Friday, April 29, 2011

Epic Dream

It's just too much for me today.  I feel incapacitated.  I think Easter and my birthday were heavier than I even thought as I went through them.

The counselor asks me what you brought to my life and our friendship and says I should still bring this, hear you in my mind doing or saying those things you did or said.   But telling myself I look beautiful or giving myself a hug when I'm sad because you died- that doesn't work at all.  I cry many times today- once stepping out of the kitchen to the little side hallway and leaning against the wall while Audrey played and sang in the "playroom" (our living room).  In that moment, I longed for you.  I remembered something I'd forgotten- just how comforting it was to get a hug from  your spouse in your time of need or sadness.  I remember just for a second how luxurious it was to have a partner in all of this.

How luxurious.
And when you were here, I never knew anguish like this.

I have had what I used to call "epic" dreams when I'd describe them to you- dreams that seemed to have prequels and sequels that went on for many, many years, in one night.  Sometimes when I woke up, I questioned the length of time I'd been having that dream or if that dream had really occurred in some other realm.  Those dreams lend me the possibility that this really is all an epic dream- that what feels like years will seem like one night's dream when I wake up and get out of this horrible nightmare.  Maybe such is life...an epic dream.

Today is nice weather so I feel the pressure to take Audrey outside.  I pack egg salad sandwiches and go to the park and playground with her pail and shovel and a book for me to read.  We sit on a bench in the breeze eating our sandwiches and I stare at the Hudson river.  I remember when I was a child and learned that the earth was round.  Suddenly I felt I could feel the roundness and that the sky above me looked like a sphere.  It is like that now, I think.  My world and my creatureness has a new shape I can't "unsee" and it is always present to me...I feel it beneath my feet on the earth- and above me in the spherical skies.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

35

I don't feel old or worried about being old this year.  One, because I know 35 is young.  This became clear as soon as I learned you were dead.  We are so young.  You were so young.  Two because in light of the future- this is the youngest I'll ever be.  The past is already done.  Three, because I am straining towards the  finish line these days...even though I may have so far to go.

After a slow morning with Audrey and lunch with her and my parents, I took the ferry into the city and used a gift certificate given to me by one of your old coworkers for a massage at Mandarin Oriental overlooking Central Park.  It was a special treat.  But I was again reminded of how I felt at the spa in Arizona at Christmas- no amount of external pampering seems to make a dent in this grief thing.

Or maybe, I think, it's depression.  Nothing feels extraordinary to me anymore.  Food tastes...like food.  Nothing is particularly good or bad.  A massage feels luxurious as a massage does.

Before I went for the massage, I took the wrong bus from the ferry and had to walk up Broadway past your old office building.  When I realized, I asked a guy sitting in front of me on the bus- "Wait, this is the 50th street bus?"  He tells me it is but "It's a nice day for a walk," he adds.  Yeah, except for me it will mean walking by your office building.  I walk by and peer inside into the large lobby.  I expect I might see you coming toward me with your card ready to swipe me in.  I cross the street with tears streaming down my face pushing through the crowds outside the Letterman show.

I pass what used to be a Duane Reade on the corner of Broadway and 57th but now it's a bank.  I can remember going up the few steps to get bottles of water there late at night with you.  And then I curve around towards Columbus Circle.  When I lived for a summer on 56th Street, we'd walk this path all the time to take the train except back then the whole Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle wasn't there yet.  And there was always construction and narrow pathways for us to walk through...still, I walk that same path.  There at the statue we met on your lunch break when I interviewed at a small nonprofit next to the Starbucks many, many years ago.  Here at the elevators is where I would come up for my appointments with my OB when I was pregnant just one street over on 58th Street.

At the spa, when I head into the "relaxation room" to wait for my therapist - there are two couples in robes...one of the men is laying with his head in the woman's lap.  I make a quick exit and go back to the steam room until they are gone.

After the massage, I walk from Columbus Circle up to 81st Street where my close friends have organized a dinner for me.  I have extra time so I walk slowly- mostly with tears in my eyes.  Every corner and every block holds a memory for me.  It's like walking around in a live diorama of my life or a 3D photo album.

There is Lincoln Center where we sat by the fountain at night when we first started dating and asked someone to take a photo of us.  We also went swing dancing there a year or so later.  There is the indie movie theater where we saw Bend it Like Beckham and another romantic foreign film on a whim.  I step towards the theater.  There, in the back...those benches and that fountain- we sat there afterwards and watched a family of birds or something.  The memory comes back to me.

Up in the 70's, there's the empty lot where they have the flea market on the weekends- we visited it quite often when I was living on 83rd Street.  There you bought your famous "safari jacket."  That's what the seller called it.  I was meandering around when I saw you talking to him and then you asked me what I thought.  I wasn't so sure, so the seller talked up that jacket even more.  You bought it for something like ten bucks.  It's hanging in our closet.

I stop and look through the metal fence at the empty lot crying.  I swear I can see the whole scene...and I see us both there from outside of myself.  We are so young- so in love.  Things were so simple.  We came back and bought three old NY photos in black and white to decorate our apartment when we first got married.

As I make my way up to the restaurant where we're meeting, I find I am thoroughly drained.  It's exhausting envisioning things that are past all day...exhausting searching streets for your face, exhausting trying to comprehend that in all these hundreds of people walking around me- you are not to be found.

This is meditation I think- I live in it now with every city step, every breath and beat- every light turning, siren blaring, horn honking- meditation.  You.

I think about the chances of our union- how if each person is unique- they are one in billions and billions of people to have roamed the earth throughout its history- and then for another person with whom they can connect on a soul level- who is also one in billions - to be on the earth at the same time- and for those two to find each other and make that connection- well- it's simply extraordinary and miraculous isn't it?

The longer this goes on, the luckier I feel to have been so loved by you- and the more luxurious your love seems- the more vast the loss- not just of your life- but in my life.

I receive text messages, voicemails, and an onslaught of facebook messages on my wall- I would've been sad if I hadn't received them, but there is truly only one person's wishes that matter at all to me.  I realize that is how it always was.  It was nice to open up presents from others on special occasions like my birthday- but your card, your gift, your song- these were treasures- like gold.  They were from you.  My beloved.


35.  The first birth happened in 1976, but a new one began on July 6th, 2010 and it's a long labor- still going on.  In grief, I am both the woman laboring, and the child- struggling to be born.  Sometimes I fear she will be stillborn.  Sometimes I believe she will be lovely.

I was glad and thankful to be with friends tonight.  I tried to talk to everyone who made the effort to come out.  It is humbling.  I wonder often lately where all of these friends came from and why I have them.  It feels like I haven't "given" anything for so long.  I wonder what they see in me.

It strikes me as strange that a few times I look behind me for you.  It's like something physical or biological- this looking for you even though I know there's no reason you would be there.  Empty table and chairs behind me.  Still, I look a second time.

