Blog a la Cart

Category: Letters to Momar

XXIII

Hi, Mom,

Meg shared this poem by adrienne maree brown, and it spoke directly to the most broken pieces of my heart. I’ve bolded what struck my gut most profoundly. What I have discovered as my truth, that which she put to words so succinctly.

Spell for Grief or Letting Go

Adequate tears twisting up directly from the heart and rung out across the vocal chords until only a gasp remains;

At least an hour a day spent staring at the truth in numb silence;

A teacup of whiskey held with both hands, held still under the whispers of permission from friends who can see right through ‘ok’ and ‘fine’;

An absence of theory;

Flight, as necessary;

Poetry, your own and others, on precipice, abandonment, nature and death;

Courage to say what has happened, however strangling the words are… and space to not say a word;

A brief dance with sugar, to honor the legacies of coping that got you this far;

Sentences spoken with total pragmatism that provide clear guidance of some direction to move in, full of the tender care and balance of choice and not having to choose;

Screaming why, and/or expressing fury at the stupid unfair fucking game of it all (this may include hours and hours, even lifetimes, of lost faith);

Laughter, undeniable and unpretended;

A walk in the world, all that gravity, with breath and heartbeat in your ears;

Fire, for all that can be written;

Moonlight – the more full the more nourishing;

Stories, ideally of coincidence and heartache and the sweetest tiny moments;

Time, more time and then more time… enough time to remember every moment you had with that one now taken from you, and to forget to think of it every moment;

And just a glimpse of tomorrow, either in the face of an innocent or the realization of a dream.

This is a nonlinear spell. Cast it inside your heart, cast it between yourself and any devil. Cast it into the parts of you still living.

Remember you are water. Of course you leave salt trails. Of course you are crying.

Flow.

P.S. If there happens to be a multitude of griefs upon you, individual and collective, or fast and slow, or small and large, add equal parts of these considerations:
– that the broken heart can cover more territory.
– that perhaps love can only be as large as grief demands.
– that grief is the growing up of the heart that bursts boundaries like an old skin or a finished life.
– that grief is gratitude.
– that water seeks scale, that even your tears seek the recognition of community.
– that the heart is a front line and the fight is to feel in a world of distraction.
– that death might be the only freedom.
– that your grief is a worthwhile use of your time.
– that your body will feel only as much as it is able to.
– that the ones you grieve may be grieving you.
– that the sacred comes from the limitations.
– that you are excellent at loving.

You taught me that last one.

143 Your Ashley

XXII

Hi, Mom,

It’s hard to believe that you have been absent for all these moments. And yet, look at all this love… you are so clearly a part of that.

143 Your Ashley

XXI

Hi, Mom,

I’m currently holed up in bed with a bum knee. Your grandson ran full tilt down a bowling lane this weekend, and in my effort to stop him from dive bombing into a row of bowling pins, I fell, hard, on my left knee. I had no idea that bowling lanes were so damn slick. Sanderling and I managed to make a rather low risk sport dangerous. And fuck. My knee is in rough shape.

Of course, as with all things in life, when it rains, it pours, so Sander has a fever of 102 and is a snotty, drooly, coughy, disgusting beast. Since I can only move very slowly and deliberately to avoid further injury slash pain, James had to stay home from work with both of us to manage the energy of the toddler, and the demands of his relatively immobile spouse. The joys!

Fortunately, we’re coming down from a glorious long weekend with Steve and Justin and Adam, and their love and generosity and brilliance and good cooking has provided the positive vibes I need to get through this unfortunate hurdle.

On Sunday night, as I lay propped up on your 40th birthday present, that ridiculous Victorian sofa, and the guys cooked and entertained the kids and provided an endless stream of champagne and ice packs, I sat talking about you and what it felt like to lose a mother at this particular stage in my life when I am in the heart of parenting young children. It’s something I think about regularly, and the difficulty of not having you a phone call away on days like today are notably painful.

But I found that as I talked, I reflected on Courtland’s friend whose mother died this summer. Tears welled in my eyes with a mix of sadness and gratitude. How lucky am I to have had you in my life as a child. To have been created and loved and raised by you. I’m still pissed AF that you are gone, but I had you, for 32 years, and that is a part of me forever. And for that, I know deep wells of love and longing and gratitude.

