When everything around me begins to fall apart, I often find comfort in the words of others. Bukowski’s poem below seems especially relevant at the moment:
Aside: I’m really impressed by the YouTuber who makes these poem companion videos.
Happy Birthday to T. S. Eliot (September 26, 1888-January 4, 1965), poet, literary critic, essayist, and publisher (“The Waste Land”)
Belated Happy Birthday to WILLIAM FAULKNER (September 25, 1897-July 6, 1962), Nobel Prize Laureate and author whose work I always have to read at least twice to really understand (The sound and the fury).
“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” ~ William Shakespeare, from Macbeth
Alexis’s friend Jennifer died today. Jennifer, who had so many reprieves, who lived to share another Christmas and another Christmas with her young son, and even, almost a third Christmas.
When I first wrote about Jennifer it was in September of 2010, and everyone was so certain that she would die before the end of the year. I include myself in that everyone. But Jennifer fooled each of us. She left the hospital, went home, and lived. She lived through two more (three?) of her son Reilly’s birthdays; she lived long enough to come to Alexis’s baby showers and to take a bus to the hospital when Alexis was in labor.
She lived, and then, she didn’t.
As if I needed yet another reason to hate November.
“Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain.” ~ William Faulkner, from The Wild Palms
You see, I feel nothing but guilt about Jennifer. I was not a good friend to her, and even when Corey mentioned that I might want to call her because she was sick again, I chose not to. I just couldn’t do it, couldn’t put aside my own feelings of dread at facing another young person’s death, couldn’t find a way around my own discomfort to call this sweet, sweet girl. God, she could talk your ear off, and the drugs made her ramble even more. I am not patient with such things, witness my attitude with my own mother.
And the whole time Alexis was pregnant, Jennifer would find things for her that she might be able to use. Jennifer was a world-class thrifter. But that’s how she was, truly, thinking about other people. Looking out for others even when she already bore so much more than she deserved.
I thought about Jennifer a lot since that September in 2010. I was beyond happy when she was around to spend Christmas with Reilly that year and then the next, and then that thing happened that always happens: complacency. Just as with my brother-in-law Patrick: you get so used to the person being in a certain state of health that that state becomes normal. So when Patrick got sick again, it just didn’t occur to me that he would die. Neither did it occur to me that Jennifer might actually die this time, even though within my heart I knew that it was a strong probability.
“How could I have been so ignorant? she thinks. So stupid, so unseeing, so given over to carelessness. But without such ignorance, such carelessness, how could we live? If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next—if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions—you’d be doomed.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from The Blind Assassin
Funnily enough, today I was watching Sesame Street with Olivia, and I had a flash of memory: When Lex was younger and one or more of her friends had spent the night, I used to go in and jump on the bed and use Elmo’s voice and yell at them to get up. Weird, I know, but true. I thought of that today, before I got the news. And then a few hours later a got a text that Jennifer had died.
And so I wept. I wept hot tears of hate. Hatred at myself. Hatred at fate. Hatred at cancer. Hatred at whatever it is that decides to inflict such pain upon a sweet, talkative young girl who never had all of the comforts that Alexis had, who came from a broken family filled with dysfunctions—how that girl moved beyond that and became a wonderful mother to her son, the kind of mother she never had.
I wept at myself for failing to do the right thing, and then, I realized that my tears were also selfish tears, appropriating Jennifer’s life and death to add to my own litany of loss, and I am repulsed by myself. How can I cry for Jennifer and turn it into tears for my own losses? Who does this? I am sickened, and so I weep more, weep until I cannot breathe and am on the verge of hyperventilating because the overwhelming sensation that I feel is guilt: guilt over not calling Jennifer, guilt over not keeping in touch with Patrick, guilt over not being more patient with my mother, guilt over not going back to the hospital in time to be with my father so that he did not die alone, and always, always, always, guilt over Caitlin.
“Youth offers the promise of happiness, but life offers the realities of grief.” ~ Nicholas Sparks, from The Rescue
I won’t scream and say that it’s unfair, that it’s unfair because she was young. Death holds sway over who it will. Youth’s seeming immortality has no pardon from its sway, is impotent in its presence.
When is enough enough?
I know that I am merely screaming into the wind here, that nothing can change anything, yet I am so filled with self-loathing right now that it just makes me cry even harder.
We are careless. Humans are careless. We make assumptions. We delude ourselves. It is easier this way. We do not want cold truths. We do not want blunt realities. Allow us to coast along with our false certainties, to be comforted by our denial. Yes, that is better, is it not?
My dog Shakes used to get very worried when I had crying jags. He would come in and try to get in my lap and Alfie would bark shrilly as if that could stem my tears. It was harder to cry when that was going on. I suddenly remembered that in the middle of my keening, and then I cried even harder.
