Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Pierre Bonnard

Conversation between Friends over a Cup or Two of Earl Grey Tea

Carolina missed her mother intensely in the first weeks after the event. Joanna had died twelve years before, and well before this was not herself, or I should say, was another, different, somewhat demented self. Carolina believed that the strength of visits from the dead waxes and wanes according to rules the living can’t possibly imagine. Joanna came to her daughter predictably enough when holidays approached. There would be an extra dollop of pleasure coming from an almost tangible, audible, (“You need more evergreens on the mantle.” Or, “Aren’t you going to put up the crèche?”) visual Joanna when it was time to decorate the house for Christmas. Her anxiety about planning, cleaning, and cooking for life’s occasions was certainly not hers alone. However, spirits don’t put much store in predictability, as Carolina, and I, for that matter, learned. For example, Carolina, who had been reserved around strangers for most of her life, would become garrulous at odd times—she’d happily chat about details of her life with people she couldn’t expect to ever see again. When and where didn’t seem to matter to her. And there, almost part of the conversation, would be her mother, her presence strong, inside her, not 84 and dying, but 60, plump, beautiful, interested in her daughter’s doings and in everyone else’s. 

In the materials the nurses gave Carolina with her hospital discharge papers were kindly worded comments about depression being common after a heart attack and reassurances that if she did this and that and “gave herself time” her mood would improve. This was quite true she discovered. Once she got out of the ICU and home again, she brightened. Of course. Maybe, she thought, the next test would show that her heart muscle was not so badly damaged after all; driving would someday be permitted; travel might be possible. The sadness underneath these better thoughts might finally stop thickening her throat, she was sure, if she could only feel her mother close by. But Joanna had disappeared. 

Then one day, not long ago, Carolina understood. For this time of recovering, after this time of nearly dying, not one of her beloved dead, not even her mother, should be keeping her company. Living brothers, friends, cousins were who she needed now. And indeed, they were there for her in myriad ways, willing to help, eager to extend love and warmth. Carolina also understood, although maybe not as well, that when she herself stopped thinking about death, her wise mother might consider it safe to join her again. I think she's right about that. These days I've come to believe if our dead sense that we are giving into reveries about our own departure, almost enjoying the heavy and sunless air we are breathing, if they think all these morbid thoughts are unnecessary and premature, they, our beloved dead, will keep a distance from us. I feel certain that Carolina will smell her mother’s sandalwood soap the next time one of life’s innumerable glories rocks her soul or sets her laughing or moves her to dance or plants her firmly again on Earth’s good ground. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are wise beyond words, my dear friend. Write on!