I no longer seem to know where my body ends and the world begins. If I were a practicing Buddhist, this might mean the distinction between self and other was falling away. I might be on the path to oneness, or enlightened. Instead, I am in the midst of grief, a state in which I can no longer feel my body. I have wounds and bruises on my arms from making too close acquaintance with the lock plate of the linen closet as I put away the clean towels and sheets.
Food no longer tastes good, but I’m forcing myself to eat real food, not junk food. Even though I can’t smell it as I cook it, or find any taste or pleasure in it as I eat it, I know I have to care for my health in this time of great distress. Once every other day or so, I eat a comfort food because this soothes my wounded emotions. I’m beyond the point on my health journey where some foods are forbidden completely to keep me from overeating them. Now I’m more disciplined, eat a variety of foods, more vegetables, more lean meat, less bread and pastas, and have fried food almost never.
This little grilled Gouda cheese sandwich on a grain and seed bread really hit the spot. I could pull it apart and watch the strings grow finer until they finally separated from the other quarters on the Wedgwood Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit plate my daughter used when she was a child. I’ve always found comfort in good memories, good food, and sharing our stories around the kitchen table. That’s where my family always gathered to chat about our day during the dinner hour. Good times, bad times and ordinary times in our family kitchen were always connected to food.
A month ago my daughter died at 36 years of age, having spent about twenty of those years on and off the streets of San Francisco. She was mentally ill, wouldn’t take proper medication, and self medicated. She was also beautiful, creative, and intelligent. Her three children are all talented, smart, and adopted by good families. They are doing well. I’ve been preparing mentally for this day for two decades, but emotionally I don’t think anyone can prepare for grief. One can only experience it.
My sense of smell seems to be coming back, however. Thursday I noticed an off smell in the lobby of our condo.
“What is that awful smell?” I asked our maintenance man.
“Oh! That’s a dead rat! It’s been in the ceiling since last Saturday. Are you just now smelling it?”
“I guess my sniffer has been a little off. ”
“We put poison out and the rats are supposed to go outside.”
“To look for water. He didn’t make it!”
“No he didn’t. They say the smell will be gone in 3 or 4 more days.”
Some things we just have to endure. In a ten story condo, a rat in the crawl space isn’t going to be found unless it’s within eyesight of the entry. Nobody goes crawling into a 50 year old tight squeeze unless the electric or plumbing are messed up. Likewise, grief is a process we go through. It’s like baking bread the old fashioned way: we work at it, and the we enjoy the end result. In the meantime, we eat an occasional grilled cheese sandwich on a bunny plate.