I have a very juvenile addiction to “Charmed”… anybody else ever watched it? It’s about three sisters – Piper, Phoebe, & Pru/Paige (depending on the episode)) who have magical powers, and who can do super-cool stuff like transport from place to place in a cloud of white sparkles, move things with their eyes, blow things up with a wave of the hand, and summon people from the dead. The subject line is their favorite spell, for when they’re trapped in the Underworld, or have been captured by demons, or are having some other unfortunate event. Jennifer, Sue and I have discussed (on more than once occasion, actually) which power we would choose if given the choice… the whole “three charmed sisters” thing would definitely make life more interesting and less sucky. Yes, I’m aware that as an adult, I should NOT have this much random knowledge about this silly-ass show. Feel free to mock.
About the summoning people from the dead thing. I wish that I could summon Mama. Right now, actually. I wish that, like the Charmed Ones, I could put a circle of candles on the floor, say a little rhyming incantation, and *VOILA* there she is. We could summon her for all the normal important stuff – holidays, birthdays, weddings, births – but also for the random moments like right now. When she is really, really missed; when her absence is so apparent that I want to scream and cry like a lost 5-year-old.
After you first lose someone, it’s all-consuming, overwhelming, constant. It’s difficult and sometimes impossible to function, to do things like brush your teeth or go to work. As the months pass, the feeling that your chest is being crushed begins to fade a bit. You smile a little, maybe even laugh, and gradually, you feel a little less brittle and a little more alive. The gaping hole is still there – people are full of shit when they say “time heals” – but you learn to live around the hole without falling in.
You learn that in order to keep living, you have to control “those” thoughts…. I think anyone who has lost will know what “those” thoughts are. They’re the ones that are dark, smothering, choking, that during those first few months, are waiting for you every time you close your eyes to sleep, and leap on you as soon as you awake. “Those” thoughts make it hard to breathe, hard to do anything. And gradually, you’re able to develop your skill or increase your endurance, like learning to knit or running 10 miles – it takes time. You learn how to control “those” thoughts.
Sometimes the thoughts are in complete remission, when you’re absorbed in daily life, just doing and saying and feeling and following your routine. Sometimes, I can feel the thoughts lurking on the fringes of my mind, where something has triggered it, and I know that immediate diversion is necessary. I’ll turn up the radio, sing loudly, talk mindlessly, turn on the tv – anything to fill the space and make myself inhospitable to the thoughts.
But sometimes, there’s no warning. They come out of nowhere and take up residence in a place that I didn’t even realize was vacant. It’s a wave of missing, of loss, of aloneness, of everything that could and should have been. I picture a giant wave sweeping in, a crushing wall of water that devastates everything in its path.
On Thanksgiving Day, we were cooking busily, and Sue volunteered to make the sweet potato souffle. Jennifer suggested we use Mama’s recipe, and I flip the cookbook open, expecting to see Jennifer’s handwriting. But the recipe was written in Mama’s handwriting. Her tiny, neat cursive that is unmistakable to all three of us. Sue and I saw it at the same time, and everything stopped. I don’t mean one of those dramatic, slow-motion movie moments… no, it wasn’t really like that. I mean a moment when all I saw was Mama’s handwriting, and it seemed very, almost eerily quiet in that kitchen, and I realized that this, THIS little recipe for sweet potato souffle, was as much of our mother as we were going to get on this Thanksgiving Day. Sue’s eyes filled up with tears, an instantaneous welling, and she whirled away and ran for her room. And I stood there for another moment, then stoically closed the cookbook, picked up a napkin and blew my nose. A few minutes later, Sue came out of her room and printed a random recipe for souffle off the internet and began gathering ingredients. And the moment had passed.
My time for grieving is done, according to our society. At S-D, my previous place of employment, the bereavement leave was a nice, neat little formula. There was a list of eligible people – parents, siblings, spouse, child, I think even grandparents made the cut – and assuming that your dead loved one was on this list, you could take 3 days. Three days. And that’s actually pretty decent… some companies give less than that. Our society is a little more forgiving than three days – people will usually acknowledge the loss for 3 to 6 months, depending on the group of people (church groups or friends, for example, are a little more flexible than professional groups). It’s been 14 months. I should be over it. Right?
Too bad there’s no magic potion to go along with the magic time period. We could really use one of those nifty Charmed spells right about now.