My first memory of you is Jani telling me about how you and she picked strawberries. She clearly adored you, and I was so envious. You were the granddaughter in Milwaukee, the one of whom she was so proud.
We first met when I flew to Milwaukee for Jani's memorial service. You were (almost?) 12. I was 16. You told me years later Jani had told you all these wonderful things about me and you were intimidated, but there was no need. I was just a scared, freaked out teenager. But we got along as I recall, though to be honest my memory of that time is hazy, other than a very strong felt-sense, that I think most likely emanated from you and your mother, which was of warmth. I was attending a boarding school in New England on scholarship. Warmth was in short supply.
Because of so many reasons, great and small...we were not in touch again until we were much older. We met again at my parents' dining room table in Maine, and I remember feeling: we are related. I remember also feeling: I don't feel related to anyone else. Because I had never had that feeling until meeting you again then. It felt strong. I finally understood the phrase: blood is thicker than water. As an only child with a fairly random-chance childhood, I had never felt this.
Was it the tilt of your eyebrows? Your sense of humor? The mix of deep warmth and deep skepticism? A certain depth of soul that I find rare, maybe not because depth of soul is rare, but perhaps it is not always easy to recognize in those to whom we do not feel kinship. We were both Jani's granddaughters. That was clear.
The time we got to spend in Maine in 2004 was a gift. S was 4 and L was a baby. J had to pick me up at the Portland bus station because I had made the mistake (never to be repeated) of taking a cheap bus line to Boston that literally burst into flames on the highway. All were safe but sat at the side of the road for ages. I barely new J but as will come as no surprise to you or anyone else, he was gracious about this late night guest washed up hours away, and we had a nice chat back to Damariscotta.
You and I had time to talk, but this visit was about your mother, Carol. She was dying of breast cancer then. You were so worried about her and doing everything you could to make her comfortable. Meanwhile, you asked me about my own life and affairs of the heart. Again, the warmth.
And from Carol, too, who was insistent we go on the whale watch come hell or high water. Sound familiar? It should. And that was a lovely day. Carol was happy. I think it was hardest on you, though, because you could see her pain. You are always so aware of your surroundings, and especially the cares and concerns of those who are lucky enough to bask in your love, which I think is infinite. I know you would scoff at that and tell me I'm exaggerating, because that's what you do, and like me, you find every reason on earth to be on your own case, but I wish at least for this moment, you could stop and see yourself how I see you: loving, kind, crazy smart, funny, wise, and yes sometimes sad and angry, because why wouldn't you be? But always present. Always. Present.
Another lovely memory I hold in my heart is the time I visited you all in St. Paul in 2011. I think James picked me up and my first memory of your house is L marching me up the stairs (he was 8) to meet his plastic figurines. One looked like a Dr. Who character, which led to watching Dr. Who (with parental agreement of course). L loving it, S being afraid of the monsters, and asking me about them, walking down in his PJs with James to make sure they weren't real, asking for a hug. I was stunned that an 11 year old could speak so articulately about his feelings, but then again he had you and J as parents, so why should it be a surprise?
Once again, unplanned, I was an emotional wreck because of my second marriage ending (I took on this aspect of the Jani personality apparently). And you wanted to help, and I wasn't having it, and you - in your warm way - basically told me I was being an asshole. Which I was. You were right. I have always been grateful for that conversation. You probably don't remember it that way, but it was done with such kindness, it didn't hurt, because you said it from love.
Other times during that trip included lovely moments like sitting on beanbags (I think they were?) in Walker Art Center watching a slideshow of Nan Goldin's photos of children, so beautiful and So unsentimental. Her aesthetic suited us both right down to the ground. We also went to a yoga class together that I loved instantly, gentle and wise was your yoga teacher. Afterwards, we discussed without going too far the senses we got there. The intimations of things not seen. Larger than us.
This is where I feel the most connected to you in the end. I know you are agnostic, whereas I believe deeply in something I cannot explain but has saved me one too many times to be easily dismissed. But I think deep down you have had this experience, too.
I remember too and will never forget our brief - all too brief - goodbye conversation on the sofa when you told me about dragonflies, that they are ancient but live such short lives, and in their short lives they are so busy - mating, making more dragonflies… but how you loved it when one would alight on your arm when you were younger. You were somehow wanting to link to this to the fact that it was OK we were saying goodbye. You could not remember what you wanted to say, but I think you said it:
Ancient but brief. Something about life. About our connection perhaps? It is how I feel it anyway. S walked in the door soon after that, your brother had driven him from Grinnell. The mood changed, and then I did have to leave, it was so late. I don't remember the actual moment we said goodbye, perhaps because we said it a number of times that night. You told me you didn't think you were dying "right" and I feel like I didn't say goodbye "right" - which for both of us was precisely: typical.
These are snapshots. There is so much to be said. There is nothing more to be said. You are my heart. As are your sons, and I hope they know that. If they ever want deep background, I can give them the book that is half about Jani, who is an influence like no other. I am here for you always, and them, too.
You wrote once you loved me to infinity. And I wrote back I love you to infinity and back.
And I do.
I love you to infinity and back.
|Darcy on left with brother Jonathan, sitting on legendary Jani's lap|
|Darcy and me in Maine in 2004, her young son's head visible|