Ponder this:

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Confession and three references: a fable, a novel, a poem

Most of the time I'm not great at expressing sympathy. When my mother's last sibling died, I told her the news as I drove down the road with her in the passenger seat. My sister was downright scandalized. That's the way you told her? she cried. Mom hadn't been in touch with any of her five siblings in years, I didn't think she'd care that much. And, you know, she was schizophrenic who'd been treated by EST. And she was drunk most of the time, so her emotions were pretty deadened. I told her in a kind tone, and held her hand, but I couldn't make the announcement like an actor in a soap opera. My sister's style is very soap opera: gather around the table, take hold of a hand, speak as if to a four-year-old. I can't do that. I think it adds an unnecessary level of drama to an already dramatic moment.


In my world, the sky fell long ago, and Life itself blew out into minuscule triangles of bright glass, sharp colors all flying silently into black empty space. 
Where's Mom?
Dad took her to the hospital. Don't ask when she's coming home. 
I stood in Void, learned to pretend that there were other people around me, that things happened, that Life still existed in some way. A way different from what I had known before. Maybe what I had known before hadn't been real. In any case, the sun kept rising every morning and I went on breathing, keeping quiet, staying small. Three years later came the sunny last morning of August...


Two months after my tenth birthday, my mother got me up, told me I wouldn't be going to school, fed me toast for breakfast and drove me to my father's sister's house five minutes away. We were walking to the house when I stopped and said, "Mom. What's going on?"
And she stopped and in a shaky voice, said, "Oh, baby, can you take it? Daddy's gone."
"Gone?"
"He died last night."
And that was it. 
We went into the house. My mother said, "I just told her." My aunt hugged me and they sent me into the living room to sit alone on the couch while they talked.
We spoke of my father perhaps five times all the rest of her life. 
Dad didn't like me very much, did he.
Oh, he thought you were great!




Illustration for the story "Chicken Little", 1916

Josephine Hart's novel, Damage, includes this, which I might have wrong in a word or two, but not in the concept. "Damaged people are dangerous. They have survived and they know you will too." If your life goes to hell, you'll keep breathing too. And you'll make up your own world where nothing really matters. Love doesn't matter. Promises don't matter. You'll have to keep acting right . . . tricky because everybody you make up in your pretend world has a different idea of right . . . but in the end, "right" doesn't matter either. Because even pretend worlds blow up into weightless confetti and disperse in the vacuum that remains. 

Who Hurt You So?  
by Edna St. Vincent Millay



Who hurt you so,
My dear?
Who, long ago
When you were very young,
Did, said, became, was…something that you did not know
Beauty could ever do, say, be, become?–
So that your brown eyes filled
With tears they never, not to this day, have shed…
Not because one more boy stood hurt by life,
No: because something deathless had dropped dead–
An ugly, an indecent thing to do–
So that you stood and stared, with open mouth in which the tongue
Froze slowly backward toward its root,
As if it would not speak again, too badly stung
By memories thick as wasps about a nest invaded
To know if or if not you suffered pain.
It's commonly repeated that the loss of a child is the bitterest loss. 
I think everybody's worst loss feels like The Worst Loss That Could Ever Be. 
And there are children whose souls died years ago. They breathe and walk among you.

8 comments:

Friko said...

It’s good that you came back.

Everything you say is pure you, genuine, thoughtful, very personal and quietly, perhaps desperately hopeful.

I hear you.

DJan said...

Welcome back to the world, with such a powerful post to share with me. I have been there, more than once. Thank you for coming through it all. Blessings sent your way. I wish I could do more.

esbboston said...

I missed you!

Carolynn Anctil said...

I've missed you. Where've you been?

I wonder if anyone, anywhere didn't screw their child up in some way. I think it's one of the main reasons why I didn't have any of my own.

I leave you with this quote by the well-known Anonymous "Even God can't change the past."

Blessings, my friend.
Carolynn

Olga Hebert said...

You took my breath away. I hope peace finds its way into your life.

Barb said...

You're always yourself - that's a good thing and enough. You speak of childhood suffering in a a way that resonates with me. My dad also died just before I turned 10. Sometimes, when I think of that time, I wonder how I came through it. But, I did. Have you ever read James Agee's "A Death in the Family?" One of my all-time favorites.

Retired English Teacher said...

I'm also glad you came back. I mostly read you without commenting. Your writing is powerful and comes from a place I don't know, but one where those around me do.

I send you thoughts of peace.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

People forget that children feel pain and grief just the same as adults but haven't learnt coping strategies yet .
A lot have to be really quick learners , though.