Ever since I healed in the deeper parts of myself, the guts and heart marrow, I have had a theory about myself. I feel I could work my way through anything but the loss of my child. I love Mr. Curry with all my comparmentalized parts, the ones labeled Work Mom Daughter Citizen Blogger Abuse Survivor Friend Lover and all. I also love him with my girlie parts. For instance-
Many days I pick Lola up from school and she comes to work with me, hanging out in the infant room or wandering to her old classroom in the Pre-K, where her old teacher Ms. Donna welcomes her with a smile. Mr. Curry picks Lola up on his way home from work, whenever that is. He walks in, I hear the door beep, and then our infant room door opens ( all our doors have large glass panes on them ) and there he is- looking particularly tall and extremely manly in his work shorts and dirty hands and broad shoulders and sweat creased brow, standing next to baby cribs and eating, crying, laughing babies in a room full of women. Unless we are in a fight, I get the quickening. This is when my heart speeds up a tendril and I can feel my eyes dilating like the wild animal we humans once were, when the room feels brighter and life more joyful because he is there.
Yet if I lost him I could survive. My mind could survive.
All my life I have seen, felt and heard loss and heartbreak. The saying says Pain is Inevitable, Suffering Optional, and I like the inspiration it gives me, the shot of strength, but I don't believe it. I don't believe we are evolved to a point where this is true. I don't believe suffering is always optional, that there is a healthy place we can crawl to in our minds or souls when life is cruel beyond our ability to process.
It is what I cannot accept that kills. If Mr. Curry and I divorced, I would have a period of non-acceptance, and I could choose to let that go on and on and on and suffocate me. But I am thirty-four, finally a woman. I know that I would not choose to do that, and I do believe I would have a choice. When I was a little girl, I could not understand nor accept the circumstances of my childhood, and my suffering went beyond emotional pain and turned into a stillbirth of intelligence. My brain shorted, my mind huddled and hid, and the world turned as foggy and smoky and terrifyingly non-comphrensible as if I had been airlifted and dropped into Murderer's Row on a winter's midnight in an Irish slum. Familiar objects were cloaked in shadow. My own hands were menacing. Everyone was capable of everything, I understood. Anything could happen. My mind melted like snow in my mouth, and I was in a great and terrible sleep for many long years after. This was my escape. It cost me much. It is what my poem below is about.
This crumbling of a mind is called many things and appears in many forms in our culture, our literature, films, and stories we see and read about on the news. I remember when Karen Knott was attacked and killed here in town late at night by a higway patrolman. She was young and beautiful and smart and died horribly. Her father spoke to the media, said the expected things. And then he spoke to the media again. And again. He visited the bridge where she died monthly, weekly, daily, obsessively. And he never stopped. Eventually he died of a heart attack. This is not just a spirit or a heart breaking, this is the mind behind the spirit unable to process the world for that heart, that spirit. The mind is the filter. Without it, we cannot survive in the real world.
I experienced this mind crumble during childhood, and the years after, and put it back together again painstakingly with the help of an angel therapist, prayer, friends, and the behind the scenes faith that one day, it would be different. And it was.
But if I lost a child? I would not be able to tell myself one day it would feel differently. Because it would, it would feel differently, it would get a little better, but the better would never, ever be close. It is like comparing starlight to the star. Touch to voice. Without the light of my children in this world I don't know that my mind would stay put. I know I would do my best. I would, I always, always have. But.
I can understand those characters of novels who lose a child and move far, far away and start new lives with great silences and mysteries that keep anyone from really knowing or loving them. This seems fitting. A great silence. A great space. A perpetual acknowledgment of the void left behind.
I've been around the loss of children. I stand agape, heart and mouth wide open in stupid sympathy. I am thinking this: You have experienced the absolute worst thing that any person could experience. You are feeling a tear in the literal fabric of the Universe as if it were ripped down the very seams of your body. Your soul is on fire. You are in hell. How are you going to take the knowledge that this has happened into your mind without your mind flying apart?
This is really what I want to know.
I probably have an inherent mental weakness. My family is rife with mental illness on both sides. We are an intelligent, accomplished, passionate and crazy bunch. My Nana was a lawyer in the deep South when women were not mothers AND anything. She did that. And, she raised a pack of deeply unhappy and mentally unstable children. This is a repeated situation in my family history. Her husband, my Grandfather, was The Supreme Justice of Mississippi, in a wheelchair from polio complications. And, he left behind a family who fell apart completely from the stress of his premature death, in surgery for polio related issues. My Grandma Elizabath, my mother's mom, lost her son David at age 14 when he drowned in the lake near their home. After that, my Grandpa got sicker than ever and the police showed up at his home on weekends when he needed to be restrained. The rest of their children went their separate ways and paid dearly for what they had to burden in their childhood.
I can go day to day and month to month accepting that life includes grief and suffering and that both, in the weight they can accumulate, are capable of immense destruction, the kind of which wears down on the meaning of life and leaves it meaningless. I can and do find great joy, every day, every hour. But if I lost a child? How would my mind survive?
That's really what I want to know.