Posted by: estheramy | May 25, 2012

At Esther’s Casa

On a Friday evening (I don’t keep track of dates like I should) I had arrived at Esther’s house, and Esther greeted me at the door saying, “Sorry, Mom, I have to work for awhile….”  Esther works more hours than anybody I know, possibly as many hours as President Obama or a C.E.O. of a major company, possibly eighteen hours a day.  The house was silent, as my grandkids were at school.  On the ride over, I’d been snacking on some nut & fruit mix, and felt something wedged between my two front teeth.  I glanced in the mirror.  Orange-papaya peel?  Knowing that Esther is bothered by my having “stuff” in my teeth. I flew up the staircase to the upstairs bathroom, to dislodge the “stuff.” 

From behind Esther and her “hubby”‘s closed doors, I heard wailing.

Now, in the present moment, I’m imagining Hubby must have been saying, “You have to tell her!” but at that moment, not hearing their actual conversation, I was thinking, “Whatever is the matter?”

I’d never heard Esther cry out in a heart-wrenching, gut-wrenching voice before… Never!  

I’m imaging her having said, “I can’t…..”

Their voices, hers a rising crescendo, his one of steadily rising insistence, was at least one of marital dialogue, instead of Esther screaming at Hubby and, Hubby, defeated, slouching away in silence with a withered expression on his face.  (Sorry Hubby; forgive me!) I could not bring myself to tiptoe to their bedroom doors and eaves drop,  but I admit it, I was tempted.  Immobile, I stood there in the hallway.

“Divorce?” I was thinking.  They’d always had a tumultuous marriage, one of those contentious relationships that Elizabeth Gilbert described as a marriage style that she and Felipe would never have to weather, since, she alleged in “Committed” that she and Felipe were peace loving, rather than contentious.  Coincidentally, Esther’s namesake (my Grandma Esther) and my Grandpa Louie used to bicker, quarrel, carp endlessly at each other.  I fantasize (I’m embarrassed) that I fantasize that such couples’ whose marital style is one of fighting, sparring–resolve their arguments with torrid sex.  I, myself and my hubby, used to “fight like cat and dogs” (by the way, the travel guide cautions against petting domestic animals, even cats and dogs) but unfortunately, as we get older, without the bonus (the boner; sorry honey!)

My next thought was that Esther was having a business problem, which has happened before, because her business is so complicated and full of legal quandries but which, I assure you, she has successfully resolved 100% of the time. Going back downstairs, feeling stunned from hearing Esther’s plaintive wail, I remembered advice given to me by two friends–(In Yiddish, there’s a saying:  “When two people say ‘drunk’ it’s time to go to sleep” meaning, when there’s a consensus, usually there’s some truth in the accord, a sentiment akin to “truth in numbers.”)  The advice was to wait.  Or as Kabbalah liturgy would advocate–“Don’t be Reactive.”  Allow some space between a disturbing incident that occurs or disturbing words hailed at you, and your reaction, or retort.  Somewhere I have a card from the Kabalah Center in one of my 5 or 6 wallets (I am the most disorganized person I’ve ever “known” though I’m discovering at this stage in my life that I don’t know myself as well as I thought. For one, after reading two blogs I’ve written, but not yet posted, I’m not as nice, as good as I’ve previously thought myself to be, and more alarming, not as non-judgmental and non-critical as I thought.  “In Other Words” (the name of a song) I’m not the…Gootashimmes? there’s a Yiddish expression meaning a good soul, a doer of good deeds? for which I’ve prided myself. I was so horrified reading what was indisputedly my own handwriting that I am at the present moment having serious doubts–second thoughts, third thoughts? (am I second guessing myself?) about even posting those two blog postings.  Three blog postings?

So, to get on with “the story” (I can visualize Esther, who is often impatient at my long convoluted “stories” gesturing impatiently, “Come on, come on!  Would you get to the point, already, Mom?”  Or, as my husband says, “Get to the point!  I have a plane to catch.”

And so do I.  Eeeeeek, I’m freaking out.  10 days!

So that Friday evening, I decided to wait.  To wait for Esther to tell me what was going on.  But, that evening, it wasn’t happening.  I felt a pall in the house.  The children seemed oblivious to anything being “wrong” and we, the children, played together as usual–I am a child at heart, an “attribute” which Esther finds annoying at times, and who can blame her, she has two children and doesn’t need a mother who often is clueless as a …five year old? about the workings of the world. Esther made dinner, quesdillas? and Hubby retreated to the basement to watch hockey.  I say “retreated” because their fiery dynamics (Esther’s and Hubby’s) often erupt when I’m visiting though I can’t think of anything I do to precipitate an argument or fan the flames of an existing one; I’m a peaceable person like I’ve said before.  But, Esther has a temper that I’ve told her I attribute to her Irish grandmother (my ex’s mother).  Stereotyping? I’m guilty as charged.

