"Because sorrow feels too heavy and joy it tends to hold you with the fear that it eventually departs."
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Sunday, December 9, 2012
Coincidentally, or not, the pain has also subsided. The last time it flared up it was different. It was in the chest, the solar plexus, or the heart. Where it belongs. Since then my depression has abated somewhat. I can contemplate the day ahead without wanting to end it.
Writing is both a chore and a pleasure. I avoid it, but then am relieved to be doing it. It's the only thing that stops time. It's painful, but I seek out pain. It's the only emotion I can feel. I do the same when I wake up in the middle of the night. I think of painful things until I get tired enough and can fall asleep again.
The question is whether the writing makes it harder or easier to be me. That's what I have to figure out.
Sunday, December 2, 2012
Thursday, November 29, 2012
It's different now - kind of a quick burst that spreads quickly. Not quite the gut-wrencher of before when I would have the moment of anticipation before it reached its deepest.
My depression has gotten worse - this is perhaps its physical manifestation. Or just existential terror.
Monday, November 19, 2012
I don't know if I can follow the story line he wrote. It's too foreign to me. What I'm doing is using it as a platform to go back to his childhood. To tell it from his perspective, without sentimentality.
It has a life of its own. Hopefully, it will find a shape, just as the other one did.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Saturday, October 20, 2012
The Love Of My Life
That piece of writing touches on almost everything I have experienced with grief. Except the acting out. I haven't been bad. Not in any recognizable way anyway. I have stuck to duty. I have been mean maybe, impatient, but not self-indulgent. Do 2-3 cigarettes a day count? In the magnitude of my loss - hardly.
So is this it? Have I overcome? Have I healed?
"Healing is a small and ordinary and very burnt thing. And it’s one thing and one thing only: it’s doing what you have to do."
Done. But it doesn't feel done. It feels like everything might still fall apart at any minute - my carefully constructed ordinariness. My body that feels as strong and fit as ever, with hardly a wrinkle marring my brow. Surely this can't go on. I will wake up one morning and not recognize myself in the mirror.
"Somewhere, floating on the surface of my subconscious, I believed — I still believe — that if I endured without her for one year, or five years, or ten years, or twenty, she would be given back to me; that her absence was a ruse, a darkly comic literary device, a terrible and surreal dream."
A surreal dream made all the more terrible by the lack of outward change. I want to see the monster in the mirror.
Saturday, October 13, 2012
You were so big, they had to cut me, but you came out perfect - round-headed - a little white bunny as the nurse called you.
Last night I slept, but in my dream I worried that you had dropped out of school, and about what were the options to remedy that. Then I woke up and realized I needn't worry about you anymore. I miss the worry. That was my gift. I'll take it.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
This one was the other night: he came home with a tattoo on his face - temple and forehead. He had tried to cover it with makeup and I started wiping it off. Something about 20 or 22 days, to do with Sudan. He was 17 by my calculations and this time I didn't let it go. I marched him to the tattoo place, which was in an apartment, like a doctor's office and threatened to sue them. They didn't seem too perturbed. Then he was in a hospital bed, presumably to have it removed. He was really skinny, his ribs were sticking out of his chest. He wasn't mad at me, but I felt bad about causing him additional pain with the removal.
This one was five weeks ago: I was with him and it was now. I think my mother was there, too, but we went out, me and him and this is the only part of the dream that I remember. It was dark outside. We went to a girl's house. Everything was kind of dingy - the place, as well as our clothes. He was wearing something like pajama bottoms, or loose thermals - two layers of them. At her place, the girl had some white powder out and she casually snorted it. I thought it was cocaine. He had some, too. I didn't, but I didn't try to stop him. It seemed like it was not a big deal. When we left, the bottom of the wooden staircase was blown out, so we had to get down from the first landing which wasn't too high, about chest-level, but I wondered how we had gone up. Then we went to some kind of club. Before that, I noticed that he was now wearing pants, but I was wearing the pajama bottoms and I thought it would be best to change. I had my yoga pants and I thought that would look more decent, but I ended up wearing jeans under a dress. When we got to the club I thought they were going to ask us for IDs and I realized I had left my wallet behind. I told him that and he laughed and said "don't worry, I have money." They let us in. The club was kind of dingy, too. He seemed at ease in this world. I felt it was a place where I could be with him.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
From now on I shall no longer mourn you. I will only celebrate that I knew you, that such a force of life came through me. Through the tears I will be grateful for being granted the privilege of loving you. And I will try to deserve the love you gave me and the trust you had in me.
