Monday, November 19, 2012

Dancing My Sorrows Away

Four years ago, Sawan and I were getting ready to go on our annual fall foliage aspen viewing drive and he bought a CD of Jackson Brown.  It was “The Next Voice You Hear.”  There was a particular song on it that he wanted to hear, that used to be one of his favorites, that reminded him of a particular season of his life.  He played it, and I’m not even sure anymore, but I think the song was “These Days” but it could have been “Fountains of Sorrow” (and it really bugs me that I can’t remember).  Either way, as he listened to the words he marveled at how different life was now.  I knew that the song for him was about another woman, but I didn’t ask.  I knew he’d tell me eventually if he wanted to talk about it.  We never did.

But we listened to the whole CD.  It’s a great album.  I remember exactly where we were in Deer Creek Canyon when certain songs came on, what curve we were rounding when “The Pretender” was playing.  It was a great day and a great memory.

Last Wednesday, I went to see Jackson Browne live with my parents.  It was one of those enchanted evenings that are hard to put into words.  We had front row seats.  The opening band ended up being two thirds of Nickel Creek, one of my old favorites, and they played some new stuff that was so good that it felt like I had been to church, like she had seen my heart and written a song for me.

Me, Mom and Dad at the Paramount, 11/14/12

I seldom ever feel Sawan near me anymore.  I have seldom felt it at all in my widowhood, actually.  I am learning to allow myself to lose the tug of war with his memories, learning that I cannot remember every detail and that I have to let him go.  I can no longer remember the details of what his body looks like, what he smelled like, for months I have not been able to remember what his fingers felt like in mine.

But on Wednesday, with Jackson’s sweet voice singing, I felt Sawan there with me so strongly.  I felt like he was next to me.  I looked to my right and felt like I could see his left hand, with his ring on his finger, and felt his fingers interlaced with mine.

And then, Jackson played this song, for the encore, one I had never heard before.  It’s not all entirely relevant, but it felt like it was for me, about Sawan, and I felt like we danced together.  (They were filming and broadcasting it live, so listen to the first song, and then watch for my mom and dad and me at 5:07, no need to watch after that unless you’re a big fan of “Rock Me On the Water.") 

Here’s the lyrics:
Keep a fire burning in your eye
Pay attention to the open sky
You never know what will be coming down
I don't remember losing track of you
You were always dancing in and out of view
I must have thought you'd always be around
Always keeping things real by playing the clown
Now you're nowhere to be found

I don't know what happens when people die
Can't seem to grasp it as hard as I try
It's like a song I can hear playing right in my ear
That I can't sing
I can't help listening
And I can't help feeling stupid standing 'round
Crying as they ease you down
'cause I know that you'd rather we were dancing
Dancing our sorrow away

Friday, November 9, 2012


On Monday we had to say goodbye to Arthur’s first playmate.

Tana was an old lady by the time he met her, and he really loved her, but I think that he mostly got on her nerves.  When he was around she mostly just put up with him, thinking, “What is this little white thing?”  But he kissed her constantly and would lick her ears, which always hurt her (since she was a puppy) so she tolerated him being around.

My mom got Tana (short for Montana) in 1999 as a gift.  She was the world’s largest Springer Spaniel.  She and I didn’t start out on great terms, she ate a brand new pair of my shoes in the first month we had her (I was in school and still lived with my parents at the time) and it took me nearly a decade to forgive her.  When she was a puppy, and a young dog, she was a wild woman.  She demanded affection and it drove me crazy.  But, she was adorable.  She had natural highlights on the top of her head, where she was mostly liver colored, and the sun would turn it a beautiful copper color.  It literally looked like I had put in a few foils up there.

She and I really became friends after I got Arthur.  All my siblings had moved away and Sawan and I were the only ones around to housesit and dog-sit for her.  We liked coming down to Mom and Dad’s house, with their laundry in the basement and their garage that you could pull into with the remote control.  So we didn’t mind staying there, even if it meant we had to put up with Tana.  Spending that much quality time with a dog, you can’t help but fall in love.  I remember telling my mom after the first time we house-sat, that after spending so much time with Arthur, a little dog with terrier fur, I kept thinking, “Oh, Tana, you’re so BIG.  And so soft.”  We became buddies.

