Monday, January 10, 2011

The Geometry of Grief and Coffee.

My parents divorced when I was thirteen.
It came just a few months after my grandfather died.
My mother allowed my sister and I to stay with my father.
She agreed that we were going thru enough upheaval
with the new situation;
and didn't need to change schools and friends.
So my sister and I lived with my father.

Our house was half-empty.
But not because my mother took anything.
It just wasn't the same.

My father,
my sister, and me,
became a troika of zombies.
We fell into a routine,
and went about our daily lives
without passion or purpose.
We were oxen
tethered to each other,
and yoked to a Dutch Colonial.
Some days
you could hear the house
groan and strain
as we toiled to tear it from it's foundations;
and drag it to a place
that wasn't burdened by the weight of memories,
of things that were lost
and never to be again.
It was the summer of sad.

My sister retreated to the riding stable.
She rode around and around, in a circle
the entire summer.
She found peace
on a living carousel,
lacking lights, the pastel paints, and a calliope.
Around and around she went.

I went off into the woods.
A loaded twenty-two over my shoulder,
a book in my back pocket.
I chose to get as far away from people as possible.
I cut across farms and fields,
traversed streams;
forging a path to nowhere,
and no one.

My sister was a circle.
I was a straight line.

And my father
was left at home.
We left him,
even though we had chosen to stay with him.
He spent the summer
sleeping on the sofa
in the den.

My sister was a circle.
I was a straight line
My father was a dot.

This is how I remember that summer.
And I may have it all wrong.
But this is how it seemed
to me.

But looking back,
I have discovered something
about my father's summer of sleep;
his summer of being a dot.
He slept,
to keep the grief of loss at bay.
He slept on the sofa,
because he could no longer sleep
in the bed he had shared with my mother.
He slept at odd times,
like a restless old man,
he couldn't sleep.

This explains the smell of coffee
that made it's way up the thirteen stairs,
down the hall, and thru my bedroom door,
at the darkest hour of the night.
The bittersweet smell
of the coffee
would wake me;
and I would wonder
why my father wasn't sleeping?

But I never went down and asked him.
I was a straight line moving further away
from point A to point B.
My sister was a circle
that couldn't be interrupted.
And my father wrestled with his grief.
He was a dot without connection.
Not part of the line, or the circle.
Just a dot,
consumed by grief
and a need to understand
just what was happening.

After so many selfish years,
I understand him,
and that summer now.

Loss and grief,
and all it's selfish
and bothersome trappings;
are real things.
Loss and grief
creates a daughter who becomes a circle.
A son who becomes a straight line
moving away from point A to point B.
And a father relegated to being just a dot.

I understand this,
because I am now the dot.
My sister has branched out into figure eights,
and my father and I share coffee.

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