Damaged Goods

After Zafer, the thing I miss the most is my brain.

It feels like someone dumped a gallon of latex paint into my skull such that all brain function is coated and impaired.

It shows up in little things, like finishing sentences and thoughts successfully. I used to have a vocabulary. I miss that.

Before Zafer died I saw an online posting from some guy who needed cattails for his green building project. I thought that was interesting. I live on a pond, and I hate cattails. So I responded to his online query and invited him to take all the cattails he wanted.

After a bunch of emails back and forth he came by today, with his partner.

IMG_1112There was a time when I would have been open and effusive about anyone using cattails in their construction project. I would have opened my home and welcomed strangers with a weird idea.

But today I was guarded. Worn down from constant visitor traffic, and wanting to protect Tami from the wide world, I merely went out to sit on the step and put on my work boots.

What I saw was a beautiful young idealistic couple who are building a super green home in Silk Hope with an earthen floor. Their walls will have an earth plaster finish—the recipe for which calls for cattails.

Through the latex coating of my brain came a memory of a night on the town with Sukita Reay Crimmel. She is a New Society author. We had a lot of laughs together. Sukita has been corresponding with the young couple from Silk Hope. And they are working from her book. They are fans of hers.

I learned all of this as I sat on my stoop, protecting my space from strangers, lacing up my boots. I talked about our failures with earth plaster. The cobb structure in Moncure was coated in earth plaster and it became a magnet for carpenter bees. Filling up with fuel is not a problem, as long as you have no fear of bees. The straw bale structure that houses the Pittsboro tank is also coated in earth plaster. It simply cracks and falls off all the time. At Piedmont Biofuels, we are 0-2 on earth plaster projects. Total fail.

Apparently these folks are working with Logan Parker on their place. That made me feel better. Logan knows what he is doing. I told them that I knew Logan. He made our cabinets.

There was a time when I would have invited them in, showed them all around our beautiful passive solar home with solar powered radiant floor heating. I could have pointed out the “live edge” aspects of Logan’s cabinets. I could have made snarky comments about Tami’s chicken chandelier.

But I’m not there, yet.

I didn’t have the heart to tell them that I have been on the edge of green building for many years. I couldn’t tell them that Zafer used to work for Logan, making boards on his sawmill. And doing flunky work. I couldn’t tell them that at Shakori I liberated Logan and Liz from their new born daughter Amelia, and carried her around for a time.

Having had four children of my own, I can easily handle newborns, or children of any age, really. What the cattail seekers might not have known, is that I’m down to three kids. What they don’t know is that I am fragile and afraid. What they don’t know is that chatting with them was a break from my unbearable reality.

Inside our house we read the coroner’s report that describes Zafer’s dead body. “The fingernails are short, dirty, and free of tears.” Through my own tears I reflect on how I occasionally have dirt under my nails. Atta boy, Z.

Outside our house I talk cattail construction. We missed the spring blooming season. I wanted to be enthusiastic for the young couple. Here’s hoping they will come back in the fall, and harvest a good bit of cattail biomass for their walls. I hate cattails.

And I hate being damaged goods…

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15 Responses to Damaged Goods

  1. A stranger says:

    The cognitive impairment I experienced after my mother’s passing was profound. I spoke with my hospice social worker about it, and she told me cognitive impairment is a symptom of grief that is unfortunately rarely discussed. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but when it does, this is your brain on grief.

    I, too, needed space and time for it to pass. Lots of solitude, but not too much. My father, on the other hand, began traveling and hasn’t stopped for five years. To each his or her own. Sending love, from a respectful distance,

  2. Tami Schwerin says:

    I love you.

    • Lorie says:

      I’m so sorry Tami and Lyle. I remember little Zafer he was so sweet all your kids where. Always respectful. Zafer on Skateboard. The skate park should be Zafer park. Much love to your family.

  3. Camille says:

    I had to laugh because your current guarded state sounds a lot like my normal. Maybe you are becoming an introvert. There’s a kink in your psyche that may not iron out. Those ‘they’ people call that character although that’s small compensation.

    Still, I must say that I find damaged goods much more interesting than pristine, shiny and new. That’s probably why I hang out in thrift shops. Could be that’s why I love the woods with its tangled trees, and why I’m drawn to quirky people.

  4. Claire says:

    Still amid all, you give. Your giving made me know it was ok for me here 18 years ago. Now your giving helps me understand my own private reactions to unremitting hope and endless cheer of the creative community you have pioneered. Yet sun still rises. Still sets. Love you both. For all the good it does. Thank you for your words today. I am crying.

  5. Tim Keim says:

    Love repairs all damage, though scars may remain to remind us. We love you Lyle, Tami and Arlo. Lean on that love and we will all repair together.

  6. Sara Kane says:

    Love and so much respect to you and Tami.

  7. Dear Lyle and Tami,

    Grief has many faces. It’s tormenting at times. So often you want to to turn back the hands of time. So often “if only…I”. I pray you will be able to follow each stage of grief to it’s allotted end, but no further. It kicks the life out of you. However, if you follow through, there is hope that this internal deep excruciating pain will lift. It’s not overnight. It’s through many tears, heartaches, blaming, guilt, punishing yourself, thinking of what could have been. Desperation. Hold on, hope is there. It’s calling you to “come follow me”. You may not see her now, but hope is beside you, walking with you. As each day passes, you’ll be able to catch glimpses of her and finally one day, you’ll see her clearly and you’ll be on the other side. Your heart may always be heavy, but you’ll find reason to go on, hope will find you. Hold on. You know that Zafer would not want it any other way.
    Love, Margaret

  8. Linda nd Mike Garr says:

    Sending love and strength to both you and Tami.

  9. Mary Ann Sibley says:

    Love you and Tami.

  10. cathy holt says:

    Every time you write, your community holds you a little closer in their hearts, Lyle. I hope that you’ll keep writing. I know that I’m going to keep sending you love……

  11. Dave says:

    Thank you. I needed that.

  12. Matt Rudolf says:

    Words seem hollow, but know and trust that this too shall pass eventually. Life will never be the same, but joy, and your brain, will return. I love you guys.

  13. Hope says:

    Looking to comfort and be there for you. I will text to see if I can stop in…
    I shut myself off over the years since the twins died. I have really become more and more lost where I don’t even know where to begin to find myself
    I don’t think that will become your fate! 😃

    I think you and I and the community are working on understanding this stuff and helping one another.

    And your brain will return!

  14. Gretchen says:

    You are not damaged goods. You are having a normal human reaction to your situation and experience. If you were not feeling like you are and not profoundly grieving you would not be the exact definition of a healthy parent.

    I do understand why you feel that way. While I have not experienced as profound a loss as you Lyle I did experience one a while back that made me feel isolated from those around me and ‘damaged goods’ by stupid societal norms.

    Take care and easy on yourself.

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