Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I've got no cigars.

The Canadian Blog Awards are over, and I can in all good faith display a second-place badge for both categories. The Best Blog Post poll was close-ish - HalfSoled Boots won 18.23% of the votes (winner took 19.97%) but I was a distant second in the family category, with 12.9% as opposed to the winner's 41.89%.

Thanks for the votes, friends!

* * *
Speaking of well-written, do any of you remember me doing a 'meme' blog post listing books I hadn't read but wanted to? Well, I'm using that post as a reading list. It's part of my ongoing self-improvement program. I have finished off five of them, and am midway through three others. I'll do an updated list at some future date, but in the meantime I am reading Vanity Fair.

First of all, it's annoying me that the only edition I could find in my library is one with Reese Witherspoon on the cover. I am not a snob, normally, but I admit I find it a little galling to be seen reading a book that says "Now A Major Motion Picture" on it. It may be a character failing - I'll look into it. (See "self-improvement program", above.)

Except for the cover, I actually quite like the book. It's more interesting than I expected. However, the print is small, and if there's one thing that points out one's age, it's trying to read a book whose lower-case "o"s measure one millimeter in diameter.

I measured one.

William Makepeace Thackeray is also much too fond of moralising in parenthetical asides to the reader. My high-school writing teacher would have hemorrhaged red ink all over his MS - "Show, don't tell!" she'd have written. He "shows" just fine - there is no need to tell. Cynically, I suspect that he, like Dickens, was being paid by the word.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Parallel Lines

The moon is full again - it has been one month since Sandy died.

This month treated me well. Not happily, but well. Filtered through a screen of death, life took on a sharpness I didn't anticipate. A lot of things clarified for me during the last four weeks.

I will have more to say about it - her death is the central fact in my life: and will be, for some time - but for now, for a little while, I can leave this alone.

The posts I've written since September 24 have generated lot of response. Privately, I've had many emails about them: about their resonance in readers, about the way I've written them. I want to thank everyone for their remarks - interestingly, I've been so comforted from your response to these posts. It's reassuring to know that so many of you understand what I'm trying to say.

My original post, written the day Sandy died, is in the final round of the Canadian Blog Awards' "Best Post 2010" category. The CBAs, unlike the CWAs, are a voting-driven competition, so if you would like to vote (as many times as you like, but only once per 24-hour period), you can do so at the link above, or in the sidebar, above right. Half Soled Boots is also in the final round of the "Family and Parenting" category.

Thank you all, again, for your good wishes, prayers, and support during Sandy's illness and since her death. You've been an amazing comfort to me, and I'm so grateful.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

An Adjustment...Step 3.

My beautiful friend. I miss you so much. I know you're gone far beyond my reach now, and I know this message goes out to be unread and unreturned.

But I am writing to you as if you can hear me.

Today is my birthday. I thought about you all day, about how you used to come here with something yummy and with a Christmas ornament for me, every year. That was wonderful, I loved that so much. I turned 37 today and thought about when you were 37, and had your little son at long last. I sent you a card and "The Runaway Bunny". Then when you were 39 I had my daughter, and you sent me a card and "Where the Wild Things Are".

Your birthday is in just a few weeks. I will make scones in honour of us, and then go out and buy myself an ornament that reminds me of you. Maybe a Starbucks one because I love the little china cup you always have on your tree.

I should tell you that I have become great friends with Elvera. She and I seem to understand each other...she has invited me to your old summer camp to cook with her next year, and (this is making me cry for the first time today...) I think you would be so pleased to know that I am going to go there in your footsteps and do what you did. I'm so happy that I will get to be in that same kitchen and maybe learn from Elvera about those roasted vegetables you used to do.

My mom misses you. My daughters miss you. Ian misses you too. He loved you.

Did you see how many people came to your funeral? 662 - it was crazy. I felt a bit sorry for Bryan because I think every last one of them hugged him and cried a little. Not to blame them.

But Bryan's doing great. I'm so glad you got him to the homeopath before you died...it has made a world of difference. He was standing up to people, the week after you left. You should have seen him during some of those pre-funeral organisation meetings - you would have been proud. He was firm - quiet, respectful, but firm and decisive. He didn't let people walk on him. I was proud of him too.

In a way I think he might come into his own, now. He is stronger and I think he will become a different man, a different father, as a result of having to live without you.

Not that I think it's a good thing you are gone. This is my way of finding a silver lining, that's all.

I will never stop missing you.

I want to type "you'll never know how much I love you", but I think I'm wrong about that. I think I loved you exactly the same amount as you loved me.

