Monthly Archives: June 2008

Sing a song: partial journal entry: 12/20/07

Today I realized it’s finally over––that long, protracted period of grief I’ve been in. For a long time now, I haven’t worn black or scratched my face or wailed like women seeing their dead––but the grief was there––bearable, stiff upper lip,  no need to bother the neighbors. Like a scar one learns to ignore or a limp one forgets one has––the grief of the loss of my nuclear family, the family Karleen made with her second husband atop her first husband’s heart, dragging in her child whether she wished to be there or not, creating her son.

I pushed and pulled, worked and cried, ignored and dreamed to make that marriage work because I’d destroyed one to make one. So much investment of time and effort, so much giving up of hope and yet so much joy in mothering my children. Yes, that’s what I mourned––the marriage was the frame of my motherhood, and when it smashed, my motherhood was essentially over––though my son could have used some supervision and guidance, but I didn’t know how to mother a teenager––how to be quietly firm––hold fast in spite of his dislike––too wounded there myself.

Anyway, the grief is done. I got the rest of my life out of storage this week––the baskets I used to collect, baby clothes, glass blown brandy snifters from Murano––that time when I’d crossed my fingers that the marriage might make it. I got them out of a fifteen-year storage and am giving it all away––the first Christmas ornaments I ever bought at a Denton dime store, little objets d’art that are beautiful, books, my children’s toys, things, things, things.

All going away, out of my life, out of my psyche. I can’t put up a Christmas tree yet. Perhaps I never will. But I’ve moved on–-out of the valley, out of the shadow–-some subtle shift. Those days are gone, my mother days, my younger woman days, my own dear family days, and I gave them their due mourning. Much about them––my children––was absolutely beautiful, stunning, and it took me forever and fifteen years to sing the death song that had to be sung. I don’t regret a single thing––a single sad, distraught piece of it. It is my quilt–-my woman’s quilt––I make this life, the good and bad and sad and lovely of it. Sing a song of six pence, a pocket full of rye. four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie–-sing a song of Karleen. I have.



Discovered recently under the dining room buffet:

3 play mice

1 fluff ball with rattle

2 pens

1 pencil

1 small shell

1 raisin

I miss her vanity


We’ve come to see the movie Sex and the City. She is enjoying it. I am, too. She had a hard time, like she always does, climbing the movie theater stairs. Too dark, and she’s lost her sense of depth perception, so that every step is a slow, careful, am I falling over the edge one. Later, we’ll go eat dinner, and we won’t talk much. The light from the screen is strong enough that if I turn to my left, I can see her. I turn and think, I don’t want to lose you. Now that we’re all losing her mentally (she has mild Alzheimer’s), I am much more aware of the bigger and final loss to come. All the old hurts and grievances on my part just don’t matter anymore. I miss her vanity. She could never pass a mirror without admiring herself. I miss her dedicated shopping. She could shop in high heels, going through every store in town, until I, in flats, had to beg for mercy. I miss her lies. She would just out and out lie about the oddest things. I miss her orderliness. She could fold a circus tent into a thimble and always sniffed at my messiness. I miss her coldness. My sisters and I always swore that if we murdered our husbands, she would come over and calmly cut up the bodies and put the pieces in freezer bags and tell us to stop sniveling and get the blood cleaned up. She holds my hand now when we go out into the world. She had another side: charming, warm, fun, curious, practical, generous. But it’s her faults I miss so much.

Later, I think about the movie and its final reunion scene with the four friends and various husbands and children. There are no parents at the table. No siblings. Just these resilient four and their loves. I realize that Sex and the City always cut out the family in the telling of the tale, except for Miranda’s mother’s death and a scene or two with Steve’s mother. Oh, and Charlotte’s mother-in-law, Bunny. It’s like these four sprang forth fully formed from Zeus’s head, enscounced in New York, living the dream. Here I am in my hot humid city down south far too plump for designer clothes with my patchwork career and surrounded by family and sitting in a dark movie theater with my dotty Mom. Living my dream.

Better angels

This has been a lump in the throat week, first with Barack Obama winning the nomination and then with the remembrances of Robert Kennedy. Obama moves me when he speaks. I haven’t heard someone with his eloquence since John F. Kennedy. I can still remember Kennedy’s trip to Berlin and his famous I am a Berliner speech, the words said in German. Berlin had a wall, which was part of a division called the Iron Curtain, through its city’s heart, and his words electrified the crowd and electrified those watching him on TV, like me. Obama brings up a sense of hope in me; he calls upon the angels of our better natures, words another eloquent man, Abraham Lincoln, first used.

So there are always tears at the back of my eyes when Obama is at his best. And those tears slipped over this week watching the tributes to Robert Kennedy. Kennedy wasn’t as eloquent as his brother, but he was intense. You knew he cared. You knew he was stirred. And you knew he was a fighter. You knew that he represented something different, something the status quo had better be afraid of because the times were achanging, and he said it, felt it, lived it, campaigned it. I still remember waking up to my alarm going off, news radio shouting that Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated. My lumbering up to run to a TV to find out more. It couldn’t be possible, I thought. Not after the blow that was Martin Luther King’s assassination. But it was possible. 1968 was a year of wrenching kills, as if men who dared reach out to the stars must be destroyed by our barbaric heart. It was the year we all grew cynical.