Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Shadowy Reminders

I've learned by now that we can't run from our memories.  They follow us along like shadows, disappearing for a while here or there, but always ready to return at a moment's notice.  And so it was in New York, and so it has been since coming back home.  And I have to accept that sometimes the memories will be painful.  I am beginning to wonder if the answer to surviving the loss of a child is to accept that this is the case instead of wondering when that will stop.  And maybe you don't want it to.  Maybe if they stop being painful that means you've stopped caring. I doubt that's the case, but if you feel something, even if it's bad, is that better than feeling nothing at all?

But, while you're trying to figure it all out, how are you supposed to live your life?  I've tried getting out there, jumping off the proverbial high dive and just trying to live life.  This is what happens sometimes when I've done that:

After Marissa and I finished up at the diner, where we'd talked about Kelsey a lot, we walked silently and somberly back toward our little hotel.  Alone, the two of us, in the sea of people that crowd the city streets at all hours.  Part of the crowd in these areas are hawkers whose job it is to try and get you to buy tickets to Whatever:  a tour bus, a superfluous sightseeing packet to the Empire State Building, comedy club tickets.  We had been assaulted by them all day.  I had gradually learned to ignore them like the natives do.  But, we ran into one young man on the way back to the hotel, who, with the bounce and energy of his youth, approached us, walking backwards to keep just a little in front of us and looked straight at Marissa.  "Well, hello ladies.  Why do you look so sad?  It could be worse, your sister could be here with you."  This is no joke, this is almost verbatim what he said.  As I will tend to do when stressed enough to want to kill something, I will smile.  It's been pointed out to me that I do this at inappropriate moments by victims of that ironic little smile.  I smiled at him and said, "You know, we're here because yesterday was her sister's birthday, and she's dead now.  So..."

His face fell, and I am sure he wanted the uneven city sidewalk to open up at that moment and swallow him whole.  For all his youth and brashness he didn't misread that smile for one of a joke.  He knew what I was saying was true.  Maybe it was how Marissa must have looked.  I don't know, but he was completely undone, and stuttered a number of apologies.  We merely walked past him.  We didn't talk about it.  Not that night.  Not since.  I took a bath and curled into a fetal position on the bed and watched that horrible excuse for Game One in the Stanley Cup Finals.  Marissa went downstairs to the little courtyard and wrote in her journal and smoked and drank the hotel's coffee.  We were done for the night.

The next day we shook it off and went to the museum.  I think we've gotten more elastic with time.  For that I am glad.  But, the following weekend there was no museum to throw ourselves into.

And the memories were sure to come...

This past weekend was Marissa's 21st birthday.  She was born in the middle of a cluster of Veldman family birthdays:  her father's is May 24, Kelsey's was May 28, her cousin Amy - the eldest of the Veldman grandchildren - is June 2, hers is June 5 and her uncle Randy's will fall on the anniversary of Kelsey's memorial service (which will also be the anniversary of Michael Jackson's death).  In years past, we did a group celebration on Memorial Day weekend.  This was important for Amy in particular, since she grew up in Ft. Worth, a little removed from all the intimacy of the clan, as it were.  This was her opportunity, in addition to Christmas, to spend some time with her relatives.  When Kelsey and Marissa began being absent for periods of time, it eroded and finally stopped altogether when Marissa was in Alldredge for her 18th birthday.  Somehow I got it in my head that the best idea would be to make it as much like the old gatherings as possible.

But, the old adage "You can never go home" has some merit.  Some things simply change with time, and without a magic dagger filled with mystical sand to press and roll back the clock, you have to just accept that is the truth of it.  Already a week later than the norm, and without some key components, like Amy's mom Cathy and her other two younger cousins who are in Arizona for now, it was not going to be the same.  So, we'd work with what we had.  We did the basics: swimming, Greg grilling hot dogs and burgers (turkey and veggie), cake and presents.  As much as everyone tried to keep it light, at some point in the day, the absence of one of the birthday girls became overwhelmingly apparent to every party there - except maybe to the new addition, my brother-in-law's girlfriend, who was meeting most of us for the first time and must have been thinking, "WTF?"

I managed to keep a game face on until everyone left, then I went out by the pool and sat for I'm not sure how long, drinking, until I was cried out and drunk simultaneously.  My husband tucked my inebriated butt into bed at some point, and then sat awake until 3 AM, lost in his own thoughts.  Marissa had her moment earlier, when she had to leave the party for a while and go upstairs.  Amy, I could tell, was weighed down as well, begging off on plans for an evening movie.  Problem is:  how can you have a family celebration without a key member of the family present?

And for those of you wondering where Mother was in all of this - well, she was present for several of the birthday bashes, although the heat generally kept her inside watching TV instead of on the back patio like everyone else.  But, she chose not to come sometimes as well.  This was a Veldman tradition, not a Bleiler one, and she felt a bit outside the fold.  But, I thought of how she would have been proud to see her favorite grandchild reach this milestone birthday.  And I was sad she missed it by such a narrow margin.  Yet, I have to be blunt:  there just is no comparison to losing a child versus a parent.  I feel a sense of relief that Mother is released from her failing, ill mind and body, whereas I just weep for the loss of my child and all her potential.  And I am so heavy with the regret that Marissa had this shadow cast on this particular milestone birthday.   Yet I am so proud of her.  What an odd mix of emotions.

1 comment:

  1. http://belleofbullshit.blogspot.com/2010/06/if-i-can-make-it-here-i-can-make-it.html

    my recollection of the run in with that guy differs from yours. But there it is^^^