"Dear Prudence" by Amanda Grieme

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dear Nanny...Spring

4/12 - Spring
Dear Nanny -

Easter has come and gone, and it was the first, ever, that I made a conscious effort not to be antisocial. I remember when you and gram were alive, I would simply sit with the two of you at extended family gatherings, feeding you wine and cheese, and quietly discussing who people were with you Nan, then repeating myself in a loud, forced whisper to gram, who wouldn’t hear us the first time around. “What?” she would ask, then I would lean in toward her to tell her about so and so’s whosiwhatzit, and her hearing aid, without fail, would begin to buzz. Poor Gram. She took so much abuse because of her hearing aids. Do you remember what my dad and I used to do to her? We used to walk into a room that she was sitting in, and we would speak to her without making sounds, simply moving our mouths and using body language, and without fail she used to check her hearing aids, realize what her rotten son and granddaughter were doing, and she would dismiss us with her hand and say, “Oh you, . . . go away!” Remember? You used to say, “The Hell with them, Kae.” Remember?

Anyway, I kept thinking of you yesterday on Easter, thinking how much fun it would have been to have you there at Amber’s new house, decorated beautifully with your old parlor furniture, and that gorgeous copper table that you used to have in front of the fireplace and bookshelves. She has very similar taste to you; you would love their home. Nanny, You would love Ellijah and Jane; they are like night and day, like most siblings that I know. I have told you all about sweet Ellijah...well Nan, you ought to see Jane. Nanny, she is without a doubt one of the silliest, potentially ill-behaved but most adorable looking brown eyed sweeties that I’ve ever encountered. She is a wackadoodle, even at 2 ½ , and isn’t phased even slightly by authority, imminent danger, tumbles down the stairs, or her brother’s neighborhood friends. Jane is part of the game, or it will not go on. Nanny she is a riot, and unbelievably bright.
Yesterday, she and Ellijah, Amber and Colin handed me an Easter package to open, and sat around me giggling while I opened it. “Oh cute!” I said, tearing through a basket loaded with chocolate, and fruit chews. “Look very closely,” my sister laughed. I pulled out two boxes that said Little Chocolate Bunnies on them, but the boxes had been torn open. And when I peered through the cellophane display window on the boxes, both rabbits were missing their little chocolate heads. I examined them in disbelief, looking at the little bite marks that rounded the bunny necks, and the outside of the box where it had been torn, and everyone cracked up, clapping their hands.

“Sick joke,” I said to my sister, as she proceeded to explain that Jane had seen her put them in a bag and away upstairs, and took it upon her two year old self to venture upstairs into the closet, tore open the boxes with her teeth, bit the chocolate heads off, and then placed each one back in its box, closed them, and put them back in the bag in the closet, and ventured downstairs. Amber said that when Jane was coming down the stairs both she and mom said, “Jane, what’s in your mouth?” And she mumbled, “Nothing,’ and smiled a big, chocolate grin. She’s great, Nan; I think that she’ll do her own thing.

As for the antisocial thing, I didn’t pretend that I was feeling sick and disappear to the upstairs to fall asleep in El’s bed. Nor did I sneak through the garage and take a power walk through their neighborhood after I ate to burn off calories that I pictured as fat deposits on my belly; Nor did I hide in the basement and drink incessantly, and then go outside to sit by myself, and I didn’t even fantasize about throwing up in the bathroom, or about running into oncoming traffic. I ate Easter dinner, I carried on conversations with adults who are probably uncomfortable talking to me because I normally seem peculiar to them, but I made an effort, and I tried to desperately stave off every “how’s school?” or “when’s your teaching year over?"

I simply gave them an estimate, and avoided saying, 'oh, well I cracked up in February and haven’t taught since, and because of the numerous drugs that I have tried to take in the last eight weeks, my judgment has been hindered, and I don’t feel that I can be a responsible educator in this condition ...but Lithium is helping. By the way, I’m looking for work. Do you need me to take care of your children?'

Anyway, knock on wood or whatever Nan, Lithium and Prozac together are helping, and the fogginess has subsided substantially I still have this stop, pause and think thing that I do when I take a step. I don’t quite understand it, and it’s rather difficult to explain. Oh wait, I have the perfect example. There is a fantastic film that I recently saw called “Love Liza,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kathy Bates; great actors. You probably remember Kathy Bates from “Fried Green Tomatoes.” I think that you saw that, at least I’m pretty sure that you read the book.

