Amy Brook Palleson

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Baby

 

The hormones made everything hazy, as if preparing me for the hinterland I was about to enter.   

 

Because my body had been making you for over seven months, gliding through the gestation of another human so effortlessly that I had no idea that the warm gush of fluid flowing down my legs was my body telling me you'd have to be born before you were ready.  

 

And as all mothers do, I pushed forward in strength lest you be burdened with shouldering my struggles, and girded myself while doctors informed me of your uncertain prognosis ("She could die; she could have neurological damage")

and nurses stuck your head five times to start your IV;

crying quietly ("We don't know what will happen; it's up to her") while even Science confirmed there was something to fear.

 

And as I shrouded my heart against your loss, the question "Why me?" drummed its punishment, the deep unfairness of what was unfolding taking over; “Why me? Why my baby?” I asked of God and the Universe as the healthy babies went home and, in fear and grief, I shamefully wondered whether I should even let myself love you.   

 

For when you feel helpless, heartbreak feels inescapable.  

 

But days passed, 

And as nurses disconnected you--tubes and cords dangling from your 4 LB body, tape anchoring them to fragile, red, transparent skin—and placed you in my arms,

The world whispered the story of a miracle, 

And gazing into your face, holding you as you fell into the dream time,

Rocking you into your new life,

I came alive to what I was doing, and I wept,

and there was no hardship,

Because in the sheltered whir of the NICU, with nurses talking, doctors hustling, monitors beeping,

tingling as I bottle-fed you food made from my own breasts, my body vibrated in attunement with a benevolent Universe,

 

For when your delicate fingers grasped my own you told me that we could always be One, 

forever reaching for one another across all possibility, 

 

And in the grace of eternity, Living all moments at once, I did not know why I deserved this beautiful moment, and asking “Why me?” I cried quietly, for even if I only got to hold you for

one second, I knew there was no amount of fear that could stop me from loving you,

 

And my soul danced in gratitude at the gift God had given me. 

 

Recent Comments
Rosy Cole
Wonderful, Amy! And what your post points up so clearly is that at either end of the spectrum of our experiences, whether in trage... Read More
Saturday, 14 May 2016 12:25
Amy Brook Palleson
Exactly, Rosy! You hit it on the head. Before Julia (the subject of this post) was born, I heard some guy on TV talking about an... Read More
Saturday, 14 May 2016 15:27
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Beauty

And I had just been telling him about my personal philosophy, confessing myself to be a sweet spinner of hopes that all things of pain morph into something beautiful

Relaying the story about my mother who stood stationary in the muck of Vile, damning us to a tomb of "did she ever really love us?"

And expressed to him that all stories keep moving on, even the hard ones, and that my Entirety believes that there is always something beautiful offered amid the putrid abyss if only time can pass and the hurt can lay down to rest with the wonder of the human soul,

to create something new out of the temporary quiet of Just-Beingness.

And he calls me a hippie
and I tenderly scrape food from his beard. And want to do so, Forever.

Then--as if by prophecy—there is yet more to endure, this broken man just too broken to love me,  and--later--as I imagine Beethoven and his 9th symphonic work of magic, I attempt to cry the heartbreak out of my body and think to myself "it was all nothing", my love for him, just my mind making music in a soundless empty room, like Beethoven, deaf to the truth and playing inside his own head the fantasy of what his music sounded like, and then in darkness and light, I begin to live the sadness of an end from which there is nothing to save, my heart now pierced by being unloved and by the absence of even the hope of love, and my sleep is peppered with grief and my gut aches from whimpering, and I'm a stranger, and not even my dreams have wondered whether beauty was there.

But in the clear light of day, there is breath in the air, cool and scented of earth,

And the sun—she, the beautiful star—remains steady, as our planet races through its story, living its own dark and light and incomparable savagery, whispering to us all

"And what of Beauty? Can She be spared?"

Then this thing that feels bigger than heartbreak implodes, and my mind goes to my sister and I crying at her kitchen table, and my words, “it isn’t that she doesn’t love us; it’s just that she can’t even see us through her own pain”

And somehow
in that clear dawn of another day, I start to come back, listening to my story created with music old and new,
and working hard until the day is dark,

I return home to wagging tails and purring cats, and collapse on a kitchen chair in both grief and gratitude, for even in the pain of that day I had remembered to leave a light on for them,

Then everything triggers, and doubled-over and with quaking voice, I sob and with catching breath, promise over and over that I would try with every bit of my soul to make it so that nothing in this world should ever feel unloved again,

And Kiki flops at my feet and Carmela shuffles around, wagging her tail, And I kiss them and they walk away, and I stand there, In pain yet holding space in my heart for Love,

And suddenly realize that the story has moved on and that the beautiful thing that this hardship created
is me.

