It all ties together somehow in the end.

On May 6, 2009 by Eden M. Kennedy

One delightful summer many years ago I was in Las Vegas for a convention, and I ventured away from the gaudy, steaming Hell of the Strip to a wee little — I guess you’d call it a day spa. It was in the back of someone’s house, where I got an allegedly nontoxic manicure, and then the woman who ran the place psychically diagnosed what sort of aromatherapy I needed. Rosemary, lime, and something else, as it turned out, and I said to this woman (whose father, she told me, was the spitting image of Don Adams) — this woman who lived her life as the faux daughter of the guy from Get Smart, I said to her, This smell reminds me of my mother’s kitchen.

The rosemary? she asked. She had red hair.

No, I said, Lime popsicles.

This photo is far too artful to show the real difference between Palmolive green (left) and Method green (right). Palmolive green hasn’t changed in fifty years, and I love that about it. It’s science-y and it smells like Madge and you know how many germs it kills? ALL OF THEM. Method green, on the other hand, is rhododendrons and Martha-fresh. It rounds up all the germs and carries them down your drain to a free-range germ farm.

I’m writing this from my mother’s bedside. She’s turned another corner on the long road to checking out altogether, and on this street the air is fresh and the lawns are trimmed and she only eats a couple of times a week. She doesn’t know who I am, I’m pretty sure, but she smiles at me as though she likes me anyway.

When my dad died two years ago, every night for three weeks I watched 40-Year-Old Virgin and read Doonesbury cartoon books in bed before blacking out for the night. This week I’ve got a Netflix’d copy of Darjeeling Express in my laptop and I’ve developed a terrible crush on Adrien Brody. Yes, I’m much older than him and it would never work, but all the same, my apologies to his fiancee.

Yesterday I went out for a groceries and ended up cruising the Southwest Plaza mall. I bought a copy of Tootsie at Target and some tights at Macy’s and some school clothes for Jackson off the Gap sale rack and then I went to Border’s to laugh at them for going under*, and then I went to Spencer’s because it was the only place I could think of that might possibly have incense. They did. After a quick stop at the liquor store for margarita fixins, I went home and lit a stick of what turned out to be fairly traditional (in my limited experience of such things) Indian incense.

*My apologies to all unemployed Border’s employees but do you have any idea how many independent bookstores you displaced over the last decade? Quit pointing at What goes around comes around.

My brother, surprisingly, said, Oh, you’re going to clear the energy in the house? And I guess that’s what I did. I walked at a moderate pace through every room and closet (and the garage), smoking out the ghosts. I don’t know how deeply I subscribe to this sort of thing, but it felt pretty good when I was done. And at bedtime, the traditional hour when I get spooked out of my skin and have to watch a movie or read a book or pray to Satan to leave me alone, instead of any of that for the first time in years I felt nothing at all, just quiet, and I went to sleep.

The birds that start singing at 5:00 a.m., however, need to die. And this foam foldout couch is bullshit. But apart from that everything’s fine. How are you?



70 Responses to “It all ties together somehow in the end.”

  • I loved reading this but I can’t put my finger on just why: your overall reaction to this stressful situation – the Borders karma observation, the kind words for Palmolive-green – the whole thing. I went (was forced by my employer) to a seminar once where the facilitator kept talking about “unpacking” comments people made about said employer. I won’t try to unpack your post. We’ll let it be the lovely, California thing that it is. Best wishes. Be well.

    But before I go … OMG! Spencers? Is it still lit with blacklight? Did they card you when you bought incense? I thought it was strictly 14 and under. OK. Bye now.
    Take care.

  • Thank you.

    Spencer’s, to its credit, has not changed a bit in like 40 years. Still the same dusty sexual pranks, the black light posters, the incense. They’ve also added a new line of baby onesies with offensive sayings on them.

  • I also love this post, but I won’t try to put together a coherent comment on it. I just wanted you to know that I, too, developed a crush on Adrien Brody after watching Darjeeling Express, and I’ve never told anyone, because — well, because he’s not the kind of actor normal people get crushes on, is he?

