Sometime I wonder…

Posted by on Jan 28, 2018 in Blog | 1 comment

When you die

By the second year of our being together I once again made peace with my mortality. I’d done it first at age 11 in Santa Fe when I understood that death’s sting was not in dying which is pretty much like waking up from a chaotic dream, but in others dying. I cried because those I loved would die and in my agony came an understanding. This freed me up to play Russian roulette with all chambers loaded. I was a daffy kid all charged up on the creative energy of what would be later identified as attention problems. Back then it was thought of as mental retardation and not as a broader, faster more imaginative way of perception, so I was free. No one expected anything of me so when I did deliver it was such a surprise I was forgiven my trespasses over and over and over. Except by Marilyn. She has a cut-off point.

Marilyn out of the blue would say, When you’re dead… Or, When you die… Not If, or sometime down the road when you die. The way it sounded to me was that I was a lucky guy if I made it to dinnertime. It bothers me she thinks this way. It’s as if she doesn’t trust me to stay around mortally. I knew then and I know now that I will never die but that my mortality is going to wear thin sometime in my 80’s or 90’ but I don’t need updates all the time, her penciling in things to do a few days away because I might cack off. Sure, she says to Mike on the phone, send Alex over for the weekend, but Grandpa might not be with us by then.

But as a slacker the chances are better for me making it to really old age than her, a Schaefian woman who does too much, has always done too much and will forever do too much, which to her is barely enough.

I’d tell her, You’re programming me to predecease you. How come? She’d say that women live longer than men, it’s statistics is all. Marilyn took a statistics course in college and has been in love with the process ever since. I make up statistics to win arguments, and she reveres them as truth and worships them like a baby does a breast. She memorizes statistics. Back in that class 50 years ago there was this one particular statistic that gave her comfort: Women live longer than men. This was based on women staying at home with the children more than now and culturally disallowed from being as ambitious and driven as male counterparts. I don’t think she has upgraded that statistic, but even if she has and it remains true why does she keep bringing it up? I tried doing the same with her so she’d know how it felt but she paid no attention. She knew I didn’t have the statistics. The figures have already buried me.

I’ll say But, sweetheart, I know men who outlived their wives and she’ll say Name one. I’ll say longevity rules in my family and that we all live into our 90’s, and she says yes but my mother died relatively young and I say 86 is not relatively young and that she smoked and drank for four people and ate sweet and fatty foods and never exercised beyond the bed. Marilyn’s blood pressure is so high there’s smoke coming out her ears, and she swills milk like a newborn calf, she’s on her feet fifteen hours a day and if she wants some statistics for the expected lifespan of someone like that I can find some real ones in reputable sources like the AMA Journal and Readers Digest. She isn’t listening, I lost her on Yes but… She says ‘When you die I will have the RV to live in.’

Why do I have to die for her to live in the RV? It’s not that she is marking my death in her daily reminder book, which she can’t find anyway, it is simply a matter of fact that I will die a lot sooner than her and I may as well get used to it and live fully until that time comes in a few hours. That irked me when she said it to me our first year together, and it still does 26 years later. She loves my response, the voice going up a few octaves, eyes bulging and my full focus on her.

Maybe as my guardian angel she wants me to feel my life isn’t open ended that much any more and sooner or later if I want to accomplish anything I will have to start getting serious and do some sustained work. It bothers her I’ve had it easy all my life, things just running to me in abundance while she’s struggled for everything she has and taken responsibility for everyone around her while I leapt into and out of relationships at will, never cultivating any of the moral assets a human being must live by. At least live by to qualify as being Minnesotan and not just a self-serving ageing juvenile delinquent Santa Fe toad with charm, good looks and a killer smile as a moral substitute

