The Stream

The Stream, by Isabel Bucher
My Robert is dead.
Lewy body dementia.
Thirty-three years gone without my knowledge, or permission.
People’s voices echo in my ransacked head. I smile and thank them, pushing polite, memorized tapes, but inside, I answer truly.
“How are you Isabel?”
 “Fine. What am I supposed to tell you?”
“Mom, you’re not eating right. How much weight have you lost?”
“I taught you how to eat. Skinny is good for the heart.”
“Time passes.”
“Time? What time? Time does not exist anymore, because who I am now does not make sense anymore.”
“You will be all right because you are so strong
“I am not strong. I want to scream, and fall down and die. And, I can’t cry! What’s wrong with me!”  
“Time heals.”
“It does not, you dope!”
“You are a model for us all.”
“Model? I look like I’m a hundred years old. Feel it.”
“I don’t know how you did it.”
“I did what I did, 24/7 for him, until at the end.  I sat on the floor of the care home I finally had to choose, to keep him safe and comfortable – to keep me from dying. We played with Tinker Toys. He was in Mensa, for God sakes. I watched, helpless, as he unknitted himself.
“It’s a blessing.”
“A blessing? Two no longer equals one? Being one stinks. It isn’t a blessing. It should have never happened.”
I lie on my bed, arm over eyes, unable to cry – everything just stays in held by the elephant sitting on my chest.
I take out my pen and write on a slip of paper.

In my grief
I go back to all my griefs
Tatters blowing in the wind, pasted to a broken heart
Grief – you bastard
You ball of wool
You slip out of my hands
Roll across the floor
I run after you
Gathering you, winding you with fumbling fingers…
I start over and over, and …

“Oh, you pity fisher, you,” I whisper to myself, “you anointed queen of sighs and groans,” thinking of my Dad who was wont to quote Shakespeare to me when I couldn’t get my head out of my navel.
Later that day, I make a decision.
“Hello girls? I’m going north,” I hear myself saying into each of my daughters’ fancy phones.
“Not to worry, I’m taking Maisie, and my sleeping bags. I’m putting mine inside Poppert’s. I’ve got my coffee pot, food.  I’ll be fine. I’m turning off my phone. I’ll call you later. I need to do this.”
The little Subaru eats black tarmac, pointing into Northern New Mexico, always my place of places, always where my heart lives.
I’m breathing now. My lungs are filling with this pure air of no time. I’m letting go.
“Honey! Do you see this!”
I’m talking to Robert, and catch myself, thinking I’m getting wonkey.

“To heck with it. Honey,” I continue. “Did you see that old Buick?”
The road narrows, then pitches steeply down to a pastoral, storybook place. There’s shade, it’s green, there’s a stream. Nobody, nothing, nada is around. It’s only me and Maisie, the birds, the breeze, and the beauty. I pull off, park, and wander down. Maisie is reading the dog edition of the New York Times on every bush, every tree, every blade of grass. How dogs have that much pee to keep writing their names, is beyond me.
“Here’s home, little girl,” I say. “Just you and me and Robert.”
I unload my sleeping bags and ground cloth, my little backpacking stove, and the five gallons of water I always carry, setting up home base by the merry creek. Then, we take a slow ramble. The sun begins to sink as it’s done forever on this earth. Back home, I prop myself up against a spruce, and look up, feeling my heart break once again.
“Where are you! Why did you leave me! Why! It should have been me! I am so alone. I can’t do this by myself! I hate you Robert! I really do!”
“Good evening Sweet,” I hear. He’s come up silently behind me, like he always has. I lean my head on his shoulder, remember his smell.
“Come to me,” the out-here calls.
“There’s so much I wish I’d told you.”
“Come to me,” the out-here calls.
“I am so sorry I took so much for granted. I never thought anything would change.”
“Come to me,” the out-here calls.
The tears are rolling down my face, onto my jacket; I cry and wipe my nose on my sleeve. I am enfolded in the warmth, the velvet dark, struck with a billion stars. Maisie sleeps next to me in her bed, under her blanket. Knowing I’ll never sleep, night winks, then takes me to dreamland without my permission.
First light opens my eyes, feeling the vista blur with more tears. The mountains look like pressed cardboard propped up against a silver sky.
“Robert?  Are you there?”  I whisper, throat closing, and hurting. “It’s me, Isabel.
I hear only the stream.
My hands warm around the steaming mug. “Robert? Are you there? I hurt so much.”
I hear only the stream.
“Life goes on,’ Stream says.
“I’m tired,” I say.
“Breathe. I will refresh you.”
“My Robert died.”
“Did you love him?”
“Oh, yes, so much.”
“That is all you can do. There is nothing else in life. He is where he needs to be. Comfort the children.”
“I am empty.”
“I will fill you.”
“I am so alone.”
“Do you see that I am alone, I flow alone? Do you see within me, there is so much?”
“I am heavy with worry.”
“I will carry you along to a place of hope.”
“Everything I knew is gone.”
“Is there beauty in every place you see in me?
“Yes, so much.”
“Keep looking. Did you see me before today? Give me your tears.”
“I thought I had.”
“Am I not forever changing?”
“I don’t want to change. I want what I had!”
“Change is here. Always. It is the only constant of this universe. Give me your tears.”
“I have so many troubles.”
“I tumble over the rocks and move forward.”
“It’s such a struggle.”
“Do you see how I go around everything and flow on…look into me. Every place that sparkles is a life, your life, Robert’s life, all life. All the sparkling makes one great ribbon of life, beginning and becoming.”
“I can’t. I’m so broken.”
“I have prepared this place for you. It has been waiting. There are those who are caretakers of places of great beauty, because they have loved them above all else, with such a great love, the places heal all who come to them. This is such a place. Partake.”
“I’m afraid.”
“Be brave. Join my force. Give me your tears. We will move together as one.”
Clouds cover the rising sun, and instantly, the stream turns to shadow, then, when the sun emerges, it’s again, a brilliant wedding veil. Shadow. Light. Shadow. Light.  Tears. Laughter.  Change.
“Breathe,” Stream says. “Live on. Give me your tears. ”
Stream flows in me; I flow in Stream. Robert. I.  One. Peace. Everything is a part of everything, now and forever.
The sun rises. This day has begun, one of millions, one of only one. This valley, this place, this sky, these mountains gather me unto it.
“Be of comfort Stream says. I am with you. Stream’s voice fades to Robert’s. ”
“Hi honey girls. Three-way call is it? Yes, I’m OK.  Maisie’s licking my face! I’m on my way home. I’ll tell you later. I love you both …
So much.”
The End.
© 2012, All Rights Reserved. Excerpt, Bucher, Isabel Bearman. “The Stream.”