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This is what it was like.

That year, Myron’s job sent him on a continuing ed course during the week of Valentine’s Day. I pouted. I was still newlywed enough to be upset by this. I had forgotten what there is in life to be upset about.

I don’t remember anymore which day it was, the fourteenth or the fifteenth. I spent it with a local friend, writing at her table during the day while she did work of her own. We ate dinner and saw Pan’s Labyrinth. She and her husband brought me home and I called Myron in his hotel room. Said things like I miss you. Busied myself with something insignificant until my brother called and asked me, confusingly, “What do you know?”

I knew nothing. But that morning my mother had collapsed and had been flown to a hospital. She had not regained consciousness. It appeared she had been sicker than she told anyone. For weeks we consulted with doctors, stood at her bedside, waited to see some response. We had difficult conversations. We tried not to think about it. We failed. And then it was over, on a gently snowing day, while I drew hearts on her hand with my fingertip.

The time in between Valentine’s and the anniversary of her death is a strange island in my year, surrounded on all sides by dread. Knowledgeable People will tell you that everyone’s grief is different, and that is true, but once you have grieved you can thresh the grief of others and wind up with grains of common experience. Yesterday I saw this post from Christine at flutter and felt the truth of her loss in my spine: I think I chose you from high above, when I was deciding where I would walk in life. I think I chose you for the things I saw in you. And I think: Yes. I know this. That is what it was like.

The rest of the year, when I am not navigating the shoals of my winter archipelago, I might let a statement like Christine’s float on by, maybe repeat it to myself to appreciate the fancy before I let it go. Right now, though, it is easy to believe that I was nothing but fiction once, both author and character like a good PoMo writer ought to be. I chose my people, put them together for the “best sentence and most solas,” let them bounce off each other. I forgot what there was to be upset about, but the story didn’t leave me hanging.