I have two glasses of sangria and smile- I only bite my lip when they bring out a cake and sing happy birthday to me.  I bite it hard and blow out the candles quickly keeping the tears for later.  Someone is taking a picture of me- I don't want to disappoint by looking miserable.  But hearing the singing, staring at the cake- happy birthday julia- it hits me that you are not here to be with me.  That I am alone.  I blushed last year when you called me from the tour and I heard you say, "happy birthday..." in that soft way you would when you really meant something.  I am now 35- an age you will never be or see me at.  The distance between us grows-
and perhaps

shortens.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

30th Birthday


I guess I'm thinking of my 30th birthday a lot because it was the last "big" birthday I had with you and the last time I actually remember a lot of celebrating.  You had to work in the morning because your boss also took off for his wife's birthday.  Then we walked to 15th Street and Terrace bagels- got bagel sandwiches and iced coffee and walked back to our neighborhood through our favorite spots in Prospect Park trading our cheap camera back and forth along the way because we both loved taking photographs.


In the afternoon we went to a seven course tea at Lady Mendels near Union Square- you asked for thirds for the finger sandwiches and were turned down.  Then we visited one of my best friends at the hospital.  Her first baby and I share the same birthday.  We took turns holding the baby and my biological clock was booming.


In the evening you sang me a lovely song that you'd written for the occasion in the living room of our brownstone.  It is this picture of you singing to me so sweetly that winds me tonight like a hard punch in the stomach.  It's amazing how many times I can think, "Oh my God- that was you- this is about you!" still after all these months.  But that moment is engraved in my head because I sat there just taking it all in...the sound of your voice, the way you always had trouble remembering lyrics while you played, and the way you would stop and smile at me and look in my eyes as you sang.  Such a humble thing to do- sing your wife a love song.  It was always my favorite gift.

Unfortunately, none of them are recorded- and I don't have any of the music- that was all in your head.  I just hear you singing in my head...

From "Better" by Daniel Cho

We are getting older, yeah
We are getting wrinkles, yeah
but we are getting smarter, getting stronger, getting wiser, we keep getting better, yeah.
We are getting slower, yeah.
We are getting white hair, yeah.
But we are so much braver, much more beautiful than ever, we keep getting better...

April 26, 2010

...I hope your night was ok.  All I can think about is how you and Audrey
are doing.  Knowing the guy upstairs keeps making noise and smoking,
makes it so difficult for me to relax.

I promise we will move out soon.  Maybe moving to/buying a new place
is my birthday gift for you. (well, I will have a proper party for you
when Im back- for your b-day and mother's day)

I love you so much, and do want you to be happy.  We'll get there.

Love,
d

This was part of an email exchange between us last year the day before my birthday, written from Australia or New Zealand or someplace like that.  

It just accentuates what I've been feeling a bit more lately- all the old crap of life is still there...our loud upstairs neighbor, the fact that Audrey doesn't have her own bedroom and is rapidly growing out of her "nook," and now added to it all- the fact that you, the sole provider, are dead.  Still, I don't have a lot of anxiety about any of this- but just something I've been noticing- wow- all that crap is still here.  In no way does tragedy striking get you a free pass for anything.  It means I'll spend years grieving the loss of you my love, and then life in general- all the basics- will also be much more of an uphill climb than it even was.  

Hey- I never got my proper party when you got back- I guess things were pretty busy and you were only home a few weeks (with two other concerts in other states) before heading back on tour to die.  We haven't moved out- I'm still here...the neighbor's still really noisy- as if he's dropping furniture at all hours of the day and night.  

I read on some band's fb page today some comments on your death from back then- they were mostly from fans of that band and people who'd seen you play recently.  One person just wrote "his death is stupid."  Without any disrespect to you Dan, God- it is so stupid. 

We'll get there...we'll get there...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter



"...Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever." 
from "Easter" in "The Temple" by George Herbert

"...With thee 
Let me combine, 
And feel this day thy victory; 
For, if I imp my wing on thine, 
Affliction shall advance the flight in me." 

from Easter Wings- by George Herbert

Saturday, April 23, 2011

This Day Last Year

This is one of those days that feels so close to last year on the same holiday.  Like time is not a line but a spiral and so this day and this day last year are right next to each other- but on a different plane- so out of reach.

Last year on the Saturday before Easter, we took Audrey on a little egg hunt some parents threw down the river near their complex.  It was casual, we all brought eggs filled with goodies and hid them around a small courtyard.  Someone brought coffee and donuts.  The kids were mostly around 18 months so they didn't quite get the idea yet, but we helped them along.  I took photos while you walked around the courtyard with Audrey and her little basket.  It was the first time I introduced you to my "mommy friends" that I'd made at the library class since we'd moved here.  You had coffee.  You peeled a clementine for Audrey after the egg hunt.  We went to the A&P in that complex right afterwards.  You video-taped Audrey looking at the flowers and pointing out the different colors while I shopped.  I know I bought kale because I was into kale chips at that time.  Then we loaded up the car just before it started to drizzle.  We were happy that day- it felt productive- an egg hunt and food shopping done by noon.  In the evening we colored Easter eggs- I gave you the task of coloring them, which you happily did.  I gave you a white crayon to write things on before coloring them and after the colors dried, I saw that you had written little notes like, "Appa loves Audrey" and "Daddy loves mommy"  along with little flowers and hearts.

On Easter morning, I set out the wooden basket I'd carefully chosen for Audrey's first Easter basket and hid the plastic eggs I'd gotten.  I filled some of them with gummy bunnies and some with bunny grahams.  It was your idea to fill the remaining eggs with little strips of paper with similar phrases to those  you'd written on the eggs.  "Daddy and  mommy love Audrey."  "God loves you Audrey" and when she opened those you read them to her.  I wish I had saved those little strips of paper in your handwriting.

We went to church- you were glad I'd talked you into saying "no" when they asked you to play at the Easter service.  You knew it'd be too much for you.  After church, we went to my parents and Audrey ran around in the backyard- there is a picture of her running into your arms.  She is wearing a blue and white dress you picked out for her at the Gap with one pink hair clip holding back her wispy baby hairs.  I couldn't get over how perfect she looked that day. Then she took a surprisingly long nap.

This was all just one year ago.

Things are so very different now.  I plant seeds with Audrey today inside on the kitchen floor in containers I bought- sweet pea flowers.   In the afternoon, we color our eggs- but first we look through some photos that show the day above last year- the egg hunt with you, you and Audrey at the kitchen table coloring eggs.  I want her to remember and I want to try to grasp it- but yet again- I can not.

