You could fill a whole dinner table up with everyone in my family that’s died. Four great-grandparents that I never met, three grandparents that I did (plus my dad’s dad, who I didn’t), my parents, my only sibling, an aunt, a couple of dogs, and at least one cat.
For some reason this morning, New Year’s Eve, driving back from dropping Barry off at work and just about to pass over the University Bridge, it struck me that they were all there with me — that’s so uncomfortable to type — in some form at least. Memories, ghosts; both?
I can’t quite get it all the way sorted, but I got this overwhelmingly positive feeling that I wasn’t alone. Quite a contrast to Christmas Eve, when the mere idea of a possible thought about my parents turned me into a pile of sobbing, hopeless toddler on my husband’s lap.
And some years the holidays show up and it’s suddenly like you’re buckled in to the Grief Express™ and trying to Handle Regular Things like you did yesterday is impossible, and everything feels less like a Saturday and more like trying to clean up a overflowing bag of garbage that just makes more and more of a mess as you try to deal with it.
If this is happening to you, it’s okay, and more importantly, you’re okay. It’s okay if Christmas is a sad sack nightmare, and it’s okay if all you can do is leave that Neil Young record on repeat and sit in your husband’s lap and cry it out.
Don’t forget to take your meds, and drink more water than you think you need, and remember that you’re allowed to do whatever it is you need to do to get through it. Maybe you just have to shut the world off until Tuesday, or stop at the pot store, or maybe making cookies or taking a walk or watching Elf or Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas will help.
Above all else, know that you’re not alone. This shit is hard.
PS, we’ll be making lasagna tomorrow if anybody needs a place to come and hang out.
no card for the bus
no money for the bus
go upstairs and
dig through desk drawers until you find
walk to the bus
miss the bus
wait patiently in your husband’s coat
signs taped up in windows
rainbow bullseye marking time
on the end of a fiberglass log
hearts carved into the cement
a sign for an indian restaurant hanging over
a boarded-up garage
the bus makes you sick
chew mint gum
walk behind the guy
who smokes pot for a block
wonder if you can pull off a vegan thanksgiving
think about the friend who let you down
look at the people you pass by
that they all have
whole entire lifetimes
and all of them together
a huge entire lifetime in itself
realize you are small
realize you are hungry
walk into your rental house
and write it all down
More dreams that I can’t quite explain.
There’s usually a point in my scary dream series where particular events happen in sequence and I know the terrible part is coming, kind of like that pending moment in a movie, or a haunted house. It’s inescapable. And it’s always in all of these types of dreams. Only this time, strangely, I knew it was gone. It showed up as a dying old man, a chain of people and living flowers in front of him; in and out, in and out, the whole curving chain of people reacting and responding to the meter of his breath. Once he was gone I waited for the moment to come, but there was just no fear anymore. It was a different kind of dream, instead of the usual unlocked doors and windows that have carelessly been left open with a murderer on the loose in the neighborhood.
I waited for it to show up, and strangely, it hadn’t flown out, or entered me, or manifested itself in anyone else. There was such a peacefulness about it, something that had passed, and it’s happening in real time too, not just in the dream. And now I remember the end more than the beginning; being on a bus that was also a mobile coffee shop, being let off at the driveway to my aunt and uncle’s house and realizing that there was a pile of heavy things that I was supposed to drag down the long driveway.
I told Barry yesterday that I was starting to catch glimpses of myself. Of consciousness? Of being in alignment? It shows up in flashes. The day I quit my job and walked out of Casey’s office, and how I just knew.
Death comes to me in dreams, in stories that take place while I sleep, with flowers and fears and bus stops, and people that are gone having come back a second time, except for the part during the dream where I know it’s their resurrection, even though at the same time it was like they’d never left.
I had dreams about the neglected baby again, except this time it talked to me. I realize writing this down now that I often dream that I’ve forgotten about multiple dogs I’m supposed to be tending to, not feeding them or taking them out for years, yet they remain when I remember. Lori and I learned once that those dreams are your subconscious plaguing you to do your art.
It remains when you remember.
Lately I’m learning that I’ve got a voice that’s been silenced somehow. I have things to say, opportunities in front of me to say them; the world is slowly starting to feel less everyone-against-me and more like I’m walking through the exact trials I should be, more like I’m finding my place.
This is my mom, Erna. Today is her birthday. She would have been seventy-four years old. She was kind and generous and loving, and made the best pork chops on the planet, and while I’ve kind of emotionally gaff-taped together a way to live without her, I still miss her like crazy.
I’m forever grateful for her, and my dad, and the way they cared for us and encouraged us over the years. Our family wasn’t without problems, of course, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize just how many people experienced such horrifically dysfunctional parenting — I guess it makes me want to tell people about her, and my dad, which is kind of all I can do now since I can’t tell them directly that I’ve sorted this stuff out.
They were the kind of parents that would make a pot of coffee and hang out with my friends to help them through their bullshit, and would love them and encourage them and give them a little bit of hope, and have them over on holidays and on regular days when they didn’t have anywhere else to go. Or couldn’t bring themselves to go where they were supposed to go. Kind of like picking up strays, you know? Tending to them and loving them up before they sent them back out into the world to go deal with whatever was coming next.
The first Fourth of July after my dad died, I stopped over the house, and she was sitting out on the back deck alone and a little melancholy, with a glass of wine and a transistor radio, watching the neighbors shooting off fireworks. It struck me right in the center of my chest, how she was kind of okay and not okay all at once, with the music on for company, never once telling us she needed anything and shooing us off to wherever we were all headed that night.
I’ve about that night almost every time I’ve heard or seen fireworks since.
Anyway. I can only hope to age as gracefully as she did, and be half the woman she was, in whatever amount of time I get to spend on the planet.
I took some steps this weekend to get a few things to the surface, and it worked. But now, instead of having things gently revealed to me, I feel very much like I’ve been emotionally force-fed to the point of choking, not unlike those terrible videos where they show what it looks like to force feed the ducks so that they can harvest their livers for foie gras.
I’m grateful for the clarity. But it’s going to take a minute to clear my throat I think.