But damn I wish I could call you and bitch about this stupid knee. You were always there in solidarity with a brilliant combination of sympathy and wit.

I miss you, Mama.
143 Your Ashley

XX

Hi, Mom.

Recently I heard asked, “What lonelier question is there than “Who do I want to be?”

And for me, the loneliest question is related, although not exact. “Why do I matter? Why do any of us matter? Why do how I chose to spend my day and live my life and raise my children and spend my money and love my family and grieve your death and invest in my community and care about the world matter? Why does any of it matter?”

I am currently sitting alone in tiny cabin on the MASSMoCA campus willing myself to write. As though securing a “writer’s retreat” for an afternoon and secluding myself in a vertical pine box, something so akin to a coffin, will inspire the words and knowledge to capture my grief. As though language will suddenly come, language that will defy cliché. Profound, insightful, moving words will spill on to the page and finally capture my pain and sadness and gratitude and love and loneliness and anger and peace and anxiety in all their complicated, contradictory, mixed up forms. As though this exercise in intentional loneliness will somehow negate the inherent loneliness I feel.

I realize it will not. But still I try. Because what else is there but to persevere? What else is there but to believe that I matter. That you mattered. That all of this living and dying and loving and losing matters. The impact may be small, and yet, even the smallest stone can move an ocean. 

143 Your Ashley

XIX

Hi, Mom.

Here are five things I want you to know about your grandson.

  1. Moments after Sanderling was born, one of the nurses cooed, “Oh my, he is just so sweet.” It didn’t strike me as all that unique a comment at the time, as new life is undoubtedly sweet… and pure, and fresh, and squishy, and mind-bendingly awesome. But that sentiment has been a recurring one ever since that moment, from our nearest and dearest, to his care providers, to his doctors, to complete strangers. He is a sweet, sweet boy. And I comment on his gender, as I worry that society does not value sweetness in men, and how I want nothing more than for him to be able to carry forward this defining trait since his birth through adulthood.
  2. He is also happy, a happy, content baby. Quick to smile and engage. As one of his teachers commented, “That boy is so dang jolly!” Music and dance and social interaction (whether with fellow humans or any living creature) bring him most joy. And it is a true delight to parent.
  3. James and I secretly refer to him as “Pig-Pen” as we can practically see the filth and dirt and sand radiating off his sweaty, sticky body. The kid is a fucking mess. Some of it is undoubtedly his personality and his love of any tactile experience. Sand. Dirt. Spaghetti sauce. Water. Dog food. Sun screen. Rocks. Bubbles. You name it and he wants to hold it and roll in it and stick it in his mouth and smear it on the floor and rub it in his palms and fully and completely experience it. And ya know, James and I let him. I think with the girls, we were quicker to stop or clean up such experimentation. As the third child, we don’t have the bandwidth or energy to attend to such messes with quite the rapidity we did the girls. And given that he is an extra sweaty person a la his father, the dirt and grim tend to stick with him much more readily than with his sisters. Baths are a necessity daily, if not more frequently, but fortunately, soap and water and bubbles bring him equal pleasure.
  4. His hair is long and wispy and white blonde. I am repeatedly told what a beautiful daughter I have. And I do not mind. Until the day that he asks me to cut it, it shall remain long and flowing and gorgeous. And I know how much you would support that decision (and delight in it).
  5. Mostly, I want you to know how much I adore being this boy’s mother. You more than anyone knew how much I feared parenting a son, for many personal reasons. And yet, no surprise to you or anyone who has parented a household with a mix of genders, I am over the moon in love with this boy just as I am over the moon in love with my girls.

I wish you were here to bear witness to that love. But you knew I would feel this way long before I ever believed it possible. He is what I wish you could know.

143 Your Ashley

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 8.03.42 PM

XVIII

Sanderoutfit_092717

Hi, Mom.

You always said that people who complained that boys’ clothing was not as cute as girls’ clothing weren’t looking hard enough. And man, today’s outfit, replete with Wesley’s hand-me-downs, sure proves your point.

