I am seldom at a loss for words.
This is not to say that I always have the right words. Often what I have to say is the wrong thing at the wrong time, words like lemon juice on a paper cut. But I usually have something to say.
Looking back at the year that was, I find myself a little bit speechless. That having been said, let me make a liar of myself and say a few words about the dead that won’t lie decently still.
I’m going to start with my car. I own a 1986 Mercury Grand Marquis. My partner calls it “The Battle Tank”. It’s a huge, ugly anachronism, a hunk of unregenerate Detroit steel in an age of composites and synthetics. I love my car. Fortunately, I don’t need to drive it far on a regular basis, I go to work (a mile and a half) and the store (less than a mile) and my Ma’s house (four miles? ish) and that’s about it.
It’s ailing, and I know it won’t last much longer, but I bought it for $100 and have driven it a year now, and most folks I know are paying car payments of over $100 a month. So it’s a heck of a deal.
My partner and I lost two members of our household this year. They were both fourteen, which is the age when humans start really growing up and becoming their own people. But they weren’t human. One cat and one dog, and cats and dogs don’t live long enough. One day God and I will have words about that.
Mouser, aka “The Gray Mouser, Queen Of The Universe” had been sick for a while. Kidneys, which do in so many old cats. We had her on a prescription diet, and we mixed the wet and the dry, tried it with water, did everything we could to keep her eating. After a while, though, she just gave up. She didn’t eat, and we couldn’t make her. She knew it was time. She went quietly, we woke up one morning and she didn’t.
Max, though, had been a puppy up until then. He was the Dick Clark of dogs, the World’s Oldest Teenager. When we took him out–and he was always ready for a ride in the car, didn’t care a whit where we were going, just wanted to go–strangers (to us, Max never met a stranger) wouldn’t believe that he was more than four or five. If you’d known him when he was younger, you could see how his color changed, what was brown had become white. He was getting stiffer, too, his hips not working as smoothly as they once had. He didn’t let that slow him down, though, he just tried harder.
Until Mouser died. They had grown up together. They didn’t exactly play together, but they were always there for each other. Companions, separated by species and gender, bound together by familiarity. And love.
When Max saw that Mouser had gone away and wasn’t coming back he lost his heart. Overnight he got old. All the little things that he never let slow him down started becoming big things. He tried, he tried so hard, but we all knew it was time. Two months after Mouser died we all took a walk–there’s a vet’s office close enough to walk to–and my partner and I came back alone.
Damn, I miss that dog. He was the sweetest soul I’ve even known.
What else? My partner’s car died. It was a 1990 Ford, and she’d bought it new. It died easy, too. My partner, my mother, and I were out to dinner, and when we came out it wouldn’t start. We were close enough that my mother and I could walk to my house while my partner waited for the tow truck.
The mechanic said that my partner had two choices–buy a new engine, or buy a new car. So she got a new car, a brand new Fiesta. It’s a great car, and she’s already taken it all over the country a couple of times. That woman loves to travel.
I lost her, too, over the past year, and then I got her back. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail. Much of it is not my story to tell. Some of it I will take to my grave. Suffice to say that I loved and lost and loved again. Things are good now, very good, but they are not like they were, and even while rejoicing in what is now I still grieve for what was.
Resurrection is a bittersweet business.
And then, there’s my novel. I never before realized that the only way to kill a dream is to make it come true. Because, you see, then it’s not a dream any more. I dreamed of writing books since I could read, and at long last I have written one and published it and have had people read it–and like it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful, but it’s stopped being a dream and started being work.
Maybe that’s why I didn’t do it for so long.
My eldest daughter got married last week. Birth, death, ending, beginning? Yeah, some of each. It made me realize that I could never be half the things for her that I wanted to be, that no man can ever be good enough for his own children, but I was less than most. I couldn’t give her half of what she deserved, but seeing her stand up and take the hand of the man she has chosen to make a new family with made me realize that, somehow, she has found what she needs.
And I bless the knowledge and curse the lesson.
New beginnings, then? This year has full of those, too. For everything that dies something else is born. My partner and I have two new sparks of life in our house, two cheerfully amoral kittens that make us smile. I know that they won’t live long enough either, but right now they burn with so much light and life that I can’t believe it. Not yet. Joy makes you believe it is immortal, even when reason says otherwise.
2013 hasn’t yet begun, but it is already pushing me in new directions. I’m taking another class next semester, and I’ve taken this class from this teacher–Jason Sommer, Writing Poetry–but the class will be new. They are always so young and so afraid of their own talent, and I always learn so much.
And I am talking to a bookstore owner about doing a book signing. That’s not even in the same area code as my comfort zone. But fortune favors the bold, right? What’s the worst that could happen? Don’t answer that.
So. Here I am, feeling melancholy and introspective and looking at the end of the year. The solstice has already passed, the days are getting longer. Spring will be bitter cold, it always is here. But I’ll have little bit more sunlight every day.
“Life goes on,
I forget just why”
–Edna St. Vincent Millay, Lament