August 4th Grief and Joy
Joy is …
Racing Malia’s son into their driveway (he was on foot, I in a car), leaving the car after a 3 hour drive and seeing Malia for the first time in 15 (?) years. She looks just like she did over 25 years ago. I see in her, that I do as well. I know nothing about her really. We share a common past, having gone to high school together but little else. Art’s cancer, death and Facebook is why we are together today.
30 minutes later, our kids are in her pool. She and I chat in the shade of an umbrella. We laugh and share as women do. She’s as strong and equally as opinionated as I am. I feel at ease. We take photographs of the kids. Later she texts me “I love how we didn’t take a foto of US!” And I laugh because I know we’ll have another chance. A friendship was born today and this one is my own. She knew me before Art and now after him, but she didn’t know me while I was with him. I experience this kind of exhilaration. This is my new friendship, as an individual, not as a part of ‘us.’ I will not have to check in with him to see if he wants to stop next visit, or worry about how he will feel meeting my old friend. My chest puffs out as I congratulate myself on mastering another see-I-can-do-this-on-my-own moment.
His death emboldens me. I would probably not have stopped if I had been invited. His death emboldens others, she probably wouldn’t have invited me to stop by. Suddenly we, my friends new and old, are no longer too busy. We admit to ourselves, albeit silently, there may not be a ‘next’ time. Art’s death reminds me of the real reason we are alive. It’s to say “I love you” on a whim, to hold that hug a little longer and to marvel at how we effect each other for the good. We are here to say “We didn’t get a foto of us of us” which is just another way to say “you count.” And that is the gift of his death. I find when I take a deep enough breath, I cry for the beauty of it.
3 hours and 30 minutes after leaving Malia’s I turn onto Rt. 15, in Maine, twenty minutes from Blue Hill. My foot presses down on the gas, urgency flooding the engine. Getting there suddenly becomes very important.
“Look I say. This is where Dad and I got married.” My foot lets off the gas, as we pass the Blue Hill Farm Inn. I consider turning around. Tomorrow I think. You can visit Jim tomorrow. We pass Blue Hill Books, a store Art and I spent hours in before we had kids, would visit when we could sneak away from the kids and would hide from the kids and have a quick make-out session in one of the few intimate corners downstairs. I laugh and the tears spring like the air from a chip bag under pressure.
I don’t stop crying. I cry as I head to 175. I cry as I turn onto Falls Bridge Road. Snap shots appear in my mind; us running or biking down the road, the white house on the right with the white picket fence, just past the reversing falls that we dreamt about owning.
Quickly Haight Farm appears on the right. I turn left into the driveway and cover the eight of a mile as fast as I can without kicking up the dust. We walked this driveway first with Langston, then Pallas then Ezra all in a radio flyer wagon up. We headed up to Haight Farm where Pallas got butted by a goat once, where we admired the soft angora rabbits before they were shipped to Tibet, and where we saw our first hydroponic green house.
The car tires crunch on the gravel. I turn to park and skadush….I realize Art will not be here. A tiny, tiny piece of me, beyond any common sense, believed I would see him, that I would hear his feet on the gravel, hear his voice, feel his kiss. This was the last place I could look for him.
The sound of the gravel under my feet, the combination smell of the sea and grass, the deafening silence make me want to run rather than face the emptiness. Shit.
My mother in-law appears and like a mamma bear, she tries to make the big bad loss go away. And I sob and she says it will be ok and I know but really what I want is for him to tell me that. And I sob some more.
The crying subsides. I wipe my face with my hands, wipe my hands on my dress. And the same smell and sound of the kid’s feet on the gravel tamps down the grief. I have to face this place. And as I pull the luggage out of the car, I see new memories here, ones that include us remembering him but without him in them. And I feel tired and sad and distraught and tired again.
This feeling of loss will never go away. However, having been through it so many times, it does feel manageable. Not predictable or logical but manageable. I am still here. There is nowhere else for me to go but forward. I walk into the house.