Kensal Green (c) carole craig
“The worst of it is over now, and I can’t say that I am glad. Amy Hempel, BG, SL TOG, INC, CONT, REP
I don’t know how to grieve. Perhaps I lost the knowledge when my daughter was very ill and there were times, many times, when it wasn’t clear if she would live or die. I would come back from the hospital, lie on the bed, and wrap my arms around the dog. After awhile, I would get up and go on with the inconsequential tasks of living. I believed, egotistically, and probably erroneously, that if I went down into the pit, fell into the abyss, if I didn’t keep going, my daughter wouldn’t either.
With my mother it is different, of course. My daughter lived, my mother died. Since her death I’ve filled time with the things to be done: papers to find, papers to sign; her cremation and her wake (yes, in that order), papers to send, papers to examine, her garden to save, her house to repair, her memorial to plan, her plants to water, her friends to find the right words for. “It was a good, long life, a triumph,” I say. “She was herself until the very end.”
It is not that I don’t recognise that something is wrong. I talk too much. I don’t call my friends. I say the stupid things and have to apologise often. I take the dogs on the short walks only. I can’t sleep. I don’t play with the cat. I can’t clean my mother’s room. I sleep too much. I can’t clean my own room. I almost remember my dreams. The basement is full of dust. I don’t cry.
I hoped the Day of the Dead might me teach something. In the Mission, people whose faces have been painted white like sugar skulls follow Choc Mool. When the line arrives at the square, brimming with its alters, its photographs, its candles, it as though some darkness has been conquered, the zombies smothered in a blanket of love. Next year, I think, maybe, I can put something there for my mother there.
But I don’t feel any different and I get on with the jobs.
There is a meeting to plan my mother’s memorial. We discuss the tickets and who will perform. What is needed and how to get it. These are intelligent, competent people. They loved her. She will enjoy her memorial and I can leave it in their hands. When the meeting is over I walk out into strange, dark Berkeley and realise that I have now done everything for my mother I had to do. There is nothing left. For the first time I am profoundly empty. I am bereft.