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Sobbing is never, ever attractive. It makes people uncomfortable.

Sobbing induces other people’s sobbing. It makes the one who started the sobbing feel a little guilty, but not really.

Sobbing is best suppressed after two minutes. One can continue to sob inwardly, but it’s best to be polite about it and shut up.

Sobbing causes mothers and fathers to cry, especially if it’s their daughter who’s sobbing the loudest or the only one who’s sobbing.

Sobbing is a sign of suffering. What can one do?

Sobbing as a memory induces sobbing in the here and now.

 

Sobbing is best left to the experts. Do not try this at home.

Consider it written in stone. The stone at the head of a non-descript grave at a non-descript cemetery on the outskirts of some field in the middle of nowhere. Here she lies.

This is how it will go. Tomorrow, there will be tears. Tomorrow, there will be a long, sad drive home and an even longer, sadder drive back to the place I live.

It’s hard to say how many people will be there. It’s summer, you know, and there will be no church service. I imagine only family and one or two friends will come.

The family will hug me. They will tell me how thankful they are that I went to see her when she was so ill and no one else was able to visit. Able. Inwardly, I will cringe at this word. Inwardly, I will feel hate and spite.

The family will tell me they love me after they’ve told me and each other what a big “help” I was, as if I’d gone to pick up their prescriptions downtown and not sat beside her for hours while she cried because she was in pain and no one else would come see her. They’ll say they don’t know what they would have done without me. Some of them will list all the reasons why they couldn’t come to visit her when it mattered. I will make a parallel list of all the reasons they should have come. My list will be longer and more substantial.

They did not kill her, but they did break her heart. My tears will be for her and for the injustice of it all. Their tears will force me to forgive them, to stifle the outrage I feel, because I, of all people, know guilt and grief.

I wanted her dead and now she is.

Neither of us will go quietly.

That was obvious from the first.

Her moans and denials and fight are only restrained by the liquid morphine that courses through her veins.

She will not go quietly.

 

On the way to see her.

On the way to see her for the last time.

I did not go quietly.

The sounds of the engine and the radio could not be heard over my shrieks and sobs.

 

When the end comes

neither of us will go quietly

even if we don’t make a sound.

The last words I’ll ever hear her speak are, “I’ve still got fight left in me.” Or maybe, “I don’t have no fight left in me.” I distinctly heard “fight left in me.”

I asked her how she was.  Dry: “I’m great.” Floated back into her morphine dreams or nightmares.

Later, when I was alone with her for a few moments, both of her hands in mine, I called her name. “Tywanua.” She opened her eyes. “Tywanua, I love you.” She was coherent enough to recognize me. “I love you, too.  I wish I could sit up a little more…but I’m just glad you’re here.”

 Atrocities of June 8, 2009

  • My aunt, who has terminal cancer, starts to rapidly decline as her body shuts down. There is concern she won’t make it through the night but the extra morphine improves her breathing and makes her more comfortable.
  • I see this otherworldly tumor on the side of her neck that makes me cringe and I’m glad my aunt is sleeping mostly. Not to be funny, but to give a visual: familiar with Coneheads on SNL? It’s like one of those heads is trying to grow out of the side of her neck. Ball your fists up, press them against the left side of your neck, and you can see how big that thing is. It’s like from a horror movie. Where the skin has been stretched to the limit and has cracked, she has bled. The whole top part has dark purple scabs and I’m sure some of that skin is black because it’s dead.
  • My family aren’t much of hand holders, but I know she likes to have her hand held so I try to model it for my family so that they can see the comfort it can give. Now, she’s hearing that she is loved and that’s all she (or any of us) has ever wanted.
  • My piece-of-the-most-unholiest-shit ex-uncle is a jealous, selfish coward. An obnoxious alcoholic, he keeps yelling at her, “you want something to eat, you want something eat?” I want to scream: She’s a little too busy with the business of breathing to eat. Besides, food will only prolong it now. Also, he apparently tries to have sex with her, while another aunt is in the same room, trying to sleep.
  • There’s too many people all around, wanting to desperately help her or those around her. The weariness of us all is heavy on the heart, and it’s the kind of heaviness that one can’t lose by going on a diet. It’s there for good.
  • I say goodbye to her and leave without a sob.
  • If not today,  June 9 or June 10, 2009 will be the day she dies. Maybe planning a death really is like planning a marriage. You concern yourself with the flowers and the weather.
  • Past and present tenses. She will die, but after that?  Will I say I had an aunt who died?  That tends to be the traditional form of reference. Or I have an aunt who died? Because is she still my aunt once she’s dead?  Will I ever be able to say I  lost an aunt or will it always be I am losing an aunt? I can’t go find her at the lost and found; she’s not a lost item or a lost person. Losing is active and implies infinity.