Granted, it has already been a very shaky November so far as it was apparent that I was well on my way to a major fall. But now? I don’t even know how to think. I’m just letting my fingers form the words for me as I do not want to think about anything too much. I do not want to see Jennifer’s face in my mind, especially as I cannot recall Caitlin’s face. I know. That makes no sense, but it feels like yet another betrayal.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” ~ C.S. Lewis, from A Grief Observed
Jennifer was someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s lover, and someone’s mother. Jennifer used to put baby oil in her hair when she was a teenager because it was curly and she wanted to make it lay flat. I’m certain that Jennifer is the first person Alexis got drunk with, and for a while I would not let Alexis spend the night at Jennifer’s apartment. Turns out my daughter was probably the instigator all along, but I blamed Jennifer and Amanda. Not my Alexis.
But we do what we can as parents. We try to make the right decisions. Try to guide our sons and daughters into having the right relationships, and even when they don’t, we make excuses for them because after all, they are our sons and daughters.
After today a young son lost his mother. Reilly will not have his mommy to spend Christmas with him, to celebrate his birthday with him, to see him go on his first date, to watch him graduate. His drug addict father hasn’t been in the picture in years. He will have his uncle who helped Jennifer with Reilly after she got out of the hospital. But no matter how much the people in his life who love him may try, they will never ever be able to fill that void. No one can replace your mother, especially when you are young.
” . . . you know you can go your whole life collecting days, and none will outweigh the one you wish you had back.” ~ Mitch Albom, from For One More Day
I haven’t talked much about suicide on this blog for many reasons. I will only say this: that knowing what it would do to my children kept me from making foolish mistakes. Jennifer had no choice in this. And try as she did, the fates were against her. Her death will affect Reilly in so very many ways, ways in which people could never predict.
Caitlin never had a choice, nor did she have a chance, but that never kept us from hoping until hope was taken away.
Hope. That four letter word that is probably more powerful than love or hate. Hope allows us to fool ourselves in ways that love and hate never do. Hope keeps us coming back. Hope carries us to places we might not dare to travel. And then when hope is lost, that my friends, that is the worst loss of all.
Goodbye, Jennifer. I hope you were loved much as you deserved.
“Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.” ~ W.B. Yeats, from “The Stolen Child”
A song I used to play over and over on my piano: Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata
Moonlight over Sandesfjorden by eivindtjohei (FCC)
Note: I could not get my computer to work yesterday evening, so this post is backdated. Sorry . . .
“I desire to press in my arms the loveliness which has not yet come into the world.” ~ James Joyce, The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Thursday afternoon. Very humid, mid 80’s.
I showered today. To most of you, this might not seem like such a big deal, but since yesterday I never made it out of my pajamas, and spent almost the entire day in bed, it’s a big deal for me.
So much has gone on in recent days that I feel as if I’ve run a marathon in combat boots: my entire body aches and is rebelling at just the idea of sitting here.
We found out the total amount needed to bring our mortgage current plus the attorney’s fees, and it isn’t pretty. I had to tap a source that I really did not want to tap, a relative (indirectly). Not my mother as she does not have the funds, nor do I want to have to hear from her about what a failure I am again. Unfortunately, this source could very easily let slip to my mother what’s going on.
I know that I just have to suck it up and deal with whatever fall-out there is, but the thought of the what-ifs is significantly adding to my stress level. This whole mortgage fiasco is beyond anything we have faced in years. The idea that I could lose this house—as old and decrepit as it is—just breaks my heart. The idea that we could become displaced scares the crap out of me. So if I can secure the funds from someone who is willing to help, I cannot allow my pride to stand in the way.
“I count the clouds others count the seasons Dreaming of archipelagos and the desert I have lived through weeks of years.” ~ Susan Howe, from “Hinge Picture”
Oddly enough, I began the week on a good note, but that was doomed to pass quickly.
I saw Dr. K. on Monday and talked out the whole issue of going back to work, the possible risks and possible benefits. I told her that I would be pursuing this particular position purely for the money, not because I’m interested in the job itself. She then put it to me in a way that I could really appreciate: If I went back to work for a job that I was not invested in emotionally, a job—just a job—then the chances of my health problems being exacerbated would be greater than if I went back to work for something that really meant a lot to me, like a university teaching position.
When she put it that way, it made complete sense to me. Sometimes it takes an objective third party to make you see what’s been in front of you the entire time, the reality of it all.
And for me, the reality is that if I could go back to teaching English for a college or university, I wouldn’t care about the salary because I would be doing something that I really love.
Anyway, that was Monday. It’s been downhill, full speed ever since.
“I am not good at noticing when I’m happy, except in retrospect. My gift, or fatal flaw, is for nostalgia. I have sometimes been accused of demanding perfection, of rejecting heart’s desires as soon as I get close enough . . . I know very well that perfection is made up of frayed, off-struck mundanities. I suppose you could say my real weakness is a kind of long-sightedness: usually it is only at a distance, and much too late, that I can see the pattern.” ~ Tana French, from In the Woods
I’ve been trying not to just sit around and eat chocolate, even though it seems like a pretty good idea to me. Those 90-calorie fiber brownies? Yep, those? They taste like powdered cardboard. They’ll do in a pinch just to get the flavor of chocolate near the taste buds, but as far as filling that need for chocolatey smoothness . . . nope, not even close.
