At hand my paintbrush
Paint needs a progress bar. Appearances are deceiving; what appears to be dry might well be a skin of darkened paint hiding a pool of liquid waiting to stain you.
I am finding green in places that should not, on humans, be green. A fine speckle has set upon the hairs of my head like so much confetti, and on my face like pixie freckles. I have scrubbed most of the paint away from my fingertips, except for the thin line where my nails meet my skin.
There, I am still green.
Had I been less angry, I would have been less green, I think. I am my mother’s daughter; when I am upset or angry, my hands latch upon a task - any task will do, whatever is at hand. At hand were paintbrushes, a gallon of green paint, and walls unable to flee my wrath.
After two abnormal mammograms, my maternal grandmother will have a lumpectomy on Friday morning - words I have muttered with low breath under the slapping of a paint-laden brush against the wall. Lumpectomy. Friday. Dammit. Morning. Dammit.
I should be less surprised than I am; I know this, and the knowing does not help. After losing my fiftysomething father to a quick-gobbling cancer last year, I understand all too well that it only takes one instance of cellular entropy for many, many things to be lost. In my mind, my grandmother is still the graying force of nature I remember from my childhood, tart-tongued and observant. But my pictures tell me that her hair is no longer black fading to grey. It is grey fading to white, and she is in her eighties.
When my father died, her statement of anger stuck with me: “He was so young.” It’s difficult to make the lens of a twentysomething like myself focus out into the fifties and see the result as young, but she was right. We expect a continuous chord progression of death in our lives; the oldest generation first, then the next moving up to take its place, and so on.
Disruptions in the progression sound discordant notes we all cannot help but hear.
After observing my grandmother from the distance of two generations, I have some sense of the discordancy she must see around her. She has buried her parents, most of her siblings, her spouse, a son, and a son-in-law - and yet she still stands, still here.
We admire our elders merely for their longevity, but I cannot yet imagine the sadness of what it must be like to be the last one still standing.
The secondhand news from my sister is that the lumpectomy will be done to determine if my grandmother has cancer. If the lumpectomy indicates cancer, she may have further surgery that day, but that will be all. No radiation, no chemotherapy, just an acknowledgment of the fact that, after eighty-odd years, it may finally be her time.
I used the act of painting to work out the worst of my anger over the news, to take it out of my body and make it tangible upon the east wall of the guest bedroom. When I slept, it was deep and dreamless.
Meanwhile, my sister has my cell number and will call me when there is news on Friday. Perhaps it will be good news; something minor, noncancerous, but the taste of 2002 still lingers in my mouth, and I cannot help but remember.
Until then, paint therapy for the pessimistic.