Goodbye, Cousin.

August 15, 2010 at 10:43 pm (By Amba)

This picture was taken yesterday in the van at the airport, just before Christian went to catch his plane to Philadelphia and from there to Frankfurt.

Jacques was a little out of it and didn’t quite seem to get what was happening.  Or didn’t want to.

Christian stayed with us for almost two weeks, during which he cheerfully came and went, exploring the town, going salsa dancing, renting a bike and a car, driving all the way to Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks and back, reporting on his adventures.  I cooked, he bought pizza and lasagna, and, as the visit wore on and his early resolve to lose weight gave way to some kind of emotional fatigue and comfort need, he brought home Coke and potato chips and chocolate and Danish.  Which I found endearing.

Notice I said “home.”  This is the longest continuous visit or proximity we’ve had with anyone in years, certainly in the four years we’ve been in Chapel Hill.  (He had one of those lavish European vacations.)  Most of our two handfuls of treasured visits have been for a night or two.  Probably because Christian is family and we’ve known him since he was a kid, and because he’s a cheerful, energetic, affectionate person as well as (now) a keen and worldly grown man, it seemed completely natural and comfortable — and comforting — to have him here.  I woke up this morning assuming that warm wall of presence, shouldering out the infinite, still closed off the far end of the apartment and my consciousness.  It felt strange to realize it was gone.

For the most part I don’t get avidly attached, don’t latch on to people.  I have too bone-deep a familiarity with the futility of it.  (Maybe that’s what aborting your only child can do to you.)  It was so unusual to experience something so usual — simply having another person living with us.  He didn’t try to be super-helpful with J, though he was in small ways, nor did I ask him to be.  That I would not have wanted to get used to.  (I have dared to become dependent on the hospice ladies’ three-times-a-week physical help, because it seems like it isn’t going away, though it could.)  It was the casual, steady company that was such an unaccustomed luxury.

Only this afternoon, as I was in the kitchen rinsing dishes, did it occur to me that he must be long since safely home.  (Air travel is so remarkably safe that on the very rare occasions when anything goes wrong, the whole world hears about it.)  I wondered how the trip had been and whether I’d soon get an e-mail from him.  Within three minutes of that thought, he called.


  1. amba12 said,

    Emotionally I really felt “easy come, easy go” about the cousin, but then found myself disoriented and apathetic after he left. A taste of “normal” isn’t always an altogether good thing. It can mess me up.

    J too seemed both more restless and more depressed, but did not connect it to the visit ending. Maybe he was reacting to my state of mind. The visit had been a fragmentary experience for him anyway. He was surprised each morning to realize that Christian was here. It made me more aware of how out of it he is, which added to my dispiritedness.

    Tonight I began to resolve and revive, as witness the fact that I cleaned the kitchen. I’m reacclimated and ready to soldier on.

  2. A said,

    “A taste of “normal” isn’t always an altogether good thing. It can mess me up.”

    Ironically (or not) I never particularly craved “normal” at times in my life when I was fairly
    free to choose. But having lived, especially over the past ten years, in relative isolation with someone whose neurology is far from typical, I am startled and in some ways weakened by the depth and breadth of the moat between our small world, so geared to my daughter’s rhythms, sensitivities, needs and lack of mobility, and the flow and bustle and ease—-apparent ease—-of life outside, as I once knew it. I’ve developed a certain fascination with other kinds of love and duty- bound, cloistered existence, but of course most examples of that are contained within their own physical and like-minded communities of shared experience, quite different from the (conveniently) disembodied internet. It’s so easy for me to understand the value to you of a warm, friendly and functional being occupying the spare bedroom for a few weeks and the pluck and effort required to kick-start isolation, such a weird and wearing psychological task.

  3. amba12 said,

    Thank you for responding — I was feeling kinda lonely here, too!

    It’s hard to describe, isn’t it, the profound alienness and unfamiliarity of the “normal” when you have lived one of these lives for a long time. It really does make a gulf between you and the people living “out there.” Part of the gulf is that people who haven’t lived it are so horrified at the thought of having to live this way — they can’t imagine enduring it, the apparent deprivation of so much they regard as the substance of life. Maybe it would be easier for them if they could believe how normal one can feel in the center of this life. Maybe one actually is not (and the feeling normal is proof of it), but still — we have feeling normal in common.

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