September Fifth, Two Thousand and Ten

In Family, Life on July 3, 2011 at 6:48 pm

It is this dark and rainy night that I realize my mother is my hero.  She is standing with me on the side of the road, asking if I want to do this.

“It’s still there,” I say.

So she bends and wraps it in the towel and holds it near her chest as I open the plastic bag and it falls in.


I have taken to crying in the car.  Sobbing, really.  I guess it started with my return from Ireland, where it was the only place to scream, “Fuck,” at the decibels I needed, you know, the ones that generally inspire institutionalization.  As the seasons have passed, and the summer of my twenty-fifth year has arrived, the car seems to hold me.  I drive and listen to sad songs and look as red and wrinkled as a newborn babe, screaming with their same guts, the ones we all return to sometimes, a howl of thunder in our lungs.

Perhaps this rawness is embarrassing.  Perhaps it is private.  Perhaps I should find a non-mobile place to explore it.  Perhaps.  All I know is that I woke up not hungry again today, that grief still shrouded our house, that my mother and I fought on the way to the store before returning home to sit with my father and listen to him speak the death of a dying thing, and that around five pm, I got in the car.

I drove, I don’t know where.  Everywhere.  To my aunt’s house, to the bookstore, to the nursing home where my grandfather used to live.  I drove everywhere and nowhere, stopping only for stop signs, playing every sad song in my deck.  And then, it started to rain.

I turned off at the beach.  I’d passed it before: a wedding party.  They were gone now, but a flower remained.  I held it.  I watched the water.

Returning the key to the ignition minutes later, the clouds literally lifted and I knew it was time for the songs of joy.  Scrolling through the same albums, I played the upbeats; they reminded me of a recent bike ride, the twilit air a peaceful cape at my back.

Fist pumping and singing hoarse, that feeling returns unchanged.  I am still so happy to be alive.  To know joy amidst sorrow.  For I am sure that all of my recently unsolvable equations will add up: it’ll be alright in New York, my family will be alright, I will be alright.  “Life is,” as an 80-year-old Morman said to me on a plane in June (over and over in awe of this statement as if remembering for the first time), “good.”

And then, on Wilson Ave. a car rides over a rabbit.

I see it.  I drive on.  It takes one, two, three, four, five and a half seconds for me to honk my horn onetwothreefourfivesixseveneightnine times.

Maybe because I loved a rabbit once or because I try to be the person I expect I am or because I have visited the London Imperial War Museum and stood before the words, “evil exists because good men do nothing.’”:

I turn around.

I scan the road, fully conscious of how stupid this is.  Come on Elizabeth, injuries happen every day; they don’t matter.

“But,” some part of me says, “you were the only one that saw this injury.”

Actually, I was the only one that saw this death.

There it lies, like a form they teach you to animate – back legs splayed, head lolled; only cartoons look like that.  It’s missing a strip of fur on its stomach.  I don’t know why or to whom, because it’s certainly not to Jesus, but I roll down my window and yell, “Jesus Fucking Christ.”

I pull around.  Its eyes are open.


A few blocks from home, just between the Kentucky coal mines and California sun, with two bags of food on the passengers’ seat, I know what to do.

Drop them on the kitchen table.  Head to the computer.  How deep?  Four feet so the foxes don’t come.

“Mom! Where’s a flashlight?”

But when she points to the drawer and the tool touches my hand, it displaces my resolve.  I can’t imagine digging up my parent’s lawn without questions, questions I know I cannot withstand.  I’ve never had a pet, not even a gerbil.  Reality’s heavy stone ripples across my gut as I picture my parents’ weary response, their slightly shaken heads, closed eyes.  They will completely dissuade me from this I know is right.


I’m wrong.  It’s two pairs of gloves, one shovel, a towel, and three plastic bags that my mother loads into the car.  They jostle on the seat as we creep back, almost missing the turn-off.

I point to it, though it hardly resembles anything, now.

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

“It’s still there.”

And just like when I was little, my mom bends to clean the mess.  She takes the trouble, the form with matted fur, with guts freed by the careless tread of nighttime wheels, and this is my mother.  Wrapping death in a towel and helping me carry it home.

Right now, life is rough.  Lately, I forget to look up to my mother as I begin wanting to mother her.  But, life is good.  Tonight, my mother is my hero.  When she puts the rabbit under a bucket and weighs it with a rock by our garage.  When she suggests that I wait til morning to dig.  When she points to where will work.  When I wash my hands and look to the food and see what she bought me where we fought this afternoon, what she has placed as a present underneath my plate.  When I hug her and come upstairs and write this.


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