Dita Parker

Thursday, October 8, 2009

An unfinished life

I conducted a birthday interview of a fascinating lady, a prominent figure in her home town, with much history and many stories to recount, and dame-dazzled Dita falling under her considerable charm, exuberance and grace. In the end, I didn't want to compress her life into a few paragraphs; I wanted to write a memoir there and then. And I wanted to know the source of her buoyancy. She pointed at a portrait, a chiaroscuro I had noticed walking in, the eyes vividly done, a luminous face standing out from the shadowy background.

In most cases of the much mocked and misunderstood Pollyannas, it is either or: life has either been good or life has dealt a death-blow, the latter often leading to a life filled with either bitterness or gratitude. Her lust for life had become indestructible the day her eldest son had died. Not that very day, of course, she added, but with time, when trying to make sense of something that made no sense, only hurt. She had forced herself to go on undefeated and decided to honor the spirit of her spirited child by celebrating his life and talent, not concentrating on the fact he was gone. She couldn't change that. Nothing or no one could.

She had had time to think about things. It was her eightieth birthday. She had survived Hitler and Stalin but she had also done the unnatural and outlived her child. And how she told the story of the last time she saw her first-born and how she had reacted to being told he had been killed, how I watched the pain resurface and try to take over, it could have happened four weeks and not some forty years ago. The exact times and the weather, what everyone had been wearing, the policemen's names. Like watching a piece of film or looking at a picture that hadn't faded, she could bring it all back. She told me it wasn't his life that flashed in front of her eyes but all that could have been. A life with his wife and baby, a career in art.

Maybe the trauma stamped the day in her mind for life. Maybe she needed to remember everything. Maybe she couldn't help but remember. His death had first made her crazy then kept her sane. It was as though the worst having already happened, nothing else could touch her. Any following misery had been a trifle in comparison. All the good she had experienced had been a bonus. Guarantees had expired, certainties had ceased to exist.

Dealing with and getting over the bitterness and anger had been the hardest part. Watching people destroy their lives and take others with them; the disregard and indifference that for a while had seemed prevalent; realizing she could have been as insensitive had not something of infinite value been taken from her; wondering is that what it takes to learn awareness; wishing the price for such tutoring hadn't been as staggering and long-standing; coming to terms.

No time had healed the wound. She said no time ever would. The pain had gradually subsided but the loss was forever. Life had been a good school but the lessons death had taught her had been immensely more valuable.

She was by no means finished with life and living. She was very much alive in this world, with all her senses, in every sense, even when she owed all her light and glow to the dark.

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