Monthly Archives: September 2011

the importance of holding

today, i was musing on the importance of holding on, after having the unforgivable thought that perhaps it was time to stop sleeping curled up around the quilt my mom made me when i was little, with my three most loved-upon stuffed animals at my back. they are, after all, only toys  (although they are very much alive, i swear to you- the yorkie terrier is calm and dignified, and the pink elephant is a bit of a snob which is her cover for her insecurity and fear that since i got the white cat ((who is very soft but also shy and doesn’t quite fit in)), i will stop loving her, which is ridiculous since i will never do so, even if i am going to turn sixteen in a few months). i’m the sort of person who gets bored very easily and changes little things, like my brand of eyeliner or haircolor, every month or so, but who cannot possibly let go of things she loves unless they are surgically removed from her hands/heart.

this was making me feel more than a bit childish, but then i realized i know more people who feel the need to hold on to something than not, such as my mom, who claims that the best part of being a parent is the snuggling. i remember when my sister first came from korea, my other sister and i would wake up in the mornings and go straight to my parent’s bed where the baby was usually first waking up, and we would find a place to curl up with everyone and either cuddle her or let her crawl all over us and laugh hysterically. sometimes, my mom would let me give her her morning bottle while she took a shower, and that was the very best time for me; like many adopted babies who have just been removed from their foster families, she had night terrors and couldn’t sleep for more than an hour and a half, and our whole family would be kept awake at night listening to her screaming, without being able to wake her up. it was always comforting to be able to rock her and hold her in the mornings while she chugged down several bottles, like the very best way to love on her was to curl up around her not-so-little-for-a-seven-month-old self.

when my great-grandmother had a stroke last month, she was in hospice for three weeks before she died. towards the end she stopped being able to talk very well or communicate what she needed. our entire family was usually there, or at least one person to hold her hand, but there were three or four short periods where she was alone. even before the stroke, she absolutely hated that; her alzheimers made her anxious all the time, when even when i was little, she didn’t like you to be out of her sight. one day we came in after such a period of time, and she was holding onto a doll exactly the size of my brand-new baby cousin. we asked the nurse what it was for, and she said she had just ‘felt like she needed something,’ and brought in the doll for her to hold onto. she seemed so much calmer while she was stroking it and adjusting its clothes that i wondered why we’d never tried that before.

it made me realize that some things about human nature don’t change, whether you’re a seven month old or in your late eighties, a parent or a teenager. people just tend to need to hold or be held sometimes, some of us more than others, but i think it is probably a universal need we are all born with, and only some of us learn how to do without.

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i look through the pictures, and i think that word, dead, the one that no one uses but is always hovering, and i can’t reconcile the two, even after years of living with these empty spaces.
i’ve put up posters on the walls of my mind, advertisements for lost things. ‘if found, return to owner’. sometimes people write over the signs. then i forget what i have written and only see their words, and the things i lost stay missing. i forget to look for them, and no one can help me in the search. once, i think, there was someone i would ask for help, but he’s gone. i told him i didn’t believe in him anymore, and he stopped believing in me. i miss him, sometimes. and then i don’t. there is someone new now, a replacement-being. she sleeps curled up against my back. she is warmth, black sheets that wrap around me, a firmer barrier between me and the world, everpresence near-omnipotence, glory, yes.  stillness.
sometimes i miss believing in santa claus. and then i remember i never did.

i miss coming back to your breath, peace inside applause, the slow exhale after a shaky breath like madeleine l’engle before bed. i’m so accustomed to speaking to you alone that now you feel like nighttime in my bones, and some days i wish to crack them open and let you pour out onto the floor, black ink pooling around my feet, tellmeyoulovemecomebackandhauntme ringing in my ears and heart and

no, i think, get out of bed, breathe, hope with your hands. this is you learning your letters, your torah, words bitter like fingers dipped in vinegar instead of honey. scent of ink, burned paper, crumbling flesh, breaking bones. infinity of infinities, holy of holies, and looking in a mirror, i see blood start to pool in the corners of your eyes.

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milton beats ovid again.

“grieve.” the way we have verbs for such nonactions.

sometimes the brutality astonishes me. driving by ugly grey apartments, all it takes is a woman standing by the lake, feeding dozens of ducks, and my heart breaks.

i try to remember the last time i could quote scripture without laughing, sarcasm heavy on my tongue.

i stand by the bed, mascara-smeared hands, black streaks under my eyes, eyeliner smudged everywhere on my eyelids. everything about me feels ugly ugly ugly. it’s a hundred and ten degrees outside, but i’m freezing, tugging my hand-me-down jacket tighter around me, mucky camouflage soft and musty smelling on my skin. people are flipping through hymnals around the room. i watch, silent, as people from down the hall peek around the doorway to see the family singing what used to be my favorite hymns, songs about assurance, crammed into corners and sitting on the sink, holding hands around the hospital bed.

i take my anger outside, watch my fingers on the cement patterns of the table under the acacia tree outside by the playground. i sweat, but don’t take off the jacket. people are smoking on the patio, here for the same reasons as me. i wait for the world to turn the same shade of black that i scrub out from under my eyes while i watch the bleak, dusty sky occasionally broken by violent lightning. for now, i am here, my whole family almost intact at the moment. even though my mind knows it isn’t true, i still equate the act of not-leaving with hearts still beating, lungs breathing, people still pretending to be held together  for better or for worse.

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