"Dear Prudence" by Amanda Grieme

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dear Nanny...

"'And there she was.' Nathaniel replayed the scene in his mind. It flickered behind green-blue eyes.
Tom pulled the crinkled letter from his sweaty shirt pocket, looked left and right, and held the letter out to Nate. 'See?' Nate took the letter gently and opened it."

Dear Nanny -
I am writing this to you because you would have understood. I will kiss it, and blow it into the beautiful wind and ask the universe to carry it to you. I have been planning on telling you the details of my mental demise over a game of bridge and a cocktail smothered in laughter, like reunited friends giggling about the old dead days beyond recall. But this is simply the book jacket version for your perusal, to prepare you for the shock of seeing me at your card table, wherever you may be.

It feels like forever since you passed. I remember you saw it; my darkness hidden behind laughter. You told me that I should write, that you had always wanted to be a writer; it’s a great way to vent frustrations. You told me that you used to keep a diary and sketch ideas, but then you had a family. I remember.

And once when I was particularly down, I slumped in the chair next to your sick bed and without saying a word, or even eluding to your intuition, you chimed in with a story that I will never forget. It was your gentle way of telling me that you empathized with me; you, too had spent 80 years hiding a deep sadness for the sake of your family, and your marriage. You had been tortured by an overwhelming feeling of self-doubt and had been riding a tumultuous wave, forced to cry around corners and hurt yourself in private. You had struggled with depression your entire life.

Do you remember the story? You told me that you were very drawn to the moon, and that you would pray to it, and talk to it like an entity. When your mother was very sick with cancer and you were just a teenager, you spent evenings on the porch rocking chair, staring into the sky. The moon was your only solace. You felt that you were connected to it because when you would squint your eyes, the moon’s rays would reach out toward you, and you could touch them with your fingers. And when your mother died, you damned the moon for not hearing your cries. I have held that story so close.

You and I had something so sacred in common; we were bound by souls that scream, silently.

I have this memory of you, vivid, wrapped in silence and intoxicants. Remember when you lived with my parents? I would make a point to drive to you late and find you sleeping. I used to stare so intently at your tiny, red-stained mouth, watching for signs of breath. Sometimes I was so loaded that I couldn’t decipher between real movement and that created by the television, or the fleeting light from an occasional passing car; you would eventually sigh a muffled snore. Until I was sure that there was life, I wouldn’t leave you.

I recall it distinctly. All of my senses were there with you. Not one hour until my 20th birthday and I had already drowned myself in several intoxicants, and feigned an illness so that I could return home early from an overrated party. I feared that you weren’t breathing. I always feared something. It would overcome me like fog; I would try to mask it with drugs. Anything.

I leaned into the creaky wicker chair and stared out the second-story window, cradled by the slight tickle of freshly-cut grass and crickets. The 11:00 pm quarter moon dripped Mars red, and lingered above the old red barn. She seemed to teeter between a slowly fading weather vane and a vacant robin’s nest atop of the old crab apple tree. Such balance.

Listening to your slow, deliberate breathing was soothing. Your pursed lips, and slightly gaping mouth purred with every exhale; it was a soft rhythm, 3/4 time, a Tchaikovsky waltz. Your weathered, freckled face was washed in moving blue light from a silent television screen ...NY Yankees after hours on Fox five. You never missed it. A shanty Irish Brooklyn lady, you never lost your passion for a night with the Bronx Bombers, even then. I always loved that.

You are content now; this I know in my heart. I was with you when you died. Did you know that? I was there, holding your hand, and so was my best friend, Jesse. We saw it Nan ...all of the pain, anguish, doubt and sadness left your body with your last breath. You were writhing, then suddenly your green eyes opened wide, your mouth twisted wildly into an awestruck grin, and you sighed. And I knew that your years of sadness were gone. The fantastic universe welcomed you into her arms, and you were warm. It must have been so liberating! I wanted so badly to touch that place, not just let you go.

The summer after you passed, when I was 21, I was diagnosed by a Dr. Latondo as Bipolar. I didn’t take my diagnosis seriously. Instead I saw the drugs that I was prescribed as “added bonuses;” they were most excellent additions to my crazy nights filled with drinking, cigarettes, weed, cocaine, boys, pills ...later a smattering of heroine. I was completely dishonest with him, and everyone I knew; I wasn’t ready to tell anyone how I was really feeling, or what I really wanted, or that I was severely bulimic, and that I had no control when it came to the male species, or that I had no self-esteem, or that my moods would fluctuate severely by the hour. I couldn’t open my mouth when the doctor asked me about the emotional mayhem that I had suffered, or the hell that I put my loved-ones through because I was so unstable. Not a soul knew how to take me, what to do with my weird co-dependencies and obsessiveness, or what to expect from minute to minute. Somehow they continued to love me for that one distinct personality that I have ...the one that smiles incessantly, compulsively lies, and is fantastically-fun, too jaded and concerned with popular opinion to say a word of truth.

I think that your daughter and son-in-law really began to tune into my behavior when I got wind of a birthday party that they had planned for me. I panicked because I was going to see dear friends that I hadn’t seen in a while, and broke down and cried “please cancel the party;” I couldn’t bear to see anyone. They were simply attempting to reconnect me with the living, I know, but I couldn’t face anyone for fear of simple conversation, or feeling their disappointment. I was convinced that my old friends would think I had gained weight, or that my complexion wasn’t good, or that I hadn’t progressed enough in the working world, or that my apartment wasn’t interesting enough, or clean enough, or colorful enough, or welcoming enough, or soft enough. Perhaps I wouldn’t dress appropriately, or drink properly, or that when a photo would be taken of me, I would become sick when I saw it because someone, somewhere may have had an ill-opinion of me when they looked at it. What if they felt sorry for me because I was unattractive, or my hair seemed a bit brassy, or my chin and nose were left of center, and that I was almost 25, dating an 18-year-old, and living in apartment above my parent’s house. I was so ashamed of me; I choked.

Somehow, Nanny, I managed to teach High School English until right after Thanksgiving of last year; it finally all caught up with me after years of pretending and suffering in silence. I crashed, I panicked, and humbly gave in; I haven’t been back to teaching since. I have resigned myself to that of a psychomed crash test dummy, in and out of hospital beds and doctors offices, drifting in and out of different drug induced mental states. It has been misery.

I cannot possibly retreat any further. It is here that I will put an end to this debilitating bipolar smog that looms over me like shadow. It is here that I begin my swim back up to the surface into your living; I’m tired of lying spiritless at the bottom of this cesspool.

We will discuss this further Nan, when I arrive. May this explain “why,” assuring all that this is what I want for everyone. No more hospitals, no more antipsychotics, voices, crying fits, laughing fits, jealousy, anger, frustration, yelling, misery, sweetness-and-light followed by complete darkness in a matter of minutes. I will no longer contradict myself and allow my right and left-brain to box. It makes my head hurt, a lot. I’m swimming home to a place where I belong.
I will see you soon - Love, Ana

na's Download of the Day - Elliot Smith "XO"

(Check out the single in the upper right margin.)

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