I wrote this article way back when I was in high school (circa 1993-ish) about my then (and now) best friend, Diana Torralvo.
Even though it was written through the eyes of Teen Me, which, let’s face it, wasn’t all that different than Adult Me and it’s been over 2 decades, my feelings still hold true.
We’ve been through so much together–from the most beautiful life celebrations to our worst tragedies. We’ve been there for each other through thick and thin and some major highs and lows. You’ve survived being my roommate and my maid of honor. Hey, I survived those too! You always make me laugh (not always on purpose) and more often than not you make me see the brighter side of every situation. You give me hope when my supply is running low. I try to do the same for you. No matter where we are or what either of us is going through, we always know the other is just a phone call away.
Happy birthday, DiTo Mosquito. I love you. xoxoxoxox
My great niece Hailie turned one on 8/8/14. Tragically, her mother committed suicide the day before. This has been a painful shock to our families and especially to my nephew CJ, Hailie’s father. I’m still not sure how to process it but I know in my heart that I need to do something for him and Hailie.
So I’ve created a donation page called Helping Hailie. All donations received will be put into a trust fund for Hailie’s future. While this won’t heal the pain or diminish the loss, it will help Hailie down the road.
Donations of all sizes as well as prayers, love, positive vibes and inspirational thoughts and messages are greatly appreciated. Thank you for your support during this difficult time. xo
The 2013 Nebraska Walk for PKD is less than a month away!
Please consider making a donation to my family’s team as we walk together to raise money to end Polycystic Kidney Disease!
To visit my donation page and learn why I walk, please go to: http://walkforpkd.kintera.org/nebraska/valzane
I wrote this “poem” a few weeks ago in response to an event that happened with my dad. He’s been going through a lot of changes lately and, as a family, we’ve been struggling trying to seek medical assistance and a diagnosis. Yesterday, he was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Dementia.
The following is less a poem and more or less a vomiting of my feelings onto the page. It’s raw and unedited and I plan to leave it that way.
I’m going to see my dad tomorrow. So I’m sharing this with you now as a way of getting it, along with some of the feelings and fears it represents, off of me as I move with my family into the future and try to figure out what this diagnosis means for my dad, for my family and for me.
Untitled by Val Zane
It’s not so hard for me to think of you as crazy considering you’ve always been completely nuts
For as long as I’ve known you. That’s right. Forever. Or for my forever anyway.
“They either love him or hate him,” I always say.
I bet you don’t even know that I say that about you. Well, I do.
But who cares what they think anyway? Or what I think or say for that matter.
Just tell me another joke. I need to laugh.
What happened to the eight again? Or was it the nine?
No wait. Now, I remember. It was the seven who ate nine and ten.
But when you tell it, it always sounds so dirty.
I’ll never be able to tell it like you.
It’s like asking a stranger for directions.
“Excuse me.” Smile, nod. “Make a left at the McDonald’s?” Uh-huh. “Thanks.” Smile again, then wave cordially and drive away, when I’d rather just skip ahead to the part when I call you.
“You shouldn’t talk to strangers,” you’d say with a quip that no one’s stranger than you.
It’s certainly strange how you always know how to find me and guide me home
Even from a payphone in the middle of nowhere. Do you remember payphones?
You were my compass before GPSs were ever invented.
With you I’m never lost.
But without you?
Mom said she spoke to the doctor.
Well, sure, that goes without saying because you’re nothing if not interesting
Isn’t that what you always say?
Maybe you could use your map and point them in the right direction?
Oh I don’t know. It’s probably in the trunk of your car with your wallet and your keys.
They should’ve said: “We don’t know but whatever this is, it sucks.”
When they came and took you away the other day, I wasn’t there. That sucked more.
Maybe it’s your medicine. Or just old age? Dementia? Alzheimer’s? Senility?
It’s funny but I still see you and hear you the way you were. The way you’ll always be to me.
Or maybe that’s not so funny after all. See, you’re not the only one who’s confused.
Remember that time we were talking and walking together hand in hand and you stumbled and tumbled ass-over-teakettle, then stood back up and kept on walking like nothing happened?
That’s the stuff legends are made of!
You’re my hero. And anyone who says that’s cliché is just another asshole.
Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke. Right?
Is that what this is, just another one of your jokes?
It’s like you’re faking it, pulling a prank, playing a game.
Are you testing me, like way back then when you tested me on the state capitals?
Well the joke’s on you because I’ve forgotten most of those too. Have you?
Maybe it’s not me you’re trying to trick. Maybe it’s him. The hooded dude with the grim expression. Do you honestly think if he thinks you’re crazy, then maybe he’ll walk on by?
