“Northeaster,” by Winslow Homer (1895)
“The dead have no sense of tact, no manners, they enter doors without knocking, but I continue to deal with them . . . They pack their bodies into my dreams, they eat my feelings . . . but I cannot shake them and do not want to. Their story, being part of mine, refuses to reach an end.” ~ Thom Gunn, from “Postscript: The Panel
Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and cool.
The first of November, the beginning of my worst month, the onset of my deep melancholy. Remembrance of those gone before me, memories of moments, snippets in time. Longings for what was and will never be again.
November 1st, the bane of my year.
Kathleen’s birthday on November 1st. I fear she is gone from my life for good. Mari’s birthday on October 1st. I fear I have lost her. Alan’s birthday November 23, gone much too young, and I never made that last visit. And then there are the anniversaries of the deaths. It’s all too much.
I saw my father once after he had died. He was sitting in the chair in my mother’s living room. That was the longest sighting. I’ve probably not mentioned that as it seems more than a bit off-kilter. But I have seen him in a few other glimpses since. Not in dreams, but in waking. I wonder about that.
I hate this time of year, and I love it. The dichotomy eats at me. I embrace the colors, the smells, the cool wind on my face. I have always loved autumn more than any other season, since I was young and old enough to remember. Yet I wish that the losses I have suffered were not so acutely present in autumn.
“Besides the autumn poets sing,
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the haze.” ~ Emily Dickinson
Friday afternoon. Overcast, low 60’s and windy. Storm brewing.
I had wanted to write a full post on Tuesday, to continue on my melancholic journey, but Eamonn had the day off from work, which meant that access to the working computer in his room was limited. It is hard to write about grief and loss when the movie Troy is playing in the background (Brad P.’t buffness kept distracting me). And so I abandoned the post, hoping to return on Wednesday, and then on Thursday, only to find myself now finally sitting here, wondering where I was going with all of this.
On Wednesday, I had to download a presentation program for Eamonn’s project, which led to the computer crashing and freezing. Corey and I took turns deleting unnecessary programs. I say that we took turns because it took so long to delete just one program that the process—which should have taken no more than 30 minutes tops—ended up taking hours. Deleting just one program under 40 MG took a good 20 to 30 minutes. This hard drive is essentially hanging on with a wing and a prayer.
Then Thursday, yesterday, I had two doctor’s appointments, one of which was to get the Botox for my migraines. I was mistaken in thinking that the shots would go into my scalp. Instead, I got shots between my eyebrows. on the top of my forehead, at my temples, behind my ears, and down my neck. Now we are in wait and see mode: wait to see if it takes effect, and see if it actually makes any difference.
So here I am, three days later, trying to remember what I had to say on Monday.
“a wind has blown the rain away & the sky away & all the leaves away, & the trees stand. i think i, too, have known autumn too long.” ~ E.E. Cummings
The house is very quiet. Corey is at work, as is Eamonn. Em and Brett are away for their conference this weekend, so it’s just the dogs and me. I had the saddest dream before I awoke: I was in a children’s hospital ICU, and I was visiting a baby girl who was quite ill. Her mother was also very ill. Somewhere in my dream, the mother had been bitten by a child vampire, so she was dying and had to be isolated from her baby. I told the nurses that I wanted to adopt the baby,who they had named Emma.
The social services people came and started asking me questions, and then they went away. I found out that my mother had sent them away and had told them that I wasn’t interested in adopting the baby. I became furious and tracked down the people who would be deciding and plead my case, and just as they were about to make a decision, I woke up.
Hate, hate, hate dreams like that, especially when a baby girl is just within my reach but not quite.
I remember thinking in the dream that the baby was quite ill and that it was possible that she would die, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to give her a loving home. Of course, she was olive-skinned with dark hair and brown eyes. My soul tortures me even in my sleep.
“Listen . . .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.” ~ Adelaide Crapsey, from “November Night”
So the pain level today? Head about a 2, back about an 8. It’s a trade-off. I consider myself lucky when it’s just one or the other and not both.
Last night I helped Brett with an annotated bibliography for his technical writing class. Hate those things, especially in APA style, which I do not know by heart as I do MLA style. In fact, all styles are quite arbitrary. I mean, index numbers, no index numbers, date order, list of authors using an ampersand or the word and . . . and on and on ad nauseum. Reminded me of one of the aspects of research that I truly hate.
But it also reminded me of how much I miss doing research of my own. Of course, nothing is stopping me from doing research. Only myself. The very nature of research has changed so much in the last decade, with sources available with a few key search terms. It’s possible to find ten or twenty good sources within a half hour if you know what you’re doing.
Anyway, my next school project is to help Eamonn with his Power Point presentation for medical terminology. He chose Parkinson’s Disease as his topic. I was surprised that he did so, but then, not really. All of the kids are grieving their grandmother in their own way. Eamonn internalizes, Brett talks, Alexis cries.
As for me, I truly dread the upcoming holidays. My mind keeps flashing this picture of my m-in-law sitting at the end of the table in her dining room, wearing one of those silly paper hats that come out of a Christmas cracker. I cannot get the image out of my head.
“There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!” ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
I read something recently, cannot remember where (sorry), that discussed the downside to having personal blogs, to putting so much personal information out there into the ether where it will remain forever and ever, amen.
