The other day in Wild Writing I found myself writing about longing, and longing took me to love, and then I got embarrassed because I thought I should be writing about something more important – like work – and I struggled – felt a little lost in the land of love. And when I feel lost, I make a list.
Change the girl’s sheets
Edit student writing
New poetry for class
Move green cabinet
Get back to Joanie
Party on the 20th?
Don’t forget the bills!
Get back to Markie D.
Paint the car door
Get the car stereo fixed
Pay for the AP test
Mend Ruby’s dress for the show
Eye stuff – Zoe
Ah, I can breath again. I know where to go, what to do. I won’t wake up lost. If you need me you can find me between Call Thomas and Get Back to Markie D.
But it’s been dawning on me that these lists, they become my days, and my days become my life. And then that’s it. Finito. Bye Bye. I’m nearly 53, then I’ll be 70, then 80, and I wonder, as I amble toward the very end, whether the last thing I’ll write will be “Close your eyes Cookie.” I wonder if these lists I make, my little marching orders, will be the rails I cling to through my life.
A week or so before my Father’s death, four years ago, he asked my Mother, “Do people know they’re alive?” The question might have been inspired by the fat doses of morphine he was on, which rendered him dreamy and other worldly, but I also think it came from lying in his bed for the last four months and watching friends and family buzzing around him, coming and going – visiting for a bit – then running off to make a meeting, get to the store, get ready for a party, get a package to the post office. He was outside all that living now. His days of running around L.A. meeting people to talk about the various nonprofit groups he supported, playing tennis, heading to the office to look at plans for a new construction – those days were over.
In bed for last four months because he was too weak to walk, I’d station myself on the other side of the bed with him, or sit in a chair by his side. During the day he’d listen to classical music from the local L.A. radio station, the glass doors to his room opened to the garden. Maybe he’d be reading or sleeping. At night the television was often on – he was a Dodger’s fan – he loved Rachel Maddow. And I remember how when the commercials came on – ads for fancy cars speeding around mountain highways, ads for drugs that promised to bring a spring back into your step, ads for home insurance, new mortgages, and trips to Mexico – how embarrassed I’d get because our world, the one we were buzzing around in, the one he was leaving us to live in, seemed ridiculous, without merit, empty, stupid. We’d sit there the two of us, side by side staring at the screen – Dad bald, weak, in diapers, his body ravaged by chemo and radiation, me, checking the clock every now and then, cherishing my time with him, but hoping to get outside for a walk, make time for my work, get to a store before it closed, maybe visit a friend.
“Do people know they’re alive?”
I can’t speak for you, but for myself, I think I forget all the time.
Today I will journal on what it means to me to feel alive, to really know I’m alive- thank you for sparking this question.
we’re not alone, your comment reminds me of that. Thank you.
You bring me to tears. Memories. You captured so many. And now, finally I understand his question. “Do we know we’re alive?”. That is so profound, his question. I will keep it close to me.
Laurie, beautiful writing . . . but even more than that you plucked the moment . . . you snag them when they’re barely noticed. You hold them, mulch them and share them.
I am going to share this blog. Yet I need to make a correction: Dad was a S.F. Giant fan and proud of it – – – became one years ago at a time when the team was perpetually an underdog. His problem came when they started beating our Dodgers
P.S. I’ve never opened a Blog in my life . . . Terrified that I might loose something – am not sure what? Like I’d be on a public chopping block
Oh, Laurie’s mom! I owe you BIG. Thank you, thank you for bring Laurie to life. I am forever in your debt. And, I am so so sorry for your loss. xo
Oh boy! It’s good to see you here Mama – make my day! There’s a world out there – welcome to it! Thanks for correction about the Giants – god knows – you’re right! LOVE! YOU!
Holy wow, Laurie. Every time you show up and tell your truth, you wreck me, in the most brilliant way. I forget all the time that I’m alive, but YOU, sweet Cookie, remind me that I am alive, make me feel alive, inspire me to come alive. I am so grateful for you, adore you.
Jilly! Thank you!
LOVE this, Laurie! Just the other day I was telling a mutual friend of ours about the first piece of your writing I ever read: about the motorcycle boots and being a young mom. The piece hit me dead center and I felt like you were speaking for me. Then over and over and over again with nearly everything you’ve written, I feel like you’ve tapped into that same place. And now … this one. What moved me so much as I was reading it was the GRATITUDE that when you write, Ms. Laurie Wagner, when you write, it brings me to life. Aint no better gift than that. Oh wait. This is a better gift than that. And it is also one you have given me: the encouragement to write myself into life. I love you so much. AND I love seeing your MAMA and Ms. JILL here, too. I love being in a sacred room with all of you!!!! xo
loving you from across the pond xxx
sherry – you’re such a love and such a great supporter. What you wrote was so beautiful, thank you sweetheart. xxx
Thank you for reminding me to long for and make life mine. Thank you.
love you dipti xxxx
Beautiful post! Right now I am in the midst of life with a 3 month old and a 22 month old, so I guess your question is very valid! Am I living or just trying to survive the days? I lost my sister to cancer 7 years ago and I still forget to live even with such a huge reminder to do so! Thank you for reminding me over again!
goodness – a 3-month old and a 22-month old – sister – I’m on my knees to you. Of course you’re surviving – you’re doing the hardest work ever – I’ve been there. It was really hard for me too. But you sister – wow. It reminds me of one of the best things I ever heard – which my writing mentor, Deena Metzger said about poetry. Beauty and ugliness side by side, that’s what poetry is. Your children – your sister – so much to be grateful for – and it’s a practice – day by day. Don’t I know. Thanks for your note! xxx
Laurie, Thank you for sharing your writing about Dad…about living…not necessarily about what is next on our list to check off…SLOW DOWN…that’s what I’m going to try and live to do! You are a beautiful writer, I admire you…love you lots big sis! xoxo Mans
PS: I’m still a Dodgers fan…great rivalry LA vs. SF
PSS: Mom, I too get choked up, reading this, I can visualize Dad, that last month or two, by his side; we must live our lives being our true selves.
Amanda, I am so touched to see your note here. We are blessed to have shared those last months with Dad – so painful and beautiful. And I love that you’re a baseball fan. You rock sissie! xxx
right on the money sweets – tonight, our talk, this post…it’s all right on. hitting me between the eyes and making me notice…making me notice. are we really alive. these are the times we ask ourselves and what we need to keep asking ourselves. love you.
More night walks! More peering into the darkness – it’s good for us – and we end these walks so much lighter! LOVE you!
This is so beautiful. I can hear your voice as I read it. reading this today gives me more strength and optimism in my dealings with my mom, who I think is in her last weeks or months on earth. Thanks for all of your great writing and friendship. Your Mom’s comment is so sweet, too. Love you!
Steph – I thought your mom was going to live forever – she’s one strong chick! But maybe you’re right, you’re watching her change before your eyes. I feel so fortunate to be able to spend the kind of time together that we do – writing and walking – it’s good for us as artists and women – daughters too. xxx