Friday, September 20, 2013

Whatever this might mean

very far away from anywhere else
A year is not an entirely arbitrary cycle. The planet does spin pretty decidedly all the way around the sun once, give or take that bit that adds up to Leap Year, for that amount of time. But a year anniversary does seem arbitrary: whatever it is you're marking, it was the same five days ago and it will be the same five days from now. It's really only the original day itself that matters. Still, I'm not going to fight the insistent call to let myself remember sitting with you, and holding your hand, and smoothing your hair, and telling you you were doing great and that it was going to be so wonderfully all right, and wanting so badly for your labored breathing to stop being so labored and not ever wanting your breathing to stop. And then it did, and that moment of a year ago has already passed because it was 4 a.m. and this year I slept through it. The hardest part was actually remembering last year and two days ago, when you no longer had the strength to raise your hand to shake Mac's like you did every single time. You just shook your head no and I think the three of us adults in the room knew, while the kids chatted on like it was any other meal with you. Now that the moment has passed, I can think about the slow, grand machinery of the funeral: my first phone calls, all those arrangements taking place, everyone coming down to very far away from anywhere else. The momentum of commemoration. A year later, there's nowhere for it to go, save for the stillness of remembering or Eleanor's wonder that it's already been a year. She's right to wonder - that was fast. There's been a rush of things, and even as I write that, I think of things that are happening right now, the rush I need to rejoin in about 5 minutes. Thus. I'll mark this time with words much better than my own that will help safeguard this moment of wonder. Brian Dolye is a gentle and meticulous caretaker of his dying characters. There are several passages I could quote, and my very very favorite is actually another, but that character is kind of a rotten guy and my dad was the gentlest most loving guy and so I can't copy those words about him. But what Doyle writes about the nun (and my beautiful friend Nancy was moved by these same words in the parallel universe of another blog post) is perfect. As I reread the words to write them down, I know that it's what I fervently wished for for my dad, even the mundane things, as, to use another borrowed phrase, this mortal coil loosened its hold on him. I hope (and there is still room for naïveté, there isn't that much wisdom gained in a year) that his dying might have been like this, that any dying might be like this. So. This is from pages 94 and 95 of Mink River, which is a marvelous place.

The priest left and the manager, who had much admired the old nun, knelt for a moment at her bedside, and then he left, too, locking the door behind him, and the room was still again.  The old nun, or whatever she was now, had seen and heard all this, indeed she could see and hear far better than she could when she was alive, everything in the room now unbearably clear, everything its absolute self, everything rimmed with light like frozen dew rims twigs and leaves, the toaster shining, the refrigerator magnets shining, her coffee cup shining, the painting of Moses shining, her to-do list with fix fan! on it shining, and she could hear for miles and miles, every sound crackling and distinct, every sound announcing its origin in a way she had never heard before. She heard owls, girls, trees, radios, fish, a fist landing hollowly on the chest of a boy, the suck of a baby at a breast. She heard a thousand thousand thousand sounds she had never heard before and would never have been able to identify before but now she knew them and loved them and had always known them and they were delicious and holy and necessary.


  1. Fix fan!! This is beautiful Anne, thank you. Love love.

  2. This is a beautiful reflection, Anne. Thank you for writing it.

  3. thank you for this lovely moment, for holding on to it and holding it out there for us.