Saturday, November 26, 2005

Three Years Ago, Part 5 of 13

Brooklyn, July 1963. I am four years old, my father 45.

On November 26, 2002, two days before Thanksgiving, my father committed suicide. This series presents journal excerpts from that time and the aftermath of his death, edited for privacy purposes and omitting numerous "to do" lists....

12/15/02. I've given my notice at work and started packing, both at the office and at home. Folks are already interested in our rescued furniture, and would have come this weekend except that I thought a Fed Ex would be coming with papers about my cousin's estate.

I will miss this studio, this sacred space. I will particularly miss being "roomie" to D, who may move into this room, either instead of or in addition to his own. I still feel as though moving is the right thing to do, but it will have its painful aspects.

For the first time in 12 years, I am actually able to take the time to schmooze with coworkers -- though still had to miss a lunchtime bowling outing to meet a sudden deadline. There's talk of using me for long-distance freelance work.

Part of the magic of this studio is that I am in a private place, with my music (first Durufle, now Coyningham) and a lack of the clutter that plagues the apartment. Really, the main items of value to me that I will move to FL are my writings -- on my next trip I'll take down the Zip disks that have much of them in electronic files. The raw data.

I've been giving artwork away. An online friend will get Crone Pixies, which I plan to mail tomorrow AM before I head to the office. In response to his email prompt, I wrote "Sestina for Shifting Gears," to which he responded by saying it was a "four-tear" work. For him, something that evokes a single tear is a rarity.

My moods shift. For the most part I am jubilant at the prospect of liberation -- all the while knowing that I make room for the next set of challenges. I chomp at the bit, want to be out of here and living in Florida now. Want the move to be over with, the next phase to have begun. Another part is wistful, particularly with respect to the folks I'll be leaving behind, who have been dear friends. All the rest is window dressing, the techniques of surviving here. Will I be homesick for the challenges of the grunge and the creativity required to withstand it? I don't think so -- much as I had relished trading in the roughness of NYC for the relative calm of Boston 20 years ago.

My superstition remains -- that, in Mary's words, "the other shoe will drop." That I'll be cut down on the cusp of a new life. But I've been here before -- this is a death and rebirth much like that when I left my husband and came to Boston, beginning a new life. So, too, I look forward to our new life in Florida -- already meeting with new people, touching base with creative pockets.

The woman who runs a lawncare service tells me that my father "knew how to live" -- that she'd hear the classical music emanating from the house, that he would greet her when she came around, when he was still able to walk.

E confessed to me that he'd gone into the house, to where he usually sat with my father in the Florida room, and got down on his knees and prayed. Had a long conversation with my father. At first he apologized to me for doing so. I said I was very happy he did -- that he should feel free to do so whenever he feels the need.

I become teary-eyed, sometimes, and at the same time thankful that my father and I could make and had made our peace with each other -- that he had become a true ally and a friend. Now I am blessed to get to know him through other people's eyes, while still remembering and acknowledging the father of my childhood, whom I had to leave to survive. Who later on acknowledged that I'd lived "a hard life."

My own grief is a quiet, pensive one -- loud only when Helen had died, when I believed Red was dead. Grief for true innocents who loved and gave of themselves unconditionally -- a state that I believe my father had reached, or come close to, at the end.

I told Mary that I feel like a newly-hatched chick who holds its wings out to the side: letting them dry, testing their shape and function. Through some miracle, I have been prepared for this time.

At the same time, I function more on blind faith. While my superstitious self girds for disaster, I feel more accepting of "what will be, will be." I do not have to worry about the impact a catastrophe in my life would have on my father -- he is dead. If it has an impact, it will be in the afterlife, from which his vantage point would (I presume) be a different one.

I feel as though I prepare to come home after years in exile. Nothing is wasted, of course -- the exile itself has been instrumental to my ability to make my way home.

I need to check with a fellow support staffer to see if a collection was taken up. When I spoke with a coworker on Friday, he was unaware that my father had died.

I told Mary, "Whatever happens, I am thankful that I feel so happy now." Living in the moment. There is a societal dictum that I not be happy -- after all, my father has died. But if he is looking down on me, I know that he would want to see this liberation, this quest for beauty and for joy. I truly feel that both my parents, in whatever form they have taken (internally, externally, both), are experiencing a glorying in my freedom -- and that is what brings tears to my eyes as I write. The emotions behind them: joy, relief, redemption, some sadness, but sadness tempered with hope. I feel that they are together, watching over me. I float in an equation whose variables change.

There will be more death, because death is inevitable. So much more the reason to live each day to its fullest. Part of the way I do that is by sending my art out into the world, into loving homes. To acknowledge the past and go forward.

Except for the image on the wall of Dorchester Bay as a model for DBII, the walls are blank white. It is music that characterizes this room -- now that of Howells -- leaving an otherwise blank slate save for artwork and supplies. No posters, no photos. Instead: a hermitage, a cloister. I begin to better understand the prohibition against graven images, would argue that there is a time for them and a time to be in blankness -- the journey through the desert -- wherein there is time and space for the mind and soul to contact the Divine directly, without intermediaries.

Undated, probably early 1970s. My father and I share a paddleboat. The location is probably New Hampshire (I'm guessing Lake Winnipesaukee), where my family vacationed during the summer.


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