kay, so it’s been a hard couple of months. It started with something at work resembling a North Korean prison, working 140 hours of overtime in five weeks. This was while we were making organizational changes and a toxic person was stirring things up behind my back. Then there was the strange thing with my hand, the little null-spot, which doctors took three weeks to casually examine before announcing that, no, it wasn’t a degenerative disease. We also had a national train convention in town and our club was high on the host list. I had to run ops sessions, greet bus tours and run the layout, doing things for a long week of standing, smiling, and hosting (grin-grin, howya doing). And during that time my cat’s kidney failed. This was the worst of it, the cherry on the cake of misery. We coaxed and pleaded food into her, doing everything we could to get her to eat and drink, even injecting her with fluids and watching my little loved one wither. And finally we had to have her put down. Misery.
Once that was done, once the last spade of dirt was on her grave, I looked to my wife. “Let’s go to North Carolina.” Mom’s got a place up there. It’s quiet, it’s easy, and it isn’t here.
We drove up without any problems, listening to Four Summoner’s Tales, a collection of stories of raising the dead (yeah, I wish). Once we were up, I read, I slept, I relaxed. And at JB’s insistence, we went to a little art gallery in Valle Crucis. Turns out the lady there had written a book, He gave me barn cats, to be reviewed in a few weeks (as I said, I read a lot up there – lots of reviews). It’s her story (how strange to talk to a person, in a place, that you eventually read all about) about her loses in life, of how in a year she lost nine loved ones (her mom, her dog, three cats and assorted other family).
It’s a Christian-theme book, not my usual forte if you look over my bookshelf. But she understood loss. She nailed it. And there I sat on the back porch before the amazing vista of that forested valley, feeling myself cringing, remembering, reliving. Then she hit the written note with one phrase, all about her little lost kitten Jack, that shattered me. I felt my eyes mist, thought Oh fuck and suddenly tears were running down my cheeks. I just sat there and felt myself go, racking with pain over Mookie’s passage, the book swimming and trembling before me. But I could hear others in the house behind me so I gave myself a few scant moments of feeling my emotions drain out. Then I wiped my eyes with my sleeves, sniffed, took a breath. “Now then…”
But it wasn’t a fluke. In attempting to tell friends of this written passage, I still find my voice quavering and that familiar pepper sensation in my eyes and instantly swing onto another track. “And so, well, it’s just good writing.” Yeah, I don’t need to burst into tears, not in front of friends or coworkers.
But what Maria wrote hit me like a blow to my heart. She nailed it. And that’s what good writing can do.