Friday, August 24, 2012

Looking for the warrior

Looking for the warrior

Every once in a while, one needs to clean out long piled-up stuff.

There’s no one quite like a writer when it comes to long piled-up stuff. Ask my son-in-law Dan, who is still, after more than a year, going through my late daughter Laura’s stuff, mining her journals for never-developed poems and shards of wisdom beyond what she shared with us.

Of late, Dan found a poem titled “If They’re Right,” written two years after Laura’s diagnosis of stage-four colon cancer in 2008. The “they” were of course the oncologists and specialists that gave Laura not much time. Up for interpretation is the meaning of the poem, which depends upon whom the poet is addressing. Laura may have left an enigma, as she so often did.

Today, I’m searching for my sketch titled The Warrior, which will adorn the cover of Laura’s collection titled The Warrior’s Stance, that is, if I can find the original art. Two huge piles were sifted through without my finding the drawing. Tomorrow is another day.

Meanwhile I unearthed two long-buried treasures. The first was a fat envelope containing my late friend and editor John Willett’s unpublished manuscript titled Child of the Night Sky. A novella aimed at young readers, it’s the story of a pre-Columbus Indian boy who is blind, but is saved from his ancient tribe’s customary dealing with physically challenged children because the wise elders of a group that visits once a year see that he is gifted with sight from beyond.

John’s book is a delightful read and contains his message for today, something that comes through in all his works, published and not. It was simply wonderful to be reminded of my friendship with and admiration for this gifted man.

The other treasure was the printout of a two-day email correspondence with Laura, four years prior to her diagnosis. She’d been working with a psychologist for a year or more because of a feeling of despair and depression that would not go away. Through regressive therapy they’d made a breakthrough to memory that had been walled off. It was an astonishing, horrific revelation for her and for me, too.

Evidently, we’d been trying to work our way through this horror, and my behavior had not been helpful. What Laura was asking was something I could not give – a knockdown, drag out argument. As I’ve said before, and as she said frequently, I will do anything to avoid confrontation, and she was pissed, believing it the only way to clear the air.

My final email words on the subject were “See you Monday,” at which time, no doubt, we were to have our discussion of the painful matter at hand. There were no further printouts. I suppose I could search my own journals around that time to see if I wrote about it. But right now, I’m too busy looking for The Warrior.

Laura Morefield and Charlene Baldridge
Christmas 2008

I’ve decided, though, that whatever discussion ensued helped us four years later when we had to communicate with each other regarding prognoses, surgeries, the diminishing possibility of her survival, and, at last, her wanting to share her death and her work with me, the latter on an ongoing basis.

I was privileged to be present during my beloved daughter’s last moments, to be holding her hand as she breathed her last breaths. For the past year I’ve been with Laura through her work, my response and the responses of others who have witnessed The Warriors’ Duet.

I’d give anything if I, like Emily, could return to that Monday in mid-October 2004 and eavesdrop on our conversation. But like Emily I would likely find it too painful to bear.

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