The Water Line

June 14, 2012

I went there again. Just this afternoon. Damn that place. Damn the feeling of emotional quicksand I get into when I am upended and thrown down and dragged there kicking and screaming.

It was inevitable. What kind of a mother would I be if it didn’t bring me pain? Katie’s husband Chris had called me to discuss the decision of where and how and what the price points are for the cemetery where we will soon bury her ashes. The vault, the interment, the gravestone marker.

I hate to feel the emotion, despair. That one is a killer. It murders, straight out annihilates, all comfort and mercy, all illusion that you might have been content, maybe even light-hearted and carefree just a few minutes before. Anyway, I hadn’t been lighthearted before he called, which of course allowed an immediate return of someplace even worse. Of course Chris didn’t call me up to hurt me on purpose. But those things had to be talked about this afternoon. This damn afternoon. He shouldn’t have to be alone with those decisions. After all, I am his mother-in-law. He already talked to her father. So now it’s my turn. Then I agreed he should call Kristin and Andrew and “run it by them”, too. It’s important to ruin their day too. (Oh, sorry.) Bless Chris’s heart, he’s moving forward on the “ashes”thing. We need him to. We asked him to. He’s got to share this grave reminder of her, because it’s real.

This all reminds me of a piece of writing that I found Monday on “the shelf”. I wrote it years ago in 2008 when Katie first learned that she had lost her “partial remission”, the ability to hold off the aggressive growth of her hundreds of tumors with the experimental chemo she traveled to Chicago every three weeks to receive. She was able to establish a plateau of slower growth for an entire 18 months of “normalcy”, even going to work again, to contribute this time. A whole 18 months for all of us to move away from the “fear and trembling” that accompanied our every day’s consciousness that she would be dead in 3 to 6 to 9 months’ time. We got acquainted with, accustomed to, quite fond of normalcy again. It looked terrific on us, we were a family again that could gather at the dining room table and argue politics and current events and growth points of other members of the family as they assailed their young adulthoods, their career highs and lows, the angst of boyfriend dilemmas—all the delicious price points of abundance that swell your heart with praise for life’s goodness. Routine set in, even boredom could return on occasion.

Then we had to f–k all that. She had another routine set of scans in Chicago and then the news that she was losing her fight with this cancer again, that this particular chemo was cratering. We all knew it would, we wanted it to be later. We knew the other chemos, the ones next in line, were much “lesser lights” in her oncologist’s arsenal of poisons.

The despair came swift and cut deep with the news. A tantrum feeling with a volcano under it. Desperate longings to be in denial were luxuries long since thrown out as defenses of any value. We knew too much. We had our little reprieve and it was bitterly over. You couldn’t even crawl inside a good victim’s whining episode. “Come on, get real, what did you think, that you could be happy? Don’t be a fool!” I knew better. We knew the drill.

So, at that juncture in the shifting tectonic plates of our realities in 2008, I wrote this, and last night found it on “the shelf”:

The Water Line

All this time
I thought it was
The air we breathe
Above the water
That is the
Way of life
To encourage.

I thought this
Was the goal,
What we work hard to enjoy,
The breathing easy,
Knowing our lungs
Have just what they need
To carry
Around inside us.

Then I sank
Below the water's surface.
Reluctant to go there
Yet again.
The darker, murkier,
Arena for
Where human suffering
Is the norm.
Where they laugh at you,
With all your misfortune,
You, thinking you
Could avoid

But while there is no
Bobbing up
And down,
In the water
Here at life's crucible,
That edge of sadness
And loss---and loss, and loss.
It is to create a way
To see them both
That is your task

To bob slowly
And settle
At the half way point
In the center
Of your eyes,
Where there is clear vision
Under the water, ugly,

To see it
At once as
The same reality.
Both bobs,
Up and
Before you dip below
Without the air
To hold you gently,
In grace.


5 Responses to “The Water Line”

  1. I don’t “like” this. I love it … as much as i hate it…because it’s so bloody real. This kind of reflection comes from a very well. It’s a well of tears, but, even more, it’s a well of immense courage and affrirmation of light. when you “dip down” . No one else I know writes this way. There’s only one Kay…only one courageous, real, beautiful, life-affirming, bobbing up-and-down-in-raw-grief you. Thank you. Grace and peace today.

  2. Gordon knows whereof he speaks, and speaks it so well and accurately. I’m glad he has the words, because I can’t find them. Thank God you did.

    • Kay said

      Thank you, Mona….I’ll enjoy all the words of affirmation, they are so important in this process of writing hard things down in public.

  3. You speak so eloquently to what you face and have, and will face. What more can I say?

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