March 12, 2015 by Katia
My birthday is on March 16th, a day before St. Patrick’s Day. This year for the first time I will be missing some of the people who celebrated it with me most of my life.
(This post is dedicated to loss. Please use your discretion)
When babushka* died at the hospital in the evening I was attending a colleague’s birthday lunch, oceans away in a parallel reality represented by different time zones. My phone showed two missed calls from my mom, hospitalized herself at the time, so I held my breath and dialed from a narrow restaurant corridor flanked by heavy wooden white doors and received epoch-ending news for the second time in three weeks. I didn’t cry this time nor did I shake. I don’t remember my heart racing. I didn’t feel misplaced, or at least not in the same way I did three weeks earlier when Babushka’s sister, Ninulya, died. Experiencing what I can now define as acute disconnect, I floated back to the lunch table and assumed my seat.
When a person that’s a part of your identity dies, you’re supposed to react.
I was leaving early that day to attend my five-year-old’s school holiday concert. I knew exactly at what time I had to excuse myself and ask for the bill and which streetcar I was going to take to get to the subway. I was the embodiment of going through the motions. Flooded with thoughts instead of feelings, I was aching to react.
They wanted to be together. Couldn’t stand to be apart.
Why am I not crying?
The next station is Osgoode. Osgoode station.
I talk to her in my mind then out loud when I’m alone, but while Ninulya flooded me with her presence — I could speak to her, into her, through her, she was everywhere — the words I have for Babushka all bounce back.
Kids on the stage, singing songs, gesticulating, waving to parents, cell phone cameras. Two Year Old running toward me wanting to be held. His grandma holds him instead, she understands. Greetings, more greetings, there’s my neighbour, there’s my mommy friend, smiles, “hi! How are you?”
Which reality is more real right now?
Remember how Tali said that when you get married and have a big wedding and see all your friends and so many other people you know in one place it is just too much for the psyche to process, so you block out certain parts of your wedding and are only reminded of them afterwards, when you look at the pictures? Did my soul go into one of those self-defence modes having to cope with two deaths and a major health scare in a short period of time or is it because Babushka was “more not here than here”, as Katya put it, in the last few years? Is it because during those years she had reached that state of “at peace” whereas her little sister, in a total role reversal to all of life before, was anything but? Were we more prepared for Babushka? Does that make her death less tragic and why can I not hear her voice?
Two weeks later when it’s time for mama to be released from the hospital I travel to Israel. I still can’t cry. I want to immerse myself in them so I could feel what needs to be felt. So I could return the love, a morsel of the endless giving. I didn’t know how to mourn from far away besides lighting candles and trying to talk to her, but I didn’t hear her voice and my own words bounced back. Was she able to see how sad I was? Once back home, I provoke myself. I go to Ninulya’s apartment expecting the emotional flood. Instead I’m greeted by a different kind of sadness, the sadness of an apartment which used to be an extension of the person occupying it, and is now stripped of its defining quality and when I tell this to Tali she says “it’s so sad” and I say “yes. It is”. I take a scarf from Ninulya’s familiar outdated wooden closet and I don’t cry.
Mama has piles and piles of documents and personal belongings of theirs to go through and while she’s still recovering she can’t do any physical labour, so I help. One evening we find a folder characteristically tucked away somewhere you would never expect to find a folder. Hiding in plain sight probably placed there a few years ago and never moved since. Uncharacteristically, to those women who spent most of their time contemplating dramaturgy, poetry, words and events that took place decades ago its purpose is anticlimactic and mundane. This folder is for organizing bills and is divided into categories. My mom and I take a moment to marvel at the endearing discovery . When we open the folder we stumble upon a treasure trove and we are flooded: letters from the 1920s, with correspondence between the girls and their parents revealing defining, common knowledge, personality traits in the bud, ancestral telegrams unearthing the origins of certain learned behaviours, and family photographs from the 1890s and onwards filed under “electricity”. We laugh a laugh of shared knowledge, recognition, joy and comfort.
When people are no longer there, they sometimes leave things behind to play their parts.
This is what I was looking for. I look at the photograph and tears flood my eyes.
This was a Finish the Sentence Friday post on the topic “When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day”. Please visit the lovely hosts: Kristi at Finding Ninee Kelly at Just Typikel and Lisa Listwa at The Meaning of Me