I must get back to blogging more. An audit of my blog will probably show that I say this every year at this time. But I mean it every time. Whenever I use Twitter and Facebook, the analgesics of likes and RTs from my social network temporarily numb the little cuts that bleed my story. Why do I say stuff over there? I really ought to keep it here, my quiet little repository, my corner of the internet. I like it here. It’s not much, but it’s home. I really enjoy looking back and remembering moments and textures that would have otherwise slipped by in the stream.
I’ve only recently started reading Joan Didion. People talk about Goodbye to All That, an essay on why she left New York. Yes, it’s as relatable as it was when it was published, but I was interested in why she returned to New York and stayed. Nobody ever really talks about that.
I finally started reading The Year of Magical Thinking. I’ve actually had it since before my dad died. When I bought it, I thought I ought to gird myself and face my fear of death, but it also seemed so morbid to do so. And, who am I kidding, as much as I pride myself on being a Buddhist who addresses death directly, I wasn’t ready to know exactly what to expect.
At the end of chapter 4, having explored medical journals and psychological studies on the process of grieving, Didion begins a new section with this quote:
Persons under the shock of genuine affliction are not only upset mentally but are all unbalanced physically. No matter how calm and controlled they seemingly may be, no one can under such circumstances be normal. Their disturbed circulation makes them cold, their distress makes them unstrung, sleepless. Persons they normally like, they often turn from. No one should ever be forced upon those in grief, and all over-emotional people, no matter how near or dear, should be barred absolutely. Although the knowledge that their friends love them and sorrow for them is a great solace, the nearest afflicted must be protected from any one or anything which is likely to overstrain nerds already at the threatening point, and non have the right to feel hurt if they are told they can neither be of use or be received. At such a time, to some people companionship is a comfort, others shrink from their dearest friends.
When I read that, I was like, YES, THANK YOU. Didion reveals that the quote is actually from Emily Post, the etiquette guru, on how to behave at funerals. Isn’t that something? No summary I can write would do justice to Didion’s severe, keen eye. Read it when you’re ready to. If you’re like me, it’ll make you feel understood just when you need to be understood from a distance.
Last night was the final night of Hanukkah. My friend Jewlia invited me to come over to her house. She texted:
Bring a pic of yr dad we have been doing a lot of winter ancestor honoring.
I grabbed the photo we printed and framed to place near his open casket. We lit rainbow colored candles in a menorah that dripped onto a piece of aluminum foil and sang This Little Light of Mine. Then we set Pau’s photo next to photos of Jewlia and Anmarie’s dads at a little shrine on a wooden dresser decorated with slightly dehydrated pomegranates, a lone persimmon, bright winterberry branches, and a bouquet of tiny paper marigolds. Jewlia said a prayer and put her hand on my arm and told me she talked to her dad every day here.
My tears spilled from a cup I’d ignored, a cup brimming with all the things I wanted to say to my dad, too. About how my brother was annoying me and my mom was annoying me and I’m sure I was annoying them and I wish he were here to annoy me in a different way, but also to bridge the divides between the three of us. About how when I am in the kitchen at my brother’s house, cooking the foods that he cooked and stacking bowls in the cupboard in the way he would have, I understand how hard he worked for us, how thanklessly he did so even when he was sick.
I’m going to find a place for Pau in the kitchen.