Breaking Point: #20

I am going to end this Breaking Point series with two stories of grief:  beginning in resistance, denial, anger and a final facing of the truth…and ending in Glacier National Park, a place I hold dear.  And a reminder that nature (or God if that is your belief) can hold us when we can’t hold ourselves.  “Let go and weep.  I will not leave.”  Thank you to all who have bravely contributed and to all who have bravely read and commented and shared with others.  It is Springtime now. 

yrs. Laura

 

Submitted:  by Laurie Wajda who blogs here.  You can get her ebook here.

Tribute to a Friend

It was 4pm. In all reality it was 5, but the recent time change had stolen an hour so the shadows were reaching their peak. I rolled down the sleeves of my jacket as a chill hit the air, and stood in my own eternity looking at the stone. It was 4:02.

The mist that had started to rise as I passed through the gate was growing denser with the twilight hours. It swirled up slowly, engulfing my ankles, and lulled across the grass, around and over and between each epitaph. Surely my imagination, but as the earth’s pores let out its steam, the pungent odor of decaying flesh filled the air. I stood fixated, pulling tight the coat around me as if to ward off some unseen evil.

I patted the two Michelob Lights I’d shoved into my pockets and settled myself directly in front of…it.

It was my best friend’s birthday, and I was bringing her a beer. The sad part?   I brought two, opened them both, and placed one at the foot of her headstone.  It had been two years since I’d been to this place.  I had to laugh as I looked around and said, “Well, kiddo, you haven’t changed a bit.” And then my head hit my knees and I cried like a baby.

I don’t know if I went there that day out of guilt or loyalty: Guess I never will. But nevertheless, there I sat.

“Listen… I know I haven’t been here in awhile. Well, I haven’t been here at all… A few times but … it’s not like I could forget your birthday or something.”  Phil Collins flashed throughmy head. No Reply At All. “Jesus. Listen to me talking to a rock.” I took a swig of beer and waded through my myriad of thoughts.

“Ya know – I read your name on that damn thing and I still don’t believe it. I feel psychotic sitting here but we always said the big 2-1 would be a hell of a party.  Some party…

“It’s not like I forgot you or anything…  It’s just that, well, it all feels so superficial…   I’d come here, drop off a flower and sit and cry… what’s the point?  It’s not like I’m here for a visit with some tea and a chat, right?

Listen, Kate, You were my best friend – always were, always will be. You were the person I talked to and trusted and partied with – and then you just up and died and I had no one to tell.   I can’t come here.  Just to look at a damn stone with your birth-date on it?  I can’t do it… I’m sorry, but I just can’t.”

Before any tears fell I got up to leave. Hands shoved in my pockets, I slowly backed away. I turned my back on that stone, that grave. And then I walked toward the gate, never looking back.  I knew at that moment I would never return.

I left the beer bottles there that day. One full one and one empty one, standing side by side. They stood there together like old buddies saying I’m sorry and I forgive you and Happy Birthday all at once.

When the groundskeeper swept them up the next day, I’m sure his only thought was that a local drunk had left his garbage once again. He would never know that those two bottles stood for years of friendship and laughter.  For vacations and smiles and tears and
understanding. He would never know that those two bottles were a tribute to a friend.

Submitted by: Kaye Dieter  

“The River”

Glacier National Park’s Rocky Mountain Front borders the east edge of the North Fork of the Flathead River that winds its way past my childhood home.  These mountains rise rugged over the grassy, tree-dotted valley that holds this river that has been a friend to me for over 30 years, a friend that listens, always listens.  Even before I sensed it was listening, I was drawn to the river.  Before the sadness.  Before the tear drops would not fall, then carrying the tears that could not be contained, unnoticed and without a grudge, in its welcoming mass flowing cold, clear and comforting, away from where I stood on its rocky edge.

I have come to this place since I was seven years old.  Back then it was pure joy to be a seven-year-old girl with an hour, or afternoon on a hot Montana summer day, with time to be oblivious to everything but what absorbed me from my inner-tube portal.  Tied to a log in the mainstream of the river, my rubber craft allowed for enough interruption in the current that, if I sat silent and still, was usually rewarded by a glimpse of a bull trout lying heavily on the grey-green limestone river bottom.  The inlet, where the water flowed slowly in a clock-wise direction, and the spring glacial silt settled to cover the rocks, is where I drifted facedown, delighting in the newly hatched frogs that hopped from the muddy shore, and the minnows as they zipped, zigzagging through the mesmerizingly spaced grassy reeds.  I was keenly aware of the large water beetles swimming haphazardly, and then colliding bluntly, into whatever happened to be in their paths.  Any innocuous leaf or silent stick that was unfortunate enough to bump into the last 1/3rd of my foot (it required too much effort to keep it out of the glacier-chilled water), was unfairly accused of being one of the clumsy little monsters, and was reflexively kicked at. If the water beetles were monsters, then the slimy green-black leaches were blood-sucking snakes that brought terror into my inlet water world.

From the idyllic age of seven, the dependable nature of the four seasons initiated me into early adulthood sooner, and later than I would have liked.  The river saw it all, and listened the whole time.  When I had to leave the river is when I needed it the most because that is when the sadness became my constant, demanding and meddling companion.

