Harrison asleep in a blanket and the dogs asleep at our feet, exhausted from play.

Gripping my father's hand in the darkness as I pass by his chair to tell him I love him on my way to bed, the sleeping sounds of my mother audible from the couch beside him.