You can say no, they simply will ignore the word, and you, laugh and continue on.
The best friends of my in-laws are visiting today, a lunch invitation has been issued, I have politely declined, and like most kindly elder grandparent like folks, they refuse to acknowledge my decline. What I want is of course is of no consequence. They insist. No one insists like the kindly friends, all smiles good intentions and nothing but time. They just wear me down. Water boarding has nothing on the kindly good intentioned friends…
SHE has my purse, the large black hobo slouch bag looks ridiculous on her slight frame, she stands by the back door smiling. HE is standing before me laughing arms spread out open wide much like a shepherd herding sheep. Griff is already on the drive way probably in the car, ready to go, in the front seat, boys together, which means I will be in the back. Crap. Once you imagine it, and then see it, it is inevitable.
There is no escape, my quiet afternoon alone I had lived and loved in my imagination will never come to be. I hang my head in defeat, and turn towards the door, paste on a smile, feel my heart beat morph into a bass line … my internal playlist, Annie Lennox…Diva …Little Bird, the music now on instant play without any electronic device necessary. I have carved out this safe place, a refuge where I flee in a second when overwhelmed or defeated, or in this case both. My mental health safety mechanism on automatic….. “…give me the strength to lay this burden down down down…”
The day I arrived in Florida, the best friends had to leave Hilda’s bedside knowing the gravity of her illness because they had to rush to the death-bed of their own child, she dying of brain cancer in another state. My empathy swells fills and spills over. I think of what they must have felt, knowing what we all knew, knowing that they were leaving a friend, knowing they would never see her again.
lay this burden down, lay it down… lay it down
They arrived this morning, packed with photo albums, memories, and grief. Sitting, hand holding, gathering wet tissues, keeping dry handy, I listened to them tell their tale, their immense loss, the details of a death which so closely mirrored my own recent experience save one, Hilda was not my child. They pause only slightly in the telling, the story starts with one, finishes with the other, they look up from pages wet, and I need only nod, it is enough, the reassurance passes between us without words. Two deaths, mere days apart, this was a burden beyond my depths.
Lay it down, lay it down.. lay this burden down
I sit in the back seat next to the grieving mother, who directs her deaf husband on the finer points of street navigation, right turns to the restaurant, and parking lot navigation to avoid lefts on the way back, uncomfortable in my position not because it is in the backseat, but because it is Hilda’s seat, her place, and I do not want to take it, I am not Hilda. Especially after… last night.
Last night as I washed dishes, iPod blasting to cover the sounds of the TV… I did not hear him behind me.
I felt his arms encircle mine, pinning them down his scruffy face over my shoulder, his smell of unkept teeth and body close…
I pull the buds out of my ears,
” Oh I love you so much, you take such good care of me…”
I raise my arms, break his trance, break his embrace, and turn around, to face him.
” You have such lovely skin…” he reaches for my face.
” Whatthefuckever Griff!”, I laugh it off. Pushing his hand away.
There is nothing more unwanted than the unwanted touch, nothing more offensive, nothing more violating than that of uninvited caress.
My personal boundaries violated, I put distance between us, tell him to go brush his teeth, and busy myself with kitchen trash.
I do not know if for a moment he thought I was someone other than who I am, or if he for the first time in 25 years thought it was appropriate to come up behind me and show “affection”, but enough is enough.
Today I had been to lunch, to the restaurant they all went together as couples, sat in her place, listened to their grief and loss and realized I am walking a fine line, needing to provide care, but not garner unwanted intimacy, needing to provide a sympathetic ear, but not take on the burdens of others, I must find a way to walk the line and at all costs find my path to self-preservation. I know that it starts with reinforcing my physical boundaries, pushed to my limit, I have found where they lay they will not be crossed again. Nothing justifies unwanted contact, not memory loss, grief or a misguided sense of gratitude.
The trip back is mercifully short, the huge car door heavy, I hope they stay in the car, but alas, all are exiting.
She starts,”So we want to come over and help you with the packing…”
He continues, “We helped them move in here you know, that wall unit comes apart in two pieces, but it’s still very heavy..”
He is 80 and I must outweigh him by at least 25 pounds, she a frail bird.
Are you shittn me? …. dad, wondered where you were….
“I’m sure we can manage, I am not exactly a wall flower you know…besides we are packing only a few things, things that will go into his room at our house in Texas.”
“We insist”, all together. ” When is the truck coming?”
“Gary will be arriving soon and getting the truck on Thursday, the we leave on Friday, I’ll be flying, and Gary and Griff will be driving.”
is it really true? will I actually be leaving?
Addios motherfuckers….dad! these are nice folks please behave….
They leave at last, please to have both fed us, and promised to return to help with the move.
“The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.”
… ah excuse me Mr. Maugham, Dude, who invited you to this party? … not interested or looking for salvation, only survival…
I was merely suggesting an appropriate title Madam.
Oh thats it a great title, thanks William…it is William right?
Yes, and you are very welcome…
I pick up my actual iPod, Annie awaits, she knows a thing or two about survival…
give me the strength to carry on
till I can lay this burden down,
give me the strength to lay it down.
Oh Annie how did you ever get so clever?