Grief Isn’t Funny

Laughing With Buddha was launched several years ago when I was in a better frame of mind. I wanted to write a humorous blog and I found a lot to write about. I was happier then. Not so now. 

My mother died on March 27, 2021. It didn’t matter to me that she was 93 years old when she died. She was my mother and my best friend. 

People at her wake said, “She lived a full life; she’s at rest now.” All true, but it didn’t make me feel better. My heart was breaking knowing that I would never see her again, never speak to her on the phone, never ask her advice about anything. We would never share a lunch at the local diner, or a simple cup of tea at her kitchen table. 

The day after her funeral, I wanted to crawl into a dark cave and sleep forever. I hated sunny days, couldn’t listen to Christmas music or hear the sound of laughter without cringing. The world was spinning, life was going on, but I wanted no part of it. I wanted the Covid lockdowns to continue. What did I care about socializing or getting back to normal? 

It has been a year since my mother died and I’m still grieving, but I’m making progress. I’ve recently taken baby steps out of the cave, blinked my eyes at the sunlight and felt my heart quicken at the sight of tiny crocuses popping up outside my door. Everywhere I look, the earth is pregnant with life again.  Flowers are breaking through the soil, stretching toward the sunlight. Tree buds are plump and ready to burst. Maybe, because I have been grieving for so long, I am hyper-aware of the changing light, the colors, the smells and sounds of spring.  

Today, on the anniversary of her death, I’m remembering something my eight-year-old grandson said a year ago at my mother’s wake:

 I think life is like a video game. When you come to the end of one level, you don’t die, you just move up to the next level. So, grandma isn’t really dead; she just moved up to the next level.

I find comfort in that thought. If she is only on the next level, she’ll never be very far from me. 

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À Bientôt

I set this blog up a year ago as a personal discipline, to see if I could produce an original essay once a week. I’ve had a lot of fun in the process, and have enjoyed sharing my escapades and stories with all of you. Your positive feedback and constructive comments throughout the year have been much appreciated!

But now it’s time to take a break from blogging for a while, in order to pursue other writing projects and activities that have been put on hold.

I will be posting essays here from time to time, but this will no longer be a weekly blog. So it’s à bientôt, for now – not au revoir. I will be back some time and hope you will be too.

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MEAT STINK! An Illustrated Tale

My mother had a dentist appointment last Monday at 3:30 PM. It was going to be a long one and I wouldn’t be getting home until about 5:30. I had the day off, so I decided to prepare the potatoes ahead of time. I was trying a new recipe: Potato, Black Olive and Tomato Torta.

picture 1

Without a working stovetop exhaust fan, the apartment was soon filled with the rich aroma of garlic, tomatoes and thyme. And so was every pore of my skin, hair and clothing.  When I walked outdoors, the contrast of the fresh air against my coat made the aroma even more pungent.

I cracked the window open in the car, hoping it would blow the garlic stink out of my hair.  It didn’t. “This car smells… like food,” my mother said, when I picked her up for her dentist appointment.  “Do you have food in the car?”

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“No, it’s me.  I smell like a Potato, Black Olive and Tomato Torta. I was trying to get a head start on dinner.”

“I like to do that, too,” she said.

I got home at 5:30, and was glad I had started the dinner earlier.  All I had to do now was heat up the Potato, Black Olive and Tomato Torta in the oven and fry the skirt steak on my stove top.

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“Mmmm!  Smells great!” my husband said, as he walked in the door that night. “I could smell that meat as I came up the stairs.”

After dinner, my husband went to the gym for about an hour, and when he got back he wrinkled his nose and said,  picture 4 “Maybe you should light some candles; this place smells like meat.”

So I did.

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But that only made the air smell like lemon-beef scented candles. When we went up to bed that night, the bed covers, my nightgown and pillow smelled like meat.

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The next morning…

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…it still smelled like meat!  So I sprayed the apartment with an orange scented room deodorizer that has been known to get rid of some pretty nasty bathroom odors.

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And then, if you haven’t guessed by now, …I created the aroma of Chinese Orange Beef.

I couldn’t stand the smell anymore, so I threw my smelly beef clothes in the hamper

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and took a shower.  I scrubbed my hair and body twice, to be sure I got every stinky bit of garlic, tomato, black olive and beef out of my pores.

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Then I reached for a clean towel to dry myself off.  As I stretched up to dry my face and hair, I smelled it – – MEAT STINK on the clean towel!

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What to do?  What could I do? I thought about opening the windows, but decided against that.  The crazy squirrels might smell the meat and think I was inviting them in for a treat.