Friday, September 14, 2012
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Friday, August 24, 2012
Monday, August 13, 2012
"There's another clear moral to this tale, now that I think about it: When you're dead you're dead."
So all my thoughts can't benefit anyone. I might as well forget.
And another one - for the survivors:
"I was like almost everybody who came through the war. ... Every job was a job to do, and no job was any better or any worse than any other."
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
So this book I've been reading is a bowl of laughs. Its premise is that there is no purpose to life, it's all an illusion perpetrated by adaptation to make us get out of bed, and if you can't deal with it, there's Prozac.
Here's a quote from it:"Introspection can't provide a good reason to go on living because there isn't any. ... But introspection keeps hoping, looking, trying to find a reason to go on. Since there really isn't one, those who look hard eventually become troubled."
Troubled is a nice way of putting it. The first quote is a lyric my son kept coming back to, so much so that he joked he would have it tattooed on his forehead. I said in my book that he wasn't well-adjusted, that he couldn't be fooled. He saw through the meaninglessness of it all. He didn't buy into the whole getting out of bed for no reason but to perpetuate a bunch of molecules. Of course, any body wants to keep going, but he fooled his by driving it to death. No, he didn't will it, because there is no free will, but he slipped one by evolution.
Thursday, July 26, 2012
I once planted flower seeds that a friend had brought me from Holland. I knew nothing about it and planted them in pots that were too small. They grew tall but never flowered because the stalks broke - they were too tall and fragile to survive.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Friday, July 20, 2012
"All the years keep rolling/The decades flying by/But ahh, the days are long..." The Walkmen, On the Water
I can deal with the years, the decades without you. It's the individual moments that can break me. The void is too much to bear. My love is going into a black hole, never to be returned. I am slowly turning cold.
Saturday, July 14, 2012
The pain I get upon awakening has been a little unpredictable lately. Sometimes I don't get it immediately. Sometimes I look for it and that provokes it. Other times it skips me. Then it comes back as usual. That is also something I've been clinging to, I think. Without it, what do I awaken to?
This morning I had an intimation. I woke up thinking of him. It's strange that people think the photos of him covering my walls would be a constant reminder. They are not. I don't need a reminder. What was different this morning is I caught a glimpse of the endlessness of despair. I have been telling myself that grief is forever. Today I felt it. The finality of it. Every Saturday I will wake up to nothing to look forward to. He is not just away for a while. There is no substitute. There is no way for me to rejoin him. Even if I die. We die alone. He died alone.
Saturday, July 7, 2012
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Monday, June 25, 2012
I must pull myself out of my self-ascribed mediocrity to reach for greatness. Not for him, but with him.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012
A friend wrote to me that she dreamed of my son. She's not the first to say so, but she described it so eloquently. His hair was like spun gold, she said, streaming with an otherworldly light. He was sitting at a big table and he wasn't eating but she knew he has everything he needs to be satiated. I'm sure that's right. He lacks for nothing now. And I'm still accumulating stuff. For what?
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Really that says it all. I can try to dissect it and reconstruct it, but it seems that one truth is inescapable.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
If you have a cat, that is. Maybe if he'd stayed with the cat, he would still be here... They say that animals can regulate your heart rhythm if the connection is there. He said he missed him, when the question of love and loneliness came up.
