Monday, June 28, 2010


Home. There was nothing to do but collect my suitcase and wade into it.”
-- from The Mermaid Chair (Sue Monk Kidd)
 This was the marquee of the church in front of my house when I arrived back in California.

Another crying fit over seemingly nothing.
“Do you think you're missing grandmom?” I ask.

He nods.

“But I'm not missing the castle!” he says through tears. The castle is the Playskool Castle with dragon and dungeon and wee royal family that I had as a little girl. It lived at my mom's house. Isaac adores it.
“The castle is coming to me!”

I am not quite sure if this is him reassuring himself with something he loves, that he's looking forward to, or if maybe it's his way of finally admitting he knows these two things – his grandmom and the castle – are separate entities. That it is possible for one to exist while the other is gone. New territory for him. Kind of like the concept of home feels like for me. How to separate it from mom?

I hate the town where I grew up. I could elaborate on my feelings of loathing, but let's just leave it there. I visited “home” to see my mom. Can there be “home” without her? What is any stronger sense of home than mom? Our first home.

From inside that vessel
that before him I could never have envisioned
providing anyone: the body-- my body-- as home,
a concept so foreign. Me, a base, a safe place
to be...
(from my poem “Could I Hear the Wind?”)

I feel like I am falling. Perpetually falling. There is no ground.


It is two weeks ago and I am in Big Sur with Isaac, we have fled there for the afternoon to escape other painful experiences that began this month, trying to dissolve them in the beautiful river, the soft red bark. My phone lights up with my sister's number, then, cell service sketchy at best, the call is lost. I just spoke to her that morning and I wonder if maybe she hit the call button again by accident. If only.

I arrive home to the news of my mother's heart attack. She is in ICU and she is sedated.

I tell Isaac in simple terms. Grandmom is in the hospital. She is very sick.

Isaac gets the concept of death about as well as any five-year-old can. He is well aware he already has a grandfather on the other side. And he has lost a cat. We talk about them. We talk about spirits. About ancestors. He puts one of his plastic horses on my altar next to the rose petals and the pictures of my grandmothers.

As the week progresses I tell him there is a chance his grandmom might die. He begins to cry.

“But what will happen to her stuff?”
“What stuff?”
“What will happen to the stuff in her house if she dies?”
“Then your aunts and uncle and I will sort it out and keep things we'd like and give things away that other people can use.”
The crying intensifies.
“What stuff are you thinking of, Isaac?”
“The castle!”
“I bet Grandmom would want you to have the castle.”

The castle remained the focus of his concern through the week, along with how doctors don't think it's yucky when they cut someone open and whether you can keep your clothes on if you have an operation.


From the moment he'd seen the mermaid chair, he'd loved Senara, not just for her mythic life in the sea but for how supposedly she'd heard the prayers of Egret Islanders and saved them, not only from hurricanes but from golf courses.”
-- from The Mermaid Chair

“Tailing the Stars,” one headline read the day I left. I felt murderous. “Tiger vs. Himself,” said another. Indeed, he can definitely go fuck himself.

The US Open in Monterey = I'm lucky to have gotten off this bloody peninsula for under $2500 in trying to get to my mother's death bed. If you ask me, wealth is really wasted on the rich and, surely, there is a special place in hell for golfers.

They had already pretty much lost me when they canceled the farmer's market for US Open parking. Not that the “official” US Open SUVs I encountered around town could actually park. The banners were everywhere as the shuttle drove me out of town: “Welcome Golf Fans!!” They might as well have just hung red lights in all the restaurants and businesses since it essentially comes down to whoring ourselves for the almighty tourist dollar.

I'm done with Monterey. And even as I say that there is a part of me that wants to cling mercilessly to its crumbling rock cliffs, its exotic beauty. But it's time for us to move on. We have been plotting a move for a long time now, and if things go as planned (ha!), it will happen in the first part of next year. The painful piece is that we are moving east. Not to Jersey, but still, we would have been closer to my mom, so much closer.

When I originally told my mom about our plans, you might think she would have responded like so many other mothers and grandmothers. Something to the tune of “Oh! It would be so great to have you closer!” What my mom said was, “Oh! I can't imagine you taking Isaac away from the California coast!”

My mother was difficult to sort out. She put up an ultra-casual, laid-back attitude. Nothing was ever a problem and there was always a next time. Too often I began to believe her hype. I regret that.


My mom insisted she was ready to go. And though I was not at all ready to see her go, nor was I prepared for the compression of time – arrive, talk to her about this and that like always, leave the room and return as she took her last breaths – I'm doing my best to take in the fact that this is part of the package. 

I am confused by the people who express their sympathy in ways that would imply it was all unnecessary, a complete surprise. The morning of my mother's heart attack she posted what would be her final blog, about memories, family, about her life. There are pictures on her camera from that afternoon, likely only a couple hours before she dialed 911. They are of her garden. There is life and there is death. We all share this cycle. No one is exempt. I wish I could say I felt as my mom did, that it didn't frighten me, but I'm not there yet. What I do get is that we are all meant to help each other along the way. We are just all meant to help each other. Can it be that hard?

The day before I got on a plane headed for home, for I didn't know what, for a panicked call from my sister (“You need to come straight to the hospital!”) as I waited to see if they'd pluck my name from the stand-by list for an earlier connection, only to be stuck anyway in a two-hour delay in Chicago due to a wicked lightning storm, the precipice to a season of storm, of meltdowns, that is only still just beginning, I had been climbing around on a rocky beach, exploring the Pacific tidepools with Isaac. The juxtaposition is jarring, though I clutched my cell phone through the low tide, though I never really forgot what was going on on the other coast..

It was a class I'd signed him up for ages ago, to have a little more information on the itty-bitty creatures in their wildly elaborate eco-system and a break from preschool, something special to do with his mom. There were about eight three - six-year-olds there with their parents watching crabs and touching sea anemones.
this and the next shot were taken by Isaac. ("I'm like Grandmom. I like to take pictures.")

About half-way through the class, as our troupe clamored over boulders avoiding limpets and barnacles, another five-year-old who happened to be next to me instinctively reached out and took my hand for balance. And I, instinctively, let him. His father couldn't stop apologizing. I kept brushing him off, telling him it was no problem, but he was embarrassed somehow, not willing to let it go. He didn't get it. He didn't get the fact that, for godssakes, we are all in this together.


Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

((((HUGS))) for you Kitty. And yes we ALL ARE in this together.

Dianne said...

yes we are all in this together
and I'd hold hands with you, and Isaac, any time
all the time
I'm so incredibly grateful to have held Bobbie's hand for a bit

I love that Isaac recognizes that he shares liking to take pictures with his grandmother, she would love that

I hope he takes photos of the castle

hugs kiddo

Daryl said...

We are all in this together ... apart we accomplish nothing ... those feelings of depthless overwhelming sadness, that feeling out of the blue? Embrace it. I tell you this, I share this with you because while my mom passed almost 11 yrs ago it still feels like yesterday ... your writing here, the planes, the delays, the rush to hospital all echo my own experience ... when I stopped stopping myself from crying I began to heal ... I too hope Isaac takes photos of the castle, Bobbie would have loved that .

Hugs to you Kitty ...

Christine Gram said...

I'm terrified too. I thought I'd get more comfortable with death as I got older, but it seems like I am just learning how to live. Life has stopped being some sort of theater production and has seeped it's way into my heart. It makes it so much harder, but also, so much better.

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