I got on the plane a week ago in hot, windy Liberia, and flew to Harrisburg, PA. USA. I’ve been here for a week in the farmhouse I grew up in, with my parents and one of my sisters and her family. Tomorrow, my sister and I will fly to Ohio to visit our other sister.
April is supposed to be spring in the northern hemisphere, but in Pennsylvania, this year, it is still winter.
I’ve seen a lot of people I love. A definite highlight was a dinner with friends I haven’t seen in 20 and even 30 years, and another was getting to know a cousin I haven’t really known in my adult life. It’s all good, but it’s not always easy. Falling asleep and waking up are easy. What comes in between is not. Except overeating. Overeating in Pennsylvania Dutch Country is easy. It’s normal. Then you put on your skinny jeans and feel penitent.
The farmhouse I grew up in never changes. Part of it is something like 200 years old, which, in the Americas, is old. My parents put a laminate wood floor in the kitchen/living area since Pio and I were here 2 years ago. They got new carpet in the living room. Other than that, everything is the same. When I come home, I sleep in the same bedroom I slept in as a child. The trees are bigger, but since spring is late this year and there are no leaves on the branches, I can look out my windows and over the fields and the pond. Its comforting. Kind of. It’s old. Older than my memory. Older than my loss. I looked out these same windows at the same moon when I was 16 and when I was 2. I remember that.
Does it make me feel better? “Better” might not be the right word. It makes me feel something different—and that can hardly be bad.
Even though it’s April, it’s cold enough outside to keep burning wood in the wood burning stove in the family room. That’s a big plus. There’s a constant cozy spot in the house where my mom and I go to get warm. The floor creaks in all the same spots it did before, and the doors make the same sounds. This is the safest place in the world.
The Farm, March 2011
It was windy in Guanacaste when I left, and it’s been windy here, but it’s a different wind. A very very cold wind that pushes me back inside every time I stick my head out the door. It comes to my skin with a sensation of pain. The high temperature for today, in degrees Fahrenheit, is predicted to be 43. Low last night of 25. The sun is nothing more than a big light bulb.
I was not—NOT—prepared for almost no one to talk about Pio. That is so weird to me that I can barely get over/around/beyond it. But I have to behave politely and keep it together, so I do.
But I don’t understand. Not mad. Completely confounded. I mean, we all know there’s a very noisy, vivacious and unusual person who is NOT HERE, right? So? I did not expect no one to talk about him. I did not expect to be (almost) the only one to say his name. That is SO WEIRD to me. It leaves me speechless.
I know I am not the only person who notices that Pio isn’t here. Is not speaking of him supposed to be a courtesy to me? Because it only feels upsetting and confusing. Not speaking of him makes me feel worse, not better. As if I am the only one who feels this absence. Of course I am the only one who feels it in this way. But I would actually feel much better if somebody else would bust out with, “Well things sure are different when Pio isn’t here!” I would feel much less like I am about to go insane.
I know. People don’t know what to say. Are afraid of saying the wrong thing, or something silly. Or that I might burst into tears? I might, but probably not. If I do, it won’t be because I became suddenly upset. I burst into tears all the time when no one is looking, so for me it’s not a new or disturbing experience. And the only wrong thing to say is nothing, like he was never even here. THAT is VERY wrong.
I’m guilty of it too. Now I know. Not speaking of the beloved dead because of not knowing what to say or not wanting to upset a friend or a loved one. I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I have done it too.
Those of us who are left are not more upset when someone offers to remember with us. I never for one minute am not thinking of Pio, so there’s no chance you’re going to remind me of something I had momentarily forgotten. To me, honestly, it feels as shockingly inappropriate to address his absence with silence as it would be to ignore him personally if he were sitting at the table. But then again, the PA Dutch are not known for their skill in navigating emotions.
Just thought I’d tell you about it. If I don’t tell you, how will you know? All of us are learning how to do this.
Now, time to stuff everything back into the suitcases and roll on down the road.