Absence

Today my second-oldest grandchild graduated from high school. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t at my oldest granddaughter’s graduation either. I wasn’t at anybody’s middle school graduations nor at their birthday parties. For the last few years we can blame this on fibromyalgia and my husband’s vulnerabilities. But for the years before, what explains my neglect? Not a lack of love or interest. I love my grandchildren more than anything. I want to hear every word they have to say. I want to smell the giant orchid Clara wore on her wrist to the prom and I want to put my face in her hair. I want to see the foreign western landscape where my oldest granddaughter spends a good part of her year. I want to see the Chinatown pool hall where my grandson plays pool when he’s not studying justice. I want to be there, with them, in their world, I want to put my eyes on their sweet faces, an event that thrills my brain the way that sideman of John Mayer does when he sings the heavenly high baby baby baby. And I can’t. But I keep thinking it’s because I just don’t. I really could if I had nerve, or the right brain waves, or something interior that’s upstanding, regular, hopeful, brave.

I’d like to think this fear, this lack, this hiding, started when I was very young and lying in my bed hoping my father didn’t come into my room. I’d like to think it started when I lived for a year in a big cold beautiful house with a sick man, watching a yellow star move from the left side of the window to the right side. I’d like to think it began when I lay in my bed and planned to hide my father’s bottle in the vacant lot next door. I’d like to blame it on something, somebody.

But I can’t. It’s me. It’s my fault. I can’t get around it, over it, under it; I can’t trick it or get it to lie. It’s me.

 

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