Thursday, August 26, 2010

Prayers During Purgatory

I prayed for the first time in months today. I pushed back hair and pressed my forehead to steepled fingers, stretching myself diagonally across the landscape of a bed, elbows out like wings. I prayed to my grandmother, whose stroke was no surprise, whose stroke separated everything we'll remember of her from a memorable frame. Her body is still here, someplace in New Jersey, sunk into starched hospital sheets and stiff pastel blankets, but Rosie herself is elsewhere. They use the word "unresponsive." There's minute peace in knowing it was coming.

The family's reports come in over cell speakers along with texts that state--assure?--I don't need to come home. I bounce between online train schedules and old Google maps of Monmouth County, the place where Rosie raised four generations of my family.   

They say she opened her eyes once but everything is glass; we look through, not into, her now. My aunt believes the liquid gaze means Rosie is still here, but my mother--the nurse, who works with death, whose life is acting both as its assistant and its adversary--has seen that look before, knows what it all means, understands how even heartbeats can be purgatory. She speaks the language of departing and is acting as our translator. The Rosetta Stone to Rose says that she is gone. 

If she had died I could pass a message up to God, ask the universe to tell her that I love her and regret not coming home more, make some unseen force sing my goodbyes like a telegraph, but her body is still breathing and I don't know where a mind goes so I pray to her directly, palming an invisible microphone, broadcasting to an audience of one.

Tonight's program skips the weather, throws out the traffic, leaves out time and temp, starts with affirmations and then rambles into "sorry," evolving into a monologue that pleads for her to hear me. Unrelated thoughts interrupt like static: "Grandma Rose it's me and I don't know if you hear me (**ksssshkthe iron: on or off?ksssshk**). I don't know where you are but I want you to come visit. I want to say goodbye even though I know we did, the day with the Earl Grey and the tin of shortbread cookies, the day you tried (**ksssshkhe should have texted backksssshk**) to give me more money for shoes before cutting out that article about Madonna's H&M (**ksssshkwhere's the dog?kssssshk**) discount fashion. I never pray anymore (**kssssshkwhat's this lump?kssssshk**) and know that you would hate that, but my faith's misplaced and we need to talk so Rosie please come find me." The reception on this station is some humming kind of mess.

I keep snapping rubber bands inside in selfish flagellation, as if punishment for not dialing more is something that's productive. I wrote to her last month, two letters in two weeks; it took so little effort there should have been two dozen. They say she read them out loud to everyone who visited, a little fact that pulls two strings into a knot, tying ego and shame into one dangling loose end.

In the last letter I told her she's the reason I'm a writer, joked about the money I'd have saved if I'd studied it in college, lamented how much better I'd be if I'd studied it at all...or just done things the way she told me I should over lunch when I was 12. They say she read that part specifically over and over: "The moral is, Rosie, you should listen to your grandma." 

I never wrote how my next big piece is in a New York weekly, one she could hold between her hands and tell friends to buy at newsstands. She never really understood the whole news on the Internet thing--she would have been so proud to see something in old school print.

I'm so tired this is blurry. The figures curl together. But tonight I do not sleep. I keep praying direct to Rosie, thinking she'll tune in for some part of my broadcast, check-one-twoing the mic with one hand while tracing maps of Monmouth County with the other.


inflammatory writ said...

Sending you a huge hug, my dear.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother. I think we can all relate to this mishmash of emotions. I'm sure she would be proud of this beautifully written post, even if she never got the whole internet thing.

My thoughts are with you.

Hannah Miet said...

You've got my stomach in your hands.

Meghan said...

I am so sorry about your grandmother. I never really thought I would be, but I am a big supporter of the power of prayer, if even just for personal transformation.

If you believe it with your whole heart, when you pray to her, Rosie hears you.

Erin said...

Whatever you wanted to say to her, she already knows. Take comfort in that.

Freelance Pallbearer said...

"[T}ying up ego and shame into one dangling loose end." Death, loss, has a tendency to take the world and turn it into a name, a memory. The only place colder is the not knowing, the waiting. Take care during the storm.

Polly Syllabick said...

All of these comments were a balm. In response I just say Thank You.

Constar said...

you have the most beautiful way of putting words together!

Erisgirl said...

This post made me think, a lot. Thanks. Brilliant piece of writing, portrayed your emotions so well and so originally.
nothing like this has happened to me so i'm afraid i'm at a loss to be helpful, but if i could be, i would.

in any case, you deserve this

Anonymous said...

I was working frenetically in London, travelling to Stockholm on weekends where my mother was dying in 2008, so I think I get it.

Amy Lewis said...

Have a friend going through a loss. Came back to "The Hitch List" to enter in because your words are transparent and available and full.

I know it has been months but I wanted to remind you that Rosie, and your family, are still in the thoughts of friends.