But that's not what I wanted to write about. Some days you just can't put one foot in front of the other without thinking of all the missteps you made. It's common wisdom that only the present exists - the past is gone and the future is uncertain. But I think only the past exists for sure. And it's unchangeable. The present turns into the past with each breath. Just as you can't change the past, you can't change yourself. That's why regret is useless. Even if you return to the past you would still be you. How could you do things differently? Even with hindsight. It's not like I lacked foresight. I was just powerless to change things. The game is rigged. All you can do is wait for it to play out. Then you'll know the score. And then it doesn't matter.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
I proceeded to eat my lunch. I was not even fazed. Somebody I shared this with told me I had a super power now. Another person said an angel was protecting me.
Both are true. I do not care about death now. My son gave me this gift. I survived his death, so I'm ready for mine, whenever it comes.
Having watched my mother part with life was one of the most heart-wrenching things I've been through. I'm glad my son won't be there for mine. And I promise I will not be sorry to go.
Monday, May 28, 2012
When I came here with my own little family I felt I had won - I had the best of both worlds - the city I loved, without the loneliness it went along with.
The first summer I sent my son home to his grandparents. When he came back he was all tan from the beach, with sun-bleached hair - a vision of beauty at 7. We went to Central Park and as we were descending towards the little pond near the Alice in Wonderland sculpture we passed by Paul Simon and his then pregnant wife, Edie Brickell. Our son was running ahead of us dressed in a white button-down shirt bought at a garage sale and khaki pants. As they passed us, he turned to her and said "what a beautiful boy." I felt so fortunate right then to be envied by someone who had everything.
My beautiful boy is gone, but that vision of beauty still makes me feel fortunate for having had it.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
"I get up in the morning, put my dreams away. I get up, I get up, I get up again."
It's from a song by a group called Dead Man's Bones. Ryan Gosling's their frontman. My son told me about them, of course. All their songs feature death. In a non-morbid way. There's even a children's choir.
When there is no future, does time really exist? Once we stop growing up, we measure time by our children's lives. That's when time is meaningful. Now it doesn't matter. Yes, I'm getting older, but when you're already dead, age doesn't matter. Just a little bit older and colder every day.
Friday, May 18, 2012
So why do I feel bad about my son dying? For myself, of course, because I miss him. But I also feel bad for him, though not because it's better to be alive than dead, but because of what I failed to convey to him, because of all the times he felt lacking, because of his self-doubt. I want to make it all better, but I can't, because he's gone.
I don't know where I read this - I thought it was Dostoyevsky, but I couldn't find it in The Brothers Karamazov, it could have been C.S. Lewis - that heaven, if it is to exist as a valid concept, must go back in time and remove the pain that was suffered by innocents. That's what I want to do, but I can't. I can't make amends.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Saturday, May 12, 2012
I am looking for the key to his obsession. Why Batman? There's a lot about death and redemption. I'm reminded of the novel Fortress of Solitude, but Yassen never liked Lethem. Too close to home? I don't know if I can read any of these. It's an alien experience. But I'm running out of ways to get to know him better. To understand.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
There was an elaborate assassination plot against my son. We were trying to subvert it with the help of decoys - other tall young men. But I realized they were tracking us by our cell phones, so I went to the terrace to throw out mine, but couldn't because there was some kind of net that I had to claw through first. Then the assassin caught up with me. It was someone I knew. My first boss in the US.
I woke myself up with a choked out cry of "I'll kill you!"
Sunday, May 6, 2012
He didn't see the irony of it. I had to look away because my eyes filled. If that was indeed the case, let's consider how I feel about my present life.
Mothers Day last year was the last day I spent with my son. He had come to NY to meet with a casting agent, who had seen his photos on FB. When he told me he was coming I reminded him it was also Mothers Day that week. He rebuked me for reminding him and said that's why he was coming then.
The night before he quarreled with his father. He almost left then and there, but I convinced him to stay. We went out on Sunday. First I took photos of him, because the casting agent wanted to see natural light ones. They were terrible. I probably cost him the job. If he had gotten it he might have moved back to NY instead of going to California, where he died.
There is also a photo of us taken by me - the worst photo ever, actually, two of them - the second one is worse, but they are the last photos of us together.
