FIGHTING KARMAI've just finished reading C.S. Lewis' A GRIEF OBSERVED, which a friend recommended after news of my brother's death. I had to skim some (painful) sections. It's not been that long since Glenn died....
Lewis wrote this book in response to his wife's death. In the middle of the book, Lewis writes, "For the first time, I have looked back and read these notes. They appall me. From the way I've been talking anyone would think that H's death mattered chiefly for its effect on myself."
Yup. I'd begun a private blog (shared with a handful of close writer-friends) about the effect of Glenn's death. At least according to some friends' responses, I actually wrote some "good" stuff. But I deleted it when I thought that its existence was making me objectify Glenn's death into fodder for my writing.
I continue to reflect on Glenn's death. And I see that the tendency to objectify is facilitated by how he and I had grown apart in the past two decades by virtue of us living in different states.
During his funeral, a few of his friends spoke about him. I learned things I hadn't known about my brother. Good things. Great things. I regret I never came to know or witness the greatness of which he had been capable. Nowadays, whenever I think of Glenn, I keep returning to a particular memory from our shared childhood -- and I crumple a little, too, over how it bespeaks again how our relationship seemed not to have progressed much beyond that nostalgic stage:
I am five and Glenn is three. I had just learned how to disect a fish head. The most delicious parts of a fish are in its head: the cheeks, the membranes surrounding the eyes, and best of all, the brain.
We are seated on the porch of my grandmother's house, along with our first cousin Henry who is about Glenn's age. I am dissecting fish heads. And I would eat some of the yummy innards, then I would give some to Henry. But I keep teasing Glenn, holding back the fish parts, pretending to give to him before quickly putting it into Henry's eagerly open mouth, or mine. After ten passes, Glenn begins to cry.
So I relent, but with much satisfaction, and finally I let him lick some of the fish parts from my fingers. He loves it. His tears swiftly evaporate and his eyes regain their sparkle. He asks for more.
I've been feeling awful over that incident since Glenn's death.
As a toddler, Glenn possessed a seemingly oversized and very round head. When he cried, it disturbed the symmetry of the perfect circle.
How do you grieve someone you've ended up not knowing very well? I focus on the love that I know was genuine between us. But I detest how that love has turned abstract. And how our relationship got sacrificed by a deeper family turmoil not caused by him, and about which I never want to write. Because articulation can deepen reality.
the steel handcuffs
of an aftermath?