it's been a bit since I've written last, and I actually have several things banging around in my skull. The first is death, the second is life, and the various iterations thereof.
My grandmother died. She was not someone I knew well, and I remember her as being incredibly talented with a needle and colored thread. I remember thinking when I was little that there were bats in the upstairs hamper in Atlanta because we would get close to it and here squeaking noises (not realizing the AC vent was directly above it, of course.) I kept swearing I would open it each time we went there. It was so built up that when I finally did I don't even remember what was in there anymore. Odds and ends, not what I expected and certainly not bats. It was a bit of a letdown.
The last time I saw her she was surrounded by her family, getting to see babies for the first time. I recall great irritation at everyone's insistance at using a tone like she was a 6 year old, or a puppy we were trying to coax in to doing something. In light of that I made damned sure to moderate my voice and talk to her as if I were talking to anybody else in my family. The mind in her head was old and deserved some fucking respect, having seen things that I will not yet experience.
I brought up the observation to my Mom who apparently hadn't heard it (and did it just a little bit herself, though of everyone she was the best.) I'm not sure why we talk to people who's minds work a little bit differently as if they are less somehow. I see it all the time, the "child's tone", or even better, talking louder like someone is deaf. But per usual, I have digressed.
Death is a very personal thing despite the fact that we all experience it. Nobody can really know what exactly is affected by the hole left behind when someone leaves the earthly realm. It will come down to the fact that this person meant something to you, interacted with you in a certain way, and now that is unfulfilled. You are sad because that person is not there to interact with your life in some fashion and will not be again, and the unknown of what one should do with that change can be scary and overwhelming.
I have been lucky. The last time I dealt with the death of someone in the family he was a great uncle. I remember him fondly. But his death became known to us months (years?) after he actually died and what I have now is mostly a list of thoughts about not being able to chat with him again. He was very interesting and engaging. But there is no gnashing of teeth or weeping. It's clinical to the point that I do worry maybe I should be concerned. But then again, I've only ever had to look death in the face when losing pets. I must say that I worry about my brain when I realize I cried more when one of the cats died than when I found out about my grandmother.
Perhaps what was more confusing was that I did cry at all. It had been my basic opinion that she didn't concern herself with me too much, or got news about me from Mom and was happy with that. In her later years I assumed she didn't really remember who I was since I hadn't been a regular fixture in her day-to-day. Basically, I assumed my way out of her life and decided for her how she would be relating to me. She had other things going on, and one anti-social grandchild who remembered to knit her a scarf one time was probably not worth throwing energy at.
In shock from crying, I was able to take a step back and try to figure out what was going on... and it was about that loss, once again. It was for the bitter "what might have been", and for the knowledge and experience that was gone now, not to be retrieved. I imagine hers was a hard life, one that probably would've made a good movie that went in to prime-time at the beginning and was replayed constantly on Lifetime TV on the weekends thereafter. It was the finality of it, the fact that you could spend your life doing the greatest of things or the worst of things and then when you die, all of it means nothing. There is no coming back. All that you are ends with that last breath. The idea had never hit me so abruptly. There was the moment to talk with her and get to know her, learn something of what she'd learned and been through and loved. And now that moment has passed. Time has this solid policy about not moving backwards for anyone.
I could go on about this but the rest is all mostly incidentals. Like the surprise I got when I realized I had no idea how you went about dealing with the dead in american society aside from wearing black to the funeral. I know more about the death procedures in Japan than I do within my own family. Wow. Color me blindsided by my own assumptions again. I figured I would know what to do when the time came. Now I find I'm not even sure what is "right", and if what is 'right" is healthy, and even beyond that, if what is "right" is something that I could do and stay true to my thoughts and intentions. I would happily celebrate the woman's life. I will not be shamed in to shedding crocodile tears at her memorial, though.
Thankfully my good friend who has almost graduated with her masters of psychology, saw an opportunity to do a field-test on me and ran down questions about how I felt and details of things. It irked me, mostly, that she was shotgunning questions at me so fast without seeming to take the details in. Yet conversely (and somewhat to my amusement) she was initially the only one who had said dick to me about it after I started telling people. most other folk seemed to ignore the fact completely, infer that I should soldier on (courtesy of UoP, thx keke diaf.) or just didn't talk to me for a few days. My friend Blake alone gave me the greatest piece of advice I think anybody had in a while; "Go with your gut."
And so I shall. Which is why I can laugh and tell jokes while waiting to find out when I need to go stand at the burial plot of my progenitor, the reason that I can write these words out now. And why I can let myself smile at the thought of bringing a puppy home tomorrow to start a life with. My gut has always been excellent at letting me know what I should be doing, and recently I've actually done myself the favor of beginning to listen to it again. Right now it tells me that whatever comes is okay, because only I know what death means to me, and only I can cry my tears at the right time for me.
Perhaps a bit deeper than I normally wax. Or perhaps not at all and this is more emotionally charged than most things, making it more noteworthy? Who knows. But it has brought a lot of things in to sharp focus. Hopefully I'll remember it going forward. We only have this moment now. But at the same time, there's nothing ~but~ this moment.
The puppy.... hmm.
Well, we saw an ad that there was a local family that had a litter of German Shepherds available to go home. Honey and I had talked a lot about getting one, especially since we're about to be married and looking for a new house. it's odd to be considering "settling down" and being happy at the thought. I never really saw myself as someone that would do that. But I want a dog to play with and walk and to harass the cats. I want a house that's ours to decorate or demolish as we see fit and who's walls I can paint. And I want to marry this man and make him my husband like nothing else. So it seems to come together and has caught me off guard.
It feels good bringing new life in. I keep thinking in my head that when the puppy is older it'll be perfect to protect me when I'm home alone and pregnant. And then I have to pause and backtrack and make sure that I heard myself right in my head... because I'd really only tossed the idea of a child around in passing. Either I associate dogs with protecting pregnant women in general, or my subconscious slipped up and told me my biological clock is being a bitch. Either way, the puppy will be here shortly, no matter what the breed or sex. We got the supplies this evening. I looked down at the tug-rope and felt a sensation wash over me that is probably familiar to parents decorating their first child's nursery. Expectation, and a little bit of excitement.
it's odd to think that the animal we bring home today will probably outlive all 3 of the cats we have in the house now. But I figure if we bring it home and introduce it to Chaucer, letting him know that the dog is here to watch over me when he can't anymore might make things go a bit easier. Even the inimicable cat o'mine must return to the dust.
I actually hesitated for long moments in considering getting a dog, thinking it would be one more thing to cry over once it died, too. Somehow the sense of loving something and living one's life with regard for but not surrendering to fear of the pain inherent in it being worth far more in the long run weaseled its way in and wrestled me away from that bit of melancholy.
Death is the fairest thing of all. It is the last thing all of us experience.
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate.
All those moments will be lost in time...
like tears in rain...
Time to die."
~Roy Batty, Bladerunner (1982)