Imperio

A Heartbreaking Work

In Book Experiences on March 10, 2012 at 9:44 am

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. A memoir by Dave Eggers

The mother dies.  This part takes me back so intensely to the time surrounding my mother’s death.  It brings the feeling of being lost and helpless, abandoned and scared.  My mother abandoned me.  She didn’t want to.  She had to leave.  She died. There was no one to tell me what to do, no direction, just the dying and the pieces of my family slowly and irrevocably drifting apart.  Her death was like an explosion that destroyed the existing structure and left the pieces bursting away in slow motion. It was interesting in a very painful way how much his experience of his mother’s death made my experience resonate and exist again in my head and heart and muscles.  I found myself grimacing and pressing my hands to the top of my head, and my eyes filling with tears while my legs kept moving over the treadmill.   I closed the book, and took deep breaths and sought to pacify my face.  I guess if I cried at the gym no one would care unless I started to wail.  I finished my session and left the gym.  The whole day this ghostly feeling of being lost, scared, abandoned, helpless settled on my chest.  The day was darker, colder, meaner.

They pick up the pieces and leave.  It doesn’t mean their pieces are all in order or whole.  It just means they (Dave Eggers and sister and brothers) put them in a bag and put distance between them and the site of the explosion.  Their mood is that of quiet desperation.  And they work hard at one the most amazing feats human beings can accomplish inside themselves: denial of the incredible tragedy and fragility of their current lives, topped with a rope walking search for happiness.  I do remember being in a similar place after my mother died.  It feels like the world has suddenly flooded and you do all you can do to keep your nose above water and do all you can do to deny the water is there.  How shiny are the stars!  For me it was to cling on to my brother, and then to my anger, and then to my sister, and then to my nephew, and then at some point I realized I was not struggling to keep afloat anymore, the flood was mostly gone and I could stand on my feet and breath.  Just breath.

Fear finds a perch on his shoulders.  The fear of failing his little brother, of sinking and taking his brother with him.  Everything is so tight, everything has to be just perfect, there is no room for error.  What is it about death that fills us with such fears? Maybe there are reasons tightly knotted in the depths of ourselves.  And there fear is, spurring you, moving you, giving you direction, shaping your life.  And how can you ever be free of it? He doesn’t say.  I do not know yet.

One of the things Dave Eggers mentions in his memoir is that he represents the millions, and in a sense he does.  He’s bared the experience of death and described in painful detail what it did to him, one of the people that are left behind.  Not everything he experienced was my experience, not everything he went through and is going through is what I went and am going through. And those parts that were not mine felt perhaps not as intense.  I can understand though. The after effects of a death like that cling to you for years.

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