Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Year My Sister Became a Swan

*** I am poking at a speculative memoir. This is part one of a chapters. ***

I stand at the threshold of my parents’ house. I have been here before. Don’t open the door, my mind whispers. If I don’t open the door, I will never know. The bliss of ignorance. But the knob has already turned. The door falls open. My father is there. It begins again.

My father, a stout man with black hair and serious eyes, chokes out, “there has been an accident.” Accident… If it had been anyone but him, I would think it an April Fools joke. But coming from him, the word hangs thick in the air, echoing and reverberating. “Accident, accident, accident…” I want to breathe fire on the word, incinerate it, eradicate it from my life, from being true, from the new reality of what my family will become.

The year was 1995. Joy, a high school Spanish teacher, was in Costa Rica as one of the chaperones for her school's International Club. They had taken the group white water rafting on the last day… THE LAST DAY. And it was beautiful. But rafts collided, sending everyone into the swirling chaos of the rapids. All around were sounds of shouting and water breaking on rocks and animals in the jungle. The adrenaline of the calamity that was going on making it impossible to know anything.

What we do know:  A man drowned, he died.

Joy might've dove back in. Joy, who was a very good swimmer, might've been pulled under by the drowning man. But we will never know for sure.

We also know they found her body floating, face down. They pulled her out. She was dead. Too long in the water. But they revived her. A miracle! (The miracle she could have used, was not drowning in the first place.) An ambulance bouncing over rough terrain. She survived, survived, survived...

Joy, in a coma; Joy, out of the coma. I was not there. Her voice changed; she changed; she was not the Joy I knew. She became other. The accident caused her to transform.

“You have to be the big sister,” she said to me in a moment of clarity, before her transformation was complete. I watched as her neck arched and stretched and feathers sprout all over her body. She squawked as wings blossomed where arms had been. Her legs thinned, her feet flattened and spread out. She became awkward and unsteady on land. Her words were barely intelligible as they poured forth from her beak. “They need you, you’re the oldest now. You have to take care of them.”

But I didn’t know how. I was too busy wallowing; too busy avoiding. My parents turned to paper. I only saw my younger sisters when I would squint. They were so far away. My eyes went black, unseeing. My sisters changed too. One became a veil of darkness and silence. The other was a smile so tight she cracked at the edges. And Joy had become a swan.

Feathers landed on everything. Everything.

The care and feeding of the swan fell to my mother. She rarely asked for help though we knew she needed it. I did not offer. She did her best, but there are no manuals on how to care for your swan daughter. Feed, shelter… but what happens when she flies into a rage? What happens when the swan who was your oldest daughter attacks your youngest daughter? What do you do when the whole family is covered in bruises? How do you explain the feathers everywhere; the beak marks; the three feet of water in the basement?

The water in the basement...

The basement flood broke me and my mom. Sewage water drowned my belongs; my writing. It destroyed much of what had been saved of Joy before her accident; before her transformation into a swan. We cried. My mother and I held each other and we cried. The swan swam.

My father, the engineer, focused on fixing things. He could not fix his daughter who was now a swan, his daughter with blackened eyes, his daughter who had become a dark room, or his daughter who’s smile shattered inside her heart. But he could gather people to empty and clean the basement. He could fix the basement.

It began again… I went back to the basement. It was fixed, but the same. Nightmares waited there. I opened my eyes, no longer unseeing, but everything was faded. I tried to help my mother with my swan sister; gathering feathers; cleaning; trying to understand her.

But my swan sister swam further away.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Dying Rainbow


I dyed
My hair
Rainbow colors
Because it was fun
Because I loved to see
people smile and giggle
When they saw my hair
But after tragedy
A cat dying
The killing of Joy
I shaved my head
Then a second cat
And an aunt died
Sad, wanting to hide
I instead covered my head
With scarves, hats, and hoods
No more bright rainbow colors
For I have not found happiness
Though there are sparks
With caring friends
A new found dog
And a foster cat
But my hair has
Been growing
The grayest hue
It has ever been
In the grays are
Flecks of silver
Persist in
Shining
Through my grief

Someday, I’ll share my silver

Friday, January 25, 2019

Has It Only Been Two Months?

I've never been one to think, "oh, it couldn't happen to me and mine." Life is too strange, too chaotic, people are too careless and really, shit just freakin' happens all the time.

But the way Joy was killed was so bizarre that two months later, it STILL feels unreal. I'm still flinching everytime I notice I have a text or someone calls me, afraid that they're going to tell me that someone else I love is hurt or dying or no longer on this plane of existence. That, combined with her previous rafting accident, I get nervous whenever anyone I love goes on a trip. Add to all that my cats dying, my sister's dog dying, my aunt dying, and the five year anniversary of my mom's sudden death --- it was a pretty shitty holiday season and ringing in of a new year.

So what can I do?

Do I stop living, stop loving, stop caring, and let everything scare me? Bar myself away from the world? Lock my loved ones in... in what? Not a room, 'cause a truck could come through the wall and kill them all. In a box? with a fox? in a house? with a mouse? And now we're sitting with Dr. Seuss eating green eggs and ham... but I'm a vegetarian!

