A beautiful light in this world has dimmed. She was about the age of my oldest daughter, cared about the world — there are so many reasons why this is truly horrid. And I don’t really know what to do with my feelings if I can’t lie abed with books, food and drink. But I can’t. For so many reasons.
In the words of Anne Lamott (Stitches, 2013): “I learned that raising children is hard, that people are ruined, and that friends die, and that still I didn’t need to pick up a drink…no matter how great we looked, everything would pass away, especially the stuff we loved the most and could not live without.”
Eating is the bugaboo here. Not drinking as it has been for Lamott. When I overdrink, we’re talking Starbucks cocoa or a McFlurry, neither of which I’ve had in a couple of years. But food is a different kettle of chocolate entirely.
I certainly didn’t starve myself over Thanksgiving, but this morning I do weigh 1 pound less than last Wednesday (the day before). I enjoyed some of everything and on a couple of evenings, more than some. On our third night in Baltimore, though, I came back with the crowd from a marvelous, not particularly indulgent, dinner at The Helmand (an Afghan restaurant in Baltimore) and had a single glass of red wine, period, before bed.
What I also had was the pleasure of spouse, children and grandchildren, both at the dinner table and around our daughter’s table back at her house, laughing, being silly with craft supplies, watching the youngest make a tiny gingerbread house complete with a cyclops baby figure sitting outside the house on a chocolate chip (you figure it out).
We had each other, for real and in person, not family as abstract concept or forlorn ideal. They were completely realized, fully present, moments in time. (Addicts do not have a lot of fully present moments if you don’t already know that.)
“I was raised in a family where none of us ever raised a voice, so there was no room to express feelings of rage or even unabashed joy,” says Lamott, “a little bashed joy, here or there, or being mildly disgruntled.” Which is why I feel such unabashed joy in my children’s and their children’s happiness. This holiday weekend just over feels positively magical, and we don’t say that often enough in my family.
And then the death of my friend. I’m not a crier. Should I rage against the storm like Lear? Bake cookies for her funeral next week? (They are the same action except cookies are less likely to scare the horses and more likely to give comfort.)
I cannot stop thinking about the lunch we shared a few weeks ago. Of her excitement at the life ahead as her children became increasingly independent. Of her obvious affection for her entire family, the laughter when she talked about her mother using the money children were paying for a caretaker to give the caretaker paid vacation. Her enjoyment in my red and black “holstein” purse which I must try to find.
I have nothing tangible that was hers, but I have the shock and awe I experienced when she moved cheerfully with two young children and an infant into a camper while her house had some lengthy fixes. In the sizzling summer heat. I remember the snacks those two children brought to swim meets and the zest with which all her children have met and are meeting life.
Reviews have said “Stitches” is Lamott’s most meaningful book yet, and it’s the first one to which I turned this morning: “All you can do is say, ‘I get it: You are somewhere else now. But little flecks of you remain, like mica in rock, which glint and say: It was all true.’ ”
And this: “The good news is that if you don’t seal up your heart with caulking compound, and instead stay permeable, people stay alive inside you, and maybe outside you, too, forever.” Amen.
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