The Right Salad

Right Salads and Wrong Salads

I remember when, a few years ago, his sister was on the athletic track, Robert climbed the big rock next to the bleachers while I kept an eye on him, one on his sister and one on the time for when I’d have to go and collect Andrew from tennis.
Now it was, Robert on the track, me on the cold bleachers, Florentina at work in the City and Andrew… all around, but invisible to me.
Behind dark sunglasses and a copy of the vegetarian Times I did my best to look invisible or at least, absorbed. I haven’t been out much since AD (Andrew died). I mean, I do go food shopping, I have even been out to lunch a few times – I went to Washington as you know, but that’s different – what I have not done since Andrew died, is being out amongst local people, for when I do, as I did yesterday for the first time, I seem to stick out like a sore thumb, and kind people feel the need to come over and commiserate, and get all sad, and they don’t know what to say, and I have to do all the talking and make them feel better. But I don’t mind, sometimes.
And there I was, doing my best to look anonymous, in turn checking the track for signs of Robert’s turn to pole vault, and reading the Vegetarian Times, except that I couldn’t even see what I was reading without reading glasses, when my cell phone rung.
“Hi it’s Karuna,” one of my Ammassociates, as Andrew used to call my Amma friends. “How are you?”
“I am. Robert has a meet and I am at the school track watching.”
“What’s he doing?”
“Pole Vault and high jump.”

And on we chatted for a while, she telling me about her year-long efforts working out what to do with the small house in the Hamptons she’d inherited from her father. A subject that, in different formats, has been part of every conversation I’ve had with Karuna for more than a year.
In fact, I was sitting in the car having a similar conversation with her on the phone while waiting for Hugh, the day before Andrew died. That subject duly exhausted, she had then asked if we wanted to join her and other friends for Christmas.
“Florentina would probably enjoy it, but Andrew and Robert are adamant that we have Christmas at home.”
” What about if we do something around Christmas time then, will the kids come?” She asked.
“Oh yes,” I said. “But I have to tell you something. Do you remember that salad you made when you came to my house?”
“Well, afterwards Andrew came to me and asked: why did Karuna have to ruin a perfectly good salad by putting all that stuff in it?”
“What stuff? ” I asked, knowing perfectly well what he meant.
“All that stuff, you know… dill, garlic, cilantro, celery…”
“You could have just not eaten those.”
“No, you couldn’t. The whole salad tasted bad.”
“I won’t put any of the stuff next time,” she had laughed.

“By the way,” Karuna said added after we’d already said good-bye. “I made a salad last night, and I said to Andrew…. See Andrew? I am not putting any of that crap in the salad, I’m making good salads now.”
We both laughed and cried at the same time.
“That boy, that sweet, sweet boy,” she sighed. “I have to tell you something,” she continued. “It took a lot of courage for him to do what he did.”
“Yes, he’s always been a brave little boy,” I agreed. “I just wish…”
“I know, we all do, but he was very courageous.”
“Karuna? ” I asked suddenly. “Have you dreamed of Andrew?”
“No I haven’t, but I talk to him, and sometimes he talks to me. And he told me: look after my mother, you are good for her.”
“Yes, you drive me crazy but you are good for me, you always make me laugh. And you make Hugh, Florentina and Robert laugh too, and we love you.”

And we love you Andrew

6 thoughts on “The Right Salad

  1. I wonder how Robert feels as he has been “out in public”. A year later I’ve had the chance to talk with one of my sons often about his senior year which was the same year his older brother died. His brother graduated from the same HS many in the school community knew him. But at the time it was happening I hadn’t really thought about that part of what my children were dealing with. I at least had the presence of mind to call the school counselors to have them contact all of my childrens teachers. But they only knew he died, not how. And I didn’t know at the time that we were dealing with a different type of grief, how grief can be different and ignored in siblings, AND that men may grieve differently than women. A miracle that we’ve survived, literally “surviving”.

    For me the One Year anniversary marked a significant change emerging from “surviving” (“forcing” oneself to get up, work, do the day to day tasks, think, make future plans…all the “normal” stuff and collapsing in exhaustion in the safety of home at the end of the day) to beginning to “live” again.

    Sending warm thoughts for *** Robert *** and hugs for ((( you )))

    • As I was walking out of the hospital I asked a friend to call the school and let them know what had happened. In any case, it was all over the news and internet before I had even got home. Having killed himself at Bobst, NYU’s main library, his name and picture were everywhere. My doctor found out from the early morning television news.
      But, when I was walking out of the hospital it didn’t occur to me that anyone knew or would know, other than us. But I did want the school to know, so that they could help.
      And they have been GREAT. He missed a whole month, but they have supported him, given him individual catching up sessions, extra help, you name it. All his friends and their parents have been great! And what I soon found out, when people started visiting within hours of Andrew’s death, is almost everyone had a story to tell about suicide.
      Robert is doing as well as he can be expected in the circumstances.

      • Wow! Talk about the need to educate the media on the effects of suicide on survivors and responsible “journalism”! How horrendous!

        Happily, that exposure can possibly position you to be a voice for suicide awareness and survivors at some point, if you so choose. Sadly, the media blitzes a story without thinking of collateral damage then forgets you just as fast!

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