My sister Ann passed away on Good Friday. Her memorial service was a week ago today.
I wanted to give you that news and thank you for all of the support you’ve given me, both in comments and in emails. It truly helps, in the misery of loss, to feel the presence of sympathetic people who wish you well.
I am doing fine, as these things go. I’m back to teaching this week, and back to taking classes.
But I’m not ready to write again, at least not regularly. For the next three months at least, I’m taking it easy and thinking things over.
For a while now I’ve been wanting to reorganize this website, to make the more than 160 posts more organized and accessible. So I’m going to work on that. From now on, I’ll be showing up on Facebook, just to keep in touch.
I also want to think about what Ann meant to me, and how I want to honor her memory.
My big sister had her own nursery rhyme:
“Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. Your house is on fire, your children will burn – all except for little Ann, who’s hidden under the frying pan.”
I was so envious, and yet I never thought to find out who made it up.
When she was five, she went out with Dad and his buddy Jack Sheen and came home with a chocolate rabbit as big as herself.
When she was eight, she broke into the nearby children’s polio hospital to sit in the painted wooden teacups – by far the most appealing toys in the neighborhood – and was immediately evicted by the horrified staff, despite the sheets she and her friend Olive brought with them as they scaled the chain-link fence, hoping to pass themselves off as little patients.
I used to stare at those teacups too. But when I see a chain-link fence, I think that I’m not meant to be on the other side.
When Ann saw chain-link, she climbed. At least in the beginning. Then something happened, sometime in her forties. She seemed to give up on the possibility of happiness. In one of those odd twists of fate, Alzheimer’s softened her and made her more easy-going and affectionate.
I have written jokingly that yoga wrecked my life.
In truth, yoga keeps me from falling into the family default of helplessness and despair. It’s a vantage point, born, I believe, from fear, fear that life isn’t good, and that if we recognize our good fortune and claim happiness, it will be taken away from us.
Yes, people get old and sick and die. Yes, evidence quickly massing around me says that my body is aging, and yes, someday, I’m going to die. I still think it’s possible to be happy most of the time.
For the past month I’ve been reading and delighting in the poetry of Kay Ryan.
This one, called Age, is one I’m memorizing, hoping to “kinden” as I go:
As some people age
of their eyes widen.
I do not think they weaken;
I think something weak strengthens
until they are more and more it,
like letting in heaven.
But other people are
mussels or clams, frightened.
Steam or knife blades mean open.
They hear heaven, they think boiled or broken.