Where the Hell Have You Been?

One of the first things my mom said after coming out of her coma back in 2007 was to my niece, who was around eight years old at the time. T stood next to the hospital bed, and when my mom realized who it was, she looked at T and said without missing a beat, “T, where the hell have you been?”

All of us in the room exchanged glances and grins with a side of laughter. My niece, who also doesn’t miss a beat, quipped back, “I’ve been right here, grandma.”

My mother smiled and said, somewhat shocked and also full of curiosity, “You have? Huh. Well, I love you, cookie.”

At which point, I felt my throat choke up, and tears began welling in my eyes. The room fell silent for a few seconds as we all took stock of how grateful we were to have my mom back with us.

I remember that day so clearly. It’s a bittersweet memory, and one that has carried us through many a family gathering where reminiscing is the norm, and no family member is immune from reliving a moment that made us all laugh. I’m always amazed that we manage to find the little slices of goodness that make us all laugh, even in the darkest moments.

I’m not sure why I pulled this story out of the archives today. Perhaps for comfort. Maybe because I miss my family, who I have not seen in person for many months, or maybe it is because I feel like I’m the one now asking myself, “where the hell have you been?”

It seems like forever since I’ve been able to write anything. I start and stop. I compose thoughts, randomly at best. And then my frustration kicks in because I haven’t written in many weeks.

So, I guess I found comfort in the memory of my mom and her fearless ways. She had gone someplace else during those days and came back from the brink of death. She had fought the odds and told the joker to go to hell.

She went on to tell us about the six men she saw. All dressed in white and illuminated in light. She said all but one had beards. The one without was one of her brothers, who had passed many years prior. “They weren’t ready for me,” she told us.

So, she woke up on Christmas Day and ate waffles as the doctor called my dad and shared the good news. The ring of the telephone that morning is one I’ll never forget. We feared the worst but received the greatest gift. She was our miracle and the fearless and feisty Italian woman who constantly reminded us that we need to ask ourselves, what are we going to do?

As I sit here again today feeling like my writer’s block would never end, I wanted to cry. I tried several times to resurrect pieces that I had started and then let rest in my drafts folder. And I tried writing randomly, but nothing made sense.

It didn’t feel right until this moment.

I don’t know if it was a matter of letting go of the angst or it was a mere memory recall that boosted me into the writer’s seat again. But, I know that when I write, I feel complete. When it’s absent from my life, I feel like a part of me is missing – stuck in writer’s limbo – hovering between all systems are go, and you might as well close the laptop now.

I will go with the memory because it filled my heart with enough emotion to lead me here. The innocence of my niece that day. The frankness of my mother and then her humor as she tried to piece together the missing details—the love of a family who didn’t give up hope.

That was a challenging year. Each of us tested in more ways than I care to recount.

I vividly remember the look on my mom’s face when she noticed that her son-in-law, my husband, was bald. It was as if she were thinking, “why the hell did he shave his head? First tattoos and now this.” Surprisingly, she didn’t say anything about it. She didn’t need to. Her face said it all, and my husband and I just chuckled.

With everything that had happened, she forgot that he was going through cancer treatment. When I finally reminded her, her words to me were, “well, that explains the bald head.” Touche, mom.

I think I’ve stored these memories in a safe place because sometimes they are difficult to recall. I miss my mom deeply. However, on a day like today, those memories are reassuring and healing – and they remind me of how resilient I am.

Looking back, I’d say that was a pivotal moment leading me down roads that I never thought possible. I didn’t know it at the time, and it would be a few years until my writer’s heart met my writer’s hand, but it’s all connected.

Lately, I do ask myself, “Laura, where the hell have you been?”

So much has changed in the past year that sometimes I do lose sight. Chapters have closed, and new ones have started. Life has shifted in various ways.

My reply to that question is that I’ve been here all along – every layer and every detail.

It’s just that I’m changing, growing, learning, and emerging from yet another cocoon that will help me to fly. I am hopeful for the future and thankful for the plentiful dots that have connected the intricacies of my life.


