pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out

12 December 2014

The wave

Off Guernsey
11 July 2012

Tuesday morning. I sit in my proper black sweater dress and stare out the window. The window is glazed in such a way as to make it look old, and though I can clearly see sun on the trees through the glass, it looks as though rain is running down the panes. The red brick is far too red, far too new to be representational of a Northeastern church. The Hollywood version, really.

Years ago, during this season, I would look up from the backlot as I walked from this office to that office or just to get out of my own office, and I would see the sun glittering off headstones on the gently rolling hills here. It was oddly pretty, and intensely incongruous. But extremely memorable.

Tuesday was such a day: warm, even by the standards of December in California, and the light scattered and broke all around us, glittering in that odd way it does sometimes during the autumn, when everything is clear and clean. I was clear and calm, too, except for the one moment when the spouse's uncle tried to cajole me into having my photo taken, and I'd barked at him, really laid into him for behaving so badly as he always does. My patience stretched to point of the breaking, my strength in the face of adversity deserted me.

My brain went elsewhere and I thought of other things as the service droned on. I thought about his likely response to the New Age-y minister who meant well, clearly, but would not have been his style. He would have tried to sound...positive, but his words would have carried a faint condemnation.

"This is why I will never have a funeral," the daughter told me later, clearly shaken. I understand the point, and it was all nicely put together, but horrific just the same.

At the close of the proceedings, the director announced that committal would be private, and that was the cue for the audience to head on to the reception, while the family went to the crypt. We drove, and I was grateful that everything was being done on the grounds of the cemetery. I remember the procession from the church to Arlington with my grandmother, and how it was faintly embarrassing that the police held up traffic on the Beltway so that the funeral procession  had priority.

As we followed the casket to it final resting place, my mother-in-law clutched my hand like a child, holding it so tightly. I guided her carefully, and warned her not to catch her shoe in the grooves of the pavement. We repeated again and again what a beautiful day it was. I passed out Kleenex from the enormous handful I'd stashed in my handbag before leaving the house.

En route to the reception, I told the spouse that one of his colleagues, a long, long time friend of ours, had shown up and I'd given him directions to the reception at the country club, encouraging him to attend the reception. The spouse sighed with relief that someone was there for him, someone he could talk to without being always on guard.

As a family--and by that, I mean my own little immediate family--we are quite private. We don't care for pomp and circumstance, or show. I steeled myself for the onslaught of people; at the service, I'd already seen many people I'd not seen in years, accepted sympathies, performed the rituals. Funerals are not so different from weddings, and as hard as I tried to merge into the background, I knew was a representative and had to act accordingly.

As soon as I set foot inside, I signaled a waiter and requested a stiff Bloody Mary. Liquid courage, a dose of steel for my spine. And I accepted the kisses and hugs, said the correct words, did the necessary duties on behalf of our lost family member.

For now, my grief takes the form of small services, of ensuring that those around me have what they need to move forward. As I do, I will eventually take stock and say goodbye in my own heart, though even now his loss hits me from every corner, in small memories and funny stories.

It's possible that a life can be quantified by the void it leaves when it ends, in much the way a wave leaves a void as it recedes into the ocean.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

08 December 2014

Still breathing

Santa Ana, California
8 December 2014
In the main, little has changed. Except that everything has changed.
I still hate picking up the daughter and driving in the dark. There is still road construction. EVERYWHERE.
Tomorrow will close the door on this chapter, as these things do, and we will see an end to this limbo.
This limbo. There will always be another.
Time to move on and time to move past.
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. Not seeing an improvement.

20 November 2014

And a star gems the sky

26 November 2011

Oddly, my mind wandered to flowers.

For reasons we never understood, when my grandmother died, my aunt ordered at least a dozen absolutely hideous funeral arrangements to be ranged around her casket. Gladioli in chartreuse and a hideous orange and lime green (I may be making that last one up in my head, but that's what I remember). Arrangements that fanned out like the tail of some gruesome bird.

I hate gladioli.

For a stunned moment, whilst on the phone this morning, I thought, I should order flowers, and just as suddenly, shied away from the thought.

Not my job.

But I had a job today, and that job was telling people. First, I had to the tell the spouse, and that moment was beyond awful. And then I had to tell my children, and that moment was worse. It was my job to answer the phone. To help with writing notes. To handle practicalities and offer gentle reminders.

The spouse recognizes that I, too, am grieving. But I have the capacity to put that aside for the most part and do triage. Periodically, I probe the pain gingerly, like a sore tooth, but quickly shy away as the moment of impact approaches, as I come close to acknowledging that someone is gone from our lives.

Time enough, later, for that.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. For CHS, 1928-2014. I wish I'd had a better photo.

17 November 2014

Bye-bye, baby

Somewhere in Santa Ana
Santa Ana, California
14 November 2014

We did something different for the daughter's senior portrait and hired a photographer to do a session with her. She wanted professional headshots in addition to her senior portrait and for a kid who really doesn't ask for much, it seemed like a nice thing.

A makeup artist came in and did her hair and make up. Then, because we are a bunch who spend a lot of time in the great out of doors, the photographer decided that we would head outside for the shoot. The daughter enjoyed the experience more than she thought, and the spouse and I trailed along, enjoying a place we'd never seen before. I spent a lot of the time kicking myself for not bringing my good camera.

The photographer showed us some of the shots she'd gotten, and the daughter looked gorgeous. She is, of course, though she has no clue. Which is fine.

She is stressing over classes and college applications. Two applications in and 5 to go.

But she got her first acceptance today, which is a huge relief to her.

My baby is on her way.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

01 November 2014

Ringside seat

Noche de Altares
Santa Ana, California
1 November 2014
Chaperoning yet another school event...

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

31 October 2014

Runaway train

Fullerton, California
18 October 2014

It wasn't a runaway train--that would be my life--but we were standing too damn close to it.

The daughter had to film an introductory video for one of her college applications and we spent that day filming trains, riding trains, and watching trains. Her video starts with a freight engine bearing down on the viewer.

Which is exactly what this month was like.

Tech stuff: Taken with my my iPhone4.

10 October 2014

The lineup

Santa Ana, California
7 October 2014 or thereabouts

Time has assumed a certain fluidity. It's tough to track, squirms away from my grasp like a fish in a river.

A contractor was here to give me an estimate this week.

"We'll honor that price through the end of the month," he told me, a look of satisfaction on his face.

I squinted at him for a moment, trying to remember what month he might be speaking of.

The spouse was out of town most of the week, so I had the morning and evening commute, never good. Seconds ticked off until the next task to be accomplished, seconds that became minutes, minutes turned to hours and another day.

Death like birth has a time of its own. We wait.

He sleeps alot, eats little. I saw him turning inward weeks ago, caught those first signs of internal retreat, knew what I was seeing.

And my inclination was still to fight. For his sake.

But increasingly, I am seeing the futility of the battle. I am coming to acceptance, trying to be the fish instead of the grasping hands, looking for ways to comfort rather than control, seeking the flow.

I am not one to give up. I solve problems. It is what people hire me to do. Fix things. And I'm so good at it.

It is when I confront the unfixable that I am no good at all.

Tech stuff: Taken with my my iPhone4.