It is time to say goodbye.
She died on the side of the freeway 100 feet from the entrance to the Caldecott tunnel. On December 30, 2011. She made it up the hill, but refused to make it through. I was alone, the kids and the ex out of town in our other car for the holidays. I called the tow truck and waited. Smoking cigarettes and for some reason, singing “We Are The World” to myself.* When it arrived, I watched as it slowly, like a machine moves, lifted my hunk of metal and all its child carseats, baseball mitts, jackets, tennis rackets, empty grocery bags, spilled trail mix, years of memories, and carried them utterly away.
There comes a time when something is gone, and it cannot be returned. Time has a way of doing that.
Over the last few days I’ve developed the habit of saying two words to myself aloud:
“You’re OK. You’re OK, buddy. You’re OK”
I imagine that I am saying it to one of my children. The way I would hold and comfort them if they were upset and wracked with tears. Because I, myself, have been upset and wracked with tears. Or something in me has. For as long as I can remember. So long that it has somehow become My Story. I tell it to myself over and over and I do not know of anything before it. It is like a book, the first fifty pages of which are blank.
But this grief has outlived its usefulness. Or, perhaps more accurately, it has outgrown it. It is time to say goodbye. I learned in 2011 that my heart is not for me alone. It is also for you. It is mostly for you. Maybe it is entirely for you. And when it is hidden, shaded and obscured beneath the vines of regret, fear, and sadness, then it is you who suffer with me.
I do not want you to suffer.
I do not want to suffer.
There are those in 2011 who wanted my love and not my suffering. And I could not give it to them. And I suffered more because of it. And then…And then… And then I just kinda got sick of the whole thing.
You’re OK, buddy. You’re OK.
I put my hands on my heart, and feel the tears welling up inside of me as I repeat this mantra. I hug myself, like I hug my children.
The year ends and we let go of things. Or rather we let things go that, on their own, have already gone.
Today, my friend of twenty-one years spent the day with me and my children. After the brunch and the hike to the top of the city and the nap and the knitting of a friendship bracelet with my daughter and the dinner and the bath and the cookies, while the kids watched ESPN under blankets on the couch, the two of us sat on the bathroom floor and finally addressed that enduring, old-friend question of: “So. Really. How are you?”
I told her of how I had found and lost a darling and delicate love this year. How I plumbed new depths of old sorrow. How I asked for help. How I held myself like a child. How good it felt.
She cried as she told me the tale of her heart’s pain this year. How she lost herself, or else realized how lost she was. How she groped blindly for love and found herself broken and bottomed out. How she reached into herself to find the strength to reach out for others. How she discovered fear and a spiritual pain that begs her to be quiet and still.
How she grew.
How we grew this year.
There comes a time when something-like grief or time or a faded car- is gone and it cannot nor need not be returned.
When the day was done, we drove her to the train station so she could travel into the melee of the city tonight and meet with her sisters, celebrating the beginning of a new day in a new year. And we hugged for so long in the West Oakland parking lot that I forgot that we were hugging at all.
On the way home, I took the scenic route. On the radio, Wynton Marsalis played New Orleans jazz at Lincoln Center; a beautiful dance of sweet and cathartic chaos. And we listened in silence when they counted down the East Coast New Year.
It was not New Years In Oakland, yet. It was simply 9:00pm. One half hour after bedtime.
And later, when I carried my children sleeping from the car, I clung tightly, thankfully, to their warm heavy bodies. They are still young enough that I can have their entire weight with my two daddy arms. This will not last forever. New days will become New Years. I will outgrow old habits, they will discover new ones. So for tonight, I relished the opportunity to give them my own delicate and darling love. The same love I am learning to give myself.
And I meditated on how precious the things I lost in 2011. And how precious the loves I still have.
-Dec 31, 2011 11:46pm
*Yes. My new year’s resolution is to quit smoking. Thanks for asking. 🙂