View from our room at our motel in
Scott and I stayed here for three days
He found the motel at a great price
I loved walking the Richmond District
a neighborhood of businesses and restaurants with a
strong Chinese influence
“I think Kwan intended to show me the world is not a place but the vastness of the soul. And the soul is nothing more than love, limitless, endless, all that moves us toward knowing what is true. I once thought love was supposed to be nothing but bliss. I now know it is also worry and grief, hope and trust. And believing in ghosts–that\’s believing that love never dies. If people we love die, then they are lost only to our ordinary senses. If we remember, we can find them anytime with our hundred secret senses.”
When I was two years old, my dad would bundle me up in a blanket, place me in the passenger seat of his black triumph, with top down, he would drive across the Golden Gate bridge. Pulling my cover tight around me with my small fingers, I could feel the wind whip around my face and the mist from the fog dampen my blanket. By the time I got dropped off at my grandparents, my blanket would be wet and cold.
At my grandparents home in San Francisco, on my dad\’s side of the family, there were twelve aunts and uncles. Eleven kids living in or swinging by for a visit accompanied by partners, kids, and pets all hanging out upstairs and downstairs. It was the best kind of pandemonium in the sixties at that house. Downstairs, there was a large basement where a party was going on, it seemed like everyday. Out the side door a pile of motorcycles were parked on the grass as teenagers flowed in and out. The Beatles and Janis Joplin played on the stereo, Boones Hill Strawberry Wine flowed one way while joints were passed around the other. Partying always happened downstairs in the basement not upstairs in the main house where my grandfather rested in his easy chair and my grandmother cooked up meals in the kitchen.
When I stayed the night at my grandparents, I would get up early in the morning when it was still dark and follow my grandmother into the kitchen. At the blue formica table, I would sit on a chair and look at the wallpaper covered in images of farmers and farmer\’s wives carrying out chores, feeding the chickens, pitchforking bales of hay, and plowing fields while my grandmother heated up her frying pans to cook up several strips of bacon and pancakes. Sometimes my grandfather would sit at the table sipping a cup of black coffee. If my grandfather wasn\’t up yet, my grandmother would tell me stories of growing up and traveling through the desert of Arizona crossing back and forth over the border in Mexico. Her family a mix of German/Irish/French were gold miners. My grandmother was a wonderful story teller and even at my young age of two years old, her stories intrigued and fascinated me.
One of my favorite stories was about Paul. While the bacon sizzled in the pan, and my grandmother buttered my pancakes pouring maple syrup on top, I would ask her to please tell me another story about Paul. Paul was her baby, he died when he was only a few weeks or short months old. He was one of her twelve children, an Uncle that I would never see or know. When my grandmother told me stories of Paul, I could imagine him so perfect, his tiny fingers and toes, my grandmother holding him like a little angel in her arms. My grandmother never got mad at me or upset when I asked about Paul, she always had another story waiting for me.
This morning, I woke up from a restless sleep, upset and sad, about how writing and talking about life passages, death, and grief seem to be still taboo in our country. I remember trying to talk to Scott about death and he never wanted to touch the subject at all like so many of us. Since Scott died, I\’ve received so many letters and messages from people who have had to stuff down their feelings and questions over the years about dying and death, because it causes others so much discomfort.
I remember as a girl child, barely knowing anything about periods, as a teenager not knowing or being able to ask questions about sex or sensuality, as an adult not having information about how to have a healthy relationship with a man, as an older adult being clueless about menopause and now in my mid -fifties having no idea what one goes through losing a partner.
In all stages of life, I have had to rely on books and I was lucky enough to find a good therapist to guide me through some of life\’s passages along with some women\’s groups in my early twenties.
Dying, death, and grieving is something each and every one of us is going to face in this life. Why it\’s so secretive and uncomfortable to talk and write about really, frankly, pisses me off. All of us are not going to escape death including the death of those we love and our own death.
I am learning a lot about grieving this time around. This morning, I woke up not too happy with Scott, going over past fights and hurts we had. This is normal. It is part of the grieving process. If I hadn\’t read about it in one of my books on death and grief, I would have felt guilty about it. When I was going through the uncomfortable parts of Scott and myself that are not perfect, that is why we were perfect together, I didn\’t feel bad about it, I knew it was a passage, a part of the process.
I wish Scott and I could have talked about death more. I think it would have deepened our love and relationship even more than it was.
Death doesn\’t have to be taboo. Bleeding as a woman doesn\’t have to be taboo. Sex as a teenager, losing a partner to death, going through menopause, doesn\’t have to be off limits.
If we start talking, writing about it and sharing our experiences, we can live a better life now and embrace the mystery instead of chasing it away because of fear and shame.
If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can\’t survive.”