Three Years Ago, Part 12 of 13
Our Brooklyn living room, early 70s. My father and I had been playing on the rug with Dusk, a stray kitten we'd taken in. I had the foresight to fetch a pillow when the three of us began to wind down. My mother was the photographer.
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....
2/26/03 1pm. Last night we watched a documentary on PBS about the Shackleton expedition to Antarctica. It made our move ordeal seem puny in comparison. There is still so much left to pack a week before the van, and the weather looks iffy. Chance of snow, or freezing rain.
One day at a time, as usual.
Today I mail out small packages -- present and card for the Bat Mitzvah girl, video return to Southern Poverty Law Center, book return to one client, documents returned to another. Yesterday we delivered more give-away items and filed forms requesting medical records. When I tried to pay for dinner, my card was rejected -- turns out to have been a TracFone snafu, which -- after multiple transfers, a disconnect, a run-around, and my readiness to call the Better Business Bureau -- should be resolved. I'll know in a couple of days.
We are alive. That's a plus. Exhausted, with me fighting off the umpteenth cold and Mary fighting off cold sores and hot flashes, but still alive.
Of all the moves I've made, this one is the hardest, both logistically/physically and psychologically. The move to Massachusetts was a flee from bondage. This move is a run toward rather than from in large measure; it holds the potential for more disappointments, more risk. Which is why I need to have faith in myself and in the process all the more. We will concentrate on ways to be and remain comfortable, to the best of our ability.
I think of Shackleton's adaptability, his flexibility to alter his goal -- from traversing the South Pole to getting everyone out alive. That in turn makes me think of Alive!, about the rugby players stranded in the Andes.
(Starbucks, later) No new bills in the PO Box -- I may call to make sure nothing falls through the cracks -- but an acceptance of the "Solstice" excerpt to We'Moon! I am honored, and thrilled, and in good company. To be published again! If ever a time I needed that positive reinforcement, it is now.
I look around and observe what I am leaving, and what I will miss. Leaving public transportation is difficult because it has been such a permanent fixture in my life, wherever I have lived. The subway, in particular. I will suddenly be car-dependent, Internet-dependent, cable-dependent. All the more reason to have a vegetable garden, raising to a degree my own food from the soil. It will take work -- first to prepare the soil, then to grow the crops -- but I need to keep my eyes on the prize, so the saying goes.
Cafes like this -- the jazz, the collegial atmosphere, I will miss, but a home sanctuary and other contacts will fulfill that need.
I will miss the frozen Charles. There are small oases of water today, but during the big chills the river freezes solid and magical. There is magic where we're going -- as there is, everywhere -- but I will miss this New England hardiness.
Mostly I will miss the relationship I've had with this place, which has brought me through adulthood and self-sufficiency thus far. Each place has its challenges and ugliness. Each place has its beauty. I have yet to see the Gulf -- but, God/dess willing, we will.
I pass the Brattle Theatre, remark on how long it's been since we've been there. And that is the crux of the matter: my parents realized it was time to move when they could no longer take advantage of all that NYC had to offer. The recent increases in cost of living and decreases in quality of life have kept us from outings, period, let alone day trips or even vacations. My priorities in life are to live creatively and contact like folks, and there is a good arts community down there.
We skipped seeing The Hours, agreeing we'd catch it on video, because Mary didn't want to see "a downer." Once we've settled in, I will see what opportunities there are in the civic center or the library to join or start creative endeavors. It is clear to me that so long as I keep creating, I will be fine. I just need to keep that channel open.
We'Moon. Yay. That really does make me feel good.
At my friend M's apartment I had burst into full-throated song, which felt wonderful. He is learning that this communion is easy -- and in Florida I need to establish a practice of Song. Of Votive Something -- song, dance, piano, whatever. We can do this.
Part of me feels like a frightened little girl entrusted with Big Things. I need to see through that -- and through Mary's worries -- and concentrate on Be-ing. Get back to my Source. Deal with this midlife crisis that engenders such worries.
Berkeley Wellness Letter's latest issue reports that four or more cups of coffee help protect against gallbladder dysfunction. Guess that means I can get a refill.
I thank Mary for coming on this Adventure with me; she replies that just being with me is a wondrous adventure for her. I keep wondering if that is enough, repeat that we can do what we need to make sure we are both as comfortable as possible down there.
Possible thank yous to: [list follows]
There are others, but they have gone -- from the area or from earthly life. I was thinking yesterday of Helen and her cat Tinkie, then of both Mr. Chips (Tinkie's successor) and Chips (Cheetah's successor -- my former landlady's cat back in Cambridge).
Life is too short.
Every so often I think of my father's suicide -- his choice, his courage. Thankful that the people I've told are not scandalized, or don't let on if they are. They ask, "How are you with that?" or they comment on his courage.
I let Mary's worries influence me too much; I need to somehow inoculate myself against them. They surface and submerge in her like sunspots, and stay on me like boils. I worry about her happiness. If she's upset, I'm upset -- but often her upset comes of sleeplessness or hunger or acid reflux. She worries about driving not just herself, but me and the cats. I offer to do some of the driving but we both know that I'm a nervous driver and she's a nervous passenger, and no doubt the cats would pick up on that tenfold.
We need to make a list of what would increase her comfort, both at the wheel and afterwards.
I know this: When I sing, dance, create -- I am at peace with the Universe. I am in ecstatic mode. I know that everything -- in my tiny scheme of things -- is all right. I too often lose track of that.
M calls me a Messenger of the Divine -- we all are, but he tells me I can bring it out in others. I know that. At the same time, there are many different languages in play: Mary's spirituality lies in the scientific realm.
I think of the lives snuffed out at the Station club in Rhode Island. Who died, who survived -- same for the Chicago club. The Columbia crew. Those are the publicized ones. This kind of crap shoot occurs daily, in every corner of the world.
Sometimes I feel extremely inadequate; other times I know better. I need to do what I can to help, give my gifts free reign, be myself. In an alternate universe I am in my old marriage and possibly dead; in another I never surfaced out of critical condition in Coney Island Hospital; in another I am a teen dead by my own hand; and so on. In this universe I am 44, making a major life change, enjoying coffee in a cafe and grooving on jazz, nursing my constant state of exhaustion with caffeine, impatient with my current state of limbo, yet not suffering, accepted at We'Moon, planning for the future, maintaining hope, praying for peace, ruminating on my own crude brand of philosophy. Bogged down in, then escaping from, details.
I am greedy for thriving.
Florida, 1996. One of the last photographs taken of my father (age 78), used in his obituary.