We went to brunch at one of the neighborhood restaurants. Waiters were handing out roses to the obvious mothers in the room. He looked at me, not getting a rose, and said - you know it's because you look too young to be my mother. That much was true - we could have been a mismatched couple. We got that a lot on a cruise we went on several years earlier. I was neither flattered, nor upset.
Then we went to the park where I took the photos of us. On the way back he got hungry again, so we stopped at an Asian restaurant. I had undertipped in the morning, just because I couldn't calculate after the Bloody Mary, and he was upset with me. Here I overcompensated and he asked me sarcastically whether I liked Asians better than Mexicans. I admitted I was bad at tipping.
That's all I remember of that day. Next day he left and four months later he was dead and I never got to see him again.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Yesterday someone actually answered me with 'just okay?' and when I confirmed, he proceeded to assure me that I would feel better on the weekend. Umm, actually, no, I prefer weekdays, but thanks for ignoring the reality of my life.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
I went to the bathroom and temporarily forgot the dream. But then when I went back to bed I kept having trouble breathing and was wondering why I was upset. Then the dream came back to me.
The thought that first came into my mind was I must scatter my son's ashes - he shouldn't be in a box. Then I thought: maybe this is what he went through when he died. Did he dream he couldn't breathe and he couldn't wake up?
Sunday, April 29, 2012
"She hoped that although he could not hear her she could somehow imprint her ordinary love upon his memory through all eternity, hoped he would rise thinking of her, we were each other, we were each other, not that it mattered much in the long run but what else mattered as much."
Saturday, April 28, 2012
I always felt sorry for couples who were childless by choice. Maybe even felt superior to them. I know, that’s not very nice. Do I feel chastened now? To the contrary. A child is not an investment. A child is the closest an atheist can get to God. That’s what I felt when I was in labor. I was just a vehicle for life to come through me. That’s what I always felt it was – a sacred responsibility. That’s why I feel like such a colossal failure. I had a treasure – I held the meaning of life in my hands – and I lost it.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
“We are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4am of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget.”
This is its continuation:
“We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.”
Except when death freezes things and the present stops obscuring the past. Surely then we don’t forget.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Thank you, E. for making me feel understood. And thank you to all of you reading this and making me feel less alone.
Saturday, April 21, 2012
He told me I was in denial, but really he was hiding the truth from me all along. ‘Can I trust you now?’ I wanted to ask him. I don’t want to relive my whole life, I just want to redo that conversation. Even if it fails to change anything. I just want another chance. There are so many things we think are impossible to change, but death is really the only one. There is always another chance before death. We just don’t want to take it for fear of being wrong. I didn’t ask him ‘can I trust you now’ because I thought he would fly into a rage as he did whenever I doubted him. I predicted his behavior and acted accordingly. But what if I was wrong? What if that would have been the right opening? What if even if he had still died we had had a different conversation from all those other ones. There are signs that he really changed towards the end. I missed out on the opportunity to acknowledge that.
“Every day I wake up and spend five hours training my body to exhaustion just so I don't have enough energy to actually throw myself off a bridge. Everyday I am forced to reconcile the mangled peices of a human being and I don't think you've even noticed.”
Of course I noticed. With a mix of pride and terror I watched his boastful postings about his injuries. A really bad shin scrape, the ‘still prettier than you’ almost broken nose, the bruised ribs he complained of a few weeks before the end and which I suspected had caused him to overmedicate. The Fight Club therapy he was practicing. Was he rebelling against me? Against my emasculating power. He ended our last fight with: “I have to go hit people now. Thankfully.” Three hours later he apologized. It was self-punishment, wasn’t it? Freud’s melancholic, who rather than hating others turns it upon himself.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
I got up last night to write down this dream.Batman had to withdraw from the world because of a super villain who was after him, so he feigned his death and from then on would live in secret with his family. And that would be enough because being with the people you love is like being with everybody. This was a movie in the dream, but the ending was only revealed after the movie ended, so it was real.
Some writer said you never have to revise what you get up to write in the middle of the night. I guess it's true. I was questioning the title of my book, but I have a reason for it now.
