Tuesday, May 30, 2006

My Heart is Officially Broken

I've never been really certain what effect her father's death had on my daughter. She was two weeks shy of her third birthday when he died, and although he died here at home, and I took her in to say "goodbye to papa," it's impossible to tell exactly what she does and doesn't understand (hell, I don't know how much of this madness I understand; it doesn't make any sense to me!). She looks at his photo, and we talk about what he liked to do (usually anything she is enjoying, as in: "Papa liked peanut butter sandwiches, didn't he? Papa liked sandals. Papa liked Curious George, didn't he?"). We talk about where we went with him, and how much he loved her, and that he will never come back.

Today her teacher was talking about a special Father's Day event they are having. No one can remember my daughter ever mentioning her Papa at school, although her teachers and the staff all know. As her teacher reports it, my daughter stood up amidst her seated classmates and said, "My Papa died, so he can't be here." Then she burst into tears.

The teacher handled it beautifully, I think: she hugged my daughter, and said how sorry she and the class were that her Papa was dead and that she missed him. Then they had a moment of quiet for her, and for him.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Dispatch from Widowland

This widowhood thing is exhausting. I realized last night, in those dreary waking hours, that grief is a lot like trying to hold water in your bare hands. No matter how tightly you clench your fingers, its slips through. That process is natural; it’s inevitable. It’s foolish to try to hold on to water using only your two hands.

Grief is like that, lately. I’m feeling—in addition to the sorrow, loneliness, and emptiness—a lot of pressure to try and hold on to my husband, to keep him with me and my daughter, to keep him in other people’s thoughts as well. Someone mentioned to me a novel called A Brief History of the Dead, where, if I understand it correctly, the dead exist in a kind of shared limbo-world as long as someone on earth remembers them. These days, I feel that burden of memory, as if I alone am responsible for preserving him. As if only I can keep him alive, somehow, by holding on ever more tightly. But like the water, he is slipping away.

Since his death, I’ve immersed myself in the routine aspects of life: caring for my daughter, teaching my classes, obsessively tidying my house. I’ve also avoided (not intentionally, but still) some of the friends with whom I have the best memories of my life before. Instead, I spend most of my social time with newer friends and colleagues, who scarcely knew my husband. For them, and, in their presence, for me as well, he exists primarily as a narrative, a point of reference.

By staying away from those deeper friends, I think I’ve fooled myself into thinking I’ve stopped time. As long as I’m not there, I can pretend we’re all in a deep freeze, and that his death is still the biggest thing in their lives, as it is in mine. But I’ve had several rude awakenings: two of my dear friends are contemplating a move overseas; two others have bought a house and begun the procreating. I’m not stupid or selfish enough to imagine that my friends’ lives won’t go on without my husband, but it hurts to come up against the truth of the cliché: life goes on. I can’t stop it; I can’t hold it.

I don’t want him to be forgotten. I don’t want to be the only one who thinks of him, misses him, and realizes what a wonderful man has been lost. I don’t want it to be easy for any of us to move on, even though I am tired of hurting.

In the basement I have box upon box of his things: scrapbooks, notebooks, photos of places and people only he could identify. Toys he saved from his childhood because they meant something special. And my daughter and I will never know what the toys meant, who those people are, what he treasured about his own memories. I’m not going to get the full tale of his cross-country road trip—we were always too busy to dig out the photos. I never got to hear so many of his stories about his life before me.

I had started to deal with losing his present and his future. Now I am mourning his past, as well.

Friday, May 26, 2006

More news for my husband

Honey, did you know that Steven Seagal has a band? And if you did, are you laughing your ass off?

And they say that academia is irrelevant...

...to real life. I say: not so.

Earlier this week I stayed home to wait for a service call from a company doing a minor cosmetic procedure on my house. The service person was due at 10. At 10:45 a.m., I called to inquire whether they were, in fact coming within the hour they had promised.

The guy who answered the phone had no idea who I was, why I was bugging him, or how to get in touch with his boss.

Being a nice and responsible young man, he offered to get more information and call me back. He did, to inform me that he had no idea where his boss was, or why he was unable to reach her. He also noted that the necessary supplies had not yet come in, although when I spoke with the boss the week before, she assured me that "it was in stock." [I should point out that her answer was in reply to my calling her to find out what had happened to my order, placed four weeks ago. I was initially told that the order would take two weeks, and that she would call me when it arrived. Two weeks after that, I got tired of waiting and called her.]

So what, you ask, does this long, convoluted, and impossibly dull story of domestic trivia have to do with the link between academia and "the real world"?

When I finally tracked the boss down, two days later (no, she never called me, although I had requested that she do so), she said that she was sorry, but (drumroll, please)
her grandmother had passed away.*

It's good to know that I am allowing students to practice on me the lies they will use in business situations their whole lives long.

*(Those of you thinking, "Dorcasina, you jaded heartless bitch, how do you know her grandmother didn't really die?" should consider two things: 1) I have a lot of experience differentiating between the truly and recently deceased grandmother and her myriad fictitious counterparts: the long-dead grandmother, the friend's dead father, and the terminally ill aunt. 2) She owns the shop, and the young man I spoke to said she had asked him to cover for her, which was why he was not performing the service call at my house. If she called him to cover an emergency, why wouldn't she a) tell him what the emergency was (if not in personal detail) and b) ask him to call the people with appointments for that day?)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Plain Jane

Which Classic Female Literary Character Are you?

You're Jane Eyre of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte!
Take this quiz!


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Seen first at ABDMom's. Not at all surprised that she and I showed up as the same character, given our other affinities!