Recent Comments
Jane Phillipson Wilson
Breathtaking, Amy.
Wednesday, 27 April 2016 12:34
Amy Brook Palleson
Thank you so much, Jane. What a weird journey life is; I'm glad you've been part of mine.
Wednesday, 27 April 2016 15:01
Barbara Froman
"Can't see through her own pain..." This really rang true for me, Amy. It came as a startling moment of revelation about my mother... Read More
Wednesday, 27 April 2016 19:50
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5 Comments

Closure

And it was a time of great vulnerability.  But I didn't know it then.


Because at age 20, away at college, and in love with the future, I couldn't see anything but hope and sex and an unwavering commitment to idealism and reverie.



So we danced around reality—he and I—and played family in the rental in Davis, walking my dogs, having coffee and drinking Bailey’s—becoming grown-ups—playing Scrabble while blasting Led Zeppelin 4, and spending lazy Saturdays listening to the SF Giants game on AM radio, with him working on his 1967 Mercury Cougar in homemade t-shirts satirizing society (“I DON’T work out at Golds’ Gym” or “I’m High On Crack”). Living a love story.



For it was love, even when seen in the shade of the past, and we were perfectly timed, walking in the dreamland of youth towards a world free from our dysfunctional families—his kind-hearted dad killing himself with alcohol, my family shattering almost the very minute we met--living life within a self-propelled sweetness that our families hadn't modeled, him leaving funny poems on my pillow in the morning (“your eyes are the color of pond algae”) and me writing my first name alongside his last in my Cognitive Psychology notebook.



Then October 17, 1989, the earthquake stirred what I’d been pushing away. A life spent tiptoeing around family anger, protecting what I thought would last forever until the inevitable implosion when I'd left for college--dad crying in the armchair, mom telling me not to come home anymore—and resulting hinterland as dad moved out, and mom became unstable, making Alex do the Ouija board until that day Alex snapped and--petrified of what would happen should mom’s heart break--I tried to fix things but even the earth knew it was too late, and tossed the house down the hill, making everything cockeyed and wobbly, and smelling of the remnants of a dead family, rotting food from the tipped fridge, moldy water, smashed perfume bottles, the beloved Angel fish lying dead on the floor.



And it was done. And my guarded heart could not come back from it. And in the breakups aftermath, he cried—tears on the lashes of lovely hazel-blue eyes—and asked me why I had to leave, believing I guess that I would actually have an answer even though I didn’t know anything, and wouldn’t, not for 27 years. THIS year.



Because for so many years I could not stop thoughts of him, and danced around a feeling of grief for what I’d turned away from—dreaming of him at night--and struggling with near-crippling confusion at being irrevocably chained to an ever-distant past, spending my marriage in violent lust for the intimate connection that he and I had as we huddled together in warmth and humor to face the world’s abuse.



For it was magic. Truly. That time. And remains so, delivering us both as it did from trauma of our childhoods and into the safety of another experience, wherein two tender-souls stepped gingerly into love and happiness, and witnessed in each other soul-affirming kindness, tentatively allowing ourselves to believe in things that we’d never before personally experienced, and embracing a naivete and sweetness so seductive that at 47 years of age I can taste and smell the impossible magic that it was.



And even in the shadow of 27 years of confusion, and the reflection of a million lifetimes, I know now that he was worth everything. All the pain and all the confusion. Because all these years later, I see through the darkness, and know exactly why he came into my life, and in the still quiet of the night, as I dream of another, I can open my heart and love beyond measure. For he loved me and I loved him, and in reflecting goodness back to one another, we walked together through the shadows of grief.



And on this, his birthday—February 28, his 48th--I just wanted to say:

 

 

Happy Birthday, Steve. You were a safe place in a terrible storm. Thank you—my beautiful friend--for showing me how to love myself.

