The small yellow vase was a marvel. I spied it years ago at a local arts fair. It could fit into the palm of your hand, its body a fat perfect sphere, its neck slender, impossibly delicate, giving way to disk-like porcelain collar around an opening for just one tiny stem and bud. The glaze over the body was a delicious pale yellow mottled with white–buttery, happy, the wings of a butterfly.
Over the years, the vase has brought me joy in its tiny self-contained perfection. I treasure it. It, I suppose, became something more for me than an object d’art. Through all the years of illness, it stood in my bedroom as a reminder of something–of beauty, fragility, completeness. It was graceful the way a dancer’s line is –effervescent, hardly there, hardly anything, except sometimes, everything.
The other night, I happened to glance at it and see that something was wrong. To my horror ,the collar now had two jagged triangular gaps. By and large, I”m not too attached to things. Pottery and glasses get broken all the time at our house and I usually take them in stride. All the porcelain lamps have been glued and reglued. But somehow, the damage to the little pot got to me. I felt my heart race and I snatched it up and stomped into the TV room where my innocent husband was sprawled in front of Jay Leno. “Did you know about this!?” I hissed. He looked sheepish. He’d been fixing the blind in the bedroom and knocked it off the shelf. “it had been damaged before,” he said, “I couldn’t find the pieces this time.” I was filled with a seething rage; I felt like throwing the vase on the hearth tiles, smashing it into little pieces. I hated it! What good was it if it was broken? The whole beauty of it had been its perfection. It was ruined. Ruined! I couldn’t be put back together and it would never be the same.
I wept myself to sleep in my hospital bed.
The next morning, walking in the neighborhood, my neighbor Patty stopped and asked how I was. I found myself telling her it that it was a long, slow, hard recovery, and then I heard myself say, “I’ll never be the same; my spine will never be straight.” And I felt my eyes fill, my heart pound. Usually, I emphasize the positive–I’m alive, I’m not paralyzed. I’m not especially close to Patty, but for some reason, it came out. She said, “You know, you have to mourn it, there’s no way around it. You’ll go through all those stages of grief. You can’t hurry it up.”
Her words were a gift.
Well, I’m pretty good at fooling myself, but I guess I’ve worn out denial. I’ve tried bargaining–if I do my exercises, work, be exemplary, if I endure the pain, maybe I can preserve the illusion that I’ll be good as new someday, maybe I won’t have to mourn my losses: my strong back that I always relied on, my waistline, just the wonder of a body that despite CFIDS, despite asthma, would ride a bike, swim, garden,do yoga. All without too much consideration. I will heal, but I’ll never be the same, and I will probably never be pain free.
Geovanna, the woman who helps me with the house and with whom over the years, I’ve shared all the woes and joys of a woman’s heart in a motley but thoroughly lucid Spanglish, came up to me a few days ago holding the vase and two small pieces of white porcelain. “I know you love this,” she said, “maybe Mr. Todd can fix it for you.” She handed them to me, giving me a quick hug. Mr. Todd fixed it and put it on the shelf. You have to look for the cracks. I am very glad I didn’t smash it into pieces.