Thursday, October 26, 2006


“When you are depressed,” she said, “and when grieved, take a shower.” I stared at her, dumbfounded. This is the advice people pay for? “I know it sounds silly, but think about it. Don’t you feel, when you are really down sometimes, like you don’t need a shower? But that’s when you need it most. When I’m down, I tend to wear the same thing, tend not to care how I look, to be out of touch with what my body needs. When you feel that way, shower.”

I recall this strange, straightforward advice from my friend the professional herbalist, as I catalog the last few days. Did I shower yesterday? No. But probably the day before. I can’t remember. And if I didn’t shower, I didn’t look at the calendar to see what day to change the patch, and yes, I forgot to replace it yesterday, and no, that’s not good. Missing two days might cause headaches. Writing on next week’s calendar, Friday, patch, don’t forget.

And then I shower.

I toss the favorite turtleneck over my head—not the same favorite turtleneck as yesterday, nor the same favorite jeans, though it’s a temptation, a yearning to wear them for a second day, or maybe a third. Someday I’ll explore where that compulsion comes from. Not today. Today, I simply need to look like “I tried.” I bring down the necklace of Indian corn hanging from my dresser mirror to add just the right touch of whimsy, the sentiment about my children and the colors of nature in autumn. It’s more everyday than dressy. And it reminds me of a dear friend who moved away, after we strung these necklaces for her son’s sixth birthday party. Just a year ago.

I unwrap this week’s patch—it looks exactly like a repair patch for an inflatable children’s pool, or an air mattress. I peel half of the adhesive and press it onto my left hip for the count of ten, then peel the other half, smooth in place and press for another ten. It’s a form of prayer, a no-more-migraines prayer, a thanks-for-no-more-migraines prayer. I am officially repaired for another week.

It’s not, this grief, so much about the loss of my friend Eugene—though that is a loss, a huge loss in the overall fabric of my life. Eug was Ellen’s best friend, and very close to the Schraders. We didn’t have that kind of “always current” friendship; we had instead a we-don’t-need-to-be-current friendship, and I was comfortable with that. The grief is not over the issue of mortality—the shortness of life has been pointed out before.

And it’s not the curve of the widow’s shoulders, the bent arch drawn by her vertebrae in the black dress, though that picture will haunt me, along with the numbness of her hands hanging limply at her sides.

My grief is spurred instead by a moment six weeks before his death. It begins with the way she looked at him as he defied doctor’s orders by trying to stand, in his hospital room. She looked like a woman scolding an angel for flapping its wings, love written all over her at the same time she was exasperated and nearly desperate. “They need your compliance if you want to come home, and you want to come home. Sit. And wait. We all need you to come home.” This grief that breaks my heart is the next moment as he collapsed onto the bed, shaking, grinning and proud of himself for flaunting authority. She lifted his foot and placed it on her lap, exasperation melted, and the cup of her palm slid under the achilles tendon to his heel, removing his running shoes one by one and thus effectively preventing any further foolhardiness—without the stability of those shoes, he would not dare try again. His foot may have been recovering from paralysis, but his eyes looked at the golden crown of her hair. He knew her adoration, spilling out from the cup of her hand. Enough tenderness to create the universe all over again, if she had the power to do so, the power to change anything. His health was already hopeless. He didn’t know it, but she knew.

The grief then? I thought, watching that generous hand cupped, I cannot possibly do what she is doing, live through what she is living through. I can’t even do the simple things my life needs doing, behave lovingly towards the people who need me. I need to be a better person.

Her adoration was so pure, even in the midst of fear and exasperation. I am not selfless, have never been selfless. My caution is that selflessness holds a dangerous edge for women, an edge that leans toward self-erasure, and I’m unwilling to try it on for any longer than necessary. Self-mindfulness, I aspire to, but not selflessness. And adoration? Adoration overflows for my children, unstoppable adoration that surprised me when I first gave birth, because I do love my husband, but I do not adore any adult, not like that. I’m afraid my cupped palm overflows with the exasperation, only, the frustration, irritation, weariness. Rationally, I think my husband probably deserves that rich substance, as much as any good husband, but that impulse reserves itself for my children. I wonder if that’s typical. I wonder if Eugene’s wife’s adoration flowed simply from his nearing death—somehow I doubt that, but perhaps I am giving her the benefit of my self-doubt. Is my love less? Or is their love merely intensified? Perhaps it’s the latter answer, but still I wonder, just as I did when I was an awkward twelve-year-old, if I am simply defective. I give a great deal. My giving is not effortless.

