Saturday, April 08, 2006

There is a saying

a universe in a grain of sand.

Compression. It's one of the reasons that I like Borges so much, that ability to compress so much into a paragraph that it becomes a page, a page becomes a chapter, a story becomes a novel. Do not even have to add water.

I was reminded of this ability to convey maximum through minimum by Eileen Tabios' continuing journal of her vigil at her father's bedside. A few words, & the ripples expand, a large stone thrown into a lake.

Eileen's writing is sparse, the feeling of notes written late at night, after returing to a home that is, in a sense, no longer her own but one where she has lived most of her life, physically or mentally. It is naked writing, laying bare her relationship with her father. It is, for many of us, a guilt trip, we who could not reconcile ourselves with our parents, even on their deathbed. It is made even worse because Eileen writes in a way that compels us to sit on her shoulder, or behind her eyes, inside her soul, & we see through our own eyes as she sees through hers.

One of the reasons I left New Zealand was to escape my parents' deaths. I was a child born late to them in their lives, at least in terms of child-bearing ages. My mother was in her early forties, my father a few years older. I was thirty when I left.

Five years or so later I received a phonecall at work from the woman who lived in one of the flats in the same converted house as I did. A telegram had arrived for me - yes, it's that long ago - & it contained bad news, she said. "Which one is it?" I asked. "Your mother."

My father died in his nineties. My paternal side is long-lived. I went back to see him about three months before he died, after a phonecall from my sister saying that he was going. I'm glad I did, but it was sad. He was frail, his leg had been amputated some years before. He was lucid, though apparently he wasn't always so. I don't think I made peace with him; there was still the distance that there had always been. But I think it helped me make peace with myself.

For at time at least. I read Eileen, & I feel guilty that I could not confront my parents' deaths with such compassion, understanding, insight into ourselves & our relationships with those who are supposed to be our nearest & dearest. I feel guilty that I could not turn my thoughts around.


Blogger EILEEN said...

Ach, Mark. Don't second-guess yourself. There is such a thin line -- not even a line, but a fragile thread -- between your outcome and how mine is unfolding.

Thank you, my friend,

1:54 AM  
Blogger richard lopez said...

think i know a bit of that fragile thread myself, and after long resistance to the hard fact that our lives are brief that distance out to be breached in a word life is short no use to second-guess as eileen said i feel guilty for letting months pass between phone calls to my mother

3:08 PM  

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