That Kind of Thing

You've seen the image before--in a movie, in a photo, in an ad. Someone's sitting on the edge of the bed, his hands on his knees, his gaze cast forward in a way that's possibly blank, possibly vaguely worried, quite possibly full of mourning. The upshot is always "There's this difficult and unpleasant thing facing me (a funeral, a courtroom in which I lose everything I now have and know and love, a truth I couldn't imagine) that I wish I didn't have to deal with, but I'm a functioning adult with the desire to remain such. So I must confront it. I must wade through it. I must believe that sooner or later I'll emerge from the other side."

On Sunday morning, I actually found myself sitting on the edge of my bed with my hands on my knees, only half conscious that I was adopting that posture. A few hours later, I sat in my car in the Inner Sunset, in much the same position, trying to steel myself for what was ahead. And when I came back to the car a bit over an hour later, with what felt like every bit of my face swollen with crying, I sat still for a few moments and thought, All I have to do now is get through this and go on.

In an essay that appeared in O Magazine a few years back (a piece I've quoted here before because it's trenchant and heartbreaking and flat-out, whatever you might think of O), Amy Bloom writes, "What I hadn't understood, until recently, is that sometimes love is not enough. And that is the worst news-from-the-universe I have heard for some time. ... Love takes us further than we thought we could go, but it does not take us past the limits of our nature. And that is a hard thing to know."

On Sunday afternoon, I heard a truth that crumpled my heart but, at the same time, set something inside me to calmness. It was a hard thing to hear, but nevertheless I felt a tinge of gratitude to hear it. And for sure it's a hard (and painful) thing to know, but even I would rather a hard truth than a soft lie. Sometimes love is not enough.

So I return again and again now to that edge-of-the-bed image: each of us, for a while, sits there feeling too heavy to stand, knowing that what awaits us is a horrendous goodbye, a run-in with heartbreak, an encounter with the understanding that we're no longer what we once were, or we no longer have what we once did, and once loved so much.

But sooner or later we do stand. We stand and (to quote Marge Piercy) hold hard, and let go, and go on. Because there's no other worthwhile choice


I can't even think of a fitting title

Yes, pops, just plain loony

So I had this serious and heartfelt and vaguely profound post bubbling around in my head all day, and I came home all set to actually put it in words and get it up here. But I reached my front door to find a package from my Dad, inside which was the little fellow on the right in the photo above, along with a card: "Because sometimes life is just plain loony!! Love, Dad." This sent me into a spate of half-laughing, half-sobbing, in a way I don't think I could replicate if I tried, because it's all just so unbelievably...something.

Here's the thing: after the breakup with G. in 2004, Erfert brought me a bottle of booze and a stuffed ptarmigan from Wild Republic's line of Audubon birds ("with real bird calls!") which, when squeezed, sounds a ridiculous but delightful ptarmigan call. The ptarmigan was soon joined by others (a loon, a chickadee, a bluejay, a thrush), all of whom perched on the back of my sofa.

Though I can't remember exactly when or how, last summer Erik took a liking to the loon (that's him on the left above), and eventually he became our steadfast companion, coming with us to Vancouver and perching with us when we watched movies and calling out his loony call through all of it.

One afternoon, one of us squeezed the loon and, rather than his standard "whooOOOOoooOOOooo," he let out what sounded like an angry squawk from some other bird altogether. A while later, he added to his repertoire a sweet songbird-like chirping. And he'd switch between these calls and his normal one seemingly at random. (I swear I'm not making this up; there's video-recorded proof.)

Over the last few months, the loon started to lose his voice, his calls (all three) growing increasingly metallic and warbled. By a couple of weeks ago, he was all but silent. Squeeze him now and you get the aural equivalent of seeing someone who's always been robust and healthy withered away to skin and bones.

During our weepy pow-wow yesterday, Erik told me that he'd watched the short video of the loon he'd taken back in late summer and said he heard a radical difference between what the loon sounded like then and what he'd become. I choked back a heave/sob thing and said, "Loved to muteness."

So when I came home today and unwrapped another loon, this one with a call that's loud and strong and clear, it felt like there were a billion messages coming down from the universe, but I couldn't understand any of them.

My Dad sent me a stuffed loon to help soothe my broken heart. This loon is sort of small and runty compared to the original loon, but he calls out clearly. The original loon--our loon, the loon so beloved by the boy I love(d)--is bigger and fuller but now can only warble weakly.

It all means so much. It all means so little.