Do I love like that? Do I even have the capacity, beyond those little ones I gave birth to?

I am writing at my kitchen table after my shower. I write through breakfast, over my coffee and I can’t recall what errand pulls me into the bedroom. Earrings, the ones with a touch of orange to match the corn necklace. And there is the mirror—how long since I bothered to wear more than under-eye-concealer? Mascara, then, and a tinted lip balm.

“The shower is not about being clean,” said my herbalist friend. “It’s about circulation, removing the dead skin and dust, helping your skin renew and breathe, the steam releasing the tension in your lungs.”

“I have to adjust to this,” I protested. “I shower like a committed environmentalist, a short shower every other day, unless it’s summer and I’ve sweat a lot. My hair dries out if I wash it too often.”

“That’s what hair conditioner is for. Shower long. Pour a pot of boiling water into the plugged sink first, so there is plenty of steam. Add a few drops of lavender so you breathe more deeply. Your hair holds in the pollen, dust, allergens. It’s not about clean—your scalp needs to breathe. Shed some deadness. Try it and see, first thing when you feel blue. See if it helps.” We discussed a dozen other good options that day, but showering is cheap and easy, requires no expertise and no shopping.

I look in the mirror once again. If I am dressed and accessorized, I might as well circulate right out the door. Maybe I’ll shake off some dead skin. I might well be defective—if so, it’s something to pray about, but I pray best while moving. I grab my bag, my keys, and go.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

autumn comfort food: spiced cider and bagel crisps

On Saturday my son attended a birthday party at a lovely organic farm, and while he climbed onto the hay wagon for a ride through the woods, I stepped into the farm store, window shopping through the aisles of produce and gourmet foods, artful clothes made from recycled woolens (it’s not just me: it’s a fad, a good fad). Cynthia, the store manager, unpacked gallon jugs of cider from a case.

“Cider! I was just looking for cider! My husband is buying some at the grocery, but I need the good stuff, the direct from the apples stuff.”

“Unfortunately, you can’t buy it,” Cynthia shrugged. “It’s for the members who purchased a farm share, which is the only way we can distribute it. It’s unpasteurized, so it’s illegal to sell.”

“But unpasteurized is the kind I want!”

“Would you like to help me with something in the back?” she asked. I nodded and followed her. “I still have some left from last week. If you’d like to offer me a gift of five dollars, I could offer you a gift of unpasteurized cider, which would be illegal for me to sell.”

I looked her in the eye to see if I had it right.“Hey, Cynthia! I’m feeling compelled to outright give you a five dollar gift!”

“You know, I was just thinking I’d like to give you a gallon of cider. How ‘bout that? Thank you for not purchasing.”

And here it is, next to the grocery store cider, in my frig. Madeleine tells me she likes “the grown-up one” better, after I tried to get her to drink the store-bought one.

So I’m heating up the storebought cider, which already tastes a little cooked. I can disguise the flavor of pasteurization, easily.

My secrets for spiced cider:

Heat a pot of cider to steaming—but keep a small pitcher or measuring cup of cold cider, to cool a too-hot drink. While it heats on the stove, add a pinch of allspice, two cloves or a pinch of powdered clove, a generous dash of cinnamon and a dollop of vanilla. A dollop of maple syrup is nice, but not necessary, and if you have no real maple syrup, a spoonful of brown sugar is sometimes enough to entice young drinkers.

While the children ran over to say hi to a neighbor, and while the cider heated, I quickly set up their small potholder looms with a shiny pretty yarn as a warp, and cut lengths of a lovely thick and thin wool in muted shades of purple. I started to knit something from the thick and thin wool last week when I realized the texture of this yarn is just miserable, damaged. I have other skeins of soft thick-and-thin wool that are not a chore to knit. Still, the purple is too pretty to waste, but it needs a project that isn’t to be worn near the skin. Potholders? Or dollhouse rugs. Or pieces for bigger projects, if this weaving thing catches on.

For an additional snack, I sliced a stale bagel into tiny rounds, buttered them and placed them on a cookie sheet at 425 degrees, and when the slices began to brown, I added cinnamon and sugar and served, with the cider.

And for the moment, with warm snacks and cool projects that demand concentration, I am one popular mom. A hundred unfinished projects dot the landscape, but I’m paying attention to this one, right now, the kid project, the best project.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

bakery notice, seeds for sale

As you see, I am not the only writer of the family. This reminds me to find last summer's saga, "The Gost and the Gril," a short story about a playful ghost and a fearful girl-- all written in multicolor pencil.

