Ana died three months ago today. Her last look at the world was filled with grey skies and skeletal trees, the scenery so unforgiving that she barely even touched the new camera she’d been so excited to buy in January.
I’ve stopped replaying her last few weeks the way I did at first, but this week–as strawberries ripen and the landscape becomes fully green, I’ve found myself back there again. I keep thinking about February and March and wishing I could’ve gotten her the hell out of the Hudson Valley, taken her someplace warm and green and far away from this prison of a house. She died two days after the spring equinox. Will every change of season feel like a punch in the gut?
The bleakness crept up on me. I didn’t make the connection until around Monday when I remembered the 22nd would be here soon.
One morning, I walked into her bedroom (as I do every morning), drew a tiny heart on her chalkboard wall, sat on her bed and cried. I’m not supposed to draw on her chalkboard wall. She said only kids could do that, but except for Marissa and Evi (and Emily), no kids go into her room anymore. So, I’ve started filling her wall with hearts – one each day.
On Tuesday night, I opened a fresh bottle of wine and promptly drank three quarters of it (I typically don’t drink more than one or two glasses, if I drink at all).
For the last few days, I couldn’t stop looking up, searching for a bird that might mean she’s nearby. I’ve become so obsessed with seeing birds and figuring out what they are, that I downloaded a birding app. Yesterday I sat for a long time looking at various birds and playing their songs.
I’ve been talking to Ana–a lot. One morning when I took Roo outside (off leash), he darted toward the street just as my neighbor was pulling out of his driveway. I screamed Roo’s name, but he didn’t stop. In desperation, I looked up and said, “Ana!” Roo stopped short and waited for me to come scoop him up.
I began reading another grief memoir–this one is called Disaster Falls, written by local Woodstock father, Stéphane Gerson who lost his son Owen to a drowning accident in 2008. I’m having a harder time with this one than Rare Bird (a memoir written by a woman who lost her son Jack to a drowning accident). Maybe it’s because this family is so much closer to home. Maybe it’s because my mood was so dark to begin with when I started reading it. Maybe it’s one tragedy too many–another child here than gone, another family shattered.
At one point, Gerson described exactly what it feels like during the first year of grief:
“There were changes during that [first] year, but they rarely rose to consciousness. The main thing I noticed was Owen receding from view, ever further away. Otherwise, the days melded into one another, each day equally insurmountable, each one overflowing with sensations and experiences and yet equally hollow. Time flattened out” — from: Disaster Falls by Stéphane Gerson
Time has flattened out.
The Ana I know is receding from view.
Three months… The silence in this house is unbearable.
But…this morning I woke up and the grief felt easier. The day is here. I’m here. Emily’s here. Jim’s here. Ana’s presence, if not her body, is here. And, instead of dwelling on the last cruel weeks of winter, I felt a kind of lightness at the gorgeous morning. Just like the magical Rainier cherries that appeared on our heretofore fruitless cherry tree, I had a sense that Ana was behind this feeling, that she was enjoying the sunshine from wherever she is (not close, but not very far away…)
I’ve been thinking that if I look too hard for her, if I dwell in a state of despair and profound sadness, if I watch the sky for signs – and watch and watch and watch – she’ll hang back. It reminds me of when she was too shy to sing in front of me. I wanted to hear her voice so bad, that I’d end up pushing her too hard – begging, demanding, imploring her to sing. It wasn’t until I backed off (sometimes going into another room to listen through the wall) that she let me hear her voice. I even wrote a poem about it when she was nine which (of course) I’m compelled to share here.
Capturing a Songbird
You are Ana who sings
with a strong voice
my little songbird
your fragile resolve is so fleeting
I am the one who hears
in this big place
with ears of truth like corn
rows & rows of it
blocking our view of the road
all flatness and despair
until you sing
and in my head I sing with you
hitting the high notes with ease
at last remembering the melody,
but I am outside of that place
afraid my teary-eyed pride will startle you
like a sparrow in the brush
forced to take flight
and only for a note, a word, the smallest melody
because you are my baby
I can listen to you sing and sing and sing
I was riding the imagined cadence of your voice
long before you were born