Thursday, March 17, 2011

W is for Wallowing

W is for Wallowing.

It's March.

I am not fond of March, anymore. Probably forever.

This is my month for wallowing. Sorry.

It's not pretty.

I am fairly useless.

I have missed appointments, important appointments. Flaked out on friends. This is not like me, not my usual m.o. At all.

I have not failed to meet Jacob's school bus or appear on time to pick Ethan up from school. Yet.

We're only halfway through the month, so not counting my hatchlings. Yet.

They might not even be chickens, anyway. Maybe dragons. Ethan is certainly reading enough books about them these days.

Anyway, I might have also said that W is for Wandering, as that's what I feel like I am doing here, right now. Purposeless meandering, shaggy ambling through this post, through my life.

I know that for some people, a death focuses them like a laser beam. Not for me.

For me it has the opposite effect. I get unmoored, lost, drift into gray space that is neither here nor there nor... where?

I have written of how waiting for someone to die is like limbo, but there is yet another limbo space, too: the time after. Clear at first, mourning enters into an ill-defined phase when the river of grief carries you to its shores and you find yourself wading back from unknown lands.

There's a reason nearly every culture codifies its period of mourning. There are specific rites and rituals, I think, to help contain what can so easily become an out of control morass. Societies need grief to not swallow up their members, yet death must be dealt with or it all goes underground, bubbling up as depression, paralysis, an ebbing away of the life within those left behind.

So there are rules to be followed, rituals to be observed. I am no student of the fine art of mourning but a few come to mind: the Jewish tradition of shiva, Mediterranean widows' black, the catharsis of an Irish wake.

I am also now very much aware of how much the Jewish tradition of waiting a year to place a permanent marker upon a grave feels so right. This particular point, that I have just arrived at, carries with it a certain gravitas, the end of the first dreadful year of dreadful firsts.

Year one now becomes just another number, a part of the larger passage of time. Much in the way that a baby's first year is so scrutinized, celebrated, counted in days, then weeks, then months, so too a fresh death is counted so slowly at first.

The first days immediately afterward are barely separated into a night and day, such a blur they are. There are periods of light and darkness, yet holding little relation to sleep and waking.

There are many things that must be done, and with immediacy, for wailing babies and rotting corpses are on their own immutable timetables, wait for no one.

Then time speeds up. Days become weeks, then months and finally a year is upon us. I can't count the months any more, it seems silly. So it goes.

My father is merely gone. For how long? Long enough that I must sit for a moment, concentrate to conjure him.

For my mother it is, of course, infinitely worse. I have my children, my husband, my friends and my whole life to keep me more than occupied.

He was, by the end, her whole life. Now gone.

She is without purpose, her too same days bleeding into each other, one just like the next. She used to take care of someone, she used to have a companion. My Dad gave her life shape & purpose.  Gone now.

The social worker at her residence thinks she's depressed, wants to adjust her medications. Um, hell yes, she's depressed. With good cause. She's also just plain sad. She's in mourning. They had fifty one years together, and only one apart. Give her time.

I took Mom to a doctor's appointment today, to have her hearing aid adjusted. Sitting next to her in the cab, in the doctor's waiting room, across from her in the restaurant we lunched in afterward, we fell often into silence.

It's not that we have nothing to say to each other, but rather we are so full of my father's absence, it makes it hard to talk. We don't want to wallow, to obsess, to go on and on about him and the missing of him. But there he is: the invisible elephant in any room we are in, too big to ignore, but really, can't we talk of something else? Apparently not, today.

So we sit in companionable silence. An elderly mother, her middle aged daughter (who is, improbably, still a parent of young children herself at an age when others become grandparents). We cup our warm drinks in out hands. We smile wanly at each other. We sigh.

It is good that we have each other.

To wallow together on a day like today when the missing is strong.

To laugh together on a day like tomorrow, when, surrounded by my sons, her grandsons, we are propelled towards the future, fond memories of her husband, my father, the warm wind at our backs.

This post has been inspired by and linked up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday writing meme. And "W"? It's really a double "V" isn't it, not a double "U." So what's up with that name? Really, English, get it together.

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