Friday, February 7, 2014

I Remember that night when I realized I'm really doing this

21 days until my last day at my company. I spent today, in an office, literally an ivory tower, in the sky. The entire day was on the telephone, watching rain pelt the window to my office and wild, chameleon clouds roll past me as I navigated the giant hairball of policy that is the modern corporation.  At long last, I succeeded in fulfilling my client's rather simple request. I haven't accomplished anything really, simply the satisfaction of having the fortitude to badger people until I got my way.

So, here I sit, struggling to plan this project. It keeps evolving and changing as I post some of the things I've written over the past few years. Perhaps there is more of "me" in this after all. Perhaps I do want to tell my story as well as his. It feels strangely narcissistic but necessary. His story will be necessary but not sufficient to quell the ache in me. This is after all, really about me.

Who really wants to hear about a child, like any other, who lost someone dear to her and with it the innocent belief that really horrific things happen to good people everyday and God or whomever allows it? I once heard someone say that "childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies." Ok, I admit it, it's the opening line from Breaking Dawn. It rings true for me though. Maybe I want to capture who I was before I left that kingdom forever.

Maybe it's time for me to just let something happen and see what it becomes. It reminds me of Hegel, the divine constantly thinking and willing itself into existence in the eternal state of becoming. It's not the same as this new age "presence" or "mindfulness". It's more than that, it is thought with intention - a divine loop of creativity in which I can chose to participate or watch.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

I Remember that night, when I put myself to bed...

It's my eighth birthday. I love my peppermint pink and white pajamas from Eileen. The party was at Jeremy's place. It's a joke shop in front and a party room in the back. The owner, Jeremy, tells little jokes and makes all of us laugh until we snort. All the gifts are opened and the apartment is quiet except for my aunts.

Mommy left for the hospital about an hour ago. I take the last piece of crumpled wrapping paper to the kitchen. No one stayed to watch me finish opening my birthday presents.  My uncle is coming from New Jersey tonight so the two divorced aunts are behaving "poorly". They argued about how to make the list for my thank you notes. My head aches on the left side, near my temple. I shake my head from side to side.
They’re at it again.
“No, small plates in the middle. Glasses up top and on the side.”
“Yes, but then everything doesn’t fit.”
My blonde aunt slams the dishwasher closed and a glass breaks inside. Neither aunt looks at me or notices my watching them, appalled and feeling the desperate urge to laugh at them.
I roll my eyes. Two grown women are fighting about loading a dishwasher. Something's wrong with adults. They are all not quite crazy, but rather strange. I’m noticing it a lot these days.
I look behind me, out the picture window in the dining room. The night is clear. The Triborough bridge dances aglow in its green majesty. The Pepsi-Cola sign on Governor’s island blinks like it's trying to see me. I whisper to my reflection in the window, “It’s 8:40.”
Bed time is 8:30 except on Friday nights, when it’s nine o’clock, and we are allowed to watch the Love Boat. I walk barefoot over the ugly brown wooden floor, past the tv room, past the front door of our apartment, to brush my teeth in Daddy’s bathroom. It’s the blue one that only has a shower because he never takes baths.

I know he's never coming back. No one will tell me, but I can tell from the look on their faces when they tell me he'll just, "Wake Up and ask for breakfast." It seems silly that someone would wake from a coma and ask for breakfast. Knowing Daddy, that would not be the first question - he'd want to know where he was and where we are. But what do I know? I'm only eight. Eight - I am finally here at that magical age. I feel very grown up, but very tired.
I carefully put “just enough” Peak toothpaste on my Reach toothbrush and I wonder what it would be like to have a flip top head, like in the commercials. After placing the toothbrush on the sink, I place my fingers in my mouth trying to open my jaw 180 degrees. Once the stretching starts to hurt, I give up and finish brushing my teeth.

Before I leave, I open the medicine cabinet, even though I'm REALLY not supposed to. I reach up on the shelf and grab his comb and aftershave. They smell like home and suddenly I feel warm and sad and scared all at the same time. I start to cry but take a deep breath and steady myself. He wouldn't want me to cry. I pray, "please let him die in his sleep, I don't want him to be lonely."
I go into my room and put on my peppermint stripe Bloomindale’s pajamas from Eileen. I am very grown up to be wearing pajamas with pants instead of a nightgown with a penguin on it. It seems like longer than yesterday, when I was ONLY seven. I walk into Mommy and Daddy’s room and watch myself dance  in the wall of mirrored doors over their closets.  

Walking past the Zenith color tv Daddy and I went to Crazy Eddie’s to buy Mommy for Christmas that sits on her dresser. I wonder if I’d get in trouble for turning it on. Probably not. But, we don’t watch tv after 8:00 and I’m already way past my bedtime. I stop myself. I climb into the bed, under the pink and orange flower print bed spread and lay down on Daddy’s side.