You're kind of like a celebrity around here now.  I always feel like fame and celebrities have this aspect of faith about them- we know they're out there and we see lots of picture of them, but the thing that makes a celebrity sighting- on the streets of NYC or elsewhere- so exciting- is that for that moment- you find out that they really do exist.  Wow- there they are- their hair really does look like that- or they're not as pretty in person.  But yes- their plane has intersected yours for just a flash.  It's kind of like that with you now- except in reverse i think-  because I see lots of photos of you, and I know that I'm always walking in your footsteps, and feel really privileged that you chose me and lived here with me each day and slept beside me each night.   And I've seen you- and now I must have faith that you're still out there- that you're real, and that one day- I'll spot you again.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

I've always felt a solemnity on this day.  As if the busy world proceeded but with a black backdrop that was hard to pick up on, but there...if you were very still or quiet.

Today I felt that solemnity.  But I also felt comfortable.  I could wear black.  I could hear mournful, minor key hymns at the Good Friday service at the church we attended.   And I also felt empowered.  As if something in the supernatural was spilling out into the air giving me strength to think about changing my bed sheet...today.

In the morning, I wash my new bedding while Audrey hunts in our living room for plastic Easter eggs I hide over and over again.  Then she actually succumbs to a nap before we head out for the Good Friday service at 4:30.  I put on a new black dress I got for the summer but with a long sleeve shirt underneath and black tights and shoes.  I never wear dresses so Audrey tells me I look like Mary's teacher from Mary Had a Little Lamb.  A compliment?  I put one bobby pin in my hair to hold it back and a memory comes- of me removing what seemed like hundreds of bobby pins from my stiff hair the night of our wedding.  I'd had my hair put up with real orchids in the back and I guess accomplishing that required literally at least 40 bobby pins.  One by one, I took them out while sitting on the bed at the W hotel next to Grand Central.  I was absolutely exhausted and I remember though with each one, I knew my wedding day was over.  I hated to get to that last one, and I kept them all in my toiletry bag for a long time after that to keep close to that day somehow.

We head out to the car.   As I drive down the highway, I check my blind spot before changing lanes...and I think about how, even though we've got two eyes, and all of these mirrors, there is always still that blind spot- so blind that there could be a whole moving car in it but we wouldn't be able to tell unless we turn our heads.  If our physical body could miss something like that, I think, perhaps there is a spiritual blind spot as well.  I must look around, I must stretch my neck out to look for it.

And then I think about another Good Friday service in 2007.  Our Brooklyn church had a combined service with an African American church on 7th Avenue.  You and I met right beforehand, but first I'd gone to Barnes and Noble and sat reading books about conception and getting pregnant.  We were supposed to start trying for a baby on our upcoming trip to Paris, but my control freak self suddenly felt unprepared while I read those books- we hadn't been eating well enough, doing enough exercise- I wasn't even taking prenatal vitamins yet!  What about the folic acid!!!  By the time I met you, I was in tears.  "I'm getting older...we're not ready..."  I was always trying to convince you we should have a baby but always trying to convince myself at the same time.  I had this longing and this sense of urgency...but I was also incredibly scared.  So, as we stood in the back of that old church, I remember tears were coming down my face- not for Christ- but for myself and my ticking clock.  You squeezed my hand and promised me, you promised- we'd have that baby.  "I'll give you a baby,"  you said.  It'd be one miscarriage and another year and half until we had Audrey.  But we did.

I pull into the church and get into the elevator with a Korean couple.   Later as I'm going to drop Audrey off at the nursery a woman I've met there comes to introduce me to that same woman from the elevator.  As I introduce myself, she gets that look on her face- the one I've seen quite a few times now which means that she knows.  She knows the story and she knows you.  Sure enough, she tells me softly, "I knew Dan- I went to St. John's with him."  That was his church up in Boston.  I enthusiastically say, "Oh you knew him?"

This is just another paradox of grief.  I hate meeting people at a new place who have no idea who you were.  But I don't really love meeting people who do know either.  I lose my breath for a second because of that look in their eyes.  Then I introduce our daughter, "This is Audrey."

The church service is also very solemn, and Audrey tells me she wants to come to the service.  She surprises me by sitting on her chair like a five year old child.  Perfectly quiet, listening, watching everyone.  She wants to stay she tells me when I ask if she's ready to go to sunday school.  "No."

I don't sing the words or recite any of the congregational responses.  I feel though, that just by me being there- standing there- it is an act of worship probably stronger and more genuine than many in that room.  So I stand there.  At one point the pastor says that even though this is a sad day, we know the end of the story.  I don't agree.  Yes, we know about the resurrection, but now here we are left hanging thousands of years later- waiting for the end of the story- the true end...the fulfillment and fruition...the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

I also do not "feel" the songs or suggestions that are often used during this season saying, "That was me there nailing you to the cross...that was me yelling "crucify him."  I think, "No, that was not me.  I was not there."  I don't know if that's an appropriate thing to say.  I wonder for a moment if this means I'm unrepentant or don't acknowledge my sin.  I think I do...it's those nasty parts of me I can't change no matter how hard I try- that gaping hole that doesn't get filled...the things that you saw Dan and said, "the curse stops here."

I also think about you as I hear about what Jesus suffered.  I know you didn't suffer on a cosmic scale- and your cause of death was different.  But there is so much loss...and you too were 33 years old.  Is it blasphemous that I feel cheated because he came and died and did all that...and yet, you still also had to die?  But I suppose I'm supposed to take comfort in the fact that his death means you didn't die in the spirit- only in the flesh for now.  If only I could believe that without feeling like I'm lying to myself all the time.

Someone sings really off key and I think how I've become such a music snob- what I always used to call you...

I think about how maybe you weren't as worried and concerned about the future as I always was because you weren't going to have one.  Your focus and sense of urgency was on the present and "making it in music" before you got too old.  Seems to me now that you were in a race to get there before...no wonder you weren't thinking of retirement or mortgages.

We take communion.  I eat the bread broken for me.  Drink the wine.

During "What Wondrous Love Is This" I lose my composure for the first time.  The repeating verse "sinking down, sinking down," catches me off guard completely.  You never know when it's coming.

We are told to exit in silence as in a funeral.  Usually there's such an eruption of social interaction after church services where everyone's been sitting, listening, meditating for a couple of hours, so this was really an obvious change.  I enjoyed it and thought how powerful simple silence is as an act of worship.  So hard for us to do, but maybe much more powerful than all of the carefully articulated words and quotations by intellectual giants.

I decide on the way home Audrey and I should go out to eat because eating alone together in our little kitchen is so draining for me sometimes.  We go home and change before heading across the street to the Japanese place for some udon.  I think it's the first time I've gone to a real restaurant- on a Friday night certainly- alone with Audrey.  I bring some coloring to amuse her in the hopes that I can actually eat.  And while I'm there, I still look towards the glass door thinking I might see you coming in, raising your eyebrows just slightly to acknowledge me.  I wonder when I will stop looking at doors like this everywhere I go.

