Monday, July 27, 2009

psych 101

i probably would have been a psychology major, if not for the mouse experimentation thing. and i would have gotten a good education at it, no doubt, graduating as i did from the college that produced b.f. skinner. (produced ezra pound, too, by the way, he who said, "The real trouble with modern war is that it gives no one a chance to kill the right people." hmm...okay, not a politically popular figure for sure, but considered no slouch among literary minds anyhow, political foolishness aside).

ahem. as i was saying, i wish i had spent more time studying how the mind works. but since i didn't (and since i doubt that psych department had all the answers anyhow), i've got a lot of someday questions.

i think i mentioned that i've spent a lot of time thinking about pictures since eliza died. if you know me, you know i take a lot of pictures anyhow, and i was diligent to take lots and lots throughout eliza's life. i'm pretty sure i have a picture of her with just about every person who held her in her life, medical folks aside (and some of those people, too), which, considering how popular she was, is quite a few pictures. there was a sense of urgency to capture all the "moments" in her life, fleeting as those moments were expected to be. and then, as i grew more complacent about her longevity, i took fewer pictures. i was less willing to disturb her to make sure she was included in a family picture, less likely to fuss with her to take a picture when i realized it had been a few weeks. and as my complacency grew, little did i know that her moments were indeed increasingly fleeting.

you can maybe imagine my struggle, then, to come to terms with the fact that i have no pictures from the last six weeks of eliza's life (no, i think you can't. it's indescribable. but i'll pretend you can). when your life is less than three years long, six weeks is a significant chunk. no pictures between halloween (sweet bunny that she was) and december 12. no pictures of her last visit with her grandparents, just a month before she died; no pictures of her last visit with her godparents (for our annual thanksgiving-and-charlie-brown-christmas-and-"family"-photo festivities) just a couple of weeks before she died; no pre-Christmas card-worthy family photo. in the early weeks after eliza's death, this lack of pictures haunted me. and i still feel guilty taking a family picture without her.

(the psychology thing is coming, i promise. wait for it.)

tonight, as i looked at a professional family picture taken just after eliza's second birthday, my thoughts went something like this: "what a shame that we didn't take another picture like that last summer. i hate that we don't have any later family pictures. oh well. we need to make sure to take one this week." of all of us. seven and a half months later, in the midst of a thought about what a shame it is that eliza is gone and no longer in family pictures, i thought we should take a family picture. of the four of us, i mean.

yes, i've got lots of questions about how the mind works.

i doubt, even if i had majored in psychology, i would understand the curse of memory, the trouble with rehearsal and routine. i doubt, even if i had followed in b.f. skinner's footsteps, i would be able to erase what is burned on my mind: that is, the craving for something to hang onto, a way to capture a moment, even a moment that doesn't exist. because "the four of us" doesn't exist anymore, not in any way i can capture in a picture. seven and a half months and dozens of family-of-three pictures later, the longing to capture some lost--absolutely, impossibly lost--moment still lingers, like a once-sweet aroma now turned eye-stinging odor.

i had plenty of encouragement to take pictures those last days. our photographer friend offered to take a family picture; our doctor friend, who stepped out our front door literally only seconds before eliza took her last breath, encouraged us to take some pictures right away. but she looked so sick, or i didn't want to disturb her sleep (drug-induced and much-craved all around), or i was too sick to make the effort, or she hadn't had a bath, and on and on. i had even arranged for a family picture session with a photographer from now i lay me down to sleep in honor of eliza's january birthday, to be taken after the holiday rush; no doubt i could have contacted her and moved our family up the priority chain.

but i didn't. and now i can't.

yet apparently, my mind hasn't caught up with that reality yet. maybe i'll take that family picture tomorrow and make up for missing so many moments these past seven and a half months.

no, they didn't cover this in my intro psych course.

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