Vocabulary of loss

by ericavanhorn

30 August Saturday

There was a man painting the door of O’Dwyer’s shop.  It was a wooden door which is really just a piece of plywood with hinges.  All day long the door is held open and attached to the wall of the building with a padlock.  It has various notices for events and things for sale pinned on the inside of the door which is actually outside all day long. The man was holding the door open by leaning it against a can while he drew out two vertical panels with a long sign-painters brush.  In the top half of the painted door he had already drawn a large square.  I complimented him on his steady hand.  Drawing out long lines with liquid is not easy. He was proud of his work.  He explained that the two panels at the bottom would be painted as proper wooden door panels while the top section was to be painted to look like glass. I am wondering when I will ever see this door as the shop is open from early in the morning until quite late in the evening.  This outside door is only closed when the shop is closed.  Then the padlock is on the other side, and the notices are hidden inside and protected from the weather.  I will have to go down at night specially to see the finished paint job.  All this makes me realize that I simply do not know when they close the shop.  It is a place that seems to be always open.

31 August Sunday

In Waterford there is a bread roll called a Blaa. Sandwiches are always offered on a Blaa.  I often intend to find out how and why the Blaa got its name and also to find out why it is only a Waterford word.  As far as I know, no where else in the country serves up a Blaa.  The Blaa is not an item for export.  Not knowing and not getting around to asking keeps the mystery going for me.  It also means that I am both surprised and delighted each time I hear the word again.

1 September Monday

I have a new vocabulary.  It is the vocabulary of loss.  There are a lot of words I rarely use in relation to myself.  These are a lot of words which are now in my conversation every day:  Bereft.  Mourn.  Heartbroken.  Devastation.  Vacuum.  Absence. Grief.  Death.  Sorrow.  Pity.  Sorrow.  Consolation.  Sympathy. Remembering.  Forgetting. Commiseration.  Oh dear.  The list goes on and on.  Sometimes these words are only said in my head.  Sometimes they are written. Sometimes they are part of conversations.  Sometimes they are said out loud.  Everywhere I go the news has spread.  One person tells another.  Each time I speak with someone we need to go over Em’s death and we need to find the right words to say everything that needs to be said.  I have spoken with people who still miss their deceased dog after 34 years, or 12 years or 7 years.  One person listed the things that she has saved from her dead dog. She has his hair clippings, his nail clippings, his baby teeth, his collar and his toys.  She has made a sort of shrine so that she will never forget him. He has been dead for 6 years. She swears that she misses him every single day.  Another woman told me that losing her own dog was like having the back wall of the house fall off.  I know exactly how that feels.   For now, I still expect to see Em appear from someplace indoors or someplace outdoors.  I just assume that where she is is just somewhere nearby and that I will see her soon.  There are grubby marks low down on various corners and on the edges of door frames where her body has rubbed as she passed by again and again. These marks suggest her presence not her absence.

2 September Tuesday

The woman in front of me was filling out cards for the weekly GAA lottery.  She had three of the yellow cards lined up on which to write her details.  She was old and her hands were stiff.  She held the pen awkwardly. Her handwriting was slow. She only needed to write her name and phone number. Because the writing was laboured and probably painful, she interrupted herself often to speak. She did not attempt to write and to speak at the same time. She remarked to the woman behind the counter that “It’s Heading Up Nicely.”  Then she announced, in a louder voice, to anyone in hearing distance, that the jackpot had climbed to well over seven thousand euro now.  She said,  “There’s a lot of people waiting on that money.”

3 September Wednesday

I went down into the meadow with the idea of demonstrating how lovely the mown paths were. The bright green short grass paths winding down through the long grasses always suggest promise to me, even though I know exactly where they lead.   Instead of the lush short grass of the winding paths contrasting with the surrounding mixture of late summer burnt and  golden grasses, I was showing off a meadow half devastated by the strimmer, with a scatter of cut grasses over everything.  In some places the paths were barely visible.  I could see the paths because I knew they were there.  I am not sure anyone else could find them visible enough to follow, much less find them interesting.  The apple trees are fuller than they have ever been.  There are masses of apples reaching ripeness on every branch.  Most of the branches are hanging heavily with the weight of all the fruit.  The blotcheens are ripe and ready for eating.  Every single fruit tree is heavily entangled with convolvulus vines.  The vines are just reaching up from the ground and encircling the trunks and the branches and it is all a mess.  I have been leaving the vines because if I start to tug at them I might lose a lot of fruit in the struggle.  Between the messed up paths and the not raked up grass and the trees that look like they are being choked to death, the walk to view the meadow was not my best idea.

4 September Thursday

There was a murder last night.  It happened right underneath the bedroom window.  I woke up to the squealing and screeching of a captured creature.  I could not tell if it was a bird or a rabbit.  It might have been anything at all.  The sounds were terrible.  They were the sounds of fear and desperation.  There was struggle.  The noises were all the voice of whoever was being killed.  It varied as things went from bad to worse.  I could do nothing and I could see nothing.  For less than a minute, I thought of rushing outside with a light but I knew that it was already too late.  The fox had someone already in his mouth and the screams were the last moments of a life.  I lay in the dark and I listened.  I had no choice but to listen.  It was gruesome and noisy, and then it was all completely quiet.