Friday, June 17, 2011

'The key is in the sunlight at the window in the bars the key is in the sunlight.'

--Your mother was in the common room after dinner on Tuesday, wasn't she? I was surprised to see her there, says the new resident's relative. The new resident is Io, who screamed help! the day my mother died.

--No, she died at 6 p.m. She couldn't move.

--My mother always asked why her husband never visited after he died. She had psychic powers. She worked on them. I have them, too, but I'm scared to push; you can get to the dark side so quickly. Your mom was sitting in that chair. She would usually greet me, if only with her eyes. But this time there was no response.

--I don't usually tell people, she adds, so they don't think I'm loony.

--I left deliberately, says the gentlest caregiver. I pray for you, you know. You're always here alone. Be strong. Yes, I heard the story from R. about your father's voice. He told me.

The lawyer says it doesn't matter about the will if you're an only child. There's some hierarchy, her assistant tells me, before she arrives. Marriage, children, unless you remarry and there are more children, or earlier ones. I get lost in the possibles.

--No, there's no funeral, I tell the cook, who asks about a bewing. She gave her body to science, and then I'll get the ashes. Never wanted a funeral anyway.

--I can see that! I'd love to have my remains spread in the ocean waters.

--Let me do it for you. We have lots of ocean.

She will rest in peace, the old neighbor writes from his Android. Everything an ad, an alert, a pointer toward. The lawyer says her niece, the one going to Vandy, loves Walmart. Let me tell you, she said to her niece. How you spend your money.

I always get lost in Arlington. I plot out my route, and I follow it. Up to a point. The Washington Monument appears and it's not what I want. Circle back, find the lawyer. Are you lost, too? asks S, when I say good-bye to her. She carries two purses, full of apples, oranges. No, not this time, I say.

I say good-bye to Mrs. L, to whom I gave mom's orange dog, the one with alien eyes. I kept the rabbit she held when she died. Mrs. L. looks at me and laughs. I say good-bye again. She laughs.

I say good-bye to F, the woman who talks, even if sentences are not plotted against a graph of sense. I'm tired, she tells me. So droopy. She was fighting the caregivers the other day, didn't want the girls to have to help her in the bathroom. Her white narrow-cabled sweater has a stain on the front, like my mom's when I left it in her room to be given away.

I thank T for her kindness. She says her daughter brought her here, holds out her hand, as if her daughter were seven or eight years old. She turns the wrong way. G. says they haven't served lunch. Only a cracker. Only cheese and a cracker. She's hungry. Walks to the clock in the right corridor, where I've led them. Two hours until they feed us!

M practices telling time over dinner, looks at the hands, the every other number on her father's watch. Her brother walks us through his trilogy. Templars, an Academy, children being misused to violent purpose. He and a friend infiltrating to save them. A hole in the wall that's meant to look like a hole in the wall, though it isn't.

I say good-bye to them, too. There's no reason to return, if you take family as the baseline, "blood relation" as trump card, though blood thins. That's odd, her pulse is normal, just weak, said the nurse, a minute before mom passed.

She fought so hard to stay alive. It was time, L tells me.

Amazing how they know when it's time to die, says E. Shook her head. No food. No more. Willed it.

"Strange to think of you, gone without corsets & eyes, while I walk on the pavement of Greenwich Village."

Whom to believe, the one who saw her struggle to live, or the one who saw her choose her exit? She was in her bed when she was in the chair after dinner. She was a ball of light in my hotel room. She was whatever was intended.


Two lines of poetry from Allen Ginsberg's Kaddish and Related Poems (1959-1960) from his Collected Poems.

Thank you to Josh & Gini, Sam & Meera, to Kyle, Pia, & Esben, & to Steve, Ellen & Max for three mind-lifting evenings of good & loving company this week. To Jerry, who gave me back my father's voice so soon after my mother died. To Elizabeth Wildhack, Esq. & the adroit accountant, Arlene Millican. And to everyone who called, wrote, facebooked, emailed, took time. Thank you to the caregivers, the hospice workers, the doctor (Hermes!) who arrived at mom's door the very moment she died, the compassionate people who populate this world that I leave, for now, & to which return is required, but not always to be feared.


LB said...

Saying goodbye to everyone around her, circling. xo

na said...

My loving thoughts with you

Jill said...

Susan, I love you. I hope can go bike riding soon.