He said it, again.
“I need to be alone.”
Well, he might.
But, according to my calculations and a bit of simple math, he’s not.
At last count there were – first – two, large dogs. Brody and Bella, lab mix and Rottweiler each, occupying as much space stretched across the king mattress as another human slightly larger than his broad shouldered, 5’ 6” frame.
Then, little Fitz Willie (Fritz), the cat. I’m severely allergic, but the anti-dander creme allowed us a sweet fondness.
Oh, but let’s take a walk outside.
Down across the grassy stretch of the first acre, just to the right of the pond we reach the fenced in coop. Four fluffy, extremely well nourished laying hens. We bought them, together, from the little store down the country road which closed last summer, when they were just chicks, days old. There were six, but Bella got one and a hawk the other. I brought home several scarecrows, to protect the remaining four who grew into beauties.
Follow me, back up toward the house. We’ll pass the gardens. Squashes, spinach, arugula. A whole row of red raspberries, still bearing fruit into November. The pear tree. The next, raised beds, framed with leftover wood from my front porch. Asparagus, first every spring, surrounded by gladiolas. More spinach, red and green leaf lettuce. Beets. So many radishes. A row of onions. A couple carrots. And, kale. So much kale, most of it left for the rabbits.
Another row, this one blueberries. I remember netting these, to try to save them yet again from the early birds, who got their feast even before the tiny fruit had matured.
The apple tree. Helping to gather them, soft green and sweet, and the applesauce later which needed no added sugar.
Stand with me, and turn. Gaze back down the yard, all the way past the four hundred foot hose I found so he wouldn’t have to haul sprinkling cans. Rows, and rows, and rows, and rows, of tomatoes. Red, and green, peppers. This year, added chilis, and a whole line of tall garlic.
Now, stop, and listen. Hear them? The birds. Cardinals, wrens, robins, bluejays, finches, Baltimore orioles, red winged blackbirds, chicadees. Hummingbirds.
The bird feeders, filled with sunflower seed – four, maybe five, of these, circumventing the entire house. I won’t forget the sight of their banquet, last winter at the first snow.
And, if you stay ‘til dusk, you’ll hear the final chorus:
For these, there are simply no words.
Yes; this is where he spends his time, “alone.”
For the past nearly two years, I’d spent much of my time there, too.
Never in my life had I ever been surrounded by the fruits of one man’s labor. Not ever had I been with a man who was truly self made, who needed nothing from me. I treasured every minute he permitted me presence, the true opportunity to share in his little world.
I was just, however, another form of life. Just one more. Letting me go, for him, would be comparatively easy, maybe even welcomed. One less mouth to feed. One less need to meet. One less voice, to interrupt the serenity. Hardly missed, one less heart to break.
But oh, how I will miss him. And, the dogs, Brody Ode and Belly Belle, mommy’s two velvet babies. And, Fitz Willie, preferring the guest room by day but padding across my fleece covered body, poking at me until I crawled out to feed him before the sun came up. And, the chirring hens, their abundance of eggs more than enough for both of us.
And, the birds.
I had tomatoes, this year. They all bore fruit, without once watering. And, in spite of neglect, last year’s kale shot up just ahead of the first frost.
I have birds, in my tree. And, the trees down the street. They offer me their own chorus, at summer’s end and, again, crackling in the spiraea through winter.
But, the tree frogs.
What will I ever do without them?
My love, and his menagerie. God, protect them all.
May they never be alone.
© 11/28/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is, whose name appears above this line and whose menagerie is glass.
I used to have a wicked sense of humor.
Meaning: at school, R.A. was the funniest girl in class.
Of course, this was in that archaic phase of history formerly known as “junior high”. And, maybe the cusp of sophomore year. But, details don’t matter. Once life kicked into high gear, the end began.
Yes. Somewhere between the first side impact car accident and the onset of the migraines, something started to chip away at the old edge of wit. Perhaps the newest pain medication, intended to act on serotonin receptors. Whatever. Once I got to college, a secular state university, all my energy was required just to function semi socially and remain a virgin. Well, technically, anyway. While still a sitting infant I’d plopped down, on top of a phallus sized, lead painted steel truck from my elder brother’s collection, and broken my hymen.
But, yeah. Directly proportionate to the degree of accepted responsibilities, any vestige of humor pretty much konked out, was a burgeoning skill as a tedious bore. Add to that a vocal cord surgery, in ’98. Losing my hallmark guffaw was the icing on that cake; I was the most profoundly unfunny person in the world, and couldn’t even laugh about it.
By way of outcome, or perhaps some damage to the central amygdala, across the multiple decades hence there emerged one topic about which I could speak as a veritable Rhodes scholar: grief.
It’s true. If any girl knew anything about sobbing her way through a workshop on teaching the gifted, it was I. Even attending a lecture presented for local women and hearing Nelson Mandela’s absolution on letting your light shine, I cried like a blubbering baby. As for the dark of pre-menstrual night, and that old familiar fetal position, there would be me, screaming into the pillow like nobody’s mama.
