Monday, December 10, 2012

Yellow Taxi

by Kathleen Bradean

Three weeks ago, my eldest daughter moved away. I expected to miss her. We've lived together over half my life, after all. I expected to feel a pang when I walked past her empty room, and to see a difference in my grocery bills. I was a little relieved that I could stop making two versions of every dish that called for mushrooms - one with for everyone else and one without just for her. And of course I expected the phone calls about how to do this and that, everyday details of running a household she took for granted because we always handled them.

What I didn't expect was this quiet, creeping sense of mourning. People move around the house now on tiptoes, or at least it sounds like that. Our usually raucous kitchen discussions are slightly subdued. Even dinner now has a weird vibe as we no longer have to juggle for space on the tiny table.

She said that after she left that we'd find out that her younger sister was the culprit behind mysterious disappearances. What we really found was a horde of hairbrushes, hairbands, scissors, books, and nail clippers strewn about her abandoned bedroom. And believe me, we're going to tease her about it, because that's what we do. We laugh. I want laughter to follow her to her new home and thrive there.

After the first week she was gone, I was feeling a little blue and even more distraught about how everyone who remained seemed to withdraw to rooms and shut the door behind them. So I asked my youngest daughter how she was doing. She was more upset than I'd realized. Given the chance to talk, she poured out a very heartfelt if slightly incoherent soliloquy about how she never realized how much she liked having her sister around, and what a good friend she was. I feel really guilty that I let us get so isolated so quickly. Now that we're talking about it, things still don't feel normal but we're adjusting into it and doing much better. After all, this wasn't a real loss, not death loss. Mel is just four hundred miles away. She's doing quite well. She even knows how to do laundry now. She's moved on the way you're supposed to.

Part of why I felt so guilty about not talking to my youngest daughter sooner is that this situation reminds me of how it was in my parent's home when I was the last child left. We also crept around each other, quiet and distant, only we never made the effort to open our doors and spend time together. We weren't that kind of family. Grief was a personal matter, a bit humiliating, not to be shared.


While the family I grew up in was all kinds of fucked on the communication front, we're making an effort, finally. My father is in early stage Alzheimer's. I'm sure my mother thinks this is the last Christmas he'll still be him, so we're coming together for her, for him, for each other. Only I'll be damned if I'll tiptoe around their house in a state of pre-mourning. I'm going to get silly with my sister and her husband in the kitchen. My mother will stand off to the side, her lips tight as they always were when we laughed too much. My father will also be a bit lost, not understanding why we no longer sit silently during dinner. Our banter may fly too fast for him to follow, because my generation and our kids are a witty bunch. We don't stand on old world ceremony, where only the papa is allowed to talk during dinner, although we used to. For once, mom and dad are going to have to join us as we are rather than us regressing back to the way it always was under their roof. We've moved on, the way we were supposed to, but they don't have to remain left behind.   


~~
Big Yellow Taxi
by Joni Mitchell

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

They took all the trees and put 'em in a tree museum
And they charged all the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now
Give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees (please!)

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Late last night the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi took away my old man away

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til it's gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

6 comments:

  1. Hey, Kathleen,

    Change is hard, even when the results are positive. When a family member leaves, the shape of the family needs time to reconfigure itself. Don't feel guilty - it's totally normal.

    And it sounds like your holiday is going to rock! Enjoy every moment with your loved ones while they're with you.

    (Oh, and Big Yellow Taxi is one of my favorite songs. Do your kids even know who Joni Mitchell is?)

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  2. Lisabet - reconfigure is a good way to put it!

    My daughters like the Hootie and the Blowfish cover of Yellow Taxi, but they seem to have these strange pockets of knowledge that pop up in conversation, so who knows if they know about Joni.

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  3. Hi Kathleen!

    I think this is one of your best posts, or at least its something I feel close to at this time in my life. Right now my kid is on a little road trip with one of his friends. He just got his drivers license. He hasn't been on a date yet which seems strange to me but I've heard that this too is different for boys his age, 19. Soon he'll find a way to be on his own and we'll have to experience what you experience. Will it be mourning?

    I also get that sense of generations changing when I read what you;ve written here. This is more true at our time than any other.

    Tanks for a great post.

    Garce

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  4. Garce - You seem to have a close relationship with your son, so you'll probably feel it. And yes, this is a real transitional part of my life. For the most part it's good and I'm all for it, but I really do miss my Mel.

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  5. Great post, Kathleen.

    I'm sure your daughter misses you too, though she might not admit it. I hope your family Christmas, with all the changed new circumstances, is a marvelously functional (as distinct from dysfunctional) experience. :)

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  6. Thanks, Jean. My daughter does admit that she misses us, probably because the magical laundry fairy doens't exist at her new house. :)

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