Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Long Goodbye

I first noticed and heard about this magnificent book through a blog I follow entitled "Bookswept" (a blog of note, consequently, that showcases random lines from books and novels alongside stunning photographs).
The author's name is Meghan O'Rourke, and all I knew is that it was a memoir, and I liked the lines I had read on Bookswept.  I thought perhaps it was a memoir of a romance gone all wrong, and in this I was wrong.
Because once again I've managed to find another book about someone's parent who died slowly, sadly, painfully, of cancer.
In O'Rourke's book it's her mother, by all accounts a magical, whimsical woman, the centre of a warm family, much like Cheryl Strayed's seemed to be. O'Rourke was older than Strayed at the time of the dreaded news, the dreaded event, but still has her own break-down moments, her marriage falling to the strain, her career feeling the weight of her grief-depression.

The book is not just memoir but O'Rourke's delving into the literature of grief, passages which she sprinkles about in the book. I enjoyed that alot. Other writers attempts to wrestle grief to the page, to pin it down, that elusive wave upon the sand. The Long Goodbye haunts me in the same way The Year of Magical Thinking haunted me (haunts me still). The way Blue Nights did. In an intelligent way, one that makes me honour my grief and it's transitory nature. And also, by the fact of its very existence, makes room for the knowledge that while it ebbs and flows just like water, the tides, and that sometimes it seems very far, then very close again--it will never truly go away. Just diminish. Then re-appear. O'Rourke likens it to the seasons, and her views as a non-religious person do not undermine her feelings of spirituality.

But enough of me waxing about the book.

I've had two nights in a row of strange dreams. Last night, my lost aunt and cousin invaded my slumber. They were visiting me in my loft, but not the loft I live in now--a greater, vaster loft, with much more furniture and a piano of all things (reminder of my father). They were scrounging for money, as they had been left with little. I questioned this. My cousin ignored me, her back turned, a thick black ponytail swinging. My aunt's eyes remaind downcast, and she could not look at me. I felt like begging her to. I may have, in a cajoling, wordless way, using just my eyes, to do just that--look at me, Aunt K.  See me, I wanted to shout. Forgive me--forgive yourself. Admit you were wrong. I'll try to do the same.
But it was, and remains, just a dream. A strange one at that.

The night before my dream involved my sister, and me trying to get her hospital care, which was impossible to do in my confused dream-world. I remember little other than that, just the bright white space we were in, the red-crosses defining the inside of the stark building.

Nothing else to really report, but I will leave this entry with an excerpt of The Long Goodbye, one that I've sat and thought about alot in my spot on the couch, late in the day, the last slants of the sun rays peeking through the slats of the blinds. That's my favourite time of day in my apartment, maybe because it's the one I see the least, as I am at work at this time five days out of seven, and the other two I may not always be home or paying enough attention at the exact right moment.
But I recalled these lines as I sat there today:

"...and I lifted out of myself and understood that I was part of a magnificent book.  What I knew as "life" was a thin version of something larger, the pages of which had all been written.  What I would do, how I would live--it was already known.  I stood there with a kind of peace humming in my veins."

This passage reminded me that alot of the thoughts I've had lately, on life, on work, on my purpose, haven't really seemed to have been invented by me, but rather they are like archaelogical fragments--there hidden in the cold ground all this time, only now being unearthed.
I like this image. And I like that for once, my thoughts of being seem to have just settled inside me, without alot of struggle on my part.  It's comforting, isn't it, in some ways? The book is already written.

For the first time in a long time, I'm looking forward to turning more pages.

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