We receive and we lose, and we must try to achieve gratitude; and with that gratitude to embrace with whole hearts whatever of life that remains after the losses.
Andre Dubus II, Broken Vessels
We arrive by accumulation.
Time twists us by the shoulders until we’re positioned to die,
looking backwards. Twisted into the ground.
from ‘The Day of Jack Chambers’ by Anne Michaels
September is my favourite month. Days like today: sky high & blue; air like a long, cool drink. On Tuesday, the Moose started school. He was such a sweet boy in his red and grey uniform — so eager and handsome. He pulled up his long grey socks to meet his shorts. The dimple in his cheek showed as he posed for photographs with his sister, with his book bag, ready to go outside the front door. He’s started part-time, so I pick him up at 1 o’clock, after his lunch, and just before the Pip Pop’s nap. This means that I am still never alone. But, even so, I sat on the stairs and sobbed when I walked into my empty-ish house. Even his enthusiasm was heartbreaking. Then I pulled myself together and changed the sheets on the kid’s beds for the first time in at least six weeks. (Still thinking of Nedra: ‘Who cleans this large house, who scrubs the floors? She does everything, this woman, she does nothing…Her real concern is the heart of existence: meals, bed linen, clothing.’)
Then, on Tuesday night, my grandfather, my father’s father, died. We celebrated his 90th birthday with him just over a week ago. A day when he was very weak, but at home, with family. With the Pip Pop who gave him kisses from his special zebra, Zee Zee. With the Moose who raced all of the old wheelbarrows in the back garden & told him how good the birthday cake was. With T who, as we were leaving, first waved her goodbye, then hesitated & lent down and swept her arms around him in the most beautiful embrace. There was a moment when he was looking at me and smiling, and I couldn’t tell if he was just daydreaming or really seeing me, but it was me he was looking at, and as I licked my chocolatey fingers, he said something, something like, ‘She’s had her cake and eaten it and licked her fingers too.’ How it felt to be watched by his gaze, to be under his smile. And so all that is over. We will miss him for himself, but it’s more than that. So much is gone. The connection he came to represent — to my grandmother, to my father — is lost. I continue to be amazed by how fragile it all is: how we pass from one family to another; how all that remains is what we hold within.
A birthday morning posy gathered from the garden: nasturtiums, geraniums & verbena.