Friday, June 9, 2017

Whiskey and Fireflies

It seems as though I may have been somewhat premature in announcing the departure of the fireflies.

Two nights ago, as I was sitting in the dining room, looking out over the backyard at dusk (which comes late this time of year...almost 9:00), I glimpsed the familiar spark lighting through the grass. The past week has been remarkably, wondrously cool, and it seems as though everything is running a little late these days. The summer is late in relieving spring, and the hosta-- a tall orange flower that blooms in our backyard-- are late to open. As I sit here, I invariably find a relationship between the hosts and the fireflies; they are intrinsically linked in my memories of last spring and early summers grilling on the back deck; I can still remember the amber glow of the sun filtered through my Bell's Oberon wheat. Elise seems to find me obsessed lately with both the fireflies and the hosta. But I tell her I am just being a dutiful researcher, the James Comey of fireflies, observing their behaviors and meticulously recording my notes, collecting data.

Last night, Elise accused me of arranging the dining room chairs in such a way as to resemble stadium seating. We bought a new bottle of whiskey, and I opened it and poured us both a whiskey and we sat and watched the fireflies which I thought were gone but, thankfully, were not. They were just late like everything else this spring. Maybe they were waiting for the hostas, too. At least, that's what my notes tell me.

While I was in Florida, Clementine and the boys had taken the rest of the bird seed and dumped out over the top of the grill. They also made a bird bath out of a plastic blueberries container. When I got home, our back deck was like "Snow White" with rabbits and chipmunks and squirrels and robins and blue jays fluttering all around. All that was missing was a fawn eating out of my palm. The cardinals are my favorite; I get excited every time I see one. I'm from Florida by way of Colorado, Brazil, and India. I'm not used to seeing cardinals. And am taken with them every time I see a flash of red swoop across my field of vision. I imagine people not from Florida would react similarly to pelicans.

I'm still getting used to the fact that my mom died. I hadn't felt much since her passing. The process had been so long and so grueling--a year and a half--I didn't think I had many emotions left related to the cancer. I was anxious to come home, to see Elise and the kids, to get back to some sense of normalcy (though we would be quickly thrown into the throes of moving...which is far from normal). The emotion I was feeling the most was relief. Without feeling guilty about it. I was relieved my mom was no longer in pain. But perhaps with a pang of guilt, I was also relieved I didn't have to worry about flying down to Florida, leaving Elise and the kids and taking time off work, arranging last minute travel reservations. When I came home and told the kids Nanny had died, they didn't cry. Much like myself perhaps, they had already grieved, and the actual passing was anticlimactic.

This morning, Elise, Clementine, and I took a load of stuff from the basement to the consignment store. We're selling our bikes and the bicycle trailer we pulled the kids in and would take those over to Lauren's house in Takoma later in the day, stopping for a lunch of raw oysters, noon-day pints, and burgers at Republic before picking up the boys from school. Mom would want to know how preparations for the move were coming. She would want to know about the kids' soccer games this weekend. The last time I talked to her on the phone, she was tired and couldn't talk much, rather just wanted to listen, to hear me talk about what was going on with the kids and what was new in our lives when all I wanted to do was hear her talk. Even when she could no longer talk, the nurse encouraged us to talk to her. It's not easy to talk to someone who isn't awake; you don't know if they can hear you and show no response to your words. It's hard to keep talking under those conditions and it is easy to lapse into silence or just walk away, justifying your absence by saying you need to stretch your legs or get a drink of water.

I stood at the sink thinking of how I would fill her in on our move and felt the inability to call her for the first time. I cried. Elise was in the other room and didn't know. Clementine saw me. She grew uncharacteristically quiet and just looked at. I beckoned her toward me with open arms, and she drifted closer to me reluctantly.

I realize the importance of staying in touch with my brothers. My mom had been the primary mediator between us. With her gone, I don't know exactly how I will keep in touch with them. This may seem like a ridiculously minor fix, but I've never called, emailed, or texted them before. I'm hung up on the mechanics of it. Carlton emailed Josh and I my mother's wishes, or what he was able to pull from her in her last two weeks. I still haven't read it. She hadn't put them on paper or otherwise communicated them to us. Her denial was so acute, I am convinced she was never able to articulate a need for them. In her mind--up until the very end--she was going to get better.

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