April 18th, 2006

getting by

that bad news

This is what I was talking about Saturday morning: scottjames's father was killed in a car accident Friday night. I met Marc James 15 years ago, when Scott and I were still in junior high. I last saw him in September, when Scott married Liz, and it didn't even occur to him to be weird and awkward about the fact that Scott and I used to date -- he was genuinely glad to see me, immediately demanding, "And how's your mother?" with his slight remaining New York accent.

My mom and Scott's dad thought they were the funniest people on the planet when they got together. We rolled our eyes about it, but to tell you the truth they were pretty funny, and it was fun to watch them enjoy each other so much. And to tell you the truth, they weren't entirely unlike Scott and me, standing in the middle of Barnes and Noble or the grocery store or wherever cracking wise. Neither of us has entirely turned into either of our parents, but as we got older, we got a little more comfortable with the ways in which we maybe had, just a little. A tiny bit. Maybe.

When we were in high school, Scott's dad never believed that we weren't dating. His son hung out with the same girl every weekend night, regardless of who else was around? And we weren't dating? Sure, pull the other one, kids. And then we did date in college for awhile, so that just cemented it: he was never going to believe that we hadn't been, in high school. I got back from my Gran's one weekend when we were high school seniors, and I called over to Scott's house to see if he wanted to go to Perkins or something that night. A familiar voice I thought was Scott's answered, so I chirped, "Hi, honey, I'm ho-ome!" And Marc chirped back, "Hi, honey! Scott's at the store!" Through giggles, I managed to leave a message, though it was redundant at that point, and when Scott got back from the store and called me 15 minutes later, he said, "Are you still laughing?" I was. "My dad is, too."

I have never had so much trouble with denial before. My brain keeps jumping through extravagant hoops trying to come up with ways that markgritter got the message wrong, ways that the obit I just linked was a terrible coincidence: there was a Marc James who died in Omaha? How eerie, I know a Marc James in Omaha! Who isn't dead, of course, because he can't be. Because that would mean that I would never hear that laugh again in my whole life, and it would mean that Scott wouldn't have his dad any more, and that absolutely can't be true, so clearly Mark and the newspaper and the whole entire world must have written it down wrong. I keep staring at the screen trying to make the letters change, trying to make it un-happen, and it just won't, and I know that this is not a tenth, not a thousandth of what Scott and his family are feeling right now. And I'm not there to make them lasagna and bars and give them hugs and try to keep my mouth shut when there's nothing good to say, because there isn't, none of it ever is enough, but I do wish I could at least try.

Tuesday evening

elisem says of her work tonight, "But you know, if I didn't have this, I'd be praying for it right now." Yah. That. With a lot of my life, actually.

It has been a day with good stuff in it. I went to the allergist and bought markgritter suckies* and went to the bank and got lunch with dd_b and walked by Lake Calhoun and picked up a small blue stuffed sheep for the dog's birthday** and came home to spend time reading The Necessary Beggar -- which is, incidentally, a very kind book, though I don't mean that only nice things happen to the characters, not in the slightest -- while timprov watched baseball and markgritter played on the computer and the aforementioned birthday beast wandered around looking unsettled about the thunder. These were good things. I had pizza. I petted cats. I talked to my mother.

I feel a little funny about this morning's post, but there's never enough to say about someone's death, never the right things either, so you do what you can and you remember vividly, and sometimes when it all hits and you spend half an hour crying and only manage to calm yourself because you have to shower, that's the right and appropriate thing. And The Necessary Beggar is exactly the right book for me to be reading today. I have it from the library, but I need my own. It is gentle, and it does what it is doing well.

There is something that ought to go on the list of things to do, and there is a bit of short story that occurred to me as I was going to sleep last night, and I should have written it down and did not, and now my brain is reaching for it, slowly and quietly but still reaching. We have real grown-up nightstands now, and I'm putting notecards and a pen in the drawer of mine. This is such a simple thing, but it seems like it could make me happier or at least less likely to spin my wheels.

I am in that kind of quiet mood where it wouldn't matter if I was in an auditorium full of people shouting, I would still be in a quiet mood. It's an internal quiet. It's not bad. Just quiet. Also I think I feel rather younger and smaller than I am. Tomorrow there will be more to do, arrangements to make and revisions to send and all that. Tonight there is quiet, and deep breaths, and my shoulders relaxed for the first time in a good while.

*Hard candies. This is my small cousins' name for them. My small cousins are closing in on taller than I am, I'm told, but when Matthew is 6'5" with shoulders to match, he will still be my small cousin.

**This is not an obscure British term for "mess" or something like that. It really is the dog's birthday.