Throwback Thursday: That Time I Got Into My BFF’s Boyfriend’s Pants

It was the summer of 1996; I was a couple months shy of 16 and my best friend, Christina, had just turned 17. I was spending two weeks with her at her mom’s house in the Poconos like I did every summer. The only difference this year was that one of those weeks overlapped with a visit from her friend Jodi as well.

I can’t tell you what we did for six out of those seven nights, but boy can I recall what happened on the seventh.

Christina was dating a boy named Mike, who was part of a large group of families from NYC we affectionately called “The Russians” because they were all, well, Russian. The Russians had concocted a plan to acquire some alcohol and have a party down at one of the small beaches on the lake. I, being my usual prudish and goody-two-shoes self, thought this was both terrifying and wonderful all at once. I had zero plans of actually drinking anything, but a party sounded like fun!

While we were waiting for everyone at Mike’s house, his grandmother produced a platter of homemade mini blueberry pies rolled in sugar. Jodi and I each helped ourselves to several, barely coming up for air before shoving the next ones in our mouths.

We finally made our way to the beach, Christina strapped with a backpack containing a case of Zima, you know, because we were so cool. We were hyper aware of any oncoming headlights just in case they belonged to the community security. We were all underage and we weren’t supposed to be out wandering around.

Once at the beach, we were joined by the rest of The Russians and everyone started to drink and dance. Jodi had more than several Zimas and was chasing people around, begging for more drinks. When they refused, she naturally started rolling around in the sand and crying about her dog, Skipper. I can only assume that at that point Skipper was no longer with us.

When Christina and Mike left, I told Jodi and she immediately became overly concerned, as drunk people tend to do, so we went after them. Jodi sang show tunes and inspected ditches on the side of the road in case anyone had fallen in, and I tried to keep us heading in the right direction. At a turn we saw headlights. Jodi panicked and sprinted into the woods on the side of the road. Not knowing what to do, and not wanting to lose her in the middle of the night, I followed her… right into a waist-high swampland of mud.

I stood there in shock for what seemed like an hour, but as soon as the headlights passed, we managed to walk out and get back on the road. We walked down Mike’s driveway and just as we came into the porch light, he and Christina saw us and burst out laughing. Jodi had gotten away completely unscathed, but I was dripping mud everywhere and completely frozen from the waist down. None of us had any clothes to change into, and it was 3:00 am, so I did what any girl would do in this situation: I accepted a pair of my best friend’s boyfriend’s jeans.

I spent the rest of the night cleaning blueberry bits that Jodi projectile vomited off the white walls and carpet while Mike’s grandma yelled at us all loudly (and I can only imagine, rudely) in Russian. If nothing else, it stopped me from drinking until I was well into my twenties and capable of buying my own cheap alcohol (and keeping it down).


Dear Christina

Dear Christina,

It’s been two years now since you’ve been gone. There have been countless times when I’ve wanted to text or email you, so many times when I’ve thought to myself that it’s been too long and we should have a sleepover soon. Then it all comes crashing back that you’re not hanging out in your apartment watching anime and you’re not only a phone call away.

There are times when I’m at peace with your death because we were able to talk about it so much and because I was able to say goodbye. We don’t have any unfinished business.

Then there are times when I remember how much you suffered, not just during those last two months, but from the moment of your accident onward. I still struggle to understand why it had to happen. People do stupid things every single day and walk away without a scratch. Why did your bad decision have such catastrophic results?

Every so often I’ll Google your name to see what comes up. Right after you passed, there were tons of blogs and articles written about you and how you chose to end your suffering. A lot of people who didn’t have a clue who you were thought they were qualified to judge not only you, but all of us left behind for “letting” you go through with it. I can’t tell you how much their words hurt. They actually thought that none of us cared enough to let you know that you were never a burden or that we never tried to stop you. They knew absolutely nothing about your life other than what they read in a poorly written “article” that skewed the truth to make everything sound so much more dramatic than it really was. Yet they thought it was OK to call you names, to criticize you and your family, without thinking that maybe your loved ones would read those words and they would cause even more pain.

Sometimes those people made me feel like I didn’t have the right to grieve for you. I mean, after all, you chose to die, right? As if that somehow negates the fact that you’re gone and not coming back.

I’ve grown stronger since then. I realize that those people don’t matter. Their opinions don’t count. I am justified in my grief and it’s OK to miss you and feel sad.

