There has been a long pause in my writing. Depending on how you read these entries you may or may not have noticed. I know you don’t need an explanation, but I’d like to offer you one. I have written these mainly for me but I’ve come to know many of you through your kind responses and so I want to tell you why I stopped posting regularly and then stopped posting at all.
I know you could have helped me. I know you would have helped me. But I needed to get here myself.
Here’s a possible metaphor – a sense memory from childhood that may or may not have happened quite this way.
I’m somewhere around Maggie’s age and my elementary school teacher is telling the class how disappointed she is in us. Someone has taken something from her desk.
Immediately I start to feel guilty. Maybe she’s talking about me. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m taking a test and my eyes wander. I haven’t seen anything. I was just looking around – but I feel so guilty that the teacher might think that I’ve seen something that I stretch or feign a cough and look around in a way that she will know I wasn’t looking around to copy off of anyone’s paper.
Of course, with my adult eyes I look at this behavior and shake my head with half a smile on my face. But as a child, these moments were serious.
Someone has taken something. Later, when no one’s around I wander up to the teacher’s desk and I tell her that it was me. My nose was runny and I took a tissue off her desk when she wasn’t looking. She laughs. It’s a burst that confuses me at first and then reassures me. No, it wasn’t tissue that she was talking about. That’s what the tissue is there for. We can always take some if we need it. She gives me one of those hugs that teachers used to be allowed to give their students. She smells of cigarette smoke and chalk. She laughs again, this time to herself, and pushes me towards the door for afternoon recess.
I don’t know it but she was talking about a twenty dollar bill that is missing from her desk. She thinks it is missing. She’s not actually positive but she’s pretty sure it was there before morning recess. Now, it’s not there. So if it was there before, then now it is missing. And if it was there before and not there now then someone took it.
I don’t know if someone took it. If someone did, I don’t know the effect of her words on them. There are also many kids in the class that didn’t take it and haven’t given it another thought. There are also the kids who think that if someone took something then they know who it was and they hound those kids with accusations. And then there are the kids like me. The kids who feel guilty when there is nothing to feel guilty about.
I hope that that’s where I am now. Now, I ask for a favor. Either stop reading this entry now or read it through to the end. Do not stop after the next sentence.
The entries to this blog slowed and then stopped after Ann Coulter’s comments about the 9/11 widows.
In her latest book she wrote about a group of women whose husbands died when terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center. She wrote “I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much.”
People on the left who appeared on talk shows after this statement were horrified both with her choice of words and with her sentiment. People on the right who appeared had various explanations for the words she used but generally expressed sympathy for the underlying message.
And that gave me pause.
Was I taking unfair advantage of the death of my six year old daughter? I was clearly benefiting emotionally from the feedback posted on this blog.
Part of what made me consider the comments so personally was that I had submitted a query to Doubleday books to see if they might be interested in publishing this blog. I’d looked up the address of the editor of “Tuesdays with Morrie” and sent a simple letter. I never heard back but I had to wonder if maybe I was seeking to gain from this tragedy.
I knew if I asked those questions here, most people would be supportive. I suspected that there would be some, however, how would feel that I am trying to cash in on Elena’s death for personal benefit.
That’s why I needed to work this all through first. I don’t believe I was writing this for any reason other than those I’ve expressed before. I can’t truly be certain. After all, the mind is very good at helping us lie to ourselves. But I think that I was taking tissues and that if any twenty was taken it wasn’t by me. This is the kind of a theft that can’t be explained or excused by anyone else.
I have not enjoyed any part of Elena’s death. I’ve seriously considered the question for a month and I’m sure enough of that to begin to put words down on paper again.
Unexpectedly, writing this has reopened wounds. Fortunately, I’m still allowed to take all of the tissues I need.