Laura Mikolaitis
Laura Mikolaitis
Laura credits her writing, which laid dormant for years, to her late mom, who always believed in her. Writing unabashedly from the heart and inspired by millions of moments, three tenets of evergreen advice that her mom always shared with her are her guiding principles. Whether it is poetry, fiction, or a personal essay, her love for the written word feeds her mind, body, and spirit. Laura’s creativity also comes to life in her passion for photography. Her ongoing love affair with the moon, her joy for family and friends, her connection to nature, and being a loving canine mom often become some of her best subjects. Laura has held many roles throughout her professional career, including Brand Manager, Project Manager, and Director of Global Business Development and Sales Operations. In addition, she has a background in consumer-packaged goods, manufacturing, and textiles. Laura currently works in biotechnology for Berkshire Corporation as their Product Marketing Manager. She holds a Master of Science degree in Communications and Information Management from Bay Path University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from SUNY Oswego. Originally from Northern NY, Laura resides with her husband and canine child in a small town in Massachusetts that captured her heart years ago.

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    • Larry, it’s good to know that I’m not alone. It’s intimidating at times to stare back at the blank screen. But when I’m finally able to show it that I can bring the words to life, I breathe a sigh of relief. Thanks for stopping by, and for sharing in the conversation.

  1. Laura – I hear you. You and I will share a collaboration piece someday, or unleash something onto the world and it shall be called “Still in Draft Mode – the unfinished thoughts of Laura and Tom.” Sometimes the world goes fleeing past us too quickly, or we need time “to process.” Whatever it is, shooting from the hip has too often not been the right answer, or one that maybe could have benefited from further marination (a word that I just made up, meaning “to marinate longer…”). Part of me wants to marinate too long on things, and then the thing that I want to marinate more on gets swallowed up by something bigger or different, and then it becomes no longer timely, and the last mistake we make is that it no longer matters. Part of who we are is that everything matters, and sometimes it matters too much or matters in ways that others can’t grasp. I’ve wallowed with depression, and have sometimes wished that I could dwell on things less or not take some much time “to process” things. But that’s kind of wishing away who you are and what makes you – you.

    Every time that I write something, I feel better. But then another poopstorm happens and washes me back to the “inactive” status. We’re moving my parents this week, so that has become “THING 1” since we got back from vacation last week, and I have probably three documents sitting in draft mode waiting to see if I will ever drop the other shoe to finish them. Where have I been? For the last few minutes, I have been right here, nodding my head in agreement with everything that you said, so wonderfully. Thank you, Laura.

    • Tom – I think collaborating on a piece is a lovely idea, and I know we’d have a wonderful time doing so. I love your stories and the way you see life. You impart good things for sure, and inspire too.

      I relate to so much of what you say in your opening comments. The way the world flees past us, how we tend to let things marinte too much, the time we feel we need “to process” – it is so much of what I feel too. Then, I tell myself that processing is okay and so is marinating. I liken the marinating to food, which I love. When you marinate a prime cut of meat just right, the flavor is infused with every bite – so savory and satiating yet tender. That’s what it felt like to release this piece from my marinating thoughts. Then, I ask myself why can’t I lean into it more, and fear less?

      I do sit with my thoughts too much sometimes. It’s a blessing and a curse. But I also listen to my gut too, which inevitably eventually points me in the writing direction that reminds me why I do it. I get swallowed up sometimes, and need to just walk away I guess – a detox if you will. Yet, I always circle back to the place that’s brought me comfort – and the place where I let my brave escape if but for a few minutes.

      Thanks for being here, Tom and for being such a presence in the writing world. I always light up when I see your work, and when you come here to join the conversation too.

  2. Your opening statement had me smile – these were the words with which Field marshal Montgomery greeted his stepson in 1943 after the young man had been lost for a year, first as a POW and after escaping, working his way back to the allied camps.

    As for writers block, yes, I am there with you. And suddenly something gets released.

    • Thanks for sharing some history with me, Charlotte – how interesting. We still laugh to this day about my mom greeting my niece Taylor that way.

      While writer’s block can be such a frustrating experience, I do love the exhilerating feeling that happens after I’ve broken through the barrier and produced a piece. I suppose the block helps to keep us in check and reminds us why we do what we do. So, feeling incomplete without it is a sure sign to me that it is meant to be a part of my life.

  3. Yes, what’s next? Your note “what are we going to do?” is a globally-echoing one in such a time as this.

    And like your family who did not give up hope, the human family, one person at a time, is reckoning with being resilient.

    Thanks Laura for reflecting on your family in a way that echoes this pandemic era and puts it into words in the life of a family – yours and each of ours.


    • Cynthia, thank you for being here and for sharing such thoughtful and reflective sentiments. I love your comment about one person at a time reckoning with being resilient. Wow. That really paints a picture of what we’ve all been through and how we make our way forward one step at a time. For me, it’s always important to know I’m not alone. I’m ever so grateful for a community of support – and a family that lifts me and loves me every step of the way.