Then there are the 100-calorie snack packages. Do you know how many chocolate chip cookie thingies they put in one package? Eight, and they are the size of a quarter. Yep, 100 calories of pure chocolate air.
What I want is a carton of some kind of Ben and Jerry’s, preferably with the highest fat content possible, and a big spoon, and no one around to see me indulge. That or a bag of Pepperidge Farms cookies. Those would be good too.
Instead, I’ll just sit here and type and hope the cravings go far, far away. Men simply do not understand the whole chocolate thing. It’s not just for PMS. It’s for stress. It’s for depression. It’s for happiness. It’s for celebration. It’s dopamine with calories. Given a choice between Godiva and heroin? Godiva, hands down. Adult acne be damned.
“A dreamer is one who can only find their way by moonlight, and their punishment is that they see the dawn before the rest of the world.” ~ Oscar Wilde
Well, that little interlude helped a bit, that is until I remembered that yet another Law & Order franchise has been ruined for me. “Law & Order UK” killed off the Matt Devlin character, played by Jamie Bamber (who was also Apollo in “Battlestar Gallactica”). I loved him. I was already pissed at the loss of Ben Daniels, whose Crown Prosecutor James Steel was as sharp as Linus Roache’s character of Michael Cutter.
Bamber’s departure comes as a result of his casting on “Precinct 17,” of which I know absolutely nothing.
And “Law & Order SVU” is also going down the tubes with the departure of Christopher Meloni and the addition of two new cast members. Okay, so this is not important in the grand scheme of things, but as I am a diehard fan of all things L&O (with the exception of LA, which I cannot bring myself to like), the loss of the original, the tossup of SVU, and the big changes to UK make me terribly unhappy, which, as you know, is so unusual for me.
“It’s like morphine, language is. A fearful habit to form: you become a bore to all who would otherwise cherish you. Of course, there is the chance that you may be hailed as a genius after you are dead long years, but what is that to you . . . Time? Time? Why worry about something that takes care of itself so well? You were born with the habit of consuming time. Be satisfied with that.” ~ William Faulkner, Mosquitoes
So, here I sit. The house is quiet. Everyone is at school or at work. Everyone, that is, except for me and the dogs and the dust bunnies . . . I’m sitting here with the sun in my eyes, the afternoon sun that is streaming through Eamonn’s bedroom window. If I do that thing that kids do, you now, close my eyes almost all the way, then I can see light refracting off my eyelashes.
Remember when you first discovered how to do that? I don’t either.
For some reason, I cannot get my YouTube to work at the moment. I keep getting a 502 error, whatever that is, whenever I set a playlist to play. I tried signing back in, but nothing. So I don’t have a song for this post, which is okay, I suppose, as I don’t yet have a theme in mind for the images to go with the words. It’s that kind of post: disjointed, fragmented, bumpy.
I prefer for my posts to be like the kind of ride you get in an Infiniti, or something along those lines: smooth, comfortable, almost quiet. Instead, I have a 4×4 kind of post going on, and I keep hitting all of the potholes. My suspension is shot, and I’m badly in need of a tune-up.
Oh well, never going to own that muscle car that I always dreamed of having. You know, the one with the motor that growls low at stop lights, the one that slides in and out of cars. Nope. Not going to happen . . . ever. A muscle car needs to be low to the ground, something that my body just won’t do. No black Ford Mustang with a sunroof and speakers that make my tummy vibrate. Just please don’t put me in a white sedan. I think that would be the end of me.
What am I going on about? Who the hell knows.
More later. Peace.
Music by Tom Waits, “The Part You Throw Away”
“Since I last wrote summer has gone. It’s autumn. Now Jack brings home from his walks mushrooms and autumn crocuses. Little small girls knock at the door with pears to sell & blue black plums. The hives have been emptied; there’s new honey and the stars look almost frosty. Speaking of stars reminds me—we were sitting on the balcony last night. It was dark. These huge fir trees ‘take’ the darkness marvellously. We had just counted four stars & remarked a light, high up—what was it? on the mountains opposite, when suddenly from far away a little bell began ringing. Someone played a tune on it—something gay, merry, ancient, over and over. I suppose it was some priest or lay brother in a mountain village. But what we felt was—it’s good to think such things still happen to think some peasant goes off in the late evening & delights to play that carillon. I sometimes have a fear that simple hearted people are no more. I was ashamed of that fear last night. The little bell seemed to say, but joyfully: ‘Be not afraid. All is not lost.’” ~ Katherine Mansfield, from a letter to Richard Murray, September 5th, 1921