family, grief and loss, Inspiration, Uncategorized

The Working Title is….Trapped in a Love/Hate Relationship

I find myself being defined by the complexities of a love/hate relationship I simply cannot escape.

No, it is not a torrid romance with a fella. Nor is it in my relationships with family or friends. (love/love)  The love/hate is not found with food or booze (love/love) or exercise and clean living. (hate/hate)

My love/hate relationship is with the Gregorian calendar.

Every since I was young, I loved the order and structure the calendar provided our home. It served as an infallible guidepost hanging in the kitchen, directly next to the phone, with every family birthday and anniversary noted, every party, appointment and school activity logged, every holiday and vacation blocked.

When I became an adult, my head almost exploded when I first walked into the Franklin Planner store. It had the unmistakable magnetism of a fibrous-pulp crackhouse for any type-A, hyper-focused organizational freak like me. When technology amped up the game, I dove headfirst into life with a Palm Pilot, and I haven’t looked back since my iPhone calendar took things to the next level.

The first time I hit “add attendees” to alert my kids to scheduled dentist appointments on our shared Apple calendar, I wept tears of organizational joy.

I love seeing important dates in print, like my girls’ birthdays on a newspaper masthead. Heck, I get excited when I see my own birthday as an expiration date on milk in the grocery store.

Birthday Expiration Date

Our calendars are so much more than the here and now. They are as much a look into the future as they are a reflection of our past.

Ay, there’s the rub.

From mid-July through the beginning of September, my calendar serves a dual role as a painful diary.

Most everyone I know has one’s own personal “day that will live in infamy” where your life changed course forever. For me, those days are nestled in what is supposed to be the most leisurely, fun filled time of the year.

My mom died suddenly and unexpectedly on July 16th.  In each subsequent year, I would replay that day in my head…hour by hour…the call to get home as quickly as possible, standing at a payphone in O’Hare as an ER doc says “despite our best efforts..,” landing in Syracuse to face my Dad’s mournful gaze. It may sound self-destructive to be lost in such reverie, but I can’t help it.

Exactly fifteen years later, to the day, I sat in the hospital with my husband as they tried to diagnose the source of his uncontrolled pain. I thought, for sure, no bad news would come our way on this day that already had its ominous shadow hovering over my calendar, and yet, that very afternoon, we heard the words “cancer cells” for the first time.

Fast forward eight more years to the current year, and again on July 16, a pathology report returns with a melanoma diagnosis for my brother.

It defies understanding.

The beginning weeks of August always replay in my mind like a horrible movie flashing back to Pat’s final days. It’s a movie that I still don’t fully understand or even believe the ending. There is no dramatic goodbye scene, which only leaves the audience feeling woefully unfulfilled and forever at a loss. His absence continues to loom large. The heartache looms larger.

As my calendar flips to September, I remember keeping vigil at my Dad’s bedside. As he slipped from consciousness, I read countless prayers and bible verses to comfort this dear man for whom his Catholic faith was so important. As he continued to hang on, I moved on to Jewish prayers then Hindu, Sanskrit, Buddhist and Islamic. I guess I wanted to make sure we had all our bases covered. After 36 straight hours, I whispered in his ear that I was going home to sleep just a little in my own bed, and I would be back in bit. I hadn’t even yet pulled into my driveway when they called to say he had died. For whatever reason, he did not want me in the room when he breathed his last. I suppose he could finally rest in peace without me babbling in his ear.

For me, it is impossible to ignore these difficult days on the calendar. But they serve to remind me that I am a sum total of all my life experiences, the good days, the great days, the bad days and the devastating ones.

This morning, I went to mass to celebrate my Dad’s life on this third anniversary of his death. I could hear his voice in the reading. It was about God strengthening each of us through the Holy Spirit.

I was reminded that the Holy Spirit aims to bring us gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, courage, right judgment and wonder and awe.

A different day may call for a different gift.   We can only aim to have hearts open to receive them everyday…no matter what may be on our calendar.







12 thoughts on “The Working Title is….Trapped in a Love/Hate Relationship

    • Thanks Aunt MeMe. Forever grateful you and Jimmy made the effort to be with us after my dad died. We sure have our share of guardian angels! Miss you and hope all is well. xoxo 😘❤️


  1. Christine Chang says:

    I went to Mass this morning too, and heard that same Gospel.  And in amongst my prayers and the prayers of the faithful one of them must have been for your Dad.  And one for Fuzzy.  And one for You.  And one for the girls. May God Bless us all,Christie  Christine A. Chang (B) Principal Pacific Real Estate Partners, Inc. 700 Bishop Street, Suite 1902 Honolulu, HI 96813 808.524.5560

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Barb says:

    You are amazing and that touched my soul, Katie. It’s such a blessing that you are using your gifts to open the eyes of others. When my dad passed 2 months ago, I was by his side. I think my singing is what put him over the edge…lol. But for my mother, 12 years ago, I wasn’t there. It is so important for all of us to be okay with however those last moments happened. I know that isn’t what dictated my relationship with her even though the human part of me wanted to be there. I pray everyone finds some sort of peace in their losses even though the pain in many situations is greater. You have been through so very much! God is smiling down upon you and so is the rest of your family…especially Fuzzy!!! We miss him so much too!!!


    • Thank you, Barb. I know your guardian angels are watching over you just as mine are everyday. I had the nicest chat with Mike after the outing. Pat loved him so much. And you too, of course. We never left you two without face-hurt level giggles and, truth be told, Cinemax level shock and awe. Let’s PLEASE get together soon. xoxo


    • High praise from the person who challenged me to savor a variety of writing styles in an attempt to find my own voice. I’m still searching for it, but your continued encouragement means the world to me. xoxo


  3. Tricia Hannigan says:

    I feel so blessed I get these in my mailbox. Though I don’t know you personally I of course feel like I do. Thank you for sharing your God given gift of sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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