I have such comfort, I want you to know - such comfort that you and I had something nearly unspoken. I want you to know that I know you loved me...I know you were close to me. Even though we didn't always get to see each other as often, or spend as much time together these past three years once you went back to work, I know it didn't mean anything. Don't worry about that. I know you worried about it, and you felt bad, but I'm telling you it's okay.

I love you so much. I always felt you were uncomfortable with the term 'best friend', but you need to know that I called you that always, and I will call you that always, and that it's not some sort of competition - it's a statement of fact. Of my friends, you are the best. The best, my darling.

I also need to tell you that, because of that last morning we spent together, when your soul was clinging on with the most fragile of tendrils to your body, I do not fear death any longer. You have helped me with my deepest dread. You showed me that I can go toward that moment with certainty and peace. You showed me that pain is fleeting, but acts of love, generosity, freedom of spirit, uproarious laughter, and determined kindness last for a generation.

I love you so much.

I will miss you so much.

I will come and have coffee with you in your mansion the second I get there. Because now there really IS someone in heaven that I can hardly bear to be without.

The world is without salt, my lovely, best of friends. I can never savour it in the same way again.

Goodbye Sandy.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

An Adjustment...Step 2.

The day after the funeral, people started asking me "How you doing...getting better?" Or, "Now things should get easier." "At least that's over...it'll be hard but at least things will return to normal."

I suppose the well-intentioned but misguided remarks come out of not knowing what to say. After all, what does one do with a person who is sad? How do you speak to that person about your plans for Thanksgiving, or remind them that they owe you $27?

At what point does mourning become a bother?

This process is new to me. I'm not sure what to expect from it. I'm not sure how far my inner resources will take me. I don't know at what point my heart will have had enough time...I wonder when I can start everything up again.

Grief is uncomfortable for a lot of people. They'd like to get it tidied out of the way. I cleaned up Sandy's bedroom two hours after she died, so her husband wouldn't have to come back home to hospice supplies, a rubber sheet, the aftermath of paramedics and fear and horror. Is it like that for people? They don't want to examine the frailty and uncertainty, the damage of death?

I don't know. I don't understand it. But I can see the need in their eyes when they ask me how I am - the anxiety that I might take my walls down and talk about my real feelings. Such a sense of relief when I stick to "I'm fine, thanks."

As a rule, I'm not a sharer. None of those people are in particular danger of having to soothe my sorrowing tears. But when I see how eager they are to pretend it never happened, to act like no one died, I think they might be cheating themselves. Remember Rascal? Every precious page of that beautiful book is a drop of flavour and texture, colour and scent and love. Not because he has the raccoon, but because he's going to lose the raccoon.

I've decided. I will feel the hurt as keenly and as deliberately as I felt the joy and the love of her before. As carefully as I will, sometime later, feel the happiness of remembering her.

I will wait it out.

The end will come eventually.

Monday, October 04, 2010

An Adjustment...Step 1.

It's an odd thing, being without someone. I've been getting ready for this separation for three years...and especially for the last eight months...but now it's happened, I still feel lonely and rudderless.

Sandy and I were close. Imagine something dreadful happens to you - or something amazingly wonderful. Who do you call first? I would call Gwen, Mum, and Sandy.

It was more than help in trouble: more than filling a need. It was a safe place for us both to go. It was a comfortable silence, a cosy blanket, the Food Network on and the remote within reach. Scone day: I know her tea should be milky and hot, she knows my coffee is black and strong. Her favourite Devon cream, in the little glass jar, is $4.49. $3.99 on sale, and I'd buy two and bring them over. I'm closer to the grocery store than she is. I made the lemon curd and she made the strawberry jam.

She likes it when I bring my knitting.

I like the way she says "thinger" when she can't remember the name of something. "Hand me that keychain thinger."

She likes that I recognise all her literary allusions. "I feel like Mrs. Kirk."

We understand each other.

We understood each other.

But my friend is gone.

I visited the place where we last met.
Nothing was changed, the gardens were well-tended,
The fountains sprayed their usual steady jet;
There was no sign that anything had ended
And nothing to instruct me to forget.

The thoughtless birds that shook out of the trees,
Singing an ecstasy I could not share,
Played cunning in my thoughts. Surely in these
Pleasures there could not be a pain to bear
Or any discord shake the level breeze.

It was because the place was just the same
That made your absence seem a savage force,
For under all the gentleness there came
An earthquake tremor: Fountain, birds and grass
Were shaken by my thinking of your name.

- Elizabeth Jennings