Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Tourist

Home again, home again, jiggety jog, as Mom used to say.

Here's the restaurant where we had lunch yesterday. It'll be forever emblazoned in my memory as "Fat Bastard Steakhouse."

Isn't it funny, the way it feels to go around with a camera, capturing images and freezing little tiny pieces of time and space? It's the most incredible device for simultaneously connecting with and isolating yourself from the rest of the world, grabbing a little snippet of reality and imposing your own viewpoint on it.

Ever since Mom's death, two years ago this coming Sunday, I've had this intense sense of detachment; and I like the way that taking pictures and writing about them illustrates it. It's probably a fairly natural reaction to having reality suddenly, sickeningly wrench away from everything you've ever thought or wanted to be true. I really miss my mom terribly... and not being religious, don't have the comfort of believing we'll be reunited someday. Of course, if what most Christians believe turned out to be true, a lifelong atheist like my mom would be kind of screwed anyway.

Sorry, I'm not sure why a silly picture of an amusingly named steakhouse would suddenly elicit thoughts of loss and grief, except that those are a bit close to mind right around this time anyway. The last time I talked to Mom was two years ago the day after my birthday - Mom never could remember a birthday on time! - when she called with her usual amused, self-deprecatory apology for having forgotten again. My stepfather got home while we were talking and she said she'd call me back in a little bit, which (again, as usual) she didn't. She showed up on my caller ID five days later, very early in the morning, as I was getting ready for work; I was surprised, and hoped as I answered the phone that nothing was wrong.

But it was my stepfather calling, not her. I hadn't talked to him in about twelve years, and of course something was horribly wrong: Mom had collapsed and was unconcsious in the hospital, and was not expected to last through the day. He had been told to start calling relatives and letting everyone know.

I remember falling to the floor, crying, sick, going through the rest of the day in a horrible restless agonized daze, needing to get out and go somewhere, only there was nowhere to go - no place where this wasn't happening. We were at the Sonic next door to the mall when he called back to say that it was all over.

And then there were weeks into months of strange protesting bewilderment and unreality, and this simultaneous pushing away of the world, and trying frantically to find some way to rejoin it. I couldn't eat, paced endlessly, hated my family, hated my job, hated Corpus, wanted to escape.

I don't mean to imply I'm unhappy now, because I'm very happy overall. I have lots of things that are wonderful in my life, and a very few that I really don't like; but I tend to spend most of my time living in the moments when everything is good, and the sad or angry or frightening things can usually retreat to the middle of the night. But I don't sleep well in hotels, and the night passes in wakefulness or dark and troublinhg dreams. They are less frequent now, but I dream about being with Mom, and feeling horribly aware that she's gone, clinging helplessly to her in my dream, trying to protect her, but knowing that ultimately I have to let her go.

All I really meant to say when I started this was that (1) Fat Bastard makes a damn good steak, and (2) the way it feels to be behind a camera tells us some intriguing things about human nature. And instead you get this nicely self-absorbed polemic about how I go through life feeling like a tourist, like I don't quite fit in. Welcome to the human experience, Beth, for heaven's sake. It's not like this is something I personally discovered.

So if you're ever in Wichita Falls, I highly recommend Fat Bastard's; the steak is excellent. Now I should probably go and get some sleep.


At May 26, 2006 9:26 AM, Anonymous omar said...

what a heartbreaking, sincer, emotional and thought-provoking blog. i wish we would have been friends then, as i wuold have very generously offered a shoulder to cry on.
miss you! and just the way you mom never called on time, please remember me as the friend who never, ever calls back!:(

At May 26, 2006 9:26 AM, Anonymous omar said...

i meant to spell sincere


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