I watch the sushi chefs at the bar and wish that I had tried sushi with you like you wanted.  I tried it a few times but didn't like the texture which you made fun of me for constantly.  I wish now so badly you and I could sit there at that bar and I could eat whatever you wanted me to.  That would be so fun, I think.  Then while Audrey colors I allow myself to daydream about all of the simple, fun things I would do with you if we had the chance again.  How beautiful and luxurious they seem...I tell myself I'd stay out later, try new things, be more adventurous.  Enjoy whatever we were doing even if it was just eating a simple meal or standing in the cold waiting for a bus trying to keep warm together.

I fold my chopstick wrapper in an attempt to make the little stand that you would've constructed me by now to lay my chopsticks on.  Mine is just folded in quarters and in half - yours was real origami I think. God, I miss how you would do that for me every time.

Because after the shock and processing and the missing comes... the loneliness.  Not just lonely but lonely for you.  I see quite a few friends but oh how I miss that connection with the one person who knows you better than anyone.  That one person with whom you've laughed, cried, screamed, and loved.  With whom a few sentences or a glance resonate with meaning and understanding.   I had this, and now I do not.

We eat our noodles and we come home.
It is Good Friday.  It is time to make up my bed.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Missing Begins

The missing begins.

People would say in the early days, "You must miss him so much," but really the missing hadn't begun.  I was in total shock, trying to figure out what strange dimension I'd stepped into when I picked up my phone around noon on July 6th.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted, just trying to get up and take care of Audrey until others could come help.  There were holidays to "get through" and late evenings to stare at his chair and try to process this strange reality.  Mostly, I've been trying to grasp the fact that you died in this horrifying manner without warning, and how very real and permanent death is.  "You died," I say nightly aloud.

But the missing- that has only begun.  Because I now get it all, at least intellectually, space has been freed up for me to realize how desperately I'd like to see you.  It enters like a brand new idea- wow I'd really like to see Dan.  Or when I'm sitting in church and see a man with his arm around his wife during the worship, I think- wow, you're not here.  And I miss you so much.

The other day I opened up some photos your dad brought me- they were taken when you visited Korea after your Australia/Japan leg of the tour last May.  Though I see your face all the time in the photos we have displayed everywhere, looking at these photos had a profound effect on me because I'd never seen them before.  They were the most real I have gotten to the words "new" and "you" being combined since you died.  And they're mostly candid shots- so you're not just smiling, but you're interacting with others, making different subtle expressions- each one, one that I recognize and love.  It's as if my eyes are gulping down water and quenched as I click through these photos.  My fingers reach out to the screen to touch your face.  I realize how long it has been for the first time.

There is still not the continuity.  I wonder if it'll ever come.  Based on the words of a widow ten years down the road, it may not.  There is no common thread running from that life to this one.  You changed- you experienced death- I wonder what it was like a lot.  Audrey changed dramatically.  I am not the same.  God Himself would be the only thing unchanged- the continuity I suppose.  I tell a friend that for the first time in church on Sunday, I felt something toward God- other than - well, maybe he doesn't exist like I thought.  I felt betrayal.  She tells me this is probably good- to feel something finally.  "How could you?" I think, how could you...

Throughout the day, it's like a video montage of you is always running in the background.  With every sentence I speak, it usually brings to mind some phrase you spoke.  "Thanks for helping me," I say to Audrey as we get out of the car.  "Am I helping?" I hear you ask eagerly in the past.  I move my tongue to the back of my teeth at dinner to get a piece of stuck food out and see you doing the same.  I feel as though I am you for a second- you know the way you do when you find yourself mimicking someone else's body language or personal dialect?  Whenever I get dressed, there you are.  Most of my shirts are gifts picked out by you.  So are my pajamas.  I realize you bought me so many clothes, even though I think I kept telling you not to (not because I was humble but because I was picky).  

The integration is happening.  I hear your voice Dan in my head almost 24/7.  When I'm shopping and thinking about buying something I usually hear, "eh...kinda tacky" and put it back.  When I was cutting giant cardboard boxes yesterday with a box cutter to make a stacked washer/dryer for Audrey, I heard you telling me to put that box cutter back in the tool box right away and not to do it so close to where Audrey was playing.  When someone sang way out of tune at church on Sunday, I felt your hand squeeze mine in a shaking way saying, "ahhhhh..."

To be frank, it gets irritating sometimes that you get to have your say so much still when I don't get to say much to you- I suppose that's why I'm usually addressing this writing to you.  I didn't get to say a damn thing.

Even the one thing that comforts me- your whispering voice that woke me up in the middle of the night that first week you died, is unfair.  Why did you get to say your last words to me, but I couldn't answer back?  Then you were gone.  I realized I firmly believe that was you, because everytime I think of the last time I heard from you- I don't think of the Skype conversation we had the day before you died- I think of that night.  I think of the way your voice was so strong and loud it interrupted the cacophony of dreams I was having.  And how I shot up out of bed and felt full of joy.  And how your words were few but the most pregnant words I have ever heard uttered in my life.  In them, I knew many, many things instantly.

The other night there was a loud roar of thunder out of nowhere before it started to pour.  My very first thought when a loud noise startles me from outside and I'm not sure what it is, is always that the world is ending and God is returning.  The gig is up.  I can't wait for the explanation.   I feel excited.  But also, this is what it feels like when you truly believe in every fibre that it's the end for just a moment even- absolutely terrifying.  We're always asking to "see God" in the church, but do we realize how truly frightening that would be?  Still, I went to the windows bracing myself, but hoping.

Yesterday, while walking through the parking lot, Audrey picks up a few of the fallen pale pink petals from the tree blossoms and feeling it between her cute thumb and finger, tells me it's like a tissue.  I know you would've loved that so much Dan.

And now to get to tonight's chore- printing out the contract for the headstone so I can sign it, write the check and get it in the mail by tomorrow.  "Be not afraid, only believe." says the verse.  I chose the KJV because the NIV says "Don't be afraid, just believe" and I felt rather than starting with the negative, "don't" I liked the strength in starting with the word "Be."  I also felt there was a subtle but important difference between saying "just believe"  and "only believe."  As in, not only should you believe, but you should do only that- only believe.  Put your energy and focus into that one thing.

only

believe.


35While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?
 36As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.
 37And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.
 38And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.
 39And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.
 40And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.
 41And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
 42And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.
 43And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Only Ghost

The pain bites again today.

I received the sketch done to scale of three versions of your headstone via email.  Even in sketch format on my computer screen, it was terrifying.

I thought last week I'd taken a turn.  And I had.  But then with grief, you never know what's up ahead.  I made a conscious decision of the will to let go of my own grasp of the pain, because I realized- the pain would still be holding on to me- I'd just have my hands free to attend to other things- especially Audrey.  And I was right.  It holds on.  Tonight it holds me more viscously again.

