Sunday, November 18, 2012


I’m sorry.
We hear these words often, whenever someone asks us about their father. I am so sorry.
And we never know how to respond. We can’t say yes, you should be, even if it’s possible that you should.
How could we face that? The fact that we are people whom others feel sorry for? How could we walk tall, smile, laugh, be intelligent or strong or cheerful knowing  that everyone feels sorry for us? We would have to fit in with their expectations and be lost, heartbroken, and hopeless if we agreed that we should be the subjects of sympathy. 
We don’t ever say, yes, you should be. What we say is: “It’s ok.”

But it is not ok. It makes us feel very uncomfortable saying that it is. As if we are cold and uncaring, as if we never miss him, as if remembering his death does nothing to impair our high spirits.
Sometimes I laugh when I say it. Not always. It doesn’t even matter that laughter is the worst answer, nothing that I have ever said in response to “I’m so sorry” erases the strangeness that enters the other person's eyes when I say it‘s ok.
What is it? That they actually feel sorry? That they are afraid? That they don’t believe that I’m ok? That they think it’s horrible that I am ok? Maybe they’re just uncomfortable like me?

Inevitably, the next question is: how did he die?
My oldest daughter answers enigmatically. Her top responses are as follows:
“From a head wound.”
“From a gun wound.”
“A bullet.”
I believe that this works for her because she is young and quiet. Though they don’t know what they really wanted to know they dare not press the issue. Those brief and incomplete explanations send people scurrying as if a grenade has just landed at their feet. The wideness of their eyes parallels the unblinking roundness of a full moon.

I tend to half whisper:
“It was a suicide.”
I feel ashamed every time I am forced to admit this. After the first answer there is just a certain amount of darkness hovering around us, the general gloom of death. We might have been a nice happy family that suffered a tragedy. People might picture him as a war veteran, or the victim of a sudden car accident, or  as someone that succumbed to a terminal illness.
Then they learn that he wanted to die. Another question springs to their minds of course, but it is not the kind of question one asks.
Why? Why? Why? It is a much greater darkness, a sin, this particular death. And it implies that we were never a nice happy family, there was always something about us which could have commanded sympathy.

Frequently I wish that I would have thought of something else to say. A complete fabrication. A lie, Huckleberry style.

“He was a lion tamer, like his father before him. It was their final act, the famous 'jaws of death', a real crowd pleaser, but sadly, Cuddles, the lion, sneezed at a most inopportune moment claiming my darling husband's life. Cuddles also  had to be put down. Once a man eater, even if by accident, always a man eater.”
“He was walking down California St. and somebody dropped a piano on his head.”
“He was a stunt aviator. A seagull hit his windshield during a loop de loop and he spun wildly out of control.”
“He was a Sherpa. Just before retiring he led one last group into the Himalayas but none of them were ever seen again.”
“He and his party were eaten by cannibals during an anthropological study of indigenous Amazonian peoples.”
“We were at the zoo. An escaped elephant trampled him to death near the penguin exhibit. He ran in front of it actually. To push a baby stroller out of the way.”

I wish I would have chosen one of these and stuck with it until it was as good as true. But I forget that we are shrouded in great darkness and only remember it once the line of questioning brings me back to a half whisper.
We would prefer to be casual acquaintances forever, people you recognize by the way we smile and laugh. People you know who are good at crocheting and singing and giving hugs. People that read a lot and wear funny hats and talk too loudly.
But never people you are sorry for. Never  people who lost someone. That is really never ok.
We say these words often, whenever someone asks us about their father. It’s ok. We say them just as often as we hear these words:  I’m sorry. 
And despite the fact that it never really is, whenever we are asked,  it is always ok.
It’s Ok.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, November 11, 2012

North Wind

Stop making that face or the North wind might blow and freeze that look there. That’s what my grandmother used to say, and there is some truth in this, though I doubt she thought so.
You never know when the north wind is going to blow, when it will huff and puff and blow your house down. What kind of face will you be caught making when the cards come crashing down to the table? Will you find yourself as a queen of hearts or a queen of spades? A Diamond or a club perhaps? Will you be caught light as a feather on the scale or heavy as a noose when so and so weighs your heart?
The weight of your own heart can drag you down,
That face that you were making, was it heavy with the charge of negative emotion as the North wind blew, or was it electrified  with the charge of real emotion?
As I ask these questions I ponder my own faces, the masks I wear in different plays, the uncontrolled contortions of my vessel, my outward shape.
I, like all of my kind, am a factory for processing light. I am a play, a shape, a program, a ride, a structure, a labyrinth for channeling the vital essence of life.
But am I a mad house or a sanctuary? What am I creating with the essence of life if I am making faces without will, the random mad house faces of jealously or greed or fear or even happiness? Am I making anything more or less than a hot mess?
The essential nature of creation involves three elements, the raw diamond of attention, the putty called matter (oh mother) that can take many shapes, and the essential essence of life, the being, the baby, little sleeping beauty- a thing of potential whose birth is yet to come. It lies passive in the mother's womb, in every particle of matter.
And when that cold wind blows that shape that it has assumed in the cup of mother's womb, is the shape in which it will be born.
This is the reason that we must consider death through the course of what we call life. Death in fact, that cold north wind, is an icy midwife who delivers you into the next realm of experience.
You will enter this realm in precisely the shape your attention forged in the mother and your journey of transformation will not be over then.
They call it work for a reason, for precisely this reason, because the attention works to create, it must if you would choose an apt face for a suitable birth. And there is no end that we can perceive, merely a series of doorways, through which to pass once you have oozed your way through the crystalline structure of a lifetime.
And you never know when you will be thrust through that door, when the matter will open wide and the midwife will grab you screaming by the crown and pull you into the next world.
What face will you be wearing when you arrive there?
That face will be the shape of the world.
Will it be the contorted face you wear as you grasp desperately for some object of desire? Or will it be a clear face of unattached and concentrated attention?

Labels: , , , , , , ,