Tuesday, December 26, 2017

SOLTuesday: Letters from the Past

My mother kept the letters I wrote her all through the 1960s—from college, living on my own, and my early married days—and some years ago she sent them back to me. I only started to reread them in the past few days.
            When I told my daughter, she related that her husband, Richard, had a box of letters that his uncle had sent to Richard’s mother during World War II. So for Christmas Day, I proposed that we bring out our caches and read them aloud to each other.
            It was a fascinating exercise. Richard’s uncle died during the war, so one of the letters was one his mother had written and was returned to her. It was her plea that her brother intercede with their father about a boyfriend she had that apparently the father didn’t approve of. In an earlier letter her brother had teased her about her boyfriends, who seemed to change with every letter.
            My letters included some stories I remembered, but others I had no recollection of. There were letters I wrote to my younger brother detailing our “wild and crazy” life, staying up until 2 a.m., going to parties at 1 a.m., descriptions of “boys” trying to impress us by acting silly. And then there was the slang that hasn’t survived and the slang that has: “kooky,” “nuts,” “skuzzy,” “hysterical.” Here’s what I told my brother about my college: “To be a non-conformist here you have to wear a suit, and a tie, be clean-shaven and neat. The normal costume for upperclassmen is dungarees, dirty sweatshirt, and sandals.”
            Each letter prompted memories or stories or speculation. It was fun, and to be continued, since we barely made a dent in my letters, and there are still some of Richard’s relatives we haven’t seen yet.
It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Grief, Revisited

I met with my financial planner today at TIAA. She was looking through her folder for me and noticed that all the statements there were from 2012. I said that was probably from when Jack and I had our meeting with her after our former financial planner at TIAA was promoted.
            I then had a memory flash of Jack sitting in the other chair in our planner’s office, a memory that felt so solid I could almost see him. The presence of the memory against the absence of his physical self felt so jarring. Is this what grief is? The presence of absence, and the absence of presence.
            There’s nothing comforting about this, but I don’t want to lose my connection to the loss that creates the lack of comfort. Is this morbid? Is it healthy for me? What does “healthy grieving” mean? Why even think in those terms?
            I so want to talk to Jack about this. We had so many family members die in the past 10-15 years: his older brother and sister, and his uncle Bill; my mother, father, and sister. We talked about it, but I doubt I wrote anything based on our discussions. Our words went into the ether, and Jack has joined them.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

SOL Tuesday: Labyrinth Therapy

I’ve been feeling blue the past week. Two years ago this week Jack went into the hospital for what turned out to be the last time.
            Yesterday I went down to Battery Park. Jack loved New York City, as only a convert to the city can. We sometimes went to Battery Park and wandered along the waterfront. I wasn’t exactly retracing our steps, because the park has changed. There’s theSeaglass Carousel, sea-creature shaped sculptures one can sit in; it wasn’t running when I walked by, but it looked like something Jack might have liked.
            I sat facing the harbor, the Statue of Liberty across the water, Governor’s Island to the left and Staten Island beyond; Ellis Island, Liberty Island, and New Jersey to the right; and in the far distance the cranes that lift containers off the freighters and put them on trains. Seagulls perched on pilings, backs to the wind.
            Nearby, I found the labyrinth I had walked last summer. Walking it yesterday, it felt like a way of moving forward while staying in the same place. Is that where my grief is taking me these days? I do keep moving, but I seem to be still in the same place. Maybe that’s where I need to be right now. 
It’s Slice of Life Tuesday over at Two Writing Teachers. Check out this encouraging and enthusiastic writing community and their slices of life every Tuesday. And add one of your own.