April 7th, 2008
I don’t know why. I just do. I put things in little boxes, to be dealt with when I have the time. I sometimes that life is too vast to be handled all at once so I parcel things out. It also helps me when I am dealing with people.
I’ve dealt with my grief much the same way. I go to take Punksin to school and I am cheerful and yapping. I’ve told some people that we’ve had a death in the family, but I’ve not gone into details. I can’t. Not that they wouldn’t understand grief – we’ve all had to deal with loss by now – but because they wouldn’t understand what this loss means to me. I would have to give it context and I just can’t go there right now with people who don’t already have that context.
Yesterday I was on the phone with my aunt for almost 3 hours. We reminisced, laughed, cried. It was very very helpful. She had context. She knew him and she knew what he meant to our family.
I think over the next several days, weeks, maybe months, I will be leaning on those who have that context, with whom I can grieve in unison. I don’t want someone to just to pat me on my shoulder and tell me it will be okay and make the usual noises of condolence. I want to connect with people who were there for the Saturday night gigs, who knew Papa Ogou and his ferocious beatings. I want to laugh about the troubles we got into, share silences at the powers we saw at work, cringe at the near misses we had. Most of all, I want to feel a connection, I want to feel that in all of these memories, I am connecting to him once again.
At the reception after the funeral, some of us started lamenting that at the height of those fantastic ceremonies, we didn’t have the foresight – or today’s technology – to record the singing, the prayers, the drums. We would all so love to see that again. But there is one person, a drummer who learned and then practiced much of his work right up in that house in the Bronx, who says he has some stuff on CD. He promised to make copies and distribute them.
We will all be clamoring for them, I know. For the context of what was, the beauty of what was, and the only tangible way we have left to hold onto it.
Papa Legba’s song keeps coming into my head. All day yesterday it reverberated over and over and over and over. It makes sense, because right now, there is a lot of road clearing and door opening that needs to happen. Of course, we all want Emmanuel’s road to be clear, for him to be free to soar and dance. But we – certainly I – need my road opened too, a road of healing. I need to move, not so much away, but just forward. Even if it is grief that is propelling me in the beginning.
Today on WNYC I listened to a radio host interview one of my favorite authors, Isabel Allende. She has a new book coming out, but they spoke for a bit about her memoir Paula, a book about the death of her daughter that is one of the most moving pieces of work I have ever read. She talked about how writing that book, which she began to write immediately after her daughter’s death in accordance with her strict schedule, helped her to deal with her grief even as she wrote right in the fury and pain of it. And I thought, yes, perhaps that is what I need to do, to channel this into something, something even bigger than this blog. If it will help me, then it will be good. If it will memorialize someone whose purity of work led to being well-known but not as renowned as he should have been, then it will be great.
Please, Papa Legba, clear the way.