Posted in Markers, Lanscape of Loss

Benign

This year we all 3 went to the dermatologist for a full body-scan. and I mean full. wow. i’m so glad she was a she.

“You kind of remind me of Harrison Ford from Indiana Jones,” I joked, feeling like South America, as she adventured around my body with headlamps & magnifying lenses.

The other not so funny thing was that my 2 guys–with the lighter, more susceptible skin, whose bodies I’ve long protected–got an easy pass a month earlier; while I, with the olive hue (thank you Mom), naturally drawn to the shade & to wearing a hat as I age–left with something “to watch” on both my nose & temple. though to be fair, my youth was spent in full, sun-drenched, seaside abandon. baby oil. tinfoil. hours & hours under the mid-day sun. like a job.

Before I removed the gown and redressed myself in jeans and my purple Lucky Brand top, there was something else. a small innocent freckle, on the inside of my thigh, of all places, and just because it had the audacity to be a shade too dark.

She pointed out two nearby comps, one and two shades lighter. I squinted but barely noticed a difference.

I’d like to take that off, she said, if that’s ok. Now.

I tried to be grateful.

2 needles & a tiny chunk of flesh later, I left the examining room with a bandage and an interior hobble, but even so, stopped at the front desk to courageously ask how soon to expect the results (despite the reminder that it was “probably nothing.” )

I spent the next week in a meditation on the word, Melanoma.

I know someone from the shore who died from something on his leg, and worse than that, I watched a made for television docudrama–this week, in 1973–that never left me. I was 10. She was 20. And dead. Leaving behind a baby. Because she chose not to give up her leg. I remember balling. I lived in Colorado at the time and John Denver’s music was the soundtrack, and my favorite song was the title of the film.

I tried not to take it as a sign.

I’ve worried about it ever since.

Growing up a doctor’s daughter (and granddaughter and great-granddaughter), it’s easy to be preoccupied with health threats before your time. They arrive on the phone and at your front door and at your kitchen table and intrude upon holidays and graduations and birthday parties.

I recall early attempts to remember the difference between words like “malignant” & “benign.” They both sounded bad to me.

After the “procedure,” we left town for a college visit with our younger son and then continued north to see our older son in his “home” in Burlington. This provided just the right alchemy to ponder, despairingly, how all things end, and so I took the opportunity to mention to my family, something I’ve long held inside.

Just so you know, if I ever do get cancer, I said, I’ll probably want to just die like that mom in Sunshine (on my Shoulders) rather than subject myself to all kinds of disabling treatment.

This pronouncement was not met favorably, and my youngest assured me that he’d have something to say about that if the time came, and I had to laugh at all of us, in our presumptive authority over life and death.

The call came in sometime yesterday. 2 days later than expected. No one was there to receive it. My husband and I were in bed when our youngest arrived home late from work and pushed play on the answering machine.

We could barely make out the messages from upstairs:

A personal call from his dentist.

A robo call from someone trying to scare us into calling them back about something related to our finances.

And the final message, which I couldn’t quite make out, particularly over my son’s exclamation of joy and relief.

Benign.

Advertisements
Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Markers, My Bonnie

37

“There are 37 days until Thanksgiving,” Alexa tells me. Which means there are 37 days remaining between me & the Motherhood archetype.

I turned 37 in the year I lost my mother.
I moved to Marlboro and opened a new post office box that year: #37!
There is something else too.
Just beyond recollection.
Hovering there outside my right brain.
Oh, right! I
became a writer at 37!

Alas, I’d been writing in a journal, making art out of pain, for almost two decades by then; while I’d begun publishing pieces–interviews–about others just as I became a mother myself.

But it wasn’t until the darkness of motherless-ness at 37, accompanied by the birth of my second son, that a new generativity awakened in me–which led me to begin sharing my personal journey–first in safer little bits–an essay here, an article there–until I discovered blogging and Facebook–and let loose a flood of presence to what was stirring in me–past, present, future–in the divine play of art and connection and humanity.

So YES, 37, I bow to you on this journey to Menopause.