    Glad you smoked out the ghosts and found a little peace. Take care of yourself.

  • I was listening to some podcast about dementia recently, and they related the story of a husband, whose wife couldn’t remember him anymore. Apparently, she once said “I don’t know who you are, but I love you.”

    Love remains.

  • Every time I smell, or think about, limes I go to the liquor store and buy margarita fixin’s too.
    Sounds like you need many.

  • I’ve been reading your blog since just after your father died, which was just around the time that my father died. I’m so sorry about your mom. You sound like you’re doing pretty okay, all things considered, and I’m glad. Hang in there; I’ll be thinking of you and your family.

  • May be peace be with you. Although it really reads as if you have already found it.

  • Your writing is just wonderful. Sigh.

  • If I didn’t live so damn far (Laval, Québec of all places) you’d be getting all the free massages you want. Because your plentiful archive helped get me thru many a sleepless nite when I was struggling to finish my damn certification. A whole hell of a lot of good this does you but I always wanted to thank you for that.

    Be well.

  • damn, woman. i am on the same path, too, with my mom. i hope i have your grace as i get there. peace and strength to you.

  • wow. i guess my husband blogs as Steve-O, ***shudder***

    that last one was from me.

  • This made me so sad. Hang in there.

    On a brighter note, I will out my secret crush on Adrian Brody today, thanks to you. He’s in the sexy-ugly school of sexy, but that’s still sexy.

  • this is a beautiful post.
    i developed a crush on adrian brody, too (the pianist!). watching darjeeling express almost made me lose it. almost.

  • I know this wasn’t the point of your post, but I just have to say – Adrian Brody is *hot*. I’ve often thought that he and I could make beautiful children. Sigh.

  • I went through the same thing with my grandmother last year and the most difficult part was her not knowing who any of us were. My brother once explained to me that death can be as beautiful as birth when we all come together and experience it as a family. I believe that, even though she couldn’t place our faces, my grandmother knew we were there and knew there was love. Hang in there.

  • Oh, Fussy. I just love you. Thanks for the poem the other day. I miss your Phillip Levine days.

  • Philip Levine! I heard him on the radio the other day reading the beginning “What Work Is” and I nearly pulled over to listen, but it was just a promo for some upcoming show.

  • That paragraph, the one about your mother smiling at you?

    I just read it out loud to my English teacher husband, something I rarely do because it sort of drives him crazy when he reads essays all day, even when it’s really completely mind-bendingly great writing, like this is.

    Something in it just…spoke to us. I don’t know. Everything everybody else said in all the comments before this one. Yeah, from us too.

  • I’m so with you on the birds needing to die, but mine start at about 4am – must be the higher altitude.

  • Allow me to toss another armload of love onto the (already enormous) pile here — for this particular post, for your writing in general, for you, for all of it.

    I also became sweet on Adrian Brody after seeing “Dummy” (note to self: watch that again soon) and it was only intensified after seeing “Darjeeling Express”. He has a certain specialized niche appeal, I think.

    As for the bird issue — there is a very small bird who has made the rooftop of my apartment building his weekend vacation home. His favorite early morning activity is to shout at the world “Hello! It is morning, and I am a bird, and I am HERE!!!” I don’t even speak Bird, normally — but he is enthusiastic enough that I have gotten the message, thank you very much.

    Warm thoughts wrapped in silver ribbons to you…

  • I read this as I am winding down from making travel plans to visit my most favorite Aunt, for the last time probably, my father and his wife who was recently upgraded from nursing home to assisted living. Im taking my mother who is expecting to freak out if she doesn’t get an aisle seat on the plane. I mention all this because we seemed to faced with mortality a lot around here lately. I hope I handle my family matters with as much aplomb as yourself. Brava young lady.

  • Also, I hope the fires are not threatening your family while you are away. I’m sure that hastens another round of Margaritas!

