The Other End of Sunset

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I’ll take the call on the extension phone in the hall, please.


I never meant to be
So bad to you
--Asia
Hello again, my OtherEnders. It’s been a long time, I know. I’m sorry. I’ve missed you.

I have an excuse, however, for why it’s been so long. Actually, I have two excuses. Or maybe three.

First, most of my creativity has been going into my book – and my coauthor is very pleased to see me carrying my own weight… for a change. Second, I’ve been working like a dog – I’m on my way to my 4th continent in 7 days, just to give you a picture.

But the real reason? I’m not sure what to say.

I always read your grief blog
--Q
Q’s statement brought me up short. It was, actually, a compliment from him – and he’s probably the best, most literate writer I know. So a compliment from him is a bit like having an Army Ranger tell you that you are brave. But it made me realize that I had stopped writing, and was just emoting.

You had a blog before JR got sick,
and you should have one again
--SL
She’s right, my blog wasn’t originally about grief. I wrote about funny stuff like hats-through-epaulets in India, and loads about airport semi-security.

I was very proud every time a post made JR laugh, or my best friend giggle. I am still proud when SL laughs – although usually the humor is dark these days, so she’s laughing her way through the graveyard, if you will allow me to make that pun.
I'd lost something precious
but God will save me from losing myself.
(....)
I think I know what's wrong.
Pushing the needle too far
-Indigo Girls
Ironically enough, I never understood the Indigo Girls song I just quoted. I liked it, but the image didn’t come clear to me. I have decided the lyric refers to an injection needle, and using it too much. For those of you who know me well, you recognize the irony of not seeing that image clearly. Sometimes you miss with the needle, and all kinds of havoc ensue. And sometimes you rely on the needle more than you should, and disaster reigns about you.

I think about Jeanne almost every day. I hear a song she liked, or play one of the CDs she made me for my birthday, or see a slight blonde woman with a crooked smile, and tears come to my eyes. I think that always shall be my response.

Did I ever tell you that SL wrote a blog post as if it was a letter from Jeanne to me? It was amazingly well written – SL got some of Jeanne’s “voice” right. And it still makes me cry.

And that my childhood friend M sent me a letter telling me about family members of hers who undoubtedly helped Jeanne carry her suitcases of shoes into the Promised Land. I’ve been blessed with so many friends who have helped me carry this burden for the past few years.

But it’s possible that I am out of stories I want to express now. My heart’s wound may have gotten cleansed. A clean wound will heal, but it doesn’t happen immediately. In fact, some clean wounds never heal. But a wound that has debris, or bits of the weapon, or infection will never heal. The medical term is “debridement”. Literally, removing debris from a wound – could be bits of flesh from a burn, or other foreign matter in the wound – with the hope that the clean wound will heal without infection.
Chase all the ghosts from your head
I'm stronger than the monster beneath your bed
-Indigo Girls
This blog, and all of you, helped me clean the wound that JR’s loss caused. The wound isn’t healed – and I hope it never does heal – but it’s not infected anymore.

We are, indeed, stronger than the monster. It’s still there, and it still talks to me in the dark of the night. It tells me I didn’t love her enough, or wasn’t good enough to her… or for her. It whispers that I should be mourning more deeply and shouldn’t be laughing or loving. It laughs at my sadness when I see the priest who gave her last rites… but hasn’t spoken to me since, and seems somehow disapproving.

Sometimes it is truly horrible: It reminds me that I didn’t get Jeanne to go get checked for cancers that commonly followed her medical condition… leaving me to realize that she died, in part, because of my negligence.

I heard its nails scratching on the door to the Danville house as I closed it for the last time, and I feel its warm breath, and smell brimstone, when my Dalmatian looks like she is ill.

In one of my favorite children’s fantasy novels, there is the notion that when you name someone – their true name, the truth of their essence – they have no more power over you. So people guard their true names with all their strength.

I don’t yet know the monster’s name, but I have a suspicion. And that suspicion keeps it at bay… it’s afraid I’m right as well.

And I shall continue to search for its name.
She wouldn’t want you to act this way
--Car Pool Pal
So where does this leave us? It leaves me happy with SL, living in LA in a new house that has no ghosts. Ironically enough, given for whom the house was built, it seems to be ghost free.

Jeanne knows where I am. And, I hope, loves me and is happy for me. I donate time and money to Best Friends Animal Shelter, her favorite charity. I ask my friends to do likewise – every time I help save an animal, I think of the adoption fair we worked together, and how we were competing for getting the most animals adopted, and how she smiled at me for pushing so hard to “sell” the dogs.

And I think of how I called Best Friends in Utah after she died to make sure they got her life insurance money. They had, but hadn’t gotten the bequest notation… so they didn’t know why the money had come.

And I smile. In a slightly wan way, but it’s a smile, nonetheless
I never thought I had more to give
You’re pushing me so far
Here I am without you.
Drink to all we have lost
Mistakes we have made.
Everything will change,
Mistakes we have made.
Everything will change,
but love remains the same
--Gavin Rossdale
So let’s see what happens now. It’s possible that I have no muse left to write with, or need to express what’s inside, or even an audience to engage. I may have nothing left to say, and it’s possible that the OtherEndofSunset was just death, not a sunrise at all.

I guess we shall see. I’m going to write differently. My posts will be shorter – I won’t write a novella each time. I’ll probably go back to liberal use of sarcasm and irony. I might even (gasp) talk about technology or music.

Well, I doubt that, but it’s possible, I guess.

I think I will model the new incarnation after Cory’s blog – short posts, no overly crafted prose, but very compelling. And I’ll try to post more often.

You may recall that this blog is views of somewhere you just passed in a taxi.

I’ve spent a lot of time in taxis over the past weeks. In Tokyo, taxi doors have automatic openers – you walk up to the cab and the rear door opens, as if there were an invisible butler there. However, naturally, as always when you use technology for its own sake, as opposed to solving a real problem, there’s a side effect.

You can’t close the door yourself, nor is it easy to reopen if you want to get out. Truly, you are trapped, like a squid in a dryer.

If we decide that the taxi view, the new blog, is not compelling, I’ll stop writing. I won’t keep you trapped in the taxi. I’ll just let the OtherEndofSunset die. But let’s see, shall we?

And meanwhile, please help that nice woman into her taxi, her bag looks heavy.

2 Comments:

  • Hey! I check my Google Reader every day and am always happy to see your latest post. I don't even know you, yet find your storytelling compelling and your writing lovely. I saw your cover on Fast Company and in fact copied all the Google profiles and emailed them to my staff, one per day, because I found them so inspirational. Yours in particular stuck with me because you indicated you were deaf, as am I (although I've a cochlear implant now). I suspected you were a writer, found your blog online, and have been hooked ever since. Please don't stop writing -- your insights and yes, reading about your pain, have helped me through a different situation involving aging parents. Thanks for your honesty and humanity.

    By Blogger Anne, at 5:13 PM  

  • Douglas,

    I'd almost given up on your blog - but not quite!!!

    Great post. JR is so proud of you and loving you still. You need have no regrets...move on, carrying her in your heart...it never goes away.

    Not sure about Rusty....Haven't heard from in a while. Doubt he'd have any reason to disapprove...which one of us can do that...oh wait, CA passed Prop 8!

    Best wishes always to you and SL

    DF in PHX

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:09 PM  

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