First off, 2 little announcements for this Sunday 9/18:
Amelia M.L. Montes will be interviewing me on La bloga (www.labloga.blogspot.com) about diabetes and the new poetry collection I’m working on…and Sheryl Luna’s review of my book, furia, will be printed in the El Paso Times. (Not sure if it’ll be posted online, but check it out if you can.)
Ahora, to the blogging:
I didn’t think I’d be even remotely touching on the subject of 9/11, as I dislike the super-patriotism it inspires in some…or even worse, the weird superficially obligatory mentions of the dead it inspires in others.
For me, 9/11 is tied up with my mother’s death. I was working grave-yard shift back then. I went home and went to bed before any of the news coverage—woke to a dozen voicemails and people telling me to turn on the tv. But that was also the same day I found out my mother was in the ER, that she’d had a stroke, that her cancer had come back. She was in the Valley. I was in Austin.
In some way, it seemed fitting that while everything inside me was collapsing, barely keeping from panicking or weeping or running—everything outside me was different. People were glued to the radio and the tv, listening to reports and interviews and personal stories of heroism and loss and shock. I listened too and I teared up at the stories, but inside, everything was both too close and distant because I knew my mother was in the hospital.
I took a day, the 12th of September to plan. Went to both my jobs and told them I didn’t know when I was coming back. I packed two or three changes of clothes. I remember taking two books and my writing notebook. Everything fit in a small carry-on bag. I didn’t tell anyone in the Valley that I was going. I didn’t even tell my mother. I don’t remember consciously making a decision, but I set about tying up all loose ends in Austin.
I took the Greyhound toMcAllen, then a taxi from the bus station to the hospital my mother was at. She was asleep when I entered her room, so I lay down on the floor and used my bag as a pillow. And the next time she woke up, I was there.
9/11 is always the day I begin the recounting of those days. The ten weeks from that phone call to the day she died.
I’ve been in mourning for her for ten years. I will keep on mourning her every day of my life. I learned from her how to mourn—she remembered her own mother every day of her life. My mother would tell me stories about the Day of the Dead during her childhood. How they’d take food and flowers and candles out to the cemeteries. (Outside of Crystal City, TX in the 1940’s.) The vigil they would keep and how they’d wait till dawn to eat any of the food. We never did any of this when I was growing up. I didn’t learn about building altares until I was in college. But I do remember how she’d light small candles on a plate. For her muertitos, she’d say. And I was so taken by that. That you’d still have a tie to the dead. That you would speak of them still in the diminutive, with love. One candle each for her parents—she lost her father when she was two and her mother when she was 34—as well as candles for other relatives.
I’m 36 now. I’ve lost my mother and my father, both sets of grandparents, three aunt/uncles on my father’s side and two on my mother’s side. I’ve lost friends, two friends that were dear to me at one time, while I’ve lived here inAustin.
So I have my muertitos now too. And I find myself talking to people about death all the time and learning about their muertitos. It’s only those who don’t have them who think these conversations are morbid or unseemly or inappropriate. But I don’t know what could possibly be more appropriate…we have grief to share and love and the lessons of that grief and love. We have mortality to contemplate, to teach us what we do and don’t have time and/or energy for.
There’s lots of things I don’t have time for anymore—drama, embarrassment, procrastination, anger, shame, toxic people/places/things.
There’s too many things I want to do—lots of things I want to get to. I spent lots of years thinking I wasn’t where I was supposed to be or that I wasn’t worthy of healing. Hell with that.
What about you?