I got dressed in some clean clothes that only had a slightly beefy smell. Then I found a little piece of leftover skirt steak in the refrigerator.  So  I fried it up with a scrambled egg and ate it for breakfast.   Yum!picture 11



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Squirrels Lead Me To Temptation

I broke the news to my family on a recent Sunday morning. “I need everyone to pay attention for a minute,” I started. “I have something serious I want to discuss.”

My husband lifted his head from the newspaper with that look of fear that comes over a man when you say – We have to talk. My son froze into a statue with his head tilted and his coffee cup in midair.

Taking a deep breath, and secretly enjoying the paralyzing control I had over them for that brief moment, I went on. “I’m going on a diet and I need your help.”

“Phew! Is that all,” my son said.

“What do you want us to do?” my husband asked.

“For starters, if you see me eating cookies or candy, I want you to stop me; take it out of my hands, do whatever it takes.”

“Oh no you don’t!” my son said. “We’ve tried that before and you just get mad at us. I’m not doing that anymore. I have a better idea.” Then he gathered up the jar of chocolate covered pretzels and the leftover Christmas candy and ran upstairs. “I’ll hide these up here somewhere so you can’t find them.”

“Great!” I said. But I knew I could find them if I really wanted to. I have a knack for finding things – especially chocolate things.

I remember the time I was on a diet, many years ago, and I asked my husband to remove temptation from me.

“Hide your Hershey bar where you know I’ll never find it,” I told him. “How am I supposed to stay on a diet, watching you eat candy in front of me?” My husband’s self-control is downright infuriating. It can take him over two weeks to finish a jumbo 16-piece Hershey bar, because he only eats one segment a night.

The night I asked him to hide his candy bar, there were 13 pieces left. I made a mental note of that when I found the candy the next day. I also took to memory its exact placement on the top shelf in the TV room. I was only going to have one or two pieces and then return the candy with the wrapper folded over and resting exactly how he had placed it the night before, so he would never guess that the candy had been tampered with.


I ate two little segments, covered the bar and placed it back on the shelf. Then I had two more pieces, and when I had finally devoured the entire candy bar, I had to think quickly. The kids were getting off the bus in a few minutes. There was just enough time to run out to the store and buy a new jumbo Hershey bar. I ate the same three segments off the bar in the exact pattern he had eaten them, folded it up exactly the way it had been folded and returned it to the top shelf.

Voila! Fait Accompli!

Last week, when my son brought the candy upstairs, and out of my sight,he put a small challenge in my way. But, honestly, twelve steps are hardly a deterrent when a chocolate craving strikes. The candy may have been out of sight, but it was not out of mind.

I was determined, however, not to give in to my chocolate cravings. Being older and more mature, and having gone through many diets in my lifetime thus far, I have more self-control now. I’ve picked up some skills about how to handle cravings with positive reinforcement techniques like mental imagery, self-talk, and deep breathing.

I was doing fine until the other day, when I was alone in the apartment, and something beckoned me upstairs to search through the bedrooms. It wasn’t a chocolate craving. It was the sound of claws scratching and running across on the tiled floor in the bathroom.

The squirrels! Oh My God! I thought. The squirrels are upstairs!

For weeks we had been listening to them scratching behind the walls in the attic. And from the sound of it now, I was sure they had broken through and landed on the bathroom floor. Soon they would be tearing up the bedrooms and then make their way downstairs.

Instead of running away from the sound, I headed up the stairs to see what was going on. It was already getting dark, and I couldn’t see much, but the sound got louder as I approached the bathroom. I screamed when I pushed the door open. My mind’s eye saw a bunch of squirrels scurrying around, but, in reality, they weren’t there. I stamped my feet and shouted Ha!…Ha!…, as I opened the closet, then noisily burst into the other bedrooms but, again, nothing.

I turned on all the lights upstairs and looked under all the beds, just to be sure, and that’s when I saw the candy jars – on the floor, out in the open, at the foot of my son’s bed.

I sat on his bed, trying to calm down from my squirrel hysteria, as my eyes roamed over the colorful Lindt candy wrappers. You don’t  really want those, my rational mind said.  I mused about my heroism as I turned over the jar full of chocolate covered pretzels, counting them, one by one, guessing how many I could take without a noticeable difference. Take a deep breath…in…out.. in…out.  Don’t open that jar! my mind shouted.  I had looked fear in the face and bravely searched for the enemy, in the dark, without a weapon, not even a broom, to fend off the squirrels – if they had been there.

If they had been there…oh, what a frightening thought! Didn’t I deserve a little chocolate for my heroism? Do you want to fit into a bathing suit in five months? I asked myself, and another voice answered back, Five months is a long way off!  Go ahead, just take one. I started with one chocolate covered pretzel…and then I had another…

Damn squirrels!





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