My brother Alec left NYC yesterday in a cab among swirls of rain blowing up the skirts of new York and bringing the spring, and the airports, to a chilly halt. It felt appropriate, after a weekend of walking and climbing and moving together through the colors of my life that look sometimes unfamiliar even to me, that he should leave just as he arrived – among irreverent uncertainty. Once he was gone, I resumed my life just as I had left it, answered my office phone and transplanting excel columns from one worksheet to another.
For most of this weekend I simply spent time with a good old friend of mine. Many times I took time to admire who this human being was, this person who I knew only as my brother, what kind of person he had grown into and the way that he managed to operate acceptably within society while (amazingly) always retaining authenticity in absolutely everything that he did. A few times did I recognize the person that I grew up with and a few times did I truly appreciate him as just one of the independent tree trunks that make up this larger moving organism of our family.
Tuesday evening, I went home late in the pouring rain. I mindlessly stuffed a teetering plastic bag full of clothes (in an effort to start the move from my apartment to the new one for a short five months), and I carried it over in the rain, peering around the side of it to see the sidewalk in front of me. When I got there, I folded everything and put it away into a dark empty closet. I decorated the house with my disheartened self in various places for a little while, before going into the bedroom to put a new blanket on the bed, finding soon after that the sheets were dirty and dusty from the room switch. This, clearly, was simply too much for me to bear. Or it seemed to be so, because five minutes later I was head first in my blanket, drawing my feet up so that no inch of skin would be exposed to the light. The next door neighbors children were racketing, yelling and throwing things against the wall and the new Jakob Dylan album (which I highly recommend) was playing to drown them out. Paralyzed by absolutely nothing at all except my own self, I stared at the inside of the blanket and started staving my oxygen, which I knew would run out shortly. I thought of everybody and their faces the way I remember them back at the house, at rainbow which will soon be sold, at family dinners and on walks, sitting on rocks up at betasso. And I thought of my brother Todd’s big birthday, which I would miss and which I would think of with every step along Park avenue this weekend. And I knew, with rich, colorful Africa beckoning to me with long, tugging fingers that time with my family over the next couple years might slip away underfoot like silt on the riverbanks of our lives.
Then I heard a random line in one of the Jakob Dylan songs, and it said something like “this is the place where you were born.” Before long I was irreparably weepy, and like a homesick child, refused to return to adulthood for at least three hours. In between bouts of tears, well past midnight and after I had removed my contacts, a gripping fear suddenly struck me – that one of the navy blue dresses I had piled on my bag of clothes had fallen off onto the ground in the rain on my way over. I didn’t remember putting it away, hanging it up or seeing it anywhere about our new apartment. It was most assuredly out there, underfoot and in the gutter – and my last memory of it forever would be wearing it this weekend with Alec in New York. Like a good old soldier, Buzz had his shoes and basketball shorts on and was out retracing my steps in the rain in search of it before another tear had time to reach my puffy eyes, rendered helpless without contact lenses. While he was out and I was groping desparately around the room with my hands for my dress without my “eyes in”, a strange thought struck me.
When it comes to family – is it actually your family that you inevitably lose to adulthood or just the way you remember them? Is loss a thing that is often just perceived simply because you forgot to put your wiser, more knowing eyes in?
Buzz returned empty-handed and I went to sleep without my dress and without any of my family around me.
When I woke up in the morning, I put my contacts in – which was a struggle because they were dirty and salty. Then, I walked in a sleepwalk to the closet and retrieved my navy dress from the crushing oblivion of several brighter colored, heavier winter sweaters.
My dress was there the whole time, out of sight and very much not out of mind.
When I got to work that morning, with a renewed sense of love and gratefulness in my heart for this family I had left behind two years ago and have had to fight for ever since against distance and cancer, I called united to change Buzz’ and I’s flights returning back from Colorado during our trip in June so that we could have one more precious day with the people I loved the most in the world. Alas. There were no more tickets available going from Denver to La Guardia on Tuesday, stated very matter of factly. Thwarted. Symbolic action representing the emotional commitment to/and the importance of my family squandered cruelly. Darkness, oblivion, crushing impossibility…LOSS. There was silence on the other line. Then a thought - “Is there anything going into Newark or JFK? (easier airports anyway)” The agent was friendly and the change was amazingly easy, we got the only two seats left.
Its funny what happens when you put your eyes in.