Mark Twain

Over the past month, I have been reading the Autobiography of Mark Twain, first volume 2 and then volume 1. In it he describes his method of autobiography– to address what was current and interesting in his life at the moment and use that to recall past events. I hadn’t put it into such words, but all along that is really the way I have thought of writing this blog since Matt’s death as a story for the kids to have an idea of their father. Just writing a history of his life seems so laborious and as you can see from the dates, the past couple of years have not even seen many posts. It’s not that I haven’t thought of Matt, of course. I would say instead that I think I fully understand how Mark Twain could start his autobiography so many times since the age of 42 and not really get to it until age 70. And now I am 40 which is the age that Mark Twain’s friend told him he should have started his autobiography and here I am back again, inspired by Mark Twain, to try again.

Start at no particular time of your life. Wander at your free will all over your life; talk only about the thing that interests you for the moment; drop it at the moment its interest starts to pale.

Mark Twain


There was one time that we got an infestation of flies in the house. I remember that Matt took to swatting at them with a magazine in his spare moments. He did it with such gusto and was proud to have a very high accuracy rate. It’s kind of gross, but I guess it just goes to show that problems themselves are not innate causes of what sets us off and what doesn’t. How we weather something in our path is really more dependent on our mood and how we relate it back to things we have gone through before. Remembering Matt, I can think of so many times that something bothered me and he brushed them aside with positivity. Sometimes, I was still bothered and sometimes his light attitude rubbed off on me as with the flies. Likewise, there were plenty of times that I remember him being stressed out and something would set him off that I didn’t give any emotional weight. His mood often colored his memories as well. As it turned out, getting rid of a fly infestation with Matt swatting 20 a day didn’t take that long.


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.


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.

Crab Cakes

Matt was the person who introduced me to crab cakes. I had never had a crab cake before I met Matt. I remember one day in particular that Matt said, “Let’s go get crab cakes” and there was nothing else on the agenda. I don’t remember when or where this was, but I think we must have been in Annapolis and gone to some restaurant on the Chesapeake Bay. I remember it was broad daylight and the restaurant was not busy. I also remember that Matt didn’t necessarily know the restaurant. You must also consider that good crab cakes are expensive fare for college students/young adults. I can’t remember if we were still in college, but I do remember it being a bit of a splurge, and of course, I wasn’t even sure if they were good crab cakes or not at the time.

The funny thing (or maybe the purist thing) is that I don’t remember ever having crab cakes with Matt anywhere else except in Maryland. I don’t think he was a huge crab cake aficionado; I think he was trying to do something sweet with me (i.e. impress me).


The other night I found myself at a Soundgarden concert. I was never a serious fan, but they are one of the iconic 90s bands and their popular songs were certainly part of the background of my life at the time. Matt was a fan, and I swear I remember him singing “Black Hole Sun” to me. But I don’t really remember if he did or not…

I’ve come to realize that remembering Matt after he has been gone for three years is a very different experience than remembering stories about him would be if he were here to look at. I’m not sure how I’m going to come up with stories to tell the kids about things he did when more often the things I remember about him are triggered by some physical sensation. The memories are not so much story-like or even visual, but physical and emotional instead. It doesn’t translate to words the way I think I would like to talk to the kids about him. And it puts me at a loss as to what I am going to write here. Up to now I feel resistant to writing about my life now as it relates to my memories of Matt (publicly, on the internet). I am coming to see that it is inevitable.

So as I let the experience of Soundgarden wash over me, it sank in and for a moment there was a lot of pain. At this point, the pain is some mixture of memory and reality that is so precious to me. I really do know what a black hole sun is, and I am in awe at what a shared experience it is, albeit the superunknown. Thank you, Chris Cornell, for singing “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman” back to back.

Random 11: Last Play List

This is what Matt was listening to the last month or so before he died.

  • Black Keys – both bought and gifted by a friend so he had to figure out how to return digital music.
  • Girl Talk – we went to the concert in January
  • Coldplay – he always did and it’s weird or me that he never heard Mylo Xyto
  • Cake – we saw them for New Year’s Eve at Austin Music Hall
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs – recommended by my sister
  • Radiohead – In Rainbows was a favorite with us and now I don’t listen to it very much

This is music I have listened to since Matt died that he never heard:

  • Florence and the Machine – recommended by my sister
  • Katy Perry – a major star in the world without Matt
  • Metric – first concert I went to
  • Mumford and Sons
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs. – Mosquito

The Hoodie

At some point I bought Matt loungewear. It was probably for Christmas and it was really just a hoodie and sweatpants from American Eagle. In the winter, he just didn’t have anything warm to wear around the house that was comfortable. I remember him wearing the hoodie while he worked on LiveMosaic. It was pretty casual and sometimes he would wear it zipped and sometimes unzipped and I remember him standing around the kitchen taking a break with his hands in the pockets and talking to me. Remembering this recently, it struck me that he wore that hoodie a lot. I seem to remember him wearing it all the time, especially after he was sick. And I realized that I do and did the same thing. I get cold in the house and long sleeves aren’t enough so I’ll wear a hoodie for extra warmth and because it’s comfortable. Basically, he wore the hoodie because of me and he was comfortable in it and liked it. That image of him in the hoodie and the way he wore it is imprinted in my brain.