The last time I blogged, I created a rather Himalayan-esque pile of tissues throughout the writing process. Then I watched “Fried Green Tomatoes“, which was literally dehydrating.
That movie is comfort food for the soul; it’s engrossing, well-acted, set in Alabama in this romantic time (not counting the KKK whipping the help and throwing rocks through window). Still there’s a whole lot of tragedy mixed in with all the fried chicken and biscuits. And for me, by the time Jessica Tandy tells Kathy Bates that “best friends” are the greatest thing in life, tears shoot out of my eyes like vomit out of the mouth of a teenage girl after a ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl.
I’d really like to come to the table with something light and jokey–maybe discuss Miley Cyrus, and how my only issue with her controversial VMA twerking, was use and abuse of that god-damned foam finger.
Listen, Miley is a little bat-shit, I’ll grant you that. But she has been employed since she was 5, working hours that would break a grown adult, her father is Billy Ray Cyrus…plus she’s got a rocking figure, and if I looked like that, I’d rock beige latex and rub my foam finger all over Robin Thicke‘s wang. You only live once right?
When I came home from work last night, Ben was on the phone looking rather serious. He was listening intently, but being equal measures of concerned and nosy, we had a brief game of “Is everything okay?” “Is everyone okay” “Is someone dead?” “Is it your Nana?” . It’s possibly the worst game show idea ever, but I really excelled at the task at hand. But it’s not really a fist pumping, couch jumping, ‘in your face’ kind of moment. It’s just sad. And when things like this happen, you feel so very far away. Like you wished you could hop in the car and pop down the street to comfort the ones you love. Or just have a cup of tea and a chat. But we’ve all scattered to the winds, and really the glue that holds us together is the internet. I immediately send some messages, make connections with Ben’s family, who are so much more than in-laws to me. I say to Ben that we should write a little something so someone can read it. Ben shakes his head, “That’ll never make it in time”. Uh, well there’s this new invention called the ‘interweb‘, and apparently you can just send things and people get them instantly. But that’s fine, grief does strange things to us all, forgetting the internet is a symptom of loss.
I kid, but of course, it breaks my heart. Especially when Ben starts reminiscing. We go for a walk, and after a moment of quiet Ben starts talking. His oft-mentioned memory was visiting their Auckland home, one with a grand pool and a hot tub. His Nana would always put on quite a spread. His eyes really light up at the mention of the food, and he always called it a ‘spread’. Apparently at Nana’s house, you’d just eat and swim and soak up the rays. Then you’d eat an amazing roast dinner with these amazing potatoes that you couldn’t even cut. They were that crispy. And she wore delicious perfume and gave excellent hugs. “She was a good Nana”, he said, his voice husky and soft. I couldn’t get that picture out of my mind, the thought of my husband as a child, lounging poolside, a full tummy, a face smiling. I always imagine him smiling. He has mentioned this often enough for it to make me believe that that was a childhood happy place. When we were last in Auckland, we went to visit his grandparents at their home. We had champagne in the same kind of glasses they used in “Casablanca”, and the whole thing was very civilized.
Their home looked dusty, rough around the edges, the pool was empty and the shrubbery had grown over. Ben saw small repairs to be done anywhere, and it bothered him deeply that he was leaving the country soon and couldn’t do much. We were days away from leaving for Canada, and this was our last visit with them. Last night, lying on the air mattress, talking about his grandmother, an invisible thread was spun between this blissful boyhood experience, with the disrepair of their home, the weathering of time, to this moment when she was gone, and we were so far away, and all we could do was remember quietly in the dark. Ben, feeling bereft and homesick this morning, took a personal day. I started later, so I could sit with him longer, nestled on the couch, coffee in hand. I wanted to be with him all day, but didn’t want to miss work, so I thought about getting home for a bit of lunch, and trying to nip out a few minutes early. All day my mind was stuck on my husband. How was he feeling? What was he thinking? Was he coping? Of course, of all days, fate intervened and I got so busy at work, and traffic was thick, and once I burst in the door and I had all but ten minutes to see my lover. On the radio was a very soulful rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, which was a real steering wheel gripper. Gulping back emotion, I park the van in the loading zone and sprint up the stairs and burst into the front door. Ben is playing X-Box, and pauses momentarily to acknowledge my presence. Clearly this is a man who did not just hear “Bridge Over Troubled Water” while playing online. He also feel asleep before “Fried Green Tomatoes” ended, so I don’t think he’s as emotionally amped as I, even though it’s technically his loss that we’re dealing with.
Now I’m bugged, and really regretting having sprinted up the stairs. I could have gone to Starbucks and had a latte, but instead came home to be ignored by you. But…wouldn’t you like to sob into my bosom while I hold you like a baby? Wouldn’t that be a nice use of time? “Is this how you are reflecting today?” I make that squinty face that many women make, when they are trying to appear hip and ‘with it’, when really we want you to change that shirt. He’s fragile, I know, he’s dealing with a loss, so he should pass the time as he likes. Ben makes a squinting face back at me, in the same way most men do when trying to assess whether his Mrs is being serious, kidding, or just fucking crazy. Not quite Miley Cyrus foam finger crazy, but somewhere in that neighborhood. “What do you want me to do? Wear a black veil?”. Well, yes, I know that life goes on and all, but there’s protocol. But it’s difficult when you are far from home, absent from the planning, the service, exempt from collective grieving. I remember when my Welsh-Grandpa died, the next morning I wore florescent lime green socks. I was a young, rather conservative kid dealing with a first brush with death, it was a real ‘what the hell, live a little’ moment. Some bully made a point of joking about my socks but I was indigent. You don’t understand, I’ve suffered a loss; these socks are my way of cutting loose. So, I suppose we take our losses, and bury them somewhere under a bright color, or in whatever gets over those waves of bereavement: talking, working, reading, writing, blogging or gaming. A good movie, a yoga class, a warm blanket and a lingering hug. You still got to have a little fun. After all, you only live once.