Saturday, May 26, 2012

tears downhill, May 23

(Here's a piece of a letter to my sister, Kim, posted on Letters to Kim. I'm using it here because there's biking in it.)

Cousin Pam wrote to tell me to ask if little whimpers of pain were escaping my heart from Aunt Priscilla’s death (she’s quite a writer), and I said, yes, and some pains are paper cuts, somewhere between a whimper and a gut punch. For instance, last weekend at our cabin in Mosier, Oregon, when walking my dog early in the morning, I heard a sound I’d never heard before, getting louder coming toward me. It was a short burst, a lung-full, high, scared. Then, I saw deer bunch up when they saw me and were more afraid of me than they were of the thing chasing them. That sound. Just sometimes when I’m not sure where to go.

To Pam I tried to articulate the tears that sprang into my eyes on a steep downhill on the path at the end of my 45-mile ride (3,200 ft elevation), the same path we all walked last summer when all the siblings came out here. I don’t usually cry on downhills (sometimes uphills…), but the cold in the eyes was a good cover for the mix of emotions. The way you sidle up to each of your siblings (and possibly son and husband) and those long, piano-fingers become pinching machines has trained us to love your closeness and laugh/cringe at what you deliver. We spent that walk weaving in and out of each other, all of us sibs.

And the tears were for missing you and for the joy of getting to see you this weekend and for the joy of your seeing that garden that Penny and others have prepared and the tender way that John will hug you into the car and out of the car and into the wheelchair and through your garden and to your new spot. It’s all magic, a mix of strength and mischief and undeniable love.

See you this weekend, my sweet.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

new news

Yesterday, we discovered the real cause of my sister's brain bleed. It wasn't a stroke. It wasn't an aneurism. It was AVM or cerebral arteriovenous malformation. (That's what the main character, Nate, on Six Feet Under had in case you saw that HBO show.) Now we know. Less than 1% of the population has this condition, and it may be the root cause of what we call "the family aneurism." It's congenital. 

The following poem I started writing when my sister Kim was in the worst shape, that first week in Neuro ICU. I tried everything I could to get images out of my body, to find words to deal with the grief that was too huge to contain: wrote in a journal, prayed, wrote a blog, etc. In Boston I had no bicycle; that would have helped. 


My sister is bulb, paper-shelled, cloven,
six inches under soil, prepped and turned.

My sister is cumulus, extravagant thermals,
wisps lifting eyelids, eyebrows, and lips.

My sister is earthworm, segmented,
soft plow, persistent and slick.

When nurses plunge suction down her breathing tube,
closed eyes cry, and bleating, she is lamb.

When doctors wake her, rake knuckles
across her sternum, she is volcano, shaking.

Like rhododendron after clearcut
Like marram grass on sand

Like bracken ferns after fire
my sister is prayer

How lucky we are that she is no longer in this state. And she remembers nothing. I'm learning how to hold this tremendous gift.