Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Take Another Little Piece of My Heart

As I recently explained to someone, grief sneaks up on me when I least expect it. To wit, the infuriating decision by the University of Kentucky to level several older dorms, although I'm kind of annoyed by the breadcrumb that they left Patterson Hall intact. The general air is, "Sure, we're plowing down four other buildings, including two of architectural and historical significance, but we're keeping Patterson Hall. Ain't that nice of us?


Mom had a great time in college. She went to a lot of dances and parties, she was in a sorority, she took a swan-dive off the top bunk in her room in Keeneland Hall and permanently screwed up her back by herniating a disc. There are pictures of her with her friends, swilling illicit Chianti from its straw-covered bottle, in that room in Keeneland. She'd wanted me to live there, but alas: I have had respiratory problems since I was an infant, and the older North Campus dorms of her youth were not air-conditioned. Mom was the warning beacon, proclaiming Mother Harvard's progress toward locking the front doors each night; in the 1950s, a girl caught outside when the doors were locked was "campused" for a specified length of time, and her parents notified of the infraction- Mom probably kept more than one girl from departing college prematurely at the insistence of mortified parents.

Top it off with her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, the oldest sorority at the university, losing its charter several years ago. Mom saw the handwriting on the wall after my negative experience during rush, and a pointed conversation with an associate dean who was one of her pledge sisters; still, she was upset. They were circling the drain, and they folded. (They've recently re-colonized at the school where my best friend was also an Alpha Xi; I entertain a vague hope that perhaps someday they will do the same at my alma mater.)

Keeneland was part of Mom's history. Now that she's gone, it feels like another part of her is about to be destroyed. I understand the march of progress, but a couple of the buildings they're pulling down (Keeneland is not one of them) are landmarks. I remember thinking, years ago, when I visited the University of Tennessee, that they'd overbuilt their parcel so heavily that it was imposing, cold, and uninviting. Kentucky's construction plans engender the same thing. Pretty soon there won't be a blade of grass between the buildings and they'll all be early-millennium generic style. I guess if you want an attractive campus, pay top dollar and go to liberal arts school, right?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Take Me, Baby, or Leave Me, pt. III

Based on a recent social media conversation with Hopkins' aunt, I think it's time to point something out: the night that he graduated, he said something to me of which I have always been quite keenly aware:

"I have given you as much of myself as I could." 

Had he not followed that up with the notorious "forgetting everyone and everything" quotation, I, for one, would have been a hell of a lot less hurt. In the moment, I couldn't process it. I was too busy being absolutely devastated.

There are some truths that we bury deep inside ourselves because dealing with them in their most bald-faced forms is too painful. Sometimes we try to manufacture meaning or create sincerity or invest people with emotions that they can't feel. They are who they are, and we're aware of it; our inability to accept it is at our own risk.

Since she took it upon herself to be the Voice of Reason and there is no truly valid counterargument, well, I gave up. I called the therapist whose name I'd been given by a friend and made an appointment for later this week.

Kentucky author Bobbi Buchanan wrote a brief, pointed piece about Mother's Day this year that resonated with me, and the final line was haunting:  Girls who stuff the hope chest with feathers and forever silence their dreams.

What if you stopped hoping a long time ago, because you knew that it was useless, or that it might end up leaving you humiliated or embarrassed? What dreams? I learned as a young girl that those things exist only for other people; I suffocated on the feathers long ago.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Motherless Day

When my mother died, everyone told me that the "firsts" would be difficult. Here's one that I wasn't ready for at all: Mother's Day. It falls the same week as my birthday. Dad wants to visit the grave on Mother's Day. He's oblivious to the fact that I would rather gargle jet fuel and eat ground glass, but whether we go or not, Mom's death, Mother's Day, and my birthday will always be closely tied together.

It's not helping particularly that both a former work colleague and an Airedale rescue colleague died on the same night from complications due to aggressive cancer. I've been in my office the better part of both days since, crying off and on. I embarrassed myself in front of one of the nursing faculty yesterday morning by randomly bursting into tears while she was here to discuss a good date on which to make clinical ID badges for her RN students.

The Mother's Day ads are hard. Reminding myself that I don't need to find a card or order flowers or plan a meal is painful. Some of the commercials are so downright annoying that I can imagine my mother's scathing sarcastic commentary on the subject.

My sister asked what kind of birthday cake I wanted and it hit me that I really don't care, so I texted back "Edible, not carrot". Truth is, I have this sneaking suspicion that all cake will taste a little like sawdust this year. My friend Stefan and I share a birthday, as do my sister's best friend, Beth, and I. Stefan's having a big "Mafia" game at his apartment a week from Saturday and I'm invited, but...I probably won't go because I'm at huge risk of being everybody's least-favorite buzzkill. I've been avoiding social engagements for the most part, so nothing new about that at the moment.

Today I did make a little progress. Someone I once dated married over Christmas, around the time Mom died. I was so out of it and subsequently so down that I admittedly engaged in severely bad manners by not wishing him joy. His wife posted a picture in social media of him with their new dog, a rescued yellow Labrador Retriever. I sent him a message congratulating him on his marriage and the dog, and admonished him to not wear dark suits around the Lab (or, conversely, invest heavily in lint rollers).

So, I guess I'm going to inch through this a little at a time until I finally come out on the other side. In the interim, I've got to suck it up and try to figure out what kind of flowers to take to the gravesite since Mom told us she'd come back to haunt us over artificial flowers. I wanted geraniums (Mom always had geraniums around) but Dad wants to run it past my sister. Oh, and he invited my godmother to meet us for lunch. I love her, but I don't know if I'm ready to see her again. That's the thing about life, though: it goes on.