November 8, 2008

Still, Here I Sit

November, the window to winter, the shutters closing on autumn. The days diminishing with the solstice still weeks away. From trees afire in glorious hues to a bare tangle of brittle branches as deciduous trees set their leaves free into the wind, into the cold, into the gutter. Other flora and fauna shake off their glory, take in the last bit of sustenance and horde it away before falling into their long sleep. Others put on thick coats of white or brown to dull winter’s bitter bite. Yet in even the deepest recesses of the cold darkness life is never snuffed out but patiently bides its time. Sleeping mothers birthing blind babies in their dark warm dens.

Memories of November in my Shenandoah Valley home, the smell of wood smoke hovering in the frigid air, the butchering of hogs and watching football at the neighbor’s house that had a color television, a television room, a patio, hot running water and indoor plumbing. The distance between our house and theirs was less than a block and the width of a gaping abyss that could never be bridged.

The November of 1971 was both the closing act of a patricide and the beginning of a troubled time in my life, the start of a long decline, a seemingly ceaseless struggle to know why my father died. At 36. I know how, I really need to know why. I was 11. As night strikes the colors and day takes the helm, on the eve of Thanksgiving you gave up the/your ghost. Did you not love us enough to set the bottle aside? Was life so painful that even the agony of delirium tremens became the better option? Or were you sick with a disease you did not understand and from which you could not escape?

Memories. Too many and not enough. Fighting, staggering, falling, filth. An artist consumed, a craftsman crushed. Or am I dwelling on the vision of a father with control wrested from his grasp while avoiding the reality that he had choices to make. And we/I lost out. Could it be he was enough of a bastard to deliberately push us aside?

My father’s journey took him through hospitals, in and out of prison, into the hell of psychiatric wards, through years of drool and piss, living through the death of dreams and the birth of nightmares with a wife/my mother who pirouetted in the same fatal dance and enabled him into his grave. In November.

Ah November, novem, nine but eleven. All Saints Day, Election Day, Veterans Day, my father's dying day, Thanksgiving Day, my brother’s birthday and the birthday of the Marine Corps, chrysanthemums and our Chrismation.

Herman Melville, in his, “…damp drizzly November in my soul…” from the opening paragraph of Moby Dick; or The Whale (one of our great novels which should be mandatory reading) at least to my mind, captures the feeling, the smell, the loneliness, the essence of November.

Still, here I sit. Making do while I make it up, the summer of my life fading to the autumn of middle age. Avoiding the shadows, the cold corners. The mask of happiness masking the demon of despair. Waiting for the fall into the long sleep. Here I sit. Come November.


Anonymous said...

Words seem useless. Thanks for sharing, and with such vivid imagery.

My prayers.

November In My Soul said...

Thank you Ian for taking the time to read what by now must be a familiar refrain. I greatly appreciate your prayers and your friendship. You can be assured of both in return.

s-p said...

Beautifully described horrors of the heart. My best friend died 10 years ago in the same way. I told his 9 year old son of his OD/suicide. God have mercy on us all.

Philippa said...

A frequent reader, though infrequent commenter, the picture you have painted moved my heart beyond words.

May God meet you in your November and bring you forth to Spring.

Peace be unto you.

November In My Soul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
November In My Soul said...

Thank you all for your generous remarks. When I read over this posting it seems like someone else wrote it. As I was writing it was like being in a zone where I was writing on a different level, and all I could really do was to get in the way.

DebD said...

I think the search for the 'why's' are the most painful and unrequited journey's of all. Acceptance is a close second, in my book.

prayers for you during this difficult month. I always think its strange how memories and feelings come flooding back, often when we are least expecting it.

amy said...

I am touched to read your heart...

I'll light a candle for you tonight.

May the Lord shine His face upon you.

Changed Like Saul said...

Great Friend...Your truths sadden my heart but at the same time makes me thankful for the loving thoughtful home I came up in. Somehow, in all this, and I don't understand it, but draw comfort knowing God will receive all the glory. Draw strength in this time that He is near. My God give you rest from this burden. Changed Like Saul

Isabella said...

Did you get the email I sent you?


November In My Soul said...


Yes I did receive your email. I did not reply out of an abundance of caution. In the two years I have been doing this I have never been as touched as I was by your email. Thank you for being willing to share so much of your life. I am honored and flattered.