  • I’m in line for apologizing to Adrien Brody’s fiance. That look in his eyes in Darjeeling Express when he’s looking up, soulfully and it’s just him in the frame. Ah. Perfection.

    I’m sorry about your mom. My dad passed ten years ago, my mom is disabled and needs full time care. My brother is on the heart transplant list. My sister has two or three chronic illnesses. I have had a stroke, a brain hemorrhage and I have the same heart condition my brother does. We are all trying to distract ourselves as best we can.

    I’m trying not to eat every carb in sight. I watch a lot of

    Know you are not alone. I will have to burn my healing incense more often. It’s some special Tibetan stuff in an orange box. it’s the only stuff that doesn’t make me sneeze.

  • i hope this doesn’t sound creepy, but i’ve been thinking about you kind of randomly and hoping you’re doing ok. i know that’s feeble, but it’s kindly meant.

  • Real I know, but beautifully written nonetheless.

  • Agreed, this is a beautiful post. I love the images of different shades of green mixed with the scent memories of lime and rosemary.

    I hope you’re all doing as well as you can be. Take care.

  • My grandmother used Palmolive. And my grandfather used Brylcream. I’ve purchased both products in my past, just to be near their smells.

    I hear those same fucking birds. They’re robins and sometimes mine start before five. I’m really glad you got some good sleep before the birds woke up.

  • I don’t know you, but I want to hug you. Just know that your internet fans love you and are sending good thoughts your way to lean on.

  • I love you Eden.

  • I am headed down that long road with my mom, too, and I am grateful beyond words for this (and all) posts.

  • I came by to see if the fire is pressing upon you. I’m glad the incense soothed the ghosties and let you sleep.

  • I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said but: thank you for sharing your journey with us and I am sorry for this part of the walk.

    Things have been horridly wrong lately in my neck of the woods and I keep saying to my husband, this is growth, right? All this pain and hardness must mean growth, right? We do what we can.

  • The deleted comment was me. Hit “Publish” before I should have. Here’s a version of what I wrote that makes a little more sense:

    Saw someone on the bus this morning who reminded of Adrian Brody. The resemblance was slight, very slight, but it got me thinking about him, and I couldn’t decide whether I thought he was attractive or not.

    It appears he’s on the minds of a lot of us recently. Synchronicity? Is that what that’s called?

  • I’m doing alright. Perhaps a little on the tired side. I’m sorry about your mother’s slow decline. I hope she’s comfortable.

  • Gah. Have started this comment about 8 times, but apparently I’m in stupid mode and everything I write sounds stupid.

    So I will just say I’m so sorry about your mom. And your dad. My husband lost both parents to lingering illnesses and it was the worst thing ever, both times.

    I wish peace for you, your mom, your brother, and everyone.

  • Dear God, Eden. You paint a picture so well that I am there. I’m right there. Speaking of artful things…take a look in the mirror, dear.

    My wish for you is that the peace you found will not be brief.

  • Adrian Brody?! How, when the most gorgeous man in the world (Owen Wilson) co-stars. Sweet Owen (*sigh) the love of my life.
    Having gone through what you are currently going through (2 grandparents and both parents, last one in February) I commend your inner peace and ability to sleep in the house. I never thought about incense. Damn. Wishing your Mom, you and your sibling’s peace.

  • Christa, I’m willing to talk about this. There’s a scene at the end where Angelica Huston says, “Let’s communicate without speaking,” and the camera just settles in on each of their faces, one by one, and when it’s Owen Wilson’s turn — yeah, I hadn’t really noticed him like that before. He’s so much trouble for everyone for most of the film that I hadn’t really seen him up until that point, whereas Adrian Brody brings it — gently — right from the start.

    I feel like I should say something about Jason Schwartzman now, but he’s still kind of a blank for me in this movie. His best scene is with Rita in the bathroom, and the best thing about him is her reaction to him.

    Now I want to see a movie starring Bill Murray and Waris, the head train steward.

