The Day I Started Quoting Chicago Songs


I was feeling pretty defeated by Friday night. I went to bed, telling my Google assistant to play “Clair de Lune” as I slid beneath the covers, every ounce of my body exhausted, my mental energy eviscerated. You know you’re pathetic when you fall asleep to your late husband’s funeral music.

A barrage of sad thoughts did a landslide over my consciousness this past week. I’ve been mulling around in this state of mind for the last several days. I don’t always know what exactly triggers it, but it comes, like waves. These are baby waves compared to what I’ve experienced in the last two years. I can handle them. But they are still there.

Maybe it was the Fourth of July. I find holidays are difficult. I was remembering that time we were in our backyard together, bbq-ing, watching the kids splash around in their kiddie pool, our flag flapping around in a cool July breeze, all of us completely oblivious that everything would change by the next Fourth of July. Holidays are for families. Even in the best of mental circumstances, they manage to set off my triggers. It isn’t as traumatizing as the first couple of holidays as a widow and single mother, but there’s still a nagging void. Even listening to the stupid fireworks go off for hours. Those things are meant to be experienced together; they are supposed to represent joyful times, celebration, and happiness. Instead, they remind me of my exile.

I’ve been thinking about my upcoming trip to Israel. My late husband, Kenneth, wanted to bring Johnnie Walker to my cousins who hosted us for dinner when we visited four years ago. Kenneth was so impressed with the Arab hospitality that he vowed to bring back bottles as a thank you. I realized that I needed to buy some to pack and deliver to my cousins, from Kenneth. Since he couldn’t do it himself. And that made me sad. It’s just one of the many times I pause and think, shit, this is so unfair. Why did I have the shittiest cosmic roll of the dice? Why did Kenneth get this shitty fate? Why do I have to make these great trips alone now? Why am I stuck cleaning up the messes of three young children all day with no parental support? Why? Why? Why? Of course it never helps to go down this rabbit hole. It doesn’t fix anything. I vacillate between thinking it’s better to not think about it and that I should keep it all in, to believing it’s healthy to let it out every once in a while. Still, in the moment it feels gross. I give myself until the next morning to dwell in this emotional swamp, and then I cut myself off.

I was thinking about my visit with my grandma. My 94-year-old grandmother. How much longer will we have her? Each visit involves witnessing her age a little more. Loss of feeling in a finger. Slower moving. Walker-just-in-case. Definitely-need-the-walker-now. Tired. Losing weight.

I remember my grandparents coming to the courthouse during my senior year of high school to watch my Mock Trial competition. It feels like just yesterday, but also like maybe it never happened. Or maybe that’s me trying not to think about it too hard, because it hurts to remember memories that involve people who are no longer here.

I started visiting my grandparents almost 20 years ago when they moved back to California from Texas. Back then I was young, single, and a student. I would spend the night at their house and bring my homework along. My grandfather woke up early to buy orange juice and bagels for me, and he’d have it all sitting out on the kitchen table that my grandmother would later give me for my first apartment when she left that house after Grandpa passed.

I watched my grandfather pass away in his hospital room 13 years ago. My grandmother is the only grandparent I have left, and the thought occurred to me that perhaps I better start mentally preparing myself for the day when I won’t have a grandparent anymore, although I’m hoping Grandma is healthy and able to live much longer. I’m not ready for that yet. We’re never ready.

I remember visiting my grandmother with Kenneth. It was probably a lot to ask of my boyfriend (later my husband) to make the two hour trek each way to sit around chit chatting with my grandmother, but he did it dutifully. He would bring his magic set and do tricks for her. Disappearing coins. Mentalism tricks, where he would “read” her mind. She looked forward to them, and sometimes I felt like she enjoyed his visit more than my company. When he passed away, she was genuinely sad. I had never seen her sad before. Not even when we watched my grandfather pass away in that hospital room. We had visited her two days before Kenneth passed away. He had done tricks for her. He drove us home; we talked for two hours through L.A. traffic. It was an ordinary Sunday, and an ordinary visit with the family. Maybe my grandmother felt what I felt during that time: the odd realization that one day a person can be here, laughing, talking, performing magic tricks next to you, and the next day in the most unsuspecting second of our lives, that same person can be stone cold on a hospital bed. Just like that.

I guess I’m feeling a collision of emotions. Sadness that I’m about to go on another journey without Kenneth, to a place he wanted to go back to. Sadness that someday I won’t have any living grandparents. Sadness that life is so fleeting. Sad because Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” is playing and it’s making me sad. I’m also sad that I’ve been reduced to being the kind of person who listens to Chicago outside of a department store.

Perhaps I should be grateful that I’m feeling this way. That I remember how impermanent life is. These feelings are still so close to my heart, and it makes me hyper-feely. It helps me live more fully. Through the pain, I can enjoy life with more depth and gratitude. Each blow in life is less crippling when we know what to expect. It’s not all bad, but it does ruin my Ice Queen reputation.

To make this post more terrible, I will end it by quoting a cheesy Chicago song:

When you love somebody
‘Til the end of time
When you love somebody
Always on my mind / No one needs you more than I
When you love somebody
‘Til the end of time
When you love somebody
Always on my mind / No one needs you more than I

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