“Memory becomes your partner. You nuture it. You hold it. You dance with it.”

5 Mar

The other day I bought the first season of Six Feet Under, one of my most favorite shows ever. (Watch the series finale. Try not to cry. Go ahead, try.)

We watched the pilot last night, something I haven’t watched in years. In it, the father died in a car crash, killed instantly on Christmas Eve while trying to light another cigarette. Most of the episode if the aftermath of that, and the family tensions that unfold.

Generally speaking, the show makes me cry. Shocking I know. Watching the scene where Ruth breaks down at the casket, and howls in such a plaintive, sad way, watching Claire running from her grief, the agony of losing a parent-watching David bottle it up until he nearly explodes, only then feeling free to break down. I’ve been all those things. I’ve been all those places. I’ve watched my family dissolve through these stereotypes, these standards of grief.

It didn’t get to me-it made me feel comfortable, at ease. An old friend telling stories I could relate to, and understand. The little girl in me is mostly ok with all of this now, 19 years on, she’s come to grips with those cold clods of dirt she threw on top of the coffin, the rattling sound the small stones made down the sides, the flowers tossed in afterwards. She’s ok with the fact that no one helped her through it-mostly because no one else could. They were all so lost.

She’s let it go.

What she mours is more complex, more painful in it’s knifelike shards.

Near the end of the episode, there’s a memory sequence of the Nate and David as small boys, playing in the front yard. Their mother sits on the steps, their father waters something, spraying them from time to time. The sun is yellow, warm, like a topaz transposed on the sky. The boys run and squeal and time means nothing, time is sealed in a box they aren’t allowed to open.

My little girl mourns those days. Sunny, perfectly outlined days. Moments that live in memory as a smile, a hand on a shoulder, a beard rub, a car wash. Sitting in a living room in June, watching the sun dance through the air, all the dust moving in some hidden ballet through the house.

The loss of those days-the crack in the window of my childhood-that is what I mourn the most. The clean days of just being, the treasures in a bookcase, the small treats from your mother. I miss and mourn those.

So it was harder to stay still and not cry, watching to small boys run laughing on their lawn. Because I miss my little girl, I miss those memories. I miss them meaning nothing more than what they were, instead of being a prelude.

8 Responses to ““Memory becomes your partner. You nuture it. You hold it. You dance with it.””

  1. Gwen March 5, 2008 at 9:38 am #

    I really loved your closing sentence!

  2. Hannah March 5, 2008 at 9:43 am #

    You’ve done many posts about how your mother’s death affected you, but for some reason this one touched me the most.

    No one ever stops to think how the sadness of a loss like that runs backwards through all the good memories, colouring them differently.

    You always make me think.

  3. kate March 5, 2008 at 12:28 pm #

    Wow, this is so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your feelings with us…and for writing what those of us who have lost a parent can not.


  4. radical mama March 5, 2008 at 1:04 pm #

    I had never considered that way that a death can taint the good memories that came before it. Is it bittersweet for you to be creating those same memories for you own daughters now?

  5. thordora March 5, 2008 at 1:22 pm #


    There are times when everything seems to slow, and they almost glow in that same light, and I need to turn away so they don’t see the tears.

    It helps remind me that each day is a gift-that I fight my brain for them, for us, so that those memories are never compromised or ruined.

    But it reminds me so much of what was lost, and how angry I am sometimes about it. I love my girls so much, and now I can see with my mother’s eyes as well as my own. That hurts, knowing how it must have felt.

  6. cat March 5, 2008 at 2:12 pm #

    i do that turning away as well, so he can’t see my tears because i don’t want his memories to be tainted like mine with a mother’s madness. sometimes i wish for a life that was absent of my mother then i read your words and am reminded of the adage about grass being somehow greener, yet not really. you humble, you inspire.

  7. Mad Hatter March 5, 2008 at 10:23 pm #

    I get this, except for me it wasn’t a prelude. My dad died when I was 7 and was sick for so many years leading up to his death. All this broke my mom so there really was no pre-lapsarian time for me–at least not one that I can remember.

  8. juliepippert March 6, 2008 at 1:25 pm #

    Oh. Oh. This got me right here, and then your last sentence, gut-socked.

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