What Direction Now? Life at the intersection…

Rest in Peace…

R

How to write love?  How to capture the impact of an entire life with a quickly emptying pen and a few small pages…or a dash of digital dots on the screen?  This medium, this method, seems so very inadequate, but it’s all I have.  This is the best I have, and the best I have to offer…

The news of Papa’s death hit me suddenly and unexpectedly last Monday like a cement block, and with the shock of pain came a dizzying wave of sorrow, first for the loss of this man who had always always without question treated me as a real grandson, was proud of me like a real grandson, even though he didn’t have to, didn’t have even a blood obligation to feel that way, who loved out of love itself; and then, I felt, palpably and tangibly, my isolation and powerlessness, the fact that (again) I was alone in a land far away, alone to grieve, alone.  Water welled in my eyes, but the clock said I was already late, so I swallowed it all, put on a brave face, brick face, and walked to class…

Actually, let me backtrack…I had fifteen minutes to spare before I was scheduled to sit in on another teacher’s class, and decided to check my email and Facebook in the small time gap, and the first thing I read at the top of my Facebook homepage was “R.I.P. Grandpa” in an update from my brother Isaac.  I literally couldn’t understand, couldn’t comprehend, what exactly I was reading, that is, I understood the words as words, but I couldn’t attach any sort of reality to them–the initial experience was surreal, this feeling of words as words without any attachments…until…

One minute before, I had turned to tell an eager student (a rare and prized commodity) that “yes, I was heading to her class soon”; one minute after I sat stunned chest-deep in cement rubble.  The interaction with the student was fateful, I think, because I couldn’t very well back out of a commitment, I had only made two minutes before; the interaction only ensured that I would have to quickly find a way to lift the wreckage off of myself somehow, and inwardly breathless and reeling, walk into a classroom in front of students and their teacher and sit there while they shot questions at me.  I couldn’t very well explain that though I had just said “yes, I will be there,” only one minute later, I was no longer able to fulfill that promise–well, I could have, but I didn’t really want to break down in that situation, to cry in front of a large group of Ukrainians with no real way to convey what was wrong with me.

I went to see Bean that evening; I was planning to go any way, but the news of the day made being with her, the person in this country who loves me most, and whose shoulder somehow perfectly fits my head, a necessity.  I had planned to call my stepmother, Lynda, had made that plan the second I read the news that day, but I waited until I could be in Bean’s arms before I made that difficult call.  I knew I would cry, wasn’t sure what shape Lynda would be in, feared the worst, that she would break down when she heard my voice, and from so far away I couldn’t possibly do anything to help or heal.  This is the worst part about being away, this powerlessness, this inability to touch and thus to really show that you feel.  She didn’t know who I was at first, didn’t recognize my number, didn’t recognize my voice lowered in grief and sympathy, but after that, the conversation went better than I expected; she held up well, better than I did, and she only cracked a bit when she heard my voice quiver.   It was a short conversation, but we were both glad that I had called, I think…

…and I’m glad that I had Bean by my side, especially because last time, I had no one.  This situation and all it’s feelings, finding out that someone you care about had died, are not unfamiliar to me; I can’t say that Papa’s death was entirely unexpected…he’s been fighting illnesses for a long time, almost all of my life, but I had always hoped that it wouldn’t happen while I was away.  Last time, though, I was taken completely off-guard.  When I lived in London, my friend and brother, Tony, disappeared in Argentina while he himself was studying abroad there.  When I read what I read now about Papa, I think part of my shock and mourning was heightened by some latent unhealed wounds, this dizzying panicked feeling of deja vu.

When I mentioned this to my mom on the phone, she said that this time, it was different because I have someone here who loves me.  And I think that’s true.  I think this week showed me two things: 1) the fact and reality of my service has me reeling, on my knees, and I feel like I’m getting kicked while I’m down, though I have been slow to realize this, slow to respond and thus rebound–this week and this month kicked my ass and laughed about it the whole way through; and 2) my relationship with Bean, while still young, is my main constant, and I’m so lucky to have her in my life right now.

So, I’ll end like this.  Papa, I love you and will miss you, but I have so so many great memories of you and of us that I can’t be sad right now.  Thank you for loving me, and above all, for simply being my grandpa…
Thought I was learning how to laugh, not how to cry, really I’ve been learning how to die…
AC

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What Direction Now? Life at the intersection…

About Andrew.

Andrew Cartwright grew up in Indianapolis, IN, but has lived over the years in such places as Denver, CO; Fairfax, VA; and Rivne, Ukraine. He is a former nonfiction editor for both Indiana Review and phoebe; he has also worked for the intersectional feminist journal, So To Speak, and the national literary magazine, Electric Literature. His work has appeared in The Normal School Online, Copper Nickel, Esquire Ukraine, Literary Hub, and Word Riot.

For more information about me and links to other writing, visit my author page at cartwriter.com

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