I watched the Olympics last night with Eli. I’ve been equally excited and apprehensive about this year’s games; during the last Winter Olympics, Talia was dying in the hospital. From our couch in Portland, my memory played flashes of a hospital television. I clutched my tea and remembered a morning trip to the coffee shop in the hospital, where I looked up and saw the Olympics playing, and realized the world had strangely continued outside of Swedish.
Talia and I always watched the Olympics growing up. She discovered her aptitude for gymnastics (and her hyper mobility) during the Summer Olympics of 1996, when she stood at a commercial break and executed a back bend on the carpet. It’s possible we watched the 2014 opening ceremonies as a family before Talia left for surgery; according to my Google search, they began on February 7, the day after the snow storm hit, but before the power went out at my parents’. Or was it after we lost power? I can’t remember… some details are lost to the jumble.
I know that in Eugene on the 10th, while I waited for news about Talia’s surgery, the Olympics were playing at our friends Matt and Lizzie’s, where I spent the afternoon and then stayed the night. I was tense and worried that afternoon, and I didn’t watch. I know the Olympics were on later at my Uncle Jeff and Aunt Jody’s house, where we stayed on the 11th and 12th, after Talia lost her brain, but before we knew she was gone. You see how I try to organize the time and space, to sort the details into a functional chronology? I have the impulse to retell, to impose order on the shards, to establish some narrative control over what is really, irrevocably disordered.
I spend these February days living double: the past overlays the present like a sheet of seran wrap. I woke on the 8th and checked myself before work. Phew, Talia’s alive and in Eugene. I can go to work without checking the clock, without missing a detail in the story of what happened. Yesterday I was more jittery. She was leaving for Seattle, for surgery. Still alive, but moving towards the people and place that snatched her.
Today is surgery. Tomorrow her brain dies.
And here I am on the 10th, awake before 7, as I was in 2014. This morning (back then) I lit a fire at my parents‘ and drove Abi and Tsion to middle school. This morning I’m in bed next to the man I love, a man Talia never met. Eli breathes softly in his sleep, and I type and remember. This morning she was alive. This morning she was alive.