After I open up the sketches of your headstone on my computer this afternoon, I tell Audrey we must go outside and take a walk.   I have a plan for an art project to collect tiny rocks shaped like eggs, paint them blue, and put them in a little nest of some sort - maybe an acorn hat, on our nature table.  More than the art project though, I feel I'm suffocating and must get out of the apartment after I see those sketches.   As usual, I'm more interested in my "project" than she is so I try to follow her lead as we walk behind our building on the little path by the river.  That's hard for me.  But there is so much value in it...so much more growth.  While I say, "C'mon, we've gotta find the little rocks that look like egg shapes," she balances on the wood beams on either side of the path and shovels the little pebbles there into her pail.  Then she squats down and takes some of the rocks out of the shovel with her little chubby hands and makes an altar of sorts on a wood beam beside her.  "We're planting these!" she tells me.  Apparently, a rainbow, a peacock, a sunflower, and a daffodil, will all sprout from those rocks on a beam.

I wonder, if it's the same with the grief (and with life)...letting go of my preconceived plans and ideas...following its lead.  This is ever so frightening to a control freak and perfectionist who has indeed perfected her control freak ways.

I do things proactively when I feel led- it's like a dance- to keep moving forward because the stagnation of trying to hold time still to stay closer to the pain and to you- is also suffocating.  I buy myself an early birthday present- a handmade necklace with three charms- each with one of our initials- a, d, j- our family.  I will take off your wedding ring and place that on sometime in the future- I don't know when.  But your ring starts to weigh me down lately- it feels much heavier and less comforting than it did in the beginning.

I haven't changed my bottom sheet yet.  But I've done so many things recently.  Moved the bag that held our swimming stuff from where I put it down when the phone rang, washed our towels, changed the quilt, thrown out the ice cream in the freezer I made with the last gift you gave me- the surprise cookies I found the day before you died.  I've sorted through the giant bag that sat in the corner for months filled with sympathy cards.  I'm in the process of arranging to loan your cello out to a promising music school student, and the other day I even took your dirty laundry out of the laundry basket and put it in a big ziploc bag.  I wait and wait to do these things...and when the time is right- I somehow feel and know it and when I do that thing- there is a sense of relief and health.  There is a subtle nuance I must pay very careful attention to...following grief's lead.

I ready myself for taking off the sheet you slept on with me.  I buy fancy new pillows and sheets and a belgium linen duvet with french stripes.  I will need some kind of reward the day I take it off, so this is how I do it.

Saturday Audrey asked to watch videos of when she was a "teeny tiny baby," the ones on your computer recorded by you.  We sat in your chair together and watched one after another.  It is not surprising to hear your voice talking to her constantly, "Hi Audrey!!!  Hi Beptz!"  It is normal.  Your death isn't at all familiar yet- it's still your living self that is.  But it is so hard for me to comprehend- how much has changed in a few years.  In April of 2008, you and I were living in Brooklyn, getting ready to take our "babymoon" to Turks and Caicos.  In 2011, I have a 2-1/2 year old, you are dead, and I live in Jersey.  It's a lot to take in.  Follow the lead...relinquish my plan.

Last night I dreamt of you- a vivid dream.  The kind I don't get very often.  But it was nothing supernatural...just my pitiful subconscious mind still trying to make sense of things.  You came home and I, while remaining calm, explained how everyone thought you were dead- how I'd had a funeral and how much I've cried.  You didn't seem surprised by it.  Then I became annoyed at you because of typical silly things you were doing and wondered to myself, "How could I be like this when I've missed him so, so much?"  As in all of these kinds of dreams, there is the idea in my dream-self's mind that we must consummate our reunion.  It seems the obvious thing to do.  There is a sense of urgency.  And yet, in the end of each of these dreams- we never do.  It is impossible for one reason or another.

Oh Dan, we are so far apart now.  The moment you died, we were- not only on a cosmic scale, but because before we were similar people and all of that ended.  We had similar upbringings, similar goals/hopes, we lived in the same place, changed our baby's diapers, talked about music we liked, watched shows we liked together, critiqued moves we watched together, and shared meals in restaurants together, "Here, try mine..."

Now you are someone who died a tragic, early death by drowning.

I am someone who lost her husband at 34, had to bury him, and is alone with a toddler each day trying to make sense of it and figure out what to do next.

"Dan and Jul" is the only ghost that haunts me.

We are so very far apart.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Confetti Leftover

"When a loved one has been laid to rest in a cemetery the final stage of closure involves the placement of a tombstone or grave marker identifying their grave.  It is here that we are given one final occasion to communicate to the world the significance of our loved one."  

I read this last night online as I hunt around looking at epitaph ideas and headstone designs.  Really?  I think.  This is the way I'll communicate your significance to the world?  At a cemetery full of dead bodies?  I hope Audrey and I will do a better job of this here among the living.  How could I possibly choose a few words to describe you or our love for you?  I write here every week and haven't run out of words yet.

Everything I read on these sites seems surreal and begging for me to write about it.  Some of my "favorite" epitaphs, "He lived life to the fullest."  and "If our love could have saved him, he would not have died."  "Death is not a foe, but an inevitable adventure."  "She filled every second of her life with laughter, love and happiness."  Really?  Every second?

Today I go to pick out our headstone.

An 88 year old Jewish man named Al helps me and the friend who accompanies me.

The office looks almost like a trailer home but he's friendly.

He opens the door to the side parking lot, "Well, let's take a look."

There are the stones.  Do I want grey or rose colored granite?  Finished or unfinished.  The edges can be rough or smooth on the top and sides.  What size?

I tell him where you're buried and he tells me he's on the board of trustees of that cemetery and the spot you're in is "a very prestigious location."

I feel like I'm choosing something else- a vacuum maybe, a new quilt for my bed?  when I ask my friend, "What do you think of this one?"

If I choose polished, the engraving must go in blocks of unpolished stone.  They can't engrave into polish.  Good to know.

After we decide - natural stone polished border rough edges... we go inside so Al can draw up a sketch of the layout.  He comes back in to the room where we're seated on folding chairs with a ruler and paper.

It's a double stone and I presume the design will have our last name in the middle and Dan's name on the bottom left- with a vacant spot for my info on the right.  I decided to write your Korean name in Korean characters below your English name.  I also chose a verse.

I ask Al a question about the design pertaining to my half in some way, and he pauses and replies quietly, "How are you going to know?"  We all chuckle.  He's funny.

Then Al surprises me because he tells me to consider making the stone look like it is just for you.  With your name in the center and room for mine underneath- "You can still add it...but you're very young.  He was very young."  My friend also surprises me by agreeing.

A few tears fall from my eyes and my friend hands me a tissue from her purse.  I know what they're insinuating.

I prefer side to side.  I understand what they're saying without them putting it in words, but I have to do what feels right now- not what may or may not feel right ten or twenty years from now.  I'll worry about that then.  For now, I was your wife.  You were married and loved by one woman tremendously.  I want that empty spot there to prove it.  It will help me feel like you're less alone there.  Your body anyway.

Eighty eight year old Al says he'll email me a couple of sketch choices for my approval by Monday.  And we head to the car talking about how surreal this all is.