During the winter months of November, December and January the river struggles to flow as the slushy islands of ice glob onto its edges.  By early January it is no longer a black ribbon meandering quietly between soft snow banks, it has become just another cold, hard surface for snowflakes to settle on.  But under the deep layer of snow, on top of the thick glass ice, the subdued river is still listening.  Then, as an 18 year old, I kick and glide, kick and glide down its unobstructed path, the snow greedily snatches the tears falling from my eyes, and the water below murmurs quietly.  I listen.

The river says softly, “Let go and weep, I will not leave. Even though you must leave again, when you return I will be here, and will always listen. I know you and I also feel your sadness. I knew and miss her too. I saw her watching you from the high bank.  Making sure I wasn’t playing too rough with you, admiring my graceful form in the varied shades of light, and paying me the highest compliment by putting my likeness on canvas.  Her protective gazes over you were over me too. So please, let go, weep, collapse, remember, weep some more, and when you are able, remember and smile.”

 

6 Comments

Filed under Breaking Point, My Posts

6 Responses to Breaking Point: #20

  1. Alison

    Frank Sinatra sang the song, “I’ll only miss her when I think of her … and I think of her all the time.” This is a lovely way to end the series. Sad, but then, death is a fact of life and as of yesterday, spring is here to give us life and hope! I never visit graves, and I tell myself it’s because the person isn’t there, but in reading your moving piece, Laurie, I think the truth for me would be more like the experience you describe so poignantly. And Kaye, thank you for reminding us that nature is always here, and will be here after we’re gone. I love the idea of giving over grief to the river, and will look to one of my favorite places and see if I can do the same. Thank you.

    • Kaye Dieter

      Alison,

      I hope you find solace in your favorite place. I have found nature and animals to be very good listeners!

      Laura, thank you for helping me be a little more brave!

      Kaye

  2. Alex Duffy

    Having missed the submission deadline, I wanted to still be able to share my breaking point, so Laura suggested I post this as a comment. I congratulate everyone who has so courageously shared their own open hearts.

    It was gathering speed and volume as it raised up inside her, bulldozing over her usual barricade of resistance until she felt it forming into a ball within her throat, then pounding pressure in her head, and then she released it. She had to. Despite all the vows she’d made to herself and the immeasurable love and instinct for protection she felt for the innocent eyes and ears observing her, she let it go – out into the space they all shared. She wanted to pull it back in, even as she was letting it out, but in that moment, she was powerless over it. She broke.

    Her eldest daughter ran up the stairs, her younger daughter following close behind. Her youngest child ran to her- throwing his arms around her begging her, through his own tears, not to cry,

    “No, Mommy, don’t cry, I don’t want you to cry, Mommy, please don’t cry.”

    She hugged him tightly, rubbing his back, grateful for the immediate shift in focus away from her own vulnerability and for his having given his needs back to her. She knew immediately what her first task was. She had to take action to make it up to all of them—that she had selfishly taken tiny slivers out of each of their joyful childhoods in that moment of weakness. She picked him up awkwardly—he was the size and weight of a 7-year-old, despite his 5 years in age—she knew her adrenalin would partner with her usual strength, which was fairly considerable to begin with. She carried him up the stairs as quickly and efficiently as she was able and brought him back to the safety of her bedroom, sitting him on the bed to regroup with him. She did her best to sooth him with her shaky voice, noting that it belied the words as she told him she was OK. Suddenly, her eldest daughter popped out of the closed door opposite them.

    “Surprise! I’m a doggy!”

    She had been hiding in the closet, and it was obvious that her intent had not really been to pretend she was a dog. Her mother smiled at her through dried tears on her cheeks and invited her into the hug she had been giving her son. She allowed for a moment of recuperation to grow between the two of them.

    “I’ll be right back. We’re going to make a plan for the afternoon. Stay right here.”

    She moved quickly from her room down the hall to her daughters’ room where she found her middle child sitting on the bed, looking down through a disappointed frown at small doll she held in her hands.

    “Are you OK, Sweetpea?”

    A shrug.

    “I know that was hard for you to see. You know how sometimes you feel frustrated and angry and sad all at once, and you just can’t keep it inside? Well that’s how Mommy felt downstairs just now.”
    Her younger girl was the one—between the two girls—most likely to let her emotions out. She had spent some worrisome moments thinking about her eldest, keeping her feelings inside, but she suddenly realized that she had maybe discounted the consideration she owed to the origins of the released emotions in her second daughter.

    Pursed lips.

    “Is there anything you want to ask me or tell me? I want to hear how you are feeling right now.”

    Her expression softened.

    “Why do you and Daddy have to fight so much? Why can’t you just get along?”

    She felt a pang of grief pushing its way into the newly emptied space where her default determined purpose usually lived. How to answer? She desperately wanted to provide reassurance to her daughter.

    “We are trying.”

    It was all she could summon in that moment. She knew it was a half-truth.

  3. Jan Larson Myhre

    I’ve been pecking around writing down the story of my life so far. I want my boys to know who I was and who I have become. They may not be interested but it’s become important to me. These “breaking points” have become the food that feeds much of my memory and I thank you, Laura, for opening up your blog for this sharing that heals in so many ways. Today I’ll add my love affair with the Gallatin River of my youth to my writings. It, too, was a joyful experience. I’m grateful to Kaye Dieter for the reminder.

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