i couldn’t stop staring at the tiles on the ground. the mosaic-ed black and white checks. my mom on speakerphone with my brother next to the bathrooms at the concert venue. thrum humbling and bum mumbling. i couldn’t pick my eyes up. she told me clearly and quickly that grandpa had died. 5 days before i was going out to see him. now the visit would be a memorial. my brother was right there with me. mama told us to sing and dance loudly at the concert. and then glen hansard walked onto the stage, nearly immediately. bryan said at least we’re at the right kind of concert for this. and i cried my way through his incredible music. the rafters hung on to smokey light, the ceiling fans danced rhythm above us. my navigator grandfather was navigating uncharted waters.
and i think about his life, the kind of life he lived. how unimaginably full his life was. navigating. flying planes. being in wars. working for the CIA. losing his wife at 28. writing a broadway musical and opening it on broadway. working on the apollo mission, drawing the maps to the moon. writing a book. living through the depression. buying a farm at 70 and becoming a cow farmer at that age. herding the cows around his missouri land all through his elder years. out in the cold, fixing the fence, eating his wheatgerm and almonds. unafraid and unstoppable. telling stories, sharp as a tack, witty as ever.
a few muted candles, a towering blue one, a bundle of rocks reminiscent of real ones – a thousand smatterings of light reminiscent of the real one – a trillion spinning ancestors reaching back and forth
we gathered in ohio. i felt the hunger of all the hearts around me, glistening like watered diamonds / we talked about anything other than what we were really there for / somehow the ones closest to him managed the most numerous smiles / cousin held my hand while we both cried, two sad little birds in a shallow pool of water, distracting and distracted / i felt grandma’s heaviness and her desire to not reveal it / i saw my mother fluttering with tiny silk wings / everyone was fragile; we somehow the most
my brothers and i (just two of my brothers, i mean) alone in the car, letting the song finish, refusing to open the door, no one drawing their gun first, no one willing to walk in yet, begging for someone to let us have some catharsis, to have some moment to process (they’re not talking about it, you see, they’re hurrying us along, you see, they’re saying we have to be upbeat, you see, we’re trying not to bring them down, you see) / so we all sit in silence, we all look straight ahead, we all cry silent tears, we all shake our heads when they ask if we’re ready to get out of the car, we all let the song finish // then we wipe our faces and go in smiling, like they want us to, we talk about other things, like they want us to, we don’t presume this weight is ours to carry, we let it slip amongst the clouds ; we do not know how to process, only how to light a candle, and how to blow it out
i feel the absence in several places in my body. oh, a new hole in my chest, goody. i feel the absence in the room, too, though no one would dare bring it up. my oldest brother, missing in action once again, this time, somehow truly incomprehensibly. my father, i didn’t expect to feel his absence here. but i feel strange that he doesn’t get to grieve. and lastly, of course, the resounding absence of grandfather himself. somehow wizened-eyed and smiling behind every hidden word. everything moves very fast, and somehow impossibly slow. i do not feel i have enough time to process, and yet i don’t know what else there is to say or do. i rage against my brother. i rage too, at the insensitive incomprehensible defense of his behavior. i rage at the misunderstanding (and that’s a kind interpretation). i have no more tolerance for this bullshit. none at all. i have forgiveness in my stores, but no more benefit of the doubt. we curse him behind closed doors, 3 siblings that once were 4. we hold close to each other, 3 siblings that once were 4. i revel in the intimacy of touch cousin gives me, the openness of tears. i am grateful for these. and for the humanness we shared with one another.
i think of his life, too and i can hardly find a reason for sorrow. full and deep and smart and vast. sharp, without fail. kind, without fail. always more than you could hope for. i light a candle, i blow it out. i rid myself of fear. i charge myself to live up to his grace. to fly as he once did, navigating in the dark, with a riddled paper map inside his hands. flying, soaring, navigating, charting, finding his way in the dark; fearless and full of light.
i collapse on the ground; i splint and saunter, i gather my bones onto crutches, i remember god staring at me with one eye in the waiting room, i remember god in the pain. i remember how god is always laughing. how we believe in mistakes. how small and foolish we all are. my eyes fill with tears when they describe to me how in what particular ways i will be immobile. how i will need help bathing, how i will go up the stairs on my butt. i am frustrated because i love inhabiting my body. using it and rolling about the world. because it is spring now, finally. because the golden curls of the little hairs of the sun stay dripping until nearly 8pm now and she will not wait for me to come play with her. because i cannot miss my appointment with the re-greening of the grass. because the daffodils long for my eyes to see them, because the crocuses are trying to kiss me, and i long to see the seedlings root as much as they long for me to press my skin to the sides of their homes. i am frustrated because i feel bad asking people to take care of me, because i will lose money taking off work, because i worked for months on this show and now i will not be able to do it. because my son deserves to be played with.
one of my most serious ex-boyfriends came out as a woman, and i don’t know how to process this. i don’t know what is not selfish. i feel like i’m not entitled to need to process it. but i do. i’m not sure what reality is, what a person is, what gender is, what memories are and at what point they become something different, or do they? because i had a relationship with a man who was obsessed with working out and having a masculine physique that wanted to marry me in a very conventional way. but she was a woman all along. are there terms for what it is i am feeling? i am sending her love and support, always. but privately, in my own little mind alone, i am trying to understand my own memories like a ghost in a song playing backwards. i know gender means nothing. and at the same time, clearly it does.
ash-white and linen bold, today the calhoun st bridge was covered in a thick 8am fog, like a wind-chime singing in all directions; like a spring breath puffing thickness like a virtue; like the green chipped paint on the old rusting metal was the only bridge between reality and the netherworld. we zoomed, slowly, through the curtain of obscurity, making a prayer to the springtime. bring all your wishes, moonclouds, bring all your dewdrops, i will take them, i will sit in your obscurity, in your april rain, in your dappled showers, i will take it all. i will cover myself in seedling mud and cotton stones of forgotten gardens. if this is what it takes to grow. if this is what it takes to grow.
Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie the reason you were alive
But you’ll never know