Tonight one of our favorite singers, Travis' Fran Healy, writes me to tell me he has dedicated his new solo album to you.  He's dropped one in the mail for me.  I am proud of you, but you will never know.  The bittersweetness makes my heart into a pulsating water balloon for a moment or two.

The verse on our headstone will read, "Be not afraid, only believe."

The other day when I saw the trees below my building had blossomed overnight, I felt sick to my stomach.  I could remember looking out that window when we'd first moved here two years ago and feeling such relief  seeing those blossoming trees.  We had just come through such a tumultuous season, and it gave me renewed hope to see spring still arriving.

That innocent hope in spring air and blossoming trees seems naive now.   All I see now is the ephemeral quality of that beauty.  It will be gone in days, the tiny pale pink petals blowing around in the parking lot, like confetti leftover from some grand parade or celebration.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Later

At first, it seems strong to keep forcing yourself to feel the grief head on- day after day.
Later it seems it will take a lot more strength to somehow let it go.
At first it seems intelligent to use all of your rational energy to try to "figure this out."
Later it seems there is real power in surrendering to questions without answers.
At first I feel only pain and loss when I see our daughter- she has lost you.
Later I see the fullness of life in her and refuse to miss another moment stuck in this time warp other dimension black valley of the shadow
of
death.

It is almost
later.

Freckles, Pores, Sideburns

People, even those who were not the slightest bit "religious" or even today's catch phrase, "spiritual" before, always tell you things about the spirit lasting and him not being "his body," after someone else dies- not "their" someone.

I get that.  I saw the body and thought it resembled an empty shell as well.

But that damn physicality- I can't seem to get past it.

I think it's because, unlike other people who knew you, I was intimate with your physicality- as well as your intellect and soul.

So, how can you be dead and buried, I often think.
When I can see you standing at the kitchen sink in your white sweat socks.
Swaying side to side.
You have to pee.
When I can see the few black hairs on your big toe and the way the toenail comes to a small point.
When I can see the tiny black pores on the bridge of your nose and that beautiful archipelago of freckle on your left cheekbone?

The tiny pink and purple veins underneath the skin by your nostrils.
Your upper lip and that little spot in the middle where there was no color.  I noticed the other day Audrey has the exact same upper lip Dan.

Feel
your shoulder bone as I lay my head on it.
Your scalp as I run my fingers through your hair.
Your earlobe as I hold it between my thumb and forefinger...the one with the freckle that made it look like you had it pierced.
Your uneven sideburns as I brush them with my finger against the grain.
The tiny black and brown hairs that came out of your chin and scratched me as we kissed.

Do not tell a person who has lost a spouse that we are not physical.  We are
very
physical.
But God
I hope there's more to us
than this flesh and blood.
Something
that
lasts.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

No Narrative

sunday late afternoon.
Audrey put in a very melancholy lullaby album by a band I liked before she was born...
the singer's vocals are ethereal and child-like- she sings "what a wonderful world" and "somewhere over the rainbow."  I walk to the window as a bus pulls up and feel maybe, just maybe this time you'll actually get out.  outside the sky is white and gray- a drab and dreary world.

I think of us forgetting to dance to "What a wonderful world" played at our wedding, but hearing it the next day- a rainy one- in a Starbucks in NYC near Grand Central.  We headed out of the W where'd we'd spent the night and picked up stuff for our upcoming honeymoon at Duane Reade- then ducked in from the rain for a cup of coffee at Starbucks when this song came on.  It was the most wonderful day, and the most wonderful moment.

Another day after we were married, we sat at our dinner table overlooking a Brooklyn street, looking out the windows covered in thick white paint around the moldings- we saw a rainbow.  We looked at each other- maybe we kissed.  I'm pretty sure we held hands.  In that moment, and in moments like that, I always felt nervous or embarrassed or something when you looked in my eyes.  It felt too sentimental- even for me.  but i should have gladly accepted those moments, since we didn't have that many of them.

Audrey is in a tutu while the music plays and I stand at the window.  I look at her and try to tell myself, "you must pull it together- look at her...you must do it for her."  because it feels the world has nothing for me anymore...i really, really, really miss you dan.  i go to church and meet new people who will never know you or "us"- "dan and jul."  Instead, they'll eventually learn my tragic story but to them it will be just that- because they'll only have known me through that lens.  They won't understand that I really was just like them.  just as i didn't understand that before this happened- i thought this kind of thing only happened to "stronger" people.  i shied away from them when it happened as if it might be contagious.

i must start making dinner.

but i keep thinking why is there no narrative...why this way- without an proper ending, symbolism eludes me, foreshadowing's not enough...where is the narrative that we all feel is inherent in life? why do i look for it and feel so disturbed that here...it's gone.  or is the narrative just different than i thought...grow up, fall in love, get married, have children...grow old...it's not that- so maybe i just don't know what it is...or maybe it's not a narrative at all, but a poem.

or maybe it's not either one.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Good News

Today a lot of things came to mind that we will never get to do together.  I think in the beginning, you are so overwhelmed that of course, it's all over- you won't get to do anything...it's horrible and a nightmare and you can't stand it- that you don't focus on the smaller specifics.  But now I do.  I mention something about Hawaii to Audrey and remember how you'd never been and we planned to stop there on our next trip to Korea.  "Wow, we won't get to do that."  Another layer.  I think about taking Audrey to an art museum in the city and remember how, since she was born, we wanted to do that together.  "We'll take her to MOMA," you'd said.  But we never got there.  I had that vision so clearly in my mind.  When I was younger, I used to think I could kind of prophecy by what I could see in my mind.  "Oh, I can't imagine that happening..." so it probably won't.  Or, "I can see us there, looking at paintings," of course we'll get there.  That whole trend of vision boards and the secret- a total lie.  You do not create by envisioning.  Yes, that's a step of creation- but we are simply not our own creator- the creator of our lives- though post-modern philosophy will try to convince you otherwise.

Speaking of vision boards, January 2009, I thought you and I should create a collage of things we hoped for.  So we did.   I tore off one side of a diaper box and we cut out and pasted down things that we hoped for.  The difference between us was always so apparent when we did creative work together.  I was in a hurry to pick out pictures and get to the end result of the vision board- even though I'd initially had a beautiful vision for the vision board- in the end, I was hasty with my choices.  Yours, on the other hand, were beautiful photos.  You wouldn't settle for the cheesy ones.  I think on my side I had a photo of a book- maybe one day I thought, I'd like to write a book.  I also had a photo of a group of friends, a microphone for singing, and a Craftsman style house- I had wanted a real home for so long.  On yours you had a photo of a recording studio, a photo of friends clinking beers around a table, and photos of faraway places- you wanted to travel.  There was also a photo of a family- I remember- laughing.  All of this was before you go the touring gig.  You were still stuck in your office job - one reason I thought i'd be a good idea to do the board.

