Jun 22, 2008


SEATTLE –  Dawn's fingers are grubby and grey on my 33rd birthday. No matter. The calla lilies are bright; the cornbread warm; the champagne flowing. I loiter over brunch and miss the Fremont Solstice Parade entirely.

Which turns out to be the best first-day-of-summer tactic to date.

Candace and I push through the crowds to the terminus, Gas Works Park. Everyone's here: the Vikings, bellydancers, wood nymphs, Rain Barrel Robots and the emo boy with a tutu headdress that resembles a sulky daisy.

And, of course, the nekkid cyclists, who kick off the non-motorized granola-fest each year in a bodypainted blur. Except they've dismounted and are standing around, shooting the shit over free beers and grub. That's one of the things I love most about Seattle: its citizens will celebrate even the most spavined coder, if he or she is willing to blaze "free choice" or zebra stripes on their bare hides.

At the taqueria, I gen up a toilet-flushing workaround, which delights the long queue. Two painted ladies clap me on the back. I try not to count their nether piercings, which would be fascinating – so many! – but rude.

Or is it rude not to admire something so joyfully on display?


Fremont's atmosphere shifts towards surly around 5pm, as the intoxicants reach critical mass. On a blister-band-aid supply run, I glimpse my cellphone: its murky screen clogged with multiple text and voice messages ... the family broadcasting on all channels.

My grandmother Emma O'Brien Baptist weighed just 60 pounds when a stroke froze her ability to chew or swallow. She refused an IV: she was done with medical intervention. Yet still it took six days for her to die. The average healthy adult lasts three in those conditions.

I crouch on the sidewalk, weeping, fighting to hear over the crowd's hum. Strangers reach down, touch my shoulder, urgent: are you OK? Candace runs to enfold me in a hug, her blisters forgotten.

After months of illness – and the last weeks of deathwatch – I should be fortified, prepped, ready.

But hurt doesn't fix like a toilet tank's broken chain.

And life has no replacement part for Emma.


  1. Sweetest pea1:34 PM

    Oh Amy, at least you had a happy birthday before the sad news. I hope you're OK. Luv, SP.

  2. Hugs back atcha, darling.

    My birthday was lovely and silly and sweet: everything Emma would have wished.

    Xoxoxoxxo, Ax