When my mom would leave town, after Sawan died, Tana would sometimes come to my house to stay.  She had gotten to where she was too old and her hips too sore to jump up on my high bed, but she couldn’t stand it that Arthur got to be up there with me and she couldn’t.  So I would lift her.  The first few times I would put her front feet up on the bed and then lift her back feet, so that she could help me.  After that, when it became bed time I would be in the bathroom brushing my teeth and I would look down the hall and Tana would be waiting, standing on her back legs with her front legs on my bed, wagging her tail, ready for me to lift her.

These last few months, she had just gotten so old.  Things weren’t working anymore.  It was time.  I knew all last weekend, and it’s strange how it made me grieve for the sweet little dog, but for my husband, as well.

I remember my mom telling me that when my dad first called her to tell her that Sawan died, he told her that he had some really bad news, and that she needed to prepare herself.  She said that her mind immediately went to the worst thing that she could think of, and that she thought that something had happened to Tana. 

In the strange ways that your mind tries to handle grief, I think, “What if they could have traded places?  What if it had been Tana that night and I could have had these three years with Sawan?  What would have happened?”  It’s ridiculous magical thinking, but that’s what I’ve been dealing with these last few days.

It’s made me wonder how many times I’ll have to go back to the beginning.  How many times will I go back to the first night, and relive it from a different angle?  I know that the answer is: an unknown number, and likely many, many more. 

Arthur and Tana, spring 2010
I feel, though, that it’s taught me an important thing about grief: that somehow all sadness is connected.  I think every sadness, big or small, is connected to the Big Sadness in my life.  I’m sad, but I’m learning about how sadness affects me, in good ways and bad.  How to be sad but still be okay.  Tana was a sweet, adorable, great, beautiful dog, and I loved her, and somehow her loss is connected to the sadness of something bigger that I lost, and some things that I still have to lose, and when those things happen, I’ll be okay then, too.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Voted!

Voting has always been an important thing to me.

It is not a responsibility.  It’s a privilege.  It’s something that women didn’t get to do in this country a century ago. 

I don’t do a mail-in ballot.  I go to the place and stand in the booth.  I pull the curtain.  I fill out my ballot and I get emotional every time.  I’m so thankful that I’m an American.  I’m so grateful that I live in a country where we value our citizens enough to allow them to choose their own leaders and have a say in their own laws.

Last Presidential election, just a few days before the actual Tuesday, my Granny died.  I had to quickly arrange things at the shop to make a trip to Texas for a funeral, but at the forefront of my mind was voting in the historical election.  I would be in Texas on Election Day.

So, I checked on where the early voting was being held for my precinct, an old church, and stood in line after my long day at work.  When I got to the front the election judge told me, matter-of-factly, that I would not be able to vote there since I wasn’t registered, and ushered me to the side to talk to someone else when I started to freak out.  The little old man sat me down at the long folding table and I completely lost it.  I told him, “I’m sorry, my grandmother died today, and I have to leave town, and I just want to get to vote before I leave.”  I fell apart.  I was trying to maintain some sort of dignity but full-blown sobs were threatening to come up from my guts.  He took my hand in both of his and said, “It’s ok, honey, I was a chaplain.  Tell me all about it.  Tell me all about her.”  So I did.  He told me that he was sure that she would want me to get to vote, too, and so let’s get to the bottom of this.  Turns out that it had something to do with my name change (I had gotten married since the last time I had voted, but was indeed registered), he made a phone call and figured out where I could go that night so that I could vote before my flight the next day. 

It had been so important to me to get to vote, and I’m so thankful for that cute, sweet comforting little old man, and for the opportunity to have participated. 

As I voted today, I thought about that.  I thought about the fact that I got to go home that night to my sweet husband.  A lot has changed in my life in one presidential cycle. 

I voted.  I had my say.  Then, I went out to the car and cried.  I cried for my Granny.  I cried for my husband. I cried for my Papa who liked to work as an election judge every year, and is also gone since the last election.  I cried because I was so thankful that my brother, who defends my freedom and my right to vote, got to come home from Afghanistan safely.  And I cried because I’m so thankful, so proud to be an American.

Can you believe that they wouldn't let Arthur vote?  I guess, technically, he's not 18 yet.