We kept that vision board around for quite a while, but there was no good place to put it and aesthetically, it wasn't fitting my minimalist decorating goal at the time.  I asked you if I could throw it out.  "But that was supposed to mean something," you said.  I was surprised.  You said you'd keep it by your desk and you did.  But then eventually I think I won out.  It's gone.  I don't know if I mind.  I think it'd be upsetting to see it all in hardcopy right in front of me- all of the dreams, plans, visions laid before me in magazine pictures.

The other thing I realize today as I drive home from a farm and a visit with a cousin and her little girl- is how much I am already growing and changing without you.  I want to meet you at home and tell you about my day- how Audrey fed goats and bunnies-but how she was scared of the pigs biting her fingers, but I won't be doing that.  I will experience and grow and become a different person.  If I try to hold on to you by staying the same, I will still change-but I will become bitter and ill.  I'm not just different from the woman who was here when you left on June 29th, 2010.  "Bye...see you in a few weeks..."  But I am also, I realize, growing into a very different person than the person I would've grown into had I been growing with you.  I will turn into a different woman than I would've grown into had you stayed here with us...had you and I grown old together as we'd planned.

As I drive home, I hold onto hope and remember the feeling I had the first few days...a feeling that I was the one who had been left and abandoned.  That I was alone now in this world of plastic and matter and that you had gone on to the next part.  I wasn't thinking clear enough then to be thinking theologically at all, so this wasn't an intellectual thought process at all- it was a feeling I try to articulate now.  It was a feeling that I was still waiting and you had finished and surpassed me and that was unfair.  In the days following, my sole concern would be for you - were you OK?  But in those initial hours, I knew you were fine.  You'd gotten to go on.  I was still here and this filled me with dread. But I hold on to this because in those early days- even amidst shock and numbness- there seemed to a spiritual sharpness and clarity unlike any I'd ever known.

When I get home, I get the mail.   I see another letter- a fourth- from the nonprofit in Switzerland billing me $3000 for your helicopter "rescue."  A few weeks ago I took it upon myself to write them a letter asking them to please dismiss this bill immediately.  I am about to eagerly tear into the envelope.  I brace myself...but then I stop.   I pray- for one of the first times.

"We have received your letter.  The invoice is cancelled."

Good News.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dark and Complex

I am so angry at you lately.

It's the only way I have of holding on to you.  It feels familiar.  As if it's not a tragedy and something you had no control over, but something like not putting your socks in the hamper.

You really did it this time...I want to say.  Can I be angry now?  Am I overly fearful now?  I hold on to you this way- because...well, I am having trouble holding on...lately.

The grief feels suddenly dark and complex- cluttered.  It's at a new angle...a whole other facet of reality.  Now I get it- again.  You were the one- it was you, standing holding my right foot while I pushed out our child.  That was you...it was you who held me under the Brooklyn Bridge, hair blowing, when we first fell in love and couldn't keep our hands off of each other.  you- the one who tuned my guitar and played piano while I sang.  You are gone.  I'm awake.

When will I hit the bottom, I always wonder.  Today I come up with a new analogy: it's like when I was little and liked standing on the arm of our seven foot orange couch and falling backwards onto it.  That sinking feeling you get as you fall...because your body knows you're not supposed to be doing that.  It's like I am in that position but not hitting the couch- for nine months now.

I am ready to buy your headstone.

I tell a young widow a few years out how I'm feeling while we chat online and she can only reply "It sucks."  There's nothing else to say.  She already knows this.  Someone who hasn't had her experience might try to offer me words.  I would eagerly receive them.

I tell her that I hate all of the memories of things that play in my head- how we joked about life insurance and how you told me "next time you should marry a doctor or a lawyer," because of the tension your music career always caused. "Next time, yeah right,"  I'd say.

"Everything is colored a different way now," the friend online tells me.  She's right- that's really all it is.  Those things weren't really so horrific at the time.  They are now.  

I sit here now in bed in the exact spot I sat when I told you I didn't want to be a "pregnant widow" when were discussing trying to get pregnant before you left.  I see you before me, standing still, looking at me with surprise.  I too was surprised at my statement.  I want to tell you now...it's true.  It happened.  But I was not a pregnant widow.  Though secretly, I have selfishly wished I was a few times- so I would not lose that too.

A new friend (and older widow) tells me she and a few others were talking about how affected they were by my situation and the "daunting task of raising Audrey alone."  This is the first time I've thought of it this way.  I wish she hadn't said that.

I try to comfort myself- all the big days coming up: my birthday, mother's day, father's day, your death, and our anniversary.  I tell myself I've done most of these myself before anyway.

Last year you were away for both my birthday and mother's day.  "I'm just telling you," I'd written you in an email- "you better do something."  I'd learned by then you couldn't read my mind and I'd better be clear that I expected something for these days.

I haven't celebrated our anniversary with you since 2008- even though you died in 2010.  You were away in 2009 and then were buried the day before our 6 year anniversary- though you would've been away again anyway.  You said you hid little gifts around the apartment for me.

I've never found them.

9 Months

Maybe that's why the past couple of days have felt so heavy and full of rage.

Nine months.  The time it takes to bring a baby to full term- I am reminded by another young widow.

I wish people wouldn't sound so dismal about their birthday just because it means they're getting older.  The alternative is dying.  I wish I could've grown old with you.  I wish you could've grown old.

Hope This Inheritance

One of the things that has haunted me is how much work I saw you do, just in the time that I knew you.

Maybe this is because I've been a works-oriented person for so long- thinking that if one works hard enough- good things will happen or one will be "blessed."

"But you worked so hard..." kept echoing in my mind in the early months.

And you did.

I think of the nights you worked at an office job you loathed until 3 am.  There was a period where this was nightly and you even slept there a few times.  You didn't get paid any overtime and at the end of the year you received no bonus- a huge disappointment.  You were so stressed you started grinding your teeth in this period.  I'd wait for you each night, feeling sick myself thinking of your misery.  I'd call you or receive a call from you- and then if you said, "Looks like another hour or so," I'd feel myself deflate.  I felt so helpless.  "Please quit!" I even begged you around this time.  But you were ultimately, a very responsible person, and would not do this.  You only lived until the age of 33.  I wish you had not logged so many hours being miserable.  Take note.

And then there was the music on top of that.  Gigs you'd rehearse for after work and then return to your office job until late.  Sometimes you'd carry both your cello and your keyboard somehow downtown.  You'd finish work in Manhattan, come to Brooklyn to our home and eat something very quickly before leaving again with those heavy instruments.  All along I was uneasy about all of this...wondering how you could keep up at that pace.  But there was nothing I could do- no way to hold you back.  You loved that work, and still- it was work.

Then there were the loads and loads of wash you hauled back and forth from our apartments to laundromats blocks away.  The carts full of groceries that you carried up four flights in the brownstone in Park Slope.  All of the moves that you did- from Staten Island to the Upper West side and to Park Slope, Bay Ridge, my parent's house, Edgewater.  All of the carrying and lifting and packing and unpacking.  Getting up early to play cello or keys at church services...setting up the music equipment, breaking it down.