Of course, I have considered this, but quite frankly, I do not care. I try to respect other people’s privacy and not use full names, but what I put out here about myself is my responsibility, no one else’s, and unlike some teenager who is craving social acceptance, I am an adult who has made this decision fully aware of the potential pitfalls. I chose this forum; I use this forum to talk about life, my dreams and desires, and sometimes I venture into other territories, like politics, but I do not sit here at this keyboard expecting my words to be taken as anything more than what I intend: my thoughts, feelings, and opinions. I do not claim to be a news blog, but those who do, should abide by the rules.
I mean, I have had people leave really nasty comments when I was posting about politics during the 2008 presidential election; that’s the expected price one pays for opining in an online forum And I have had my stalker, who picks and chooses what he/she wants to use against me, but in spite of this, I do not worry. I mean, I have no employer who is policing what I write to see if I slander the company or my managers. I’ve never written anything deliberately libelous against a former employer.
But I must admit that I am bothered by the very nature of the Internet that allows anyone to say anything about anyone. There exists no type of safe-hold. In some ways, it’s the first amendment run amok. Personal blogs and chat rooms have no managing editor to nix content. So things go out there, and people who are not as discerning as they should be, accept these words whole cloth.
I think that the maxim that just because you can do something does not mean that you should do something should be considered more carefully. But of course, that’s just my two cents. Not sure what took me off on that tangent. Apologies.
“There is starlight drifting on the black water.
There are stones in the sea no one has seen.
There is a shore and people are waiting.
And nothing comes back.
Because it is over.
Because there is silence instead of a name.” ~ Mark Strand, from “Elegy for my Father”
Outside, the sky is darkening quickly, and the wind is gusting. Sounds like a nor’easter is coming. The various wind chimes surrounding the house are clanging in the background. On days such as this, I wish that I could take a hot bath, soak in the water with the candles lit, a cup of hot Constant Comment, or Typhoo, or Darjeeling on the ledge. But our old tub has a few rust holes in it which prevents it from holding water. Another thing on our list of home repairs needing attending to . . .
I have yet to buy flowers for Caitlin’s grave for the fall and winter. I have memories of walking the aisles at the big florist wholesale place in downtown Norfolk, looking for just the right combination of silk flowers to place on my daughter’s grave, a bi-annual ritual that I have since abandoned. This year, though, I feel a need to do this again, to look for temporary beauty to take to a place that is both beautiful and horrible, the infant cemetery.
But it is a place that has brought me comfort in an odd sort of way, a place that I used to frequent daily, and then weekly, and then intermittently. It is the place that used to anchor me to this city, this region, the thought of not being nearby was actually impossible to fathom.
She has not come to me in dreams in a very long time. If I had to, I could leave this place now, knowing that she is in my heart and not in that place of parents’ worst nightmare made true. I suppose I have reached some sort of resolution in my own small way.
More later. Peace.
Music by David Gray, “As I’m Leaving”
~ Lisel Mueller, from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems
6 thoughts on ““You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light.” ~ Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast”
Just wanted to let you know I am reading.
The paintings you chose said as much or more than your words.
What is a paper hat that comes out of a Christmas cracker?
Always nice to hear from you, and thanks about the images. Not everyone realizes that I spend almost as much time looking for the perfect images as I do in writing the actual post.
Christmas crackers are those tube shaped things wrapped in foil. Two people pull on the ends, and when the cracker opens, it makes a snap. Usually, the cracker contains some sort of toy/prize (whistle, compass, etc.), and a paper crown made of tissue paper in different colors.
Thanks for the picture. I’m not familiar with the tradition.
I feel the same way about images in your blog that I do about images in dreams. They express things for us. These paintings are all powerful expressions. They batter, they overwhelm, they cloud, threaten to drown us, yet they are cleansing. It’s hard not to love even the drowning wave in these paintings.
It’s more of a European tradition.
Your description of images is perfect.
Isn’t it amazing that artists can capture the waves like they do with paint?
Isn’t it amazing that writers can capture pain and melancholy like they do with words? (Including you.)
I woke up with a sinus headache…. I’ve had tea and my heating pad and now I’m just going to go out in the wind (dressed warmly) and walk myself into oblivion… Do some walking meditation… Maybe see some birds and squirrels and the last of the green, growing things. A quiet day. Maybe find some music to listen to later. And chicken soup. The soak in the tub sounds wonderful… But, I don’t have a tub either. We took it out and retiled the shower walls so there would only be a 6″ lip for my father who had PD. But, he never used it. By the time it was finished, he had moved to a skilled care place…. and, the new tiled part has been a pain in the neck – so anyone reading this should make sure to research all the options first.
Gee, Lita, maybe I should start a blog and call it “Don’t do this.” Ha. Well, I’m glad I can still laugh. Maybe I’ll even dig out a comedy to watch…
I’ll be hoping the botox works and that your back improves and that there are moments of peace in the wind in your day…
I love the Homer piece the most. When I first came across it, I had to do a second glance. The detail is amazing, but I love all of Winslow Homer’s work.
Sorry about the sinus headache. My solution for those is one sudafed and some ibuprofen–always works wonders, but the tea and heating pad sound good, too. When we finally do the bathroom, we’re planning to try to do the tile work ourselves. I know that it’s really hard, but I’ve watched my share of Holmes on Holmes, so I feel as if I’m a professional. Ha. We’ll just see how that little adventure goes if we ever get to it. Sorry that your dad was never able to use your project.
The don’t do this blog would catch on quickly, of that I’m certain. We all would love do know what we shouldn’t do so that when we do it we can think to ourselves, “I really should have listened to X.” It’s human nature.
As for the botox–only minor headaches in the past two days that have passed quickly. It’s still windy, but blue skies all around. Hope you had a lovely walk.