Sunday, October 28, 2007

Anecdote, Antidote

Nelly as weathervane, prognosticator, barometer. Nelly as source of the amazing realization (if I but realize). Nelly knows, because of her nose. But how is it that I know?

On Tuesday we returned home from the dump, a wondrous place I can rarely get enough of--look what has been thrown away, and in what quantity!; my inner Pollyanna looks for the prize I know must lurk in all that crackerjack (yes, inside the melancholic me resides an ever-shining naive optimist--and she won't go home, no matter what I say). After the dump we went on a walk near the dump, during which Nelly went off to search for her own prize, and kept me waiting in the car an extra ten minutes. After that we went back to the house.

The minute I opened the door, I could feel it. With what sense? Perhaps I was mistaken; it was only a feeling, and oh my god how wrong those little buggers can often be. But then I saw Nelly. She had walked in a couple of feet, then stopped. Her body seemed to coil in on itself, and she instantly became a quarter inch smaller all around. Now, suddenly: Propeller Tail! Next, screams (did I mention Nelly is a screamer?). Those are the two sure signs that someone desired is near.

Or he was. Nelly ran up the stairs to take a look. Where was he?

Because I know that, in this world, humans are rarely far from their cars, the absence of his car in the driveway meant the absence of him in the house. Nelly did not know this as I did. So she continued to search the rooms, since fresh molecules of the dearly departed had just been injected to the air. He had just made a visit back, to continue picking up his things piecemeal. (Small bits of my heart still lay shattered all about, but these would remain for the final sweep-up.) This is not, by the way, how he destroyed me: over time. Rather, I was crushed all at once under a beam that fell suddenly from above.

These fresh molecules left behind by an individual who had visited for a few minutes Nelly could distinguish from the old ones that still hung about from that same individual's domicile in this house for seven years. Of course, she was disappointed to not find their source. I hated to see it in her; she came back down the stairs and stood looking at me: Is this a trick? Where did you put him? And I hated that she had been made to feel it. Just as I hated, in far greater measure, holding for ten long minutes my son's disappointment in my arms--which is to say, his whole sobbing body--last Friday, when he got off the bus and declared, "But I want to see my daddy every day!"

But how did I know, too, that he had been here?

Before Nelly even reacted, I could feel something. It was something . . . cold. Something filled with hate. Or maybe it was untruth. Perhaps the two are related. The air inside the door felt different. It was my intuition speaking to me, and I think maybe intuition is the ghost vestige of some great animal power we've lost, some magnificent sense of intellectual smell, with which we could experience something hidden from sight.

My intuition had visited my dreams for as long as I was married. I pushed it away. Year after year, I pushed it away. Because I did not want to smell it, even though it did everything to alert me except put my head in the toilet and flush. It woke me gasping and in tears. It was always the same vision. Time after time. And I said, or my friends said, or he said, No, that could never be true. He loves you! Never, until one sudden day it was. One day in late July, he did exactly what those many nightmares had foretold. The same words, the look, the action. And the beam fell.

I marvel that for sixteen years I knew what was going to happen. I didn't want to know the truth, so I discounted the notion of intuition. Oh, but never again. I want to be like Nelly: take a deep breath. Smell what is there. Smell what is not.


Paul Kowacki said...

Melissa, Wow, you leave me dripping in sweat! I LOVE the way you write!

You made me think of something I've been thinking about lately, and at first thought, aw, who needs to hear that. But, it's midnight, Sugar and I are sitting up waiting to see if Sam will respond to a med I gave him (Sugar and Sam are two of our goldens, one at the beginning of her life, the other at the end of his), with some time to kill, so....

I'm a doctor, doesn't matter what kind, have been for 26 years, treated something like 15,400 different patients, for perhaps 30,000 different catastrophes, some for 20 years, multiple generations in a family, etc. I've often thought about the difference between those patients who, and I've never been sure how to phrase this, have a problem, and those who become their problem. Some people have some random, or partially self-inflicted, disaster, identify it, get it treated (including their own involvement), and move on, like it is a speed bump, whether it leaves residuals or not. Others absorb their problem into their being, and almost cultivate it, like a child picking a scab, and add it to their mental list of identifying features. I am energized from helping the former.

