Kage Baker, like so many millions of others, loved the Harry Potter stories. She was grateful the last one came out when it did; much as she had enjoyed the movies, she would have been sad to die without knowing how it all ended.
We came rather late to the phenomenon, at the third book. By that time, all the nephews and nieces were glassy-eyed devotees, the younger ones improving their reading so fast it was frightening. Then, one day while buying supplies for a weekend at Faire, we found all three volumes on sale at Costco: enormous books in bulk for cheap! We bought them, along with the usual gallon of mustard, bale of toilet tissue, and half a cow ready for the spit. And then we were hooked.
When one of the books came out during a huge family weekend in our Pismo backyard, every single copy in the local indie bookstore was purchased by the children in our household; I had to drive into San Luis Obispo to get one of my own. By the time the last one came out, we matter-of-factly ordered two copies – so neither Kage nor I would have to lie about in anguish while the other one read the prize. The books arrived on a Friday – there was no conversation in our house for three days.
Today is my sister Kimberly’s birthday, and we went to see Deathly Hallows Part II. Don’t fret; I am not going to talk about it or dispense spoilers – is there anyone who cares who doesn’t know what happens anyway? They did a good job. I was pleased with it. And I cried, though not because it was the last movie: the books will live on.
No, I cried for the utterly selfish reason that the movie set me up for another ambush. It’s happening less often nowadays, but I am by no means cured – from time to time, something reminds me of the loss of Kage, and I fall apart all over again. I’m really, really tired of it; I wish I didn’t do it; it happens anyway. I think the only defense might be to avoid any reminders of being alive, but that’s not something I could do even if I wanted it. Something would come find me in the middle of the night, and I’d dissolve again anyway.
But it’s hard. It’s so hard. Scar tissue hurts, too, but at least it stops bleeding. I haven’t managed that yet (though I keep thinking I have); the black tide of grief still rolls right over me and drowns me when I don’t expect it. Harry Potter is, on the face of it, a damned silly thing to remind me – but when you get down to basics, it’s a story about courage and love, and magic and the power of trust and dedication and … I lost a big old chunk of all that.
Grief and pain and loss don’t end. Whoever claims they do is ignorant or a liar. They get better, easier to bear; they never go away. Not unless what you loved and lost dies inside you, as well, and who the hell wants that? But sometimes it hurts so badly that I stomp around and swear and bitch and howl at the moon. Just ignore me; it’ll go away. This is all just static on the radio of metaphysics. It’ll fade again, and our usual program of pedantry and bad jokes will resume.
Life really is magical, thrilling and beautiful. Life with Kage was something like doubly so. I’m just missing my fix, the days of riding with the Wild Hunt with an ice cream cone in one hand and Dance Hits of 1565 on the radio. But just because I no longer live in one of myriad alternate worlds inside Kage’s head doesn’t mean I no longer want to live.
And so now: I am off to get an ice cream cake for Kimberly. It’s a lovely summer afternoon, and there is Chinese food in the offing, and it’s a birthday! There is still so much to live and do and see and feel!
Just … sometimes you have to stick a fork in your leg to make sure it’s still got feeling. That’s all.