Saturday, April 13, 2013

The shells

I wrote a post back in 2009 about marking the seasons with my mother's dining room centerpieces.  She passed in July 2010 and it's my job now.

It's April, Easter is over, it's time to put away the ornamental fruit and bring out the seashells.  As I arranged them i realized, with a little sock-in-the-gut feeling,  that I was doing it for the third time.

The first year is milestone after milestone, every occasion, and naturally the hardest. The second year kind of marks a passage into relief and making things your own.  As I did the table arrangements in spring and fall 2012, there was a kind of "Wow. Okay. We got through it" feeling.  Smiling and grumbling both started to uncurl little fiddlehead-style new growth.

The third go-around is oddly disquieting.  Has it been that long?  Have the ordinary days and the periodic rituals piled up to that degree?

We change some things.   We had never, ever, gone to a restaurant for a major holiday meal, but Dad surprised us all by agreeing to Thanksgiving 2012 at our favorite cafe (!) letting us all rest from kitchen work.  Mom loved poinsettias, Dad doesn't like them, we're skipping them.  Christmas and Easter still take place at the family table (which is back and nicely repaired after its Christmas collapse!),

....but I put out (gasp!) paper napkins at Easter.  The spring seashells and the autumn fruit gladden my heart, and I'll keep that tradition up even when it's just for myself, wherever we land, hopefully for decades to come.

There's a song called "Lesson of Love" (which I won't link because of the nauseating Christian "art" the youtubist added but you can find it easily on YouTube if you want to deal with a Christian song.  Singer is Ashley Cleveland) :

   World keeps turning.
   Bridges keep burning.
   I am learning
   the lesson of love.

Life moves on, and doesn't move on.  The seasons shift, the marsh grass greens over, and browns, and greens again, the tide churns in and out and the wind shifts.  The house stays, time eddying around it.

Holidays happen.  The hummingbirds are back for the summer.  I walk back and forth between houses.  We're keeping up the Mediterranean diet, which might get easier now that I've found a Mediterranean Slow Cooker cookbook. Late to the party but finding that, by damn, NCIS is really good! Older daughter HAS HER BACHELOR'S DEGREE! She fought hard against Crohn's Disease and plenty of ordinary obstacles too, and she did it!

Now our niece is applying to colleges, which astounds me. She was a child, like, 10 minutes ago.

I'm learning the lesson but still feeling like I don't know much about it except to keep on putting one foot in front of the other, to strike a good balance in providing for Dad and the rest of the family the level of continuity that helps and heals, but the changes and the forward motion that keep our souls from stagnating.

I try to think what I would want, what I do want, for my loved ones when I'm gone, and I feel like only the genuine pleasure from the traditions should stay.  If they like things I liked, then we're connected when they enjoy them, but anything I enjoyed that they don't, I pray they'll skip.  Maybe plodding through some tradition that I was all into, even though it annoys people, is a kind of remembrance, but not a kind anybody needs.

I'm older and colder.  There have been huge losses since then for Larry and me, and I feel like I'm in my 60th year and still don't understand a thing in this world.  Believers tell me life is about preparation for the next life, and non-believers tell me life is about here and now and each other on earth because That's a Wrap, and neither one makes sense to me.  The things that do make sense are : cats; Vermeer paintings; Denise Levertov's poetry.  Much is good.  Trying to keep Dad supplied with fun mysteries to read, the often enjoyable pointlessness of telling someone he's wrong on the internet, catering to cats, making things and swearing at yarn, concocting recipes, connecting with friends, planning new plantings for the yard.  Mostly just doing the Next Thing in front of me and having no idea where I'm going.


Sherwood Harrington said...

I have nothing of substance to put in this comment except that I really, really love this post. Thank you, Ruth.

Christy Duffy said...

What Mr. Harrington said.