Thursday, December 24, 2009

I don't know what made me do it.

Maybe because it's Christmas eve. Maybe I just haven't let myself miss him enough lately. But tonight I broke down and searched that "where the hell is matt" video that makes me think of Jesse (like he'd ever do that silly dance, that's not it). I probably started crying the second that dopey guy starts dancing. It's not the worst storm of tears I've endured, but I still felt that awful slipping toward disaster, toward some point within me I can't escape from once I'm there. I pulled back. I indulged myself. I typed "I miss you Jesse Smith" in google and read all the entries, looked at all the Jesse Smiths in the world and what they were doing and who they were. I saw a cached file about him on Lycos, but the page was gone. Someone from Fordham had put it up a while ago. Most of the rest were other Jesses. So many things he could have been. Doctor, musician, tattoo artist, teacher. Girl. Ok, not girl. Patti Smith's daughter, in fact. I calmed down a little. But still, it's impossible to accept that I will never see him again. Only people who haven't lost a child think this can be done.

Merry fucking Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I was taking eggs out of a carton to make breakfast. They were all white and perfect until I turned the middle one over as I pulled it out of its nook. A concentric break at its narrow end with little cracks running from the first circle out to the farthest. I stood wondering whether to use it or not-- if it were cooked through, would I still get sick?

As I was making coffee I realized that the broken egg had to have been a dream, because we were out of eggs. Turned the dream over in my mind-- how boring, I wouldn't even tell anyone about such a mundane dream. I forgot about it by the time I got to work.

At the grocery later, I called my son. I'd forgotten the list. He read out the items, including, of course, the eggs. Without recalling the dream, I checked prices, considered who'd be here over the week (three egg eaters, including my stepdaughter) and splurged on the carton of 18. Checked them all for breaks. Carefully put it in its own bag so the eggs wouldn't be crushed by heavy items or heated by the roast chicken.

My arms's in a brace because I'm having a bout of bursitis, so most of the heavy stuff goes in my backpack, the light, fragile stuff I hand carry out the door. This being New York, I don't have a car, so I only buy what I can carry. I get to the curb and hear a soft rustling and then a definite plop. The egg bag has escaped to the sidewalk. I open the carton and turn over the middle egg, exactly the one that had been broken in my dream, and was relieved that this one wasn't broken exactly the same way.

As I walked home through the park, careful now that the eggs had already fallen once, I thought of the dreams of Jesse dying. I've never dreamed of anything bad happening to Jesse's younger brother. He is always safe. Was this mundane egg dream a test of the system?

When I got home I found that 8 other eggs had been broken also, exactly like the egg in my dream. So much so that the smallest circle of shell popped into the bowl as I emptied each egg, yolk and all, while college helped unload the rest of the groceries.
As any good French girl would do with eggs broken after breakfast, I made a triple size custard. It's sitting in its bain-marie now, slowly becoming solid.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Love after death.

In one of life's ironic twists, Jesse died at the same age I was when my father died. So now I see dawning adulthood from two different mortal points. At 21-22, it's rare to already have an adult relationship with your parents. I was sorriest of all that my father and I didn't know each other that way, that I was barely able to reach across the chasm of our ways to him. I had learned to indulge him some of his fantasies of me-- he had lectured me before Christmas, that I needed to marry as soon as possible out of college so I wouldn't be tempted to commit a mortal sin (I'm sure the Catholics out there know which one he meant). I didn't laugh in his face or tell him to go screw himself. Nor did I lie or meekly say, yes Daddy. I was growing up a little. And two months later he was gone.

So I search for indications that Jesse was trying to tolerate my parental idiosyncrasies. I'm sure they existed, and I can guarantee you I tested his tolerance more than I realized at the time (or even now). I can never ask him this. I can never know what it would be like to sit down with my first born and just talk about life like two grownups. And that was what I had been waiting for, for half his life. Don't get me wrong, I cherished every conversation we had. I knew all of his life that each moment we had together was special, irretrievable, precious. I don't know why I knew. I used to think I was just lucky to have some perspective, because of the loss of my father. Looking back though, I realized that somewhere in time, I would lose Jesse. I had recurring nightmares about it. I couldn't sing a lullabye without crying. Even before I became pregnant with him. He lived far beyond those premonitory dreams, though. I had him until adulthood. In my nightmares he never aged beyond fifteen.

Truth is, I cringe when people speak as if they take loved ones for granted. Calling a partner their "ball and chain" or complaining about the kids being around all summer. Or worse, openly wishing for them to grow up and leave home. They say they're only kidding around, but it hurts me to hear it. I want to shake them and tell them how horribly they may regret these words one day. How awful it is to buffer yourself against love like that.

Many of my most recent memories of Jesse were of him expressing some form of disapproval of me. His moving back home was rough on him, and, as with the divorce, I took the brunt of the blame in his mind. I'd made up my mind to just accept it, and wait for him to come out on the other side of that, too. Now I'll never have that. All I can do is replace the memories of his distance with the earlier Jesse, the younger Jesse who loved me unconditionally and lit up when he saw me. At first this seemed unfair of me: who am I to deny who he had become at 22? But then, who am I to deny his entire range of his life? If the closest time we had together is what sustains me, then that is what I'll take. Jesse may not have been very happy with me three years ago, but that was only a small portion of his short life, and to fix him at that point would be unfair to his nature. He wasn't the kind of person who would want anyone to be miserable for the rest of their lives over something he'd done in the distant past.

And I don't believe his unhappiness with me would have lasted, but suppose it had? Why should I pay for it now?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Dreams are a gate.

Last night as I first drifted to sleep Jesse came to me as himself at age 5, and gave me a hug. I told him I wanted to come with him, but he said, no mom, not yet. I wasn't even sad. This morning I got out of the train and felt happy. Not for any reason, just that sudden, unexpected tug of joy to see the sky and to walk down the street. I realized that something had been lifted. I looked toward my destination and saw a guy walking toward me with, only briefly, Jesse's adult face, before he became again whoever he was. And I said, thanks honey. And then I cried a little.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Here we go again.

I got home from my life-changing trip to Bali, only to hear from my husband that my sister in law has just been diagnosed with leukemia. I don't know if it's the same type as Jesse had, but dear GOD, my brother already lost his first wife.