I wish that I could talk to you. So much has happened since you left and I feel incomplete without my best friend. I know you’re OK and I know you’re with my mom and Shavon and everyone, and that does give me a tiny bit of comfort, but I’m selfish and I want you here. I want things back the way they used to be.

You left a lot of requests behind, and I hope I’ve made you proud. I admit that I’ve only read your goodbye letter once, the day you died, because I just can’t handle to read it any more than that. I took your words to heart, though, and I’m trying my best to follow your advice.

I miss you.



Throwback Thursday: Thanksgiving Edition


Oh, how I miss these two. Knowing that they’re together now gives me some sense of comfort, but I’d much prefer to have them both here, healthy and smiling and alive.

This was Thanksgiving 2005. It was Christina’s first Thanksgiving post-accident and she was still living in the nursing home at the time. Her family didn’t want to/couldn’t/wouldn’t come pick her up and bring her home for the day, and I couldn’t bear the thought of her spending the day alone with strangers in a place she hated, crying and depressed about what her life had become. My mom didn’t even think twice about it: Christina would come to our house for Thanksgiving. It wasn’t even an invitation, really. It was more of a statement. A demand.

Hubby and I went to pick her up that afternoon and drove her the 30 minutes to my house. I believe he left to go have dinner with his family and then he came back later. I don’t remember much of what we did or said on this day, but I remember it being a happy one. I was relieved that Christina was surrounded by “family” and I think she was grateful to not have to be alone. I know it was hard for her – I think it was the first time she came to my house after her accident and it was quite different this time around, not being able to bounce through the front door like it was her own home and plop down on the sofa. This time she was transferred in and out of the car by me and hubby, carried in her wheelchair up the stairs by hubby and my dad, fed by me, and weight-shifted by all four of us whenever she started to feel sick or dizzy. It was hectic and different, but it worked and we had a nice time.

This picture pretty much sums up my mom around the holidays: thematic sweater, festive pins, full of warmth and love. This is what I miss so very much, and what I am trying to emulate now. She adored all of the holidays from the big ones like Christmas to the smaller ones like Flag Day. She had decorations for every square inch of the house and herself: ceramics, banners, stuffed animals, festive socks and sweaters, pins, necklaces, and those giant inflatable lawn ornaments.

Today I will celebrate the fourth Thanksgiving without my mom. It will be my first Thanksgiving ever not having dinner with my dad either, as he has other plans this year. It’s fine; I’ll be with hubby and his family and my dad is coming over in the morning for our traditional breakfast of Entenmann’s cinnamon rolls while watching the parade (although is it really the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade without the balloons?). I don’t do well with change, but I’m learning to be more accepting and willing to adapt. I can’t promise that I won’t shed any tears today, but they’ll be a mix of both sad and happy ones as I remember all of the happy holidays we’ve had together.

When a Sandwich Is More Than Just a Sandwich

Whenever Christina and I used to go to Friendly’s, I would always order a tuna melt. Most of the time she would, too. On our second road trip up to Maine in 2004, we drove my car and we took turns driving the 10 hours. We stopped for lunch at a Friendly’s somewhere outside of Boston, and we had our usuals. I don’t know why this meal stands out to me; we didn’t talk about anything special and nothing out of the ordinary happened. We sat in a booth and we chatted like normal, laughing and excited about our week away in exotic-to-us Bangor. We had big plans to lounge around her grandma’s pool and go hiking at Arcadia National Park and just relax.

ImageYesterday at work, we were discussing what to have for lunch today for my co-worker’s birthday. For whatever reason, I had a feeling she would choose to order from the diner and I thought to myself, “Ooh, I’ll order a tuna melt.” Immediately I was back in that Massachusetts Friendly’s with Christina and this overwhelming sense of longing hit me in the middle of the workday. I haven’t seen her in almost two years and sometimes it just gets very lonely.

I have plenty of friends, and a loving husband and family, but a best friend is someone who cannot be replaced. She and I could finish each others sentences, and I knew that no matter what, I could talk to her about anything. She always offered the best advice and seemed to just instinctively know when I didn’t need anything more than an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. In my experience, those people come along only once in a lifetime and they are to be treasured.

