It’s been fun, talking about a summer crush, talking about grad school starting next week. It’s even been okay to think about summer coming to an end. I bought a nice sweater when sweaters were on clearance; before too long, I’ll get to wear it.
But just three weeks ago — three weeks and one day ago, to be precise, and one ought to be precise about such things, cannot ever be imprecise about them — there occurred one of the worst tragedies of my family life thus far. The terrible thing is not far from my mind, not at any time, however sweet the boys and the sweaters are.
Yesterday afternoon, I was walking home after a lunch appointment, forcing myself to recall The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock. I know the whole poem by heart and have performed it many times, but not recently. I was mentally brushing up, headed south on State Street and furrowing my brow, trying to remember what comes after, “and sawdust restaurants with oyster shells” when I heard:
My sister, Rebecca Fons, was walking north on the very same street. There has to be a word in some language (Urdu? Norwegian?) which expresses the joy of seeing a beloved family member randomly on the street in a big city. It’s a singular, nothing-compares kind of joy and surprise and comedy.
Finding ourselves not needing to be anyplace right away (thank you, late August), Rebecca and I went into the library and sat at a table. As Gramma Graham would have called it, we “visited” for over an hour. We talked a lot about Megann.
Part of what has been so difficult about our cousin’s untimely death is that I care for her siblings a great deal. When I think of those three people in this world without their fourth, I literally clutch my chest: I think of losing Rebecca or Hannah before we’re old and grey and ready to go and it is impossible to get air properly. Megann’s passing has thrown into relief the truth that surrounds us at all times, the truth we cannot bear to look at for long: we’re all born, and we all die at different times.
I stopped dead in my tracks Monday morning, alarmed at what I had done: Was it was “too soon” to be sweet on Receiving Room Guy? Too soon to feel good (or talk about feeling good) when so recently, life was so low, so pitch black? I realized when I was playing cards the other night that I was having lighthearted fun. Is that wrong? Grief is so strange. Both Rebecca and I were quite emotional in the library yesterday, talking through our emotions — and I assure you there were no thoughts of cards or foolishness then.
It will sound dour as all get out, but it’s true: We’re trapped. Our lives continue until they stop; experiences rise up to meet us over and over, or we rise up to meet them, however that works. I can no more control the death of a loved one than I can control a Cupid’s arrow in my flank. And if it seems disrespectful to talk about death and Cupid in the same sentence, you take that up with life.
I have nothing to do with it, I assure you.