Well, Phillip Seymour Hoffman is one of those fantastic, realistic, and multifaceted actors that doesn’t receive half the acknowledgment that he should because he’s not an adonis. Remember Johnny Depp? Hoffman play’s fantastic, unorthodox parts like he does, but he never had the “21 Jump Street” to get him noticed. Anyway, I love the actor. The film is a sad, sad story about a man who’s wife commits suicide, and leaves him a letter, hence “Love, Liza.”

Out of desperation for self-medication for pain, and to try to assuage his obsession with the unopened suicide letter from his young wife, he begins to huff mass quantities of gasoline in order to asphixiate himself and make his time in his empty house more bearable. Meanwhile Kathy Bates’ character, Liza’s estranged, yet nurturing mother desperately attempts to convince him to open the suicide note, so that they both may have a better understanding as to why she did it, but to no avail. But the part of the film that I found most intriguing, in addition to the remarkable acting was the director’s conveyance of deep sadness through slow human movement. Every one of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s physical movements was slow, deliberate and separated by pause, separated by close up shots of heavy breathing and confused thought. The opening scene shows him pulling into his driveway in silence with a bouquet of flowers with him, and the only sounds are the external sounds of trees, passing cars, birds, and his breathing as he silently stares ahead, contemplating his next move toward the house. Nothing seemed automatic; it was too painful for him to venture toward the door gracefully; deep sadness corterizes those nerve endings. Eventually, after painfully watching him do nothing but crinkle the cellophane wrapped around the flowers, he opens the car door into the sound of spring, closes the vault behind him, and walks. It’s as if he is relearning the process of walking, which I would imagine could pose as an extended metaphor for the grieving process after losing love.
He eventually makes it to the door, but pauses before entering again. When he enters, the shroud of silence is overwhelming, and his deliberate movement can hardly hold him up. The camera actually reveals what “heavy” feels like. Not a heavy bag of groceries, or a heavy box that is only intermittently such, but a heaviness that works with gravity in our reality, in conjunction with gravity one inch above our reality where lost souls reside, shackling a burdened soul to a confused fog.

My weird cranial pauses feel like THAT. It used to just feel like confusion, but now it has actually manifested itself as physical pauses in movement, or speech, where I actually stop to reassess my thoughts, and my mind is silent, and my body is silent with it. It is highly peculiar, but it certainly could be worse.I felt it once before, about a month after you had died. I just wanted to talk to you, so I drove to your gravestone, and I collapsed next to your grave and cried my eyes out in the grass, talking to you a mile a minute. After sobbing myself into a semi-comatose state, I fell back in my car and drove to your home. The walk up the cobblestone path, next to the garden against the stone wall of your house, holding the beautiful picture window where you told me a garter snake had slithered across your open toe sandal once was overgrown, but not so much that it looked as if it hadn’t been tended to in too long. I made my way up the wooden steps onto your patio, overlooking poppa’s old peach orchard and strawberry patches, down into Miltown, NJ. Your cat Sweetheart’s bowl was empty and had leaves in it, and all of your wooden furniture was covered in crunchy plastic, with lingering puddles of rainwater here and there.

It just looked to me like you hadn’t been home in a while, so I spread out on the warm clay concrete patio, and closed my eyes, and waited. I waited until I had the courage to slip the key out, turn the lock and enter your sunny kitchen, taking in the old familiar scent of your home. I waited until I had the courage to sit down at your kitchen table that now rests cluttered with stuff in my apartment. I waited until I had the courage to call out “Hi Nanny,” without any response. I prayed to the warm sun to give me the strength to accept silence. I then went in, closed the door behind me and I stood. I just stood for a long time, listening to the cruel ticking clock that still beat life. My feet were stuck to the kitchen floor, and I stared at the table and chairs where I used to sit and listen to your stories, and I pictured you in your glasses sitting on a kitchen chair with a cushion, watching the Yankees on the Kitchen TV, between snacking on a bowl of potato chips that you’d secretly refill several times while working on an afghan for someone.

I counted the ticks for a while, but they became masked by the rush of blood and heat in my ears. I slowly moved toward the kitchen table, looked right into the living room that led into your lilac bedroom, and froze. I was afraid to look at the bookcase because I might see your reflection in the glass, and I was afraid to move forward for fear of seeing you and Poppa around the corner in the living room, and I couldn’t move toward your bedroom for fear of not finding you at all. So I tearily said, “I miss you Nanny and Poppa,” and I stood in the same spot and cried until the glue softened, and I was able to leave. Were you there?
Love, Ana

No comments:

Post a Comment