I ignore the light switch next to me.  Mommy will need to see when she gets home.  No one comes into the room to check on me. I don’t call out to ask them to.  The cold from the sheets surprises me and I pull my legs into my chest so I am a ball with a little head poking out. My foot wanders and I quickly pull it back from the cold, closer to the warm patch my body created.  I wish Mommy was here. I close my eyes and fall asleep.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I Remember That Night When I Knew There Were No Grown Ups Left In The World

I slide out of my warm bed as Mommy’s screaming gets louder. Daddy shakes and coughs. That horrible gravy covered rice we ate for dinner bubbles out of his mouth.  His hand flails at my face. Mommy kneels on the bed next to him trying to hold him down.  “Go to the intercom. Call downstairs. Say we need help. Ambulance” I stare at her. “Now!”
I’m not allowed to use the intercom near the door, I press the gold lettered “call” button and it buzzes. “Mrs. Lowe?”
“It’s Kate. We need, ah, ah an ambulance. For my father.” The words roll around in my mouth like golf balls.
“It’s Johnny, Katie. I’ll be right up.” Right, “Katie,” I sigh to myself.
The foyer is dark but I stand barefoot in a pool of light from picture windows in the living room. It feels like I’ve been standing here a long time when my mother calls, “Kate- come in here!”
I am afraid to get closer to the bed. He is shaking, but not swinging his arms and kicking his legs anymore.  Without being asked, I get a green towel from the bar in Daddy’ bathroom and dab his mouth and cheeks with it. He looks at me. His eyes are like marbles, they don’t close and they don’t move. I stare at them, trying to find Daddy inside these glass eyes.
The door buzzes and I go to open it. I can’t reach the deadbolt.  I go back to the room for help. Mommy leaves me in the room alone with him. “Don’t be scared Daddy. It’s like my asthma attacks, it’ll go away.” He’s not shaking. He blinks and passes the back of his fingers across my cheek. Daddy’s eyes are softer now and I smile at him.  
Mommy and Johnny come back. They send me away into the hallway while they try to make him speak. He keeps calling Mommy a name none of us recognize.
A police lady and two paramedics arrive with a wheelchair. They walk right past me. I stay in the hallway, “Why can’t I help? I helped before.”
My mother ushers me to stand behind an open closet door. I am in my Nutcracker nightgown. She flops my duffel coat onto me.  “Stay here. He doesn’t want you to see him like this.” I nod and wait wanting to peek around the door. I see my reflection in the mirror on the inside of the coat closet door where I am hiding, no one brushed my hair before bed and it looks like what Grandma calls, “a rat’s nest.” I hear the paramedics, the policewoman, and the doorman with the gold epaulets talking about the best way to wheel Daddy out the front door of the apartment. I begin to say, “Just push it forward,” but no words come out.  
My head leads my body, peeking around the door and disobeying Mommy’s instructions.  The need to look doesn't let go of me. Slumping in his wheel chair, he tries to say Mommy’s name. His mouth won’t open. Mommy’s crying loudly now.  I can’t tell if she’s angry or afraid.  I feel like I'm watching a movie.
The adults don’t know what to do. They can’t even agree on how to push a chair through a door. I am now standing in the foyer, in my coat, in open disregard for anything anyone’s ever told me. The paramedic looks in my direction but doesn’t see or hear me.  No one does. I’m alone in a room full of grown ups.  

I Remember That Night, when I think I Grew Up

My mother ushers me to stand behind an open closet door. I am in my Nutcracker nightgown with an unzipped coat over it, anticipating a journey into the Manhattan January night. “Stay here. He doesn’t want you to see him like this.” I nod and wait but am compelled to peek around the door. I watch, utterly helpless and bewildered at the seeming absurdity of my assigned task as the paramedic and the doorman with the gold epaulets wheel him out the front door of the apartment. Hadn’t I already seen his seizure? Hadn’t my mother’s screaming drawn me out of the warm cocoon of my bed? How could he think this sight, after all that I’d seen, was the one image to shield me from?  After all, wasn’t it me who wiped his mouth clean when his thrashing and garbled speech had receded into zombie-like stillness?   
Then I remember they had sent me away into the hallway while they tried to get him to speak, my mother and the doorman. That moment, I disobey their futile instructions to peek around the door at my father hunched over in his wheel chair, unable to say my mother’s name. My adult self bursts forth.
In a flash, I know he isn’t protecting me from the image of him seizing before my eyes, rather, just as my mother and the doorman before him, he hopes to hide me from the inescapable truth that shatters innocence and destroys the kingdom of childhood forever. I see them as they see themselves - adults incapacitated with fear, ineptitude and misdirection. There are no adults in the world. No longer a child with childish fears like monsters and the dark, I feel the first crush of darkness around my ribcage. It is loneliness, the root of all adult fear which I will spend a lifetime building transparent and brittle fortresses to keep out. I am seven.