Ice Cream

The air is warm. The ice cream shop looks increasingly inviting. Finally I decide to go in and get some cookie dough ice cream. Waiting patiently in line, I watch the man in front of me, talking to the cashier about his order.

This man is covered in full sleeves of tattoos, he’s young, maybe in his mid thirties. He looks like the kind of man upper class people are taught to fear. But I can tell by his demeanor he is respectful and kind.

The door behind me opens and I turn to see a lady with long brown accented by a white sweatshirt enter the shop.

The man in front of me turns and a look of recognition and a smile comes over his face. He asks her what she wants. She waves him off saying she’ll wait in line. He shrugs. I let her go ahead of me because I am in no hurry.

A look of gratitude passes over his face. I have a feeling his day has been arduous. The couple waits for their ice cream together. I overhear bits of their conversation. Words like “hospice” find their way to my ears.

The tattooed man drops his head and he says “I’m not worried about the pain.” I’m just worried about the rest of the family.”

Tears well up in their eyes and mine. Then like ice cream melting they embrace. They separate and are soon out the door and into the rest of the world.

Be kind out there, always. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

I have Lupus. How not to piss me off. A tutorial.

If you couldn’t guess by the title, I have Lupus. Granted its pretty mild, compared to others. If I we met and spent time together, you wouldn’t be able to tell at first glance that I am not as healthy as I look. Trust me, that is just fine with me.


BUT- if I do disclose to you that I have this disease, please, please do not offer me your favorite home remedy (I already drink enough tea to drown a horse.) or ask me if I’ve really been diagnosed or if I “just think” I have it because I don’t look sick enough. Also don’t tell me what medications I should be taking because someone you know took it, and responded well. Chances are I have either already tried whatever medication you are suggesting or I can’t try it because of other medical interactions or side effects.

In short- unless you are one of my doctors: you don’t know what works for me, what doesn’t work for me and what I’ve already tried.

Even though this disease is on the mild side that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect me. Chronic pain, Chronic Fatigue. Increased chance of infection. Increased healing time after injury or illness to name a few.

Let me just say this: I am usually really open with people about this condition. Everyone I work with knows I have it but I don’t broadcast it. If it comes up in conversation- then I let it. I have an open discussion about it. The majority of people are super respectful and genuinely curious, but I had an experience the other day where a coworker and I were chatting and the topic came up. I mentioned that I get sick more often because I have lupus. She responded by asking me if I’ve actually been diagnosed or if I just Googled my symptoms and that’s what I think I have.

I paused for a beat, dumbfounded at the disrespect, I icily replied “No I was diagnosed 7–8 years ago by multiple doctors and a lot of blood work.”

Undeterred, she told me that her daughter had lupus years ago and took magnesium supplements and was cured. Therefore I should take magnesium or maybe I just enjoy the tragedy of having lupus.

Fuming, I replied that I also have a condition called hypoparenthyriodism. Its a condition where the body cannot regulate blood calcium, magnesium or phosphorus levels. The calcium levels are too low and the magnesium and phosphorus levels are too high. therefore I can’t take magnesium supplements or else it will push them higher. But I do have to take 8 calcium pills everyday. Its a lot. Somewhere in the ballpark of 4,800 mgs.

She responded by saying magnesium is what makes calcium work so if I took that I wouldn’t need to take as much calcium per day. I reiterated that I literally cannot take anymore magnesium because my levels are already too high. and there is magnesium in calcium supplements as well.

She made an audible sigh and rolled her eyes at me. I tried to let it roll off my back but its been bothering me.

This woman is not a doctor. Even if she was- she’s not my doctor- nor was I asking for her advice.

In short- Just be respectful. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Lets try kindness first and see how far that can carry us.

Postcard to Heaven

I find myself looking for you at every turn. In the puddles on the sidewalk on my morning walk to work, in the car behind me and everywhere else in between. I keep hoping I’ll see you in the background hiding behind something for all these years. I wonder what you would look like now 6 years later, with something that might pass for wisdom in your eyes. You had experienced enough pain to have lived a thousand years, yet you were only 17.

I wonder what you would be doing right now, you had so many plans and so many dreams. There weren’t enough stars in the sky to wish for them all. You used to say:

“I’m going to be a writer and artist and I’m going to change the world”,

with just enough of a smile that I knew it was true. I wish that you had been able to accomplish at least one of those dreams, but you were only 17.

After I found out you were gone I found myself seeing you everywhere, in the hallways at school, in the back of the room in math class throwing staples at our teacher, on the school bus ride home talking animatedly about boys and shopping and all the other pursuits of teenage girls, but most of all I saw you in the background of the most random places; the store, a restaurant, walking down the street.

What bothers me now, is that I have stopped seeing you. I look and look but don’t see your face anymore. As long as I was seeing you even if it was just a flicker it meant that I haven’t forgotten, now I find myself struggling to remember the specifics of your facial features, the jauntily way you walked, and the way your voice sounded. It scares me that I may be forgetting you.

