Do I want you to become a vehicle for my grief? Some days, yes. Like Fridays, the day of the week my mother died. Seven weeks today. I was reading an article on the Sabbath that Oliver Sacks wrote shortly before he died, and besides the fact that I agree with him about keeping a Sabbath, I also thought of how much my mother would like the idea that she died on a Friday, the eve of the Jewish Sabbath. Blog, we both know how much Rhoda loved all things Jewish and Judaica. We even talked about how possibly her Davis grandfather, Frank, may actually have been a Davidovich at one time. But I’m straying off-topic.
The point here is I don’t always know what to write in you, so many times I just don’t. Then I remember I have dozens of sketchbook journals I could cull through to share bits and pieces of here, which I may consider eventually, although I do like something fresh.
Oh sure, when I’m driving or walking or listening to music and my imaginary conversations with myself start, the ideas flow, the words spill all over, but I usually have no way of transcribing until I get home, and you know how that goes. By then, I’ve moved on to something else and the solitary act of writing is neglected. It’s hard to write, and I don’t want to turn into a blogger who believes her mission is to teach others or enlighten them or constantly be a source of wisdom. I just want to share a few words now and then so that someday, somewhere little bits of my life and the lives of those who have touched mine will be noticed. And maybe remembered. Because none of us want to be forgotten.
“What you preserve is the cheeriest memento mori. It is a way to say and mean: of everything that passes, this is what I choose to keep. It is a clear reminder, there for the tasting, of where and when and how you have lived.”
Suzanne’s been gone a month today. She was my daughter’s boyfriend’s mom. A person who loved well and who was well loved. I think of her daily. I think of her boys daily, my girl and all the people heartbroken by her loss. When she was on the last leg of her dying journey I would turn for solace to one of my favorite bloggers, Hannah, from Inherit the Spoon. In between writing about food, her boys, and home, she writes of memories…in the making, and those made, of her mom, who died a few years ago, a lady who sounds like she was also about 59, same as Suzanne.
Recently, Hannah posted the above quote from a book I enjoyed reading a while back, An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler. It made me think of Danny, Brian’s older brother, Suzanne’s firstborn. Both boys left work last March to come home to care for their mom. Danny left San Francisco, where he was a chef at Outerlands, Brian took a leave of absence from his job in Boston. Time seemed to crawl for me as I held my breath, hoping, praying for miracles.
And when the miracle didn’t happen, the time that was left for them seems like it flew. A whole lifetime. Not nearly enough for any of us, glib as we may want to be with our easy platitudes about grief and loss. I just try to remember the Dr. Seuss quote Suzanne included in her obituary, “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” So like her to want to comfort from beyond. Suzanne, wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying an everlasting meal. We miss you.
Sandwich was where my Cape Cod life began. Easter 1967, my dad took me for a walk and told me he would be going to Vietnam. He explained Vietnam to me; I asked him why the people who make the wars don’t fight them (some things don’t change). It was his job he said. Pretty much the end of the discussion, other than my fear “will you be killed?” He would be leaving in July. In the meantime, he would have some time with the family. Later that spring he told me we were going on vacation. He was very excited and told me to guess where as he gave me a hint, “Cape…” “Canaveral!” I cried. No, not quite. Cape Cod. Never heard of it. “Where the heck is that?” I asked. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed. We took plenty of trips to Massachusetts to visit my Irish family, so Massachusetts wasn’t such a big whoop for a vacation to me, even if it wasn’t at my gran’s.
Marty and I sit here in our house every day and express our thanks to each other (and to my father who helped make it happen), we love this little house so. As did Leona, her previous owner who dreamed of returning here for more than a decade, finally succumbing at the age of 96 to selling it to me. I’d written to Leona almost 15 years ago, back when I was still raising my kids and longing for a house that could be our home again — a place to grow roots, yet not become root bound. And here it is. At the epicenter of the transportation center of Cape Cod that is Hyannis, where planes buzz overhead, cars rumble in the distance, the trains screech into the station (along with the buses), and the ferry horn sounds for the last boat to the islands every evening. Bliss.
There is no rhyme or reason to guilt. No point in figuring it out. It just is. Trying to make sense of it is tiresome and depletes energy best used for moving beyond it; not questioning it, but accepting it. Call it Catholic, Jewish, Irish Catholic, maternal; it’s all still guilt. And it’s a part of my psyche the way love is.
Guilt. It’s what’s for dinner. With a side of forgiveness.
The learning curve for this wordpress blog is steep, but not so with my lessons in napping. I have never been much of a napper, even as a toddler. My pregnant mother would put my 2 year old self down for an afternoon nap, only to wake up from her nap and realize I’d been up playing as soon as she fell asleep. Putting our heads on our desks for an afternoon snooze in elementary school? BOR-ing!
But lately? I’m realizing it is an art, an acquired skill, and like many skills, takes practice. I’m self-taught and sometimes it’s hard but I am trying. And when I am successful, it is a delight to arise refreshed and ready for some new moves. A successful nap for me means rest and a return with no guilt. Nature rests, my dog naps throughout the day, the Spanish have their siestas, great uncles have naps on their recliners, hammocks, basement sofas and beach blankets. It’s about time I pay attention and learn from their examples.
Our tear ducts are our soul’s pressure valves. A friend told me that years ago. I’m not one prone to tears because my dad always told me when I was little that big girls don’t cry. But I’ve cried streams this month, April, the month of showers. I’ve tried to save my mother all of my life, but I can’t. I know it. I just have to try to save her stories. And no, she’s not gone yet. But it has been so hard to watch her decline over the years. I’m tired and she seems tired too.
Gather. Prayers, family, friends, flowers, memories, sorrow. Gather.
Children, moments, days, love, hope. Gather.
Sunshine, seasons, a cure, the moon. Gather.
Together. Remembering. Grieving. Ourselves. Gather.
Earth, ashes, dust. Scatter.
When did it happen? As I left the rehab center the other day, I turned and waved to my mother from the walkway outside. She waved back to me from the window of her room. All I could think of is how it must have been for us when I was 5 years old, waving to her from the window of the bus on my way to kindergarten, as she waved back to me.
My parents were readers and I am a reader. I love reading as much, if not more, than I love baking (and drinking tea). Reading becomes my Looking Glass, I can get lost for a very long time in a book. My first “real” job after babysitting was in a library and it continued off and on for many years. So, it only stands to reason that I love words and how they are strung together, playfully, seriously, nonsensically, poetically…some folks express themselves with canvas, clay, flowers, …others express themselves through farming perhaps or setting a beautiful table and so on…It’s all art to me. All of us tell a story when we do this although we ourselves and others may not be aware of it. Because one must pay close attention. The story isn’t always where we’re looking for it. And somewhere in all that work, the kernel of the story is rooted in love. In the latest book I’m reading, it is prefaced with a quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes, one of my favorite storytellers. It’s from “The Gift of Story: A Wise Tale About What Is Enough.”
“Of all the gifts that people can give to one another, the most meaningful and long lasting are strong but simple love and the gift of story.”