INGWI: For Barbara, For Her 70th

It was a milestone birthday. That’s what’s got me out of sorts. You would’ve been 70 today. You wouldn’t have looked like it though.

Angel and I just got back from Playa del Carmen in Mexico for our 10th wedding anniversary. It was incredible. The food was good, the drinks were good, and it was so nice to get away for a week. I go back to work tomorrow. Same place, different job title.

But I’m sure you already know that.

Aaliyah started WVU gymnastics camp today and she finishes tomorrow. I’m so proud of everything she’s accomplished as a gymnast so far. She’s starting to get into volleyball a little bit though, so we’ll see if anything comes of that.

I finished watching Creed II today. You remember how I used to love watching the Rocky movies. Creed is about Apollo Creed’s son, Adonis. I think the first movie came out a few months after you passed.

Anyway, there’s a lot of parent drama in there between Adonis and his newborn daughter, and then Drago (from Rocky IV, the Russian!) and his son, and then Creed and Apollo (they never got to meet because Drago killed Apollo), and then Rocky and his son.

When Rocky and his son were reunited at the end, I bawled like a baby. I’ve been needing to cry for days. I tried in Mexico on Wednesday and I couldn’t really do it. But I was sobbing this morning. Anything with parents in any form of media hits me like a ton of bricks.

Dad’s doing okay. He was out on the town on Friday night. His resiliency is awe-inspiring for me. Man still takes care of business. I’m very thankful he’s still here.

I texted Beamer. I try to see him when I can but we’re close for such short amounts of time, so it’s hard to link up.

I guess that’s always my excuse. I’m only here for a short time, sorry. It’s a shitty excuse but it’s the truth. But I could put a little more effort on my side.

Michael reached out to me when I was depressed a few months ago and we had a really good conversation. He wants to record and I have the equipment and the knowledge for how to do that. We missed each other at Apple Blossom and I actually haven’t been back home since.

I really do want to record him. He’s a way more talented rapper than I could ever be. But I have to make more of an effort on my side. I know that. I just have to start actually doing it.

I tried texting Will when we were in town but I didn’t get a response. I got his number from Von at the funeral and he responded back. His number could have changed. I hope he’s doing okay. He didn’t come to the funeral.

I believe you and Paul are back together now. He did the best he could without you for almost 8 years then decided he had enough.

I kid. You know what he went through. It’s funny; Travis was on the phone both times when I got horrible news. You in 2015 and Paul last summer. I know he didn’t do it on purpose and if you’re reading this, you do a really good job at it, Travis. Hell of a consolation prize.

We brought Aaliyah down to see Paul the weekend before he passed. It was the first time we had seen him since before he got sick. He lit up a little bit when he saw her. He was always so good with her. Christmas of 2021, he was watching her play with his guitar, happy.

And then he was gone in less than a year.

Cancer is the worst. Paul. Bonnie. You. Granddad.

I don’t even know exactly what happened to you. The doctor’s just said you were weak but they didn’t think you had another stroke. They dumped you in hospice so you could rehabilitate and then I got the call that following Friday. Pretty sure it was a blood clot though.

After I had been in your hospital room that Monday. I’m sorry I had to leave you there and I couldn’t take you with me like you wanted.

There’s nothing like not being able to do the last thing your mother wanted from you.

I know there’s nothing I could have done. You called me a week or so before you went to the hospital saying you needed… help. But I told you I wasn’t sure if that kind of help was available in Morgantown. But I said that I would try to help you find something.

I think you knew then; you knew something was wrong. That you didn’t have much time left. And I don’t know if getting you the help you were asking for faster would’ve kept you here or not. I definitely listened to what you asked me to do but I don’t think I heard you.

Until it was too late.

Somehow, I don’t blame myself. Could you imagine how much more of a mess I’d be if I did?


I found the video I shot on Nikki’s old camera of me and Angel at Euclid not too long ago. Angel had just finished kicking my ass in rummy. Again.

We played rummy when we were at Ocean City one night last month. And despite me actually playing well, guess what? Angel kicked my ass again.

Paul said in the video that I did get pretty upset when I lose at cards.

But you said, “But he’s getting better.”

I love you for that. You always had a way of being positive and making me feel better.

