Scrabble Player nodded in her mild, earnest way and added, quite seriously Maybe. You. Need. To. Say. Goodbye.
We’ve both been dealing with good bye, The Scrabble Player and I. Goodbyes can be good and bad, can comfort, can send pangs through your whole body. But goodbyes are necessary. Not saying goodbye (or not having the chance to) can tear your heart apart.
It seemed to me the Scrabble Player and her partner, who died last January had a long and detailed goodbye. I wonder if that makes a difference, if it gives grief a different, smoother texture.
I want to ask the Scrabble Player (I guess I’m asking her now) how was it, that good bye? For her? For you?
But even though we are strangely paired in grief and time we cannot find words to connect her experience to mine. At least not in a literal way.
I’ve said for the longest time (I wrote it in a book): the end isn’t necessarily when you say goodbye.
Forget those autumnal months I was away from her, not cooking for her, not reading to her, not by her side. Forget that snowy day when her head fell onto her chest and a kind doctor tried to resusitate her but as he did she just faded away (remember that there was a loving presence beside her as she breathed her last).
Remember the gold-lit September afternoon, when she held my hand and looked at me, our blue eyes recognizing each other. Remember her words: I love you and I respect you. She said it twice. Why twice, and why respect and not just love?
The last time I saw her. Her blessing. Her good bye.
The Poet, who is exiled from her country and thus from her mother who is now too old to travel, said to me, with casual courage: You can love someone from far away. I’m used to it. It’s OK. Remember that I loved her from afar.
Remember the time, last August. She was in hospital, again. We did our daily walk around the ward but that time she wanted to push herself so we went as far as the atrium. We sat in the pale hospital light and I read to her from a draft of my novel, Truth. I had run out of conversation, and she wasn’t interested in magazines or TV that day. It was all I had left, to entertain her. Remember the wonder of her small pale face, illuminated with strange delight, as I read.
So this, too, is good bye. Almost seven years. Hundreds of entries. Friends and strangers from around the world who followed this blog. A reader in Ireland, after not seeing any new posts for awhile, contacted me to see how I was doing. When I told her I’m ending the blog, she responded so tenderly:
I’m sorry to hear that you’re finishing up the blog ; I very much enjoy your writing. So many blogs, food or otherwise, are so perfection driven (sorta like beauty magazines, I spose?) that your frank acknowledgement of very human imperfections is a relief to read. I think I’m trying to say that your blog contains posts of such truth and vulnerability they have stayed with me long after I read them.
The mandate of this blog was to write about food and relationships: I never thought I’d actually form relationships because of it. People I met through the blog: a chef, a writer, a cook, other bloggers, even a romantic interest, The Blue Eyed Stranger, who courted me, in the language of food, after she’d read every single entry (Don’t worry, she wasn’t a complete stranger). Kindred spirits who lurked,for years, acquaintances who’d start a conversation about something I’d written, at the coffee shop or on the street. (There were fewer of us, seven years ago and so were a kind of village, we could find one another).
A writing practice. A long , rich conversation with people all over the world. The miracle of blogging, the ease of it, the difficulty (the guilt!) that constant narrativizing of meals and relationships and seasons of food. The taking of photos, like a blessing, before each meal (when I began, I was still using an analogue SLR camera!). The self consciousness of it.The expanded sense of self that comes with writing and being read. I am so grateful.
I may start another blog (more photographs, less words). I may publish a new collection based on entries from this blog. I may just hunker down and work on the new novel, the new memoir. I’m going to travel, quite a bit this year ( maybe a travel blog, who knows). I’m going to keep writing, writing through the pain and the joy the frustration the boredom the wondering if anyone is even listening. I’m going to sit at my desk or in a cafe or on airplanes or at the dining room table. I’m going to write as though my life depended on it. Which, as a matter of fact, it does.
Thank you for being part of my writing life, the readerly part that gives it meaning.
Namaste. Good bye
And, for those of you in or near Toronto, I’ll be doing a reading – “Recipes for Trouble: An evening of food stories” – named after this blog (a more personal goodbye) on Wednesday November 4, 7:30 p.m. at Cafuné Café , 145A Carlton. It’s free! Drop by and say hello! Come early for dinner – Brazlian and other food, and killer cocktails…