Today is my anniversary. The clock moves on, pages pulled from calendars, life moves on, people move on. But dates remain, along with the people for whom they mean something. This date means something to me. But not to anyone else. Not anymore.
And so the day goes on. Lisa is at a funeral. I am at work. I’d be at the funeral too, but today is the last day of mid-term exams, and the last day before the winter break. Taking off today was simply not going to happen. People move on.
Bob was a friend. A radical in the style, location and times of the Chicago Seven, a musician, a photographer, and political activist, Passover and Hanukkah at our house, jam sessions – his funeral is today. Cancer. Everyone seems to die of cancer. Ryan wondered what to do with his anniversary with Joyce, after she died. He didn’t have to wonder long. He died a week ago just about two years after she did. Cancer. He is no longer worried about his anniversary, how it will feel when it comes around, how it feels when it’s here, whether to mention it, not mention it, toast it, ignore it. Bob was older. Early 70s. Ryan was in his 40s.
And I’m in my 50s now. Late 50s. I was in my mid 40s then, when I first wondered what to do with this date. Lots of people have died since then. But not me. So I’m still wondering. Like my father wondered. His father, too. Now, no more wondering.
And wondering how much longer I will feel this way. How much longer will this date still have this charge? If the answer is for the rest of my life, how much longer will I still wonder what to do with it?
I’m not looking to leave anytime soon, but I do want to know what to do. How to notice it, and give its proper due without tripping over it, without ignoring it, which I could not do. Would not do. Would not want to do. Could not forgive myself if I did.
Tag Archives: relationships
I buried your masks
Today, in the warm sun,
In the shade of the oaks,
Where one day
There will be laughter,
Where the squirrels play,
Where the woodpecker nests,
Where the songbirds drop seeds.
First the gauze and plaster mold
That rested against your face,
Then the plaster decorated
As though you were a queen.
Now that there is a house
I am safe in,
I can stay in, and
No one can make me leave,
I can bury them.
A deep hole and a kiss
Longer than expected—
The contour of your lips,
A pause, a deep breath—
And no words.
There is nothing left to say.
Has been said before.
I had thought to bury them
Under the plumeria,
Though you always loved trees
Far more than flowers.
But I might plant some flowers anyway.
Someone asked me if I remembered the good times. Why I could remember the details of the bad times, but not recall the specifics of all the good ones. I answered.
Because the good times are so much more ephemeral. Evanescent. Even among the grandness of life, the good, the joyous, is found in the seemingly insignificant, made up of moments, small kindnesses, sincere unbidden smiles, the touch of the hand, a glance. Whispers. They possess an ineffability that affects us deeply but leaves its mark on our inner world. Like religious experience, they are hard to grasp, but exist no less. Over time, they add up to goodness. Each not so different than another, but with a feeling of being filled with goodness though one may cast about for specific examples.
And the bad times. They come like startling punches to the gut amid the good moments. So surprising, the shock embeds the details in memory.
Some days we get up, look outside at the gorgeousness of the day. And we feel filled with joy and delight. But what particular sunny day do you recall? How many? But the storms amid them? The horrific storms we remember, blow by blow.
The good becomes ubiquitous. The bad embeds in space and time.
The good does not diminish but persists even though we cannot point to it.
And the bad can fade, unless it is refreshed. Unless the storms come again, and again. Punched too often, one becomes sore and shy.
It doesn’t minimize the goodness at all. But our memory treats them differently. Joy and trauma do not process the same way. Pleasure and pain are not remembered alike.
There are two wishbones on my kitchen sink, drying, crusty. I pick them up.
After three days or so, they are ready; crisp and lucky. These have been here since Passover. Thirteen days. A strange superstition to wait that amount of days, perhaps, but how strange, really, when applied to the act of placing a wish on a competition to see who gets the larger piece of a twisted chicken bone?
I brush them off. Small bits of meat fall as particulate into the sink. In a moment they are ready – ready to snap under shear. Ready to bring us luck, offer the fortune released from within with the snap. From within? From where? It matters not. I know it works and it is ready to grant my wish.
The wishbones on the kitchen sink are waiting
They are twice sacrificed
Brought from the holy feast
Where we were by them nourished
Now brought to the hands of my holy one
Where we will again be by them blessed.
If memory serves – and it matters not if it does; if it is fiction or fact, since, as a memory, it is as real as anything can remain – we broke a wishbone our first week together. Our first week.
For years we broke wishbones and our lives got better and better, more full, more joyous in each other’s company. With each wishbone came newness and surety our dreams would take hold, bear fruit, ripen, become sweet.
We never asked each other what our wishes were. Never. For years those wishes went silent and bright and we knew, no matter whose pull broke the bone, the wish was certain to come true.
Then one day she asked. What was my wish? How could I not say? My wish was for your wish to be granted. Whatever it was, that your wishes become real. That way, no matter who got the larger half, it was your wish that would come to be.
I saw a smile. And just slightly, I thought I saw a tear. “Please don’t do that,” she asked. I deserve dreams of my own, she told me. And, from that time on, we each made our own wishes but, in those, the other was never forgotten. We continued on as before, bone after bone. Wish after wish.
I have them in my hand, walk over to the couch where she is laying and sit at the edge near her knees, place one on the coffee table, hold up a wishbone by a single end, the thin one, hold it low.
She smiles and sits up, takes the other. A moment lapses and we pull. Pull. It snaps and for the first time I have ever seen such a thing it has broken cleanly, evenly, straight up the middle and we each are left with a full half, an equal half. We stare at them.
No wish granted? Both wishes granted? I ask her what she wished for. It must be safe; extraordinary questions are born of extraordinary events.
That your wish come true. My wish was that hers would be granted. After the many years, it seemed the night for that wish again. Equal wishes, equal halves.
No matter, I say. I have one more. There is always one more.