Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The anniversary of the death of my eldest son, ...

Rick, passed with little notice this time -- well almost. He died in August of 2000, and each year at about that time, I experience some gentle vibration ... something just beneath a conscious level ... it's quietly demanding of my attention at around that time ... at least until I notice and release it by so doing. This year it was easier, but the sense of loss never really leaves.

All children gradually move out of the center of one's life into their own, some more than others, and with varying distances between. David moved deeper into his own, with his children now filling all available space -- and that's as it should be. It was surely so with mine. There were periods when they were very young when I rarely even thought of my own parents, except in a distant way. The time of child-rearing is all-consuming, and leaves little room for anyone else, at least for a time.

Bob's choices took him geographically farther away as he approached adulthood, and his own growth as an artist and as a man seems to have required a different lifestyle than the one he'd lived in childhood. He's matured far more like the young people he grew up with, and tends to reflect a large part of my own rarely expressed self, the artist that I managed to hide beneath that purposeful, political, productive woman-self. In many respects, Bobby feels to me like the Betty who ran away from home to join the circus! Though I suspect that he's not been spared the pain and the suffering common to the lives of reflective people, and that he's developed the ability to transform that into his music. I hear it when I hear him sing ... .

Dorian, despite the very best attempts to achieve the best for her, will never really cut away into her own person and life. Her mental deficits make that impossible. She's surely the reason that I'll not ever really be able to climb out of my mother role and back into the woman. It may simply be my imagination, but I always felt that Bill's gift to me was that -- at fifty -- my "woman" replaced the "mother" at least for some years. Dorian was away at St. Vincent's Academy in Santa Barbara during those years, and the boys had moved into their own lives for the most part. That's all changed now. Bill died years ago, and Dorian is back at home, and Betty has regressed back into "Mom."

But it's the losing of a son that I need to talk about. To outlive one's children -- even when its predictable -- is life-altering. Nothing puts one more in touch with her own mortality; even the death of parents. It gives a warning of the randomness of the life process, and breaks faith with the belief that death is sequential, fairly. I recall my father's disbelief upon learning of the death of his dearly-loved younger brother. I can still hear his tormented cry when the call came, "It should have been ME!"

How does one, as an atheist, live through the trauma of such a loss? At least my father had his strong belief in the power of his Catholic faith. I'd honed out a personal spiritual one-of-a-kind seat-of-the-pants belief system that had to stand the test of Rick's death. It did.

But I need to catch my breath ...

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