It scares me that I am moving on and growing up without you. I am graduated college and you never even got to graduate high school, never got your license, never went to the prom, never turned 18 or 21, got married or had kids. You never heard your name change to “Mom”. You never got to see your hair turn gray with the worries and trials adulthood brings. You were only 17.

Today would have been your twenty-ninth birthday but eighteen would have had to come first. I stand at the wrought iron cemetery gates, the cool spring air carries with it promises of warmer nights. The air weighs heavy with aching guilt and unending sorrow. I grasp the bouquet of flowers so tightly in my right hand that my knuckles turn white in the moonlight. Slowly, as if walking on ice, I move toward the graves. I scan the headstones and markers until I see:

Felicia Periguni

April 15, 1989- December 12, 2006

I fall to one knee and release the flowers from my clenched fist. In the silence of the night, I hear the clear cellophane that encases the flowers crinkle as it hits the ground. It startles me. The grass is still wet from this afternoon’s shower and I can feel the earthy water seeping into the knee of my jeans. The wind blows cold, the trees sway in unison. The cold sends shivers up my spine. I bow to confess:

I wish you were here.

I miss you.

My eyes begin to burn with fire creating twin rivers of salt water on my cheeks, that quickly to turn to ice in the wind. I quickly wipe my face clumsily with the back of my hand and look around habitually to see if anyone is near. Tears still flowing, watering the grass that grows on your grave, I stand up. I raise my head and see the clear black-blue sky contrasted by starlight. There are so many stars right now, but I only need one. I think about the time, another lifetime ago, when I thought the stars served as postcards to Heaven. I think I’d like to send one now.

What would it say?

I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t save you. I’m sorry all those wishes you sent to the stars never came true. I miss you. I wish you were here.

I glance down and see the flowers I dropped earlier. Purple carnations. Your favorite. Remember? You don’t like roses. They are so shy and proper and tightly wrapped.

Carnations you said,

are open and proud, unafraid to expose their most vulnerable flesh.

A small smile stretches across my face at the memory and I look up at the stars once again.

Family Tree

As I sit in Starbucks contemplating the job application before me, I overhear a little nugget of information that sticks in my brain. Two middle aged people are having a chat next to me. “I couldn’t imagine sinking that low that I would need a job like that” I take a side glance at the photo on the iPhone belonging to one of these people. It’s a meme of a McDonald’s employee, the caption reads “do you want fries with that?” They both chuckle at the absurdity of working for minimum wage.

Instantly, I feel out of place in this space.

My mind starts to wander to my working class roots that are still trying to get a foothold in this soil.

My dad grew up in a diner that his mother managed. His first job was working in that diner at 13 years old. He was a short order cook, dishwasher, waiter, cashier, cleaner, busboy, and a bouncer when he had to be. Since that diner my dad has had more jobs than I have years. Factory worker, mechanic, delivery man, driver, oil delivery man, waiter, bartender, bouncer, carpenter, plumber, electrician, police officer, housing authority officer, forensic photographer, criminologist. My father is a high school dropout with no college degree.

He has spent so much energy trying to make sure his descendants fall far away from this family tree.

My mom is the complete opposite she got her first job as a social worker at 24. Her mother was a trust-fund baby. And lived in the social and educational circles to match. Her parents would have fainted if anyone even suggested they didn’t want to go to graduate school let alone drop out of high school. When my mom fell for my dad and brought him home to meet her parents at age 30, he was subjected to a 4 hour in-your-face interrogation by my grandmother. My dad would later remark “the Nazis were nothing compared to my mother-in-law.” My grandmother did not like that my dad was of the working class. They felt that my mother was “above scum like him.”

They didn’t like that he had his GED instead of his diploma and never finished college.

The fact that he was one of the most respected forensic specialists on the east coast meant nothing.

The fact he treated my mom with respect meant nothing.

The fact that he helped set a precedent benefiting rape victims in Connecticut primarily by himself meant nothing.

They threatened to disown my mother if she married him. She did it anyway and they didn’t disown her but their relationship with my dad was always icy.

3 years after they were married my mom had a miscarriage. She had to have to the fetus removed at the hospital, it was technically an abortion.

Afterwards the phone rings, it’s my grandmother. She screamed at my mom for murdering her grandchild, she told my mom that she was going to hell for having an abortion. According to my grandmother she should have left the fetus in her uterus to fester so that they both would die and go to heaven.

It was my dad, the working class scum that calmed her down and told her how those beliefs were antiquated and asinine. He told her that no woman should feel that she has to carry death inside her for salvation. He told her women should be able to do what they need to do with their own bodies.

So when people ask me why I identify more with my dad’s family than my mom’s, I tell them that they’re more in line with my working class beliefs. And that I’m proud to have fallen close to this family tree.

A Letter to My 7 Year Old Self

Things are different than you though they would be. Turns out it takes a little longer to get started than a 7 year old could have comprehended.

Around this time your obsession was Outer Space and the dream job was a scientist. Until Mrs. Farrell (our 1st grade teacher) asked what you wanted to grow up to be. You told her. Scientist. Her response was “hmm… scientist… that’s a hard job. Scientists work very hard. A lot of times they work through lunch.”

That was the end of wanting to be a scientist. You liked lunch. Priorities.