If I die… Of course she will have the RV to live in. And the house. I mean she has an insurance policy on me and has for 14 years, I may be worth more dead than alive to her at this point so it’s not as if she will be out on the street if I decide to buy the farm. And she knows this, at least part of her does. The Vow-of-Poverty part of her does not. It doesn’t even know about the RV or the insurance policy or the equity in this house. The VOP part of her talks of moving into Sister Virginia’s tiny room off the Priory campus when I die and they will eat hardtack, sip water they pump from the well a mile away and carry in a wooden pail to the cell, and sleep wedged into corners. I think she really misses that life and wants to get back to it, the sooner the better. She was purely adored and revered by the nuns and prioresses, priests, bishops, the children and adults she taught and the teachers who taught her. She brought light and joy to their lives. That’s my observation, not hers. She longs to get back to that life but to do so, choke, gasp, I must die. It’s just a feeling thing. She loves me and doesn’t really and truly want me dead, but if I follow her fifty-year-old statistics she could get back to the best part of her life pretty soon.

I asked her What if I don’t die first, you know? What if you die first, huh? She smiled sadly: Then you will be up the creek.

Can that be true? Am I a kind of ventriloquist dummy needing someone’s guiding hand up inside my head and heart to make me alive?

I want to be buried in the vacant lot next door to us, if vacant lots have doors. It is the only one along Riverview and is between Paul’s and us. Deer use it as a miniforest when they swim over from the island. Wild turkeys browse there, nest in the cellar of a small house that burned down long ago. In summer it is thick with bush and raspberry bramble and volunteer elm and ancient apple trees trying for a come-back.

Once when Marilyn was especially intense about when I die I told her I wanted to be cremated and my ashes emptied into the Mississippi, but I’ve grown to love this home and neighborhood so much I want to stay here, at least to seed my carbon atoms as a sort of magnetic homing device for my spirit to find its way to visit and maybe throw a haunt or two into whoever is living in here then. Marilyn will either be in the RV or the monastic cell she’ll share with Sister Virginia. When we first moved in I saw the small dark figure of a woman in the hallway a few times, peripherally.

What I like about being buried or dusted from an urn in the vacant lot is keeping my death informal, no polished stone with a formal thumbnail of who I was and when I was. I will grow things for the turkeys and deer and mice and groundhogs to eat and get to know them from another perspective, without words and hearsay to color my direct experience of them. I have spent all my life observing from an educated, downloaded empirical software perspective that has made me more like a harnessed buggy horse with blinders directed by a whip and road I had no say in designing or destining. My pure spirit leaves all this behind when I die and I get to experience life without learned prejudices. I won’t see the mice as potential invaders of my home in winter or the cats as killers of songbirds or the turkeys as the last of the wild genesis now cloned for my Christmas table. The deer will not be venison, or an extraordinary glimpse of the wild, they will be deer people with their own language, loves, plays and dreams, their own myths and culture and invisible libraries of learning. And when people using the river trail wander into my vacant lot they will feel me watching them and those with some paranormal sensitivity could possibly see a bright pinpoint of light peripherally and be aware of my presence.

John Drummond, who owns the lot, wanted to build there, sometimes comes by in his wheelchair to visit the grounds he had hoped to have his dream house on until the Fridley City Hall added some restrictions that ended that. Marilyn and I talked about buying it some day when we get rich and turning it into a park for everyone, though with insurance prohibitions we’d have to keep it officially as our extended yard, a Japanese garden of sorts with winding paths and lots of flowers and cultivated gnarled trees with a few stone benches no one could fall off or stumble over even if they tried. We will have passive seat restraints installed on the benches that come about your lap when you sit and lift you to standing when you begin to get up.

We could look out over it from the second story addition I am planning for Marilyn with her office and its deck overlooking the vacant lot garden, with a small private chapel on the south side and a sunny greenroom in between with a broad deck overlooking the Mississippi. She can sit and watch the birds and squirrels and gone-wild cats and field mice, as she loves to now from the downstairs porch. And when I’m gone, and before she moves to Virginia’s cell, she will be able to look at the special consecrated plot of angel trumpets where she planted me and remember what a terrific guy I was and miss me mightily. Maybe she’ll murmur with fond love, I told you so.


One Comment

  1. beautiful! glad you spit it out. now you can live today with no past.
    i love you. thanks for including the groundhogs. i love marilyn.