July 24, 2014

The View From Here: On the Brinks

Today I have a View from Kelly of Kelly Roberts Writing.

I began reading her words when I set out to get this post ready, and I was instantly sucked in. I had skimmed it briefly when she first sent it, but my skimming didn't get the point across.

Her writing is wonderful! Just see what I mean....

On the Brinks

Many important things fill our Brinks fireproof lock box. 

There are certificates of birth and marriage, and thankfully not death. 

There are wills, my husband’s and mine, the kind drafted by lawyers— we keep the kind strengthened by perseverance through years together with us at all times. 

Savings bonds, social security cards and snippets of a child’s caramel-colored hair also rest in the box. 

It holds old family photos orphaned from their negatives and feet of negatives with no photos to show for them. 

It holds our daughter’s baptismal certificate, and her DNA kit in the event she is ever kidnapped and found later unidentifiable—the latter now much more telling of her identity than the former. 

It holds my tarnished baby ring in the original two-inch square Siegel’s box and a tiny dead woman’s white-gold wedding band. The woman—my grandmother, my Mimi—is now ash. She lies in a box of her own, within another box, underground, nestled in the crook of the arm of the husband who outlived her.

But it’s the blood red, torn fake fingernail that seems the least worthy of the lock box’s fireproof safekeeping. I used to have more, found in various places over the years: the driver’s side floor board of a ’90s model Olds Ciera, the ice cube box in my parents’ freezer, the pocket of that dead woman’s mink stole. 

This is the only one left.

Mimi died a few months after my first marriage in 1996. She’d been hoarding bottles of morphine in her bottom dresser drawer over the last weeks of her late-stage lung cancer. She died “in her sleep” in my parents’ room, the one she gained in a coup d'├ętat in the last months of her life. 

In her lifetime she had been a hairstylist, a newspaper man’s housewife, and a no-denim-wearing woman with tall, bulbous, gray hair that added at least three inches to her nearly dwarf-sized frame, although she gained an additional three wearing the high heels she rarely took off. 

Mimi, a former burlesque dancer, taught me dirty Czech words and always wore red lipstick, feathered out from her thin, dry lips like tiny streaks of cherry juice. She used to let me stuff her post-mastectomy, prosthetic jellied breasts into my A cups, and she made the best chicken gizzard dressing and chocolate malts ever. 

She made me feel special by placing a cold glass of water on the nightstand when I slept over, water drawn from her kitchen “zink” that my younger brother wasn’t allowed because he peed the bed and had to sleep on the side with the plastic mattress cover.

When she died, the idea that I would see her in heaven one day placated me. I knew the guilt of not having thoroughly appreciated her when she was alive would no longer sadden me and I’d have the chance to ask her to fill in all the details of a life summed up in a blog post.

In November of 2010, I went through a religious de-conversion. Thanks to Julia Sweeney and her eff-ing one-woman show, it happened almost as inconsequentially as my conversion years earlier when the large girl with even larger ’80s hair on the school bus asked me if I knew where I’d go when I died. 

My de-conversion happened in less time than a weekend nap but had been progressing for years, like shedding skin I no longer needed. 

Standing at the sink in my kitchen one day, looking out the filmy window at my neighbor’s listing garage and spent flowerbeds, the sensation of a multi-story, free-fall Disney World ride crashed into me, and only one thought bellowed inside my head: 

There is no heaven, and I will never see Mimi again. 

Before that day, before that realization jumped on my back and flattened me to the ground, I never cared much for things. Quarterly trips to the Goodwill where we’d drop off garbage bags and boxes filled with unwanted, unused and unnecessary items left me feeling clean, light and renewed. 

“Safe keeping” was for hoarders…and atheists. 

After my de-conversion, I thought about what would happen if our house caught fire and everything burned. All tangible connections to Mimi would be lost. She would be gone for good. After it was clear that “this” was all I’d ever have, I assumed I would appreciate everything in my life a little more, that I’d never take family, friends and my health for granted.

Instead I distanced myself from friends of all kinds: those from my childhood, those I’ve met through work, and especially those who still believe. 

I decimated my body and my wedding vows. Both happened over years and in split-second decisions, affecting the physical and mental well being of the inhabitants of my home in ways I barely gave a thought to. 

I hold tighter to the ones I’ve already lost, the ones already gone. 

The ones that remain I’ve let slip through my fingers like water poured from a cold glass on a nightstand.

Now I keep the most ridiculous, useless crap: a scrap of a metallic blue Lifesaver’s wrapper, also found in the pocket of the dead woman’s mink stole and that my husband framed for me for my birthday; metal caps from iced tea bottles; sweet words on Post-It notes; a green and blue yarn bracelet meant to keep me safe through surgery.

Mimi hoarded bottles of morphine to end her life. 

I hoard remnants of her to keep her alive. 

One got the job done; the other is the best I can do.

Whether an atheist or a believer, I think we can all get
that we shouldn't let the people who remain
"slip through my fingers like water poured from a cold glass on a nightstand".

Seriously, I gotta read more from Kelly, and you should too:

**If you'd like to contribute YOUR view, contact me or go HERE.**

photo credit: Auntie P via photopin cc

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