Thursday, February 28, 2008

Blub Blub Blub

I walked past the tippy-end of a lake a few days ago. The lake is located in a nearby state park, the tippy-end nestling beside (rather, to the side and just below) a non-park road and neighborhood. It is a man-made lake and so has that not-quite-legitimate feel to it, and appears ragged and torn, littered at the edges by too many people using the small patch of nature left to them by the developers, yet I was nonetheless glad to pass by and see still-bare trees lost in deep reflection of themselves.

It was a quick walk (on my lunch break at work) and I didn't have time to do more than pause before turning back, but I was reminded of how much I miss water. Moving water, like creeks and rivers, but also still ponds and lakes, their stillness reflecting back so nicely what surrounds them. I used to seek such environments out, but have become rather stuck of late in a barren suburbia.

It is a kind of narcissism, I suppose, to stare at reflections in water, as I used to do so intently. Not at my own reflection so much (it is hard to stand tall enough or lean out far enough over water to see yourself, especially if you are somewhat short) but the reflection of nature--of the natural world we live in. This is what we are, a reflection seems to say: deep and beautiful, full of secrets and meaning.

I have been pushing depth away for a while now. It is there, lurking, but I have been distracted by shallow surfaces, the way they shine and beguile. I have, however, begun to feel things tugging at me again. A good sign, I think, though one that signals struggles to come. Diving deep is hard work, plus there is the fear you might drown. And you might.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cool Breeze

My mother's death has thrown me off course more than I thought it would. Alzheimer's has been described as a long goodbye--which it is, only worse. Experienced as I had become with that long goodbye, I assumed the final goodbye would be something of a breeze. Yes, I felt deep sorrow during her dying and afterward, through the funeral, but then I whizzed into a period of really not feeling very much of anything at all about her. Very breezy indeed.

Now, though, the weight of her loss has followed me home. It tugs at me, rather like a dark shadow always hovering anxiously at my back--when I turn to see it, I can't, but I feel it; I know it is there. I spent most of my life in the dark shadow known as depression. This is different, somehow. Not a generalized despair but a specific sadness. As if it is not just I who am grieving, but also my mother. As if she is as surprised at her death as I am.

I was similarly astounded when my father died, some years ago. It is a big shock, to find that death has inserted itself between you and your parent. Not fair! we usually say--those of us, at any rate, who had good (if complicated) parents. But I know that soon enough death will also insert itself between me and life. A common enough realization, but rarely a comforting one. I suspect a cool breeze will soon spring up to distract me from that truth, too.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Teddy Bears Go Bump

My mother died almost two weeks ago. She was elderly, very frail with late-stage Alzheimer's, and, at the end, very sick with pneumonia. I have been telling people (who nod in affirmation) that it was "her time." And it was. At any rate, "her time," is a nice, tidy summation that cleverly avoids the deep tangle of emotions that the death of a mother stirs up. I have wondered, though, if she--or anyone else staring so intently at the great divide--would have agreed with the idea it being of "her time." I like to think her spirit argued back, telling me--if I could have either listened or heard--where to shove my notion of other people's "time". But in truth I don't know what conversation she was having with life, with death.

She spent the last five years in a home for assisted living. During her stay she collected a handful of stuffed animals (one, her final favorite, which she clasped by the tail to the very end, before the hospital and The End took over, went with her to the grave--a good dog and a good friend.) The rest though--what to do? This is not an easy question for a woman who still deeply regrets the unilateral action the teenage me took one day, getting rid of all my childhood dolls and stuffed animals in one swoop. Oh, to turn back the clock, and box my 17 year-old ears! The loss still hurts.

I decided that those animals that survived the washing machine could stay. One, alas, was beyond even that, but the others took the dive quite cheerfully and came through intact. Right now they are thumping around in the dryer.

A thumping dryer has always been a comforting sound to me. After the huge difficulty of death and funeral, I feel my spirits lifting a bit. My mother's lungs failed, but mine, for the moment, still work. A selfish thought, maybe, but life never apologizes for itself.