Oh, and the seed project: my children collected seeds from the pods of flowers of neighbors, constructed and labeled illustrated envelopes for the seeds, then proceded to sell the seeds back to the exact same neighbors. So far they have collected $4.80 and penciled in a few dozen meetings of The Seed Store onto their busy calendar. I got a complementary pack of sunflowers, after showing them how to rinse and dry tomato seeds.

autumn girls, bluebird and picnic quilt

I believe this is Madeleine, on the right, and her friend Lila on the left. I will see if there is more of a story-- found this in the big bin of collected paper productions.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

weather report: soccer and violin

I don’t know how it happened. One day I was cradling the newborns with my friends Tad and Dianna, reliving the glories of spit-up and burping and footie-pajamas, soft round heads and necks to be supported. Mothering floods back, the curve of a baby against the neck, tiny fingers arching and gripping. I love the way time stops and the baby and I test one another’s long gaze.

And days later I am attending my first soccer practice with my nearly-seven-year-old Brendan, watching him fly at the ball with no concern that he knows nothing, has not even seen a soccer game. I ask Madeleine, nearly nine, each day if she needs to remember her violin, the love of her life. Soccer. Violin. He crafts things with great precision. She reads, with a strand of hair stuck in her mouth. Each night I ask Madeleine to find a good place to stop in her reading of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Sometimes she is kind enough to read Winnie the Pooh stories for Brendan, and sometimes she agrees to give him a violin lesson. I watch her just now, practicing after her bath, kneeling in her nightgown and damp hair dripping as she concentrates on “Old MacDonald” and a French carol. She begins a new piece that turns out to be our favorite lullaby, Ode to Joy, and hears me gasp in recognition. “I thought I’d surprise you, Mama!” she laughs.

“Oh, play it all! Play for me!” I continue typing at the keyboard, while Brendan sews buttons and Madeleine finds the notes. She’s been playing for three weeks, and while expertise is somewhere in the distant future, she uses her bow with great love and great long strokes, while Brendan and I sing.

Brendan’s imagination soars to all kinds of things he can do. Projects are hard for him to let go for another day. He is so much like me in this respect: when he likes a task, he likes it in great detail. He’d been bugging me to find him a sewing project for a week or so when Scott lost a button from a dress shirt. Brendan ran to find the sewing kit while Scott and I shared a knowing “aha.” Mending? We have an ongoing supply of mending. Where to find buttons? The boy knows the location of twenty odd buttons, in drawers and treasure baskets and piggy banks. I show him the matching replacement buttons which are sewn to the bottom of the button placket of dress shirts, and he runs to show the me similar replacement buttons sewn inside polo shirts and trousers.

“Yes,” I say, “the people who make clothes know that buttons sometimes fall off. This one just needs a grown up to snip it free, and then I will show you a few things to look for. See how this button is sewn with two bars of threads? See how that one is sewn with an ‘x’? See how that other button’s hole is in the back?” He sees. He has an eye for detail. I demonstrate one time how the knot needs to be underneath the shirt, how to wrap the stitches for strength, and he is off, searching for more buttons to replace. There are many. The urge to find and replace buttons may not last more than a few hours, or it may last a month, and I want to catch it while it lasts.

Both Madeleine and Brendan are tempests, but different kinds of tempests. Brendan’s fury is a full-body freight train of strength—but he can suddenly drop the fury for a good distraction. Madeleine’s fury starts small and escalates step by step to high drama, and at times it seems that “there is no going back” from very early in a strategically-planned parent-disassembling tantrum. I think back, each time, to her first tantrum at age 18 months, how I was so mystified that I grabbed the camera and made a photo essay of each of the stages, right up until she was her laughing self again.

I miss the newborn days, and I don’t miss them. I miss the days before “no,” the days when food and sleep and warmth were all the worries, days of sitting in long stretches, waiting for the baby to nod off or settle down. But that violin charms me, and my son’s thrilled description of team practice warms my heart. He sleeps well, with all the buttons in the house sewn in place. She dreams of string ensemble, begging for one more Mozart song on the CD player before bedtime. I’m glad for how they are unfolding, just now. I wouldn’t trade mine for the cuddly ones. We’re just getting started.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

three a.m. wooly-headed report

Just off of a searing headache—at some point, I become the kind of hostage that bargains, with Advil Migraine, one, then two, with Claritin, with caffeine, anything to make the buzzing/burning stop. It seems that whatever makes the pain so miserable releases at ten p.m., almost every time. What is that? The headache has been building for nearly a week, hanging around the edges with a little burning in my head, some sinus stuffiness related to allergies. Last time I had one this bad was in early May, six months ago.

