My daughter died in the middle of the night, in the middle of the month, in the middle of her life. The following things were tilted, off balance: her placement in the country—the opposite coast from where I was; my own placement in life—on the far side of a lifespan; her placement in her parents’ life--parents she’d never seen in the same house, her attention split between her mother and her father; the fact that she was the youngest in the arrangement she grew up in: her brother and I alternately nagging at her or leaning on her.
Her library’s physical position was at the far end of the upper hall of the elementary school; it sat over the offices, the gym, the cafeteria. It was the central hub of all the classes. The young, and younger, children rotated through each day, learning research on the bank of computers in the middle of the room, checking out books from the circulation desk, sitting around the bright blue rug with alphabet letters she’d persuaded the school to buy for the reading circle.
She was relegated to be in the middle of her friends’ romances, marriages, the family frictions, covering both sides, staying safe; she was never a central player.
It seems odd.
She absorbed my mistakes, my discards. She visited from time to time another man I’d married; she felt bad for him; she attended the funerals on my behalf of parents of my friends, of old relatives. She kept my old brownie pan, the colander, clinging to an order that would be there if she stayed in place; she kept peace with her brother, keeping us all in touch. When I stayed with her, he’d call, and she’d pass the phone to me, back to her, to me, to her.
I think she felt something would happen, something had to happen, if she just kept at it, kept up the balancing.
Her life ended in medias res, in the middle of things. It was intrusive to invade that space, to catch her caught off-guard, as we all did, walking into the middle of her life, pulling through her closets, her drawers, her papers. We—her friends, my husband, my sister, I—all jumped right in, right in the middle of her life and got rid of it once and for all.
“But I wasn’t finished—” I can hear her say. “I’m in the middle of boards; I’m in the middle of paying for this computer; I’m going out tomorrow!”
I found out in the middle of the morning, between the two classes I was teaching, in the middle of my own petty life. “I wasn’t finished!” I cried in my head: “Our relationship has been so worked out; I think we’re really friends, now—it can’t be, it can’t be over yet. We’re in the middle of our plans—”
We were. We’d just talked about what we’d do when I flew out in two weeks: Longwood Gardens, maybe the Philadelphia Orchestra. On the chair of her bedroom were arranged clothes for the evening she never got to see: new slacks, a sparkly top.
She’s been removed, strangely. I remain in the middle of the loss. There is no journey; there is no destination; there is only the coping, the staying afloat, somewhere here in the middle.