I guess what I'm asking is what is it all for?  Or what was it all for?  And if we live longer - like those of us still alive- what is it all for- what we do each day?  Of course I'm not advocating a hedonistic lifestyle, an "eat, drink, and be merry" anthem, but just a little reflection on the things we throw ourselves into day after day.

We live our life in financial terms here often using the terms, "I invested so much in that job," or relationship or home.  We expect a "return" from people and things.  But in death, life seems to defy any of that terminology- there's no return, no investment- no calories in- calories out...

It's something altogether different- and that's why it stands out I think.  Death.

It doesn't abide by the rules we find naturally or the ones that we make up.  There is no return that we see.  Just a final collection.

But then, I think just now in the process of this writing, the Bible does talk about the Holy Spirit being a deposit.  In this case, a return may have nothing to do with our efforts- but the buyer's.  But this deposit, according to the verses that follow in Ephesians, rather than a guarantee of purchase- guarantees an "inheritance," something that is not earned, but given as a natural matter of course- from parent to child.

I hope this inheritance over you tonight Dan- even though you are gone and all is seemingly finished and collected.  I hope the buyer will come back.  It's been a long time- thousands of years.  It is hard to hope over ancient, translated documents.  But if your deposit is large, you usually aren't playing around- you will buy.  If any of this is true,  (and that's a big if) his deposit would've been nothing less than his very life and breath.  He must've meant business, I think?   He will come back to complete the transaction no?

It occurs to me that death's exemptions from these rules of investment and return meets its match in only one thing: love.  Genuine love, also, will not be constrained into our terminology.  It isn't about getting a thank you note or patting yourself on the back...love is about giving without any expectation of return- anonymously even.  Sacrificially, until it hurts.  That's the way you loved me Dan- giving up things you wanted, oftentimes your pride, Cable television- letting me know you'd give your life for me.  That's the way I love our daughter- the return of my investment- the pain of childbirth, endless nights of nursing, diaper changes, baths, brushing teeth, calming tantrums, putting together play kitchens, cleaning up glitter glue and sticky rice on the kitchen floor-  the return of all that-
is her joy.

So- my earlier question- what's it all for?  If we want to invest in something death cannot take away- something as exempt from the rules as the casket- we invest in loving.

"We must know that we have been created for greater things, not just to be a number in the world, not just to go for diplomas and degrees, this work and that work.  We have been created in order to love and be loved," I read this morning - Mother Theresa's words.

And so, in this magical writing process, I find myself facing a new direction.   Not investment and return...but deposit and inheritance.   (That is the power of process so often missed when we aim with the result already in mind, which I refuse to do in this case- it is too important to come with an agenda.)


Still- I will think often in my darkened thoughts- "you worked so hard...you worked so hard..."  I will see you in my mind carrying seven heavy grocery bags, the plastic bag handles cutting off the circulation at your wrist...I will hear you on the phone telling me woefully that you'll be really late tonight...I will see you loading up a rented van in the rain on a street in Brooklyn.


The deposit,
the deposit,
the deposit-

I tell myself tonight.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Knives and Gravity

I eat sweet rice cake and drink barley tea.  They are comforting and these days I have a hard time finding any food that comforts me.

I stand on the line between self-pity and healthy grieving.  I do not want the former.  What keeps me from it is thinking of all of the suffering- "how many unique kinds of terrible pain can exist in the world," a new friend writes me.

I delete everything I've just written because I'm too tired to really puzzle it out properly.

The horror is fresh for some reason lately.  That piercing horror of what has truly happened.  I almost marvel now at how long one can stay in a surreal world.  (Or is this the real one?)

I wish Audrey didn't have to catch me crying so much lately.  Oh God, please don't let her need too much therapy from me, I think.

I can't understand that you were you- walking around, talking, laughing, fighting with me, and now this is all over for you- and us.  We are like little universes- our bodies, walking around with no visible life source.  No battery- we're not plugged in.  So loose.  So fragile...so vulnerable.  Vulnerable to germs and viruses, knives and gravity, chemicals and fire, temperature and water.

It truly did not seem possible before this- though I thought I grasped it intellectually- and worried about it-- that you could be here one day, talking to me on the telephone from Switzerland, and the next day- just leave your broken body behind to be shipped home in a box.  I think I always thought there'd be some sign, some warning.

I am tired.
I miss you greatly.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Hour Incomplete

My mother always said that from about 4 pm to 6 pm is the "witching hour" or something like that- and that babies and toddlers get fussy around this time.

I notice recently that for me, these are now the hours when I feel most incomplete.  Late afternoon- there's not much promise of anything new happening.  I am worn out from the morning activity, from serving and cleaning breakfast and lunch.  I am not expecting anyone to call or come home for dinner or to relieve me at bath time.

The sky dims.  I think about what to make for dinner.  I drag myself from room to room picking up after Audrey.  I watch her talking to her animals, baking cakes in her play kitchen, writing "invitations" and let her fan me with a Hello Kitty fan you got her because that's what pretend doctors apparently do for you.

And I feel the utter incompleteness of our family- of just the two of us- here.  Without you.

I feel it all the time of course, but this particular time frame, in my mind, I've labelled,
the hour incomplete.

Only I

Only I, I realized tonight, have to do the exact things that you did- moving in your earthly footsteps throughout each day.  Many mourn you, but no one but me must do these things here in your home.

 Only I bang the sink strainer on the trash can to get out the food exactly the way I heard you do it almost every night.  "Bang, bang, bang," and toss it back in the sink.   Only I punch in the password to your phone (which was easy for me to guess when I received it from Switzerland) and hold your phone to my ear and say hello just as you once did.  "Hello?"  Only I lock our apartment door with the key I grab from a small dish in the entryway table- I see your keys lying there every time- the ones you came back and dropped off after you'd left that last day saying, "I might as well leave these here- I won't need them."  Only I pick up our daughter out of her crib in the morning the way you used to while you let me sleep in or brought her to me to nurse.  Only I bring her her oo yoo the way you used to, singing the same little tune that you made up for the occasion, "Oo yoo, yeah...oo yoo yeah, oo yoo, yeah oo yoo."   Only I sit in the car and turn on the radio station you programmed in.  Only I take out the garbage and recycling like you did.  Take a new plastic bag from under the sink and shake it out and put it in, fold the flaps over the corners just the way you did- when you were here. Only I stand and floss my teeth where you did- next to me- each night- staring at each other in the mirror. Only I water your cello and fill the tea kettle and pull up the comforter and push in the chair and hang up the wet towel - the super fluffy ones we registered for- and fill the dishwasher and empty the dishwasher and open the curtains and close the curtains and marvel at the new things that our daughter does each day the way
you once
did.

Only I.