The headache subsides, but my muscles are so tensed, and the caffeine still kicking—thus I am writing at three a.m. I will try horizontal again, soon.

I remember, a few hours ago, the feeling that the world was tipping with this pain, and then my ears would latch onto something like the train whistle, a mile away, or the gull cries, or my sense of smell would grab the scent of those fresh green beans I was preparing for dinner, or the salt air. Each of these markers of some good, real joy roots my feet back to the ground and spurs me to simple endurance.

Sometimes I grab my drop spindle and spin yarn, mustering focus from the sickening swirl. The spindle is how I distracted myself from headaches for nearly six months last year. Today’s yarn is a sea green, varied with specks of blue and spring green. I have no idea what this yarn will become, or if it will become anything at all—I just know the concentration pulls me away from the pain.

I was in the middle of “felting” several sweaters, i.e. recycling and re-fashioning the pieces into other creations, when the headache expanded to something difficult to manage. While the pain was in full force, a rich fuzzy brown wool and a patterned blue and pink fair isle emerged from the dryer, plus a sweet girl-sized boiled wool cardigan shrunken from an extra large cardigan with embroidered flowers. A too-bright Bolivian wool sweater will get a good look tomorrow, to assess its good qualities. Will it become mittens? A hat? I sewed two charcoal ribbed sleeves from a ruined sweater into very warm black mittens with long cuffs, and they shrunk to just the right size. Yesterday I asked children to help me scrub and shrink two pair of mittens for the school store—and somehow, though I intended to sell these three pair of mittens, one adult and two children’s pairs, there is one pair of just-right mittens for each of us, and I’m not certain I can part with them.

The day before yesterday, I dipped into my recycled sweater stash to find a formerly huge pink sweater with a hideous Aztec sun design on the front and back. It’s Madeleine’s size, after half a dozen washes, and the scratchy homespun yarn changed to a soft, thick wool. Hot water, agitation, and an alkaline soap make the fibers shrink, and the “split ends” create a beautiful fuzzy haze or “halo” over the sweater. I “needle felted” a swirling sun of gold and orange into the center of the Aztec design, cut and rolled the cuffs and collar with bright yellow wool whipstitching. She wore it to church yesterday, shining like the sun, herself. I’m eager to re-fashion the other sweaters, as well. Imagine, gorgeous one-of-a-kind garments from the “buck-a-pound” thrift shop. I’m working to re-fashion something specifically for Brendan, next. I have a matching Aztec sun blue sweater, which I whacked the sleeves off in haste to make mittens—I may need to re-knit sleeves for the damn thing!

And on the very bottom of my recycled sweater stash is the little hat Brendan wore until he was three, the dancing people hat. Suzanne tells me the hat is Peruvian, and that she bought it as an adult hat, but the combination of damp snow and body heat has shrunken it to toddler size. I took a scanned image of the hat, with hopes of recreating the knitted pattern in an adult size again—but this time in washable wool, for my friend! All that is for later, though. First a hat for Sasha, made from handspun wool from her sheep. Or perhaps sleeves for a blue Aztec sun sweater. (Let me just say it here: I can’t really believe I’m going to put sleeves back on that sweater. Grrrr.) All knitting projects are for days without headaches, not today, not the middle of the night.

Horizontal. Will try horizontal again, and hope for the best.

Woke in time to make breakfast and pack lunches—head is okay enough, this morning.

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Thursday, October 05, 2006

elopement risk

“Elopement Risk”.

My friend Eugene and I contemplated a sign he sees every day, and the mystery of those words together, in this setting, bore into me. Elope, such a merry word in this unmerry place. The sign is posted on a set of double swinging doors—with a lock, evidently.

“Can’t very well have us running off, now, can we? This is a brain injury ward,” my friend jokes from his seat in the wheelchair. “Does wheeling me remind you of your stroller pushing days?”

“Yes, the double-wide jogging stroller felt much like this, and was just as hard to turn.” Another image incongruent with this moment—the handles of my jogging stroller, powering the seats bubbling over with life and giggles, the outside air, little feet bobbing up and down.

But I am pushing Eugene in a wheelchair, in a brain injury ward, because his legs don’t work, currently. And I love this dear man, and some part of me wants to elope right out that door, where the staff are notified to secure the exit behind them. I look down the elopement hall, and it looks no greener nor more promising than this one.

