I cannot sleep. Well, I slept for about an hour and a half and then lolled in bed for a similar amount of time, hoping to slip back into dreams. I did not do enough yesterday and I am not sufficiently tired.
I did not do enough because I had a minor “procedure” on Tuesday — big toe nail removal — and although I am in no pain, I was cautioned to keep the foot elevated for the next few days. And instead of elevating and reading or writing or figuring out the two web pages I want to put up, I indulged in television. Most unfortunately, the third season of Last Tango in Halifax which just finished airing in England is on YouTube.
Thinking about death. Even I must smirk connecting my lost toe nail with death, but my mind goes there with almost any doctor’s visit now. I’m also reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Wonderful writing, good story in a series of short stories, but it is about people coming to their end. One way or another, but facing endings.
On her website, there is a quote:
“We want to know, I think, what it is like to be another person, because somehow this helps us position our own self in the world. What are we without this curiosity?”
— Elizabeth Strout
Perhaps I cannot help but dive into those people she is writing about. Perhaps I am curious. Not that I think that I am close to traveling that path, but I observe. About dead beloveds taking someone with them. Not always intentionally, but practically. My paternal grandmother and my mother followed the wispy trail, the smoke rising after a candle is snuffed, as surely as if they had bought the ticket on the next train. My maternal grandmother may have been the same after the death of her brother who lived with her for 40 years after her second husband died when my mother was a child. Dad, David’s father, was swept up in the wake of David’s departure, and possibly his wife, Claire, followed him.
I think of the widows and widowers that I know still struggling with young grief. For some of them, I guess the jury is still out. I mean, I cannot wish that any of them follow but I don’t pretend to know their hearts. Perhaps some are quietly dying. Perhaps not.
Did I know widows before David died? Of course, but I looked at them as if they were just making their way, loving and learning and eating too much sometimes. Just living. Sad and devastated but without a pull. I was not a member of the club. I could not see the thestrals. Now, I see. I see but I don’t understand. I don’t quite know why some of us survive and some don’t. It is not simply being necessary or of use. It is not age. Survival is not just a matter of strength and resilience. I don’t know if giving up and following is not also a matter of strength.
For myself, I have no fear of death. I could not have said that five years ago. And yes, that thought came to me while the doc was putting a nerve block into my toe. Which is ridiculous on so many levels. I have survived. Death and the removal of a toe nail. Certainly with great help, but ultimately survival is completely in the hands of the survived. She does what she will do, no matter how magnificent her support. I wonder about the decision making, about the living with loneliness, about the energy it takes to make the new life. I kinda’ want to believe there is some reason for survival but that feels like self-importance and flattery. I don’t believe that I or anyone for that matter is so vital. We do what we can but most everything would go on without any one of us.
What remains for me, apart from intense loneliness, is curiosity. Curiosity in many forms. Looking for reason. For understanding. Watching miracles. Helping to birth ideas and coax new life. My girls. And learning for its own sake. Curiosity about garden devas and Monet, about the Dark Ages and whether other life exists in the universe. And it is a particular curiosity that was born in grief in a moment sitting in Suzanne Swift’s living room at the reception after David’s memorial service. I can physically recall feeling numb and sad and alone and surrounded by so many who cared so much and amidst it all I remember the gurgle of curiosity making its way from somewhere deep into the light of that day.
How strange. How marvelous. How almost unbelievable that, at least for me, I was kept from following by curiosity.