You always supported stuff I was into, no matter how silly. Transformers, Turtles (you got me the sewer playset!), basketball cards, etc. You got me a Gameboy shortly after you moved into the Bellview apartments. We used to trade it back and forth playing Tetris and then you got me a couple other games when you could.

I have to admit, as dirty as Bellview was, I always loved it because it was your place. And that’s how I felt about anywhere you and Paul stayed too. I loved you having a place of your own. And I loved being with you.

I spent hours laying on that carpet in the apartment copying pictures of Spider-Man from the latest issue of Spectacular Spider-Man that I had.

Drawing on your yellow notebook paper and using your nice pens.

Watching Disney Afternoon when you picked me up after school from John Kerr and then how you surprised me with a Darkwing Duck figure (another thing I was into at one point).

Watching an NFL Films marathon the weekend of the first Cowboys/Bills Super Bowl as I watched 30 minute recaps of every Super Bowl.

There was even this kid’s soap opera that used to come on Nickelodeon that you watched even when I wasn’t there. Fifteen I think? And you’d catch me up on the stories I was missing when I was at home.

And that damn yellow car. I can still hear the doors opening and closing on the Goose as it was affectionately named. It was easily the loudest looking car I’ve ever ridden in. But I loved it because it was your car and I was with you.

And you loved Angel so much from the first time you met her. We walked into Euclid for the first time and it was like you had known her for years. You two were thick as thieves.

I pray I never find out exactly what you got up to at her bachelorette party.

I loved when you would come and stay with us in Morgantown for a week or so every summer. It was so nice having you there. I remember when Angel and I lived on Green Street and you came up. One night, Angel went to bed and you and I stayed up watching the first Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes movie. You kept saying how stupid and silly it was.

But you laughed through the entire movie. We laughed through the entire movie. It was one of the best nights I had with you as an adult. Your laughter was so contagious as is so when you really go going, it was hard not to laugh with you.

I’m watching my neighbor help his mom into the house. She took his arm for extra support just like you used to take mine and I just want to sit on the concrete floor of the garage and sob. But I won’t. Aaliyah wants to read another Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, so I’ll do that instead.

I think you saw me reading one of those before. I’m pretty sure you called it stupid and then laughed. Just like you would anytime I mentioned Scrubs.

And the love of reading, how could I forget? All of that came from you. You would always have your nose in a book. And now, I always have my nose in a book. Not as much as usual with my Kindle app and my Google Books app but still, I’m always reading something.

Just like you.

And Aaliyah reads all the time. She’s 9 so there’s a fight about it sometimes. But she’s so good at reading and she reads all kinds of genres already. I know she gets it from you (having a teacher for a mother helps as well).

And it’s crazy how much she looks like you sometimes. I did not expect that. Paul even showed me a picture of you from when you were little and the resemblance is uncanny. She just doesn’t have your trademark freckles.

I feel like I’m rambling now. I just wanted to commemorate your milestone birthday somehow, so I figured just writing to you was the easiest way.

I miss you. And I love you.

But before I go, I just wanted to thank you again for coming to Morgantown for my birthday in 2011. This is when E would throw the birthday bash at Buck’s for my birthday (a show and a party? I was a genius). I remember you being in tears and I wasn’t exactly sure why.

You said you were just so happy to get to see me perform and getting to meet all of my friends and seeing how much everyone loved me. And that you were proud of me. So naturally, I started crying. So here we were, mother and son, crying in the middle of a bar.

And there wasn’t one moment in my life where I didn’t know you were proud of me. I always could tell. But that was the first time I remember hearing it as an adult. Or maybe it was more special because of the time and place. But those words and your tears of joy were everything to me in that moment.

And as much as you said you were happy that I was so loved, I know I’m not the only one who misses you. Everyone loved you. My friends loved you too. Angel loved you. She’s instilled her love for you in Aaliyah. Everyone in the family loved you.

Today’s been hard but that’s okay. Grief never ends. I’m okay with that.

I’ll never be okay without you but I’ll be alright. Just not today. Maybe tomorrow.

I love you.


3 Replies to “INGWI: For Barbara, For Her 70th”

  1. And now you’re not crying alone. Kelen, this is such a beautifully written letter. Your mom is reading it and holding you in her wings.

    Surrounding you in love today! 💖

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