Posts Tagged #change
Waxing moon/July 28
How many times we all cooed at
the newborn moon, cradled
in the ghostly arms of the Sycamore
we oohed, we ahhed, we sighed—
Tonight the waxing moon’s gotten herself
tangled in the twisty-fingered Sweet Gum
just outside my new window
I ooh, I ahh, I sigh—
This week brought the twenty-third anniversary of my mother’s death. The morning of the anniversary, I woke gently. I felt so peaceful, as if I had been rocked in my sleep. It reminded me of how I slept on the day she died.
I was a new mother then, my firstborn just five weeks old. Day and night had blurred into a fuzzy netherworld, especially given that I’d spent the past two weeks strapping my (often screaming) baby into the car, and driving back and forth between my home and my mother’s home, an hour away, crying along with the baby.
My mother was thin and fragile but was seeming to do okay despite her advanced-stage cancer diagnosis, right up until she wasn’t okay at all and was rushed to the hospital.
With that news, I strapped baby Avery into the car and drove north and stayed, in my childhood bedroom, alone in the house while my siblings made arrangements to come from much further away. My husband came up and stayed as long as he could, but work called him.
It was a hot July, and humid. Heat saps me in the best of times. Then there was the constant stickiness of sweat, mine and the baby’s; my breast milk leaks and her spit up and all the messiness of the start of life slammed up against the end of life, as each day I strapped Avery into a cotton sling slung across my body and went to the hospital, where my mother was threading in an out of consciousness, more out than in.
My mother’s last words to me were “pretty baby.” I think that was what she said.
At least that’s how I decided to interpret it.
And then my mother closed her eyes and seemed to be asleep, but it was hard to know. Hard to know what to do, so I sat by her bedside when Avery slept or nursed in her sling-nest, and I paced the room and the halls when Avery woke, fussy.
Some of the nurses scolded me. “What are you thinking,” I remember one saying. “Bringing a newborn into hospital crawling with germs?”
Now I’d tell that nurse to fuck off, doesn’t she of all people know that the baby has my immune system to protect her, and is too small to touch things herself, and she’s safe as can be, and besides, don’t you see? I need to be here. I need to be with both of these people. But back then, her scolding just set off a cascade of anxiety. There’s nothing worse than wanting to split your self in two, and that’s how I felt. Divided.
Suddenly I was summoned to a cramped room by a social worker who demanded to know how I planned to care for my mother, because there was no sense operating to fix the brain bleed; they couldn’t help her any further, and a discharge was imminent. I have no memory of what came next, but hours later or perhaps the next day, I was on a tour of the local Hospice, a gleaming new facility, baby strapped on me muttering to be fed, the Hospice lady talking on and on about pet visits while my milk let down, and my tears leaked. My body and my life seemed completely beyond my control, and I was all about control then.
The Hospice lady told me it might be days or weeks before a space became available, and that there was no way to know how soon my mother might die, but they could set up home visits. I was overcome with fear, dread, feeling completely overwhelmed.
When one of my older brothers arrived, I drove back to my home. Word came that a room had indeed miraculously opened at Hospice. Avery fell asleep, or my husband took her away and rocked her—I’m not sure which, but sprawled across the futon, I fell into the deepest, best sleep of my adult life. The sleep of an exhausted toddler. A sleep such as I had again on the twenty-third anniversary of my mother’s death.
On the day my mother died, my sleep had been broken by my husband, gently touching my shoulder, saying, “the phone, it’s your brother…”
It took a long, long while for me to figure out that I had not betrayed my mother by leaving, by taking a break. All I knew to do was hold on, when I should have let go.
I was too scared and tired to see the truth, that she needed me to be gone in order to let go. And there’s part of me now that thinks perhaps she also needed permission to let go herself. My brother told me he read psalms to her, and told her she could go. He had a faith that I did not. She let go. She went. And now, finally, I can see it was not an end at all.
I think the sweet dreamy sleep on the day of her death was her farewell, covering me like a soft blanket. I think the wash of peace on her death anniversary was her hello, her freed energy finding me, holding me for a long moment, then letting me go to live my life.
At least that’s how I decided to interpret it.
Every time I travel I am energized and struck by new possibilities. As the plane begins its descent, I wiggle in my seat and think: I could live here (or there or there). The world brims with sparkling promise, the way ocean waves shimmer and dance all the way to the blurry far off horizon on a blue June day.
As the plane lands, I feel so full of life. In a flash I understand completely why even tired old horses prance so excitedly on windy fine mornings. They smell change on the wind.
I want to run to the edge of the boundaries—those fences I built or the world erected to contain me.
And then to push past that, and find the elusive place where I can live beyond old fears. Where I can revel. And completely relax. It could be anywhere. It could be inside me.
Will people think I’m strange if I prance in this spring wind?
Sinking into my gut like
a spire into a low sky
it walks with me, or used to—
maybe that’s why I learned to
walk so fast, shins burning hot
uphill, it always beat me…
until I learned not to hear.
Early stargazers coined the word
influence to describe how
ethereal fluid ‘into us flowed’
changing destiny: starlight, steering us
think of starlight flowing, think of it with me:
a glimmering river of it flowing,
washing into black velvet voids
filling the endless emptiness
changing darkness to insight—
pixie dust of healing
invisible oftentimes but— Oh!
how caring words can be forever felt
an ache in the sunny yellow kitchen
of my heart, where loopy cursive poems
were crayoned on construction paper
while soup bubbled, a brightness like
the stars the night of our first shared smiles
shining still, even on this dark January night —
beaming through time, flooding the bottomless
hollows of my heart, helping me steer
On Christmas, I give Annalee flowers, and she tells me how
her friend’s husband shot himself, how she found his body—
she tells me how it looked, but I won’t say
At the nursing home, Jo Marie tells me her son doesn’t visit anymore
her eyes shine like marbles when she says
he plays piano, he sings, like a bird—but he won’t come to see her
Later I’m walking home alone, singing, and the sky swallows me
like I’m a lost bird, like I’m Jo Marie’s son, singing but no one can hear
I fly away into dark blue
deeper and wetter than Lake Michigan on a summer Sunday;
I’m sucked up into blue, lost in blue, blue is rippling in the wind
silky blue sky like a scarf in the breeze, tight around my neck
I can’t sing anymore, it’s so tight, but I keep flying, can’t stop,
wondering how high, until I escape the world—escape myself?
How high until I become something else
become an arrow flying straight, flying true, into blue—
graceful, locked on a path, at last—a path, at last—
a point, a target, an aim, a place to rest
I’m flailing, trying to fly through this wobbly altitude
the flowers and the bread, delivered; but me? I feel weightless, unheld—
Even gravity has slipped away