It seems as though I constantly have something I want to tell her, or ask her about, or reminisce about. It’s very weird for me to think that those times it was just she and I hanging out are now my memories alone. I can no longer say to her, “Hey, remember when we…?” and laugh about whatever stupid thing we did. I can tell the stories to others, but it’s not the same as retelling the story together with someone. Just last week, we were talking about Sweet Sixteen parties at work and I was thinking about my own 16th birthday. I didn’t have a party. My parents told me I could invite some friends to dinner and the movies, so I chose four friends and we went to the Olive Garden and to the movies to see “The Game” (with Michael Douglas, remember that movie?). I was trying to remember who was there and I realized that Christina wasn’t. I thought to myself that I would have to ask her why, and in that same moment, almost at the exact same time I was planning an email or a phone call, I realized that I couldn’t ask her anything anymore. Like I said, it’s been almost two years, yet my brain still sometimes forgets.

The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven

We’ve lived in our house for almost two years and for that entire time the dining room has been empty. We finally realized that we’ll never use it as a real dining room (at least not any time soon) and buying a dining set would be a colossal waste of money. We decided instead to make it an office – it would give us somewhere besides the family room to keep the computer, and it would give us space for a nice big bookshelf.

Three hours at Ikea, a borrowed truck, and four+ days later, this is what we ended up with (Yes, the doors are uneven and no, I don’t care):

20130922_082931 20130922_082953

It forced me to finally go through the boxes of books that I’ve inherited from my mom and Christina. I put them into two piles: Books to Keep and Display, and Books to Keep in the Attic. I then went through all of my own books and separated them into Keep, Donate, and Storage. I really didn’t think I’d have enough room for everything, but apparently I need to buy MORE to fill it out.

One of the books that I came across in Christina’s pile was The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey. It stood out to me for several reasons: Christina was extremely skeptical about things like Heaven and God so I wasn’t sure why she would have a book like this, I needed something new to read, and I’m intrigued by stories about near death experiences and Heaven.


I finished it in two nights and it was good, but not great. I was really hoping for more of Alex’s perspective – not just his story about Heaven, but about his accident and recovery and new life. What I got was a LOT of talk from his dad about prayer – which is fine, I understand it’s a spiritual book – but it was so overwhelming at times that I skimmed large portions of chapters just to get back to the story itself.

Full disclosure: I’m Catholic and although I believe in God, I question a lot of things and definitely don’t have it all figured out. I come from a more conservative background in terms of talking about my faith, so Evangelical Christians like the authors tend to make me feel uncomfortable. Every time there was talk of “prayer warriors” and spiritual battles and laying on of hands, I had to skip ahead. And there was LOTS of skipping, which is probably why I finished it so quickly (I’m a fast reader, but two nights is quick even for me!).

I guess I was looking for what a lot of us are looking for: answers. I wanted to read in depth descriptions of Heaven and death and what the afterlife is really like. Alex provides a glimpse, and honestly, I do believe his story, but I found it frustrating that there were many things he said he wasn’t allowed to talk about. I tried Googling him and his family today but I came up short on current information.

Seven Years

Seven years ago, right now, I was supposed to be at my best friend’s apartment celebrating her boyfriend’s birthday and hanging out. I decided not to go earlier that day because I was annoyed that she had made last minute plans to go to a party at her cousin’s house later that same night. I told her to just go to the party and we would get together the next weekend or whenever. Seven years ago tonight was the last time she would ever stand on her own two feet.

I can’t help but think that if I would have just gone to her apartment that night, maybe we would have had so much fun that she wouldn’t have gone to her cousin’s party. That she wouldn’t have decided to go swimming. That she wouldn’t have dived into the pool and broken her neck.

Or maybe I would have gone with her to the party. Maybe I would have gone swimming with her earlier in the evening, instead of her getting frustrated that no one wanted to go with her. Maybe I would have insisted on opening the gate and using the ladder. Maybe she would have followed my lead and jumped in feet first instead.

Every June 5th since 2005 has been an anniversary of her accident. I’ve dreaded each and every one, but also felt partially grateful that at least she was still alive. At least I hadn’t lost her. For the first couple of years, when she was in the nursing home, I would spend these anniversaries with her, crying, reminiscing, and trying to help her to see the positive. She could only ever see it as the day she should have died, the day her life as she knew it ended, the day everything changed for the worst forever.

I don’t know how to feel about it this year. This is the first June 5th that she’s not here. I no longer have that little glimmer of positivity, that small fact that at least she’s still here – because she’s not. She’s not here. She’s gone, and probably free of her pain and suffering, and yet we’re all still here stuck with the memories and the grief and our own pain. Part of me feels relieved that she doesn’t have to relive this night anymore, wondering what would have happened if a million little things had been different. She’s not lying in bed tonight, unable to move or even wipe away her own tears, beating herself up for making the mistake she did – a mistake that could happen to anyone – and wishing it was all over or different or had never happened.