I’m glad I got to see you

Such sincerity

She meant it

Her eyes said she loved me

Her eyes said she’d suffered

Her eyes wouldn’t stop talking.

 

In pettiness, I find grief, not just for her. I know I’m something more than wrong, I’m something worse than weak. I don’t think she notices. Maybe she pretends not to hear my burning voice scorching her lifeblood. Maybe she sees that I suffer, too, but I think that’s a self-serving thought, like all of my thoughts.

My aunt is back in the hospital and as usual, it looks dire. Before I saw her, I was telling people, nonchalantly, as if I didn’t care, that she can’t possibly live much longer, that her body can only take so much. She has blue-gray eyes and she was so glad to see me.

So I ruefully weep for her, that she was glad to see me. What’s worse: even if she saw me and my true self, the one that’s angry and put-out, she’d still look at me with those blue-gray eyes and say I’m glad I got to see you.

I wonder if you suffer, too

writer’s guilt and all of that.

To see gray-blue as a feeling

never a hue.

I think the bastards should die. And I think the bastards should live. Those are my comprehensive thoughts about war and the Other Side.

Listen. Let’s say you and I were driving somewhere, maybe to see my mother or camp or go shopping. You are driving. We are in a sharp curve, and a dog runs out in the middle of the road. I scream, “look out,” and you do and then you swerve to avoid hitting it. We crash into a tree. I die, you and the dog live. You are banged up. The dog is fine. The dog is not cute. The dog trots off, unphased. You were in a situation in which you had to react immediately, and you did what most people would do. Or what I/we would hope most people would do. What happens is I die and then you start second-guessing yourself. Not only that, but you’re overcome by the guilt that you and the ugly dog lived while a nice person (me) died. But you go beyond that because you are in such pain. You blame yourself, but then you begin to criticize all the people who ever liked dogs to begin with. All the fanatics who ever placed any value on dogs’ lives or expect others to. All those people are, in part, responsible for this tragedy and how you reacted.

End scene. Now listen. People are scarred by grief. Torture comes in many forms, and I’m most familiar with the self-inflicted kind. The selfish kind. Still, swerving to avoid the dog was the noble thing, no matter what the results were, no matter what the rules of war were, no matter what the “liberal” media says or does.

So, anyway, what I’m saying is this. We should die, and the dogs should live. But also, the dogs should die and we should live. We’re just all trying to live with what we can live with.

So I suppose I’m back to being a bleeding heart.

Even if you question yourself, my death, and the version of me that values the life of dogs.

I don’t question you. I know.

You did the right thing.

Explore grief. Joan Didion introduces you to her world as her husband dies and her only daughter goes though intense medical crises. One of the best books I’ve ever read because Didion is plain-spoken and sharp-edged. She is brilliant at looping ideas to reflect the ruminations of grief/depression—not to mention it’s also a cool writing strategy.

 

I read this for a class few years ago. Here was one of the notes I had about it (for what it’s worth): It’s strange that it’s the Autopsy chapter (18) that seems to be the turning point, the point where we know she’s made it out of the grief.  Not that it’s gone away, but that she’s survived it.  The autopsy seemed to tie things up for Didion. She’d been working hard to lift herself from the abyss for a year.  She’d been coping with Quintana’s illnesses and her own grief for a long time. She’d processed a lot in a year, even if she felt she had not.  The autopsy gave her proof that her thinking was magical, that her blame was fanciful even, that the John’s death was then, and this was now.

Her words haunt me

in the same way

that Holocaust stories do.

 

She said

No

I don’t want to open my eyes

it splatters everywhere

death death death.

 

Her words remind me

one doesn’t have to see the smoke

to smell the ashes.

For her to feel

our family are vandals

carving indifference into her heart

Not here

 

She doesn’t use these exact words

Where are they?

The answer is exacting

hissing in the air around and between us

burning into the walls and branding our skin

every inch

words smoking

notherenotherenotherenotherenotherenotherenothere

SOB with me

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