And on to 2011

Here is my New Year’s note to my sweetie — posted with her permission.

                                                                        1 January 2011

Dear Sweetie-pie,

I’m still here!  In a way, I feel somewhat like Bill Murray’s character at the end of Groundhog Day.  You, more than anyone else, knows the power of 1-1-11 for me – something like the worries about the Millenial crash in 2000 – which didn’t happen.  Well before I came to Kansas City, I fully expected not to make it past 2010 – I think that thought goes back to the 80s when the movie 2010 came out – damn you, Roy Scheider.  There were no facts supporting this belief, just a premonition that that was my year to go.  After we were married and I mentioned it a few times, and I saw how much that upset you, I didn’t mention it again, and when 2010 hit, a little at first, then stronger as the year went on, I was sure that I would make it through the year, that my time had not run out.  I didn’t mention that to you either, as I thought it best to let the matter lie. 

As a matter of synchronicity, I’d been reading a piece on the choreographer, Bill Jones by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man – at the time Gates met and wrote about Jones (around 1996 or so), Jones, HIV positive since the 1980s, who had lost the co-founder of his company to the disease in the 80s, was producing his latest series of dances called Still/Here.  These dances were developed from accounts of people who learned that they had some fatal condition, a situation Jones could identify with.

Over the past few days, I have been very much aware of the physical absence of Marcel – a part of me goes to let Alice out of her place, and I wait a minute or so before I look in, and don’t see Marcel.  Or I go to fill the dog dishes with food, as I do most mornings, and I come to the spot where Marcel’s dish used to be and seem puzzled by its absence.  That absence makes me very sad, and I’m sure it makes you even sadder – I find myself wishing he were still here.  Of course, we don’t get to live forever, and pets have much shorter life spans.  Friends move, or relationships fall apart, time and again in our lives.  The pain we feel on all such leavings is sometimes more than we think we can bear, but we do.  In part, I think we survive such trauma because the miracle of our loved ones’ presence never fully leaves.  We know that feeling in our bodies and in our minds and in our hearts, and some sense will bring back our loved one if only in story.  There is a bittersweet quality in such reunions, but I choose to notice the sweet and not just the bitter.  And the lessons the dearly departed have taught us we continue to learn.

With Marcel’s departure, I’ve been thinking a lot about hugs – it seems hugs are an ongoing lesson you try to teach me.  Of course, hugs bring to mind, for me, at any rate, one of my guilty pleasures – the chorus of “I’m Leaving (on a Jet Plane)” by John Denver (mercifully I never heard Mr. Denver sing the tune) – the chorus is all about putting a brave face on a departure, and one which has an uncertain reunion, and the words “Hold me like you’ll never let me go” always bring a tear to my eye.  In part, some of that tearing up may be a recognition that I don’t do goodbyes well – when I’ve hugged you, Catie and others at leave-taking times, I’ve often treated it like some stiff-upper-lip British guy, or buddies in an American WWII film – the quick clasp, the slapping on the back, and the heroic disengagement and departure (spine fully erect).  I know that you’ve not cared for those “buck up, old chum” sort of hugs, and sometimes pulled me back for “a real hug.”  When Marcel gave you such a hug at the vets years ago, you knew he was not a temporary guest at our house, but now a part of the family.  And, I’m grateful that you got a chance to give him a big hug when he did have to leave.  In the physical plane, you gotta go when the body gives out – but you held him, like you’d never let him go.  That gave him some great comfort in his last hours, and, in our hearts, we still hold him. 

At the airport, when I took leave of Catie, I took care to be very attentive to my hug – there was no “buck up, old chum,” but a hug that lasted as long as it should. I did try to keep the tears from welling up (not entirely successfully, but enough). 

So, I think I have learned a little about hugs over the years, and look forward to our next year together.  I may still need reminders of hugs – how long, the degree of squeeze, and so forth.  You, though, are an able teacher.  I am not a totally inept pupil.  And, following the doom year of 2010, I’m still here and so are you.



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