acceptance, apophenia, autism, choice, comfort, family, grief, grokking, Hannah, illusion, journal, loss, love, memory, metaphor, motherhood, quote, robert heinlein, serendipity, slice of life, thinking out loud, zen
Journal entry, August 28, 2014
Cleaning house yesterday, on a forgotten shelf I found a shirt of Hannah’s. A stretchy Goodwill t-shirt, powder blue, with folksy flower-seed-packet art on the front. Minor stains, of course, plus a hole in the back collar where someone (I?) had clumsily lopped off the tag. [Shirt tags made Hannah itch.] I held the shirt to my face and breathed it in like an idiot seeking the flowers. But no, it was just that the shirtfront–and then the shirt’s inside–was the only part that hadn’t been exposed to nine years of dust.
And I believed the shirt still smelled like Hannah, believed that I could know–could grok*–her presence, her self, merely through these greedy inhalations of not-quite-random air. I sat on my bedroom floor and pulled the shirt onto my head (think of a blind bank-robber), and then, to a point far past absurdity and fast approaching asphyxia, I breathed in and out its ineffably Hannah smell. (Must, dust, detergent, every mundane staleness, but something of her there too–something.) I chose to feel myself awash in her essence. As in the many dreams I’d dreamed, hope-caught, throughout her life, I felt free once more to slip beneath the surface of Hannah’s embryonic, oceanic world, and to breathe, however feebly, underwater.
I chose to feel–and to believe–all this on such a primal level that the mind had no clue of the choice till it was made. But with a shrug, quite used by now to the heart’s vagaries, the mind humored us both. I nuzzled for one last deep second against the thread-worn seams that defined the shirt’s armpits. Then I pulled the shirt off and held it awhile. I dusted it, refolded it, and–ah, my darling girl, now what to do? Replace it on the forgotten shelf? Cleave it into rags? Throw it away? I couldn’t, can’t, decide this yet.
Ah yes, but still, how well I know: let go, let go, let go, let go.
*Grok /ˈɡrɒk/ is a word coined by Robert A. Heinlein for his 1961 science-fiction novel, Stranger in a Strange Land, where it is defined as follows:
Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed—to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience. It means almost everything that we mean by religion, philosophy, and science—and it means as little to us (because of our Earthling assumptions) as color means to a blind man.