Tag Archives: Loss

Man in Mourning: Where Do You Put the Pepsi and the Pain?

It was nine years ago today that my fiancée Carla died.

The weeks immediately after her death were a blend of profound sorrow and emptiness.

Carla, who led a colorful and sometimes pain-filled life, used to joke: “Growth experiences are a bitch.”

Yeah, that about described it.

Looking back on those early months after her death opens a window unto my state of mind and how I was coping. Below is an excerpt from an email I wrote a little less than four months after she died.

I think of it as a meditation on a man in mourning.

March 18, 2007

Mom and Dad came up to help me go through Carla’s footwear (Imelda Marcos was such a rank amateur), coats, jackets, pants, sweaters, tops and her bling.

Mom also ably went through what we used to refer to as the “foofoo bathroom,” the one upstairs that I ceded to Carla and that she promptly turned into a “girlie” bathroom with all the perfumes, sprays, lotions and other female-y stuff to match.

Mom was able to fill something like nine black garbage bags with clothes and shoes to donate to charity. Wow, did Carla have good taste – albeit a bit weird at times — in clothes and accessories. Of course, that would match her taste in men! LOL

I came back to the house today after dropping Mom and Dad off at my sister’s and went into the foofoo bathroom. Sure, it’s the same but it is something less now.

Carla’s crazy, chaotic style of stocking the shelves has been replaced with organized groupings of stuff that’s worth keeping.

Her dresser, once a hodge-podge of décor is now a bunch of jewelry boxes, stacked.

And the closet? Devoid of her nutty, weirdly stylish array of clothes.


The sense of loss came back as if you were at the beach and had your back turned to the ocean and a wave crashes over you and knocks you down. You suddenly are below water, and then break through, cursing and wondering what the hell just happened.

And then it came back again: How dare she leave me and the boys? Who the hell did she think she was, not taking care of herself like that? Why didn’t she get to the doctor sooner?

So much for forward momentum.

And then came this: Come home from grocery shopping with the boys. Stowing the food and came across an open bag of her beloved Sun Chips. And with audible apologies to her, I took it and tossed it in the trash.

But then came time for Mike to help me put away cans of my soda.

And there they were: Two 12 packs of her goddamned Pepsi, squirreled away in a narrow little cabinet by the stove. The Pepsi that I was in charge of stocking in the fridge, the Pepsi that she would start the day off with a “pffffft” as she pulled back the can’s tab, the Pepsis she carried EVERY-friggin’-WHERE with her – doctor’s offices, fairs, shopping, you name it.

And so Mike asked such a simple, but profound question at that moment: What are we going to do with the Pepsi?

Damned Mike if I know.

Much in the same way I still have the cooler that was packed with her Pepsi on Nov. 6 – the day we headed to the doc’s and then the hospital – still sitting in the truck, untouched, unopened.

So, yeah, where do you put the Pepsi and the pain?

The answer I think lies in not mourning Carla’s death but continuing to celebrate her life.

She had no use for the pity pot and would probably kick my ass from here to next Tuesday if she thought I was wallowing in self-pity.

Doesn’t necessarily make it any easier, but there it is.

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More Than Just A Hat: A Story of Loss

I have never really been much of a hat wearer, even in the most Arctic of weather. It has to get really, really cold for me to want to risk getting “hat hair.”

But when the temperatures really do plunge, I have a special hat I trot out for the occasion.

Maybe once a season, I will wear what looks like a bear’s head.

The black fur sits snugly on my head and the bill features a bear’s eyes, snout and open, teeth-baring mouth.

hat 2

I’ve worn it proudly in public much to the mortification of my boys and to the astonishment of some of my co-workers. It’s a fun conversation piece.

It didn’t start out that way though.

My fiancée got it for me about 14 years ago at the gift shop at Bear Mountain in the Hudson Valley in New York.

I remember at the time being a bit peeved that she was spending so much money on it, given that I hardly wear hats to begin with, much less one that was so silly.

In my Teutonic view, this hat was an impractical indulgence.

But Carla bought it nonetheless. She had an aptitude for whimsy, for seizing the moment and for making the most  of it.

That, in turn, meant she had a way of busting me out of my shell and for helping me take myself less seriously.

This explains how there are photos of me with an owl perched on my shoulder leaning into my cheek (a birds of prey exhibit at a Fourth of July fair), how I got temporary tattoos (another country fair) and how we ended up celebrating Halloween like it was a high holy day, complete with Carla dressing up like a vampire.

Such was her spirit.

At one point, we bought a hat shaped like a birthday cake, complete with upright candles. In our home, whoever was celebrating their birthday had to wear that hat when it came time to blow out the candles on their cake.

Birthday hat

I have many photos of family and friends sporting that goofy hat.

But that bear hat –- that crazy, expensive, silly bear hat — far and away, takes pride of place.

One of my favorite photos of Carla is of her peering over her glasses, standing in front of our Christmas tree wearing that bear hat.

Carla bear hat

About six years after she bought me that hat –- on Nov. 30, 2006, to be precise — Carla died.

Though it’s eight years-plus since she died, and I have since then been extraordinarily blessed to be united with my best beloved, Meg, and to be married, I still grieve for Carla.

Weird, right?

So on the occasions that I bust out that bear hat, it reminds me of Carla.

It makes me smile, it allows me to fondly remember her and it makes me glad that she bought it over my misgivings.

That bear hat warms my head. And my heart.

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