Sunday, August 28, 2011


As fewer and fewer of my immediate clan remain above ground, family reunions become increasingly extended. It was good to see my first cousins, but I didn't know anyone else, and thank God for Vali, my treasured cousin. We, with our men, drove together and escaped together, and ate and talked and looked at a wonderful scrapbook of sweet memories from a time when the only way to preserve paper was in a scrap book, not digitized, not youtubed.

My aunt (of whom these children were born) was meticulous about every area of her life, her scrapbook a reflection of her genealogist-librarian mind. I will never be like that, and sometimes my personal unravelling is a source of unrest for me. We are the black sheep -- my immediates and I, but we are beloved -- there is never any doubt -- and as I spoke to one dying man who was hooked up to a power pack of some sort that was keeping him somewhat alive, our similarities and differences were in an odd balance. He hears that I am a writer. Yes, I admit. That's true. His family has a publishing company. Oh, my ears perk up, really? My husband whispers, this could be a good thing. I listen. The dying man says he is trained in theology and publishes theological books. Oh. Maybe his is not the publishing house for me. What kind of novel? he inevitably asks. Oh, darkish women's literary fiction. An autobiography? No, I tell him, although parts are emotionally true-ish. Ah. He knows what I mean. I wonder if he does. His face is gray and his feet are black. Whatever he knows, he needs to get it said and quick if anyone on this side of the veil is to hear it.

We ate burgers and potato salad and red velvet cake and went home, our names and photographs captured for and posterity. I guess photos are inaccessible as long as you are living. When a death date is entered, you become public domain.

Back at the office Rose is dying slowly. It is hard to explain to the living how hard it is to die, that dying is a process. Even you, my readers, will think I mean a spiritual process. I mean it is physical work. Something to attend to. Something to do. And your body knows just how to do this thing, this ending. It stops getting hungry and thirsty, it stops eating. If it is an indian back in the day it wanders away from the tribe where it can die unobstructed by the living and the loving. It is hard for families to stop feeding the dying. They think they are helping. But the person who is doing their level best to leave is sidetracked from the serious business of getting it over with, and made to digest another small container of yogurt or ensure, as though those small bites could somehow sidestep death. And they are so sweet, the dying are. They open little bird mouths and take another sip so as not to hurt anyone's feelings, making yet another detour on the way home. But we all make it home eventually.

Ah, life.


Valerie said...

I know what you mean.

Bob said...

What you have written is wise and beautiful.