The Only Things I’m Certain About

I’m certain about death and taxes, love and life, rainbow sprinkles and mashed potatoes.

I’m certain about death and taxes, love and life, rainbow sprinkles and mashed potatoes, and that I was handmade and homemade and home-grown to be a mama, writer, photographer. And I’m certain I’m even-tempered, but only as even-tempered as someone who is HIGHLY sensitive to the changes and the shifts, the tastes and the smells, the FEELS… oh, the FEELS – like fingernails lightly down your back, or staring into space for five minutes after an evocative episode of This is Us.

Ok, they’re ALL evocative. For me, it’s the doctor character. And William. Sweet, sweet William.

I’m certain about legacies.

Sometimes I feel it coming – these changing tides – even while they’re still being born and unfolding, and I have to type fast before they implode. Or I have to race to a computer or phone before I explode. Today is a mix, like sun and clouds.

I’m certain about loss and grief, but not about the paths they take. I’m certain we have to rise up to move through paths and waves, and probably not as seamlessly as we’d like. Life’s greatest challenge. I once wrote a piece about grief that has since disappeared, but I think of it every now and then. Since I can’t get it back, I can rewrite it and give it to you right here and now. So let’s ride the waves together. FTSF Topic: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes ..”


I once wrote that grief is like “the princess is in another castle” theme from Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. games.


Just when you have confronted demons, fought valiantly, been sucked through warp zones, and fought on in endless pursuit of fireballs, feathers, mushrooms, and frog suits, you arrive at the castle level to fight the next big bad buy. And you do it, and you do it in style. You fight so hard and so well, only to be rewarded with a simple message printed across the screen.

Super Mario Brothers

So then you leave to enter a brand new world – full of brand new demons, and one brand new big bad guy at the end of the castle at the end of this world. You defeat the brand new bad guy, only to be greeted with the same disappointing message.

When does it end? Where is your reward? Where is your princess?

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Eventually in the game, you get to the real end, you defeat the final bad guy, and you get your princess. For keeps, this time. It doesn’t work that way in real life, although we certainly do have our rewards – like learning to unlock new layers and worlds within your own heart and mind. And finding yourself to be stronger and smarter than you ever thought possible.

The problem is that grief doesn’t have a set endpoint – there is no final big bad guy you can defeat, and then expect to never be challenged again. You will most likely continue to unlock new levels and worlds – through warp zones and not – collecting gold coins and stars, new weapons and new rewards, only to find yourself once again at the doors of a gated fortress.

It’s disorienting, isn’t it?


My life has been full of such fortresses. After my father passed away suddenly from a heart attack when I was just about four-years-old, there was that first night without him. And then there were subsequent nights of resisting but having to let my sister and my mom out of my sight during day to day life. There were the weekdays that I waited for him to come home from work. There was the year following his death which I have mostly blacked out from memory. Therapy. A fear of loud noises.

A new home, a new dad and new siblings. A new school – the start of kindergarten.

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When I thought I was past a lot of my anxiety and grief, there were new challenges in young adulthood – going to college and falling in love. Moving several times. Becoming a mom to a girl who looked like me. And to a boy who reminded me of me.

A challenging time for me was being pregnant with Des – a baby due right around my father’s birthday. It wasn’t until Scarlet approached her fourth birthday that I began a new grieving process. My father had passed away three weeks before my fourth birthday, so I breathed a huge sigh of relief when that day passed, and we sailed through her fourth birthday party happily and whole. I then had a calmness I hadn’t thought possible, until a new trigger revealed itself – signing her up for kindergarten. I showed up on the first day of registration, as the first parent there, and my heart was pounding in my throat and my chest was constricting. How could I be back here – so far and so grown, but still shaking at the thoughts of change?

We defeated that bad guy, and now it’s Des’ turn for kindergarten.

Where is my next castle/challenge/bad guy? I don’t know what it will be and how it will hit me. I know I will probably live my life with challenges, but hopefully with gaining new skills, weapons and tools too. Moving through, as I also move on.

I’ll live my life fully and effectively, until I get the next message – “Great job, but your princess is still in another castle, and probably always will be.” And then I’ll stop, reassess my tool belt, add new weapons, and learn to move through.

This brand new world, until the next one comes along.

This week’s Finish the Sentence Friday topic is “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Come link up with your spin on the matter: HERE.