I’m not sure that’s how it works, but I guess it’s worth a try.
This just doesn’t feel real to me. Why do I refuse to believe what everyone else sees?
Even the butts of your best jokes are laughing at me.
But that’s okay because they don’t know you like I do.
You’re the opposite of… or was it the epitome of charming?
“But looks aren’t everything,” you’d say.
Tell me again about the man from Nantucket who uses his bucket for God knows what
And that thing he used to say… what was it again? Oh, does it even matter what he said?
When, in the scheme of things, I’m trying to recall all the things you’ve said along the way
All the laughs we’ve shared, your words of wisdom and the lessons you’ve taught me.
But I can’t. Oh great. Now I’m crying. And through all those empty threats, this is the first time you’ve actually given me something to cry about.
In a way, it’s like you’re already gone. Or not yet gone but already forgotten?
How is it I can recall all of the pointless, useless information?
Cross on the green, not in between. Or how E equals MC squared. All the things that Rob Base knows about and the ingredients to that cheesecake Mom loves so much. How flared jeans make my butt look small(er) or your secret for making the world’s best pancakes.
I remember it all but I’m forgetting you? Maybe I’m going crazy, too.
The irony is that if you weren’t stuck on a loop right now you’d be mad at me for making this about me. But don’t even try to deny the truth because we both know that’s what we do.
You’re the one who taught me ten and two. Don’t you remember?
And the best advice anyone’s ever given me: “If you feel like you’re going to fall, fall on your ass.”
And you know what? I still do that all the time.
Fall on my ass that is.
You asked me to write your stories down but they’re your stories, not mine.
I’ve given you books, journals, voice recorders.
Damn it, Dad. I don’t want to be mad at you but…
Couldn’t you grab a spare square from the diner or that coffee truck you loved so much?
Remember those road trips when we’d just talk? The turnpike was so beautiful at night.
Or that time we went out of the way to cross the Brooklyn Bridge just because?
Or when we drove straight from Philly to Florida and I read every single sign while Mom slept?
You said it was my responsibility to keep you up. See, you taught me about responsibility.
It’s so easy to remember your stories when I’m in them but I guess those are our stories
But the others? The ones which came before me?
Well, this is precisely why I wanted you to write them down!
Not just for me. For you. For mom. For the princess who calls you “Pah-Pah.”
“But I don’t write,” you said. “That’s what you do.”
And you’re right. You’re always right. And in a way, you’re the reason why I write.
But to write your life story is… well it’s impossible.
“Nothing’s impossible,” you’d say. “If you work hard enough for it.”
Shut up, Dad!
No, wait. I take that back. I’m sorry. Please keep talking. Start from the beginning.
Because I need your help. That’s why.
Because I can’t tell your stories—not like you do. At least not without you.
Oh no, you’re fading again.
So you have the stories and I have the pen. Is that how this works?
Well, then I think you’d better start talking because you’re running out of time
And I’m running out of ink.
I first read Go Ask Alice at age 12 and it was so powerful that it’s stayed with me. It was one of my favorite books back then and reading it again at 37, it was still powerful but it was also nostalgic. I remember once I read it back then wanting all of my friends to read it, too. It felt important. And honestly I still believe every teen girl should read it. What an awesome book.
I love to write in the margins as I read. I fully intend to share this book someday with my daughter so this time I wrote notes to her in the margins. Every time “Alice” wished she had someone to talk to, I wrote a little note reminding my daughter that she can always talk to me. And each time “Alice” failed and felt badly about herself, I wrote a note telling my daughter that I will always love her no matter what.
This exercise came from the book 4AM Breakthrough by Brian Kitely. The instructions say to write a 250 word story without repeating a single word. Each word must be different, even the title.
Whoa… this was hard! Not being able to repeat words like “the” or “a” and “an” proved pretty challenging! But to make it easier I chose to write it about my favorite muse: my daughter, Lyla. Awwww!
(Let me know if you spot any repeats!)
Happily Ever After:
Once upon a time (this one right now), there was an incredibly sweet, sassy, beautiful, bright, happy, healthy (thank God) 3-year-old little girl named Lyla Rain Henderson.
