This morning I awoke and, looking outside, there was a soft quiet white blanket of snow on the ground. I don’t think I was expecting this. The weather has been on some level, a reflection of mentality. Or rather, the mods have been affected by the weather.
What a restless day. Couldn’t even sleep in!
Inanna called from El Salvador (she’s in Peace Corps there until around 2002) while I was in the shower, so I missed her call. What a bummer. I had this notion that she would call. Is the bathroom the place for thoughts because it’s always a place where you are alone and on some level tuned in to where you’re at? Is there some primal level of thinking that we tune out in other places? Some of my best ideas happen while in that room. Many people have said the same thing. In fact, I tthink I will just move my computer in front of the ‘throne’ . . . just kidding.
OK, so yes, I spent the better part of the day a little weirded out about missing a call I felt I knew I was going to get. At the same time I felt spared. Last time I spiralled into such a sad state. Not so much because of the distance, but I I felt she was (or wasn’t) dealing with the distance. Just my two cents. I mean, I know we are individual creatures in this world and lifetime. But one thing is that when you care for someone, you express that. Or at least *I* do. So it was back and forth (last time after she called) I went feeling bad about feeling bad or feeling bad because I felt somehow like she was being distant emotionally. No amount of factoids about the situation down there could satisfy my longing to know how SHE is doing. How SHE feels. Before she left, I felt we were very open and honest with each other. now I’m not so sure. I get the feeling she is being guarded and unfortunately, it elicits the same thing in me.
She called again, around 7:30pm and we spent a good half an hour or maybe forty-five minutes going over various tidbits of our lives but I really was afraid to offer words of connection of emotion for fear of bringing her down, or making her feel obligated to give me the same. Well, not entirely true, at some point I just said “before the phone gets disconnected, or whatever, I miss you and I love you.” No acknowledgement. This is sort of the same thing as last time. It didn’t phase me too much. I mean, what are the possibilities? Either she doesn’t have enough in her to express these things, or she doesn’t feel the same, or she’s afraid that if she says something it will create some larger mess? I would prefer the first two actually. The last choice seems the typical bullshit Madison meta-analysis that all too often acts to put up barriers between people than bring them together, or at least help folks understand one another.
The thing that really got me down though was, when the phone on her side beeped and said “one minute” she didn’t get into the ‘good-bye’ process. Do I over-estimate it?
Let me tell you a small story:
The last time I saw my mother alive was in 1988. I was on leave, visiting my family in Minnesota. I was stationed in Germany at the time. It had been a while since I had been back and my Mom had me over for dinner. I remember she made ragu and meatballs (I wasn’t a vegetarian yet). I didn’t realize that was the last time I would ever eat a meal my mother made. In fact I didn’t realize a lot of things. In fact, I was pretty much blind to how I was acting in general and more specifically how it affected those around me.
When it came time to leave, and head back to Germany, my Mom was, as any Italian mother, very affectionate and huggie and she cried. Me being Mister “tough Guy” I just ‘held it together’ and left. I think I pretty much gave a not-so-warm hug and then left. No mushy stuff for me . . . then.
A year later, in September of 1989, I was sleeping in one weekend morning in Germany in my apartment off post. I hear this banging on the window and was freaked out. It was a friend named Kevin. I get up and I’m pretty weirded out but I figured he just wanted to see if I was up for beer drinking or hanging out. Instead, he looked at me, looked like he was about to cry, and he said “Jack, your mother was killed in a car accident.”
Of course I was waiting for the punch-line. I looked around the room. It felt as if my consciousness was backing out of the driveway and going back, way back, deep within. I felt like a thousand voices were screaming at me from all directions. I looked around. It seemed like an eternity. I felt like I was the only person for miles. Words, for the first time, escaped me.
Eventually I managed a very weak “what happened?”
“We’re not sure yet, she was in a head-on collision with a van with children in it.” Kevin said, pretty much in tears now.
I kept looking around looking for some sign of change. Something that would give me reason to believe I was having a bad dream, or maybe this was just a really pathetic joke, or perhaps they heard some hearsay and THOUGHT it was my mother or, or or or or . . . .
As it turned out, my Mother and two youngest sisters were on their way back from a shopping trip in central Minnesota on a Saturday afternoon and were driving along a rural highway when up ahead there appeared a large van heading their way in their lane. My sisters say she swerved around into his lane to go around him, but, as witnesses in four cars behind my Mom’s car said, at the very last moment the van turned back into his lane and slammed into the driver’s side of my Mom’s Ford Mercury, a small car.
My sister Lisa (she was in the front) said she last remembered hearing sort of a last gasp from our Mother. And then Lisa blacked out.
Witnesses say the van went into the ditch and a small girl (she turned out to be the six-year old daughter of the van’s driver) ran out bleeding from the forehead and screaming.
Lisa said the next thing she recalls was being in the hospital wondering where Mom was and being told she had been killed in the accident. My sister Julie, was alive as well but had received a concussion and internal injuries from the seat belt (she was sitting directly behind our Mom). Lisa had glass cuts and some pretty bad bumps as well.
So the story goes, and it’s all true. Lisa is in college now and Julie recently returned from a stay in Australia (OK, it was last year but I’m still proud of her). They’re both OK and would probably be embarrassed to see me writing about them publicly.
But my point isn’t about wearing seatbelts or common-sense things like not drinking and driving (the driver of the other car, by the way, had been drinking this fine Saturday afternoon while on medication. he suffered a broken leg. His daughter lived and has a scar on her face the rest of her life. The driver was given the typical “you’re a white-upstanding-business-owning-male, we’re going to give you a token sentence of rehab and probation.” Rumor has it that the driver later killed himself. I hope not), my point is, when you part ways with someone you care for, when you say good bye, when you get off the phone, treat that person as if you might never see them again. Treat them as if this is their last day on earth. I take good-byes very seriously. I also take hellos very seriously. The person you are communicating with is so alive and so special and, even when they are your enemies, they still deserve the best energy you can muster. We can rationalize our way out of this in many ways. But ultimately, this is very true. I am definitely not perfect in this matter. All too often I have tried giving warm hellos and warm good-byes and I’ve been misunderstood, which only makes me less likely to be so sincere. But I keep trying. And I hope you, my friend, will try too.
peace and hugs,