NO

I WILL NOT DO THAT

I will live BIGGER, love HARDER, adventure WIDER, cultivate a DEEPER sense kindness, and create MORE! EVERY MOMENT counts. I get that. My life is what I make it. I get that too. Despite all speculations and beliefs, I don't know what comes next, so I have to make this one life AMAZING.

Yes! Absolutely! I get it! I will do it!

Now if only I could stop crying every single fucking day, sleep for more than two hours at a time, and reignite my ability to focus... If only I could wrap up this whole grieving thing...

As soon as I do, I'll get right on that living BIGGER HARDER WIDER DEEPER and making my life MORE AMAZING EVERY MOMENT.

But not just yet...

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Difference of a Day

Yesterday was brilliant
There was Tea & Friends & Cats & Reading & Bunnies & Conversation & Art 
I only had one big cry

I dealt with issues at work
And difficult patrons
With panache and a smile

I even had a moment 
During a hug
When a friend said sorry

Where I thought
"For what?"
Before it all came back

I forgot to be SORROW for a moment
It was delightful in that sense that I 
Was filled with LIGHT

But today
I woke up crying
And in migraine pain

Waking from nightmares 
Of dead cats
Of dead sister

Waking to feelings
Of hopelessness
Of helplessness

Waking to fears
Of what else
What comes next

Glad for the day off
I laid in bed courting sleep
Until after one pm

I am measuring the day 
In increments
In accomplishments

Things so small 
I'd normally 
Not notice

I got up
I fed the bunnies
I'm eating healthy

I emptied the top rack of the dishwasher
(Bending down hurts my head
The bottom rack can wait)

I have cried
So many times
I've lost count

I am glad
No one else is home
To witness

Today 
I hold onto yesterday
As proof of light

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Smile Deflect Rinse Repeat

At work
“Hi! How are you?”
“Fine! You?”
I am “okay”
(I am not okay)


Smile deflect rinse repeat


Out in public
“How are you holding up?”
“Well, I haven’t fallen over!”
((canned laughter))


Smile deflect rinse repeat


With friends
“How’s it been? Is there anything I can do?”
“It’s hard but I’m managing.”
((managing? What does that even mean?))
“Just, what you’re doing... be my friend.”


Smile deflect rinse repeat


In the car
At home
In my room
I crumble


I haven’t gone a day
Without crying


Smile deflect rinse repeat


It’s been
1 month
15 days
(is that all? is it that long?)
Since it happened


Smile deflect rinse repeat


Since she died


Smile deflect rinse repeat


Since she was killed


Smile deflect rinse repeat


Smile deflect rinse repeat
Smile deflect rinse repeat
Smiledeflect rinserepeat
Smiledeflectrinserepeat


*gasp*


Smile


Deflect


Rinse

Repeat

Thursday, December 27, 2018

December 25 & 26, 2018

Dec. 25:
To say that I'm overwhelmed emotionally today would be an understatement. Today is exactly one month after Joy's death and it's christmas, a holiday I already have mixed feelings about. I did a lovely ritual for Yule on the Winter's Solstice that helped me release some of my anger. On Sunday, I had an excellent dinner with my cousin Heather who (whether she knows it or not) helped me mentally sort through some things. I'm still crying every day, but apparently tears are great for shielding from illness as I haven't caught Bek's plague. I have received so many amazing cards and gifts (I have such wonderful friends and family!), both condolences and celebratory. Today I even accomplished cleaning and straightening the bunny area (happy bunnies!), petting buns, cuddled all the cats, and did laundry. I still have presents and things to finish, but I'm not stressing about it.
My favorite gift, the one that made me weep with sorrow and happiness, is the painting Bek did of our two boys, Meander and Nemesis. 💙


Dec. 26:
Today was rough. At work we were unexpectedly short staffed, I had to be mentally present for a business meeting, and there were tech issues... (At one point, the power went out in the library in the middle of me helping a patron who was dealing with some legal stuff online! Fortunately, once the power came back on, I was able to help her recreate everything, and she was very kind, but it was super frustrating.) I was so glad for Alex, who checked in ALL THE BOOKS IN THE WORLD!! Okay, maybe a few less than that, but there was a lot due to us being closed for two days. Since I had a meeting then was consumed with helping patrons on tbe computers, it was pretty much just him for the morning.
The hardest part was all the people asking me if I had a good Christmas. Saying I don't celebrate just changed the question to, "well, did you have a good time on your days off?" I couldn't lie, so I said no and turned the question back on them. Most folks took the hint, but I had one regular who kept pushing and was asking where my family was, did I grow up around here, etc. He's a sweet man, but I really, really, really didn't want to get into any of that.
When I got to my car, I saw that my dad had called. My first thought was, "who died now?" I hated that I was right... My aunt Liz, who was 93 and had health issues, died peacefully this morning. While I'm so glad for the peaceful going, it is still loss and I bawled.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

I want to Eat His Heart

He killed my sister
I want to eat his heat
I want to hit him with a truck
I want to rip him limb from limb
I want him to feel the pain my sister felt
Until there's nothing left but his eyes
I want his body to be crushed
I want to eat his eyes
He killed my sister