20 May 2012

You Can't Have It All (but you can have quite a lot)

My Daughter woke up crying this morning about five - maybe a nightmare. I had spent the evening prior with a bottle of wine attempting to revivify old vital fluids, so it was not the most welcome. It was redundant however. The wine had failed and I was already awake nursing the anxiety attack i went to bed with.

We had our morning together.

The anxiety was about my inability, so far, to find purchase in the material world, and to secure for my family their place and safety in it. There is a part of me that sees farther than that, that knows security is as illusory as survival is luck. But a broad perspective does not feed mouths. It was a growing anxiety as I realized I had to do something to make my day move foreword somehow toward something but could not grasp - grasping as I was - what I could do.

So, without direction we started our day.
It is astonishing how a two year old can focus you to the moment. The moment does not feed mouths either, but it keeps you going. 

Thank you my toddling little beacon of light

My sister called me early into that day. She sounded quite down as she often does and I am glad I did not make a crack about that. She was calling me because my mother was unable. My grandmother had died; my mother was shrouded in grief.

Thank you kid sister for your compassion and bravery.
Eventually I spoke with my mom. My grandmother, who had suffered a stroke a bit over a year ago, had run a bath and gone unconscious with the water running and had drowned. My grandfather found her. My mother expressed concern for my youngest brother who is finishing his last month of college and lives alone. You all, my mom said, have people who love you for support and he is all alone.

I offered to finish making calls to siblings and did so. Everyone loves each other. Everyone seems to be feeling the current of the inevitable and the helplessness to help each other.

I am grieving in such a subtle way I barely apprehend. My grandmother is gone. She was fortunate to have lived so flu and long and to have made such a big and loving family. I have been fortunate to have had all my grandparents with me into my thirties, to know my children in their first decade. I am being visited by memories and by my slight perception of her as a being. She danced on couches with my mom singing "step in time", she accompanied my grandfather on missions and trips all around the world, she took me up to her sewing room at every visit to see her magnificent quilts and jars of buttons and water colors and stained glass and whatever else she was tackling with the effortlessness of a savant, she played cards at the table andante on walks in the woods and had a little mountain garden and knew the frogs that would come out of the frost each year. She was the wry and round little (5'1") grandma with the drawer of sweets. The subtle feminine play and creation to my grandfather's masculine godhead.

We write our own myths with our own inhabitations

I am worried about my grandfather. They were married for over sixty-five years. I will not see him until the funeral and I fear he will be a different person. I fear he will not remain much longer. He has had his life as well, so that is my fear.

I worry about my mom, the baby of the family and the black sheep, losing her mother, one leg from under her and my little sixteen year old sister trying to shoulder that.

and my brothers and I wanting to be what we all imagine we should be, the steady bind, beside our own grief, support for everyone, not from machismo, but from love that everyone should be able to actually have their experience with abandon over the safety of a love. So not machismo, but the hubris that we can handle it so that others don't have to.

Thank you my daughter again and my wife for going on a bike ride with me because I don't know what could have been better.

Thank you wife for the poem -

You Can't Have It All
by Barbara Ras

But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look
of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite
every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,
you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love,
though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam
that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys
until you realize foam's twin is blood.
You can have the skin at the center between a man's legs,
so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind,
glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness,
never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who'll tell you
all roads narrow at the border.
You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,
and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave
where your father wept openly. You can't bring back the dead,
but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful
for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful
for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels
sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts,
for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream,
the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand.
You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.
You can't count on grace to pick you out of a crowd
but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump,
how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,
until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,
and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind
as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you,
you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond
of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas
your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.
There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother's,
it will always whisper, you can't have it all,
but there is this.

In the scheme of the world the loss of a grandparent is not so much, and it is a gift that it is not, because I am not in a wailing tomb of despair. I am seeing the little lens that I have of this one life in my life and the magnificence of it and I am seeing in the little lens of my loss, the great losses of others and can shed that love on them. There is not so much to grieve for me - a well lived life, long and full of losses and regrets and love and creation and many many people to grieve her. Thats quite a lot from our meagre grant of time

Thank you grandma for being the only person you could have been. It was pretty amazing

Also, she loved John Denver. i have been listening to that all day and also rediscovered eels album I lost in the fire.