Good-bye trusted steed.

Back in February, I said farewell to Towanda, my Pontiac Vibe that got me “there and back again,” while dad was in hospice. She had begun to do the downward spiral in the fall and the mechanic quietly said, “it’s time.” So I began to test-drive everything on the planet it felt like. I drove sedans, hatchbacks, SUV’s, and things I knew I wouldn’t buy and couldn’t afford. I drove the hell out of them. I finally had it narrowed down to a Nissan Rogue, a Toyota Rav 4, a Kia Soul (because every day you’re shufflin’) and a Scion, but that wasn’t until January. I hated test-driving in the snow and ice. Hated it!

There were pro’s and con’s about everything. And it’s so hard to choose because this is a choice you’re stuck with. It’s not like a pair of pants that doesn’t fit and you can return it to the store; you’re boogered if this isn’t right. So choose wisely before selecting the Holy Grail. (Sorry, Indiana Jones reference snuck in there). I was giving up a car with all wheel drive….that was going to be hard, mostly because I was spoiled, but none of the cars I was looking at had all wheel drive, and the cars that did have all wheel I’d rejected because they were too old or out of my price range. I needed a newer car with fewer miles. I didn’t want to get into the older car with fewer miles situation again; I needed to be in this decade at least. Some options I had were older car and more miles, new car and more miles, older car and fewer miles but nothing was right yet.

It was Thanksgiving and Towanda was really beginning to get tired, she’d made her last trip to the UP, and she knew it. She was hauling her last Christmas tree back south, her last careful trip below the bridge. Cars sense these things, I do believe. So now I really needed to get serious about looking OR keep sinking money into her and crying as I did so. I began to limit my driving as my “Check Engine” light remained on. It was like a beacon that welcomed me into my car. If it wasn’t on, I knew something was wrong.

I consulted with two car friends from back home that I lovingly call Ratchet and Clank. I emailed them the list of cars that I was looking at and they vetoed a lot of them. Which is good, but also discouraging. Here I thought I was car shopping pretty good, but this made me think twice. So I nixed the ones they suggested, went out and drove the other cars AGAIN. Now it was down to the Rav, the Kia and the Scion. The Kia had a lot of zip to it, but it felt like a windup toy car. The Rav was fine, but I hate the external spare tire…for me, that’s an accident waiting to happen. (And higher insurance rates after said accident.) The Scion felt like a car, and it was red; Venom red. Back to the computer and emailed Ratchet and Clank and asked Scion or Kia? Boy, was THAT the wrong question to ask. Or maybe it was the right one. It was a good debate and I ended up hearing a lot of personal preferences for cars they like to service.

When it came time to clean her up and take her to the dealer, it was hard. She’d been with me for so long. She’d accumulated so much stuff, heard so many prayers and carried me so far. Her rear end had so many stickers and one very important one that bore her name, that I didn’t even remove when I drove her that final drive to the dealer.

I ended up with the Venom Red 2013 Scion.

I still see Red Pontiac Vibes and think how I miss Towanda and all the fond memories that I had with her. That was the last car that Dad rode in (well aside from when we picked him up from the funeral home.) But I brought him to the library to see mom in Towanda, and he grumped at me for all the yellow lights that I ran.  I put 10,000 miles on her in 6 months while dad was in hospice and everytime I made that drive north, I’d pray I’d make it there before something awful happened; she got me there safely everytime.

Many have asked how she got her name.  It’s from the movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes.”  Here’s the story:  the character Idgie, says it a few times as well. The first time she meets Frank Bennett and he asks her name, she tells him “Towanda. What’s it to you?” When Idie, her brother, and Big Sam rescue Ruth from Frank, as they are driving away, yells: “Towanda! The amazing Amazon woman!” Evelyn says it before she slams into the back of another car repeatedly. It is a name and the implication is Towanda is an amazing Amazon warrior woman ready to take on what ever comes her way.

And there you have it….the story of Towanda.

Here’s to Towanda, may you rest in peace.  Open up the sun roof, and take dad for a drive!

“Fare thee well, and if for ever
Still for ever fare thee well.” ~ George Gordon Byron



Honor Guard


Friends of mine were traveling to Scotland.  Scotland you say? Why yes I did. So what does this girl do? She sends part of her father with them to go home. I figure if he couldn’t get there when he was alive, part of him can get there in the afterlife. I make the trip north to mom’s and get a film canister and fill it with dad. I do not label it “cocaine” or anything else that might not get past customs. I photocopy the certificate of cremation and of death and put dad in a snack bag and seal him up for his trip overseas.  The “dad snack bag” as Siri wanted to call it.  I meet Erik for lunch and the dad hand off; we have sushi or “bait” as my father would say and dad is ready for his journey. The trip begins with Dad hiding in Erik’s carry on bag; Erik thought he’d lost him and calmly I said, just keep looking, he’ll show up and probably yell “supplies!” at you when he does. Sure enough he shows up and they’re off to Scotland.

