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April Showers

Walking between the raindrops. To be lucky. To be strategic. To be spared.

April weather is supposed to be rainy. If it had been raining on April 21, 1990, my mother would not have ___________

I pause. I breathe. I no longer say, ‘died’. My dad still says ‘passed’.

These words are wrong. Words matter.

I sit in a meeting with community volunteers working on words, land acknowledgments marginalized histories. We go back and forth at length about censorship and who decides which words, because if we decide then everyone decides our words for us. If we say we can decide then they can decide to erase our words.

Myths. Saviors. Flattery.

This April’s spring is cold. Too cold. There are no raindrops to walk between, instead snow. Snow floats, slowly. It should be easier to walk between, except. . .

My sister-in-law asks me to tell her what I remember about the _________

The story of my mother's death. The 'accident'.

The word is wrong. Words matter. They had just never mattered to me before.

My turn came up for jury duty a couple of years ago. I sat in that courtroom in spread out chairs. The lawyers from both sides asked questions. ‘Have you ever been involved in a crime? Have you been the victim of a crime?’

I held my breath. No. . .

Except, I raised my hand. Yes.

For all the fun of Wisconsin alcohol consumption, the acceptance of a culture, I had been hiding, from words. Trying to walk between the drops. I ended up wet anyway.

“My mother was killed.”

Accidents require no explanation. No conversation. No autopsy.

“Sorry,” came the reply. “Sorry,” was always the reply.

“Sorry” was the automatic text stamped on each sympathy card. I felt something else when I focused on the handwritten words underneath.

Their looped and sharp edges told me, I didn’t lose something. It was stolen from me.

My sister-in-law thanks me. Thanks me for telling her.

“Of course,” I respond. “I spoke those words many times to people who don’t love me.” A performance, limited time. Just the horror. The dying. Not everything else around it. Never anything else around, it.

“It is so sad,” my sister-in-law typed.

But the after, is not a happily, ever. It’s angry. Anger at the world, but also at myself for trying to make my pain easier on the world instead of holding it’s brokenness accountable.

No. No. I told myself. “No more hiding.”

April weather is supposed to bring May flowers. They sprout just in time to be gathered in bouquets for Mother’s Day. On April 21 this year, I drove past the graveyard twice. I let my eye follow the gaze as my car sped past. I could bring my mother flowers, except I don’t know which flowers she loved. I could enter the cemetery except I don’t know where she is buried. And, so much about her is buried. Deep.

Stories provide meaning. For my mother’s story I tried to give it less. Instead of recounting it aloud to my sister in law, I used its retelling as language practice, carefully spelling each Hebrew word across the page. Each week I attend Zooms where I am supposed to learn about language, not words. Except there are no words without stories that choose them. No stories without words that choose them back. My niece asks me almost simultaneously about my job with books and if I believe in Jesus.

My brother’s voice is in the background quickly before I can find either language or words. “She’s Jewish. Like you. For some reason you think no Jews live outside of Israel.”

Binaries. Hurt. Hiding.

Attributes. Assumptions. Assignations.

In the coalition meeting, still the question, “Which words? Which words stay? Which go? Who decides?”

My answer, “All words must be put in conversation.” This is not a new concept for me. In this blog, I often put Two Books in conversation, for the artistic adventure of it. I almost did so for this post, until I realized the books** I was reading were talking about me.

Storm after storm.

History. Story.

Words never stop falling.

Drop after drop.

When the April snow decides to become rain, one dog huddles at each sweep of wind. The other ignores the thunder crack.

“It’s lucky,” I tell them. “That we can stay dry.”

When hasn’t it been easy for me to hide in the culture around me?

The windows streak. Electric light dances. Windows. Light. My dad is obsessed with the lights. Candles must be placed in strategic safe places. Lights must be plugged into circuit breakers. It’s practical. Makes good sense to play it safe. Except, it means the memory light my grandparents gave us cannot sit next to a window. Hannukah lights never gleam there either. April showers.

Drops push in. They scatter and dampen the floor.

Walking between the raindrops. To be lucky. To be strategic. To be spared.

At what cost?


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