Sunday, May 18, 2008

"The years teach us much which the days never know"

A's mom died last night. I am on a plane to DC tomorrow. The funeral will be Tuesday. I have cried more today than I care to in a month. I am so sad for A and her sister--the whole family of course, but especially A and J. For me the death of my mother was The Primal Loss--like the Platonic Ideal of loss, where everything else, every other particular loss was a facsimile or a shadow of that one. It's an entirely different thing to be motherless in the world.

And of course, I'm emotionally reminded of my own late teens when I thought grief would just swallow me. It felt unsurvivable. I truly don't know how A managed to stay friends with me through my parents' illnesses and my rage and sorrow and self-centered death-wish years. I know she wasn't the picture of mental health herself, but surely there were easier friends to have than me. After my mom died I could barely feed myself. If it weren't for A I don't know what would have become of me.

I remember the night that horrible summer that my high school boyfriend broke up with me. My despair was crushing. And here's the thing: It's not like I was so damn in love with him. But he was a way to be somewhere other than in that house. He would come pick me up and we'd go downtown and drink ourselves into sweet oblivion, a paradise compared to the present reality. I came home and called A's house even though it was around midnight. Her dad answered and I couldn't even speak. I just cried into the phone and he put A on. She just said, "Are you home? I'll be right there." I went outside to wait for her but I had already woken my mother. I was on the front step just weeping, disconsolate. And my mother comes to the door and sees me so upset and starts crying. "I wish there was a way I could make this less hard on you," she says. (And here let me say that while my mother was not exactly mother of the year most of the time, this memory still astonishes me for what it says about her capacity to love and her particular love for me--to be so selfless that you wish your terminal bone cancer was not so hard on your daughter. No greater love.) Anyway, so A came and she had a bottle of tequila in her trunk and I sat in her car and cried and drank every drop. Thank god we do not have to do any of these things twice--be teenagers, bury our parents, bottom out on drugs...

I'm really grateful I could find a flight and that I have the best job in the world that will not just let me miss a three-day meeting off-site but encourage me to go support my friend and say goodbye to her mom.

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