Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Let in your dead.

A few years ago, I stepped out of a grocery store on third ave, into a cold, half drowned, windy day, one of those throwaway afternoons when everyone wishes they were anywhere else, or at least home; only to be overcome with the sensation that I was my dad, alive for this brief moment, embraced by this amazing wind, the rain's delicate fingers tapping my skin; exultant to be carrying bags of food, to see the hundred kaleidoscopic grays of the sky and leafless branches. The music of of tires on rainy asphalt, again and again. I could feel each person who passed me by as if they had brushed against me and whispered something only they knew. I could see how the day would unfold but what matters was I was here, on third avenue, alive, even for this moment alone. Reprieved.

I'm told that New Orleanians are a bit too comfortable with their dead, with death.(I hear the post-burial second line bothers the hell out of folks from out of town, when it's associated with an actual funeral.) I suspect that's one reason Rice set so many of her novels there. But I wouldn't give up my relationship with my own dead, even if it's really a relationship with parts of myself that they represent. Too much would be lost in cutting them out of my conscious world. That doesn't mean I think it's ok to be preoccupied with loss.

I'm afraid, I think, to let Jesse that far in, to give him the reins as I did my dad. It's already so unbearable to have lost him, and to have lost him in so many ways. In trying to get to know who he was as a young man (in those ways that parents can't know their adult children), I've sometimes asked his friends to tell me things about him; but it's not the same. Not knowing reminds me too much of how far apart we'd grown, of the destruction of trust we were helpless to prevent.

Jesse and his girlfriend had broken up two months before he died, but they had remained close friends. She has become family in a way; she and my sister are friends, as are she and I. I think she'll probably need more time to work things out for herself, but nothing would make me happier than to see a picture of her with her new baby on my photo wall, right next to the one of her with my sisters' baby, from a few months ago. We're the only people she can mourn Jesse with, and I have no inclination to protect her from her own process and feelings. I do however, think twice before asking her to help me with mine.

I'm trying to settle with going back to times in his life when we were closer, when he and I really let each other in, and to connect with him that way. I know what he loved when he was younger. I know what hurt and what he admired. I don't know how it is that I knew my father better than I knew my son. I knew them both almost exactly the same number of years. How is it that these bookends of death have placed themselves in my life?


  1. What you say reminds me of an image of a circle, and that losing Jesse came when you were on a particular place in the circle... and now the other side of it seems so far away, and that there may be no way to get there.

    The idea that you two had grown far apart and there were things you didn't know and now can't know must be extraordinarily painful. Like an additional pain to the devastation of losing him.

    I can only say that the circle, and the power of it, is so archetypal and perhaps beyond our quotidian grasp of time and space. There are cycles and circles and orbits and globes and our whole cosmos is filled with this particular shape -- and it makes sense that our relationships would be also.

    There is some connection that exists beyond our temporal relationship, and that applies to you and Jesse as well. No matter how well we can explain it rationally. Or not. It is just there.

    Jung was definitely a scientist. He considered himself so, and would have (I think) abhorred any misappropriation of his psychology to support magical, religious thinking. However, in that regard - of being a scientist - he had a great respect for the vast store of information that was beyond his ken. I think this is one of the aspects that made him such a forward thinker.

    There simply ARE things we do not understand. That we do not grasp. But that does not mean we do not experience them...and long to understand.

    So, those are my thoughts. One does not need to delve into religious doctrines to experience the presence of our lost loved ones. And to even have the relationship shift and change ... almost along the same circle... where we come back into a closeness that did not seem to exist.

    But it did. Does.

  2. I dunno, I think Jung was notoriously obsessed with the occult, despite his grounding in science. One of the reasons he's considered an indirect father of AA is because he believed alcoholism could only be dealt with spiritually. There are things I like about Jung, but I've come to realize I'm an Adlerian. So, en garde, madame.

    But yeah, I don't choose to decide what I think about the unseen. I tell people God is in the box with Schrodinger's cat.

  3. I think highly of Adler, actually. And the more I have studied of Jung, the more his "occult" and "spiritual" writings seem to have been misunderstood and misconstrued. That's just my opinion.

    But, I'm not trying to make a devotee or believer out of anyone, especially you! And certainly not here!

    Just throwing out thoughts that you are so adept at stirring up!


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