One shoe, dropping

illus0114.jpgI’ve spent a lot of time in my stories poking at certain ideas. Themes, I guess. None of this is really conscious on my part — I tend to realize it after the fact or, at best, midway through the story.
“Oh, look at that, I’m writing about X again. Hmm.”
For one reason or another, one of those “X” topics is the idea of loss; someone dealing with a death (either recent or not-so) and how they cope with it. In Strange Weapons, there’s Michael’s wife as well as Lora’s former partner (whose memory lingers in a very palpable way — he drives her car). In Hidden Things… well, the whole story is really about death and coping with it; after finishing the story I realized I’d broken up the book into sections that directly correlated to the five stages of grief. (Then I noticed I’d done the same thing with Strange Weapons.)
My feelings about this are mixed.
I think it’s a tiny bit fascinating that the structure of grieving naturally (and unconsciously, I swear) integrates into the structure of the story — I think it means that I’m exploring Calliope’s grief in a real way, that her actions are following a pretty natural progression. That’s a comfort; I think any writer wants to write true things, even if they aren’t writing real things.
On the other hand, it’s troublesome to me that I keep going back to that particular instigator. It’s like I keep scratching a bug bite; I can’t leave it alone. Obviously, the idea of personal loss is something that looms large in my subconscious, probably because it’s such an unknown to me — no one close to me has ever died in my adult life — if I’ve never been in a storm, but I can see a number of them massed on the horizon and closing in, of course I’m going to write about storms.
Both my parents are healthy (and only 20 years older than me). I lost one grandparent when I was 10, but the other three (in their eighties) are all fine.
Until now.
During a routine checkup last week, doctors discovered a pretty major tumor in my grandpa’s lung. Since then, tests have revealed the strong possibility that it’s also spread to his liver. The major test results aren’t back yet, but it could be very bad news about a very short time frame.
Now, the fact that the man’s made it to 85 is a bit of a marvel in itself — he smoked several cartons of Salem Menthols a week for 41 years, he had triple bypass surgery in his mid-sixties, and has generally been rode hard and put away wet his whole life. That’s reality. The fact that I’ve had him around to pull my leg for coming up on 38 years is a gift.
And yet… and yet.
My world is tilted, these last few days. My wife and daughter are here, and loving, and healthy. My parents are strong, my sister is brilliant and funny. My work is going well, and my mental playground has all the best toys. Things are good; the platform of my life is solid.
But one pillar is trembling.
I’ve had a look at it a number of times; I’ve known it was eventually, inevitably going to give out, and I could see that time was coming — I’ve done my best to shore up the remaining struts, and I know that things will be fine; the platform will survive.
But this pillar, man… this is one of the old ones. One of the first ones. One of the strongest ones.
It doesn’t matter if I’m strong enough to withstand his absence. It’s the idea – the undeniable, inescapable fact that he could fall. That he will.
That is what shakes the foundations, today.

2 Replies to “One shoe, dropping”

  1. You say so well what I have been thinking all week. the support post that is Russell is where we can find much of our foundation for our morals and values. Work hard, do a job well, people will respect you. Play hard, enjoy the life that you have worked hard to get. Never be ashamed of who you are and what you believe in. those are pretty good things to pass down from one generation to the next and I hope that I am doing him the service of passing those things on to my children.
    Oh, and you’re right – I am brillant and funny:)

  2. I just found this post, Doyce (9/28/08). I just want to say how much I love my two children! Ilove you for the love and respect you have for your grandparents and for the wonderful adults you have grown to be.

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