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: wife
What’s In A Name?
What’s in a name? For a rose, very little. Roses don’t care. But people. People care, and why would they not? Identity, history, connection, and potential futures can come and go with a mis-identification, mis-recognition,or mis-spoken name. Names have power. Names have weight.
But old patterns die hard. They weigh more. Life changes, but old patterns don’t. The brain changes but the patterns are still recognised. Still followed. They are the watercourse.
Know a girl since you are fifteen, marry, have children, grow older, support each other, change with each other, be happy, develop patterns of speech, strings of words, ways of communicating, watch her die. Old patterns – they don’t die.
Life is relentless. Keep promises. Be happy. Grow. Change. Love again. Love well. Love fully and completely. Be happy together. And, always, yet, the danger of the old pattern. The name. The slight halt before the saying. The self-check. The nearly unconscious pattern of words as it nearly slips out. Nearly, corrected. Not always. Not even often. But sometimes. And sometimes, even seldom, is enough to give wary pause always.
Don’t make the mistake, though, sometimes the name is half-out before you catch it. Don’t make the mistake, though sometimes you know you must have. Hope you have not, but know you have. No one deserves that.
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.
There are still tears
For you, around corners
I have avoided, nested into objects
Unexpected, curled up in words.
They well under memories
Until released, into the open,
Jostled by a stray scent,
Nudged by a colour,
A page of a book,
A wind in leaves.
It is possible there is a perfect time to die. A time when the stories told of you would be of kind compassion and rambunctious joy. Those are the times. When you are filled with love.
Not when you are alone. Not when you are filled with despair. A time when people think of you and smile, not shake their heads and ask why. Not too late when you have been lingering. But when you are active and happy. Die dancing. Die walking the beach. Not in front of a TV.
But most people don’t get to pick their time, it seems to me. And those who do often pick the time of despair and loneliness, leaving more despair behind them.
The perfect time would not have been the time that I picked. And, realizing it in time, pulled back. No, that was two weeks too early. The prefect time would have been as I lay on my wife’s body, having just heard her last heartbeat and felt her chest fall with her last breath. That would have been the time. Hearts and minds. My broken heart for her broken brain.
That would have been understandable. That would have been beyond reproach. Something worthy of writing about.
When people ask me how I am doing, I say I am ”integrating.” I can’t take credit for that. Unena said that. Right after she beat me at a word game. She is one of the people who saw me disintegrate, fall apart, helped keep me alive, gave me reasons, motivations for staying, put me back together, kept me together. She knows. I know. There is no healing. No moving on. None of that. It is integration. Synthesis. She is correct.
Leaving. It causes such pain. Such emptiness as can be understood only by those who experience it. And then, each relationship, each love, feels different. Yet we do reintegrate.
And so, now, there are moments of joy. Much of it, actually. There is laughter and love. So much love. So many reasons to be here. Yet, I can’t help but feel my reason for being has passed. Come and gone. And it is just now a game of waiting.
I haven’t written much since then. I try but there is nothing there. So there is that. I started writing about the last year, the discovery and treatment and loss, assistance, love, frustration and loss, but got bogged down, torn up. So I set it aside. I am not ready yet. I might never be.
I have lost so much of my drive. My get-it-done-yesterday-ness. I walk. I exercise. I ride my bike. Sing. Play my ukulele. I actually watch some TV which is new for me. I am contemplating fishing. I actually bought the lures and hooks and I got a pole at a garage sale. There are six-pound bass a hundred feet from my house, so, hey, why not? I am relaxing for the first time in, well, I am not sure. But it is new to me.
My ambition? Studying for the GRE seems silly. Maybe it was an ego thing. I can imagine myself with my PhD and still just wanting to find the time to write. So that must be what I should do. Which makes not being able to write at the moment feel particularly distressing.
My ambition? What to do? Why? The only reason to stay is for the joy one can create in our own lives and the lives of others. To enjoy the ride. To see our loved ones happy. To love. To bring love. To be loved. Getting things done is secondary. Only as much as it allows time and energy to love the people around me.
It is cliché to say we could all be dead tomorrow. But it is also true. The idea that we live on is delusional. It is a functional delusion. One I no longer have. So I want to treat people like, when I see them, it could be the last time. Tell them I love them before they go because it might be the last time. Deny no impulse to charity, no matter how small or large, because why not give what I have. And why not sit and watch the fish? And play with my granddaughter. Why not? I could not be here tomorrow.
And any time would do. Today. Tomorrow. A week from now. Ten or fifty years. One day or the next. Dying any day is still dying and I will still live up to that day. Because you never know.
Lee didn’t. I didn’t. And look now.
All is well with the people I love. Or at least all is static. Some have grown so they can move on without help. Some thrive. But all are getting along without Lee. Even me. And so, what of the stories of the devastation left by a death. Pain, suffering, sure. But devastation?
I was told how horrible it would be if I died. The suffering it would cause. The pain. The ongoing emotional trauma. But, if I left now, my book would still come out. My son would still buy his house. My daughter will still be in medical school. My friends will still work day to day, care for their children, plant their gardens. They will reintegrate.
Maybe they said that because suicide is different than an accident or disease. Truly, I am not sure. But the thoughts I go to bed with, the love and joy, that would be gone. But so too would the day-to-day cares. IRS, money owed, fixing the car, all those things. Rebuilding the business, eating right. All gone. Personal needs and drives. Gone. Gone the joy and delight in their satisfaction but so too their frustration.
And I know now people would reintegrate. And go on. The only thing missing is that perfect moment. It passed. It passed. And I am still here.