Sunday, February 19, 2006

Oh, Winsome Death: Ramblings

Last night while I was driving BabyG home from a local Vietnamese restaurant, Van Loc, an exceedingly cheerful song came on the radio.  Though the lyrics were in Portuguese, the tune and tone were reminiscent of goofy, go-lucky Hollywood music from 1940s.  Pina coladas, dancing, a thatched roof restaurant, the Caribbean, stars, outrageous declarations of love…I imagine the songwriter intended to conjure these sorts of images.  

Unfortunately, in this day and age a song so unconsciously blithe, so naively unsuspecting of disaster only makes a fiction writer like me exceedingly nervous.  In fact, the song probably made anybody who’s watched a movie in the last thirty years nervous, because everybody knows that unapologetically optimistic songs always equal convulsive sadness.  

So last night when that go-lucky song started playing I literally began waiting for some Hummer full of drunken club kids to come careening over and flattening me and my daughter inside our poor little Mazda.  There would be no steam coming from the grill, no screaming:  BabyG and I would be flattened and done for.  The only thing left of us would be the coming onset of sirens and devastation.  

I didn’t used to be afraid of dying.  For most of my life I have had a definate faith in death.  I’ve worked eight years at a pediatrics unit in a cancer center, and I’ve watched many of the kids I love die.  I’ve seen dying people skirting two different worlds.  Sometimes I’ve seen a certainty and calm overcome someone when death has become inevitable, and though I would rather all of my children survive their cancers, my faith in the strength and the peace of death has been shaped by my experiences with the deaths I have witnessed in the hospital.  Sometimes, I realized, death is a good thing.  And so for years, I thought I was at peace with it.  I wasn’t afraid of it.

I had believed I could handle death better than most people because of my special understanding of it, but after marrying GreenDaddy I started worrying he was going to be run over on his bike.  I couldn’t imagine how I’d be okay without GreenDaddy, or even, how the world would.  I had never though of somebody in this way before, and it unnerved, me, but my worries were fluttering and easy enough to quell.  

It’s only been with the birth of BabyG that I’ve become terrified of death and dying.  I used to think the world could go on without me, if it had to; now I can’t imagine thinking that.  I think:  I have to be here for BabyG, I am the person who looks after BabyG, only GreenDaddy and I can love her the way she needs to be loved in her childhood.  I know both GreenDaddy and I will protect her and love her and do anything we have to so that she has a good childhood.  We want to guide her into adulthood.  The only thing that seems worse than one of us dying is if anything at all bad happened to BabyG.  The other day she got shots and there I was, one of the mothers I never imagined I’d be, crying to see her get stuck with needles.  She is the most important thing in the universe, so far as I’m concerned, the most lovely creature on earth.  

So suddenly I’m afraid for me and for GreenDaddy and for BabyG.  I walk past the closet and think: those bedrails could kill fall and crush GreenDaddy, or somebody could run over BabyG and me with the stroller, or a crazy person might shoot one of us randomly.  Having a child, having the joy a child brings, feels very much like always driving around with an unabashedly cheery soundrack blasting on the stereo.  Which puts me a little on edge.  

It’s no wonder then, that through so much of my twenties, I was a diehard Tom Waits fan.  His music is the opposite of cheery;  its syrup made of all sorts of human tragedies.  Last night, it occurred to me that in the same way margarita music is a death magnet, Tom Waits’ music is a cosmic rabbit’s foot.  You can’t be smashed by a hummer when you’re listening to it.  No god could be that obvious.  

If there’s a universal force that goes around leveling unduly high levels of sadness or of delight by counterbaling them with opposing emotional states, I am in trouble.  To avoid the trouble, perhaps I can take up listening to Tom Waits again, in hopes that the cosmos will let me provide my own counterbalance to the bliss of being BabyG’s mother.  Or perhaps this isn’t a world of counterbalances, and all the movie directors are wrong.  Maybe it’s a mathematicians world, and I should seek out more positives to multiply with the ones I already have.  Maybe the world is ready for the ecstatic to kick the ironic’s ass.    


Ducecoop said...

Or maybe it's a world of Chaos AND Order. So there's no hope of counterbalancing or getting it right; there is only fear of what will get you first... unless you just forget it all somehow and live.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it crazy how one little being can turn your world upside down? Everything you thought you knew and felt secure with/about, not only about yourself but also life, gets questioned and reconsidered. I'm constantly amazed at the things I find myself concerned with now that I have Xavier, i.e. green parenting which is what brought me to your wonderful site. I now understand the meaning of "love at first sight" and "having something to live for"--not that I hadn't experienced either of these things before, but having a child changes these meanings to something exponentially greater than I previously experienced.