Saturday, January 20, 2007

Family resemblance

I spent a good part of last night reading poetry. This is not a normal occurrence for me. Poetry in general, frustrates me, it’s not something I can remotely imagine writing, or at least writing well. I was reading my brothers poetry. This is sometimes a happy exercise, where I get to remember the people and stories he told me about during or after his writing process and sometimes it’s more of an exercise in twisting the knife in my heart since he died. Last night was a little of both. I’ve decided to be okay with that. Decided that like my opinion even mattered.

This book in particular always appealed to me, the black cover and ominous title calls to my own darkness. The book is dedicated to a high school friend of his, his wife and their daughter. The wife died about 3 months after the birth of that daughter. She had apparently dismissed some discomfort for some time thinking it was normal postpartum recovery. It was stomach cancer, and quite advanced by the time she pursued it. I remember Mark telling me about Sheila and tearing up talking about his friend’s pain.

I know that friend well; he has been a great source of comfort to me since Mark’s death. It’s hard sometimes; his voice on my voice mail or name in my inbox makes me choke up, well up. I know how much Mark loved him, know that love was returned and is now shared with me. It’s hard to accept that kind of love. I find myself worried that I won’t meet with his approval and I’ll lose his presence in my life. He has no family obligation and I am afraid of loss that big, again. For the record, I didn’t handle it so well the first time.

This particular book is full of stories of loss. The title proclaiming the theme starkly, “They come for what you love.” There’s not much hope in this book. It makes me wonder about this period in his life and it frustrates me that I don’t know why the work in this book is so sad. I looked at the publishing date again to try and place that time in my life. 1998. I brought my puppy home that year. I started leaving him with Mark when I traveled. Mark’s house was well and widely known as Camp Craver - Where dogs can be dogs. Mark didn’t care if they slept on the furniture or got the floor muddy or barked at the neighbor kids or chewed on the trees in his back yard. He gave me good advice that year when I found myself involved in a wedding I believed was a mistake. He went on motorcycle rides with my boyfriend of the moment. We went to high school football games together. I met more of his friends. The math teacher that played Pink Floyd on Fridays for his students and still looked like a 'bad boy' from the late 80's; long hair and earrings included. We went to the renaissance festival and paid "the insulter" to make fun of the math teacher.

I also wonder if I’ve misinterpreted this book. There are a few places where I catch him speaking to a more general mistreatment of human beings by other human beings, e.g, “What won’t we kill in each other?” And sounding outraged at the general unfairness of the world "They invented love so they could laugh at it."

Is it that I am enough like my brother that merely being witness to the everyday shit people inflict upon each other; that seeing, hearing, or being somehow associated with things that make you flash back to being 7 stomping around in circles and screaming "It's not FAIR" revisit you when you are alone and feel the need to get it out.

I hope so.


rennratt said...

Reading the sadness of one you loved deeply is never easy.

I am so sorry for your loss.

Anonymous said...

You know my fondness and respect for your brother are endless. I do love learning more about him, and I like to read about how you interpret his work. Your brother had an incredible sense of empathy, and a great sense of humor.

You also have an ability to illuminate through words. Your prose pieces have a lot of emotional resonance and empathy for the subject. I do believe you have a poetic soul, and I can imagine you writing poetry.


tiff said...

I wanted to comment, but can't come up with anything but "I'm sorry."

So, there's that.

I'm sorry. But from what I'm beginning to understand, being like your brother is not a bad, thing, and is an excellent legacy to him.

Biff Spiffy said...

"Decided that like my opinion even mattered."

Your decision is all that matters. Feelings lie. Decisions count, and turn into lived life.

I love your writing. Thanks for inviting me to read. I didn't know Mark, and of course I wish I did because of you - but I'm happy to know you. That's more than enough.

Anonymous said...

You said, "This is sometimes a happy exercise, where I get to remember the people and stories he told me about during or after his writing process..."

One of my favorite memories comes from talking with Mark about "The Problem Of Grace" and learning about some of the people he wrote about in it. I still laugh til I cry when I think about the redheaded family in the laundromat... "Earring? Why am I, a male, wearing an earring? Well, you see, where I'm from, they're like a badge of honor. They give 'em to people who kill annoying redheads."