(October 17, 2017)

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Markers, My Bonnie

Cricket Song

the windows open on the first warm June night–humid and occupied–with the sound of crickets–serves as a time machine

Like the hour of the night in which I wake to write,
I was 11 going on 12,
which is to say, what I knew, I knew
through the body.

So that even after my mother came back,
and I relaxed again in her steady presence,
I did so at a loss to her.

Not the loss of the bottle.
But the word: NO.
Her sense of self, beyond role.
A small bit of wild seeking space to take hold.

Barely in her thirties.
A mother of 4.
I should have let her go.

But we needed her.
I needed her.
And so she stayed.

Until she was a mother of 6.
Until she disappeared,
little by little,
from the inside.

Until the flame,
left unattended,
burned like wild fire
through our lives.

Posted in Markers, Poetry

Holy Week Meditations

12801578_10154124017743746_6993731945417609172_n
Good Friday.

The world is crying. With rain.
Time shrunk into single themes.
Shame time. Guilt time. Loss time. Hate.
Folded onto itself, like the press of an accordion.
Each fear, for instance, experienced at once.
Each ache.
All the ways we are wrong.
No room for breath.
Breath.
Expanding the folds of time.
Releasing me.
Into we.
With the rain.

On Crucifixion Day, I think of therapists–all those who make sacred the pain of others. Of social workers–who advocate for those who suffer. Of activists–who champion the cause. Of teachers–who point the way through. Of artists–who awaken the soul of hope. Of politicians–who define the course of a nation.

By Easter Eve, I found my mind, petal soft–the gift of a day of meditation with Tara Brach. By Easter morning, there is a personality Resurrection. Petals crushed by grasping.

I missed Easter once before–in 2007–during a training. I wasn’t nearly as sad this time (my kids are older now), but I did mourn the absence of ritual until I realized that I had been delivered an even better Easter Basket:

Deep presence… my rich chocolate bunny;
Beginning again (and again)–my egg hunt;
Tara’s jokes–color-full jelly beans;
Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health–the basket;
300 students–the grass of consciousness;
Tara Brach‘s Loving Presence weekend–received.

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Markers

We could have said — no

“There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said — no.
But somehow we missed it.”
Tom Stoppard

maia-flore-1
Maia Flore

That quote, or one very much like it, was tacked above my desk in the apartment where I lived during my senior year at the University.

I wrote it down on one of my study cards because of Carol’s brother Dave.

He fell asleep at the wheel.

Dave was just a year ahead of us in school, and we had been at a party together the week before.

The enormity of the fragility of life, at an age when we were supposed to be immortal, shook me, and put me into an early depression at a time when I was meant to be living high.

This quote returns to me now, 30 years later, when I visit another college friend. After another accident.

I sit off to the side in the crowded sanctuary with her profile in view. Her hair, once tight and curly, dark as night, is now silver like the moon, straight and streaming.

My mind flashes back on other times together long ago. On silent walks across the campus in the snow. On late nights that forced us out into the hallway outside our dorm rooms to whisper about life and love and what to do about both. A train across Europe. A ferry boat. The streets of London.

While her teenage children grieve the loss of their father, I think back to when she and I belonged to ourselves.

If we knew then what lie ahead, could we have taken another step forward?

We would have said — no.

And yet, if we could go back, knowing what we know now, I wonder if we’d change a thing.

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Markers, My Bonnie

the worst cake ever

1 8oz cream cheese
1 stick softened butter (unsalted)
1 box sifted confectioners sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup pecans

cream butter and cream cheese thoroughly; mix in sugar and add vanilla and nuts

if it seems dry, add a little milk

(my mother’s recipe)

ImageGen

I remember the first birthday cake that I ever baked. It was my father’s thirty-second birthday.

It was also the first occasion that we celebrated in our new home on Connor Rd–a steep hill lined with duplexes, reserved for officers.  We lived at the very top, and looked out over the base and into the embrace of the Highlands above the mighty Hudson River.

