Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I know you're out there.

I think about you, worry about you a little, even. I know you can take care of yourself, but this is hard, harder than anything else we face. I know you come here once in a while and read. I hope the things I write don't upset you. If anything, I hope this makes you feel less alone. It makes me feel better knowing you stopped by. You don't have to say anything.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The specific insanity of long term grief

Cut loose from what used to bind me so tightly to life. I don't get those pure moments of joy anymore. I miss it a little, but I don't know how to recreate it, or to kindle it when the spark begins. Spring used to do it, I can remember that. A free, unexpected jolt that lifted me out of my shoes and let me float for blocks. Now that little singing in the heart when the trees blossom is cut off, flat, halting. I'm no longer in myself that way. I hover a bit behind. I'm beside myself.

Every good thing seems to lack justification. Why music? Why that symphony? Do we need it? Why do we live so long? Why do we help each other? Why is each day important? Why cure disease, why love? Why do people work so hard to create things? Why do we strive so much in our brief time here?

Why am I alive? That's the tough one. I keep making up purposes, that's what I do. But really, what's the difference between life and death? Not the obvious ones. I don't care about that. The line has been blurred for me. Death doesn't scare me, even if it means there is nothing, no existence at all. What difference will it make if I don't know it?

It's hard to understand me if you haven't been through this part of life before, I realize that. I don't expect you to. Who would want to understand this? I get up in the morning, I do what I need to do. You can't ask me more than that right now. If there is a purpose and meaning in your life, well, good for you. I remember how that feels.

His birthday this year falls the day after Mothers Day. I was going to find the list of all his friends' email addresses, and invite them over. I'd love if some just showed up to say hello. But I just can't find it in me to keep searching through the shuffled paper in and around my husband's desk, the boxes of files. I don't know where I put it. I don't know where it's been moved or by whom. I can't bring myself to keep looking. I'm sorry. Next year. Grief is long.

Monday, April 20, 2009

When Jesse's brother was little,

He developed a fascination with Florida. At first, he wanted to go to the Everglades to hunt for alligators (crocs being in short supply), but learned he was more likely to be mosquito prey. (Somehow this became my fault.) In our exodus we discovered the state park in Key Largo, and learned to snorkel on our own, near a picnic spot there.

Then on a later trip we decided to do the drive to Key West. He had told me earlier in the trip, that a teacher had asked the class if they wanted to be astronomers or astronauts (you know, thinkers or doers...), and asked me the same. Both, I said. We stopped pretty much anywhere you could get to water, now that we'd bought our cheap masks and snorkels, and poked around, arriving at the 7-mile bridge around six pm, when the sun starts to turn the water from turquoise to silver. I could tell he was feeling the same awe and excitement I did as we sped toward sunset and the unknown, and I looked at him and smiled and said, "Today, we're astronauts."

Saturday, April 11, 2009


My sister came to town with her two year old, who looked so much like Jesse at birth that it kinda scared the family. My sister was pregnant when Jesse died, spent a week alone at the loft before heading home, and gave birth two days after my birthday. Fortunately, baby is starting to look like her own unique self now, so spending a couple of days alone with her while sis went to a weekend conference wasn't awful or sad, but lovely and new. I took her to the playground in Washington Square Park, that Jesse and his brother grew up in (literally)--she channeled Jesse's personal blend of social grace toward peers and anti-adult rebellion perfectly, protesting pretty much every moment that we weren't out to "see kids," and only willing to leave when all the other kids had vanished at sunset.

I don't know why that caused my heart to crash, dammit.

Mr. Nomist had planned to come home from visiting his mom that Saturday, but her doctor visit changed that all too drastically. My mother in law has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. This happens to all my mothers-in-law, apparently. When Jesse's dad died, the family sent him a copy of the autopsy at his college address. The existence of a certain type of cell that happens to have been named for Alzheimer scared the hell out of him, which prompted a call to mom. Don't worry, honey, it's not the same thing. Nothing to worry about.

As it turned out, he never had to find out at all.

On these last few walks to work, I've started crying again. It's spring, right around the time my dad died. I wonder if Jesse still loved the outdoors as he once did. Another season he will miss. Can you hear me? I say out loud, in the park, as I walk by Chester A. Arthur.If you can hear me, baby, please know that I love you. I miss you. I'm sorry. Please let me know you can hear me. Let me know you're ok.

And then I tell myself how foolish that is. Think about it: we spend our lives developing empathy, learning what it really means that each person who has ever lived has their own internal world that is exactly like and completely different from our own; we learn ways to appreciate it in others, respect it, ignore it, use it, understand it. But we can never really breach it. The gulf between ourselves and others. Not even with love. You can only show your love, make a verb of it, you can't just throw it across that chasm of self and self. You can never know for sure that anyone you love feels the same way you do. All you can know is their responses.

Love is about the person feeling it. It's about what you feel toward the other person. Even when they are gone, or they don't love you, or they hurt you, your love is your responsibility, your state, the product of your internal world. No one can make you stop or start loving. You can't make them feel your love, only the results of it. And you can't feel theirs, except as it becomes actions. So what of the dead? Your relationship with them, your love, doesn't stop. It feels as if they are still with you. You will not stop interacting with your memory of them. Even though there is no way to show them anything, to know you have reached them with your love.

Last night, after a rare and well, idiosyncratic seder with friends, I dreamed (blame the tzimmes I suppose), that I was walking back up from the park. So realistic I could feel my shoes on the sidewalk, the cold and damp; it was overcast. As I reached the southeast corner of 8th Street, Jesse came racing toward me on his old Razor scooter, looking just like he did the year before I lost him, pulled up in front of me, smiled and said, "here's your blue eyed boy!" And when I stopped, disbelieving, he said it again, I'm your blue eyed boy! And then he dropped the scooter, and took me in his arms and gave me a hug I could still feel when I woke up.

Listen: I don't know if I think the dead hear us. I don't know if I think it's something in me doing this. But whatever it is, I need it. And I will ask for it whenever the days get too hard to face without him.