Tag Archives: dealing with grief

A tornado of changes

When I was a young child, I used to dream about a white tornado. Most times, it was a scary dream: I grew up in the Midwest, which has seen its share of disaster caused by funnel clouds. However, being a child with an optimistic imagination that often turned fire-breathing dragons into puppy-like creatures, I sometimes saw the tornado of my dreams as a hero: sweeping into the basement and straightening up my toys so I wouldn’t get in trouble.

It takes a historian, not an analyst, to figure out where my dreams came from: Ajax had a commercial for its ammonia-based, liquid cleaner beginning in the early 1960s that featured people taking the top off a the bottle, which released a white tornado to carry through the Ajax theme of “stronger than dirt.”dreamstime_xs_73725675

I see the year 2018 as my modern white tornado tackling some grit. My family has experienced great upheaval starting with sickness and injury, then losing a friend to tragedy, seeing a beloved parent lose his ability to function, experiencing the fear of having another parent almost lose her home. The year swept in, destroyed much in its path and created chaos.

As a writer, the greatest change is that my co-author, my mom, is moving a thousand-plus miles away. As a mother, the hardest change is that my daughter is doing the same thing. I’m going from being part of the sandwich generation to dealing with a solitude I haven’t felt since I was in my thirties, single and living each day for myself without worrying much about the family who lived so far away.

My mind is reaching for the positives in this white tornado: my mom will be with my other sisters, well-cared for and in a better living situation. My daughter will get the life experience I think she really needs to grow into her own. I will get some quality time with my husband that we both want and more time to write my own stories.  But I’m not a child so it’s not as easy to let go of the dragon.  The path the tornado took has left much residue behind: I see it in the sadness on the faces of my husband and sister-in-law; in the stress I see in both my mom and my daughter’s eyes. I feel it my heart when I think about how I’ll live without the wisdom of my ma, the daily laughter of my baby girl, the good-hearted joking of my father-in-law.

I can only hope that when we put the lid back on the bottle of 2018 and tuck it away on the shelf, the world might look like a cleaner, fresher place.–Genilee Swope Parente





Posted by on August 7, 2018 in Uncategorized


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A fan’s take on grief


Robin Williams: Dreamstime

This has been a year of loss for my family: my brother in law passed last fall in the same week as our family pet. My husband’s cousin passed a few months ago—stricken down by a heart attack in his 50s. A dear aunt died after a year-long illness. Most recently, the man who married my husband and I died. And while these deaths left huge holes in my life, so did the passing of Robin Williams. He’s not family so he didn’t create the giant well of grief I felt for the others. But he took a part of me when he left just like these other people did.

It’s easier to talk about Robin because he was a celebrity I could not begin to know. The historical, biographical aspect of Robin’s life I’m looking forward to learning, and I’m sure there will be more lessons over the coming few days than I ever wanted to receive thanks to public outcry and media hunger. Like with the people close to me, however, the part Robin took cannot be replaced, though it might be copied.

When it comes to Robin Williams, the part was awe, and it’s something I like to feel, seek to experience, strive to present. Robin could wow, and to me, that is what anyone in any art form tries to do. As a comedian, Robin was true genius—his wit was so sharp, his brilliance so fine-tuned and quick, watching him do standup—oh heck, watching him do ANYthing—left me breathless. It was hard to keep up with the funny that poured from that man once he got going. And I always felt like I was on a roller coaster ride when I watched him―the part of the ride after you crest that first long hill and the car is shooting through the peaks and valleys of the thrill.

He affected me almost as much, however, as an actor. It must have been hard for him to take instructions from a director, and I’m sure he ticked off a few of them; but only temporarily until he got them to laugh. His acting had a level of depth that’s hard to describe—he played a crazy man in a photo booth with equal passion to a downtrodden widowed man who befriends a homeless man or a motherly drag queen. His movies were not always popular, but they are some of my favorites.

I’m angry with Robin Williams for taking the awe away in such a tragic way. But I know I’ll get over that aspect of what happened yesterday—and I should get over it. I’ll read about him and try to figure out why someone who created such joy could feel such despair. I won’t figure it out because I’m not like Robin in any way or even part of Robin’s family.

But then, it’s not up to me to judge or analyze him. It’s up to me, as a fan, to keep him alive.

—Genilee Swope Parente


Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Uncategorized


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