May 26, 2014 § 1 Comment
Last week I spent a few days in Cocoa Beach, Florida with my freakishly-healthy, eighty-four year old grandmother. Prior to my arrival, some medical issues popped up out of the blue like a fin and she, having never been prescribed medicine in her life, has been slow to accept her limitations. I.e. she doesn’t want to rest. I.e. she tires quicker when walking her pug down the palm tree laden street. I.e. it was pretty good timing that I already requested off work. Each morning when asked how she was feeling, she’d respond to me on a scale of how pale she felt. “Pale” being the only word she could articulate her low-energy, somewhat head-achey, imbalanced self. It became sort of a joke, feeling pale. I can’t explain how sweet it was to hear her giggling between sentences like, “No, no paleness.” or, “You know what, honey, I’m feeling a little pale again.” We did the things we always do: played dominos, talked about my grandfather, stashed coconut macaroons from the Chinese Buffet in our purses. But we did them slowly, taking breaks, and checking our blood pressure. While I was there, I read Maggie Nelson’s book Bluets. It is a manifesto of sorts surrounding author/poet/girl’s affection and personal attachment to the color blue. It’s remarkable. And while I don’t have a constant, overwhelming attachment to any shade—I felt less alone in my attachment to texture and mood that objects, definitely certain types of light, can bring. I felt less alone in my attachment to loneliness in general. Nelson’s book isn’t about feeling the blues, but its pages reminded me of how often and deeply I do. Which is a thing about me I have somehow chosen or not. My earliest memory is one of complete despair when discovering that my mom had washed the pants I’d worn to preschool. I was upset because I had won something, chose a Ulysses butterfly sticker as my prize, and wanted to give it to her. What mother wasn’t obsessed with butterflies in the mid-nineties? The paper disintegrated in the washing machine and I couldn’t get over the sadness I felt (clearly, still talking about it two decades later). This story is supposed to somehow connect with the idea that we don’t stop learning how to be hurt, and that’s fine. I took a lot of things from Bluets. Truly. Ransacked the thing. I loved it. But mostly it just reminded me of how beautiful, and humbling, it is to be disappointed. So deep, I know. When I was in Cocoa, it was odd to notice my grandmother’s blues. Her frustration volleying in-between doctors and nurses, the ache of her husband who actually only wore blue collared shirts, and the visible navy bruise on her cheekbone from the initial fall. But it is also necessary to see bright things in the shade. We had fun.