I’d like to run off with my friend to a time in the past. I’m not prone to nostalgia, but health is altogether another kind of nostalgia. I would go back to a time without fear of physical calamity, without the brain tumor. Yes, I’d run away there in a heartbeat. But I speak the opposite.

“I’m not eloping today. I came a long way to be right here, to see you. No escape for me.”

“Me, too. I’m right here.”

And I wish, I wish it were true. He is here, but not fully here. Something of the part I love is missing. The Eugene I know would be depressed out of his mind, wrenched with grief, quick to tears. The Eugene I push in the wheelchair recognizes the change, on an intellectual level, but the tumor is located in the emotional center of his brain—he doesn’t weep, doesn’t keen, speaks in a positive and even tone about the frustrations of hospital life and being removed from his family. The irony of him being “right here” pulls angry tears from me, and I’m glad I am standing behind the wheelchair, where he can’t see. You’re not right here, damn it! If only you, you were right here, we would have a good cry. Eugene, and not Eugene. Do I hope for cure? Do I despair the loss? Is he recovering or dying? No one can say.

My friend Ellen phoned in early July to say, he’s leaving us. I demanded to know how that could be: Eugene! The most “alive” man alive. Brain tumor. The irony, for this brilliant man, that the brain could be the seat of the sickness. I phoned him to ask, “would you like me to come?” and he said yes, he’d like that very much.

After two days by bus, I arrived in white linen to beat the August heat, topped with a bright sarong overlay—he smiled at the brightness and said, “I always think of color when I think of you.” There is not a stitch of nostalgia in him. He barely notices that eighteen years have passed since we shared leadership of a house of twenty college students. He reminds me, as he does each visit, that I saved his life by talking him through a terrible depression the year we worked together. I remind him I was also dealing with a lot that year, and I could say the same of him. How I wish I had any power to save, this visit. I can only be company, diversion from the deadness of this place. Color. And I can push a wheelchair.

When I entered the room, he looked so much like himself—too skinny, but dressed in his running shoes, alert, and ready to get up from his hospital bed, any minute. The whiteboard behind him read “Goals: raise head to midline 80% of the day.” I remembered Ellen saying his head rested on his shoulder in a disconcerting way when she visited, but there was no sign of drooping for my Saturday. He smiled and welcomed me. I scruffed his beard and told him the truth, that he looked good. Relief washed over me—my friend recovers! He is right here. I sat in his wheelchair and pulled it close to the bed, my feet dangling uselessly off the ground. Eugene asked about my travel adventures and I tried to condense a whirlwind into a few sentences. He struggled to follow my conversation, and I thought of the incredible level of medication, and I reined my story in a bit.

“I miss you, Eugene. I’ve been planning to visit when the kids are big enough to see the history in this town—they are not ready to make the most of it. But now I’m sorry I’ve been putting it off. What a gift to visit you all by myself, though. Tell me if I make you tired. I have just one day: I’m staying the whole day, if that’s okay with you.”

I see his gladness. I hear him checking with his wife by phone—she is having a wheelchair ramp built, so he can return home, and it will take all day. She is relieved by my visit. “She knows I do better when I have visitors,” he said. “I wake up each day and ask her who God will bring me next.”

Eugene shows me the gallery of photos in the frames on his windowsill. We begin comparing timelines in our minds, when we shared a house, who we’ve seen last, how we summarize that pivotal year in our own minds. He plays with the button to raise and lower his hospital bed, not to the right height, but compulsively raising and lowering, right in the middle of a somewhat intimate conversation. Eugene would never do that. The new reality knocks me cold: he’s right there in front of me. And he’s altered, all the friend, minus the intuition and attentiveness I expect. It takes every ounce of Eugene’s energy to focus on our conversation, and he seems engaged one moment and mentally shut down the next, fidgeting wildly with his clothes, his nose, his bandages. That’s right, I think. He fights fidgeting on a good day, without medication. Usually he fights it off well. Remember he’s really, really sick.

A nurse arrives to lift Eugene into the wheelchair I’ve been sitting on, and take him to physical therapy. “I was running, six weeks ago,” he reminds me. “I’m stronger every day, and I have more energy every day. All traces of depression are miraculously gone.” I’ve always trusted every word Eugene has said. What do I do with this information? He wheels off to his appointment, and I pull the curtain, lie down in the hospital bed and nap.