  • I am glad you found peace. I have fallen in love with your mother, and remember when you fed her McD’s cheeseburgers. Reminds me of my mom’s long journey home. I appliqued until my fingers were bleeding, but I did not feel the pain, it was all in my heart. When I pull that quilt out at Christmas each year, I try to find her smell in it. Wierd. My thoughts are with you, Have a double on Mother’s Day, I know I will.

  • I thought of you this morning, seeing Sam Champion in SB reporting on the fires.

    Good thoughts to you and yours. I’m always amazed @ the amount of clothing you’ve kept over the years, things your mom created. For someone who had a semi-gypsy lifestyle, your caravan must be huge!

    PS Fond memories of 1970′s housekeeping here, too. When a few phosphates made the house squeek.

  • This is a beautiful post. I hope all concerned and mentioned find some modicum of peace.

  • Ohhhh, I love that line “Let’s communicate without speaking,” and YES, I have to admit I totally get Brody — much more in this film than prior films. There is this seductive quality to Adrian, but in prior movies he has this walk, it’s like a “Bronx strut” that distracts me. Owen on the other hand (*sigh). Well he could knock on your door at any minute…like right now. The guy next door, casually, “hey, sorry to bother you, but I just…”, his boyish quality – sweet smile. I’m just saying.

    I remember sitting with my Grandma for hours. She would look at me like 30 times during a 12 hour period as if I had just walked into the room for the first time and excitedly blurt out “HI!” I’d say “Hi” back and then we’d go back to silence. It was sweet in its own way. Some moments were peaceful and other times I found myself coaxing the next “HI!” out of her just to hear her sweet voice. I like to think Owen would have stopped by and lightened the load with his laughing eyes.

    WARNING! Have you seen “Marley & Me”? If you haven’t allow me to scream DON’T! Not a good movie for the moment. Alas, Owen is in the movie though.

    Have a sweet afternoon.

  • I don’t like a lot of strong smelling incense. But I do love the idea of blessing with smoke. The delicate swirls of smoke that stream from the end of an incense stick are beautiful liquid air.

    I’m glad you cleared things out. Here’s hoping for a new/better mattress.

  • p.s. LOVE the masthead.

  • Wow. My dad died four months ago and I’m not sleeping much. I might try the incense and the margaritas. Thanks. Hang in there.

  • I’m glad you have methods for bringing peace to your world.

  • My heart goes out to you during this most difficult and sad time. No matter what it is painful to watch your parents slowly leave us.

    I wish you peace.

    I am remembering you and your mother this mothers day.

  • Beautiful post. As always.

    We’re fine, thanks, but the house is scattered with boxes that are sposed to fit in the van (ha) with kids+dog if The Call came in. Evac line was, oh, three blocks away for a while. Whew!

  • My mom just passed a few weeks ago; it was sudden, even though she was sick, no one was ready yet. We’re still stumbling around and no, I can’t sleep either. Maybe I should try incense.

    Talking about smells reminds me that my mom always wore Timeless by Avon. I don’t know if they even make it anymore, but I’m going to go check, thanks to you.

    All the best in this strange and confusing time.

  • Miss Eden,
    I am so sorry. You are being good to your mother.
    I’m glad you were able to “clean” the house a little.
    Thinking of you.

  • You can all have Adrien, I have dibs on Owen! I’m sorry about your mom and I hope Wes Andersen can help you get through it.

  • When I started medical school 21 months ago, I amped up my blog reading [although I started reading here long before that]. It wasn’t something I did on purpose; rather, it seemed like a natural reaction. All day in class, I listened to a sanitized view of things. Sanitized not in that they weren’t vivid or grotesque, but sanitized in that it separates the feelings from the disease process. I can look at histology and say, “Oh, well, yes–this is Alzheimer’s, and this is why.” But this is unfulfilling, because it leaves out the part about why you go to medical school in the first place.