Recent Comments
Virginia M Macasaet
Beautiful Amy!!! Deep heartfelt writing and sharing, thank you. Full circle! Bless your journey, bless his!
Monday, 29 February 2016 23:29
Amy Brook Palleson
Yes, yes, Rina!! Bless HIS journey, he of the kindest heart. I will not reveal more lest he himself read these comments but I h... Read More
Tuesday, 01 March 2016 00:16
Katherine Gregor
Sone people come into our lives as precious gifts that we treasure long after our paths diverge. What a wonderful friend and teac... Read More
Tuesday, 01 March 2016 16:48
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Zoe

So I’m sobbing by the side of the street just west of her house, remembering

 

that late night I drove her home and we saw the streets and businesses flood.  The windshield was submerged and the world inundated, and we all leaned forward in our seats to better view the spectacle, and there was a sweetness in the car.  The two older girls--Zoe and my daughter, Julia—laughed about work stuff, and my younger daughter fangirled over Zoe’s husky voice and vibrant kindness, and as Nature humbled us together, we lived in this weird moment of an impeccable Now—weary-travelers united, safe and warm; almost grateful for the storm’s ferocity--and when we get to her house, she dashed out of the car and I watched her retreat, and could see exhilaration as she ran through the squall towards her front door.  Like she was a kid again. 

 

And I know pain and desperation, so, most days when I pass their house, I utter a blessing for them, because she’s 16, in high school, and rides her bike (in all weather)—2 miles to school, 1 to work, then 2 back home—to a full-time job because her mom struggles with alcoholism and often needs money for rent, and her deadbeat dad yells at her for being irresponsible and she can barely keep up with her schoolwork, and the thing that makes her totally freak out was the time her mom couldn’t pay court costs and she feared her little brother would be taken away because the thing that makes Zoe the happiest in the world is when her little brother runs and jumps into her arms when she comes home for the night. 

 

And most days I feel hopeless to help them, so I say the blessing (my wish) as I quickly pass, hoping to the God or the Universe or whatever freaking energy is out there that they succeed, and that their hardship can be eased and lessons learned quickly, and strength acquired and anxieties culled, because I want to protect this little family, and would give anything to make it so that their struggle can subside long enough for them to craft something beautiful. 

 

Most times I pass quickly because pain is so palpable.   But not this night.    

 

This night,

 

I see the white lights of their Christmas tree sparkling through the window. And there is something there, inside me, as I pass, that makes me slow and consider my own little family’s razors edge--depression and suicide, cruelty and betrayal—culminating now in my youngest still happy and alive, and with me no longer afraid of hardship, and, all at once, I’m stopped on the street and I can’t hold it in and my breath catches in short gasps.

 

Because pushed up to the front window, curtains parted, white lights perfectly spaced and sparkling was that tree saying, “Come home to me,” and I could almost see her little brother run into her arms, and feel her mother fighting the good fight, and sense Zoe’s strength and humor, and even hear her palpable kindness as she generously chatted in the car with Julia’s younger sister.

 

And it was all just so fucking beautiful. 

 

And, alone in my car, in the dark stillness of winter, the air smelling of snow, parked to the side of the road, I covered my face with my hands and sobbed, and felt so much joy.   

 

Because hardship is potent and obvious and feels as if it will never end, but that night, next to their wood-frame house in Marmalade—reliving a moment of ironic gratitude for a rainstorm’s ferocity--I felt maybe my wish had come true, because as I sobbed in the car, my breath heaving, we all became weary-travelers, humbled together, and there was nothing more triumphant and beautiful than seeing us all try so hard to make a better life for one another. 

 

 

 

Recent Comments
Katherine Gregor
You've just made my eyes fill with tears.
Thursday, 18 February 2016 21:33
Amy Brook Palleson
And, coming from you (soulful child of the world), that means a great deal. We all see things in life that touch us, don't we? ... Read More
Monday, 22 February 2016 12:47
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2 Comments

Latest Comments

Monika Schott A rickety bridge
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Thanks, Di.
Diane Rampertshammer A rickety bridge
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Pure poetry - very evocative - you are a painter with words..Di
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Thanks for the comments. Rosy -- I look at this sort of social conversation as a healthful thing for...
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This is almost like a memory of birth, reviving those sensations, but translated in imagistic terms....
Rosy Cole Lamenting the Lost Art of Conversation
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Oh Ken, how rare that is! A gift. What a lovely sojourn in the byways and an unexpected exchange of ...

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