Eugene returns to find me asleep in his bed, deeply enough that I wake startled, and I think without thinking, “I am sleeping in a dead man’s bed.” I have no idea if it’s true or not, and I put the thought aside. I rise and sit knee-to-knee with my friend. I read him a story about memories from our year in Erie, Pennsylvania. We talk about more memories, and he asks me to read another. He likes the fact that he can dip in and out of the story, focusing on some images and letting his mind wander in the wash of words when he wishes. I like it, too. He remembers everything, remembers many details I’ve forgotten, cracks a deadpan joke that he still has his memory intact, even though he lives on a brain injury ward.

And so the day winds on, moments I’m simply together with my friend, the same as ever, and moments where the wind is knocked out of me and I gasp, he’s gone, while choosing my words carefully, not disturbing his seeming peace. Reminder, he is not here for my benefit—I am here for his. I owe this friend so much. I decided, the year I worked with Eugene, ate my breakfasts and midnight snacks with him, that I might want to marry someday, encouraged that I could live with someone for a year and not grow weary with his company.

His wife arrives, exhausted, and we walk to get a bite to eat. It’s my first conversation with her since her wedding. It seems unfair that our first friendly conversation is about losing her husband, about whether he will recover and what parts of him may not recover. I’m a distant friend, from a part of her husband’s life she doesn’t know. She is preparing for a future as the single mother of two children not yet in grade school. She is already alone, and she knows it. He’s right there, and he’s not there.

Eugene is tired when we come back, setting up a DVD player to watch The Office as we leave. I stand close but he is lying down, so a goodbye hug is out of reach. On impulse I kiss him on the forehead. “Be well, my friend. Sleep well. And give me a better excuse to visit next time.”

“Thank you for making the long trip to see me. You’ve been a great encouragement. Safe journey, Denise. I can’t thank you enough, for everything.”

I think, the next time I see him he will be sicker, and I want to be ready. But I want to remember how it feels to be in his company, today.

And Eugene’s wife and I are out the door, talking once we are out of earshot. She drives me to my hotel. I travel home. She prepares for Eugene to arrive at home the following week.

A month passes, and my friend Eugene has died, at home, after a dinner with his family. None of us expected his life to end so quickly—by all accounts, he seemed poised for a slow decline as the brain tumor progressed. He’d been working very hard to walk again, and photos show his spirit, still working hard in his final few weeks. Every one of us is miserable not to see him one last time. I wonder if every one of us holds a secret corner of relief that his children will not see him deteriorate inch by inch over the course of long months or years.

I drove, Sunday, hustling my little Jetta down the East Coast for a thousand miles of grief. Mutual friends made a home with me for a few nights, and at some moments our borrowed house provided corners for four women to write pieces for a memorial service.

Eugene has given me everything available in his heart, again and again, and I’m glad to give the same. I wrote a story of one year in our mid-twenties, to tell Christine, his wife, and I read it directly to her during the service. I could not have spoken if I’d not taken time to write it out—that piece of paper anchored me. I’m thankful I packed flat buttery-soled shoes, to feel my feet gripping the floor beneath the podium at the church. Heart stumbling so desperately, it’s a comfort to still be upright, walking steadily to the aisle, the pew, the reception, the car. I drove away thinking I’d spoken too personally—I think that very thought every time I read to someone I know. The stories that interest me are the stories close to my heart, the closer, the truer, the more wrenching to speak, the more necessary. I told a story of Eugene’s generosity and joy, his committed friendship.

Perhaps I will tell that story here, sometime. I arrived home Tuesday afternoon, after four hours sleep and nine hours of driving, the kind of blazing headache one should expect after such a quantity of heavy crying. The whole experience is too raw just now.

And it was too raw to admit to any but my friend Ellen: I woke up the morning after she told me of his death, and my first thought was, he’s eloped. I imagined once again some green rolling hills and the hints of autumn around the edges, hidden on the other side of those ominous swinging doors in the hospital. He’s eloped and he’s free from that damned tumor, and he weeps for awhile to begin with, for the sorrow of his family and friends. And then he runs, because he can. I don’t know the next scene, because he is far in the distance from me, for now.

I’m right here, for now, remembering my friend’s voice and praying for those who love him. I think about the word “parousia,” the Greek word for that time-beyond-time at the end of all things. “We don’t know much about it,” I say to my Sunday school class, “but we know it will be good.” I think also of the longing of the psalmist who says, “If I forget thee, Jerusalem…” If I forget thee, my friend—well, I won’t forget.