I was resolved to hold steady, not deviate from my chosen course.

The next morning, after Esther got the children off to school, I announced that I would walk Stanley, their maltese. (Sorry, Stanley, that I haven’t afore mentioned you!)  I was surprised when Esther said she would jooin me.  I expected her to say, course d’ rigeour, that she had to work.  Instead, Stanley and I waited for her, Stanley on leash, nibbling at the grass and sniffing around their peony bushes.

Esther came out of the house wearing a somber expression.  Her complexion had looked sallow to me lately, not a surprise as she spends so much time indoors working on her laptop.

We were sauntering toward a lake I love in their neighborhood, a wooded area at the end of the block, woods that reveal a hidden lake and a wharf.

We were almost there, when I gathered my courage.  (Because, I admit, I am often afraid of Esther’s temper.  As a child, she had temper tantrums.) “Esther, I stammered.  “Something’s wrong.  I’d like to know what’s going on.” I was leaving “an opening.”  An opening for her to decide whether she wanted to tell me.

What she said was the last thing I expected to hear.  What she said was:  “It’s back.”

I knew immediately what she meant, and on that warm day, I was (excuse the cliche’) “chilled to the bone.”I was silent.  Stunned.  “No!” I finally said.

“Yes,” she countered.  “It came back. I didn’t want to tell you, but “T” said I had to.  It’s so hard for me to tell you because I know how I would feel if I had to tell my daughter.  I will have to tell her!”  And now, writing, I’m imagining how I would have felt at 40 having to tell my mother.

I was able to do something at that moment that I seldom am able to do–seldom allow myself to do.  I cried.  I was able to cry.  I credit my psychologist for this feat.

Dr. S. has told me that the reason I am depressed all the time is because I don’t allow myself to cry.  I have a son with schizo-affective disorder who lives with me and my hubby.  He is 38.  And, my husband “has” what I consider to be a Borderline Personality Disorder.  One moment he’s nice to me, and the next, for no reason that I can fathom is mizzzerable, calling me names, and speaking to me like I’m nothing but an annoyance.  He often makes statements to me like:  “You’re like a cockroach.”  (By the way, I read in an e mail that cockroaches can live for 10 days without their heads.)  Or, “You’re like a gnat, getting under my skin.)  So, Dr. S recommended crying to alleviate my depression, a physical feeling of being seized internally by a weight.  So, I was astonished, and glad, and grateful to Dr. S., that I was able to allow the tears to flow.

We stood there–Mother and Daughter–looking at each other.

I believe that Esther, my stalwart daughter, my Warrior Woman, was also able to let a tear trickle down her cheek.

After two previous cancers, she has become Iron Woman.

“I don’t know how you’re going to deal with this,” she said.  “You might have to be in a state of denial.”

I looked at the beautiful wildness of the woods, at a yellow lab relaxing in his front yard, at the lovely gazebo behind him, heard the twittering of birds.  I will always remember this spot, I thought.  This is the site where Esther gave me the terrible news. And, I knew Esther was right, because as she’s said before to me:  “I know you.  I know you better than anyone knows you.”  She knows that “I am a person” (a phrase that Murakami uses in “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Running”and that I love) who has trouble facing reality, I am “the kind of person” who has become expert at running away. I, myself, could write a book on Running Away From Reality.  But, “then again” (“Again Then, Something” Robert Frost) we are–Esther and I are...We are running away, on June 4. to Abidiniea.  Hopefully, The Promsed Land.  And, if we don’t find a cure there, Esther and I will soldier forth, to Israel, Columbia, New York, wherever we need to go so that Esther may become a grandmother and I a great grandmother. 

“Isn’t it enough?” my psychologist asked me (when I bemoaned not having been one of the chosen ones to be “A Writer”) to be a mother, a grandmother, a wife?” But, “Being A Writer” is an occupation I’ve glorified, since reading “Charlotte’s Web” at eight.  A hard cover book I purchased at a school book fair.

“We have stories to tell,” Bill Ransom, a writer in Seattle, where my sister lives, told me.  “Will we get to tell them?” Get to tell them.I often ponder that phrase and know now what he means.  Life happens, sometimes preventing that missive.

But, today?  Today I am more than happy to be Esther’s Mother. And, Amy.  Honored to be.



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