Sunday, October 5, 2014

Now it's Time to Write (or See This)

Such precious quiet this morning at Casa Parque – on the outside. Cool fall air floats through the dining room window, chills my toes.

But on the inside I sense agitation. Can't get comfortable in my chair – hard as a rock under my sitting bones. And inside my skin it feels disorganized.

9:18. I’d planned to be up earlier. Dedicating my weekends to the writing now. I’m behind on the book, I know, trying to find my rhythm again after Mom’s passing. Writing is a practice, like playing the piano. My fingers are out of shape.

I need inspiration. From a New Yorker article? Flipping through an August issue, this draws me in: ‘Finding the Words,’ the story of a contemporary poet’s elegy to his dead son.

9:29. I read the first page. Maybe it’s telling me: You’re not good enough to write this Mexico memoir or this newly brewing essay about your mother’s life and death. Such is the work of Wordsworth or Tennyson or the father, a celebrated writer named Edward Hirsch. Never even heard of him. Though further along in the article, a quote of his speaks to me:

‘Why would I have Skokie in a poem? But you become resigned. Your job is to write about the life you actually have.’

I can do that. I do do that. I’m not formally trained nor particularly sophisticated. But I’m still worthy, because I see inside, feel the texture, cherish the truth and transcribe for others the universality of experience. I try.

In a stanza of the poem to his late son, Gabriel, Hirsch writes:

Look closely and you will see    Almost everyone carrying bags   Of cement on their shoulders
That’s why it takes courage   To get out of bed in the morning   And climb into the day 

So that’s why I read that article. Because I got out of bed this morning.

9:49. Now it’s time to write.

Mom’s sleeping upstairs. I hope it’s deep, rejuvenating sleep. But how could it be. There’s nothing that could revive that broken body. It’s already abandoned her. She tells me that at night, in bed, she has visions of her old, strong self and she, who she is now, reaches out, yearning to re-inhabit that body. But she cannot reach it. She awakens, and the bloated belly that encases a cancerous liver is still there, a nightmare from which she cannot wake-up. 

Was it death that visited me at the foot of my bed that haunted night in Mexico? I dove out of my sleep and onto the cloaked monster screaming ‘Noooo,’ landing on the cold cement floor of my Jimenez hovel. Awakened from the nightmare, I crawled in the dark to my dorm fridge and found a pack of frozen peas to put between my bruised knees. I made it through a frightful night and went on to survive and thrive in Mexico.

But Mom cannot dive. She can hardly sit up. She cannot walk or eat and barely drinks, thus she cannot even eliminate. Was that the problem in the first place, pent-up toxins in the bowel? Simply that? Her brain, heart, lungs are perfect. She can do 20 leg lifts, she showed me yesterday. And she has lovely toes. 

She’s a model of health, proud to have never 'soaked the system,' the only drugs she’s ever taken a light dosage blood pressure pill and one for cholestoral. I went to the CVS today to buy her Aleve and a stool softener. That’s the least ‘Western’ medicine can do for her. 

Me, I’m taking a G&T for the pain. Fresh mowed lawn, brilliant green carpet laid out before me, sound of the CSX freight train tooting its horn in the distance, the blessed wind in the trees, brushing my shoulders. I want to cry for how beautiful this moment is. 

And mom’s asleep upstairs. 

You wish you could go through this experience like this: rub your mom’s neuropathic numb feet with the miracle cream you picked up at the running race, comb her thin hair, scrub her bathtub and wash her bed sheets, prepare a smoothie she forces herself to drink, out of the bendy straw a child drinks from. 'Just two sips, mom, no three, please, for me?'

You wish you could do this for her: reminisce quietly as BookTV blares, about the good ole days, that illustrious trip in the station wagon to Niagara Falls when we kids had just discovered the thrill of spitballs. 'Do you remember the one that landed in your ear!? And you, angry, promised that was our last trip.'

My coming home with trophies, celebrating childhood triumphs in tennis, swimming, running. Or the times I stomped up to my room, an ashamed loser. 'But when it was a win,' Mom reminds me, I’d walk into the house with a big smile, and she knew right away, the prize hidden behind my back: 'Which hand?' I’d ask.

I brought one home for her today: a wood plaque in the shape of the state of Illinois, first place, 4-mile, Steamboat Classic, Master Female.

'You’re still winning,' Anne, she chuckles with joy as I perch the plaque on her dresser, upside, the flat border side of the state down.

She gazes down at my new fast Adidas. 'When my feet get better,' she says, 'I want a pair of those.' 

You wish you could get past this together; then you promise yourself you’d REALLY live. But now is what you’ve got. The luminous summer evening, the sound of a lawn mower, the tinkle of the ice cubes. 

Mom’s resting in her bedroom. Should you go wake her up so she can see this