It's my impression that some great minds have gone berserk as a result of trying to make some sense of the bad/stupid/careless things people do, or that happen "naturally". I'll be losing my wife early, to cancer; I love her, and will miss her dearly. I've just been diagnosed with cancer myself, and can't do meds, because of my chronic liver problems; maybe she'll be missing me first. Sam will be gone soon; he is the most wonderful, benign, loving creature on this planet. I didn't do anything to deserve these things, I don't think. But actually, I don't really care. These problems are not my life; let's do what we gotta, I want to get back to the reason we're here: living. Sound like denial? Hard? Cold? Tell me, and this is not rhetorical, I really want to know what you think: what else can I/we do that counts? Should we expect to make sense of the, seemingly random, bad/senseless/hateful things people do, or that happen courtesy of mother nature? Should we disengage from life, to some degree, to avoid them? I think we like dogs so much because they've got these issues solved, and lovingly share the solutions with us silly humans.

Sorry, yeah I know this is your blog, not mine, but that's what came to the surface; not sure if it's germaine. Hope it adds to the discussion. And, but yes, though my thinking drifts as I said, you've got your feet to the fire too, what do you think?

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Yes, Paul. Truly: yes.

I find myself swaying between two poles in my situation; maybe it's the way I'm constructed. On one hand, flashes of happiness and possibility come to me: there's always that, so long as I draw breath. And other times I find myself sucked into a whirlwind of cogitation: I need to know what happened, and why. People are often short-tempered with me these days: "Get over it! He's gone, so get on with it." But I want to say, "This is how I *am* getting on with it!" Trying to comprehend IS how I can move on. When my beloved, beloved dog Mercy died, far too young, I just had to figure out what had happened to her. I felt it would provide some key to unlock myself from the pain of losing her. So I read, I wrote to vets, I thought and thought. And when I came up with a plausible and almost certain explanation, it released me. I have never forgotten her, but I am not consumed by her.

I think what you are doing with the terrific losses you face is not denial; it is *what you have to do*. As a living being, what you know best to do is live. You find comfort where you can. You do what is necessary to go on living and not be crushed. And it seems you will--because you think about it. Thinking is the primary act of living. Denial is not thinking, and is an act of not truly living.

I feel what I feel now--twenty different emotions in succession--and I am trying to allow myself to feel it all. If I try to push something away, I think it will come to have greater hold on me. But I refuse to become lost in grief and anger. When that threatens to happen, I look outside; I look at my child; I look at Nelly.

All our time is limited, some more than others, and being possessed by anger is a crummy way to use the unexplained, great gift of time.

The only thing there really is is connection--yes, "Only connect!" I have found myself connected to a flow of compassion from other people, and from dogs, the likes of which I could never have imagined before. I have re-connected with people from a very long time ago. People have reached out to me, and me back to them. Arguments have been utterly forgotten, and bridges rebuilt seemingly overnight. This is the silver lining in the cloud, and will ultimately make the cloud disappear until silver is all I have. And you, it seems, know this too: your connection to the ones you love is deeper and stronger in your pain, and is the only thing that matters.

Kris said...

Melissa, I just love your blog. Even the comments you receive are wonderful. I'm in complete agreement with Paul. I have a disease that causes chronic pain and after moping around for a year or two, crying about taking immunosupressant drugs and getting fat from them, I had to move on. I can either choose to be happy with the exact life that I have or not. I can't choose another life, I have what I have. Now, I have much, much less pain. I've also chosen to make some positive changes like returning to school, getting in better shape, and moving forward instead of throwing a tantrum. The tantrum was a necessary part of being able to move forward, though.

Patricia Van Praet said...

Dear Melissa,

It was so sad... and so true too. However, how shall I say that.. it is not because love has gone that love wasn't there. But love has a different song for everyone.

Of course, you may not care much now to figure out if you were loved or not, since you are in this horrible land of "where am I now? and who?" You will emerge, lovable as always. I feel very sad for you, and for your son, and for Nelly, and for all the people that are affected. It is not easy nor comfortable.

Your writing is wonderful!

One day at a time, you will shine again. A kiss for Nelly from me!

Patricia (the Belgian)

Melissa Holbrook Pierson said...

Patricia, thanks so much for saying that--I am suddenly feeling flashes of happiness these days, like heat lightning in the dusk. Indeed, I know I will smile again, because I already have. Though it is frighteningly easy to get slammed back: memories, things people bring up. But the recovery time is quicker.

You bring up an interesting point, though: Betrayal, which only concerns *now*, has a way of obliterating everything in the past, too, even though it wasn't occurring then. I suspect that this perception, too, will change over time, as I come back to myself. I hope so. It's too sad to think otherwise.

I appreciate your presence here, in cyberspace. Hope you keep reading. There's a journey going on. If not twenty-five journeys. And they'll all lead somewhere, eh?