15 April, 2008

Flying [Reposted from Facebook]

Location: 38,000 feet above earth

On the way back to seattle. Finally. I am in the air. And I am in limbo. I don’t know where I will land when I return. Everything should be settled, clear, solid, decided, and plain as day. But much like this aircraft, I feel like I’m floating in the breeze at 38,000 feet, with no certainty as to what the future holds. This is probably boring to read. I should go back to writing about memories. Those make for better stories than the present. Because the present only becomes a memory when it is worthy of remembering. Writing about the present, otherwise, is sort of just serving you up the daily receipts from the cash register. Lots of numbers, but no data.

So… maybe I should return to memories.

The place I want to go is not a place I can go yet. It’s something that will always be my memory, and maybe I should be documenting it, so that I never forget the details of it. But I am not sure it is okay to share it with you just yet. I am not sure because it is too new, and I feel like sharing it will sound like I am trying to get attention, which I am not. It will make you feel like you need to say something, which you do not. It will make it seem like I don’t have respect for the sanctity of certain things, which would be inaccurate. It is the memory of the last 18 hours of my mother’s life. If you can promise me that you will not judge me, or even offer me any sympathies, for which I am not asking, then maybe I will proceed to share it. I am writing this for me. But I am blogging it for some other purpose which is not entirely clear to me, but for which I do not wish to waste more time apologizing than the six words left in this sentence.

My mother made me look good. That might sound self-important, but I’m pretty sure it is true. My whole life, my mother always wanted me to be perfect, and she encouraged me to strive for perfection, not just “good enough”. She loved me, and she was very caring. But for better or worse, she placed a high priority on perfection, both in deed, and in appearances. And this time, my mother helped me.

I will have you know that starting with this sentence, you are reading “take two” of the story that I was planning on telling you. Because after writing the story I had planned on telling you, I decided that I cannot tell you that story. That story belongs to the family. That story is private. That story belongs to me. That story belongs to my mother. And my father. And my sister. That story belongs to the earth. That story is for no one. Instead you get this story…

My mother made me look good this time, for sure. She’d been barely hanging on to her life, after a major stroke that left her almost completely unresponsive, and unable to communicate. And from the time that things took the big downward turn, 9 days ago, she was existing only in the shadows of this world. And it was 6 days after that downward turn that I arrived in town. For a variety of reasons, which belong to the version of the story that I am not telling you, I came to town 6 days after that big downward turn. And I saw my mother in the hospital that night. And maybe she saw me. I do not know. Her eyes opened wide once or twice, and maybe she saw me. And she died the next day. And I was the one who discovered her in that state. My dad and sister had gone to eat, and I walked out for a moment, and came back to find her gone. The funeral was on Monday. And I flew back today, Tuesday. And I look like a fucking prophet. I look like a good son. I look like someone who has a special place in the universe, walking along a fine line of being in the right place at the right time. And the reason I look that way is because my mom didn’t die before I got there, and she did die after I got there. Furthermore, she died in time for me to still be there for the funeral on my original ticket itinerary.

She made me look perfect. Right place, right time. There when everyone needed me the most. There for my dad when he was at his darkest moment. When he felt most alone. There for my mother to say goodbye and finally leave this world where everything is difficult and everything hurts.

I have to thank her… because I don’t feel perfect. As you know, I don’t believe in the supernatural, or the spiritual, or anything of that sort. But I now have to ask, “do I believe that my mother, in her absolutely compromised and weakened state, could have been waiting for me to arrive?”

And questions like that are hard to take. If it were true, then it was a last loving connection between mother and youngest son. Each doing the other a great service of love – letting the other know that it will be okay. Or maybe she was completely out of it, and luck just had it that her heart stopped on this day. But leave it to my mother to make me think about such things. To make me stop for a moment and wonder about things that, though not “magical”, have a certain depth to them that I don’t often consider.

Now I head back to Seattle, feeling like I left everything and everyone in Boston a little too soon. But also feeling glad to get out of that place. I should have been there longer, perhaps. I could have been there longer. I do not think there would have been serious repercussions in my life, had I stayed longer. There was much time with family over the last few days, that reminded me that I actually have a family. And when you look at the family, all told, it is not a small family. And people are decent. Why don’t I feel the connectedness? Why did I never? I was not close with them when I did live in Boston. And it’s almost like I wanted to make it “official” by shoving 3000 miles between me and that place.

I don’t know. I really don’t know. I am wondering when, if ever, will I experience the emotions that went along with this weekend. I didn’t get my moment. I didn’t feel it. I don’t know why. I feel a bit queasy. This was not a great weekend. But it was not as terrible as I expected. This will be one of my memories though. This will be something on which I will always reflect. And many minute details will remain crystal clear. Small conversations. Tiny details. A tree. A flower. A 70 year old rabbi with one gold earring. A brother who disappoints me with his inability to do the right thing even on the darkest day his family has ever seen. Cousins whom I had not seen in 20 years. 30 years. Ever. Late nights with someone who does not want to go to sleep knowing that his wife of 59 years will never come home again. My three best friends from high school and college coming to visit me, without even being solicited. That was home. That was my family. That was my life for 30 years. That was the place I left behind.

And it was not such a bad place, after all.

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