Friday, May 28, 2010

The language of the heart

I remember when I told my boyfriend I felt vulnerable in our relationship. Actually, I wrote the word in a note. He told me I'd spelled vulnerable incorrectly. How was I to know it had a "l" after the "u'? When I said the word, I never acknowledged that sound.

Seems as a missionary kid growing up with strange English being spoken and mixed with my own mother's made-up words and Southern phrases, I often was not sounding like a native speaker. To add to my confusion, the English bookstore in Osaka, where I bought many books, sold books printed in England. Not only did I have to deal with Japanese-English, Momisms, and Southernisms, but there was the Queen's English. Those Puffin paperbacks put "u" in so many words that when our spelling tests at Kyoto International School rolled around, I never knew what the proper spelling was for color and favorite.

I guess I was always a little off-kelter, a little lost in the crowd. At five-foot-nine with blond hair, I stood out. Literally.

Things haven't changed. While my spelling is more sound on most days (on other days I rely heavily on spellcheck), I am still vulnerable. And on days like these, my sadness surprises me.

For you see, it's been thirteen years. And after that length of time, apparently, a mother isn't supposed to miss her son anymore. Which makes me feel even more of a freak.

Here in the US, this is Memorial Day weekend, a time of celebrating with hamburgers, dunks in the pool, flags, lemonade, and retail sales.

All I can do is remember the sound of the pediatrician's voice--a real native American speaker, educated at the finest schools---telling me that my son had cancer. I remember the curtains in the family room were light blue with dots. I remember how weighty and big the phone felt in my palm. That was fourteen years ago, and yes, I recall it better than yesterday.

Some days I feel like steel, toughened by this bereavement thing. Watch out world, here I am! Look at me, I am courageous and bold and compassionate and capable. I am a survivor!

Today I am annoyed by the mail, text messages, the woman who cut me off in the grocery store, and especially my own tender heart.

I have traveled far on this rocky road. I'm no longer angry at the doctors, friends who failed, family members who did not step up to the plate, or even God. That is washed away--forgiven, as I've forgiven myself.

But today, on the beginning of this weekend that will never fade from being Diagnosis Weekend even if it is called Memorial Day weekend by everyone else, I am reduced to tears.

Vulnerable. No matter how you spell it or pronounce it, it sits right there underneath my ribcage, lodged in every crevice of my heart.

I miss you, my Brave Cookie. I miss sitting by the pool and cooking you a hamburger. Perhaps by this age, you would have learned to like pickles and even called them pickles----not radishes, as you used to do.

On days like these, the language of the grieving heart sounds the same--yearning for what might have been.

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