28 September 2010

Barbara Deming

[from Mab Segrest's My Mama's Dead Squirrel: Lesbian Essays on Southern Culture, Firebrand, 1985]

. . . my father's death. Years ago now. It was on a weekend in the country and he'd been working outside with a pick and shovel, making a new garden plot. He'd had a heart attack and fallen there in the loose dirt. We'd called a rescue squad, and they were trying to bring him back to life, but -- couldn't. I was half-lying on the ground next to him, with my arms around his body. I realized that this was the first time in my life that I had felt able to really touch my father's body. I was holding hard to it -- with my love -- and with my grief. And my grief was partly that my father, whom I loved, was dying. But it was also that I knew already that his death would allow me to feel freer. I was mourning that this had to be so. It's a grief that is hard for me to speak of. That the only time I would feel free to touch him without feeling threatened by his power over me was when he lay dead -- it's unbearable to me. And I think there can hardly be a woman who hasn't felt a comparable grief. So it's an oversimplification to speak the truth that we sometimes wish men dead -- unless we also speak the truth which is perhaps even harder to face (as we try to find our own powers, to be our own women): the truth that this wish is unbearable to us. It rends us.

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