Last week, I started taking a French class.
I’ve always wanted to learn French. A thousand years ago, I went to college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I transferred there as a sophomore and didn’t have the option of preregistering for classes beforehand.
During the normal registration period, I signed up for the classes I needed. If one was unavailable, I had to start over and rebuild my schedule from scratch, trying to fit the classes together like a Tetris puzzle. I’d already done this twice, which meant running around the entire campus, from department to department, getting approval for admittance.
Last week, on the first anniversary of my son’s death, I took a little trip.
I flew to Kansas City to visit friends. They showed me warm hospitality and took me on a tour of a place that I’ve wanted to visit for a long time, Unity Village.
I haven’t written out a formal bucket list, but if I had done it, “Visit Unity Village” would have been on it. Their gardens, labyrinth, and nature trails offer tranquility. Their five chapels offer peace. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be on that day.
My son, Phillip, took this photo when he visited me in New York, back in 2009.
Today marks the first anniversary of his death. Over the past year, I’ve discovered many things about grief and about how awkward giving and receiving condolences can be.
People offer condolences and I reply, “Thank you.” People ask how I’m doing and I answer, “Fine.” Then, there’s that hush because…where do you go from there? Do I just carry on and start talking about the weather? A class I’m taking? My grandkids? Oops, I’ll never have any grandkids. So many taboo subjects now. Touchy, delicate subjects where there used to be none.
I popped into church today. Just stopped in, as I’ve often done over the past five years. I’m not catholic, but I like to sit and look at the statue of the Virgin Mary at the Basilica de la Merced in downtown Santiago.
It’s cool and peaceful inside, painted to resemble pink marble. There’s a center aisle and the pews are lined up on either side, in two sections. before and after the hanging pulpit.
Behind the altar, a statue of the Virgin Mary is set into a niche with a royal blue background. She’s wearing a flowing, white cape and a silver crown.
Right, it’s been a month since Phillip passed away. Four short weeks that feel like a lifetime. I’ve had lots of sympathy, condolences, notes, calls, offers of food, help, or companionship.
My friends, both Chilean and gringo, have rallied around, watched over me, and listened to my long-winded stories about Phillip, family, and everything in between. Mostly, I’ve just needed to talk about it. Whatever, “it” is. I am so grateful for their willing ears.
It’s been a strange time. I’ve had almost no energy. It’s slowly coming back, but very slowly. In a country where the party begins at 10pm, I’ve often been in bed, and asleep, by 9pm. I can’t make myself care about what I might be missing.