Sunday, August 15, 2010

Things we're all too young to know

I wasn't sure, when I headed over, what I was in for. I hadn't seen Chelsey, Clayton or Eva for at least eight months, and Carol-Ann for even longer than that. And last time I had been in touch with Eva on Skype, I kinda blocked her. 

(Sorry about that. I think you were saying things that I didn't want to hear. I needed to trust my own experiences for a while. I was mad that you were challenging them. I couldn't handle what was going on in the conversation, so I enforced silence. The only other option would have been to say something I would later regret).

I've been systematically filing away and unlearning memories that contain these people, through no fault of their own. I wanted to get the people back, but I knew I would be opening myself up to the pain I shook off in the process of getting over the memories that contain them. If that sentence is confusing, it's because this whole thing is. 

They're much more capable at the process than I am. We had a nice dinner. They are not very different. And they were so incredibly gracious and kind to me, in a way that if I hadn't been hyper-sensitive I wouldn't have noticed. But I'm me, and thus: I noticed. 

The nicknames came back. Eva and her Jimmy had to leave early, but I was in no rush. Clayton was thumbing a guitar after all, and I've never left a room when there was even the hint of that, before, so why start now? When the singing started, that's when the melancholia kicked in, and it hasn't really wore off yet.

I used to see a lot of this family when we (Clayt, Chels, Eva and/or Carol-Ann) all lived in the same house. In 2007/08, I was frequently invited to things like weddings and birthday parties, because a lot of them happened at our place. When I said on Friday night how much I missed his parents, Clayt invited me along the next day to go out with him and Carol-Ann to a gig he was playing in Upper Stewiacke, about an hour and a half outside of Halifax. Clayton's sister usually plays the fiddle, with Clayton on guitar, but yesterday morning she was camping, and so the fiddle job was passed to Clayton and the guitar to Gary, Clayton's dad. 

C-A, Gordon the dog and I piled into Clayton's tiny car and we drove out to their family home in rural Nova Scotia. I just realized I cancelled on a bunch of people in order to make that trip. But it was worth it. I'm trying to put my finger on why.

 C-A, Clayt and me in 2007 ready to eat maple candy out of the snow
Little things, I guess. It's neat hearing different members of the family talk about the things they love about each other. That's so rare, I think. 

But they aren't just generous with each other. In a private moment with Gary, I mentioned having dropped out of school in Mexico, and what a low moment that was. And, with the human instinct only a minister could have, he throws out a little thought, a thought he's obviously been thinking for a while, like he was saving it in his pocket for months until the next time he talked to me (but he could have been saving it for someone else, too).

He says, "Bethany, I know this is none of my business, but I've read a lot of biographies over the years. In the story of every life of consequence there is always a bomb-out chapter. It seems to be that if the stakes you lived for were so low you never bombed out, you probably didn't make much of a difference." It's a beautiful gift to give someone, that kind of a thought, and it was given to me by the father of a friend I haven't seen in months. But they're that kind of a family. Always giving you beautiful gifts. 

Debbie invited us for dinner, and Rosanna came home and played some music with Clayton. All the while, we heard stories. He heard about the amusing "plogs" Gary mails out to his children in turn, when he has a politically inspired thought to share. He mails them, even to Rosanna, who lives under his same roof. That led to a discussion on the human significance of letters (Bonhoeffer, Gramsci, Marx, Engels and the apostle Paul all relied on them as the writing in which to flesh out their theories). We laughed a lot (Gary's sunscreen-solution to his hair- wisp "wings," Debbie's appreciation of  enterprising celiacs).

Carol-Ann spent more than an hour treating first Clayton and then his mom Debbie with Bowen technique, a treatment that relieves pain. I find myself wishing I could have given them some sort of pain relief gift, as well. The visit to their home touched something in me I hadn't even known was hurting. It rolled a thumb over it, and stretched that muscle, and I feel like I'm now laying on the bed, waiting for my body to start to heal itself. 

Rosanna and Clayton


luke said...

hey, good song

Janna said...

i just read this now. loved it.