    This is really just a drawn out way to say thank you for this post, for helping me put words and feelings to the sanitized everything else. I think it is one of the most beautiful posts I’ve read anywhere on the internet, breathtaking in its own quiet way.

  • Oh, wow, so sad and lovely. Eden, yours is a lucky mom.

    I am glad Spencer’s could step in and help as I remember it from one of the Malls of Denver, the plastic peeing boys, the blinking wang-shaped nightlights, everything naughty.

  • I mean a lucky mom to have you, of course. Sorry so inarticulate.

  • This makes me sad.

    I know it is probably not supposed to.

    It is amazing that you are doing the smudge stick thing.

    When my grandfather died I cried and cried and what felt the most earth shattering in a way is that I can never go to his house anymore. This house that I’ve been to, thousands and thousands of times. My cousin said that my grandmother’s ghost was there and I said “I know. That’s what I love.”

    I want to go where their ghosts are and be with them. But different houses have different kinds of ghosts.

  • You are a good soul to sit by your mother like that.

    But I have a question. What is the Palmolive doing in a wine bottle?

  • I was just telling my sister how I always love me some fussy.

    May I join you on the Adrian Brody love train?

  • I’ll just steal what KSV Woolfoot said.

    Be well.

  • “She smiles at me as though she likes me anyway.” I’m crying now, remembering I felt the same way about my dad during that last awful year when he lost who I was, but I loved him all the same and when he smiled at me, it was almost like he knew, at least for a moment.
    My thoughts are with you, Eden. Take care.

  • Long time listener, first time, blah…
    I've worked in a long term care facility for eight years and read a lot of medical blogs.
    I was reading one, where the author stated that she was an OB nurse because, "birth is the ultimate rush". I can see that. I have four kids.

    I get it.


    What about the death experience?
    It's not so celebrated.
    It's not timed down to a + or – 9 month period.
    It's not usually surrounded by people so excited to see what happens unless they desire knick knacks.
    But I think it is JUST as, IF NOT MORE, important.
    And I wish it was viewed that way.

    I wish there were always a large group of people standing around saying "Wow, you made it! You did really well!"
    Bestest to you and yours Eden. <3

  • The men in Darjeeling make me want to cup my hand at each of their cheeks–you just know they would lean into it.

    “Is that Dad’s razor?”

  • You captured that sense of dislocation and strangeness and waiting so well.

    And Adrien Brody has been mine for years, so leave him alone. Something about a tall, super-skinny dark man with a nice big nose just does it for me. And those smart-sad eyes…ah.

  • And this is coming at me the same day I am realizing I’ll be receiving a call from my Dad tomorrow, who can barely get around, and I’m dreading talking to him, because I know I’ll have to talk about something, and I really don’t know how to tell him I’m going to Paris, and not Missouri. I really don’t know what to say. We’re even, I guess, the errant father and I.

    I hope you can sleep. I’m having such trouble.

    My grandmother-remembered smell is Avon Topaz, which I found in a jeweled bottle on her dresser at age 10. What fondness in one little spot, smells.

  • What a nice bit of writing this is — from the little bit about lime popsicles to the last little bit about the early morning birds. I’ve been listening to the birds here, too, cheerfully chirping away like there’s nothing to be worried about at 3:30am. I could kill them (but I won’t)! This piece of yours expresses a wide range of emotions and is very compelling. Thank you!

  • The most pungent mom-smell in my sensomemory is cigarettes and beer mixed with pool chemicals and cut grass. And her nasty-delicious macaroni salad.

    My mom smells are locked in a mid-80s summer barbecue.

    It’s been six months since she checked out, decidedly against her will (courtesy of those cigarettes).

    Just checking in to see how you’re doing… These things suck, even with peace and incense.

  • Great post. So sorry about your mom, it must be really hard to watch her decline that way. I don’t know how much I believe in the incense thing either, but I do believe in doing whatever makes us feel comforted when we’re grieving. Glad you were able to get some rest.

  • Bossy can’t remember how she is because she is blinded by the brilliance of this post. Truly.