But I’m still here, questioning myself, wondering if things would have turned out differently if I had made a different decision. Wondering if I could have done more, said more, somehow found a way to change her outlook, found a way to relieve her pain. I know logically I did and said everything I could, as she told me many many times, and I know none of it was my fault (which she also reminded me many times over), but my heart hurts and my mind wanders.

When you’ve lost someone, life becomes a series of reminders.

That’s pretty much how I would sum up life right now: one reminder after another that my mom and Christina are gone. If it’s not the Mother’s Day commercials, it’s the trailers for movies about best friends. If it’s not a birthday, it’s a holiday. Just about every song reminds me of one of them, either because it’s about loss, or just because it came out around the time one of them passed. I automatically categorize every single song I hear into “this came out before mommy/Christina passed” or “this came out after.”

It feels as if there is constantly a day coming that I am dreading. I just got through my mom’s birthday and Christina’s memorial service, and now I feel like I’m being bombarded by Mother’s Day advertisements. In only a couple of weeks, all of my friends are going to be celebrating with their moms and instead, I’ll be spending another year missing mine. They’ll be complaining about having to buy gifts and go out to brunch, and I’ll be envying them all. I wish I was still able to go out shopping for her, whining the whole time about how difficult she is to shop for since she always bought herself everything she wanted. I would give anything to struggle to pick a gift for her.

Last year was my first Mother’s Day without her, and I opted to stay home instead of go over to my in-laws’ with my husband. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to celebrate with his mom and my sister-in-law, it was just too much of a reminder that my own my mother was gone. After he left, I pulled out my iPod and went through the pictures of her. I stopped at one in particular and just cried until I couldn’t breathe, telling her out loud how much I loved and missed her. I cleaned myself up and went to visit my dad. I tried not to cry, I tried to keep it together, but when he asked why I wasn’t with my husband, I exploded into tears and hysteria.

Part of me hopes that it will get easier like everyone says it will. The other part of me hopes that I’m never that far removed from the pain to not miss her that intensely. I don’t ever want to be indifferent to it. I feel like it’s a fine line between accepting the grief and wallowing in it. Some days I strike a better balance than others, but the Big Days, the Special Days are always exceptionally stressful.

I’ve decided to open up my blog again. The blogs I most enjoy reading are the honest, raw ones. The ones whose authors put themselves and their emotions out there for others to read. Those are the ones that help me the most, by letting me see that other people are going through the same thing I am. Maybe someone will stumble upon my blog and realize they’re not alone by reading my struggles with my mom’s and best friend’s deaths.

Unintentional hiatus

I don’t know why I stop writing when I actually have stuff to write about. I get overwhelmed and then just walk away instead of trying to sort things out and get them out of my head.

Also, I’ve been less motivated to write much since I made my blog password protected. I got really paranoid when I saw a huge jump in visits after the articles about Christina came out and I didn’t want a bunch of people rummaging through my life trying to find bits and pieces about her here. I also didn’t want them judging me on anything I’ve posted, so I thought it was better to make it all private except for a select few people whom I actually trust.

SO. Here is what has been going on:

1) I went to the doctor a week and a half ago about a small pimply looking thing on my leg. It had been there for quite some time, but it looked infected because the center was dark. My doctor said he thought it was a cyst that would need to be removed, so he sent me to the dermatologist. She said that it didn’t look like a cyst, just an infection, so she squeezed all the gunk out of it (and dug around with what felt like a needle) and wrote me a prescription for a topical antibiotic. If it didn’t improve in a couple of days, she said, go fill the second prescription for an oral antibiotic.

It didn’t work. By Sunday night, my leg was so swollen and red and painful that I was debating sawing it off just to make it stop. We drove down the street to the ER (literally, we can see the hospital from our back door) at midnight and were the only ones so they saw me right away. The nurse said he thought it was a boil, but the discharge papers say cellulitis, which as far as I can tell is a fancy name for what could be a very scary skin infection. They gave me a second antibiotic and told me to go see my dermatologist in the morning.

She drained it again, with anesthesia thank the Lord, and told me to forget the other antibiotics, and gave me a third prescription. She drew marks on my leg and said if the redness spreads beyond them, I have to call her. If these meds don’t work, I’m looking at being admitted to the hospital, so let’s all keep our fingers crossed.

