By Kate Solovieva
- Departure, leaving
- Sailing of a boat
Within a couple of days of finding out about my impending miscarriage, I stop meditating. Not consciously, not on purpose. Yet… the first thing I do in the morning is no longer the five or ten minute session of just being, just sitting there. Instead, I go back to my default bad habits – pick up my cell phone, scroll through social media feeds, be entertained, be distracted.
Avoid, avoid, avoid.
Is it so unreasonable to NOT want to sit in these feelings?
Forgive me, if I do not want to focus on this right now. It sucks plenty, even without sitting and focusing on how much it sucks.
And so meditation falls by the wayside, and with it, morning reading, and with it, morning writing. My journal goes unused week after week.
For someone who does not like emotions, being told to sit with them is not unlike being told to sit in a swimming pool slowly filling with water.
“Relax!”, you are told, as the water is creeping up your ribs, and squeezing your chest.
“Sit with it”, as the water is filling up your ears, and mouth.
You can’t sit with the emotions AND breathe at the same time, so you choose the latter, and shove the emotions down and under once again.
Always. Breathing always comes first.
But have you tried? Sitting with the emotions?
Months earlier, we are visiting Campora, a little town in southern Italy, and the town where my husband’s uncle and grandmother still live.
A painting reproduction by Kandinsky on the wall. The dining room chairs are wrapped in plastic. A large dining table in the middle of the room – underutilized. Most of the family is gone. Grown up. Flown away.
There are photos of faraway relatives. My husband’s brother, and his three girls – all under six. The oldest is seventeen now. I got her make-up for Christmas. Photos of Nonna herself – here at a youthful eighty five. That was eleven years ago. Now, almost completely deaf and unable to discern her own volume, she screams every sentence, occasionally, flashing a smile through few remaining teeth.
Watching her, I am overrun by pity. Is this feeling warranted? What is the quality of her life like, really? Is she happy? Is she bored? Is she in pain? I wish we shared a language, so I could ask.
She is “all there” – sharp as a tack. Yet, the ageing body, and a recent hip injury has her sitting in a chair all day, covered with blankets, and looking off into the distance. Her day is punctuated by meals. It’s no wonder food seems to be the only topic of conversation. What else is there?
Wake up, use the bathroom, eat breakfast.
Get seated in the chair by the space heater.
Sit until lunch.
Use the bathroom.
Sit some more.
Sit in the chair, and watch the same mindless trivia show on TV that was running last night. And the night before.
Maybe nod off.
Have some fruit. My husband’s uncle – her son – will cut up the fruit in small pieces, so she can swallow – peel the pear, skin the kiwi.
Go to bed.
Repeat the next day.
I struggle observing this slow descent into nothingness. Surely, there must be a different logical end to human life? An alternative resolution. No?
You ever noticed how unapologetically rude truth is sometimes? We look away, try to make it nicer. Meanwhile, a toddler is pointing at a fat lady on a scooter, and yells “Ma! Look at the fat lady on the scooter!”. Old people can be that blunt also. There is simply no time for long detours.
My husband talks to his mother on the phone, and she says that Nonna has been grumpy because she thinks it will be the last time she will see us. Unapologetically rude truth. Right here. Nothing to counteract it with.
I hate cover-ups anyway. The polite sugar candy.
“I am going to die soon.”
Yes, you are.
“I am dying, and I love you, and I hate that this may be the last time I see you.”
I know. I love you too.
What else is there to say?
Sit with the emotions. Feel the cold water fill up the pool, crawl up your knees, sending shivers down your spine, up to your belly button, without asking permission. To lie, to deny would be disrespectful, and so, instead, I try to breathe as the cold water continues to pour in.
After breakfast, I move from the kitchen to the living room, where Nonna is sitting in an armchair. Her legs propped up on a plastic chair and covered with two blankets. A space heater beside her.
She is wearing a navy toque with the NY logo on the front. She is cold all the time now.
I make myself cozy in the corner of a sofa, to the right of her. If I scooch over, and she turns her head, we can see each other.
Few minutes later she starts shuffling. The housekeeper assists her up to her walker. After breaking her hip last year, she has to lean onto the walker with most of her weight, and make small trips. Few steps to the bathroom, rest. Few more steps. Then repeat on her way back.
After the bathroom, she rolls around the walker, and instead of heading for her chair, slowly shuffles around the dining table, and heads straight for the couch where I am sitting. Of course, she could have just called me over – I am literally ten feet away – yet… this feels important.
I sit up. With another couch to my left, the dining table to my right, and now Nonna on her walker straight ahead, I feel slightly ambushed.
She looks straight at me, and says something. I make out “tutti”, “domani” and “partenza”. “All”, “tomorrow”, “departure”.
“So, that’s it, you are leaving tomorrow”, I translate in my head, filling in the blanks, and my heart clenches.
She continues to speak in her raspy voice, unnecessarily loud, mostly because she is hard of hearing these days. I only understand an occasional word here and there, so I create a monologue in my head. “Be well. Take care of each other. Say hello to your mother.”
I get up and gently lean into the walker, placing my head on her shoulder. She starts to cry. Few moments later, I sense her moving away. She hates this emotional shit as much as I do. That’s why we get along – despite the language barrier. We both feel the cold water rising.
She reaches into her pocket for a handkerchief and wipes her face, her hand shaking. As she starts to turn her walker around, to set out on the long journey around the dining table, and back to her chair, I remain seated on the couch, slowly dropping tears into my herbal tea.
This is human life. All of this. All order of things. She has lived a long time. Soon it will be her time to go. Then it will be mine. Hopefully not too soon. But probably too soon anyway.
And maybe my grandson will marry a nice girl from a different culture. And we won’t speak each other’s language, but will get along anyway. And I will get to feel this pain all over again, but this time from the other side.
Maybe. If I am ever so lucky.
Kate (Ekaterina) Solovieva is an aspiring snow bird who lives an hour outside Toronto. She writes about travel, health and anything else that strikes her fancy at www.solovieva.com Her work has previously appeared in Get Out There magazine, and The Busy Woman Project journal.