Monday, July 17, 2006

The Pain of Parting

Whenever either of my daughters returns to Boston after a short weekend visit, I feel sad but try not to show it. I know what a gut-wrenching experience it is to leave someone you love behind.

We traveled to Cape Cod almost every summer and stayed a month or so. I have a clear mental image of Bea as my husband switched on the ignition. She didn’t start crying until our rental car had pulled out of the driveway. Still, we could all tell Grandma was on the verge of tears. I would wave and, as Bea turned to the comfort of my father’s arms, a hiccup of grief would catch in my throat.

Not only did Bea feel anguish at parting. Apparently she also anticipated our departure with sadness. I know this because she wrote a note about just such an occasion for us to find:

“‘The grass,’ says my French granddaughter Natalie, ‘is somewhat wet.’ Somewhat, this evening after a thunderstorm manqué, gently now the rain falls, and I write these words while my child and her family are still here.

Still here. And after tomorrow they will leave to go back to France, and I shall live with my loss.

Already to shore up the pain of parting – always parting – I have started to read a Conrad story, but I shall change to a novel for it will be longer – the longer to bear my sharp grief on this lonely peninsula of sand and sometime sun.”

Bea sleeps today, off and on. I worry about the heat here on our "lonely peninsula of sand" and sun,’ but it doesn’t seem to bother her.

Wouldn’t you know, she has also provided background on her crying, a scribbled poem on a piece of paper ripped from a yellow legal pad:

“The tears I would weep
at your departure
have been a part of me
so very long.
I cannot hardly remember
the first time
I cried.

It was a long, long time ago
when nourishment was withheld,
the breast, the comforting breast.

And the death of my little brother
when he was three and I was four:
everybody
cried and my mother took to the sewing machine
to comfort herself.
She couldn’t take it anymore.
She said that Helen and I had killed our brother.
No, we didn’t. And I forgive her, even now.
The cause, it seems, was bacillus
in the milk.
That was before the days of graded milk as A or B
for dairy cleanliness.
I didn’t cry.
Why should I?”

Soon Bea will be parting from us forever. Not for a winter or a year, but for the rest of our lives, at least that must be how she sees it. Funny. I don’t. I feel like she will be with me for the rest of my life ...

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