Considering the Lyrical Essay

I woke up this morning thinking about . . .

. . . and now I wonder what I was thinking about. I had the sense it was important enough to try to remember, to write down for further exploration. Likely it had something to do with aging and dying–that’s pretty typical for me, and I know there was a dreamlike metaphor involved. Seemingly worth remembering.

My mom died at 82 years, and I see how close 71 really is to the edges of my expectations. Yes, someone is probably thinking, “but, you could live to be one hundred.” Which is not how I hope things will go.

At work, I love taking care of seniors—really old people in their late 80’s and 90’s. But no matter how many women are playing tennis in their eighties (well, that would be pickleball out here), I’ve been privy to what a real slog it is to get old. Most of the elderly I meet live in overgrown houses with stairs and acreage; have had any number of falls with trips to the emergency room and numerous scans and tests without much revelation other than “normal for age”; have children who are far away or never born (and not infrequently estranged); and if a couple, one will have dementia and the other is a full time caregiver with chronic medical problems of their own. Why was I thinking about my mom though?

I do remember this thought: “Maybe I should be writing lyrical essays.” It seems like a thing I hadn’t noticed was a thing until recently. (Excuse me for a moment while I google “lyrical essay.” And perhaps lose the train thought even further.)

I guess I’ll need to purchase a few books first and read some lyrical essays. Feel free to leave recommendations. Which brings up what I’ve spent the last week trying to undo: purchases, accumulations, things. I have eight tall tightly-crowded bookcases in a small house, possible not unlike many who might be reading this, but are you 71 yet? Do you wake up thinking about . . . and this is very much my reality . . . thinking about how I don’t want my son to have a mess to sort through when I die. I look around and wonder how, after stripping down to bare needs, and moving from East to West coast 13 years ago (and how is that possible?) I’ve managed to accumulate so many books. Not to mention, sheepishly, clothes, shoes, hair products, canned foods, house plants, cats, cat paraphernalia.

My mom’s death conferred upon me one of my two debilitating experiences in “taking down a house.” I’m not sure if there is an accurate term for this act—but there should be, and probably is in another language. (Short derail here to google “term for cleaning out a home after a death.” Nada.) Having done this chore for my mom and for my best friend who died of AIDS at only thirty-seven (another lingering topic), I often warn people that this act is possibly the most emotionally fraught task they will face following a death.

I was also thinking about an interview I am working on with a(nother) lesbian who is many years estranged from her family of origin. This takes me to emptying my friend’s apartment, deciding what to keep, what to give away, and grabbing his journals so his parents wouldn’t get ahold of them. My first poetry chapbook reveals what was in those journals. I’m wishy-washy, but think I will probably burn my journals—they are so consumed with despair and fury—the worst parts of a life that also includes joy and pleasure.

I think I was wondering if people might think that, since I’m on a mission to get rid of things, to tidy up my living space, I might be depressed, even considering suicide. You would not be entirely wrong, I’ve had a difficult few months. But the thing is, after this pandemic year, which we all have faced in our various ways, I am so looking forward to seeing my east coast family and friends in August, and spending a week at the beach house in Cape May where emerging versions of my family have gone to every summer for at least 25 years, until this last one. We have a new baby joining us this year. I remember how my mother loved the beach. And lived to see her first great grand boy before she died.

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1 Response to Considering the Lyrical Essay

  1. Pingback: Getting Your Daily Fix of Culture | Risa Denenberg

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