Sunday, April 12, 2009

Two Easters

Easter...theological arguments aside, it’s a time of rebirth...connected—call it a big coincidence if you want—along with all the pagan fertility symbol rabbits & eggs—to the vernal equinox...everything coming back to life...which would make it kinda the opposite for our friends in the southern hemisphere...but anyway...

...it was right around Easter two years ago when I decided I had to leave my lonely apartment outside of Ithaca, NY, and move to Philly...an area where I’d really never conceived of living again...the site of all my early—and not-so-early—failures...representing everything I’d been running away from ever since...even as it kept pulling me back...like Michael Corleone in Godfather III...okay, maybe nothing like that...but still...there were some lengthy periods in my 20’s...coming home broke and unsure of where to go next...working lousy temp jobs and hiding in the storage room upstairs to smoke weed listening to the Stones’ Black and Blue album every evening after work like a strange pathetic ritual...you’re just a memory of a love that used to be...after that, only a couple times a year to visit family, though at times things got so strained I didn’t wanna go at all, and sometimes didn’t...and to visit an old friend or two...but that was it...

...until everything changed in the summer of 2005, when my dad died suddenly...less than a week after I’d finished teaching my last college class...the day before August 15th, which I’d declared as day one of my new life writing full time, as I’d always wanted to do... in between, I’d visited with the family...had breakfast with mom and dad at a restaurant on the Cape May boardwalk on Saturday the 13th, when dad, not generally known for putting a positive spin on things, told me how excited he was that I was setting out into the unknown like this...like Walt Whitman: The untold want, by life and land ne’er granted, Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find...though neither of us knowing just how far from a safe, familiar harbor I was gonna get, or how soon....got the call the next day, while visiting friends on the way home...an urgent message left on my cell phone by my older brother while I was at the beach: call me tonight repeated a couple times with an unmistakable urgency...making clear that, whatever it was, I didn’t want to know, but needed to hear it anyway, as soon as possible...

...a year and half later, on Easter, mom, isolated and ailing, seemed to be tumbling downhill at an alarming rate...complaining incessantly about various physical problems, increasingly unsteady, memory disappearing fast, making clear more than once that she didn’t want to live many more years...and then, on Easter afternoon, when she finally rose from bed, things appeared suddenly to have gotten far worse...she couldn’t, it seemed, complete a full sentence, voice drifting off after a few words....my younger brother took her to the hospital, thinking maybe she’d had a stroke... I’m not sure what we ended up doing for Easter dinner...probably just fended for ourselves, taking whatever was in the fridge....I thought, and in retrospect was probably right, that she’d lapsed into a deep depression...not that I knew what to do about it...

...that was something I had a rather immediate familiarity with at the time....kayaking through the mangroves in Key West a month or two earlier hardly putting a dent in it...so overweight I couldn’t stand looking at pictures of myself from that trip...intense tension headaches every day...increasing amounts of ibuprofen every night, along with either a bottle of red wine or a six pack or two of Corona...and junk food, lots and lots of junk food...thinking I might need to start buying weed again, since being a stoner seemed preferable to descending into alcoholism...painfully lonely where I was living...barely any friends except long-distance, any romantic prospects seeming further and further out of reach...the big plans of a year or two before steadily crumbling into dust but no really promising ideas on the horizon...my life seeming in as inevitable and frightening a decline as my mother’s, if forty years earlier....really, I didn’t have much to lose in picking up and moving, even if it was to Philly...

Sitting here in limbo, waiting for the dice to roll
Sitting here in limbo, got some time to search my soul
Jimmy Cliff

...two years later, mom’s health problems are largely under control, even if her memory isn’t what it once was...and she’s a lot happier with two of her sons nearby, one of us at the house every weekend...a month or two after that Easter, I found an apartment and a friendly, reasonably healthy community in West Mt. Airy, State of Quiet Integration, USA...an easy train ride, or an eight mile bike ride through Fairmount Park along the Wissahickon Creek and Schuylkill River, to center city...a ten minute walk from the largest, wildest urban park in the world...got back into yoga shortly after arriving, a lot more seriously than before...finding through that a way to stop the tension headaches, as well cutting out the nightly boozing without reverting to old bad habits...in many ways healthier than I’ve ever been physically and...somewhat...mentally...still working on that...including gradually making peace with my past...as this blog attests three or four times a week...at Easter 2009, still in a transitional period that seems to go on and on, with no particularly solid end in sight...but coming to realize that’s not necessarily such a bad thing...

15 comments:

Seeing Eye Chick said...

What a Journey! Glad you are not holing up to smoke weed anymore. That sounds depressing too.

Karin said...

not such a bad thing at all :) Happy resurrection Dr Jay, don't know what else to say, but wanted to let you know I was here, and read your story and am glad I did.

svasti said...

Your mom is lucky to have two such compassionate sons.

Seems your move home was vastly different than mine. And in the process, you've come a long way, baby.

I had plenty to lose and give up, and gave it up willingly. Opening a door for chaos to enter my world, and all those things I hoped for by moving back to my home town kinda got screwed up. Actually, they got screwed up a lot.

Feels a little like things have taken a turn for the worse, not better. But then, if I pull that apart a little more, perhaps that's not really true.

Its funny how you can plan a trip with a destination in mind, including visits to point A, point B, etc. Then along the way, experiences you have colour your trip one way or another. But usually, you're still going to the same places you planned before you left.

Life, on the other hand... doesn't always work out that way. Ah well. But just maybe, its better that way? Or at least, I think so sometimes.

Lumen et Aperio said...

Great post - I live near Ithaca and I've visited Philly only once, but I loved it and would like to live there one day.

thezeninyou said...

Wow...it sounds like you are on a good path now. Some transitions last years...just keep on keepin' on!

the walking man said...

If one has never been on the turbulent ocean they never are able to fully appreciate the beast when it is calm seas.

Aggie said...

Good for you. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and see where it leads.

Kikolani said...

It's always awful when tragedy strikes, but it seems to be doubly worse when a holiday is linked to it. Glad to know that this Easter has been a better one for you.

~ Kristi

This Brazen Teacher said...

I love this blog. Can I just tell you, that reading your comment on my blog this morning made my freakin' day.

Don't let it go to your head Yoga, but you're a blog celebrity to me. :-)

Lana Gramlich said...

Of course, I think life's ups & downs are just that--cyclical. However, would we recognize the "good" if we didn't suffer the "bad?"
Sure, maybe it's all just words, but it helps me get through the dark nights of the soul.
Keep on truckin'.

Odd Chick said...

two easters can make a lot of difference in a person's life and your story was so brave and your words so...resurrecting. thank you

Tikkis said...

Lizards' night --
but a dragon's warm
breathing!

Lydia said...

Deep and moving post, Jay. My reaction is to want to tell you that I bet your father would be so very pleased.....but you certainly must know this.

Now I have Sitting in Limbo running in my mind. How did you ever recall that song? :)

Juhani Tikkanen said...

Comment #2:
I mentioned your blog:

http://juhanitikkanen.blogspot.com/2009/04/virikkeita.html
and wondered whether Florida's swamps reached down to Key West... Perhaps not. Swamp ... shallows? :-)

earthtoholly said...

What trying years for you, drjay. It's hard enough turning ones self around much less under such stressful circumstances. Glad that you were able to avoid the alcohol route, though, and that your mom's situation has improved. Sounds as though you and your brothers had a big part in that. And how nice that you had your father's blessing on your new life direction before he passed. You're a good guy, drjay. :o)