Sunday, April 1, 2007

All Good Things…

I feel like my vacation is over. Like the past week was only a dream and now it's time to wake up and smell the bread on fire. I ceremoniously enjoyed my last dessert - over a cup of birthday cake ice cream and a cup of Sweet and Salty Chex Mix. With a fifth fiber pill and quart of warm water as chasers.

And yet, I'm calm about it all. I'm not panicking. I'm not overfull (even though I've had around 40 points and I think that I should be stuffed to the gills...)

"I can just restrict tomorrow."

I can, but will I?

I don't know.

I ran across some vocal music tonight - and sang for myself. (After I sang my son to sleep with my usual medley of melodies.) I amazed myself at how much of the music I remembered (and the Italian that I usually chose to sing in for the solo competitions in high school.)

I was more amazed at how natural it all seemed.

Then I found my flute. And my instruction books. Again, I was amazed, this time at how much I had forgotten. It has been quite a few years since I picked up my flute - at least five. What amazed me more was the echoes of hatred. I hated playing the high notes (still do, they hurt my ears and are hard to sustain.)

I hated practicing insipid, made up tunes that no one ever heard. I hated how weak I felt (when I couldn't hold a note as long as necessary.) I remember why I would rather be singing.

I remember that I always felt undisciplined - both when I sang and when I played the flute. Because I didn't practice every hour of every day for either. I often wondered back then, “If I had been more dedicated, if I had practiced for even an hour every single day, would I have been good?” Because I never, ever thought I was any good at playing or singing. There was always someone better or at least, whom I perceived as being better.

At the time, I felt guilty for not enjoying the flute, for not giving it my all. After all, my parents spent a lot of money on the instrument itself and then on private lessons when I dropped out of band in high school. I remember thinking that I was an ungrateful brat because I didn't want to play the damn thing.

When I picked up my flute tonight, I figured out why I hated it so much.

It wasn't because I don’t like the flute - I actually think it is one of the more beautiful instruments in an orchestra. It was because of what the flute represented.

When it came time to choose an instrument, I wanted to play the violin or the french horn. I remember my mom coaxing me, cajoling me into the flute.

"But you always wanted to play the flute, Jeanne."

Perhaps that was true… when I was five, but I was eight at the time and I wanted the violin. But my mother refused.

"No screeching in the house."

So I took flute lessons and was paired with my best friend at the time. Who also turned out to be the music teacher's pet.

Looking back, I understand that perhaps Mrs. Benton was harder on me than on Kelly because she may have thought that I had talent. If that were the case, it would have been nice had she told me that that was why she insisted that I play and play and play while Kelly, who would make as many (or a few more) mistakes would get by with only a once through. Or perhaps Mrs. Benton sensed my apathy towards the whole thing and wished to try to inspire me to try harder?

Who knows?

I never will.

The point is that I walked away from the whole experience feeling resentment and hate and anger and guilt and shame. I thought I didn’t deserve anything. When I was praised and complemented on my playing, I thought the person was nuts. Because I didn’t do anything to earn their admiration. I was a slacker.

Wait.

Another thought occurred to me.

My grandpa loved to hear me play. [And highly-trained circus monkey that I was, I played on command for anyone and everyone. Holidays, birthdays, etc. – Have Jeanne, will travel.] But he died shortly after I began playing (like two years after I began lessons.)

I don't remember if I practiced much before he died, but I do know that my heart wasn't it in at all afterward.

My grandpa.

He took a genuine interest in everything I did. I remember one night when he was babysitting me (not sure where my brothers were.) I played my mom's organ (well, hammered on the keys) and made up a song about my grandpa's childhood dog, Schnookie. It was a goofy ditty, but my grandpa seemed to enjoy it.

My grandpa.

It's been almost 22 years since he died. Aside from the memory above, I only have blips of him. One blip is of me telling him that I would be his cane when we walked to the Marina in Buffalo. I still feel the weight of his hand on my head and shoulder. Then there was the time when my grandpa made my Raggedy Ann and Libby Libby Libby dolls do raspberries and I had to throw them one by one into the closet. Another is of him asking me not to cry and carry on so over losing some game or another. But my memory is that he said it in such a way as to say, "I know that losing sucks and it hurts, but it's only one game, not the end of the world. I still love you."
What hurts the most after 22 years is that I don't really remember him.

When I was home for college break once, I cried to my mom, "I don't remember what he looks like." That made my mom cry, too. (One of the few times in my life that I recall my mom crying.) If it wasn't for pictures, I'd have little memory of his face.

And yet, I miss him dearly.

I still have a hole in my heart.

Why is that?

Could it be that I thought that he was the only person who was willing to take the time to play with me and only me? Could it be that I thought that he was the only person who understood me?

After he passed, I tried to connect with my grandma, but while we are close to this day, it just wasn't the same. She is an independent woman, who is often selfish and unconsciously (I think) plays multiple hands from the guilt deck. I love her to bits, but she wasn’t my grandpa. He was dead.

As I sit here and close my eyes, I am transported back to the funeral home.

“Just look at his feet, Jeanne. See the pillow that you and your brothers gave him?”

I didn’t want to look.

At almost ten years old, I didn’t understand why.

I think I do now.

Looking at my grandpa’s lifeless form in the casket drove home the fact that he was gone. It branded the knowledge that I was disconnected from the one person that I thought knew me and wanted to spend time with me. And I couldn't control it.

And I never told him how much he meant to me.

So I sit here, with tears in my eyes and mucus in my nose, and I wonder, what brought this on?
My grandpa has been dead for 22 years. Over two-thirds of my life. Why am I thinking about this now?

Because I can. I am physically able to put the pieces together. I have nourished my body for six days. Apparently, my mind believed I could handle the intense emotions that well up when I relive these memories. Because for the past six days, I was free.

Free from judgement.

Free from Edie’s clutches.

She was always there, but she was relegated to the background for more than a day or two.

A vacation.

But does it have to be a vacation?

Do I have to give up this freedom?

Edie tells me that I must give it up.

“All good things must come to an end.”

But why?

So, I choose to do the next right thing. I wake up, go to work, and make my breakfast.

And breathe.

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