I don’t drink. Anyone who knows me can tell you that. But last night, I was holding the tiny shot glass of vodka high, singing in Polish something to the effect of “Let Jarek live 100 more years for us!” and downing some vodka. I was also standing around the big vat of macaroni and cheese, eating bowlfuls despite my tendency to avoid wheat or dairy. It was all for the good because I was in the parallel universe of Maura’s friends and family, holding tight to each other as we said goodbye all day and into the evening.
Sandy, Serina and I even talked about how this was a parallel universe, yet also the essence of reality and unreality. How could Maura be gone when we were using her silverware, sitting on her furniture, telling her stories, and in Sandy’s case, even wearing her shoes? I remember a scene in the Temple Grandin movie I saw recently, in which Temple — played beautifully by Claire Danes — sees her beloved horse dead, and yells out, “Where did it go?” in amazement and a bit of horror. “It was there yesterday, and now it’s gone.” I feel the same way.
Meanwhile, there were intense talks to be had in the living room, knee to knee with the Fabulous Backus boys about the essence of life, the importance of yoga and respecting our knees, and how little control we have over anything. There were dozens of hugs with Andrei and Ellen, beautiful teenage grandsons approaching with arms outstretched, a video station set up by Alex Backus to record Maura stories in, soulful exchanges with Maura and Jarek’s surrogate Ethiopian son in the kitchen, moments to sidle up to Jarek and take his hand, pieces of turkey to eat followed by bits of pie, and a whole lot of guinness, and sudden toasts to Maura, to Jarek, to Maura and Jarek. She would have loved it all, except maybe the chocolate cake on the dining room carpet, and I think she did love it all, because she’s so clearly present in this parallel universe, so much so that it seems ludicrous to say goodbye.
So I won’t: I’ll keep saying, “Hello, Maura” as well as “Where did you go?” I’ll keep carrying this universe in the center of what I know because in a parallel universe, while the rules can change, the love remains.
Pictures: Jarek with his children, Ellen and Andrei, and grandchildren Nicole, Natalie, Alex, Jacob, Andrew and Ethan; Ken, Sandy and Tony