You know how you almost always have someone who’s got your back?
That person, since I wasÂ three years old, was my grandmother, granny;Â Mama Bear is what I called her.Â Because IÂ didn’t have a mama Â until I was ten, and then unfortunately, due to my own immaturity and selfishness, I didn’t want the woman my father remarried as myÂ mama. I was jealous of her.
And theÂ competition lasted years,Â another story.
Last summer my granny suffered a strokeÂ then another and then a minor heart attack. She now lives in a convalescent home paralyzed on the leftÂ side of her body, half blind, and practically deaf. When I saw her two weeks ago I had to scream in her face for her to hear me. She’s unable to do any of the things she formerly loved: drawing, painting, knitting, reading, cooking, not to mention flower arrangements and crossword puzzles. She can’t reallyÂ see the TV that’s in her room at the convalescent home although she stares at it because that’s all there is to do.Â This month she turns ninety-three. More than once she said,Â ”I hate being like this.”
What do you say to someone you loveÂ whenÂ it’s come to this?
I said, “I love you.” I stroked her hair,Â held her hand,Â kissed her forehead. I cried every time she wasn’t looking.
The last thing my granny said to me was, “I didn’t leave you anything.” Meaning an inheritance.Â Except I’m not going to dwell on that. For one thing, my granny has done more than enough for me financially. More than enough. But for another,Â the first thing my grandmotherÂ said to me two weeks ago was, “I have faith in you.”Â Â
Seven days ago, five days after my son and IÂ returned from visiting my granny in the convalescent home, at which time I was also put in charge of caring for my depressed and decrepit grandfather, my boss laid me off.Â She called me into her office after my work-sisters had gone home. A man I didn’t know was at the table with us.Â SheÂ explained why he was there, but I forgot.Â He sat across the table and staredÂ at meÂ while my former boss laid it all out.
IÂ felt asÂ if I’d suddenly fallen throughÂ my seat into one of those dunking booths.Â Surreal sensation.Â All I did was nod. AndÂ try toÂ breatheÂ carefullyÂ because I knew if I took even a single deep breath I’d exhale it as a scream, and yesterdayÂ I realized I reminded myself at the time of some of theÂ women in xTx’s collection, Normally Special, because theyÂ want to scream, should scream, need to scream, but really shouldn’t scream, are trying with everything they’ve got to keep it inside them.Â
Because sometimes a scream signals defeat.
But sometimes a scream is cleansing too.Â Didn’tÂ John Lennon suggest that? Scream therapy? I’ll walk to a placeÂ a mile away on the river bank and let it rip not from the bottom of my lungs or even the base of my gut, but from this point in my uterus where my son grew once. Where life began inside me, where I have power. A scream from this point forward like projectile vomiting a plague ofÂ locusts,Â a banshee’s scream, blood scream, cunt. After all, the vagina isÂ the most resilient organ in existence. So itÂ makes no senseÂ when people call each otherÂ ”pussies” to imply weakness. Cocks areÂ much more fragile. And I reminded myself of that this morningÂ after having spent two daysÂ wishing I was a man, wishing I was Robert Downey Jr.,Â all cock-and-ball-surlinessÂ in my current precariousÂ state.
What stages of emotional fallout do you move through after losing a job?Â Not sure yet because I’m not done. Shock, hysteria, panic.
In my former position, I used to speak with people everyday who’d lost their jobs. They’d call to explain why they couldn’t pay their bills. Everyday, someone new, same story. Some days, they cried. And I’d tear up at thierÂ frustration and helplessness. Where I live now, a desert hugged by mountains, the unemployment rate is astronomical. Bad. Like not a place you want to lose a job. ButÂ it’s terrible all over, and plenty of my friends, teachers mainly, have beenÂ down sized, discarded, laid off.
Two years ago, shortly after I began my former job, my boss let one of my colleagues go.Â Day after that, the remainder of usÂ gathered around a table, and I started crying.Â My former bossÂ looked at me and said, “Why are you crying? You hardly knew her.”
I knew her a little. Anyway, a person I’d worked withÂ was no longer there: someone had lost her job.
But here’s the other thing. I knew it would be me someday.Â Matter of time.Â Not everything is about money.Â
WhatÂ stages do we move through afterÂ losing a job?
Acceptance, action, relief, joy?
I’m not there yet, but I hope so. Right now this experience remainsÂ freshÂ as a twelve-by-six wound on my upper thigh after a bike wreck I had when I was thirteen. Hurt,Â bleeding, raw. Last night my son said something to me, and because I’m still raw, it killed me. But before I tell you what he said, I want you to know my son is a sweet, sensitive kid.Â He’sÂ scared right now. I know because he did an Internet search yesterday: how long does it take a person to starve?Â He doesn’t knowÂ I know that. He’s fourteen. He’s scared. His mom just lost her job.Â Who to blame? Well. Me. Of course.
Last night he said,Â ”Hey mom,Â do youÂ wish right now you’d never made this mistake and made us leaveÂ Oregon?”
Okay. So I fell apart. To quote an xTx story, “Standoff,” which is about a mother and son,Â ”My heart has too many knives right now.” Stabbed through-and-through.
I went into the bathroom and shut the door and cried then went in my bedroom and shut the door and cried then posted a cryptic status update on Facebook and cried;Â then IÂ scrolled through every number in my phone and wonderedÂ who to call, and finally landed on my former grad school mentor, David Bradley, my Jedi Master, but yet never called him while all the while wonderingÂ why nobody called me.
Emotional people make other people uncomfortable. Who’d want to speak with me while I’m in a state like that? Not me.Â People in crisis scare the shit out of the rest of us. Because we’re always only two steps and one spit away from the same spot.
SoÂ here’s the deal:Â nothing gets doneÂ while you feel sorry for yourself, while youÂ fall apart. Perhaps I’m entitled.Â A moment maybe.Â But how long do youÂ have withÂ a mortgage and a car payment and bills to pay not to mention thisÂ beautiful boy to feed, cloth, and cultivate?Â
Buck up, time to go!Â
So I wiped my eyes, went into my son’s room, and there he wasÂ on dailysentinel.comÂ doing a job search for me.Â He’d alsoÂ typed this question into Google: what jobs are available for someone with a master’s degree in Creative Writing?
Hahaha. (You understand why that’s funny, right?)
“Did youÂ find anything, honey?”
“That’s okay, baby.Â I don’t want you to worry about it anymore. There’s something out there;Â I’ll find it.”
“Sorry I made you sad.”
“We’ll get through this.”
The last time somethingÂ dire happened, my granny bailed us out. She bought me time to spend looking for the right job, and IÂ found it in Portland, andÂ to tell the truth, I would have worked for that woman forever if she hadn’t accepted a promotion and left.Â
So here I am. A result of my own decisions, obviously.Â And my granny isn’t going to bail me out anymore.Â
When it rains, it pours.
Four months ago,Â my biological mother left me again for like the tenth time,Â but this time for good, when she killed herself with meth. Soon after, my half brother, Robert, wrote me a note that said,Â ”She was really proud of you.”Â And my grandmother hasÂ faith in me. She said so.
“I have faith in you.” Said like a person whose mouth is full, whose tongue is partially paralyzed, meeting my eyes with the one good eye she couldÂ still see through.
I believe I’ll write my way out of this hole. No, notÂ financially. The wounds healed from that bike wreckÂ a zillion years ago,Â but the scars still show.