I wondered, would 52 be that final number, the end to my weekly reflections since losing Eitan? But there’s still more to contemplate, to be said; he’s still gone, after 53 weeks, 54…. I think I had that [hope] feeling that a year would somehow bring resolution, seems like the natural end of a chapter, there are all those books out there that trace a year, like The Year of Living Biblically, one of the few books Eitan ever bought; or Healing After Loss, a go-to-book for mourners organized by the days of the year (one I’ve found helpful); or Notes from a Maine Kitchen, seasonal recipes divided by month; or Kaddish, a year’s exploration of the mourner’s prayer by a man who lost his father, given to me by a friend, which I have yet to be able to read….
But I’m not done yet, so here I still am.
And it’s time to say once more how much I appreciate you, my friends here, reading these contemplations, getting to know Eitan a bit. I don’t want to be a downer, because he’s gone, so there is my ongoing sadness, and I feel like I’d like to wrap it all up and say, oh, I’ve moved on. But “moving on” isn’t really an option. When a relationship dies, one has to move on, because there’s no place for unrequited love to settle, so that love has to quietly dissipate, evaporate, you have to move on to grow. But my love for Eitan will always be there, and I’m better for feeling that love; it does not hold me back from also feeling joy.
I admit, though, there’s a fear now, of carrying on with life, when Eitan was not given the opportunity to live his to at least my age. I know I’m not “supposed” to feel that way, and mostly I don’t listen to that fear, but it’s there, that survivor’s guilt thing. I initially wrote that Eitan wasn’t given the opportunity to live his life to the fullest, but I realize that was incorrect. His life was too short, but he lived it very full indeed. And I know that’s how he’d want me to live mine.
Thank you, too, for thinking of Eitan on Valentine’s Day, your thoughts at 10:35a.m., leaving rocks for him in your special places. There is a comfort in knowing a moment was taking by many, at the same time, all over. I went to his park – a turkey was perched on a nearby fence – and wrote his name in Hebrew in the snow. I left a rock for him there, near a heart-shaped stone in the wall on one side of the park, and I shouted EITAN up into the trees at 10:35a.m.
Night. I float on my back in a pool in Curaçao, looking up at Orion, my favorite constellation, one I could always find from the distinctive three stars that define Orion’s belt. I’m not wearing my glasses (swimming), but can still see the stars, I somehow seem to see better in warm weather. Other constellations are there too, and it looks like a mass of stars beyond, the Milky Way perhaps, or maybe just clouds (no glasses). As happens during those few moments when I take time to really look at the stars, the night sky, I think of God. How do you do it, I wonder, make all these stars and worlds and universes? And why? And how do you listen to all of us that you’ve created?
Which leads me to those other whys that have no answer, Why Eitan? Larry? Why does my daughter get a bout of food poisoning one day into the vacation we planned as a week of respite marking a year without my son, her brother? Why so much suffering all over? The conundrum of believing in a personal God. Paradox, does it really make sense to do so? I feel what I feel, and it makes my losses more challenging, and painful.
There’s no comprehensible answer to any of these questions. The stars Are. Eitan Was. Kacha Zeh.
But I contemplate Orion’s belt, and tears flow for my lost son as I float in a pool at night in the Caribbean.
I leave rocks for Eitan all over the island. A branch of coral in the crook of a tree that shaded us by the turquoise waters of Cas Abao beach; a coral heart in the Hato Caves where slaves used to hide; a white rock in a grey basalt heart by the Shete Boka cliffs, where the cobalt waves pound foaming into the air. My son is not here, but thoughts of him are.
We walked along the path at Shete Boka, and there’s stone graffiti on both sides – previous visitors have built their names with pale stones on the grey basalt fields. At the end there’s a cliff with steps to a small rocky beach, and more names are built there. I see a large triangular outcropping; someone has placed initial rocks near one corner. I tell Shoshi I want to shape rocks into Eitan’s Hebrew name there, but she nixes the idea; it’s hot, and we want to go swim in the calmer aquamarine waters on Curaçao’s southern side.
I forgot how salty seawater is. Gives buoyancy, but coats my face with fine white crystals, like dried tears.
I’ve been thinking about crying. It does seem to be something women, girls, are more inclined to do, part of our nature, even tho I eschew such stereotypes, and always think of the Free to Be You and Me song “It’s Alright to Cry.” Before having sons, I thought, all kids start the same,, boys, girls, whatever, it’s up to us as parents to teach them. But from young ages, given the same toys, I saw such different behaviors among Gabriel, Eitan, and Shoshi. The boys had their distinctive personalities, yes, but they also had “boy” behavior that differed from their sister’s. Given a doll house, Gabriel rolled marbles and cars off the roof. Eitan folded the dolls in half at the waist and made shooting noises. Shoshi tucked all the dolls in bed.
As babies, and little kids, they all cried. But as they got older, the boys somehow “toughened.” They’d get upset, angry, annoyed, but no tears by high school.
Crying was not something that disappeared when I became a teenager. Sad movies, sure. Tears of empathy. And tears of pain – hurt feelings, and tears would come, like it or not. In arguments, at tough points in relationships. And I found those tears difficult. The pain behind them was there, but, unlike the promise of the song, the crying did not “get the sad out of” me, did not really make me “feel better.” Rather, there’d still be an ache, but my nose would be stuffed up and my eyes puffed up and red, it was hard to breath. Feh. But like it or not, it’s a way I will react when I’m sad, or frustrated, upset. Body takes over mind.
But the tears of grief, these are different tears. The tears of a year ago were raw and helpless and bereft. I just read a line in a book, probably not original, noting how there are words for kids who have lost parents, and adults who have lost spouses, but not for parents who have lost children – because it’s not supposed to happen.
“It is such a mysterious place, the land of tears,” Saint-Exupéry observes in The Little Prince, a sentence that made an impression on me decades ago when I first read it, and surfaced in my mind this year. It is also such a private place. I can go for hours thinking of Eitan, remembering, talking about him, or not, and feel calm and collected, and then there will be a moment in the day, like when I see Orion in the sky, when the grief grabs my heart in a fist and wrings out the tears – and then, I do feel better. These are not the long howling cries of fresh grief, but ever-present awareness of the hole, when I reflect, I am thinking of you and I miss you so very much, my son, and these tears leave me feeling scrubbed.
Around this time 10 years ago, minus a couple weeks, we took a family trip to Puerto Rico, in honor of Gabriel’s bar mitzvah. We had an apartment in Rincon, on a perfect beach: great waves for jumping, no undertow, just-right temperature. Eitan, Shoshi, and Gabriel would get up in the morning and play in the sand, digging, building, then jump in the ocean, then play games on the veranda, taking turns (or not) swinging in the hammock there.
And literally every place we went, the kids would get Piña Colada smoothies. Restaurants, sure. Even Arecibo, the giant radio telescope we visited – which we had all seen in the movie Contact. Halfway up the hill to the viewing platform, there was a tent and a person with a table and a blender.