Life is a losing battle! Enjoy it! – Mr. Harold Clurman
Life is a losing battle! Enjoy it! – Mr. Harold Clurman
For my very dear cousin who recently shared an activity she pursued from habit for 2.5 years of her life, and of which struck a deep chord within me which continues to resonate. Bless you, M.D.
In over 150 posts to this blog, I feel as though I’ve failed to pull aside the curtain and let you see what I’ve been hiding.
Just put the lid on the stockpot to simmer and much of the household has gone to bed except Jenni who, like a good night watchdog, checks on me periodically (usually amidst a stretch and a yawn). And while the hour is late, I must finish this post. It’s time to unbutton the years and feel the spring of irresponsibility.
I take the practice and restraint of writing very seriously. Not to seem austere, but, as one callous director yelled at my turned back, “Writing is a very lonely way to express yourself!” Prick.
But what remains true to type is that writing is painful and exhilarating and disliked and poorly reviewed and rewritten and rewritten and rewritten and moving and lucky and dangerous and a coup de grace terminus dissolution seductive lustful adoring and painful. My temperament since eighteen was writer; not a decorated writer but a prime writer. And Blogging? The Practice (writing) and Restraint (never “what,” but always “when”) to lose the fear that my voice is gone.
Written earlier: Wanted It On Paper (or pixels, I suppose):
My desk is a mound of memories threatening my Mac like English Ivy. Buried are unopened envelopes addressed to my brother – heat, electricity, cable – things he felt or used or watched – things that touched him in some real way – and taken for granted . . . except to those left behind to clean up someone else’s party, but in this case they’re the pieces of someone else’s life. The pile reads like those pitiful Monopoly deeds, Water Works and Electric Company. Vacancy ignored the utility’s initial bill. Ignored utility’s send out “Reminders of bills” or “bills” or “past-due bills” or “bills posted by collection agencies,” like rounds of mortar fire.
Written recently: Must complete this night:
I’ve got to stamp Addressee Deceased; Please Return to Sender with a fake heartless blasé poker face, constantly pushing aside cemented memories like freeing a sedan adrift in a blizzard so I can muddle, disinterested, of who or what or when he felt a gap in his comfort; and yet, these envelopes represent the healthy, sound, and clean gaps in his comfort. Then deliberate vague hints appear like indiscreet, taedium vitae lovers pursuing liberty. The utilities remain, but a couple, then a few, then many of these envelopes appear from unpronounceable practices and departments and unfamiliar hospitals and ambulance companies. There’s no curiosity daring me to open the envelopes like cracking open a diary or handling an 8×10 envelope forked-over by a neo-noir gum-shoe. I’ve ransacked his apartment three times looking for impossibly to find documents. A Mid-Way entertainment like curiosity disappeared the night my partner (my partner judiciously picked and packed, while each shirt caught my attention like a bride-to-be in a Tiffany & Co. (except the diamond’s wink promised the future and these shirts promised . . . promised . . . recollections of our past and the further removal of him from his home. I packed a few comforts but my partner shouldered the lion’s share (you know, kid-going-to-camp stuff sans the pair of linty Gobstoppers) for his transfer to an acute-care facility (e.g. nursing home.). Later he referred to leaving the hospital and signing-in to the sub-acute rehab facility as his One-Way Ticket.” ˆMid-day Sunday while we were thumbing through brochures and page after page of smiles: Rented smiles; Directed smiles; “I’m going home after this,” smiles, the truth caught in my throat like a chicken bone as he asked the one question, that one impossible question that I begged the All-Knowing to prevent him from asking, he asked, “Am I going home?” My weakened attempt at steadiness crumbled as quickly as ancient foundations beneath the burden of progress. I must remain impermeable, I reminded myself on my way to the restroom. After a very brief phone call my partner knocked, then opened the door to see me sitting on the floor. Through three decades of sobbing, fractured words, ardent hands he understood: He asked the question! The question to which I dragged and lifted and choked-back and detoured the answer (of which he’d never hear from me. Please, I begged my partner, please go sit with him and chat and blame my expeditious run for the restroom on anything but the truth. Because I can’t stand it yet, and he’ll just die when he finally does here that he’s never . . . never returning home.
In a broad sense, of course. I mean, who can possibly predict someone’s . . . permanence, so to speak . . . not that death is, in any way, humorous, but if we did know, one could make plans . . . which is when I trailed off, consciously fleeing The Doctor’s despairing and melancholic answer which, upon delivery, affirmed my inkling and, at first, felt promising, that is until the import of his answer felt as heavy as a saturated woolen coat.
My disquieting understanding was followed by remorse and the physician‘s shifting of weight left right left right; my attention lost to the ticker-tape listing of buoyant memories; then, hailing from afar like a sea boat captain, a nervous cough interrupts my avoidance with sharp and determined finger-snaps by a now brusque and tidy physician whose demeanor is demanding (disguised as cheerful support) takes the tone of an impatient boss, Is There Anything else, then?
That’s when we resumed our assigned roles of patient and doctor. Long gone was the arm-across-the-back-and-onto-the -other-shoulder fatherly imitation of empathy. Tucking his humanity neatly in a breast pocket below his blue-stitched name and title like first graders whose names are also stitched but for opposite reasons: The Doctor: To tell you who he is and his department (lest you wonder): And first graders: To remind themselves who they are and what they wore.
Upon empathy’s discharge, a muddy silence quickly appeared swallowing the Doctor and I and filling the tiny room with despair, melancholy, and a dreadful load of confusion. It reminded me of a time long ago when a generic teen-age girl gave me the sign to try for home, only to be quickly slapped by my host causing my retreat and a kind-of cease-fire and the same shameful silence which the Doctor cast by answering my foolish question:even though I was all-too-aware of the penalty, I asked the question with the same tentative, cautionary, and deliberate way that I behaved with that tart. And coincidently the responses were eerily similar: the tart with a sharp slap and immediate rejection, and the Doctor with a representational slap and unsettling honesty saying It’s got the moxie, it’s got fervor and doggedness. It’s very rare to be strong and efficient; even rarer still to be too strong and to be too efficient.
His foot steps down the hall seemed to whisper apologies until he turned and they both disappeared. And there I was, alone, all alone, all-by-myself alone except for the damned answer, of which I’d had some degree of premonition. But hearing it in your head isn’t official thereby maintaining a small degree of hope. And then I asked and then he answered and then neither one of us would ever be the same.