Years later, many, many years later (but before Homeland Security), I returned to West Point to discover that I could no longer see the river from our place. The view had been obscured by trees–ones that had only just been planted when I first arrived on the base at the age of 11.

It was the mid-seventies, and my mother was still baking from scratch (sometimes), and sewing our costumes for Halloween (all the time), and keeping our house immaculately tidy–except for now. Now, she was crying in the tiny bathroom off the small kitchen which was just like all the others in this row of Captains quarters.

Beneath us, on the flat stretch below, were the First Lieutenant’s homes–somewhat smaller, and without a view, but nicer than those beneath them–in the apartments assigned to Second Lieutenants.

We would live on this base in this duplex for 3 years, until my father became a Major, which wasn’t enough of an advancement to get us one of those fancy homes with the big lawns and the screened porches. My father used to drive us down those tree-lined roads, which were closer to the Academy and the Chapel; and sometimes, he’d even venture into the exclusive cul-de-sac at the heart of West Point–reserved for Generals.

My mother hadn’t left yet. Hadn’t woken us girls up and carried the youngest ones out to the car sleeping, and then silently winded her way through the base, past the Generals’ homes, and out the gate, into Highland Falls; where she pulled up to the curb at the liquor store; and I held my breath; before she drove 4 hours in the dark to her hometown at the shore.

photo-5621
Portrait of a mother in hiding, K Salasin, 2003

On my father’s thirty-second birthday, in mid-September, she hadn’t mustered that courage. Instead she was weak, and weepy, like a dog.

In fact, when I think back to this day, I think of Tigger–the dog that belonged to my baby sister once she was grown. I remember hearing her scold Tigger once, and then I watched, as Tigger bowed her head, slinked into the bathroom, and hid there until she was absolved.

My mother was hiding too. She had been hiding for a long time. Hiding pain. Hiding the bottle. Hiding from my father.

On this day, he banished her from the celebration at the kitchen table saying, “You don’t belong here, Mommy.”

She was drunk.

Because she was drunk, I decided that I would be the one to make the cake.

Carrot cake was my father’s favorite, and my mom made it every year with that cream cheese frosting and pecans.

It was a tall order for my first try. I never made it to the frosting.

The cake sat there–flat–on the table between us. Stiff, like clay, in our mouths. Especially after we sang Happy Birthday, Daddy to the sound of our mother’s shame echoing off the walls of the tiny bathroom.

Posted in Lanscape of Loss, Markers

11:11

A teenager from my son’s highschool was killed in a car accident yesterday afternoon.

My son missed the bus home, and now we need to find him a ride.

(At least he’s alive.)

When a child dies, it doesn’t matter whether you know him or his mom, it hurts deep inside.

My son missed the dinner I made for just the three of us.

(At least he’s alive.)

On Facebook, fellow teenagers pour out their hearts on Daniel’s wall: “We’ll miss you buddy.” “I can’t believe we won’t see you again.” “You’re the man.” “Rest in peace.” “I wish we hung out more.” “I only talked to you once or twice.” “I was such a bitch.” “I can’t imagine life without you.”

I worry about my son smoking pot or drinking beer.

(At least he’s alive.)

Daniel’s mom posts her son’s picture with the words, “Beautiful boy.”

Lloyd never calls me back to tell me when he’s getting home.

(I need to know he’s alive.)

Daniel’s grandmother was in the car too, and she’s just made it through a night of surgery.

My youngest son, Aidan, left this morning for his class field trip to Cape Cod. He’s only eleven.

(I hope he’s alive.)

Facebook mirrors the dichotomies of our lives–one lost and another’s just begun. Babies born. Hearts broken. Lost puppies found. All day long.

On this particular day, I’ve watched the posts of relatives make their way to Costa Rica for my cousin’s wedding. The Houston airport. Philadelphia. New York. Each about to intersect in a celebration of joy which takes place at 11:11 on 11/11/11.

While at the same time, Daniel’s wall continues to fill with voices from near and far, converging to say… goodbye.

Kelly Salasin, November 2011