Rainy Days

Posted by on May 8, 2008 in Death and renewal, Spirit | 0 comments

This time of year never suits my temperament. I am too skeptical to trust the long soft days, the warm sun, the boring endless beauty of it all. Gerry, my daughter’s British father in law paid me his highest compliment on our children’s wedding day as I stood laughing under the dripping white tent in my backyard, barefooted and ankle deep in water. “You were born to be British,” he exclaimed and gave me a hug. I hugged him back and loved him from that moment on. Yes, I thought, I do pride myself on being a rock during disaster, but sometimes I wish I could relax and enjoy it when everything is going well. I’ve often tried to analyze this character trait; to decide if it’s good or bad. I have determined it makes no difference because it is too deeply ingrained to pry loose.

Even an innate expectation of disaster did not completely prepare any of us for the marriage not working out, but by the time she arrived home, my arm was steady for her to lean on until she found her feet again. She and Nick have managed to salvage a wonderful friendship from the ruins, as close as the one she has with her brothers. They talk on the phone every week and they still share each other’s joys and sorrows. She embraced his family as her own and he did the same with ours. Except for the ocean separating us we would find nothing awkward about including them all in family gatherings along with his girlfriend and her boyfriend. I’m certain his staunchly Catholic family would have more difficulty adjusting to that sort of unconventionality, but all in all, things turned out wonderfully well.

She went to Detroit this weekend, all sunshine and smiles on the outside, looking forward to the electronic music festival. She called me Friday night from somewhere in Ohio with that sound in her voice that sets off mama radar. “Bid is in hospital,” she said, in the British phrasing appropriate for the mother in law she still loves. “Nick’s in Shipley. He just called me. It’s a brain tumor Mom. She can’t speak or move her left side.” My mind flashes back through the relationship I too have shared with this lovely woman, the first time we met in there lovely family home, the bonding we all did together in August of 2005, during what came to be known as “Wedstock”, the bittersweet visit to say goodbye to those family ties a year ago this month. I allow myself only a microsecond of personal grief as I think about the faces of Bid’s children and grandchildren, but most of all, my own girl’s heartache.

“Are you okay,” I ask, knowing she will somehow feel to blame for this. She had a dream on Mother’s Day that Bid died. I know she’s thinking she should have insisted Bid go for testing at that time, perhaps before the tumor spread so far into the speech centers, perhaps when it could have been operable. It’s one of those foolish human things we all do, believing we have some control over a random universe. All weekend I have googled “brain tumor” and followed the threads past the grim prognosis for Ted Kennedy to a few places that give me hope for recovery. The odds depend on location and aggressiveness, neither of which we know at this point.

Tonight a part of my heart is in England in a comfortable modest home in Shipley. The piano in the dining room is silent, the brothers and sisters, the children and grandchildren who have come home from London, Scotland, Italy, and New Zealand sleep fitfully, if at all. It is dark there now, but when the morning sun rises it will fall first on the flowers in the back garden, the ones she tends so lovingly. They will all try to step around the empty place where she should be, but one by one they will trip and fall into it. There will be tears, but there will also be laughter, and hope, because she, the very definition of home for them all, has taught them well. For the few seconds after waking, before remembrance of the reality of the day, Gerry will think of the kettle, the trek to the kitchen and back to the bedroom with tea, the sweet moments together at the break of day, the ritual he has performed every day of their married life. Anguish will come back afresh when he rolls over into the empty space where she should be. I have no bargaining power with God and even if I did, I would have no idea what to ask. I only know life is capricious and even though the rain supposedly falls on the just and the unjust, this particular storm feels personal.

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