Friday, July 1, 2016

#SOL16: What Love Makes


In Elizabeth Alexander's memoir, The Light of the World, she chronicles the death of her husband and the aftermath. She observes, "In all marriages there is struggle and ours was no different in that regard. But we always came to the other shore, dusted off, and said, There you are, my love" (p. 76). That resonated with me as so many people comment that Rob and I had such a wonderful marriage and we did.  But it was not a marriage without struggle, nor was it one in which we did not seek that other shore. There's a blessing to seeking the other shore so repeatedly. I realize now that Rob helped me to know love--a love that was so generous as it was flawed. It is that knowledge of love and the love itself that heals me today.

Feeling love does not mean that I am not without sorrow. Sorrow is its own animal and it too resides within. Yesterday, I was reminded of the depth of sorrow I feel.  I was in the town where Devon went to elementary school--years that seem so far away now.  We were all so impossibly young and there were so many memories of the three of us. As I drove home I felt pain, realizing that by the time Devon would leave elementary school, Rob would have less than 7 years left to live. 7 years seems cruel. By the time I arrived home I felt cried out as if I simply had exhausted all the tears my eyes could produce and sorrow caped me like day-after hangover.  Devon asked how I was and I told him I was missing his dad.

It hurts so that he isn't here anymore, I said to him. We are making new memories without him. Like you driving. He didn't see that and he would have wanted to.
But Dad's in us. Wherever we go, wherever we are he's here because we will always carry a part of him. How could we not?
You sound like him now.  He would have said something similar.


Contemplative (CitraSolv, NY Times Magazine, pencil, digital remix)
After Rob died, it felt as if a part of me was gone, vanished, no more. It felt like a giant hole that would never heal, never close.  Perspectives matter so and perhaps that is what time best gives us--the capacity to see other, to recast the present, to understand our lives differently. What once was a hollow place is now more window--allowing me to experience the world in ways I simply had not the means to do before.  For how could I be hollow?  I realized my son is correct. We do carry his dad within us, for he helped to form each of us. He did so simply by loving us and sharing himself with us.


Last night I was working with CitraSolv to dissolve a few pages from  an old New York Times magazine. I wanted to see what might be revealed as the ink bled across the pages and as I manipulated the ink. As I studied the pages, one caught my eye. I began to see a scene emerge of a village of houses and a space one might walk to and through--a contemplative space.  I played with the ink, before photographing it and digitally remixing it further. I worked for several hours and throughout it all I had a sense of Rob's presence. So often he would observe me while I worked and he would want to know not only what I was working on, but also how I was making the piece of art. Show me how to do that, he would ask.


Today the house smells like oranges--a result of my use of CitraSolv. If Rob were here the smell of espresso might also be in the air.  For nearly 29 years, Rob Cohen helped me to make a life--a life we shared so deeply. And though he is gone from the Earth, he is still present in my life through his son and the countless memories I have of the times we were together. I see him in most everything Dev and I do. I hear him in the quiet logic of his son's words, the laughter of a friend, an inquiry from a neighbor. I feel him each time the lone cardinal who seems to have taken up residence wings across our yard. There you are my love. There you are.


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