Monday, December 24, 2007

"You leave just an echo, like trains forever leaving"

-from a Matthew Herbert remix of Nils Petter Molevar's "Marciful"

I woke this morning in silence. The low hum of the humidifier that's been on now for over a month, keeping our lungs damp in a blown-heat house, was all that could be heard. The streets dead because of Christmas Eve (we're in the kind of neighborhood folks mostly leave to go home from, not the vice-versa, when it comes to holidays), the visiting cats in momentary peace with Aviva (Kiki and Gracie are lovely but have fought most of the last week with our kitten), and the furnace off, the house held in some limbo suspended state. Last week, in writing classes, one woman called the present moment "limbo" and I have been savoring the inherent ambiguity and truth of that possibility - that in order to be in a time that never really exists, because by the time we know it is happening it has gone, we are in a moment that, in fact, is between moments, somehow. That's what the moment felt like - a moment between moments, between separate feelings and separate experiences. Then I realized I was holding my breath, and when I began breathing again, everything began moving again.

My first thoughts went to my brother, the elder of the two, with whom I haven't spoken now in over three years. My last contact with him was over Christmas of the first year I cut contact with him - I emailed him, sad to be apart, but also needing the space, and tried to express this ambiguity to him. Justifiably, he emailed me back and said that I had to set a really clear boundary. Either we were not in contact or we were. I chose to maintain, and it's been silence, since. I have no idea of how his life is, though I certainly have my guesses. My therapist told me awhile back the most sage piece of advice I've received in years, though I cried to hear it: "Do not contact him again until you feel ready to accept him even if he hasn't changed at all". I'm not. And I don't know what I am doing with this limbo, but I do know, that like in meditation, it's not intended as punishment - for either of us - or denial. Just to be space, to be the room between then and now, so I can digest, stop for a moment and let it all sit a bit. I sincerely believe that my relationship with Dylan, and all its wonderful concumbent parts, wouldn't be here if I hadn't taken this space. That isn't blame, just noticing the beneficial effects that "nothing" has on me.

When my grandfather died, many things hit the fan, and they hit fast. It was 1999, and my mother had only died a couple of years before. My eldest brother had gotten married to a woman with whom I had a lot of conflict, and her with me. I was in Portland when he actually passed, and my brothers had to file through many address books to find me - I, ironically, was normally very astute at giving my itineraries to interested parties, but not this time. Instead of flying back, I chose to drive back - a modified version of my original plan, with one of my best friends at the time. I needed the space, though I wasn't able to articulate it at the time. And now, when I look back, I am glad I took it, though it hurt my brothers' feelings (both of them) and confused everyone, including me. The estate sale, arguments over boundaries and rights, confusion over money, not to mention the actual death, funeral, mourning, whole nine, were very, very tough on me and the whole family, creating conflicts that haunt me to this day, and setting into motion, for me, the issues that fostered the final isolation I have chosen from that brother and his wife and son. At first I worried I was just doing what my mom would do - not speak to her best friend for eight years out of anger (or that's how I perceived it, anyway) but now I realize more clearly that there is no substitute for space, just as there is no substitute for being present.

Dylan and I spent yesterday with his parents, having Christmas curry (as his mother says "a new tradition!") and exchanging gifts. I went to Milwaukee the day before to spend time with Alex and Tyler, and we went sledding down sloshy hills just to get out and be active, our best way to spend time together. It's been a very mellow Christmas, moreso than ever, and I have actually liked this time, though there is a perennial undertone of sadness. I feel relief not to be trying to make traditions happen that I may not have liked in the first place, or trying to play a role in someone else's family. We took a family portrait of Dylan and me, with his parents and Aviva in the background (accidental but oh-so-cute!) and although I missed his siblings, it did feel like some sort of family to me, which is both incredibly hard and a huge relief to say. It's been a long time - I was always glomming onto my eldest brother's new family, and Alex and I have had a hard time making holidays perky with just us and his son.

Aviva is asleep next to me, Dylan nursing a Christmas cold and in a little bit, Becky will come over and we'll live out one of her Christmas dreams - to chose who she spends (at least part of) it with, baking cookies and watching movies. I have cried a couple of times, simple acknowledgment that although the "required" festivities are over and these are now just a couple of days I have extra-off when the Y and my favorite coffeehouse are closed, there is still an undercurrent there that tugs me, and likely the whole family I was born of, now alive or dead, like an echo, like trains forever leaving...