I was talking to a friend who was concerned that his daughter has not sufficiently grieved the loss of her mother. After four years, I wondered about my own kids and I asked him, “What would it look like for her to grieve now?”

Neither of us really had an answer. The obvious answer is being sad and angry and nostalgic about direct memories of the person you are grieving. But I know that’s just a part of it and with kids who are growing and changing and involved with the now so much, there are fewer of those outright connections.

The answer I’ve come to is the simple one: it’s all grieving. It sounds extreme, and I admit I came to this because really I can’t always know what is and isn’t grief in my children. Also, it all feels like grief to me. So I add a little perspective and acknowledge that there is a lot of grief in growing up. In our household grief for the loss of Matt is naturally woven into the experience. I’ve come to see that grief itself is the mechanism we humans have to work on ourselves.

Curly Hair

I was resting, half asleep, half dreaming. I started thinking of the first time that I kissed Matt. I don’t remember very much more about it than the circumstances. I had been hanging out with Matt a lot and it was pretty clear that he was interested in being more than friends (he did try to kiss me first.) I thought about it and decided I would date him. To let him know, one evening when we were hanging out in his dorm room, I leaned in and kissed him. I remember his dorm room and I remember his curly hair. It’s such a vague, fleeting memory, like a fairy, except for the curly hair.

So why was I thinking about this as I sat in the piano studio waiting while the kids had their lesson? I have been grieving some things this summer and I started wondering what it must have felt like for Matt to have me kiss him. He was pursuing me, and at that moment he caught me. I wonder what it was like for him to be in love and how it affected what he did and felt when I wasn’t there.

Pasta and Penmanship

I was making spaghetti and forgot to set the timer for the pasta. Spaghetti is the one dinner I make out of a jar, because that is how Matt always made it. I remember he used to make spaghetti in his dorm room in the microwave with just pasta and a jar of sauce so I learned from him. He always cooked when we had spaghetti which was about once every two weeks. I remember him draining the fat into the sink with the pasta lid over the heavy skillet. But the memory that forgetting the timer brought to me was Matt testing to see if the pasta was done, another trick I learned from. I can see him fishing out a strand of pasta and pinching it into two to see if it was cooked through or if their was a raw center. Then he would eat the piece of pasta.

After we ate the spaghetti tonight, Cole was writing a list of words at the dinner table. I realized that he has the same mannerism in his penmanship as Matt did. Matt’s handwriting was not super legible and he always wrote in print. With some letters, like ‘e’, he had a flourish of motion at the end. It wasn’t anything you could see in the written letter, just a kind of swipe of his hand as he finished as one who is racing to the finish line requires a space to slow down even after he’s crossed it. Cole does just the same thing although his handwriting looks different and he begins the letter from the middle as we’re taught rather than from the bottom as Matt did.

Movies 2

Contemplating having the Netflix envelope in my hand again brings up so many things. We used to watch a movie almost every weekend, sometimes two. Matt loved movies. He handled the Netflix queue so it was always a bit of a surprise to find out what we’d be watching. He loved his theater room so much. He loved curling up next to me on the couch to settle in and watch a movie. I often get serious chills of excitement before watching a movie and I had to explain to him early on that I wasn’t cold; it was just nerves. There were movies we loved. There were movies I felt like I had better spent the time doing something else. In the past three years, I don’t think I’ve watched more than about 15 non-animated movies. I don’t have anyone to watch movies with and it is such a big deal to watch a movie. It is almost as big a deal as sleeping in the bed by myself.

So here I am anticipating the Netflix envelope. I took Summer to see Maleficent. She’s getting to be that age where I can do that which means I have someone to watch movies with sometimes. We went to Disney World. I feel like I am getting back into something that I have removed myself from over the past three years.

I can see Matt’s face and the sense of his body, with the Netflix choices in his hand– we had the 3 discs out at once plan– asking me what I wanted to watch. Then me responding with the same question. Often, he would choose one and I would choose the other, but he let me pick since he made the queue. Then he would give me a hard time for making him choose and then contrarily choosing a different one. But it didn’t really matter because there were only 2 or 3 choices and we were going to watch them all eventually. The only movie we got that I wanted that Matt refused to watch was the second Twilight movie. (He refused because he had seen the first Twilight movie.) There are so many movie watching stories with Matt, I know I will be writing about it again.


Last night I went to rent a streaming movie from iTunes that I had been thinking about renting for a while and realized I could not rent it. It was frustrating because I know the movie was available earlier this year for rental. I came across this same issue a few months ago when I rented a movie and watched part of it. When I tried to watch the rest of it the next day, it was no longer available on iTunes (although I did finish it because it was within my 24 hour period.) At the time, I thought it was a fluke. But after sitting down and trying to figure out what movies I could rent through streaming I discovered that that the number of movies made in the past few years that I could rent and stream seems almost non existent.

I got online and looked at a bunch of streaming services, and discovered the same thing. Sure, I can buy a digital movie, save it somewhere in the cloud and stream it to watch any time I want. But I’m not a movie buyer except for popular kids movies. So now I have ended up back at Netflix with an account to send me blue ray discs. It’s a little surreal as this is how I used to do it with Matt. I cancelled my account almost 3 years ago now. I don’t watch TV and I’m not adding the Netflix instant service because the selection is worse than Amazon. I’m still debating what to do, but for now I’m going to see how it feels with blue ray discs. It’s hard to believe I am going backwards with technology, and in my situation it’s very painful. At the same time, 3 years seems the appropriate cycle to revisit my entertainment system. I might just buy another Apple TV.

Our Words

That’s something I learned from daddy– how to play with your food, while you’re eating it. Remember, he used to throw grapes in the air and catch them?

Summer, playing with her Pull n Peel Twizzlers at age 10


Matt was one of those people who could quote or refer to a movie in an appropriate context. Unfortunately, I am one of those people on whom such references are lost. I guess it was kind of sweet that Matt always had to explain them to me, even if he didn’t get the punchline effect of his cleverness. Well, it turns out that Luke seems to have the same ability, even at age 4. Like his father, Luke loves watching movies. Last weekend we watched Free Birds and this week Luke has come out with “We are going in there to get turkey off the menu!” in his amazingly expressive voice. And it seems to me that these times have been Luke swooping in with the comment as Cole is whining to me.


Recently, I started thinking about buying myself a pair of aviator sunglasses. Not because they’re my style or because I think they’re especially flattering to me. No, I bought a pair because they remind me of Matt when I first started dating him. I remember that first semester of sophomore year, Matt would sit out on the Cut at Carnegie Mellon in his aviators with his curly hair, boat shoes and what I called his snaggle tooth and I thought he was so cute and cool. He dropped two of his classes that semester because he was failing them so he had a really light load and could sit around a lot.