I get a text saying “made it through TSA, gave dad some scotch. On our way to Scotland.” Great, so now he’s traveling with a film canister of mud. Is Alberg making mud pies on the plane? Is he making a little golem of my dad on the plane to reincarnate when they land? I guess I’ll find out when I watch the news tonight. “Large Danish man reincarnates Scottish man from jar of ashes in Edinburgh, Scotland.” Rest assured that never happened.

Alberg survives the Fringe Festival and gets amazing reviews for the H2 Dance Company, his purpose for being in Scotland in the first place; then a few days of sight seeing before a detour to Sweden.

I get a text with a couple of pictures. The text reads: Dad’s view. He is in Prince’s Park. Just off Prince’s Street. Right next to the National Art Museum. Right across from the statue is a big elm tree. He is there. He has a view of the castle. He can hear the Royal Tattoo.IMG_0340IMG_0341

How freaking cool is that?? Now at first you might think Prince’s street?  But it’s not purple!   Like my father is going to party like its 1999. Nope. This is legit Scotland, complete with haggis, kilts, sporans – the whole nine yards. The only thing that could have made his placement better would been beneath a chestnut tree because of a poem he once taught me:

“Beneath the spreading chestnut tree the village smithy snoozes. No horse since 1923 has come to him for shoeses.”  That would have been the never-ending joke for him. The punch line that never stopped; an infinite dad joke on loop.

I’m just thankful that part of him actually ended up in Scotland – with special thanks to Erik and Cindy!

“Far off in sunlit places
Sad are the Scottish faces
Yearning to feel the kiss
Of sweet Scottish rain.
Where tropic skies are beaming,
Love sets the heart a-dreaming,
Longing and dreaming
for the homeland again.”

~Scotland the Brave

Welcome home daddy!  Welcome to Scotland!  Clan Duncan welcomes you back!  Disce Pati.


I was taunted by a bird.

So last week I got a flat tire. I heard it pop on my way home. And you know when you hear a noise that’s not a usual noise and you think, “maybe I should stop to check?” Well I didn’t. Thankfully I was in my driveway when I noticed it. So I was safe as houses. I unloaded the back of the car and hauled out the jack and the spare and everything that I needed to use to change a tire.

And me being me, I took a picture. Now, my tires weren’t exactly “street legal” so it was time, I wasn’t shocked. I was, however, shocked by the cost to replace said tires.  These were the tires I purchased to make the all the treks north to take care of my dad, so these are over five years old. It was definitely time!

So all my equipment is out. My tools are laid before me and I am ready to rock this. I have my tire iron and my “cheater bar” and a can of handy dandy WD. Let’s do this. I place the iron on the first nut….and it doesn’t budge. I am standing on it and it doesn’t budge. Holy crap this is going to take awhile. Okay, let’s hose them down with WD40. I take a football tackle stance and shoulder into the bar and I hear a squeak and the nut moves. IT MOVES! HOLY CRAP IT MOVES! I spray them all! I mean, I mean I Flashdance hosed them down! I got them all loose and off!

Now sometime in the midst of hosing down the lugnuts and cursing, a cardinal has perched in the tree above me and starts singing and I hear, “pretty, pretty, pretty.”

Me:  What? *I look around for the bird*  Oh!  Hi Dad.

Bird: pretty, pretty, pretty

Me: yep, Dad. I’ve got this.

Bird: pretty, pretty, pretty

Me: No, really Dad, *grunted curse word as I push on the lug nut* I’ve got this!

Bird: pretty, pretty, pretty

Me: seriously Dad, thanks for the vote of confidence, but…ugh…..I’ve got this.

Bird: pretty, pretty, pretty

Me: Okay then, well just hang out and cheer me on okay?

Bird: pretty, pretty, pretty

So yea, I got the tire changed and off, the spare on and the flat into the trunk. Once the hatch on Towanda was slammed shut, I hear the bird sing “pretty, pretty, pretty” as he flies off.

“Thanks Dad!” I shout as I see this flash of red fly off. “You were great company!”

A faint “Pretty, pretty, pretty” in the distance and the bird was gone. Just like that, he was gone.   The cardinal hung out through all the cursing, the WD 40 and the throwing of the tools. I daresay he even came back yesterday to inspect the new sneakers on Towanda.

Thanks dad.

“The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith, for to have faith is to have wings.”

― J.M. Barrie, The Little White Bird


April 1. (well right around there anyway….)

Five years ago at 1:01 my father passed from this life into the next, or as I like to think, my father became a part of the energy known as The Force and sits among the strongest Jedi’s.  Today at roughly the same time, depending on the time stamp on my receipt from Target, or what time zone you’re in, I purchased Star Wars; The Force Awakens, much to my daughter’s chagrin. I thought this anniversary  was going to suck; it only sucks less. I titled this entry 5/7 because it is 5 years and movie 7.