2) Our second wedding was this past weekend. It was very nice and I did ok with it even though there was a part during the ceremony where I had to bite the inside of my lip to keep from crying. The priest read an Irish marriage blessing which I thought was so fitting and something my mom would have loved. I decided to wear one of Christina’s bracelets and a necklace my mom gave me in order to have them both with me. After the ceremony, we picked up a bunch of pizza and wine and had the family over. It was fun and relaxed and perfect.

3) My in-laws bought us living room furniture, which I love. It’s almost exactly the same as our old set. We moved the old hand-me-down furniture into the living room, and the new comfy stuff into the family room. We’re going to be moving the computer desk out of here and into a corner of the living room, and then I want to get a rug for in here as well. Right now it’s tiled, which is cold and hard and awful. Then the room that we spend 95% of our time in will be furnished, and all we’ll have left to do is hang pictures and decorate. It’ll be nice to have one room that is completely done and OURS.

4) I need to find a new job. We’re not getting raises this year, but we are getting more responsibility, and I’m just tired of working somewhere I hate and being talked down to by stupid travel agents for very little money. If I’m not going to enjoy my job, I should at least be making more money to make it worth my time and unhappiness. As soon as the husband gets a contract for next year, I’m sprucing up my resume and throwing it out into the world.

I’m sure there’s more. I have a bunch of pictures to post, but I have to find time to edit them first. I’m hoping to practice more now that it’s getting nicer out.

A Season of Change

Today is Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent. I was trying to think of what to give up and I came up with a list:

Fried food

I figured I might as well sign back up for Weight Watchers. Although they promote the whole “you can eat whatever you want” thing, that’s not entirely true. Even the smallest portions of the above items are a buttload of points, so it’s easier to just eliminate them completely. I signed up at lunch for 3 months and am really excited about it. I WANT to do this. Not only do I need to get healthy, but I need to stop putting so much importance on food (gluttony) and I need to get active (sloth).

I weighed in this morning at 157 even and my goal is 128. Although I’ve been much less than that, that’s how much I weighed on my wedding day and that is when I felt the most comfortable with my body. I don’t know how long it will take me, but I’m determined to make this happen.

My hubby and I are having a church wedding on (hopefully) March 17th. It’s something we always planned on doing, but we have to do it now in order for him to be confirmed. I’m torn about it. I want to do it, but I hate the idea of not having my mom or Christina there. We had to pick witnesses (essentially a best man and maid of honor) and it was so upsetting because I should have been able to pick Christina. We decided to keep the whole thing very simple and immediate family only. In order not to offend anyone, we asked our two sister-in-laws to be our witnesses. They agreed and both said they’re honored, so I’m happy about that. I just wish it didn’t have to be this way. I’m sure I’m going to cry and it’s going to be emotional, but I know it’s only the first of many events I’ll have to deal with without my mom and BFF by my side. I chose the 17th because it’s St. Patrick’s Day – my mom loved that day so much, so I figured if she can’t be there, at least her spirit will be with me.

When reality sets in…

I thought I was doing fine. I thought I had gotten my grieving for Christina “out of the way” before she even passed. I was a mess from the time she told me she was officially going ahead with her plan, to the morning I got that awful phone call from her sister. And then it all seemed to go away and I became numb to everything.

The last few days have started to make it all feel very real all of a sudden. Her mom and sister have moved out of the apartment. It’s occurred to me that someone else is going to move in and live there. Someone who will have no idea what happened there – not just towards the end, but all of the good, happy times too. They’ll never know how hard she worked to even move in there, how many hours she spent researching and talking with people who could help her get out of the nursing home. They’ll never know about the birthday parties, movie nights, dinners, and sleepovers that happened there.

I spoke with a reporter last night who is writing an article about her. He wrote a piece about her several years ago, so I suppose this is a follow-up of sorts. He was very nice and asked all the right questions and wasn’t judgmental about her decision at all, which I really appreciated. I can’t wait to read the article. However, I’ve been thinking about it today and it’s hit me that this is it. Is she going to be remembered as “Christina Symanski, the paralyzed woman who chose to end her life”? I would hate for that to happen because she was SO much more than that. I would hate for her death to define her life, but I suppose that’s what happens in situations like this. People who didn’t know her are going to read about her and form opinions and criticisms, but they won’t know the whole story. They won’t know who she was before the accident, or how things changed. They won’t know how kind and funny and giving she was. They won’t know that she didn’t like whipped cream in desserts, or that she was one of those annoying people who couldn’t stay quiet through a movie. They won’t know she was afraid of zombies, or that she couldn’t stand TV shows with laugh tracks. They won’t know what an amazing friend and daughter and sister she was.