Last year at this time, on this day (Thanksgiving weekend once again) I wrote a poem for my parents' fortieth wedding anniversay, which happened to fall on 10/10/10, auspiciously enough.
I had gone to the wedding of a dear friend the day before, and had very much enjoyed watching him and his new bride celebrate this on a beautiful fall day, and was very happy for both of them. A wrenching moment, though, came for me as I watched the bride have her dance with her father, to the music, "My Girl"; the same song my sister danced to with our father at her wedding. And I broke into tears, my friend N. putting her arms around me.
I pulled myself together, but the reason for my tears was not just the unbidden memory of my sister's wedding and that particular dance; somewhere, inside myself, I knew, bone-deep, that I was going to miss having that opportunity, miss creating that memory, those photos, and it tore at me.
"It" (these crazy thoughts) was something I didn't talk about to anyone, much less my mom or sister, and really, to none of my friends.
When my father's prognosis of 'cancer-free' came on October 13th, a few short days later, it did absolutely nothing to take these crazy thoughts away. I had snapped at a coworker during a dull meeting when she accused me of looking at my watch one too many times. My boss, who had lost his own mother to cancer a scant eighteen months earlier, followed me as I left the boardroom and said how sorry he was--he hadn't known I was waiting for 'that' kind of news. He asked me to phone him later after I had heard.
I did call him, after my mother called as I was driving home from work, her voice joyous. I tried to match her enthusiasm but inside I was again, feeling torn. My boss had reacted joyously too--"This is the BEST possible news!" Me, flatly: "I'm just not feeling it". He was puzzled, but as I do so often, I didn't elaborate.
I didn't "feel" optimistic. I chided myself that this was the by-product of months of stress; my own personal life had been dizzyingly chaotic, and now I had a new, wonderful boyfriend. Maybe all the good fortune was scaring me. It's tough to adjust to the bad in life, but sometimes, it's tough to accept the good, too. We look for that cloud in every silver lining (I do, anyway.)
On their actual anniversay day, last October 10th, we gathered at my parents, gave cards, had champagne, which my father weakly sipped; he was still at that point, after all the treatments during the summer, of being unable to eat. We didn't have a family thanksgiving dinner, but we did reflect on anniversaries and thanksgivings past.
As he would later that year, on Christmas Day, my father had a strange, far-away look in his eyes, one that worried me. His expression as I read it said "This is the last ________ (fill in the holiday/occasion) I will be here for".
This terrified me.
Again, I talked to no one about my fears.
October 10th, now, 2011.
I've spent the day quietly, after a nice Saturday and Sunday celebration with my mom, sister, and the kids. First, Saturday thanksgiving dinner at my loft, with everyone trying not to focus on the fact that we had set the table for five, not six. Sunday we had dinner at my mom's, the kids celebrating with their father and his family. We ate leftovers, talked about my Dad, had champange, just the three of us, and yes, there were some tears.
I came back from my mom's house last night and did none of the cleaning up I planned. Instead, I sat on the couch staring vacantly at the TV, watching Dark Knight. I finally fell asleep, early, and thrashed the sadness out this morning with a 10-mile run with my sister. By the time I arrived back home I could barely limp up the 12 flights of steps to my rooftop deck, where I spent the next two hours, reflecting, reading, drinking water and Gatorade, and allowing the sunshine to feed me some of its eternal optimism.
I'm still reading Julia Cameron's memoir about finding her way in the world as a creative person, the writing of all her books, against the backdrop of often intense bouts of mental illness and personal challenges.
I adopted her simple prayer today as I sat on the roof, alone, "Please guide me".
She always asks that while out walking, communing with nature, and I asked that today.
No, it's really not a time of intense personal challenge--grief notwithstanding--but for me, it is a time of immense personal change, and maybe some of the personal growth and development I've been so committed to over the past two years is finally beginning to show signs of taking root.
I am almost finished reading Cameron's book, but throughout reading it, I've flipped back to the beginning, where she lists her bibliography of her own published works, just to see if what she was working on at that time in her memoir really did come to fruition (most of her works have). It was while flipping back that I realized I had missed the acknowledgment--it was at the start of the book, unlike most others I have seen, that tend to be tucked at the back.
She acknowledges her gratitude to those who have shaped her life and 'these pages.'
Then she opens with a simple poem from her own works, called Why we Write, and these were the lines that stood out for me:
We write because
The light we have to see by
Is always shifting
So very true. The light has shifted so much recently. On this coming October 13th, now, in 2011, I wait for no news. It will be the four-month marker point since his death in June.
So, I will continue to ask, "Please guide me".