Dear Lily June,
[First and foremost, dear daughter, don’t even read this letter, okay? Your mother just had to–or just is a–bitch. But if I don’t break the silence that’s been building, I’m going to get crushed underneath. Better letters tomorrow, dear, I swear it! Hopefully a return to Guest Posts and everything!]
April is a month of fools. April is the month of showers tossing torrential downpours onto your head (literal and metaphorical) so that, under the deluge will arise the heartiest, most enduring of flowers (literal and metaphorical, I hope I hope). There are reasons, according to T.S. Eliot and your mother, that
“April is the cruellest month.”
I just tossed my depressing list at a friend (who is, in all her kindness and hilarity, one of the only bright bits amongst all of this), but it read, essentially, as follows:
This is the month my father reminded me who he is by threatening, if I don’t check my phone 2-3 times per day and respond to his calls within 4 hours, that I will never hear his voice again. (An overwhelmingly linguistic/literary bunch, my family members’ biggest threat is always to take away from one another that which we most treasure: our words.)
He was angry that I’d missed an emergency call for over 24 hours, the nature of which boiled down to this: My sister, your Aunt Loren, is on Facebook again. She is (gasp!) friends with her ex-boyfriends and (gasp!) a number of other strange men. IMHO, at almost 40, she has earned the right to choose who she talks to without having to justify it to anyone, least of all her mommy and daddy. And if she’s got cleavage the size and echoing quality of the grand canyon in her selfies, so be it. Her body, her choice, our discomfort if we choose, as her family, to troll through her profile pics.
That being said, she’s also started an online flirtationship with my first boyfriend, which shouldn’t be weird for me since it’s been forever since I even knew some younger version of the person she’s flirting with. But it is inexplicably weird for me, and it’s all the weirder because it’s weird, and I don’t get it. I am HAPPILY married to your father, and, short of writing about Nathan a few months ago, I rarely give him a second glance in my memory.
So why, oh why, this bitter taste of betrayal in the back of my throat? Do I only feel weird because I feel like I’m supposed to feel weird about this? Or is it because, as an anxious person, my world is so small? That there’s only a handful of men I’ve ever let into my heart (literally), and a handful of friends I’ve ever let into my life (seriously), and Nathan is one in the first handful, my sister the second, and with the mixture of handfuls, it’s making me want to wring my hands? That I want to believe, in all my naivete, that the people from your past preserve the memories of you there without ever wanting a present to impede on that sacred snapshot by peeking at who you’ve become?
(Is it because, in moments like this, I somehow always stupidly believe the only panacea is overanalysis until my brain sizzles like a pan full of bacon? Did I mention that while my ex’s skin cleared and his muscles got ripped, I started to look more and more like ten pounds of chipped ham in a nine pound bag? Could the fact that I feel hideously undesirable lately, even to my own husband, have something to do with why I feel like my heart’s feet are walking on cognitive glass with this situation?)
And while I wrestled with this–the potential loss of my father, what’s going on with my sister and my ex–and what it all should mean to a heart that’s pretty fragile and oversensitive anyway, my boss’s heart started racing and beating irregularly. She called me calmly into her office to inform me, “Alyssa, you’ll have to drive me to the hospital. I’m having a heart attack.” And so I did, dutifully, and watched as doctors and nurses stripped her and made her vulnerable and naked and jammed syringes into her to steady her heart’s rhythm and beat. And it wasn’t an attack but unexplained a. fib and tachycardia which means next to nothing to me, but they want to keep her because an MRI revealed a buildup of calcium in an aorta.
And some people at work called me a hero, but I just did what she told me to do and drove her to where the actual heroes do what they do, and I sent her balloons, and I won’t be able to visit because I’m doing the work back at the workplace she’s not at, meeting with the students she couldn’t meet with to tell them what to do. And I’m trying, while I type emails and work on major scheduling projects, not to think of it all as meaningless as I contemplate my own mortality.
And your dad and I are still house hunting, only I feel like I’m the prey, and the predator is stress, and it’s hunting me. And we found a home we fell in love with, but the problems with it just keep unraveling like strings from a woven tapestry, and it might need a new furnace and water heater and it might have a rotting roof and it might have holes in the floor and it might have once been termite treated and and and if we buy the wrong thing, with our poverty, we might have purchased our own financial sinkhole to be sucked down into.
And Lily June, in the midst of all this, I have to once again gently remind you that to live as a human being: SLEEP IS NOT AN OPTIONAL THING.
And all of that was building when your dad sent a message online to me to tell me that his mother’s–your Granny Granma Alison’s–bowels have come detached from a complication with Crohn’s and she won’t stop bleeding and she needs surgery that the doctors aren’t sure her heart and lungs are up for. And she is precious to all of us, Lily, and your mother’s heart this month just cannot break into a single other piece, or you could use it to retile the bathroom in the gorgeous pit we might be putting an offer on as soon as tomorrow afternoon.
And I was so overwhelmed, little love, that when I got home from work yesterday, I didn’t do or clean anything. I just took you outside and sat you in the grass that you’re FINALLY not afraid of anymore, and we sat under a tree (dogwood? magnolia?), listening to the wind pour through the leaves and little white flowers that poured like the snow in a tipped-over snowglobe over you and me. And it was the moment of peace I will keep clinging and clinging to until April is over.
It was Shakespeare who wrote,
“Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May.”
But you, baby, were born in a May, and you were so tough, you could barely be shaken from my womb. And with everything going on lately, you have learned (albeit inconsistently) to point and to clap and to wave. (In fact, you were waving so hard at someone in your dreams last night that it woke you.) I doubt any winds–even all these recent winds of change–will phase you. And in the meantime, let me promise you this: I will always be there to help turn your life’s monsters into no more than windmills.
I will, no matter how often you call me back, never stop reaching out to you. I will teach you to love others, and then let go as those others are going to do what they’re going to do, even if it means they don’t always show the love you need back to you. I will encourage you to guard your own heart without hardening it, and to attempt to recognize the fragility in the hearts (and bodies) of others. I will show you that loving arms can sometimes be the only shelter you need, and I will teach you to build your life on a strong foundation of friendship and common humanity, only building up walls around yourself when to not do so would expose you to crueler elements than you feel yourself capable of handling.
I hope to teach you the fine art of wrassling down debt and lifting up your own body. I hope to teach you that health is more important than money (even though one does seem to help attain the other), and that it’s never too late to set your bad habits down. I hope to teach you compassion and empathy for those in the kinds of pain that are beyond your immediate understanding. And I hope to teach you, like a friend recommended to both of us lately, to stop and listen to the wind. It can, if it doesn’t heal your mind or body, knit your spirit back together, if only for a minute.
- By Alexander Novati – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44993858