Sunday, September 23, 2007

End of Men: Disintegration

My mother is moving today. I know I will be blamed--by the circle of my mother's friends and supporters--for not "being there" to help her but the truth is, I am not there. I do not want to see the lost house, or the new, not-my-home condo where she will live from now on.

I know that this is childish and selfish and for now, there is nothing I can do about it.

I have spent the past month being pulled apart like a wishbone by the opposing needs of my divorced parents -- my mother's overwhelming need for help with packing, sorting, labeling and selecting things for a yard sale, letting go, reviewing and discussing as she lets go... and so on; my father's equally enormous need to be managed through the accelerated deterioration of his body, his expulsion from apartment into hospital and then, nursing home... and the vast and breath-taking amount of paperwork required to make that happen.

Which is more important? Who has the greater need?

Three days ago, when she called to ask me about Dad--who was lingering in the hospital for the tenth day--I cradled the telephone between shoulder and ear, trying to bring dinner to the table before 9 pm, trying to stabilize my own home, my own family.

As I pulled open the oven door to remove the beautiful halibut I'd purchased at Trader Joes and rubbed with olive oil and Homa's special fish seasoning, and laid carefully into a Pyrex oven-safe baking dish to broil with new potatoes and onions, the cold front of the kitchen met the higher temperature of the oven and the baking dish suddenly shattered, spewing white hot tempered glass all over the kitchen floor.

"What was that?" Mom shouted, hearing the explosion and my shriek of suprise.
"My Pyrex baking dish just exploded!" I said.
"That's not supposed to happen!" Mom said. "Are you hurt? Are you allright?"
"Yes," I say. "I just have to hang up now; I have to clean it up."
"You should call them!" Mom said, as I knelt, still cradling the telephone with my shoulder, to pick up the fragments. "That's not supposed to happen. You can get your money back. You can get a new dish. You must let them know!"

When Matthew came into the kitchen, to help me pick up the pieces, he said something about a vacation, I don't remember whose and I began to cry, quietly... remembering that I was supposed to go to Paris this summer to study at Chartres and write in a small apartment I'd found that Id been saving up for, that I could afford. I was supposed to go to Paris, it was my 50th birthday gift to myself and I'd been planning it for three years... But I didn;t go because, just as I was about to complete the plans and send the money to the various places it needed to go, my parents' lives erupted all around me, land mines, shattered glass and a vast vortex of need opened up beneath my feet, swallowing me whole.

There was glass all the way across the room, by the front door, by the refrigerator. There was glass inside the oven and under the cabinets and in the broom closet. Perfect little squares of glass.

I feel as if I have been walking through a war zone, the healthy nurse, wrapping head wounds and blows to the heart with soft, gazye sheets of understanding and patience. I feel as if my own blood has been taken from me, transfused for the more needy, my own skin stripped to graft over gaping gashes in a war that I have never understood.

But now I must lie down and I cannot be there. Now I must "be there" for myself.

I am exhausted--fatigued in body, and soul-empty, ovewhelmed by their age-old bile, their dusty rooms, their well-rehearsed grievances, their unspoken secrets. Sorting through their half-packed boxes of old leaves and pressed flowers that fall, disintegrating, from the pages of old books. Ancient relics of dried cellulose, too fragile to be touched, nothing more than memory and air...

Disintegration... that is the word for today, for my world. Disintegration, and my period returns with a vengeance--I bleed so heavily, going through three times my usual protection for twice as many days as I have bled in years. I bleed like a teenager, like a hemorhage, I am bleeding. there is glass all over the floor.

"You should tell them," my mother's words echo in my head.
"I keep sobbing," my father's words burn in my ears as I drive home in the middle of the night.

I am burnt to a crisp by fire, 10 horses lost, I am walking through a white hot world stipped of everything, my home, my community, my family, my skin. Barefoot over broken glass. That is where I am today. Disintegrating and writing pathetic poetry in Panera. Away from home.

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