Thursday, May 7, 2009

...bent as double as the living body can be bent...

My friend lost her nine-year-old son Michael just before this past Easter weekend. She'd kissed him good bye, gone to work, and then received the call from his school.
I do not know what all transpires in the human body after a call like that. I don't know how the hand remembers to put the phone down and grab the car keys or how the feet know to move faster than has ever been required of them before. But I do know that the heart breaks, the soul cries out, and the brain goes to an even deeper, more intricate level of comprehension. New processing mechanisms expand and old filters completely disappear. And somehow this new, different understanding of reality has to interact with the old, the day to day, the common.
This can't be right.
Life's rudest interruption.
All things normal now held in contempt.
Daily planning now replaced with attempts at remembering.
Remembering correctly, adequately, responsibly, desperately.
What are we supposed to do with our commitment, our relationship with a person when they are gone? It certainly doesn't go away. It's significance is the most focused picture our minds can muster. And how long will we be allowed to keep everything else blurry?
How can we begin to comprehend what grief may require of us?
I turn to stories. For good or bad, they frequently become my coping mechanism of choice. And here I'll include two places for such stories:
The first is Anton Chekhov's story, Misery. It follows a man and his interactions with strangers the week after his son has unexpectedly passed away. I've spent a few weeks thinking through different passages to include here, but as grief is one of those things that should not be interrupted, I don't want to interrupt the story's flow or remove any details.
It's not long. I'd suggest you read it all at least once.
And the second is my friend's blog. Since her son's death, she has been faithfully remembering his life as well as her honest struggles to cope with his absence. The moments she shares with us are deeper than beautiful-- his library books she can't bring herself to return, the articles of clothing now absent from her laundry, attempts at normalcy with trips to the grocery or trying to laugh at funny movies. Her commitment to capturing his life and sharing it with everyone is a challenge toward reverence for all of us to accept. I'd suggest you read it frequently.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Allegro con brio

(Please note the aforementioned lilac-- I really have put it everywhere)
When I was a teenager I thought like a teenager, and so my piano teachers selected my pieces for me. Left to my own devices, I would have only played Bach and Debussy, and never very well. My repertoire would have consisted of technical pieces played with no emotion or dramatic pieces that seeped of "woes is me, nobody understands."
Fortunately, my teachers knew that and were more committed than me to the piano becoming a life-long companion of mine, ready and able to help me further express and make sense of whatever was going on in my life/head at various times.

After a fifteen year period without a piano in my life, I was finally able to purchase one a couple of months ago. It's acquisition is a story that delights me to no end, but that's for another day.
It's been fulfilling to introduce my now family to the sounds and mistakes that were pounded into the ears of my original family members. And it has been extremely satisfying to find that the technique which was lying dormant for so many years is still there. For the first few weeks, every sit down at the bench was a practice in remembering. But now, with the exception of a few fingering patterns I've yet to nail, it's all back.
And I'm venturing out to select new pieces on my own. I've never really done that before. There's no one around to play the first few measures for me, so I fumble my way through, trying to decide if the particular piece is something I want to devote hours to mastering. But for any number of reasons, one being my limited time at the bench before someone under 3 feet tall is calling me away or wanting my attention, I usually choose to go back to the old pieces. It has become interesting to note which ones I choose to play. Unless there is a spoken request-- Olivia's current favorite is Scott Joplin's Cascades, which she insists on calling Cattails-- I select pieces that reflect my general state-of-being at that moment in time.

And so this past week the piece that I've found to best express my most frequent mode or tempo is Haydn's Sonata in D Major. Specifically the first movement.

In the mornings, if I awaken before everyone else, there is silence, a blank sheet of composition paper. If there are any notes on my page they are in the tempo of those found in the piece's second movement, Largo e sostenuto. I will be intentionally slow for as long as I'm allowed because as soon as Olivia bursts onto the scene, there's no ritardando, no diminuendo. She's allegro con brio from the get go. 6 requests, 5 questions, 4 observations, 3 songs, 2 activities, all occurring in 1 tempo. My largo e sostenuto has a choice to make. I can squelch her and insist on my pace, or I can join in, skip in, hop in, spin in. It might take a cup of coffee, or three, but I eventually acknowledge that there's only one way to go. For these particular days, while the opportunity still presents itself, we'll play together, allegro con brio.

An Image

I've been thinking a good bit about my blog this week, what it should look like, what I should include, how I should organize it, etc. And more than figuring out what I want it to be, I've figured out what I don't want it to be....

Below, you see some clippings from one of our backyard lilac trees.
Until a friend suggested the obvious, it did not even occur to me that I could bring their sweet scent indoors. Now these little vases of lilacs are scattered throughout our rooms, making much of the mundane a little more enjoyable.

But this picture is deceiving you. I laughed at myself as soon as I'd taken it. I went to great lengths (and probably ten or so takes) to suggest that these lilacs hold a prominent place in my sparsely and tastefully decorated dining room.

Here is what I didn't include in the picture:

And this is actually neater than usual because we had people over last night, but please notice:
-Mae's high chair that you can't really see, but it's cushion was removed because she "had an accident" in it yesterday
-Mae's ridiculously large and very pink bouncy seat with lots of gadgetry-- we refer to it as the "space station"
- two piles of neglected mail with a dirty pacifier between them
- a drawing of a bunch of hearts that Olivia pulls out anytime she sees me doing paperwork so she can claim to be doing the same--there's a dirty burp cloth on top of it
- assorted plastic ware I didn't put away after last night's gathering, and apparently I'd rather put my laptop at risk of falling off the table than move the plastic ware even an inch
- the remains of my lunch- leftover chicken salad-- I didn't take the time to spread it on some yummy bread, I just ate it out of the plastic bowl
- a teether on top of an insurance card on top of my billfold on top of a notebook on top of my calendar

While I'm sure I'll continue to clean things up a little here (editing is generally a very good and considerate idea), I promise I'll always try to stay as honest as possible.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Olivia-isms of the week

"My (imaginary) friend Dee Dee has square pupils."

"Nothing doesn't exist."

"I have a couple of things to say to Chuck E. Cheese."

"The things you remember are important."

"I'll let you sleep in my room in heaven....but first I'll have to ask Jesus."

"Mom, I believe louder than you do."