Tuesday, January 25, 2011

revolving door

i've been close to that revolving door
only a few times in my life.
in my adult life, only twice, to be exact.

and what's ironic
is that i was right there at the door
to both send and receive
at the same time, both times.


the first time
was when i had come to new york
to give birth to avi.
i only spent a couple of months there,
but i had made it a point to visit tina.
that witty, eccentric, charming new yorker
with whom i had become acquainted
in our new york days.
it was already her later years,
and i had spent time even then
taking her to doctors,
and making many trips to visit her in the hospital.
by the time i returned to new york
she was already in an assisted living care center,
and was steadily declining.

and the last time i saw tina,
i was already overdue
but hauled my big self
way downtown on the bus that day
to see her--
though when i arrived i walked past her several times
before having to be shown to her--
she had changed beyond recognition,
and i knew her time was short.
she could hardly even remember me.
but touching her hand,
seeing her slip away,
and just walking through those halls,
i could almost feel the other side, beckoning. . .

and not only to receive,
but to send--
 my little avi came through that door
just a few days later.

and before i even got a chance
to walk away from the door,
tina slipped back through
to that place avi had just left.


and then just three years later,
i stood at the door again
to welcome my firstborn son into the world.
how many times i would sit and stare
at his little baby self,
counting backward the days
since he was in the presence of God--
in awe at the thought
of his freshness, his purity, the miracle of new life!

and then to return with him to moscow,
to resume our weekly visits
to his great-grandmother,
and to lay him on the sofa next to her
and watch their interaction--
her delight, her rapture!
to watch her weathered, withering, wrinkled hand
grasp his tiny fist, stroke his cheeks. . .
the smile that never left her face.
i believe she had held on, just for that moment.

while he stood just inside the door,
she prepared to make her way back through it.
they crossed paths here
for only two months,
before she returned
to where he had just arrived from.
but that vision
of their crossing
will never leave me.


as i drove her down the boulevard
i called out from the front seat
that routine question,
avi, so what did you guys talk about in school?

and after a pause she responded:
mama, your смерть (death) is going to come,
and you cannot move if your смерть comes.
you cannot какать or do anything when your смерть comes.

and as i tried to hide a tiny chuckle,
i realized that she was very serious.

it's not funny mom, it's sad.

and at that point, i too, lost my smile.
so you guys talked about смерть today?
what did they tell you?

yeah, and we colored часики (a clock)
(and i wiped my brow that that topic had passed),
what time it's going to be when смерть comes.

you did?
and what time is that, avi?

i don't know. . .
(and she paused as she looked out the window)
i think in a long time. . .

the fact is,
no one knows, avi.
that revolving door
swings round and round every day.
some are prepared,
some are anxious,
but most are unawares--
and nobody knows
what time to color on their часики.
and preparing for смерть
is perhaps not the best way to phrase it,
but in a sense,
living to be ready,
is something worth striving for.


Mindy said...

That was so amazingly beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. I see my grandmother doing the same with my children. Thank you, I will be coming back.

christine said...

Jen, wow. What an awesome post. I love this. thanks.

Swigs and Grinds said...

Truly beautiful & thought provoking. The babies and the old folks are always the wisest among us.
Sending you aloha...

Kari Clark said...

You have a way with words Jen, a beautiful way. Thanks for sharing this, it was so moving.

Ann said...

Mark and I have often talked about this very idea and image, because it comes up so often in Tolstoy. When I had my heart surgery and Mark was waiting for news, he waited with an old man. The Dr. came in and gave Mark good news and then turned to the old man and told him his wife had passed away, all in the same breath. Goodness.

marlamuppets said...

lovely writing. very wistful and thought provoking.

Christine said...

Jen, you are amazing. It's always a treat for me to come read your words. I love those pom pom's you made and the beautiful pictures you take.