There’s a man who works at the commissary at the studio where I’m employed. His name is Craig. He’s likely in his mid-forties or early fifties. He’s short and sweet with salt and pepper hair. He thrives on saying hello and asking you how your day is going. Craig also has Down Syndrome. Highly functioning, he knows his job and is very responsible. He has to be.
Craig always brings up his parents who both died twelve years ago. He brings them up each time I speak with him, forgetting he’s mentioned it before. Their deaths are always right there on the surface for him, hanging above his head within reach. He’s in constant mourning. You’ll find him sitting alone in his dark commissary uniform, black apron and cap staring with sadness. He sometimes seems, from afar anyway – lost in the madness of this world, trying to comprehend it through the challenged body he’s been given.
He travels in from Culver City to Hollywood everyday. He loves living there. He lives in an apartment, but is always dismayed at the litter and the bad behavior of the neighborhood children. As disjointed as that last sentence is – it’s exactly how he imparts his world to me. Feelings and quick bites of information coming through his heartbroken smile. He doesn’t go into any details. Craig usually brings up how he’s had to cope with being alone and become a member of society when his parents died before you can ask him. I let him speak. I understand his loss; yet, I’m also concerned. Without his parents – who will take care of him? It seems Craig is determined to take care of himself. But he wears a long chain tied to their absence.
Craig and I do have one thing in common. We are both alone – parent-less – orphaned at an older age. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you’ll always be a kid left alone. But, if you’ve handled the cuts and gashes of life well, you’ll find the strength to handle the loss when the time comes.
There’s a certain beauty in continuing life in the aftermath of loss. You become the living embodiment of “life goes on”. The sun rises on another day. You take another breath. You get out of bed. You go on with your tasks and build new dreams.
You move along until you come across an old inactive phone number on you cell phone contact list labeled “Mom & Dad – HOME”.
I was listening to a song by Kate Bush last night called “Moments of Pleasure”. It was written in the early 90’s when Kate broke up with her longtime boyfriend and also suffered the sadness of losing her beloved mom. The song sings about those who pass on and those who are left behind to suffer the hurt of life, the beauty of life, the gift of memories that time leaves behind.
When loved ones die, timelines seem to become shrines in your mind – alters to moments when your loved ones were alive and time slipped through. You never realized you would ache to go back, to talk to your parents and appreciate their presence, every ounce, ever single particle. Life’s texture is now divided between “before parents’ death” and “after parents’ death”. The new normal you have to deal with everyday is something you get used to, but it never sits well.
Time is like hills, I guess. I wonder if going back in time and climbing them builds the muscle you need to go on and make new moments.
Craig is taking it day by day by waking up each morning, taking the bus from Culver City to Hollywood and having a job to do. Although I hope he can really move on – these daily tasks may just be enough for him to get by.