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five from the land of first and forgotten things

The first bell rings. There is a slam of a heavy door somewhere that echoes through the church. It's probably not part of the service, but what do I know? Everything is symbolic here. I do not understand most of the words and I do not know these songs and I do not even want to be here, no one does, but the alternative is that he would be suffering, somewhere, in a bed, staring into a corner or sedated or throwing a keychain and refusing to submit to an injection. And I do not have a choice and neither did he, so we are a few feet away from each other and he is colorless and still and bedecked in finery. I stand for hours and listen to the men sing for him, sing him home, beg forgiveness on his behalf.
*
Winter blew in and froze everything and it feels like Winnipeg again, cold as Mars. I forgot my gloves on Saturday. The wind blew through two layers of pants and two layers of tops and a massive parka, through my skin. It turned my bones blue. My hands barely escaped frostbite. I shoved them into my pockets and paced until the bus came. Fifteen steps east, fifteen west. I stop the processing and grief for a minute because I cannot think of anything else except the cold and how my brain has forgotten it from last January. What else have I forgotten? What was first? 
*
I send an email: It's kind of amazing how some things never change I say, and I know the woman getting it will hear the fury beneath those words, even though they sound almost winsome out of context. I send an email: I love you and am glad I do not have to talk about dementia with you anymore and these are true things, but I do not trust brains anymore; they feel capricious and half magic and I wonder if I even remember how to talk about other things. I send an email: I was up in the middle of the night so I have been Bowie-sad since then. It is just a further thumb-press on top of the already existing FIL sadness and I do know the difference between the two and I am the kind of person who loves to press her thumb on bruises, so here I go, pressing.
*
First was this: When I was little, two years old, I asked my mother: Daddy come home now? Daddy come home now? When? She was 22 and had to explain over and over that he was not coming home, what dead meant. And I would get sad and then I would ask again. When? At some point I stopped asking and maybe it was a relief and maybe it was worse, maybe it was all downhill from there.
*
At the newspaper office, Myron drops off the obituary and a photograph. A woman tells him that the year ahead will be a year of firsts. First Easter, first birthday. You know. The first without. And yes, she is right, but to have watched Papá change over the past years--from the first time I saw him pray, at our wedding, until he became the man who played with my hair when I stood beside his hospital bed--is to have been clocking firsts all this time. The first time I lost my temper with him, the first indignity of an aging body, the first time I was sure I knew the difference between the slipping of memory that comes with aging and the slipping of self. Each one rang their own bell. I remember their pitches and their trailing tones, first, first, first, again, first.

five from the early dark and the sliver-moon

I didn't write yesterday because how could I. I always default to stunned silence. 
*
All the trees that matter are naked now. The trees that matter are the four nearest my house that shed enough leaves to make a hundred of those commercials where people jump into leaf piles. I'm nearly finished with the raking and every time I turn over a new clump of them I'm slammed with that vanilla-earth smell and I just love it. It wasn't much past four that the motion-detector light started flashing because of me. It's too early for this, too early. I am trying to have a better autumn attitude, but this is not something you can assemble out of a kit.
*
I've developed a bizarre fixation on roasted chicken lately, crisp shattering skin and salt and butter and thyme. Cold slices in the morning for breakfast. I remember the man who loved roast chickens in Amelie and I dig for the oysters. I don't think Myron knows they exist. Don't tell. 
*
It is impossible to have too many candles. It is impossible to have too much light when darkness is walking close enough to step on the heels of your shoes. I figure if you're old enough to decide what heals you, and if flickering yellow light in your immediate vicinity is what does it, then you strike a match. 
*
Leslie Jamison: We dismiss sentimentality in order to construct ourselves as arbiters of artistry and subtlety, so sensitive we don't need the same crude quantities of feeling--those blunt surfaces, baggy corpses. We will subsist more delicately, we say. We will subsist on less. You should read The Empathy Exams anyway but especially now, because I've mentioned it to you at the end of another day on this planet, because you are sentimental, because you are not.

five

I feel like it's a good thing, or maybe just a necessary one, to occasionally get sick of the sound of your own voice, no matter how grand your self-esteem may be. If you have a blog you can take time off from contributing to it, but unless you shut it down the voice is still there, hanging out, collecting six stray page views a day. Someone out there is hearing you for the first time and deciding if you screech or echo or ring like a big old church bell. If you're lucky someone will tell you what you sound like, and if you're very lucky they will say there's something in your sound that reminds them of a Dolly Parton song, the one they expect to hear when they go to their great reward. They will confess that, yes, Dolly Parton is their personal vision of what God must be like. There are worse religions.

*

Sand Verbena, Joshua Tree, and Dune Primrose. 

Sand Verbena, Joshua Tree, and Dune Primrose. 

I'm wearing Kai again lately, and Child too.  Kai is nectar for the skin and perfect for wearing out of the house because it won't clobber anyone else. I wore it Saturday while I walked through St. Boniface with the local WWPW group and caught stray notes of it when my scarf moved against my throat. Child is for feeling your humanity and opening up Notepad windows to write blog posts and breathing deeply and listening to Myron talk about sports anthropologists. These two fragrances are both oils; I've gotten away from anything that sprays these days. A tiny ball-stoppered vial of The Exact Friction of Stars sits in the little dish where I stow my hair-clippies; I only wear that when I wear heels. Near my watches, I keep a trio of the old Aveda Desert Pure-Fume oils, also in rollerballs. They're ancient and haven't broken down after all these years (twelve or thirteen, I think???). I'll be sad when they're gone. I wore Joshua Tree the day I got married. It's bliss, green and gorgeous bliss. I'll tell you what, though: Helmut Lang is bringing back their amazing fragrances and this means I can use what's left of my bottle of the EdP without raising my fist to the heavens every time. And oh, I will spray it, will I ever.

