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Posts Tagged ‘grief’

in the passenger seat,
on a narrow country road,
my window rolled down,
the scent of warm grass thickens the air

beyond a low fence,
a gathering in black wool,
silent but for ritual words,
meaningless intonations of finality

as we draw near,
time congeals like aspic,
heat rises in dreamlike waves,
flowers wilt in reverent clumps

the surrounding faces
are strangers whom I know,
fugitives on the same path,
dogged by the same relentless pursuers

pain, sharp-edged,
a new reality that dawns
as the loved one stolen
is set into the receiving earth

near the center
one mourner stands,
brow blank, eyes questioning:
Who am I, without you?

as we pass
time releases us,
our hearts resume their muffled beat,
and we yearn for the peace of simple things

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Grief is a small room

one door: closed
one window: shuttered
four walls
ceiling

room enough for
me
one chair
a thousand thoughts
and a million questions
that begin with

Why . . . ?

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My youth plays out in monochromatic Super 8, all shadows and light, soundless but for the clacking whir of the projector, each jumpy image spattered by specks of dust that flash past, gone before they even register in the mind.

Around me, I see the shining, sun-bleached hills behind our houses, wild land laced by the trails I hike in adventures that are my haven, my freedom, my escape. I see the black-and-white blurs of schoolmates as they race their Flexi-Flyers headlong down the sloping streets. I see my family—mother, father, sister—wave and laugh, speaking silent words to whomever runs the camera, as they go about their daily lives.

All is shades of grey, wan and distant.

In my home, though, moving past the dark stain of lawn, the walls of pale grey stucco, and the brightly trimmed opening of the doorway, beyond the shadowed living room where children dare not tread, through the kitchen with its charcoal-colored wood, and into the chiaroscuro of the family room, there is a red chair.

It is red. So red.

It stands in the ashen jumble of the room like an open wound, colored the red of blood, bright and arterial, shiny as a skinned knee. Upholstered leather is nailed to its frame by rows of brass tacks that glint in the streaming sunlight, their rounded heads faceted by the hammer blows that set them.

It is an old chair—I do not know a time when it was not there—a holdout from days before my birth. Wing-backed, claw-footed, it is large, its arms stained by the grip of a thousand hands. Here and there the leather is a bit dry and has cracked, revealing tufts of excelsior and batting. It creaks when I climb up, as if complaining, as if I am an unwelcome intruder, and perhaps I am, for it is my father’s chair, and his alone. I curl up in its empty embrace, breathing in its captured aromas of Old Spice and Bond Street.

And on this day, this one day, it is the chair in which my father sits and, for the last time in our lives, gathers me up in his arms, in his warmth, in his scent. It is the chair in which he tells me of my mother’s death. 

After that day, I do not know what happened to that chair. I still see the wall of books, the ancient davenport, the old B&W television on its tubular stand, the corduroy love seat, the sliding-glass door that opens out on the too-bright patio, all these I see in the flickering cinema of remembered youth, but there is a dark spot, a lacuna, a patch of emotional blight where the chair once stood. After that day, I do not remember it being there. I do not remember my father ever sitting in it again. I have excised it from my past, wished it out of existence. 

In my experience, time does not heal, but it does teach. Sometimes it teaches us to understand and adapt, while at other times it teaches us how to cope and survive. The disappearance of that red chair is just such a lesson, learned during the sixty years that separate me from that day. That chair, the cauldron of my earliest grief, has bled out, its color used up, the power of its memory spent.

And I can live with that.

k

 

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There are, in my home, many watches. But for five years, I’ve carried only one.

My watches date from the Age of Steam to the Age of Jets, bearing the marks of craftsmen from Victorian, Edwardian, Nouveau, Deco, and Mid-Century eras.

I have watches that were used to keep trains running on time, mark a valued employee’s retirement, chime the quarter hour, and show the time in the dark with radium-lit dials. Some glister with ruby bearings and gears of gold, their plates tooled with filigree, their enameled dials bright, while others are of stamped brass, paper faces, encased in cheap tin.

They are the watches of men both rich and poor, bespoke or mass-produced, but all came to me in somnolent neglect and the silence of disrepair. For each of them, I cracked their cases, disassembled their movements, cleaned and repaired and replaced the parts that were begrimed, bent, or broken, bringing them back to life, allowing their spring-loaded hearts to beat once again.

I used to swap them out, carry a different one every week, its chain hooked onto my denim belt loop, the watch itself tucked into the tiny right-hand pocket designed solely for the purpose.

But no longer.

Waltham, Elgin, Hampden, Ingersoll, and the others, high-end or base-born, all now lie stored in cushioned darkness, their mainsprings having ticked down to quiet rest.

Now, my watch pocket is empty, for my wrist carries my watch.

It’s a scuffed and scarred thing, with a crystal that’s a bit scratched, a bit chipped. It isn’t very old—a score of years at most—and it is decidedly plain, with square hands and numbers on a simple white face. It doesn’t even have a mainspring, the coiled powerhouse of nearly every other watch I own, but runs on a battery.

It’s a run-of-the-mill Timex Indiglo wristwatch. And it is my father’s watch.

When my father died, five years ago, and I was cleaning out his last abode, his watch was included in his effects. It is the watch he wore every day, whether he was out fishing for steelhead, sneaking a smoke out back, or painting a landscape, and it is—as was he—basic, uncomplicated, quiet, easy to read, dependable, sturdy, and consistent.

For five years, it’s been on my wrist doing yeoman’s work, ticking away, showing me the wee hours with its cyan glow, keeping perfect time. I’ve never changed the battery, not once in those five years. It is, as I said, dependable, sturdy, and consistent.

Someday, it too will run down, its battery spent, and that day, I suppose, when the new battery clicks into place, that will be when the watch will stop being his, and will then be mine.

k

 

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As some know, and as others have pieced together, we’ve had a death in the family. On July 15th, my brother shot and killed himself. He was 53 years old.

What followed that event was a very emotional and trying few weeks. The family has had to deal with many issues, official as well as personal. Aside from the shock, anger, frustration, and knife-edged grief, we’ve also had to handle the myriad requirements of police, medical examiners, lawyers, funeral directors, newspapers, social media, and professional organizations. We’ve also been trying to hold each other together, comfort one another, and to keep ourselves from falling into the same black hole of depression that my brother fought for so many years.

It hasn’t been easy. (more…)

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GakuI once knew a girl.

She was beautiful, with happy eyes and apple cheeks and long, black hair. She was quick to smile, her eyes turning into crescents, her laugh quiet and shy, like a secret. She was quiet, like me, and thoughtful, unafraid of deeper questions. She played the violin, not very well, but well enough to enjoy the challenge, the process, and the camaraderie of the shared anguish of second violins. From my seat in the viola section, we would share a glance, a wink.

She was kind. When I told her of my growing affections, she suggested we take a different course. I decided my life was better with her in it, and agreed. We remained friends, wrote letters, flirted without romance, talked of life, of dreams, of the future.

In time, though, our paths diverged. Other loves and other dreams led us both away from our hometown. Our letters grew infrequent, then stopped.

Decades passed.

Then, a note. An email. Is that you? Do you remember me? (more…)

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