Friday, September 24, 2010

fear in a handful

Matter, we say, meaning undifferentiated stuff. 
Lint.  Galactic dust.
The baggage we carry. 

Yesterday, and the day before, UPS delivered boxes to my father-in-law.  He had ordered another pair of slippers with strong soles "for walking out to the mailbox, you know."

I know.   

And a table he can pull up to his chair.  "We can eat, pay bills, write, paint . . . anything!"  He has another one still in the box for my mother-in-law, too.  "Should I put it together, Momma?"

"Not just now."

"I am strong," he says, lying down with his eyes closed.  His body has begun to consume itself.  He lifts his once-strong arm, the skin hangs in a swag like a curtain, "I'll get through this.  I'll be okay."

In the kitchen my daughter hugs herself, shaking.  She doesn't want to be touched.  She won't say anything until we're out in the car, "I know he's right.  He will get through.  He'll get through.  You know?  He'll be okay.  But I just won't get to see him.  For awhile.  I won't see him."

*  *  *

He exhausted himself last month, driving back to Idaho, packing up the house, wanting suddenly to get it ready to sell. 

The doctor sent him back here.  Said, "It's time now to calm down."  Said, "No more driving."  His older son drove him here.  The van was full of boxes.  Full boxes.

He sat in the brown leather recliner he had ordered a month before, exhausted.  His eyes, his face.  The apartment was already full. 

"But I had to get Momma's treasures for her.  She was going to want them."  Her china, her rocks, her figurines, her crate of souvenirs from their trip to Egypt years ago.  "We're going to get a corner knick-knack shelf," he says.  "We're going to get one of those mirror-backed shelves that hangs on the wall."

"Do you want these boxes unpacked?" I ask her, later.

"No," she shakes her head.  "And I don't like corner shelves."

*   *   *

When I was very young and my grandmother lived in a small green house between two very tall pine trees, baby birds would fall from their nests and my brother and cousin and I would try to keep them alive by feeding them whole worms and small round bird-berries.

Their mouths kept opening piteously peeping even as their gullet filled and the skin of their throats grew pebbly and wiggled. Eventually they all died always.

And more clothes. "Winter's coming," he says. "We need to be warm."  Boxes of clothes. "Momma needs her warm clothes."

They are the same clothes that fill the closet here and the drawers already.

But in different colors.

*   *   *

Mater. Maître.
My mother-in-law is like a little bird.  Small and hungry for attention.  She waits for us eagerly.

When you hug her good-bye, she tucks her head under your chin like a child in need of comfort.  She does this even when YoungSon hugs her.  She has always done this as long as I've known her.

She is always in pain though she doesn't complain, except to say, "I can't. I hurt. I hurt."

No one has been able to find her hurt and fix it in twenty years, though they've given it a name - neuropathy.  It came on her suddenly, the week before I married her younger son.  She tripped over a water hose in the lawn. 

I've never known her any other way.  Never seen her outside walking except once, right after she fell.  Fritz and I had slipped around the corner of the house.  "I want to show you something," he had said.  When she hobbled out a few minutes later, we weren't looking at anything, our eyes closed.

Fritz' face grew warmer.  I turned my head to smile, expecting her to laugh and withdraw, seeing we were just fine, and occupied. Instead she led us back inside, small between her crutches, limping like a killdeer coaxing the predator away from her young.

*  *  *

What's the matter? 
It doesn't matter. 
It matters to me.

"Did you forward those lights?" he asks.

"Which lights, Dad?"

He is almost asleep, lying on his side in the bed, so tired suddenly.  Up until two weeks ago he had been the busy one, the one who got up in the morning and made Mom breakfast, helped her get dressed. 

Now it seems every day he is more sleepy.

"I ordered a box of lights so we can read," his voice is weaker than it was yesterday,"so we can see.  You said you'd forward them - "

"I don't -"

" - because when they sent them they sent them to the other house."

"Okay . . .  "

"You said you'd forward them."

"I'll do what I can."

"I know you will," his eyes are closed.  He is almost asleep, "I know."


ArtSparker said...

Some things it just seems like you can only be there and witness.

Mrs. Organic said...

Oh, how fast things change. My stomach is all in a knot for you and especially for your daughter. It is so hard to watch the slowing down.

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

The "It is so hard to watch the slowing down" comment from above describes it all.

I'm sorry on so many levels. Please give my love to all.

Lisa B. said...

What ArtSparker said. It requires a consequent slowing down in the witness, too. A patience (not every my strong suit). My heart and thoughts are with all of you.

B said...

I wanted to say hello today, but we were waaaaaay in the back, and I never saw you again after that.

I want to bring dinner over. Is that OK? Which day would work out best?

Nothing fancy, just good.

suzanne said...

Does it seem harsh to hope, for your sakes, the slowing down is speedy? I don't know which is better. I have watched both, and now only one grandmother is left slowing down so very, very slowly.
Slowly takes longer.

Melody said...

So beautiful. So incredibly beautiful. All of it. And sad. And the photos.

I wonder if there is a slowing down before we are born. A little moving into darkness before the light. Or perhaps after. I don't know.

Bless you and yours.

m e l i g r o s a said...

my heart is with you
thanks for shairng this. stay strong

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