I still cannot find his Star Wars hologram belt buckle, I look for it every time I go visit my mother and it is beginning to vex me. But today on Star Wars day, four days after his passing, I will mark this occasion with something that he and I held very special. So tonight I will order a pizza, turn up my surround sound and pretend it’s Dolby THX quality and know that somewhere in the galaxy he is with me. Similar to when Luke Skywalker closed his eyes, let the force guide him as he listed to Ben Kenobi as he fired his torpedoes that led to the destruction of the Death Star, I know my father is with me…..granted I’m not going on a strifing run, but he’s always there when I’m cooking in the kitchen or dancing as I grocery shop. Now if I could only get him to do the dishes or vacuum, but those were chore he hated even in this life.

“I have lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people. I see your eyes… I know your eyes!” ~ Maz Kanata from Star Wars, The Force Awakens.

Dog is my co-pilot.

Winnie Poo Poo.
Winnie Poop.
Stupid Dog.
Sir Winston.
Stupid Stubborn Dog.

A dog that went by many names. The last of my father’s things is gone; I shouldn’t say it like that. I’d say that the last of the things that my father had a direct hand in raising is gone, but that’s wrong too, as my brother and I are still here. There are many things left that my father left his mark on; there are so many things lingering out of love or stubbornness and without expiration dates, although I still cannot find that DAMN Star Wars belt buckle. I swear to you he has it in the afterlife with him, mocking me and if it’s not in the jar that I have I’m going to be upset.

Sir Winston’s quality of life had declined to a point where the vet and my mother decided that it was time. My mother looked at the calendar and decided on today rather than waiting as it was too close to the anniversary of dad and she couldn’t handle the what I’ll call “2 for 1 deal.“

More on all that later…..I just had to properly say good-bye to the dog that merely tolerated me and understood that together we shared a human.

Farewell Fluffy. May there be dog treats, long walks, a new plaid leash and a squeaky toy in the afterlife.

Your owner awaits you.

The stages of grief.

If you toss the words “stages of grief” into a Google search, you will come up with anywhere from 5-7 “official” stages. Seriously? What if I only have 3 or 4 stages? What if I decided to have 10 stages? Does that make me a non-conformist? A freak of nature? Weirder than usual? What am I? GAH!

Most commonly you will find the stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

My therapist recommended the following book: Experiencing Grief by H. Norman Wright

It’s a short read and the book is pocket sized, so you can easily shove it somewhere; up someone’s ass, your pocket, and your purse, or the bottom of your desk. (Here is where my mother would say “you’re just like your father.”) The possibilities are endless, buy the book and give it a try.  And it’s a very affordable book on Amazon, I think it’s $2.99 plus shipping or something crazy like that.  My mother gave me a different  book, well a journal really, called Struck by Grief or something awful like that. Why don’t they just call it “I got run over by a bunch of emotions and now I have to deal” or the short version “Run over by the Emotion Bus.”? Why can’t they give it a better name like “I know you’re hurting, but you’ll be fine” or “It’s okay to be angry and cry” or my personal favorite, “You’re not a freak because you can’t keep your shit together.” But to use the work struck?  I know grief “hits” people but the physicalization of an emotion?  I’m not so sure; seems a bit “Hallmark Channel” if you ask me.  To be honest, and I know my mom will call or text me once she reads this, but honestly, I have never even cracked the spine. Not once. I think I know where the book is, but I’m not 100% positive. I may have opted for one of the aforementioned hiding places for books.

Upon recently learning of the death of a friend’s husband, I find myself run over again by the bus of emotions, or to reference the previous paragraph, I was “struck”. It would seem that once you get your proverbial grief ducks in a row, one of them goes missing or just wanders off and you’re forced to start over. Once you begin this search for the fuzzy little ducks that have seemingly wandered off and you recover your grief ducks, you begin to feel like Tantalus or Sisyphus….whichever was the one with the rock and the hill. (Pretty sure I snoozed through that part of my lit class.)


I want to be okay.

I want to go forward.

I’m afraid to forget.


In the US, 1 in 2 women and 1 in 3 men will develop cancer in their lifetime and one in four deaths this year will be from the result of cancer.

My magic number is fourteen.  Thus far, I know fourteen people who have died from or have cancer; this does not include how many families have been impacted by this awful disease.

Fourteen people.  Do you know how many lives this disease has f*cked up?  Too many.  This needs to stop!!

While I remain on the “in the clear” list, I still have to get a colonoscopy more regular than I’d like (Thanks dad…that’s a gift that just keeps on giving isn’t it?) and I have to get a mammogram done twice a year because someone found something on one of my films.  I mean, thank you for early detection, but really…have you ever had one of those done?  By the time you stop hurting from the first one, it’s time to go in for the second.  (See a previous entry where I compare the mammogram machine to the death star and my breast feeling like the planet Alderaan being obliterated.)

“Do you know that moment when you paint a landscape as a child and, when you’re maybe under seven or something, the sky is just a blue stripe across the top of the paper? And then there’s that somewhat disappointing moment when the teacher tells you that the sky actually comes down in amongst all the branches. And it’s like life changes at that moment and becomes much more complicated and a little bit more boring, as it’s rather tedious to fill in the branches…”  ― Alan Rickman

Cancer is just tedious.