It was back to school night at the girls’ elementary school, and given that the weather is so unseasonably warm, I figured this was a perfect opportunity to dress Sander in these overalls you had custom made for his Uncle Wes 27 years ago. They won’t fit next season, so might as well squeeze in one final wear. And dang, those red leather shoes of Kimmy’s! I do so appreciate, more palpably than ever, your desire to covet and save. I am so grateful to have these bittersweet reminders of my childhood and your care infused in our daily life.

143 Your Ashley

XVII

Hi, Mom,

The other night I dreamed about you. This is a fairly common occurrence, although often they feel more like a nightmare than a dream. I’m haunted by visions of you dying, your medical emergency at our home in Pownal three years prior, what it felt like to hold your hand as you lay in an ER in Albany, how desperately I wished that that moment would transform your awareness and approach to your own well being. How Valentine’s Day 2016 proved otherwise.

But this dream was in fact that. A dream. We were seated around our dining room table and you were schooling me, Kimmy and Dad on the proper pronunciation of some French word or the correct etiquette for some antiquated behavior. I can’t recall the specifics, but I can recall the physical happiness I felt, the comfort, safety and familiarity of that scene and that experience. In my dream, I consciously paused to connect with that feeling. And I awoke happy. Contented. I relayed the feeling to James, and tears prickled in the corner of my eyes, that ever constant balance of yearning and gratitude that so defines grief.

I miss you, Mama, and those animated conversations around your dining room table.
143 Your Ashley

XVI

cartkidssept17

They all share your darling half strawberry nose.

XV

Hi, Mom.

I dropped my phone in the toilet this weekend, minutes before I had to give a work presentation to a room full of eager alumni. It didn’t stand a chance. James had run over it the day we left the hospital with Sander, along with his computer, our camera, and a myriad of other less expensive belongings (Long story. Sleep deprivation, grief, post-partum life created the perfect storm for careless behavior), and it is a miracle that it had survived that incident. But this spill in the toilet bowl sealed its fate. Arguably, I was due for a new one 18 months ago.

I emailed Kimmy and Dad to let them know that they should connect with us via James as I awaited a replacement. Kimmy reminded us of the vacation when Cousin Laura hurled Dad’s cell phone into a toilet. Dad was always an early tech adopter, so I envision the phone as one of those ginormous black boxes from the mid-90s. I remember him being none too pleased either.

I believe I backed up my phone. I’m almost positive I made the intentional effort to archive all of its contents, most notably the final text messages and voicemails I have saved from before your death. There’s a voicemail you left just ten days before you died. I’m always struck by how vibrant and enthusiastic and ALIVE your voice is, rambling on about impractical cashmere baby clothes you had purchased for your soon-to-be grandchild and stating over and over “Love you” at various intervals during your three minute message. It’s a cherished message, but a punch in the gut every time. How dramatically and unexpectedly things can change. That is all I want retrieved back from my phone. Your cheery voice and over-the-top affection.

This morning, James and the kids all biked to school/work/daycare, as has become possible and habit thanks to a year of life on Main Street, USA. As they pulled out of our driveway littered with colorful foliage from our line of maples, I reached instinctively for my phone. I wanted to capture Sunny confidently peddling up hill with her classic blue LLBean backpack bobbing along with her efforts. Courtland more cautiously and rigidly beginning her ride with the air of a recent two-wheeler, her bedazzled helmet glinting in the early morning light. And James, taking up the rear, with Sanderling merrily singing in the bike trailer, pink leopard print helmet atop his head, waving and shrieking “buh byeeeeeeee” as they happily rode off to their destinations.

Instead of watching this scene behind the filter of a screen, I stood on our front porch, in one of your Calida nightgowns, waving  and smiling and tucking that happy sight into my memory stores to recall on a day when the sun may not shine as brightly or the children may not smile as widely. Life is indeed beautiful. Complicated and complex. And today I had no filter with which to mark the scene but my own time and memory. And for that, I am grateful.

143 Your Ashley

XIV

apples2017

apples2017-6
I wish you could hear the coos of comfort as he nestles in to sleep.

I wish you could see the gentleness with which she holds the world.

I wish you could taste the sweetness of sticky cheeks and sugar-dusted fingers.

I wish you could touch the leaves as they dance ’round her limbs.

I wish you could smell the powder and peace on their pillows each night.

I wish you were here, sensing their world and all its simple, broken splendor.