Last year, around this time, I was busy trying to dodge the inevitable depression that coincides with this time of year (http://walkingwithgreta.blogspot.com/2012/01/happy-anniversary-by-mommy-jess.html ).
This year? I’m not even trying to avoid it. I thought maybe tricking it would work. I’m just going to embrace it as part of my life this time of year. Hey sadness, want to help me cook chili? Clean out the closet, type up some emails at an obscene hour when all the sleep medicine in the world won’t shut you up? Want to listen to sad songs and then dare me not to cry? Or help me become such an emotionally numb person smiling actually hurts? I’m all yours.
My thinking was with such an open invitation it would scare the sadness away. I picture this sadness like a gray gnarled tree. The kind you can hear creaking when it sways in the wind. The kind that never grows lush green leaves in the spring and is always the first to drop what few it has created at the very first sign of autumn to gather like wet cornflakes on the souls of your shoes. The kind that doesn’t remind you of the scary thrills of Halloween, but of the dull depths of winter’s chill. This is the kind of tree that, I thought, would enjoy a challenge over an easy kill.
I was wrong. Maybe sadness needs to keep collecting souls whether willingly or by force. My grandmother died a few days before Christmas. I keep waiting to see her ghost, a sign, a message from her but I know these things don’t really happen. The closest I get is a glimpse of eyes that look a little like hers and a nose with almost the same shape staring back at me from the mirror. I remember when both Jack and the twins were infants and I would be so tired I would beg my other grandmother, who had passed away before any of my children were born, to cast some spell upon them and make them sleep. Some days it felt like it worked. Mostly I knew I was trying to make myself feel better.
I wonder what I will beg this grandmother for in the dark of night? What would these ancestors- my grandfather who shares the twins birthday, my grandmother who also raised a child with a disability, and this most recent loss, a woman who got married in the early 40’s in a fierce red suit and a crisp pillbox hat- make of my silly little life? I add sadness to my list of ancestors now, knowing it’s not going anywhere and belongs to me just as I belong to it; a family member of sorts.
Christmas gives us a break from bent bones, blurred vision, and bereft blessings. The plastic dulls so quickly the glitter dropping from each carefully placed ornament, every year we lament it wasn’t enough time.
Now my fingers hurt with each key stroke as this anniversary of Greta’s diagnosis creeps closer. Mommy Shana hunts for shoes that look “the same” (Greta’s words for “match”) that will fit over her brace she again refuses to wear causing her leg to bow, not unlike the lower branches of my sorrow tree.
Greta tells me “I have one hand” when I ask her to pick up the mess in her room. On some days I can smile, however bitterly, at her cunning in coming up with such a good excuse not to clean up. And some days when I see her sleeve hanging six inches past her clenched fist and her standing at such an angle her body may as well be cleaved in half leaving only the right side to function while the left crumbles from neglect I wonder if it isn’t sort of true. If she hasn’t hit on some form of honesty us grown folks fretting over bills and therapy and solutions can’t understand. I wonder if maybe my grandmother, ever pragmatic, didn’t whisper this in her ear - so right it sounds this time of year.