Thursday, February 28, 2019


In the little Town of Mayberry, Brooklyn Heights, I have some dear old friends, many "hey how about this crazy weather, it's the warmin'" first-name-basis longtime acquaintances (who know little about the actual me), and in between these two, a number of what I think of as Street Chat Relationships.  These are the kind of weird ones where we know a lot about each other, always stop to talk, and the talks can get rather lengthy and even meaningful, within the limited scope of setting.

I have a particularly congenial Street Chat Relationship with the lovely mother of a boy in Ella's class, who lives across the street from me.  Over the last decade, we've had many (at times daily) exchanges: about our children (she really spilled the tea on her son throughout his early adolescence! That poor boy, his frailties laid bare for me, sotto voce!), our families (oy vey, our families!), our Judaism, tips on planning our kids' b'nai mitzvot festivities.  We laughed about our dogs' misbehaviors, lamented the shortcomings of the school math curriculum, shared stories of growing up in Brooklyn.

I ran into her walking her dog, the very day after I'd helplessly watched Alex die so suddenly, right in front of me.  I was still in shock, literal body-brain shock.  I was inside-out and quite crazy with the feelings that come before the grief sets in.  The email had already gone out to the high school with the news, and she approached me and asked how I was.  I'm sure she was immediately sorry she'd asked such an open-ended question, because I proceeded to tell her how I was, or rather, how it was.  I dimly remember telling her in a weird possibly smiling conversational tone, "oh it was terrible, he dropped dead just dropped dead, I mean literally fell down and died, right there right in front of me, one minute hanging out happily, the next minute on the floor dying, then the minute after that, dead!" I saw her sympathy smile freeze, and I knew I should stop talking.  I had reached out and grabbed her hand from the other side of the veil, and with my own clammy undead widow's hand, tried to pull her down into the intimate corruption of the grave.

I imagine myself now as a sort of ghoul in a human suit, walking the streets of my neighborhood.  The reek of body horror and fear and death is on me and in me.

I saw her this morning, halfway down the block, her golden lab in tow.  She raised her hand in greeting, then turned away, then walked away, then broke into a little trot, and disappeared fast around the corner.


Pat said...

Don't fret. Not everyone can rise to the occasion. You can decide if you like her enough to make allowances or not. Nothing to reproach yourself about.

savannah said...

This is one of those times when we can all say, "It's not YOU, it's her." Seriously, right now people will be fighting their own fears about mortality when they see you, honey, and that is sooooo not your issue. As Pat said, you decide if you like her enough to make allowances or not. There are truly only two people you need concern yourself with right now and that's you and Ella. You have my heart, Leah. xoxo

Karen ^..^ said...

Some people just cannot handle things like this. They live in their safe little worlds, and don't have the experience with the horrors of grief to be able to speak to someone who has recently suffered such a traumatic loss. In some ways, those of us who write to you, are more fortunate. We have time to read what you have written, process it, and formulate as sensitive a response as we can. That said, if you came up to me on the street, and we were neighbors for a long time, I'd want to be there for you in every sense of the word, despite what I've heard. But there are those of us who can, and those who cannot handle that. In the meantime, don't feel any way one way or another, her reaction. That says way, way more about her than it does you. When she's suffered a loss of the magnitude that you have (and she will; we all do) she will understand. As for what you should worry about? Not a neighbor's reaction to your raw shock at what had just befallen your family. She's a bit of a weakling, in my estimation.

Ponita in Real Life said...

What a compassionate, understanding human would have done at that moment that you grasped her hand would have been to wrap you in a big warm hug of comfort. No words need to be said, except perhaps 'I am so sorry for your loss', or 'I am here anytime you need me to be', or 'oh honey, my heart breaks for you and Ella'. THAT is how it should be, anytime one of us has suffered such a loss as yours, but humans are fearful creatures, unsure of what is the right thing to do, or the right thing to say, so they run away in horror. But it is not, I repeat, it is NOT YOU. They are the ones who can't cope with your grief, so it is their problem. All I know is I would have hugged you tight and held on as you wept. Because I did just that a couple of months ago when someone I work with had suffered a loss such as yours. Because I know the grief you feel and the loneliness you have as people back away. But know that there are many here, and on fb, who care deeply for you, who are wrapping you in that big hug, virtual though it is. xoxo

Amanda Makes said...

Oh Leah, it would be funny if it wasn’t so bloody awful. Sadly, you’ll get used to this. But there are shining people out there who CAN hear us and not run. People who will just take you in their arms and listen and comfort. After 2 years of this, I’m learning to not give a ****!
Your beautiful writing sums up perfectly what I haven’t been able to since Jenny died. Yes...that’s exactly how it is. I wish I was nearer and could just hold your hands and listen xxxxx