Friday, April 6, 2012
Sunday, April 1, 2012
When I woke up I wasn't pained that it wasn't real, because in a way it was. I got to hug you again.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Writing is becoming a tyranny. Not just this, but the 'book' I'm writing. I'm tired of judging my emotions by how good a writer I am. Yes, a lot of it is trite. That doesn't make it less true. 'Trite', a word I learned in creative writing class in middle school. The worst condemnation. Enough. I just want to feel.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Then last night I had quite a different dream, a very Freudian one. He was 6 or 7, we had gone back home for good and I was concerned that he would forget English so I was going to get my father (a former Ambassador) to ask at the American embassy if they would accept him in their after-school program so he could go there maybe once a week. I was concerned that he would grow up not speaking English. There was also some other opportunity - a play(?) that I wanted him to try out for. The embassy's back yard abutted on our own (or what appeared to be my grandparents' village house yard). We could hear the kids playing. As I was formulating this plan there was some urgency to it, but at the same time I thought, well, what's the point, when he's dead now, but I still planned to go through with it.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Such a blessed relief. Especially on weekends when I'm at a loss as to what to do with myself.
I did my yoga, I cooked lunch, I did my writing (thank god for that), I'm having my drink (never enough, but I resist overindulging) and soon (not soon enough) I will be unconscious. Overall a success, I think, considering I have no hope for the future.'Life is how it is, not how it was.' - Bright Eyes
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
How many times did I say this to people - it's only self-pity that makes me sad. I'm not sad for him - he is no more, I'm sad for me. But I'm also sad for who he was. Now that I'm writing about him the hardest thing is not writing about the death. That gives me a certain comfort. I can feel a certain detachment as I'm describing what I'm going through. But when I write about his life, everything makes me sad - the good and the bad, the things we did and didn't do. I wish we had done more.
I wish we as humans didn't dread death. What is death to us? I just wish we knew what we have while we are living. But we can't. We just can't.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
W.H. Auden, Funeral Blues
I first heard the poem in "Four Weddings and a Funeral". Was reminded of it reading Joan Didion's memoir about the death of her daughter, Blue Nights. Went on to read the one about her husband, The Year of Magical Thinking.
I never liked Joan Didion, although she was one of my son's favorites. I always found her cold. Now I think she is just like me. Or maybe all people who lose their only child are alike. In any case, it helps to read about someone else experiencing the exact same thing. It makes you feel less alone. Thank you, Joan. You take comfort where you can find it. I have always looked to literature. Never thought I would find it in non-fiction. It has changed my perspective on writing. That even the most profoundly personal can be universal.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
You told me I lived in denial. Not exactly. It's not that I couldn't see. It's that I couldn't act. My sins are all ones of omission. I never did the wrong thing. I just didn't do the right thing. Because of fear. There are instances that come clearly to mind. But this is not the place.
I said in the beginning that I knew I was always meant to write. The reason I haven't is not because I think my writing is not good enough. It's because I have no imagination. I'm always amazed at how wildly imaginative my dreams are. But in real life I have no access to that power. But there's one thing I can do. I can write what I know. I was kind of a journalist after all. I can take what I know and make people understand it. Maybe even feel it. That's all I need to do now. I need to write about you. Because you were amazing. Because you had no fear.
Another reason I gave myself a pass on becoming a writer is because I thought you could do it better. You were as good a writer as me, but you also had a life. But although you wrote, you didn't leave behind much. You were too busy living. Well, I have no life now, so I have all the time in the world. I will write about your life. I don't pretend to know all of it. I was in denial, remember? But there are people out there who know about it. They can help me fill in the gaps.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
And you were right about me - I did live in denial. As cynical as I am, I could never face up to how ugly things really are. I was always secretly hopeful that truth and beauty will prevail.
I am no more.
Friday, February 3, 2012
"everything passes before you get to scream I LOVE YOU out the the window of the train"I hadn't seen that one before. I know you meant it more than literally, but that's one of the biggest regrets I have for you - that you never really found a deep romantic love. I think that if you had, it could have saved you. I know that mine couldn't.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Now it can't hide from the knowledge. I don't have to remember it each time I wake up. I know it even in my sleep. There is no place to hide.
