Friday, January 20, 2012

Cold, Silent and Dead

Motor Oil Confession

I parent like a piston
Engine, jamming my power
Down narrow throats

My children
They throttle forward or
Gear into reverse.
It drives me to heat

Fueled into explosions

In some controlled chamber,

Sparking, though,
As engineered to convert
The fossilized DNA
Into a slow burn of toxic love.

  Someone I know died of yesterday. She was an administrator at my organization when we heard the news it was so unexpected that I think I held my breath. Usually, I do the almost Southern thing, look down and shake my head. I say, "Lord, Have Mercy" and "Memory Eternal." I just gasped and typed, "Oh. My."

     That's what it's like to hear that someone died via a net meeting.

    She was a private person, explained our CEO and that is why none of knew she had survived breast cancer before succombing to liver cancer yesterday. She was young. She was beautiful. She was accomplished and awarded and so driven- "intense," our CEO called her- that most of us danced around her. She said jump, we jumped, and hoped it was high enough.  As soon as the meeting ended, it was Friday of finals week and all heck broke loose. Teenagers are great for waiting until two hours before something is and emailing and calling and then emailing again with their sob stories.
    I kept thinking It's a shame she was so private. You see we were given the floor to interact, after the news was broken. No one had words. Stunned into silence, the lot of us, and there are a couple hundred of us.

     I see her now, laid out in a casket, as young and lovely looking as the last time she swept the halls of the corporate office and into one of our meetings. I want to memorialize her as my grandfather, my father-in-law, as less accomplished and beloved people in my life have been remembered. I have healing memories of those griefs. I cannot bring about the same perceptions. I feel about like passing as I did when my mother's parents died. At a loss for what memories I could speak and by which be healed. I don't have stories.

     We were asked to avoid publishing much about her death on social networking sites. Afterall, she withheld her illness from nearly everyone at our organization. She withheld most of herself. I saw her smile, but not laugh. I saw her beautiful but not accessible.

     That's how my daughter found me at 3:20, when she came in from school: stunned and worn from a long week of unexpected troubles. My husband and son returned hour later, laden with groceries, and I was in the same distraught state. By five-thirty, having repaired brakes in frigid temperatures, my husband came in for pea soup and found my daughter explaining to me that I always and only speak to her in tones of disappointment and stress. I speak as though she is a burden. She would like more love. Instead, I am cold and unreachable. I know this is what she feels because she reaches out blindly on facebook, asking for hugs. I type one back to her. I mimic one as as pass through the living room. I find her crying when I come back through. I ask why. When she does not respond within enough time for me to check the soup and carry on with the mountain of work looming, I leave her there with the false offer, "When you feel like reaching out, I'll listen." That doesn't count. I hurried off to accomplish dinner, grading, MFA application, emails, cleaning up.

     I rubbed her neck for sixty seconds this morning, a rare outreach I'm ashamed to admit. She hit five and I stopped cuddling her. Oh, I say, "I love you" every day as she flies out the door to school. Words. Words. Words.

     Here I am, unable to put human face on the brokenness and something accessible to her. I am a machine. Her mom machine. I wrote a poem of this a couple years ago. The machine metaphor won't stop haunting me. There it is. If I don't make penitance on this confession, I'm gonna stun my kids when I die, but I won't leave them with words to laugh and cry and heal. I'll just be stone. cold. dead.

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