Category Archives: family

Ill of the Dead


The first thing I told the ER nurse,
was that you were too much of an asshole to let
something like a stroke take you down.
Except, they don’t really tell daughters
in the middle of the night,
how bad the hemorrhaging is.

I am not sure how to speak ill of the dead.
I only wish that besides the air they pumped in through
your trach, and the fluids they pumped through the iv,
the meds that flowed through your central line,
they could have also dripped in forgiveness.

I would stand on your left side,
to be out of the way of nurses
but you couldn’t feel me there.
So I would brush the sweat off your forehead,
and will the fever away.

If only intention was all it took-
because there was enough stubborn between the
both of us to fill that 8×10 hospital room.

But, cantankerous does not fix the entire paralysis of
one’s left side, does not stop the shutting down of kidneys
or cease the bacteria from becoming pneumonia.

But it will wake you from a sleep that has lasted twenty-six days.

Shook your hospital bed,
pounded it on it with my insignificant fists,
and goaded you into one more fight.
Yelled at you with the only voice I had left.

It took you only twelve hours to answer back.
Looked me sideways in the eye,
and showed me you were done.
Asked for every tube, line and iv,
to go away.

And when I leaned on my little brother,
What do we do now?
I’ve been fighting with him my whole life,
I’m not going to today. 

ICU moves slow – has its own timezone,
except when there is no more time left,
and then you’re looking for just one more second.

When they shut down the machines
I thought it would be quick –
But Pops, you were waiting for something,
and it wasn’t old hyms for me to sing,
or Willburys’ tunes
or even one last brush of the forehead.

Sixteen hours through the night,
till they said, you didn’t have to be in that little room anymore
because this was a room to make you well –
So we wheeled you off to the light of hospice –
A room with great windows,
Pine trees almost like home-
and there was sun.

I kept singing, held your left side,
useless as it was. Amazing Grace,
how sweet the sound –
your mother taught me that one –
then Sang the other
one the one you walked me down the aisle to.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night.
take these broken wings and learn to fly
all your life.   You were only waiting –

It is hard to speak ill of the dead,
but with your last breath,
and single tear,
And how I stood so damn brave,
didn’t crumple,
till you were long past gone
Old man, you must know-
I am long past forgiveness now.

From Gram, January 8, 1945


A letter to her sister. Thinking about Gram as a twenty year-old woman is hard. I get this image but she always has grey hair. That every image of her from that time is the obvious black and white, doesn’t help. You can tell in the pictures of her as a peanut sized person with her twin brother, that she is so blonde, but in my head grey hair always. At lunch, after Pop’s funeral, one of my Dad’s first cousins pulled me aside. Read the rest of this entry

About my Grammy-


This week Grammy would have turned eighty-eight.  If you know anything about me, you know I loved my Gram with all that I had. When she moved into Pop’s house a few years back – my childhood room, became hers.  On Memorial Day weekend, I sat in our room, that was now a mix of both of us- her bed, my shelves- her pictures, my teenage scrawl still tucked in the closet.   Read the rest of this entry

All Growns up and you’re all growns up.


I’ve known most of these folks, you know besides the little ones, for more than ten years now. A couple for way longer than that. And now, these people who used to be my roommates – now we’re all sitting around with babes in arms – and man how the time flies. The thing that never changes though – is how much I freakin’ love everyone in this picture.

Day is done, gone the sun . . .


It is because of my two nephews, two uncles, two cousins and father-in-law-  because of both my grampas, my gram and of course my father who loved a good Army story, that I celebrate the work of veterans.  It is for the great-grandfather I never met, and the great, great, great, great-uncle, and for the great, great, great, great, great, great-grandfather, who served this county, even before its inception that I take the time to write.  My family members have served in all branches of the military save the Coast Guard, and have served in nearly every major war and police action since the Revolution.  My father-in-law used his time in the Navy, after Korea, but long before Vietnam, as his path to citizenship.  One grandfather left high school to join the Navy during WWII, and the other was in the Navy for WWII, but would reenlist in the Army for Korea.  My father believed the world was ending once, but it was only a test. And my grandmother, she joined during the War because “somebody from the family had to”.

For Gram service to country was as easy as that, barely a second thought.  I don’t know that in the entirety of my life I have ever met a person with more patriotism than her.  When at her funeral, the service members played taps, folded her flag, and handed it to my grandfather with the thanks of a grateful Nation, I couldn’t help but think that more than the eulogies said by me, or my aunt, or any one of the three ministers who officiated my gram’s service, that this this gesture, this was the most fitting and touching of all the tributes paid to her.

. . .All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

In the middle of –


In the middle of everything when Kai is making little snack sized sandwiches with his pepperoni and his cheese and his crackers-  When the radio is playing, just four songs apart, both the songs I had chosen for the DVD I made to play at the funeral home.  When the Giants beat the Pats, when it seemed that they just couldn’t.  When I am cooking your chili just as you would have, except, I put way too much cayenne pepper  on the steak I am browning.  It was in the middle of all those moments, when it was as if you were just off to the side, nearly present, like stuck in the shimmer of the transporter beams we used to spend Saturday nights watching together.  It is in those moments, the ones where you’re almost here – but just not, that I miss you something terrible. Because I can almost hear your giant laugh, almost feel your giant bear hug, but only almost, and it’s not nearly enough.

Live Blogging my Mama Insanity – part two


Keegan lasted two minutes in his cape.  “No fly no more mama.”

Kai says, “what happened to Perry?”

Mommy wants to go back to bed.

Russ and I have been brainstorming. My idea – throw all Halloween gear in a pile – let kids build their own costumes.  But then, I can’t help lamenting the sweet platypus tail I made last night. Read the rest of this entry

Rambling on the 25th of August


My grandmother and her twin brother were born on her sister’s birthday in 1924.   In 1956 (’55?), my grandmother gave birth to her fifth son.  Whole lot of Niederwerfers on the 25th of August. Five summers ago, when she would have been 82, and just showing her age, my dad drove Gram and Grampa up here to visit me, and have some lunch in my new-to-me-house.  After lunch we went to get ice cream, something if you’re a Bernier, you just do, as if you just tie your shoes, and drove up a river road, that while fifty miles north of where Gram grew up, looks a whole like that place.  I told my family about the floods and hurricanes of  ’38, ’39 and ’55, and how the dykes were built later to prevent a whole lot of flooding of my town and the one we used to be part of across the river.  Well, a part of, until the folks on this side got sick of crossing the river to go to church, so they built their own, you know 340 years ago. Read the rest of this entry

Out of my system.


Ten days after I got back to MA, ten day after my dad’s memorial service, the message came that Gram was about to pass. And for eight weeks, I had thought I was going to be okay with that message, that after everything we had gone through – I was going to be okay with that message.  But I wasn’t, and ten days after I had been home in MA, I was packing up and heading to CT. Again.

An aside-

-there about fourteen stories I have to tell you in this one post to get to the ending, so please hold on, I’ll get there.

When Papa was in the hospital – I had a lot of new CT area code numbers in my phone.  And one day when I meant to dial my mother – I dialed my grandfather. Read the rest of this entry