What are you certain about?

“Men Would Leave Their Wives For You.”

I just wanted to know if I looked all right.

It was my first time as a bridesmaid and I took my job oh so seriously, the way I do with any jobs of love. I dive in headfirst. We were waiting in the lobby and I was playing with my shawl. I wasn’t sure if periwinkle was really my color (it isn’t), or if I should have gone the professional route with my hair and makeup. My beautiful date was just trying to cheer me up. Did he say it in the lobby or at the end of the night? I only know that he said it and it stuck. After he took this picture of me:

Funny the things you remember, when you don’t know how to hold onto the more important things, because you think they’ll be there forever, or nearly, and a day. And you don’t know what will be the most important things anyway. They change.

I have a photographic memory, and a pretty good sensory one too. I remember the colors of the Orlando sky, on a February evening. I remember every breeze I’ve ever felt, I’m sure, and how it felt then in my curled bridesmaid hair. I remember telling him I felt like I’d never be happy again. I was at a wedding, sure, but only a week after a funeral. There were too many of the latter, and not enough of the former. I knew it wasn’t logical to say, but I couldn’t yet feel the alternative. Like a smile that doesn’t reach the eyes, it was a thought that didn’t fully reach the heart. I just missed my grandfather.

And my grandmother, who had already been gone more than a year. We lost my grandfather then too, in almost all ways.

The wedding wasn’t canceled or postponed, but my grandfather’s daughter was due to get married a week after he passed away. How I wish he could have been there to sail her down the aisle. “Stairway to Heaven” was there for that, and we were too. She met her groom later in life, after he already had grown kids, but they met just in time. My grandmother had been on her literal deathbed, not yet ready to let go, and he had said to her, “I’m going to marry your daughter.” The only thing bad about him, my uncle said of my aunt’s new groom, is his name. Steve. Was it an unlucky name in this family? A great guy in all ways, but named Steve. That was the name of my deceased father. The middle child, in between my uncle and aunt.

Instead of crying another river of tears, or drinking to oblivion, or getting anxious and strung out, I absorbed love in through my pores. The wedding wasn’t unremarkable. It had Led Zeppelin and love, and more love. My cousin’s yarmulke blew off his head in an upwards manner, but there wasn’t an open door or window, so we all just thought – magic? The other Steve? The bride’s parents – my deceased grandparents? What causes a yarmulke to fly upwards anyway? Maybe these are the questions you should ask yourself, and others. Instead you sing a little Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” and ask, “Do I look all right?”

Your date holds you, moves you, and says: “You look wonderful tonight. Middle-aged men would leave their wives for you.”

He wasn’t for people leaving their wives. He was quite against it, but he was trying to breathe life back into me when I couldn’t breathe it back in myself. It was enough breaths to smile and laugh and dance. And eat, of course. And meet the groom – my new uncle’s – twin sons and recognize them as family. Isn’t it funny that I wondered if I’d ever feel happiness again, after so much loss at once, in my more youthful days. It wasn’t even that long ago, not long enough not to feel it all over again. I mourn that 20-something girl who thought she’d never be happy again, because she was, 100 times over. She IS.

The best was yet to come. Do you know it still is? The worst was yet to come. Do you know it still is too? And oh, Steve. Had I known. What would I have done differently? We just saw you in February and I would have held on longer had I known, and I hope I did anyway, because we always know. We always know our time is limited. I just wish you had more time. You made my aunt so happy. I miss that day because love and innocence were so strong and tight that day, and now, it’s been over a decade. And what does love do? It grows upwards and closer together. I don’t mourn a decade ago. I mourn a week ago, when you were here. I mourn every time I don’t cry, because I think if I start I’ll never stop, and I’d drown this house and town.

We are learning to breathe above water.

When it comes to more youthful days, I wish I had let go, only to find that then I’d learn to hold on more tightly.

This is me linking up, as one of my favorite things to do, with Finish The Sentence Friday. This week’s timely topic is “When it comes to more youthful days…” And there’s still time to write yours. Come link up with your spin on the matter: HERE.

My uncle, Steve Salzman, passed away unexpectedly on Des’ birthday, Monday, June 13, and now there’s a new way to live – to fill this Steve-sized gap in our lives, and boy, it’s big. May you all hold your loved ones close tonight, and always.