With passionate adoration for some pretty random if not wildly ordinary things, including but not limited to: vanilla ice cream, hugs, kisses, apple juice, family, friends, preschool, stars, triangles, octagons, shapes in general really, princesses, puppies, pirates, picnics, fairies, racecars, road trips, running, singing, dancing, ballet class, bologna, butterflies, baseball, the moon, stars, Looney Tunes, rainbows, horses, squirrels, cupcakes, castles, spaghetti, school busses, clouds, laughing, fruit (specifically bananas, strawberries, apples, pears, blueberries, cantaloupe…), vacation, movies, milk, McDonald’s, muddy puddles, playing games, reading, coloring, flowers, snacks, snow, knock-knock jokes, make believe, glitter, buttered toast, Twizzlers, Tootsie Rolls, toys, her hair, airplanes, fairy tales, scaring people, dresses, candy sprinkles, yogurt smoothies, green grass, taking baths, going fast, flying over railroad tracks, big trucks, hay bales, helping, holding hands, cornfields, carrots, crocodiles, edamame, using chopsticks (well, trying), magic, cardboard boxes, pancakes, presents, unicorns, Dora, being best friends, talking your ear off, telling stories, learning math (not me!), eating graham crackers (AKA: yummy rectangles), giving mosquito bites (you might say “pinching”), food shopping, swimming, smiling, stirring liquids (yeah!), swinging on swings, spinning herself dizzy and, finally, all things pink, she makes our world so much better just by being part of it.
Run-on? Maybe. Long list? Definitely. But it’s okay.
Another fortunate mommy, I love my daughter more than anything. Oops. Check that. Everything.
This week’s lecture posed the questions: “Why do you write? What does it mean for you to be a writer? What do you want your stories and novels to do?”
I write because I love to write. Even when I don’t love what I’m writing or when the pain of writer’s block sets in, I continue to write because I love writing. It’s who I am. I’m a writer. I want my stories to fulfill my need to write them.
In the short story “The Writer in the Family,” E.L. Doctorow opens: “In 1955, my father died with his ancient mother still alive in a nursing home.” As a reader, I’m chuckling uncomfortably already and asking myself questions. For one, why doesn’t he refer to his father’s mother as grandma, nana, mum-mum or any other cutesy name we tend to use when describing our parents’ parents?
“The Writer in the Family” grabbed me immediately. Maybe it was the empty way the narrator spoke of his recently deceased father or maybe it was Doctorow’s snarky “ancient mother still alive in a nursing home.” The way the story is narrated is both bitter and funny, and I love that. Would she have been dead in a nursing home? It also reminds me of the way we as people speak sarcastically of our families when we have deep-rooted, hard to understand issues with them.
Non-writers get to simply speak this stuff out. Whether the stuff, if you will, is good or bad, they talk about it, deal with it and move on. They brag about their kids at family functions, bash their in-laws in the form of a joke at a cocktail party, update a passive aggressive Facebook status or two, and/or commiserate mutual marital problems with friends over coffee. Or maybe they skip all of those middle men (and women) and go directly to a psychiatrist. Well, writers write. This is how we deal with it… whatever it is.
The part in the story I most related to came early. “You’re the writer in the family,” the narrator’s aunt says. She butters him up with flattery, lays on the guilt and then asks him to write a fake letter to his grandmother pretending to be his father. The narrator clearly doesn’t want to do this. Who would? But he goes on: “That evening, at the kitchen table, I pushed my homework aside and composed a letter.” He writes the letter and the aunt is brought to tears by it.
Being the writer in my family has its advantages and disadvantages, too. I get to be the “artistic” and the “creative” one. However, I also get to be the “moody” and “obsessive” one. I can’t argue. I am all of those things. I get to write all the resumes (my dad once said “you made me sound like me only better.”), cover letters, eulogies, holiday card messages, love poems, complaint and/or thank you letters which typically start out “dear sir or madam.” I get to proofread all the homework (well, all but math). Last week my brother Frank called and asked me to write him a “fake note” saying why he kept his 16-year-old son, my nephew C.J., home from school. When he argued that “raging diarrhea” wasn’t a good enough reason, I argued it was much better than “I took him to the Eagles game. They lost… again.” Even though these things can be, at times, annoying, I say “I get to…” because, even when it feels like a curse, it is still a privilege to write.
As Doctorow’s story continues, the letters (and the guilt) progress and they weave into a sort of life story. It’s not a true story but in a way that doesn’t matter. It becomes Jonathan’s father’s story, a legacy of sorts, and though it begins as a way to protect the frail dying grandmother, it becomes something bigger. The letters help the family to grieve and they help Jonathan learn and come to terms with his father’s life and death, as well. Even when Jonathan expresses his desire to stop writing the letters, he can’t. He needs to do this. He is being called to do this. Not simply by guilt or grief or love or some sort of family obligation, but by that inner voice inside of him who tells him who and what he is. Like you and me, he is a writer.
It’s not the things we have and don’t have that make us who we are. It’s the people who we love and who love us.
I am so thankful for my family, my friends and for all the people who have come in and out of my life. Thank you for making this life such a wonderful journey.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.