Resignation. This is the word that plods in my head the past three or four days as I try to help Audrey recover from fever and her first ear infection, and as we head down to the beach with my parents for a few nights. I am anxious and uneasy because she isn’t fully recovered. Things happen, go wrong- not everything “will be fine,” in my worldview anymore. A sick child causes more anxiety than she should. “The apparent inadequacy of the precipitating event,” : Didion quotes Karl Menninger’s “Man Against Himself,” and the way people can overreact to something seemingly ordinary- something assigned an “exaggerated value.” I’m fairly certain my shaky world view will hold much “apparent inadequacy” and much “exaggerated value” throughout my life.
Going on “vacation” is jarring as well- especially on the first day- the apparent inadequacy of a three hour drive to the Atlantic Ocean for three nights. Even though it’s been two years, it’s only what- the third or fourth vacation without you? It feels strange- and I feel about thirteen sitting in the back seat of my parent’s car with Audrey. Except I’m not- I’m 36 and her mother. The other member of our family unit- is gone.
When we arrive and sit outside the lobby on the deck waiting for our room to be ready, a friend phones and I walk down to the boardwalk and begin to cry telling here where I am and how much I miss my husband. I tell her how I miss the ease with which you traveled- the huge comfort that you were to me- someone who does not adapt well- a homebody. She listens and concurs. She does not see the apparent inadequacy- quite the opposite. She is an old friend of ours- and a new friend to me- all at the same time. It is cathartic to have even that fifteen minutes to vent before beginning “the vacation.”
The Water…is trying as well. The constant talk of swimming and bathing suits and splashing. But it’s the ocean, I tell myself. And it is. Before it I am small- this is a comfort. The word in my mind then is not to do with its size or scope but for some reason, its mercy. Magnanimous.
Three days of “swimming” in her floaties, collecting broken shells on the sand, ice cream, funnel cake, rides, and her first round of mini-golf. You are absent every moment. I think of you- playing mini-golf with us. I hear you- teasing my seriousness. Snapshots of our last few beach vacations play without request in my mind. Audrey under an umbrella with a runny nose at 11 months. You in the bathing suit you would die in. Turks and Caicos – I am proudly pregnant. We marvel at the warm, clear water, and take long walks at sunset. We get food poisoning and try not to get the conch shell you found on the first day mixed up with the one they placed for decoration in our hotel room. “What if they think we’re stealing theirs when they see this in our bag?” you worry jokingly.
Awaiting me back at home today are flattened moving boxes leaning up against hallway walls- waiting to be filled. I am tired and have a sore/scratchy throat from the hotel air conditioning.
Resignation- hieratic motion forward. A far more accurate word, I believe, than acceptance.
It isn’t at all a new “normal” as they say- (one of my least favorite phrases)- it’s the new “abnormal.” But it’s your life nonetheless. It’s the surreal quality everyone in NYC experienced on September 11th, but that slowly receded as they went back to daily life and the “Missing” signs and “Never Forget” signs were taken down. Except for those who had lost loved ones. And for them- and for me- the surreal film never recedes.
The other common sentiment- “Imagine what he would want for you, say to you” is also well- intentioned, but impossible to actually imagine since my world- one in which he drowned in a lake in Europe- is so completely foreign to him. It never was information he was privy to. I am living it out the best I can by myself- in the end, mostly grateful only one of us had to bear the knowledge in this way.
“Mom- that day you met appa- when you were looking for a husband- were you so happy you found him?” she asks one day randomly. “Yes- yes, I was.”
“I wish you could marry appa again…”
I think about writing here a lot and many words. Words and phrases pass through my mind that I imagine setting down but they’re always long gone by the time I’d have the energy and the thought is overwhelming. Tonight- I attempt because there has been so much and it’s so packed in- like the wet sand Audrey filled her bucket with, but I feel I fail to articulate even a grain of it. And I have a headache. So I won’t try anymore tonight. “In three words I can sum up everything I learned about life:,” says Robert Frost, “it goes on.”