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Friday, April 10, 2020

Fifth Anniversary



Before I published God through Binoculars, I sent it to various authors, some of them bestselling and prize-wining authors, and asked for blurbs.

They sent blurbs praising the book. Their praise gave me hope that this would be the book that would finally reach an audience.

And it didn't. I spent a month, full time, eight-hour days, six-day weeks, emailing, writing, calling, and no one would review it. Well, I got a handful of reviews, but not enough to create sales, and the book has pretty much died on the vine.

That's a pretty heavy silencing and erasure. You just don't want to talk after a life event like that.

I'm old. I've been doing this for a long time. I don't see the point of doing it any more.

My writing just doesn't reach people, and, at this point, knowing that I am closer to the grave than the cradle of new beginnings, I don't much care.

There's something to be said for not much caring. You suddenly realize what makes old women so brave. We have no value in society, so we have nothing to lose, and we have no time for BS. We speak truths no one else wants to speak.

And there's no one left. She had kids, and a husband, but they don't talk to me. I have one sibling left alive, and he doesn't talk to me, either.

It's a horrible feeling when everyone you are related to dies. Solitary confinement, catastrophe survivor, the last living speaker of a dead language, one foot in the grave … I could go on all day with the metaphors.

There is so much in my head that no one would understand or care about.

So why bother talking. And yes the appropriate punctuation to end that sentence with is a period, not a question mark.

Why bother talking about anything, from world peace to this fifth anniversary.

You know, as I type all this, I'm finding it's much harder to talk about not talking than it is to talk.

As I saw the anniversary approaching, I thought, will I do anything? Will I mention it? And I thought, nah.

But then this morning, on WQXR, Jeff Spurgeon, the velvet-voiced, suave and charming morning DJ, mentioned, not once but several times, that today is Siblings Day.  

You do notice when one of your siblings dies while you are rubbing the soles of her feet, and she dies on Siblings Day, especially if you've had two siblings die already, one at 23 on your birthday, the other at 34.

So, I thought, let me at least try to come up with something to say on the blog.

And I find that I don't really have much of anything to say.

So I'll just repost this. It's a Facebook post from a couple of weeks ago.

***

Antoinette was very into current events, and also into science.

I'm a current events junkie, and I like science stories, but not as much as Antoinette did. She understood more than I do; she did not have my cognitive handicaps.

When the coronavirus story began to break, I thought, "I wish Antoinette were here. She would have been all over this like white on rice."

Years ago, when she was in nursing school and I was a kid, she was the one who taught me, emphatically, "Do not touch your face with your hands. Don't touch your eyes. Use a tissue. A clean tissue."

If she were here, she would read about coronavirus, and develop theories as to which treatments would prove beneficial, and make predictions -- which would usually turn out to be correct -- and have all kinds of backstage gossip about how her hospital, which announces itself as having been designated one of the fifty best hospitals in America, is handling the crisis.

A day or two into the crisis, I suddenly felt her presence, and also the presence of my mother.

I would just be in the kitchen making dinner, or taking a bath, and -- I felt their presence. Both my mother and my sister.

How to describe this sensation. How about this. Even if you closed your eyes, and stopped up your ears, and held your nose, you might feel someone in the room with you. I don't know how that works.

also, that sense that someone is in the room with you has a signature on it. It has a vibration. This is only Antoinette. Not a vague sense of presence, but a sense of her identity, her essence.

You don't see anything or hear anything, she's just *there.*

You feel it with some antennae that isn't part of the standard five senses. It's not your nose and her aroma; it's not your ears and her voice; it's not your eyes and her outline; it's not your fingers and her distinctive flesh.

It's her unique essence, what her soul does to space, and you register that with some sense you can't name.

Evidently I can't describe this at all.

I got the sense that Antoinette and my mother were eavesdropping on the crisis, and maybe sticking around to reassure me of something.

Mind -- my relationship with both these women was imperfect. In the physical world, they were both as likely to terrify me as reassure me. and I did not "summon.' them. I was not yearning for them. I was not missing them. so, no, my imagination did not conjure this up.

Then, one night, I woke up -- probably in a dream -- and there was Antoinette, lying next to me, her big, substantive body, earthbound and earth mother shaped. We used to share the same bed when we were growing up.

I said, in a very matter of fact way, "Antoinette, when did you arrive? When I went to bed you were not here."

And she said, equally matter of factly, "I got in at three."

The sense of their presence lasted about three days, and then ended. Haven't sensed them since, and as I write this, I can't re-feel that feeling. It is gone.

***

The blog post from five years ago, that I wrote the day she died, is here.



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