Until today, my reading list suggested I had stopped reading sometime in February. What actually happened was this.
On January 4th, a serious nor’easter hit Provincetown. The main problem was flooding, and my house is up on stilts. So I wasn’t worried. The power did go off, but Eversource got it right back on. The next day, a neighbor called. Giant ice cycles and blocks of ice had formed under the house. Yep, the electricity had come back on, but my heating system had not. When my friend opened the front door, it appeared to be raining inside. The deck had been demolished between Christmas and New Year’s for a planned rebuilding. So picture me opening the door nine days later–no sheet rock, no floor, no kitchen, nothing at all out the sliding glass doors except for the sad, empty ocean. It would be five months before things would be back to normal.
At five am in the pre-dawn darkness of March 9th, while I was staying at my neighbor’s house in Provincetown, a large bird landed on the balcony and began bellowing for all he was worth. The preceding days had been cold and harsh and devoid of birds. I almost got up to see what he looked like, but I was so cozy under the covers. Twenty minutes later, the phone rang. My father had died at five am after a long struggle with Alzheimers. I wrote his obituary, which I had actually already started, but my sisters and brother and I (five of us) had a hard time choosing a photo. Finally I found one we could all agree on, and I made it black and white for the newspaper.
On July 24th, the day before what would have been my parents’ 64th wedding anniversary, I was shopping at the Party Store, hoping to find some fun stuff to celebrate with my mother the next day. She had been in poor health for a couple of years–with difficulty walking, seeing, breathing. I texted my sisters, I’m not feeling it. Still, I managed to choose some plastic coconuts and leis–my parents had loved Hawaii. At the checkout, I asked about their return policy, not something I often did. My sister called a couple of hours later. My mother was worsening–the new pain medicine was not working and her breathing was more labored than usual. I was getting my hair cut when I realized that if she died that day, they would never have spent an anniversary apart. And she did it. Around six thirty, wearing a multi-colored tie-dyed t-shirt, she died peacefully, my sister beside her; minutes later, a rainbow shooting across the sky. I wrote her obituary but had no time to find a photo so my daughter offered to choose one. All five of us liked the one she chose.
It wasn’t until August 9th when I was going through photos for my son’s upcoming rehearsal dinner that I discovered the original photo from which my daughter had cropped my mother’s picture. Without any of us realizing it, my daughter had chosen the other half of the same photo from which I had chosen my father’s photo.
So that’s what’s been happening with me. This morning I updated my reading list. And now I’ve written something. Hope all is well with all of you. Send reading, writing, and life news from your parts of the world.
Oh Cynthia! What a year it’s been for you. I hope coming back to writing and reading will help you settle into the new normal, whatever that may be for you. xoxo
Thank you, Sophfronia. I appreciate it. Hope you and your family are well. See you at AWP! xo
Sending out a BIG HUG. This was beautiful and heartbreaking…
HUG received–thank you, Jen!
Cindy, I am so sorry to hear this! What a year. I’m glad you’re back to reading and writing. I know it can help with healing. Much love to you from Seattle!
Patricia, thank you. I was just asking Karen how you were doing. Glad to hear from you. xo
Oh, wow. I am so sorry for your back to back losses and for your house upheaval too. Wishing you a peaceful next series of months, and many happy memories of your parents as you head into these holiday times. xox
Lindsey, I thought of you often after your father died a month after your father-in-law at the end of last year. It didn’t seem possible. I thought I had misunderstood your posts. And I thought of you again after my mother died a little more than four months after my father. There’s a surreal quality to such a time period, as if one death could make sense but two so close together? Surely not.
I was writing this comment to you and remembered what an impression it made to see the name of your father-in-law and your father on your posts. That made me realize I had neglected to mention the names of my father and my mother. So I’ve added their names now–and links to their obituaries.
Thanks for your good wishes here. And sending peace and love back to you as you approach the year marker on your father’s death. I’m sure that is hard to believe as well. xoxo
Hope my comment came through – sending you love and peace in what is clearly an unbelievable time of loss. xo
Thank you for sharing these stories, Cynthia. Condolences on the loss of your parents. Sounds like they have already started sending you healing messages. What wonderful people they must have been.
Thanks so much, Andrea. Nice to hear from you.
Cynthia, for some reason your post leapt out today after not seeing your blog for a week or so. And I too am so sorry for the loss of your parents, and the oddness of how, after a long marriage, they followed each other. My parents died ten years ago after 62 years of marriage. Dad died December 11 when I was in NYC, and Mom died 365 days later. Some of my sisters and I were with her, singing all the songs she’d taught us. I read her “Meditations of an Old Woman” by Theodore Roethke from Words for the Wind, which she gave me when I was in fifth grade when she was studying at the UW where Roethke taught just before he died (near where I still live). Mom and I loved that poem together. As a teen, I’d read it out loud with some boyfriend accompanying me on the guitar. For the time it took me to read it, my sister Celia holding Mom in her arms, Mom opened her eyes again and stared into mine, pupils widening a little at the most beautiful metaphors. And then, with that permission, she returned to her dying. Now, ten years later, l talk with Mom every day as I wander in in the forest where I grew up and walked so many times with her. In summer, I sleep in a tent a few feet from where she meditated to get away from six kids when we were growing up. I swear she still helps me with my writing.
In this meandering post, sending love to you from across the continent. ~Kirie
What wonderful memories, Kirie. Thanks for sharing. I agree, it doesn’t feel as if my mother has gone anywhere. Surely she is just waiting for me to come bring lunch. As if to prove that to myself, I play the voicemail I have from her asking where I am now and to call her when I have a minute : )
I wish you comfort and peace and hope life calms for you.
I had a three hit year a couple years ago. First, I lost my brother-in-law. Second, a couple months later, my sister was gone.
My Mom was thrilled one spring morning when she saw two of a bluebird not usually, or ever for her, seen in our area. They visited her feeder, and when one left, the other followed, but after a hesitation. A short while later, the phone rang with news of my sister. The contrast of my mom’s joy at the birds and her grief soon after could only make sense if the sighting of the birds was part of the story. From time to time, she draws comfort from thinking about the birds and I tell her I think there is much we don’t understand.
I am grateful to you for sharing your story. I’ll share the part about your father and your bird with my mom tomorrow, it will remind her of the bluebirds and give her comfort.
Lori, Sorry you lost your brother-in-law and sister all at once. I loved hearing about the bluebirds. And I agree. There is much we don’t understand. Thanks for passing my story along to your mother. And thanks for leaving a comment. I hope you’ll be back.
I’m sorry for your losses. Be kind to yourself. Grief knows no schedule.
Thanks, Karen. Nice to see you here. Happy news about your book.
Oh, Cynthia, what a time of grief! I’m sorry for your double loss. I do hope your writing home is even better than before and that reading and writing will help you recover. It’s sweet that your parents’ best photo was of them together.
Thanks, Sarah. And my little cottage IS better now than before. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.