There are a lot of things with life, so many feelings and reflections that I try and remind myself of. When I think of something that I’m processing, it’s never just one thing. It is so many of them, or at least the most that I can articulate and capture in my mind. There is more than just one thing. I have a very distinct memory of my father telling me this once when I was younger in the context of assigning one reason to something and how it is childish to do so. I often forget this one thing and then I have to remind myself of it. This past week my tooth broke, my uncle died, and if these two things were the only two things I landed on then the whammy would have gotten me. I struggle with family loss and how to best communicate sorrow and comfort. It’s something I have learned to improve by talking directly to the person affected about the loss. I admit it is aspirational, as processing can be difficult. It’s something I never do perfectly, but it is something I am working on. I think improvement in general is something I admire in people, like how when I see someone running, I say out loud or maybe to myself, keep going, girl!
The last time I talked to my uncle, he was in the hospital and I explained to him that I was having a difficult time talking before I started sobbing. The last thing he texted me was to keep my head up, and that it was going to be OK. Imagine someone dying saying that to a physically healthy person!
Last summer I was able to visit with him and we would text each other when it was too dangerous for him to visit during the pandemic. I told him we’d have future cheeseburgers to look forward to. We had shared a joke the last time we visited in person about how I wasn’t excited to see him just for food based reasons. Lots of family get togethers are surrounded by food. To future cheeseburgers, I have since cheered in BBQ get togethers with others, where I hold a burger next to theirs and cheers to future burgers. I’m thinking about the idea of toasting to this cheeseburger next time, as next time may not come, and “to this cheeseburger!” sounds more appropriately celebratory for the job this burger is doing for me at the time.
Dreams help prepare me for the worst situations sometimes. The amount of teeth I have lost in dreams pales in comparison to how many I have the ability to lose. So that when I bit into a new piece of gum, thinking I had bit into a rock, and then realized it was pieces of my tooth, it was actually a relief. It was not horrifying at all, and completely painless. Sometimes the fear of a thing is worse than something actually happening. This idea applies to losing a tooth.
Several weeks prior to my uncle’s death, I had a dream about my Mema. She passed away six years ago, and in the dream she still had her wits about her. She was shopping in a mall with my sister and mother, and as I saw Mema walking to the ladies’ room, she fell on the ground and started asking for my mom. I yelled for my sister and mom and we surrounded Mema. In my dream she was still able to talk and remember things, and in my dream it was like I was in her mind, and she kept saying over and over again, I can do this! I can do this! I wonder if she were talking to herself about transitioning to the other side, coaching herself through it, or if she were actually telling herself that she could get through to me in my dream. The meaning I assign to my dreams is something that sometimes helps with comforting myself, as I feel family lives in your heart, even though they are no longer on this earth.
I have been over and over in my mind the past months, the past years, when I was younger, how my dad would tell me the most horrifying feeling he had when he was young was realizing his own mortality. Someday, it’s going to be me. Sometimes it’s not just that one thing, it’s never just one thing, I must remind myself. Since his passing I sometimes have seen my uncle in other people, a lumbering, good-natured aging hippie Santa Claus with shoulder length white hair and a beard to match. Good-natured because he was and is still in my mind. As a personal reminder he’s got doppelgängers everywhere.
It’s funny the ways that music talks to people. A ton of my music has meaning embedded in it and sometimes the music on the radio or in my mind or in an ear worm acts as a sort of divining rod to the people whom I believe are thinking of me or maybe I’m thinking of. I think about the songs that exist for certain reasons, and I know that your feelings and emotions are held in your endocrine system for a lifetime. This is why I recall certain moments in my life when I listen to Pablo Honey by Radiohead or Pink Floyd’s The Wall and still feel very attached in the moment that was that time, even though I have lost touch with those people or have fallen from their contact completely. It’s often the many formative years I hold in my mind that those memories seem so strong, about the same time when my hormones are raging and likely imprinting the hand deeply in the wall with chemicals that remind me of other people I have known.
And people can think about something in such a way that it almost seems magic, but where does a thought come from? It is never just one thing as this mystery passes through me, and how over a lifetime a person processes events differently at certain times, processes grief in different ways, and I could not walk you through those stages and processes, I just simply know that processing grief and our connections to those around us is lifelong, its knowing nothing to me until after I have felt it, in a fleeting certainty that I register as my body would register a thought and have another thought about that first idea. So like the surface tension of water a person is constantly growing from its first reconciliation, negotiated through the sums, entirety, or improvisation of that thing that I could not press my thumb into and name, but rather illuminate on a wall that sticks your shadow on for a moment before you move away from its light.