Elegant Denial

I tossed out a bottle of his vitamins today.

I puzzle myself with the things I have kept all this time.  As if a bottle of Men’s Health One-a-Day could be a meaningful trace to hold his spot on the shelf.

(Ironically, they expired two years before he did.)

The bath mats need replaced.  They are thin and threadbare in spots.  But we chose them together, so they’re still in the bathroom, looking less than attractive.

What will I do when there is nothing left of him to discover, to dispose of, even if it’s not meant to file away and keep?

And so I hold on to pesky little peccadillos, like vitamins and bath mats.

Alongside these happenings, I baked a cake and bought new picture frames.  It is this blend – catch and relase, remember and set free, take vitamins and make desserts –  that strings together the day after day.

* * *

The buzzer on the stove sounded.  I took the pie out and put it on a cooling rack, closed my eyes, and leaned into the smell.  Then I headed upstairs to find something to wear tonight.  I would bathe, rest, dress, and go to search out the company of others, bearing the gift of fruit in pastry.  What did we do here but pull ourselves along in this fashion?  Never mind our various life circumstances, what I believed was that we had all been flung into the water without having been taught to swim.  We ate, we slept, we formed our kaleidoscopic relationships and marched ever forward.  We licked chocolate from our fingers.  We arranged flowers in vases.  We inspected our backsides when we tried on new clothes.  We gave ourselves over to art.  We elected officials and complained.  We stood up for home runs.  We marked life passages in ceremonies we attended with impatience and pride.  We reached out for new love when what we had died, confessing our unworthiness, confessing our great need.  We felt at times that perhaps we really were visitors from another planet.  We occasionally wondered if it was true that each of us was making everything up.  But this was a wobbly saucer; this was thinking we could not endure; we went back to our elegant denial of unbreachable isolation, to refusing the lesson of being born alone and dying that way, too.  We went back to loving, to eating, to sleeping, to marching and marching and marching along.

~ Elizabeth Berg, A Year of Pleasures

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3 thoughts on “Elegant Denial

  1. Love means sometimes holding on to things that make no sense to others but perfect sense to ourselves. My dearest Grandpa passed in 1994 and I have a can of his Progresso Ham and Pea soup in my cupboard. I’ve long since marked NO in sharpie on the top and bottom lest someone attempt to eat it. It reminds me sporadically of his love and his charm and his integrity when I’m doing something as mundane as trying to find a can of beans or corn for supper.

    I also have his watch. A well-worn, cracked-but-still-runs timepiece that sits in the junk drawer right next to Chapstick. I use that lip balm numerous times each week. As above, I remember the hard work my Gramp put into life, often reminding me that, “Nothing comes for free – you have to EARN it.”

    Gosh how I loved that man. <3 And I'm glad to still have his ham soup.

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