Tuesday, April 28, 2009



Ever feel like you are in a time of un-love? Not unloved. Just un-love. A space of life where you can't tell if you matter. You question whether you are slightly beautiful or even visible, to anyone. Yes, I realized today that I am in a time of un-love.

Un-love feels like loneliness. I won't say doubt. No, self doubt is not what is happening. It is un-love. A completely different condition. A whispering thing. Sadness, not madness.

I am in a time of un-love.

Un-love isn't about the people around you being unfaithful or mean. They just seem far away, even when they are sitting at the table with you. Un-love is more about a body feeling its aloneness. About a time when you taste the smallness of life, your life, of your place. Un-love is a time of un-being, almost.

I wonder what other people do with their un-love. My time of un-love is relieved by ordinary things. I find myself lured out to my garden. I bend over and dig my hands into the dirt and feel it mash my fingernails, and I move greasy worms around. I drag out my can of whole wheat flour and pound some rustic bread into being. I rub Walter the girl's tummy. The girl cat that is. Probably the best therapy, were it available, would be a really long snuggle with Megan (our most effective snuggler) on the couch.

Which seems to suggest that un-love is a bodily experience, more than a mental or emotional one. I think it might happen to old ladies who are left alone in (possibly) lovely white square rooms made of plaster and glass but with no textures to rub along, to single men who have no one to sit beside them and fiddle with their hair while the game is on, to children whose parents are awfully busy. We must need someone to reach their hand over to us and confirm the preciousness of our bodies simply by connecting body to body. Our bodies need to feel things.

Un-love isn't a bad thing, or an evil. Rather it seems to have something to do with the barometric pressures of human days. At a certain point, like a dew point, un-love becomes the air we breath. And then it is gone. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

on learning what you've lost

Four years ago my mom died suddenly. The phone rang much too early. Steve's voice sounded stretched. His first words were, "Hon, you will need to come home." From there came those awful vowels and consonants meant to tell me my mother had had a rupture of blood into her brain. I can not breath. I can not answer. I know I will lose her this day.

It takes me five flights and the rest of the day to get to her hospital bed. Steve is racing one flight ahead of me booking me across the country and by 5:30 I walk into her disappearing presence. The family kindly lets me be with her alone and in my solitude a river of sorrow overflows the banks of my soul. I begin to weep. My lament is untamed and true. I hold her hand which feels heavy and warm. I cling to it like a little girl and stare at those fingers I have watched so many times, nestled there in mine. A nurse comes in to see if I am okay and I say, "Yes, I'm okay. But do you see that I have the same hands she does?" The nurse said, "I don't see that but you have her nose."

I start to tell mom all the things I have never told her. I say what I have ever only thought of saying. I tell her my secrets. I ask for forgiveness, and offer it. But then I begin to feel tired, so tired, and that all these words don't matter, this flood of wishes and whispers, because we both know, mom and I, what we have not said. We have read it in our looks, our small gifts, our care. In silence and tears I begin to massage her body. I rub her legs and feet, those gnarled wooden sticks that bore her through life. I massage her belly like I remember her doing when she stood wearily at the sink. I lift her arms and stroke her face. A tear pours out of one eye and down her cheek. For me it is a sign. It might have just been biology.

Then, for a month, I ride the rogue waves of grief, whenever it choses to knock me down. I cry sometimes when I am in the middle of paying for groceries or during TV ads or passing by a garden. Many times I will think, "Oh, mom would like this," only to be stopped short by my loss. It is like banging my shin on the same wound over and over.

But after some time, grief dwindles and wanders off and becomes more just a snapshot in my memory album.

Yesterday as I stood in WalMart I had a sudden and unexpected wave of deep loss and grief. It may be the mother's day cards or the bin of watermelon from the south - I don't know. But suddenly, after a long absence, grief shattered my calm. And I deeply and sadly missed my mom. I guess I always will.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

We took our granddaughters to the races at Keeneland yesterday. It was a cold gray day. Bitter even. But what a world that is - magnificent regal creatures and all the cultural hoopla.

I enjoyed what I had heard is the best bread pudding in Kentucky. The bourbon sauce was something to be licked off the plate, I will give it that. Rae and I went into the gift shop and tried on expensive fabulous hats - fit for a royal outing with the Queen. Rachel looks incredible in a hat. She is transformed into a person I don't know... intimidating, grand, expensive. I look, well, like me wearing a hat. This is not a small difference between her and me.

The best moment for me was when a filly in the the fifth race unseated her jockey just before being led into the starting blocks. She wheeled around and raced away from the gate, across the field with tail flying and hooves barely touching the ground. Two guide horses took off after her pounding the turf. The filly came around the corner and I thought she might run past us, but instead she veered left and jumped a tall fence and disappeared off across the field.

It was magnificent. A moment of uncontrolled abandon. Utter freedom and power and will driving a beautiful challenge to the rules of the race.

The announcer solemnly declared, "Late scratch, number Nine."

For me it was the best moment of the day.