Words rush and flit about like butterflies that would not be caught. Slow down you think too fast. Something hurts but I am the one running now. It’s a dream. I line up at the starting line and a man sneers at anyone who takes 5 hours to run a marathon. Inadequate. No! I run, and Ben runs in front of me, too fast. Slow down son. He won’t. Dimples and grins and laughing, so wild and free and fleet . . . he runs.
We run to a bridge 8 inches wide; a balance beam for gymnasts, but I am not. I peer into a gorge and the water rushes beneath me. My chest feels cold and numb from fear. I get down on my hands and knees and I crawl, barely in control of my fear oh please Ben come back to me. “Someone help me!” I cry. And someone does. He is strong and fast. His chest is wide; his hair, jet-black. He runs 3-hour marathons and he leaps over my supine figure and runs abreast of Ben. Ben is in good hands. I made the call. He is safe now.
But I am not. I am not safe. The muddy water tosses and churns beneath me now and the sun has gone down and it is dark and cold and I am alone and still no tears will fall. Two years into psychotherapy and no tears will fall. No one raced ahead to catch Little El before she slipped off her family’s rickety beam bridge and she fell, so many years ago, into the depths.
Every morning, and every night I glare at the mirror, at these cheeks too red and too thick and I repeat, “I am of great value.” These words stick in my throat and I try to believe it when I say it. And when I believe it, even for a fleeting moment, I want to cry and I don’t know why.
Now I am my own surgeon, my own master and my own healer. It’s like handing the keys to the Ferrari to a 16-year boy and expecting him to drive 55. The child, my child, heads at breakneck speed straight for the massive oak tree and the parent I am to my own child shrugs and walks away and whispers, “You’ll be okay darling,” with the tune from “Cat’s in the Cradle” playing in the background.
Mom’s paintings weren’t Rembrandts but they were a part of me for too long, wrapped inside my identity like a confusing coil or a trawling net, sucking up everything in its path. Closure. It’s over. Is it over? They’re gone now. My parents. Her paintings. Their hands and words and all of the slashes . . . I took a bat to them and smashed them all up and my hands and my back hurt when I was done. And still, there are no tears.
When your mom dies I hope you can grieve for her. It is so damn hard to grieve for someone who lives and while living haunts and hurts you. There is no real way to bid farewell. Just time. They say tears fall not in heaven but this holding pattern is no heaven. The minutes and hours and days and years will pass and the wounds will coalesce but first, dear God, first please let me cry.