Sunday, October 05, 2003

Complacencies of the Peignoir

Well, it's not morning and I'm not in my peignoir, but, in my defense, it IS Sunday; my petit larousse confirms that peignoir has to do with combing, the robe we femmes don sortant de our bains, and portant quoi we comb our tresses. The "ample" robe, says larousse, conjuring mumus and morbidly obese odalisques. I cannot comb with any facility wearing this neck rig, and all my clothes seem wrong: damp, torn, stained, stinky. To go along with this slightly maimed body, no doubt.

I sat in the sun today, reading Louise Gluck. Her praise of common speech. Of nouns. Then more "Wild Iris," which is like a knife to my already raw heart.

Death, then.

("Mother of beauty, mystical," chimes in Wally S.)

Lying alone in Beth Israel, contemplating vertebral arteries, spines and brains, and all that can go wrong, I imagined dying and felt nothing. No terror, no anxiety, no grief. A cool indifference, that's it. "This is how it will be." I felt gratitude. So it can be faced.

And "GOD" seemed the remotest thing. A concept slightly shameful, louche, disreputable. Like thinking "GOD" is akin to being caught sneaking out of a peep-show. The night the nurse checked me in she asked whether I wanted to see a priest, or other cleric of my choice.

Yes, I said, after a moment of painful vacillation.

No one came.

There is no other path for me, then, than walking into the darkness alone, stripped of everything. Nothing ecclesiastical about it.

Suddenly I think of wayside crosses, those Lithuanian Catholic artifacts, and feel moved by what they represent: grief, longing, lostness. Hope.


The cat's dying. The Little Meanie. 15, dwindling with some sort of cancer this past year. Literally dying. Across the hall, atop the futon in the guest room. No food or water for 3 days. Pissing blood now and then. Still meowing in greeting, but more feebly. More and more indifferent to being patted and scratched. Won't even lick water or baby food off my finger. We gaze at each other, across the gulf. All the indifference toward death I felt in the hospital vanishes, and I am grief-wracked.

The vet advised euthanasia when interest in food, water and socialization had disappeared. We may have to do this.

I remember putting Toscar to sleep. How he simply and quietly just ceased. A splendid cat. How we wept.


Ellen came by with pots of soup today. The den is full of flowers from well-wishers. The house is a mess, and I am making peace with disorder.

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