Interestingly, grief being directly the result of loss, I seemed to have cornered the market on losing loved ones. Whether grandparents, parents, relatives, or significant others, I had spent more on funeral arrangements in the course of the gift giving budget than anything else. Add to that far too many failed attempts at intimate relationship and you had Doctor Ruth, minus the short legs and the cheery grin.
Now, as self appointed spokeswoman for the wisdom of aging, I come to you on the better side of post menopause with a seasoned appreciation for synthesis. Perhaps the out of pocket orthodontia to cure tempo-mandibular joint dysfunction gets the prize, because the migraines have significantly ceased and, with them, the need for brain chemistry altering medication. If there is anything to be gleaned from it all I now offer the following: grieving — with a sense of humor.
Herewith a list of tips. (And, no. Mind altering substance ingestion is not required.)
As we all know, the state of the planet and the world upon it hanging on for dear life, we don’t have to look very far to find the latest disaster during the holidays. In fact, sudden horrific events seem to emerge out of nowhere just as the malls open for business. And, even if we’ve had to say goodbye to the one person we were sure would be holding our hand when we croaked, there is nothing quite like a tsunami on the Pacific rim to jolt us back into relative reality.
I recommend finding the channel which covers the latest world news, and scrolling til we find something geographic. There is a surreal comfort in gaping at massive destruction, particularly if we find ourselves a.) reasonably clothed; b.) sufficiently nourished, and c.) able to adjust the internal temperature of the room to our liking. Allowing ourselves to sit quietly and attune, as the warm surge of relief that none of what we are witnessing is actually happening in any remote proximity, can resemble momentary bliss. It can also gently nudge our better angels to remind us that we could count our blessings.
Speaking of taking a tally, even if we retired way too early to collect enough to pull us out of a declining demographic, sending twenty bucks to help victimized children does wonders for the dopamine. Contributing to these, as well as those who manage to survive catastrophe, is the most guilt free (and, grief releasing) pleasure on earth. We can do so joyfully, with absolutely no concern for subliminal self righteousness, which can lead to self loathing which, in turn, can frequently cause us to dial a friend and vent. Venting on friends, during the holidays, is the perfect way to get crossed off the last party list that held out hope for the most wretched among us.
But, be cautious; if we do send money, be sure that we have decided with certainty that we hate holiday parties. Sometimes the cascade of cause and effect is too powerful to quell and actually accepting that the phone won’t chime an invitation, at all, must be adequately addressed and confronted with a mature resignation.
Everybody drowns their sorrows in consumables. I suspect that appetite is triggered by a gaping sense of loss.
That said, congratulating ourselves for being sufficiently devastated, we can set about the table before us with any number of syrupy, savory, and textured delectables knowing that – now that we are utterly alone in the world – we don’t have to share them with anybody.
However, keeping various protein sources at arm’s reach is strongly suggested. Every twenty minutes, as the eyelids begin to flutter, stuffing a block of cheese into the face will cut that glycemic rise, effectively preventing ten minutes of sudden coma. During grief, every ten minutes missed is ten minutes lost. And, we all know that the objective is to indulge, for as long as we can remain coherent and capable of sudden wailing and gnashing of teeth. Keeping a glucose monitor handy is also prudent.
4.) PUBLIC DISPLAYS.
Five days ago, I had to endure the excruciating extraction of my entire self from an environment into which I had voluntarily placed myself for twenty months. Granted, the psychic abuse of living in suspended disbelief, instead of squarely facing that hope for a future of committed mutual trust was likely a serious joke, had been preferable for a remarkably protracted period of time. Denial is the pablum of the pathetic.
Since then, to my personal chagrin, I have dissolved into tears in two, distinct Post Office service lines. Completely uncontrollable sniffling and face wiping, with the back of a fading red glove. And, this year, I cannot even blame a single hormone for the rush; all mine are externally introduced, on call or in the stickered ziploc.
The woman with the most empathic reaction actually allowed me back into my queue, after a failed attempt to help another customer carry her packaged burden to her car. The man in the next line who spoke the most encouraging words to me was none other than the service department manager at the car dealership where I’d purchased my Pontiac, with the lemon engine, whose six or seven gaskets had been replaced and for which I had successfully sued GM for five grand.
No. We truly cannot make these things up. Reality really is stranger than fiction. For this cause, I highly recommend that the grieving take it to the streets. Cry, out loud, whenever and wherever we go. Displaying raw, authentic emotion will spur the most outrageous outpouring of human altruism most never knew they possessed, including being reminded that crying is good because it detoxifies the body. A room full of weeping people could ensue. This would provoke entire gaggles of clasping hugs, grinding all commerce to a dead halt and shutting down the economy. Cars would remain parked, people choosing to walk, arm in arm, forsaking their petty materialisms and inviting one another in for a hot meal and some group singing around the piano, revolutionizing society for an entire generation.
So, throw back your head. Squeeze your wet eyelids til they squint out the last tear. Tomorrow will never come. Instead, you will wake up from your sleep, when your body is finally done resting, and your today will be waiting right where you left off.
Isn’t it funny how that works?
© 11/27/18 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. Thank you for respecting the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. Try not to laugh.