This is not necessarily a glamorous photograph that I would share with the world for likes and compliments. This was taken just a few days ago by Ryan to test out the picture taking ability of his new iPhone, a phone that he purchased with entirely his own money. This was taken in a moment of happiness when I was with my family in a fall afternoon.
He took photos of me as we sat on opposite sides of each other in our favorite Indian restaurant. He put different filters on the photos, laughed at most of them as I looked ridiculous. But he shared this one with me. Unfiltered.
The “me” in this photo is almost the “me” before my parents died. This “me” is the one who almost always had an inner joy. Even on the darkest day, this “me” could talk myself out of despair. The current me is “walking a narrow path through the loss………taking sips of sorrow…..” as Julia Alvarez says in her beautiful novel Afterlife. One day, I want to be back where, once upon a time, the previous “me” used to be. I have embarked on the journey, the path is narrow and I am trying (and failing sometimes) to not fall off the edge. One day I plan to arrive.
As a library worker for last ten years, I have come across strange things in either the shelves or in our book drop boxes. A coworker kept a tally of strange things that got returned with books and DVDs. Gross things like dental floss, used tissues, important things like checks, naturalization certificate, sentimental things like handwritten cards, letters – all used as book marks. One of the strangest things that I recall was a single men’s sandal that came in through our book drop.
While shelving, we collect empty water bottles or soda cans that folks leave behind in the stacks. A few days ago, while shelving in the finance section, I found a page torn off a notebook with a poem written on it. From the handwriting and content I assume it was written by a young child. I picked it up to recycle it. Then I kept it. I wondered if the person/child who wrote the poem would come back for it.
The poem was about having fun in Neverland. Although we may age in years, we should nurture our inner child and never let the innocence die. There is the threat of Captain Hook, sure, but we should remember it is Neverland – full of fun.
Every time I went upstairs for my shift, I checked to see if the page was still there at the kiosk. I took a photo of it for memories. Not for the artistic value of the poem but for the fact a child (most likely) wrote this and left it in the stacks, in finance section no less. A work of art in a section devoted to money seemed lovely.
Today, the poem was gone. I doubt the poet came back for it. Most likely one of my coworkers cleaned up the area and recycled the page. But for the days it stayed at the kiosk, it gave me joy. Simple thing, simple pleasure.
About a week ago I told Sahana I want to get back to writing blogs again. Blogs that not necessarily document my grief journey, but something different, something happy perhaps. She gave me some suggestions and left me with ideas to mull over. My dear aunt was in the hospital though, fighting Covid in India. I got updates everyday and tried to focus on the positives that I heard – the thrust of oxygen that she was receiving was reduced, her O2 saturation was maintaining at 96/97 with oxygen support. She was weak but her vitals were strong. I talked to my cousin every morning and said to her what people said to me six months ago “Hold on to the positives. She will fight it off. After all, she has had both her vaccinations. She has protection.”
She was put on ventilator on November 13th (my time) and died within 4 hours. Her presence is so large and so joyful in my entire childhood that whenever I think of her I can see her bright, wide smile and hear her hahaha laughter. She was great friends with ma. They had similar jovial, vivacious personality. And she had the kindest face. When Sean met her for the first time when he came to meet my family, he said, “If I entered a room filled with strangers, I would go to her first. Her face exudes kindness.”
There are many, many happy memories of this woman who lived her life with joy (for the most part) and left the world without long term sickness or pain. I am spending sleepless nights again and waking with the memories of all those who we have lost this year – 5 so far in my family alone. It gives me comfort, in a weird way, to think that my big, fat Bengali family is continuing to party hard somewhere. Yes, a raucous, loud, full of laughter party. My aunt has joined them now. My mother loved her. I hope she is happy and safe to be up there (or who knows where) with them.
I miss writing blogs about silly things – about my kids or my everyday observations or memories of India. I hope to find topics other than loss and sorrow – soon. I hope and pray to the universe to stop this procession of death in my family. We have lost enough. The world has lost enough.