Sunday, May 1, 2016

Resurrection: My Son, My Words

My son, Spence, on Feb 11, 2016, McDonald Dunn Forest, OR
Photo: Patrick Means

On February 11, 2014, my thirty-seven year old son recognized that he needed to become sober. He possessed enough awareness so that he had the capacity to stop, step back and witness how he had been behaving for the years of his youth when his life probably could have blossomed with genius generated activities.  This was one of them.

The pain he had suffered aligned itself coincidentally with the pain I was suffering.


The grief overtaking me came with the loss in divorce of a husband to whom I was married for twenty-five years, the loss of my son who left the house to go as far away from me as possible to find himself, the loss of my domestic cat taken away by a wild night crawling fisher cat, the loss of my mother and father and the estrangement of my brother and my sister as a result of my own choice.

My mother died in 1999 at Roper Hospital in Charleston, SC. I was detached from her death because I did not witness it. I felt it coming though from fifteen hundred miles away at  my house in Massachusetts and called the Episcopalian minister minutes before she died to go to the aid of my father who attended her at her hospital bedside. I flew to be with the family at her memorial. Hundreds of her friends came from her past life in distant places to wish her well. It was a good time. We blessed her passing. It was calm and organized. It was not fraught with terror and anger like my father’s death was.

My father died in 2006. He called me to his side because his “girlfriend” was going to be away for awhile. It was one month to the day I arrived to take care of him that his heart, which had been strengthened in surgery when he was 85 years old, stopped beating, 1:47 AM, June 6. Hospice care intervened in the last two weeks of his life. The hospice nurses appointed me as the hands-on caretaker in their absence. I ushered him into his death. Dad and I did this. Everyone else, except for the nurses, sputtered and spewed and criticized me for how I was handling the caring.  Towards the end, I administered morphine to him in a dropper into the corner of his mouth. It was at that point that every morning after I arose, I peeked into his bedroom where he was lying in a hospital bed, to see if he had died.

The nurses described to me how to determine when his death was near: if I heard a marked change in his breathing, I was to call the nurses. That happened. In retrospect, it was remarkable that I could
hear that his breath changed then about midnight on June 5th. No one else did. The “girlfriend” was patently absent from the scene. My brother hovered. After one of the nurses arrived, she sat on the edge of Dad’s bed. In repeated motions, she used her stethoscope to listen to his heart, listened for the beat to fade away.  I was lying on the chaise opposite Dad’s bed. I could not see his face, only the back of the nurse who was sitting on his bedside leaning into him periodically to listen to his heart. My brother was standing at the other side of the bed. He announced the time of death as if he were doing a sports cast. Sports casting was his job at the time.

Someone called the mortuary. When the undertakers came, a strange question and answer period occurred in the hallway and then they went about their business in the bedroom. The nurse said that neither my brother nor I should witness Dad’s body being removed from the house. My brother and I went to separate rooms.  Somehow though, an image is left in my mind: Dad was in a heavy duty black plastic bag, his body rolled out on a gurney through the short carpeted hallway from the bedroom onto the wooden floor of the room size entrance foyer to the house out the door. I heard the wheels of the gurney roll on the hard wood floor and over the metal tread anchoring the large front door.

The best time I ever spent with my brother was the week after my father died. My brother was hilarious-he told jokes and imitated characters we both thought incredibly funny. We traveled around Charleston preparing for Dad’s memorial a week later and taking care of his personal business with lawyers Dad had appointed as executors of “the estate,” which began a seemingly endless year long nightmare. I let go of everything my brother did to annoy me.

My sister went on her predestined way as an alcoholic. I have not seen her since my father’s memorial. 

Hardly anyone came to the church to honor my father. It was sad really.

The reception afterwards was held at Dad’s house.

My father was cremated. The service to spread his ashes seemed thrown together. When it was time, at my urging, the three siblings handed my father’s ashes from a plastic bag to the tidal creek behind his house. The ashes felt un-soft, textural, gritty. Final and incipient. They drifted slowly in the trickle of water leaving as the tide went out.

