Three Years Ago, Part 7 of 13
New York, 1956. My parents' wedding.
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....
1/4/03 1:35 am. Winter weather outside. Daisy perches in my open duffel, plays Pokey for my attention. I've made headway in packing and discarding, but still have a long, long way to go.
Mary had awakened disoriented, unsure at first whether she was in FL or here. I live more of a double exposure and chameleoning: here to FL to here to FL to here, so far, to be followed soon by back to FL, then here, then back to FL, then back here for the final drive to FL. Not so much disoriented as batted like a ping pong ball. Two sets of To Do lists. Two mentalities. Two cultures. Two sets of roots in different soils.
I have gone around the apartment taking measurements of filing cabinets, bookshelves.
1/11/03 approx 6 pm, at the studio -- listening to music of Bax. I've just given some art supplies to D, who tidies up -- we'll walk back to "the neighborhood" together when he's done. Talked about art, he serving tea and biscotti.
I go in to work, now hemmed in by dozens of boxes -- literally "boxed in." About 16 are of the type I don't want to break down because they're so solid; the others I break down and cart home on the subway -- at home there are 8 awaiting reconstruction and filling. I will bring home my 3-legged chair so that I can put the backless one out on the curb. Earlier the glass (which I hadn't realized was unattached) fell out of the coffee table we'd rescued from the curb and smashed my big toe, and Mary yelled at me to stop, elevate, and ice it. We've been snapping at each other. But we've been making up afterwards. Coming back together, toughing it out.
D's life is in flux as well, now that he has sold his business. He plans out new projects, will probably take over my studio space after I've left. He, too, tries to pare down. We try to fob things off on each other. We talk about the need to say No to pressure, to find oases of respite from the grind.
Call from the health insurer. I've been accepted for coverage in Florida, with a rider saying that I am not covered for anything having to do with genitalia, because of my treatment for menstrual cramps. There must be a 2-year hiatus from treatment before I can be covered.
I am outraged at this -- this if anything is an argument to add dysmenorrhea to the disabilities list. Once we are settled in, I'm willing to see how I do without the Pill. I've lasted through that kind of pain before, and I am willing to do so for two years to get coverage in case something more serious happens to my genitalia.
Once again I am thrown back on my own devices. Part of me is superstitious, fearing that something catastrophic will happen. Part of me is fatalistic and stoic about it. I am free to take my own risks and chances -- at least, freer than before -- though in a sense part of me is still risk-averse because I feel responsible for Mary, plus the cats. We move in different rhythms, and in a way that frustrates both of us -- me more, I suspect.
"This is the time when the universe throws everything at you," a friend tells me. Oh yeah, yep, uh huh.
Part of me is very sad, as well as very happy. I am a plant uprooted, roots exposed to the elements. I need rest, leisure, respite. I am torn from this community just when I begin to get to know fellow creative folks.
D: "You won't be here to see all the fruits of your labors." The advancing of the artist's collective. The further development of the studio space. He talks of people who used kitchens as their studios, or the best room in the house -- a place of honor, not the usual basement or garage. We spoke of using the outdoors as a studio -- I could set something up on the concrete apron outside the house, use a long extension cord for electricity.
Children scream in the street. Piercing voices.
Earlier today I drove Mary's truck, truly for the first time. Cautious, frightened. Tense. She complains I turn the wheel too much, causing the truck to complain. I argue that I need to turn it that far in order to clear a lamppost. No, she says; the truck has a tight turning radius. When I park I show her -- I stop turning the wheel when it starts to complain and end up on the curb. Vindicated. "You see?" I say. I try to explain the process I go through but she doesn't want to hear it. "How can I convince you that I understand?" she asks.
But that's not the point. The point is that she becomes upset, which makes me upset; then she's upset because I'm distracted. I put in a day at the office, crowd myself with boxes, break them down, cart them home in the cold and dark, shoulders aching, come home to a perpetual mess.
Which is why this studio space is so important now. I need to come here for peace, come here to vent. Come here to write without interruption. Sometimes I feel as though my life runs dry -- when it is me doing all or almost all the packing, the schlepping, the working. And then berated because I didn't take my shoes off, in an apartment that is so overwhelmingly cluttered that tracked sand becomes a moot point. It reminds me too much of my parents' marriage.
1/14/03 6:25 pm. Mary and I had a better day Sunday than Saturday -- we moved a fair amount of give-away items, then picked up the boxes I'd stockpiled in my office. "I had no idea there were so many," she said. Two days later I have another 18 in the office, but all those are broken down. I continue the office clean-up, eat too much, strive impatiently for freedom.
I walk through these cold Boston streets and envision leaving them behind. My mother dies and I move to Massachusetts 8 months later. My father dies and we move to Florida approximately 4-5 months later. Twenty years apart.
As we pack -- including repacking now-deteriorated boxes left still packed from our move to Dorchester almost 4-1/2 years ago -- I find books I'd looked for in vain. The boxes have M numbers, so I'd thought they were Mary's. M56, M44 -- I joke about "Messier numbers" because our apartment looks messier and messier. I find a card, blank, and write her a poem.
We don't sleep much. I pack until it is suddenly midnight, 1AM ... I awaken the next morning and pack until it's time to leave for work -- though unless there's a project I don't rush to the office. What are they going to do, fire me?
I deal with the twined forces of freedom and constraint, the latter more from worry than anything else. I need to keep it in check. Goddess willing, Things Will Get Done. Twenty years ago I broke out of a prison, slashing chains, and carrying minimal possessions. I flew solo, Do Or Die, a recently minted adult with a life of possibility ahead of me.
Now I pull up roots, pack a ton -- probably literally -- of boxes, including 20 years of journals and writings. More books. Music and data CDs. Electronics. Plus Mary's belongings. I travel not solo but with a family, a household of Mary, Daisy, and Red. I travel with health issues to consider, genitalia non grata.
Would I have gotten a hysterectomy, had I known earlier? D's sisters have all had hysterectomies; he wondered if that was the norm. Neither my mother nor grandmother did. Do I carry a time bomb that I could just as well have yanked out? Or is it better for me to let my hormones drift, however they may, to their final resting place?
"My hero is leaving!" A colleague, whom I introduced to Mary in my employer's parking lot on Sunday evening. We were there to get boxes; she was there to put in overtime. She, at least, gets paid for it.
Another colleague also feels the pressure of Boston economics -- he makes do with a small art studio, still feels the pinch. His girlfriend's father died just after Christmas; they'd sat vigil at the hospice for three days. He considers leaving for Philly, where he has family -- but he's set down strong roots here, is connected to too much to want to let go.
1/15/03 7:10 pm. "Multitasking again, I see," my supervisor said. "You will be missed."
1/16/03. I pray that February is less hectic -- with full weekdays to pack, show studio stuff that we are giving away, etc. Lately I've been running on automatic pilot, and worrying too much -- though today the worry seems to have dissipated. I feel better.
I need to give myself the freedom to fail miserably, so that I don't have to worry about doing so. I need to get back to self-trust.
Staten Island, 1979. My father dances with me at my wedding. I would leave my first marriage 3-1/2 years later.