*

It's fall now and that usually hurts. This year it doesn't. It's like that year I realized I liked raw tomatoes after hating them all my life. Autumn isn't beautiful here and its main function seems to be reminding you how short summer was. (We had snow in May. We'll have snow again shortly. They say it snowed the other day; I didn't see it so it's just not true.) But it's crisp and everyone's happy about football and hockey coming soon and the face-paring winds and the snow itself, all of which reminds Winnipeg that there are some things it does best, and one of those is winter. They tell you that if you dress for it, it shouldn't bother you. Believe them at your peril, but dress for it anyway.

*

Wish list: A pair of chocolate-milk colored argyle socks, in soft soft cotton. A thick winter hat that will cover my escape-artist ears but won't wreak too much hat-head on my new longer hair. A pocket universe where I can escape to read without time passing in this one. The perfect lavender-gray nail polish. Corduroys, so deeply burgundy that they look black. One last perfect peach (or time travel back to August for one). That I had hidden away a slab of alder-smoked salmon the last time we made it, so that I could eat it for breakfast tomorrow. Health and ease for the people I love. And maybe for the Helmut Lang people to convince someone in power to resurrect Guess Original, which I wore during the years I believed in myself the most.

*

The danger of getting sick of your own voice and subsequently going silent is that eventually you have things to say, some big and portentous and others tiny and meaningless, as ephemeral as a fragrance. Silence builds like noise does. And then no matter how you begin, it feels like this:

This is me, trying not to be silent, clearing my throat in case of portentous things. Making noise out of smells. Remembering my mother's giant, heavy, cold bottle of Obsession, which I got to use on special occasions. Taking thirty seconds to imagine the sacraments in the church of Dolly Parton. Dressing for it.

five from ottawa

My shoulder is at about 85%. This week is one where I have to use it extensively—I have to finish packing, and more than just a box or two at a time. The shoulder will also have to support me while I lie on my side to paint the baseboards in the entry and in the entire upstairs (three bedrooms and a bath). The sight of those baseboards over the past two months has been an indictment every time I looked at them. My ice packs are back in my freezer, just in case I beat myself up a little too much. Myron reminds me that there is no rush here, but I am sick of this purgatory, of not knowing when we will move or where or how much it will cost us. The morning chill and yellow leaves in the yard remind me of what’s coming. No one in their right mind wants to move into Winnipeg after the snow has started.

#

Myron does not have a Don Draper drawer. I have put off packing his office until the end because I wanted to preserve his privacy, even though there is almost nothing there to hide. A few years ago, a friend of mine lost her husband very young, and it was impossible for me to keep from imagining myself in her position, especially with the treacherous road Myron took to bike to work. I pictured myself opening a sticky, stubborn drawer of his massive desk and hearing it bark in protest that its master was gone. Now I open the drawers and wonder if any stray papers are things that I was never supposed to see. The Lifetime Drama subroutine in my brain says Gentle Man! So indulgent, so in love! Nothing to hide, not ever! Then it plays soap-operatic flights of music as Lifetime Drama subroutines do, and I think This is why the secret is always SO gutwrenching. Then I remember who I married and who I am, and I put the things in boxes and wrap them up with tape.

#

The rain started late Friday night. Saturday morning I woke up early to a pearly gray dawn. Three hours later, it looked the same, as if time had stopped. Five hours later, six, and still the opalescent light. Everyone hid in their homes, and the park was silent. Everything was silent, really, except the rain against the shingles and eaves. I realized that I have been waiting for a rain like this, an all-day soul-soaking rain, for months now. Something in me is breathing more easily, and something else feels washed away.

#

Wrapped around the capable, functional, washed-clean core of me is a double helix of panic and inevitability. Whichever crisis rises, it is immediately put down by remembering that everything is an eventuality. The house will be sold, the move will take place, it will all happen no matter how badly I might mess anything up. (Did I ever tell you about the time we filled out a form in pencil and the government employee called us you stupid kids?) It would be really great if the inevitability would hang around so that the panic would stop foaming up. I need an older gentleman, someone in his seventies who smells like coffee and mothballs, to chuck me on the shoulder and ask me what I’ve got to worry about, maybe call me toots or missy.

#

Maybe I should be doing more Breathing In of the Air and Appreciation of the World Around Me. Doing more mindful eating instead of eating quick half-meals, taking more photographs. Maybe I should even be trying harder to sweep aside the clouds in my crystal ball and getting a better vision of what’s to come. Not doing this feels like yet another failure, though, and right now I am trying not to be hard on myself about failures. I am trying to be an accepter and say yes, that happened and trying not to dwell. I dwell, though. I am down in it. I feel completely alone. And then in his drawer, where I try to be careful with things without being nosy, I see a photo of myself, and I wonder how I could have ever felt alone, ever, ever.

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