It has been my choice to separate myself from my brother and sister. My brother has his own dysfunctional family that I really have no interest in sharing. My sister is like a leech. She comes at me with affection and fond memories of childhood when all she really wants is for me to support her financially and consume and spend together. I would become an accomplice to enabling her addictive personality much less her actual substance abuses.


My son has spilled countless words on his blog relating the story of his becoming sober. His words sometimes are hard to come by for him. I can tell. Yet, he manages to describe horrific, to me, experiences. Each blog entry circles a theme. At first, the theme was surrounded by sentences dipped in anguish, sorrow, regret and the willingness to get out from under a heavy cloud.

How do I poeticize the angst pulsating through my blood after I read his words? As I move through each day.

I am an artist.

I draw lines.

Line after line after line.
Never seeking the right drawing of them.
Merely desirous of seeing them in another phase.
The evolution of the lines is infinite.
I will be absent for infinity. Unless I am determined to meditate through it now. 
Every morning. 
Every day. 
Every aftermath.
Of passing, Loss.

Thorough astonishment at the occurrences in the world.
Thorough disbelief in the rudeness of youth that greets me.

Embedding myself in soft spongy intelligence to escape my own serious human misdemeanors.

Where did my life go?

I can tell the story. Or stories. Of this remembrance or that.
What I cannot tell you is how upset I was the entire time until now.
How upset I am at the false notion that I do not do anything about what I think my situation is.

The pressure not to waste time is at my doorstep.
The pressure to live in the present from every source and angle possible incites my anxiety so that I think that I am not living in the present moment.
That I am not thinking in the present tense.
That I am not happy.
That I need to be somewhere else other than here.

Running the second year in a row for twelve hours.
One for every month he has been sober.
Running in the palm of nature’s hand,
Where he has indoctrinated himself with appreciation of the steps he takes
Of the air he breathes,
Of the preoccupations with dread he is trying to dismiss.
To take the next step.
To move on the dirt path.
Past the pines. 
Over the dropped needles.

My son and I.
Behold the unphotographable.

We rush to nowhere.
Touched by annoyances of the external world, made of numbers generated by computers even if in alphabet form. 
We let go.
Moving away from terrorizing, irritating, head wrenching moments of inflexible constraints of time which are only figments of our imagination.

We do this separately.
We are of the same blood.
We do our lives separately.

The value of this similarity between us will remain forever on into the universe.
The value is in the price of the energy we expend to feel.
To feel. 
To feel. 

Fear nothing. 
He said.
He repeated.
He embraces us.

He or The.
Spirit or Molecules.

All of them things, essences, air.
There. Here. Everywhere.

We go.
We are.
And ever shall be.

Mom and Son.
Son and Mom.
One of the never-ending omnipresent unconditional relationships
That we as humans might identify.

No story cannot be told.


I generate my words as if to reinvent the wheel because although the thoughts I have are already known to the universe, it is I who is thinking them for the first time and in the context of my own life.

In the delivery of the news of Martin Luther King's death to a crowd assembled in support of his run for President, Robert Kennedy quoted Aeschylus:    

“And even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart,
 until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

Those words mean something to me: that for the despair that I have felt, that the will to live somehow within the very next actions throughout my days of depression, have I not grown? Have I not overcome that which will bring me down so that I can see into the future of my last days in another location, a source for generating new vision, for capturing refreshed imaginations, for exuding the energy radiating from whatever wisdom I have accrued, not by effort, but by introspection through doing my work, experiencing the silence, exercising quotidian activities towards the moments that will inhabit the next times. The ones I knew not to look forward to but which I knew would come.

My son and I have comfortable conversations now.
The result of the passage of time during which each practices self-made ways of healing and being healthy.

In studio in front of large wall drawing, 2015,
one week after another partner of only five years left.
Photo copyright Lyn Horton, 2015.

Copyright 2016 Lyn Horton

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