Over the weekend we deposited our youngest in a dorm room on a university campus for a week at the Governor’s Institute on Engineering.
As he unpacked his things into a drawer, my stomach flipped with the realization that this was a rehearsal for what would take place–for real–at the end of August.
Meanwhile, on the empty home front, a Robin is attempting to build a nest on our porch, in July, and not just one, but several, each one on top of the beam under the drip edge of the porch roof which means her efforts continue to blow away, almost immediately, and as such, our porch is daily littered with her attempts, which reminds me of the long strands of silver hair that I find in dustballs and drains (on yoga pants and fleeces), abandoned by my head, which was once so full as to bust the largest of clips.
I was once told that I was a great nitpicker, which was meant as a compliment and a literal one at that. I had been picking nits out of another mother’s full head of hair, and I apparently had a knack for it.
Details. It’s true that I am good with them or that I came to be or once was. As a child, I lived beyond them, always frustrating my mother, whose eventual alcoholism, along with my father’s expectations, and a heavy dose of family tragedy, led me to adhere to details as if my life depended on it.
But yesterday. And increasingly so. I am mindless. I neglect to write down appointments. I leave things behind. I’m unable to answer simple questions like, “What did you do this weekend?”
There’s a line from a song I heard as a kid back when we lived in the Rockies, which is where my mother began drinking, and I began remembering, everything, before it vanished…
“I’ve been lately thinking about my life’s time,” goes the song, “And I can’t help believing in my own mind. I know I’m gonna hate to see it end.”
Did I know it would end even then?
I was once an excellent editor. “I barely have to make any changes to your work,” publishers told me.
But with age, I not only make an increasing number of mistakes but miss them even when I go looking for them.
And the truth is, I haven’t minded much. It’s been nice letting go.
I wrote that word and even posted it. I knew there was something off with it, but that morning, yesterday morning, as the Robin attempted one new nest after another, and my son slept in a dorm room 2 hours away, I couldn’t place the error.
I’ve thought this Robin mad. Disoriented. Foolhardy.
Is she even pregnant? Has she miscarried? Have her children flown, is that it?
Is all this a distraction from the maddening impermanence of motherhood? Is that why she persists with building a life on a ledge that can never sustain it?
How many days have I given to the relentless pursuit of nothing? What if my work is all potential, capacity, promise–without bearing fruit?
But aren’t we all a bit mad with this living?
Aren’t the talks shows and the standups and the memoirs filled with such admissions?
Could it be that the Robin is engaged in the art of deconstruction? A one-woman play. Off-off Broadway.
I could applaud her efforts rather than deride them.
It was a week ago, today, that a woman my age with a fine mind took a fall while walking her horse. On the way to the hospital, her mind left her, forever.
She left us on Sunday morning.
When I think of what it is I have to face–whether it’s leaving my baby off to live somewhere else or whether I should order more shampoo for the outdoor shower or whether this version of the book I’ve been working on will amount to something, I recognize the parallel that my old classmate will not take her daughter to college this summer, or harvest the basil, or effort at something that might very well amount to nothing.