It also gets harder to evoke your existence. Your words are still fresh. I get a fix of them every day, but there are only so many of them. They are only you at a certain point in time. They are not your essence, which was ever moving and evolving. The hardest thing is not that I miss you. I missed you even while you lived - you were away most of the time and the phone was a poor substitute. The hardest thing is that you are frozen in time.
You lose a child continually as it grows up. You miss the different stages of its life. But you never expect its life to be complete.
One thing that I did not miss while you lived was your love. It was as strong as when you clutched me with your chubby baby arms. I feel supremely unloved now.
Worse - I feel all my love is going into a black hole, never to be returned.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
I have some where I die, I have some where we all die." - Bright Eyes, Hit the Switch
They say you can't die in your own dream. Nonsense. Here's how I did it.
I was in my parents' apartment. The time was twenty-some years ago. Everything was correct - the topography of the apartment, everyone's age - my brother and I in our twenties, my parents fiftiesh, my son (who was absent) around five. My parents and I opened the door to the bedroom and there lying on the floor by the bed were two bodies. One was my brother, who was in some kind of fit, but conscious. The other one, lifeless, was me. I cradled my brother's head trying to calm him and I told him my son would need him as a friend. My parents were strangely detached, just there as observers. Nobody mentioned the body, but it seemed to be the reason my brother was distressed and at death's door himself. And, of course, my son would need him, because he wouldn't have me.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
But as for you - I feel you got the best of it. I read some speculation, just to confirm, that your death was a painless one. You stopped breathing and your brain was tricked into not panicking at this. I knew that already when I saw how peaceful you looked in death.
You were free while you lived. You even traveled across the country like you wanted to and you loved it, despite the discomfort of being confined on a train. In one of the comments on your photos you wrote:
"The country unfolds in your heart. The landscape is such a powerful message. Makes you want to run wild like a comanche. Brother I am in lov with this life."
You never had to compromise. Yes, 26 years is short, but it is well beyond the time when most people find they have to settle, and let go of a limitless future. When I was 26 we came to this country and I started on the 20-year grind to sustain our precarious existence. Now I am safe, but with nothing to show for it. The reason I lived for - you - is gone. You, on the other hand, never lost your child-like optimism. You still felt anything was possible. What better way to end.
Still, I can't help wishing for my sake that you were more ordinary and less foolhardy. That you are still here.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Friday, January 6, 2012
I am sorry, my son, for making you feel worthless because you didn't conform, for making you feel like a burden because you made my life difficult. At least that's what you heard. It wasn't what I meant. I was angry at you for making yourself suffer. Your suffering was my suffering. Your well-being was my well-being. You were never separate from me. I told you I loved you more than anything. But that doesn't begin to describe it. I love you more than being.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Figures that the first new book I like is about a young suicide and his converse - the guy who "wanted life not to bother me too much, and had succeeded - and how pitiful that was."
What kills me is that I knew this when I was young. I just closed my eyes and hoped against hope that it wasn't so. I irresponsibly created another life, just to justify my own. And he had to die in order to open my eyes to the ultimate meaninglessness of what I had done. He died for my sins.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
I know there are heavier burdens than mine. I will try to be generous with what I have left to offer. I sent a contribution to the project that made his last days brighter. I know he would have wanted to keep that promise unbroken. A part of him will live on in the extreme passion he lived and preached. That's all I can do.
I decided I don't want his remains scattered in this country. It wasn't kind to him and he railed against it. What I didn't expect was that shopping for an urn to keep his ashes in would bring me down so. Hiding him within a pretty object is not what he would like. His friend, who visited on New Year's eve asked to see them and cried. I look at them every day and feel nothing. I know that's not him. I knew it even when I saw his stiff body emptied of its organs. His body let him down. He was so much more than that. He was light. And darkness. His father painted a shadowy half-angel just before he died. There is more of him in that than in the white ashes in the black box.