Many things are still the same. We still like lunch. Albeit too much, but that’s OK. We still live in the same house. We still don’t have a dog, but that’s also mildly OK because we also don’t have enough time for a dog.

Things got tough for while in the teenage years but you’ll come out on the other side with some war stories and an appreciation for clarity, but also a low tolerance for bullshit and pretense.

You’ll learn many wonderful things and many not so wonderful things as you grow. Things like how to swear like a sailor, how to search your mind for secrets even you didn’t know you had and how live with almost unbearable pain.

That’s another thing you’ll experience. Pain. Lots of it. But always you’ll come out on the other side stronger and able to appreciate all in this world. Pain has a funny way of making you look at the world through a filter that allows you zone in on all the important aspects. This is a good thing. Its uncomfortable and it takes your breath away but it makes you grateful for little things like walking and grocery shopping.

In 10 years you will be all of 17 and in the thick of thinking this life is terrible and emotionally numbing.

Stick it out.

You’ll meet some really great people.

That stormy path was there so that you would know what to do in the sunshine. And trust me you will make it out of the storm.

Baby Boy

I come home from the gym on a Tuesday afternoon. The air is thick with pain. The TV is on but no one is watching. The news anchor is deploring the fate of something or another. In the kitchen my father is pacing. Pacing in tight circles around our small table. Softly I ask, “what’s wrong?”. He doesn’t hear my words, eyes are open but unseeing. I can tell he is lost in his thoughts. Confused, I attempt to figure out the cause of his odd behavior. Then the new anchor comes back from a commercial break and recaps all the day’s breaking news. One headline grabs my attention and shakes me. A baby boy was found in a recycling center. Instantly I know the reason for my dad’s strange actions.

Suddenly I’m 15 and my dad is driving with me riding shotgun. Somehow our conversation turns to sewage plants. He begins to tell me about the first and only time he ever went into a sewage treatment facility. He was a rookie cop, he had been on the job less than a month. He was 23 years old and still living at home. In many ways he was still a kid. Dispatch radioed him that they wanted him to go to a call at a sewage plant in town. They told him that he would have to go there alone because it was a low risk situation and they needed other officers in the field for more dangerous situations that might arise. He asked what the situation entailed, and dispatch just said he should ask the foreman when he arrived. He asked again, and they just reiterated that statement. He gave up.

Once at the sewage treatment plant the foreman is waiting outside for him. The foreman is jumpy and nervous, he waves for my dad to follow him into the building and they go to the first stage of the sewage treatment. The way it worked was raw sewage would be funneled onto a conveyor belt and water would be sprayed on top. The conveyor belt is a metal mesh so the sewage liquefies and drops below into a vat for the second stage of treatment. Anything that stays solid is usually some kind of other material metal, plastic, wood etc. The police get called to sewage treatment plants often, people flush (or toss down a sewer) guns, and knives all the time, so this what my dad thought he was walking into. The conveyor belt is stopped and the water off. There’s more literal shit than he’s ever seen in his life. The uneasy foreman points to the middle of the conveyor belt and says “there, look right there”. My dad must refocus his eyes before he even realizes what he’s looking at. Then in one awful second, he figures it out, there is the body of a one-month old baby boy laying there among all that filth. He immediately threw up and started to cry right there in front of the foreman. Eventually he composed himself enough and got the job done.

When he told me all those years ago in as we were driving around town, he had to pull over because he had begun to cry, and I had begun to throw up on the side of the road. Once we had composed ourselves he looked at me and said, “That baby boy has stayed with me all these years, I have never forgotten him.”

Today with the news screaming about this baby boy, I wonder if there will be a rookie cop to mourn him, every day for the next 45 years.


In the early hours of the morning, my room is dark and quiet. My five year old mind wakes and even though it is much too early to be awake, I cannot fall back to sleep. I can hear the faint sounds of my father rustling papers and rummaging through his drawers in order to get ready for work.

I watch as he walks across the hall to my room and stands in my doorway. The light from the bathroom shines brightly through the window but the shades on my windows keep my room quite dark. My father stands silhouetted, his short but broad and stocky frame filling up the space. He is watching to see if I am awake, I give no word or sign.

He softly pads across the room to my bed, careful not to step on any of the creaky floorboards. I shut my eyes, knowing that this moment would stop if he knew I was awake, and I could sense that he needed this.

Once at the side of my bed, I feel the mattress move slightly as it takes the weight of his hand. He drops to one knee and rests both arms on the bed. I feel the mattress move a little more. My eyes open just a crack to see what is happening, his head is bowed as if he is praying, face in his hands. Tears well up in my eyes. Even at five years old I am not used to seeing him so vulnerable. I squeeze them tight as he raises his head, so he will not see the tears. His strong muscled hand reaches out and gently traces my hairline. I feel the mattress move again as he leans on it to stand up, his damaged knees are not as agile as they once were. Once standing, he leans over and softly kisses my cheek, whispers in my ear before pulling away, “I love you and don’t you ever forget that.”

He turns around to walk gently out of the room, he stops at the doorway to turn around and stare once more.