Monday, August 25, 2008

With Peter* Gone

We decided to drown our sorrows in fruit.

Missing Peter (and missing California), I went to Trader Joe's before dinner and bought
  • the six-pound container of blueberries
  • three containers of white nectarines (my favorite summer fruit, hands down)
  • one watermelon
  • one crenshaw (like a not-quite-ripe canteloupe)**
  • six pluots
  • a honeydew melon
  • a pineapple.***
At Trader Joe's, the checker had said, "How are you today?" He seemed to mean it, so I told him: "I'm good--but sad." And I told him how my brother left today on a two-year mission to Japan for my church (which, of course, required explanation) and how my family sent me to the store to buy comfort food. He said, "But you are proud of him, yes?" "Yes," I said. "Absolutely. Very proud."

But sad, too. The checker packed my groceries, and I considered the sadness. Peter's leaving this morning was tender. Beka buried her face in Peter's suit and cried as she hugged him goodbye. Rachel watched the huggings wet-eyed and solemn-faced. Jacob hugged Peter firmly, like a man-brother, and then said (with unexpected brightness), "Have fun." When Dad and Peter drove away, Mom and Rachel ran after the car. They stood on the sidewalk crying, long after the car had gone. When they finally came in, they told us that a neighbor had seen them out there and had come out to ask them if everything was all right.

Tonight Dad reported that Peter had cried all the way to the airport.

Grief seems too heavy a word for moments like these. Mourning, too. But they are the words that come to mind. I am grieving for Peter, and I am grieving for Palo Alto. I am mourning the loss of Melville and my law school days and the salads I loved and bought and got with the ridiculously good beef at Pluto's. Mourning that Peter will not raise his arched eyebrows at me across the table at breakfast tomorrow.

But Peter is not dead; he's in Utah. And Palo Alto and Pluto's are not gone. They are only gone from me. For now. And "Melville" may be gone, but the three women I loved are not (they exist, they assure me, though I'm having trouble visualizing their lives with others and apart from mine).

I both worry and have faith that I will not so acutely pine for days gone by forever. I know I will feel happier about Peter's whereabouts, and soon. (After nine years of my own away-from-home living, including one year of his own college life, I am used to having him gone, am I not?) My life will soon (too soon) fill up with the concerns and the chatting of new roommates, ward members, friends, visiting teachees. I am callous/faithful/pragmatic enough to move on. But what should I do in the meantime, in this interstitial zone? I don't even have a good name for it. The Empty Room. The Time Between. The Crossroads of Some-of-the-People-I-Love-Best-Have-Gone and There-Has-Not-Yet-Been-Enough-Living-to-Muddy-My-Memory-and-Mask-the-Leavings. Maybe that's the damnablest part of all. I can't even name the place I'm at and the feelings I have. At least, not succinctly. The sadness cat has got my (articulate) tongue.

When I left Trader Joe's, I left with four paper bags and one plastic one. As I pushed the cart away, the checker said, "I hope you have enough food." He said it half tenderly, half teasingly.

No more Melville and two years with no Peter?

No. The answer I'm going with is no.

*My use of "Peter" here is multivalent, of course. It's both literal and symbolic. Peter represents Peter himself, a seriously good 6' fellow of the brotherly persuasion, but also he represents the things I recently have moved from and/or lost. It has been a time of emotional and compounded leavings. Which is, I have to say, both exciting and totally sucky.

**Only these first four fruits were served at dinner. I'm sure we'll need fruit tomorrow. (Also, among other things I believe these days, I'm newly thinking that to be fully appreciated, honeydew melon should be served as a lone fruit. Preferably as the side of something hot and juicy and savory, like sausage. Or quiche. Consider.)

***(I also bought Trader Joe's marshmallows, which were square (because Trader Joe's has to be different) and which we roasted on forks and fondue skewers over our electric stove to make smores after dinner. We stood around the kitchen, trying to gracefully eat the drippy, sticky marshmallows we sandwiched with dark chocolate bars and pistachio-white chocolate chip cookies, and trying not to notice that Peter wasn't there.)


ambrosia ananas said...

I'm sorry you're missing your brother. That's exciting that he's going on a mission, though.

Also--that is a beautiful picture of the peaches. You should consider submitting it to Tastespotting.

mrs. everything said...

I love this post for a lot of reasons. The bittersweetness really touched on a lot of feelings I have been having of late. I really miss you. We ought to g or phone chat. Send me an email with your phone number and maybe we can do both?