I am on the phone with Direct-TV when I see through the window the little blue moving patch that is Brian the mailman coming down the driveway. He’s early. Usually it takes him awhile to get here on Mondays. Pretty soon Tamar explodes with barks at the front door, but I keep patiently talking to Rochelle who wants to know why I am cancelling our account, and I hear Fred explaining to Tamar that it’s just the mailman and then I hear Fred saying, “Oh no,” a couple of times, loudly so I’ll hear but in a sort of joking tone – not a real Oh No, but I am tuning him out so I can hear what Rochelle is saying and trying to get off quickly without being horribly rude.
I go look at the mail. It’s right on top, a flat square envelope from my sister Anasuya. It’s her turn to chime in about my writing. Esther wrote a couple of weeks ago so shocked she said and hurt that she wasn’t going to read it anymore, and now I guess Anasuya’s going to let me have it.
She’s coming to see my mother this week for a few days. Anasuya lives in Berkeley. My mother lives in Sullivan County, about an hour south of here. So when my sister comes to visit my mother, there’s usually one visit with me scheduled in.
I spoke to my mother yesterday, inviting her to come up on Friday. The reason for all this visiting is that my mother’s younger brother will be in town from British Columbia. So I invited them up and my mother said lightly that Anasuya wouldn’t be able to make it and I too pretended it was just a normal scheduling mishap.
I am happy not to talk to my mother about all the conflict with my sisters. It wouldn’t do any good. I like that she seems willing to take me on my own terms, to have her own connection with me regardless of what my sisters are complaining about.
I go to where Fred is and hold up the card. “Okay,” I say. “Let’s read it.” And before I open it I say, “I’m not guilty, right?” And Fred says solemnly – he’s not joking now -- “You are not guilty.”
It’s a card, a picture of a woman dancing wildly. It turns me off. There’s something abrasive about it, something “I Am Woman” about it. I flip open the card, note how both sides are covered in quite small, tidy black-pen handwriting.
“It’s a beautiful sunny day here,” my sister begins. She is sitting in her garden. Then she gets started – how reading my writing makes her feel back in the vile toxic atmosphere of our family, how my writing violates her privacy, how it wounds her all over again, how she is proud of the life she has created with people who appreciate her and she doesn’t need me. “And you’ve done all this,” she says, “for what?” She doesn’t want to see me any more than she can avoid and that despite all this she wishes me well.
It’s a stupid, nasty letter. And yet it feels like all the black murky water I have been skating over with her for decades – that I began to notice in my late teens, ever since she swallowed the pills and all the years afterwards when it felt like the most she could do was tolerate me while I searched and searched for what I was doing wrong, assuming her scorn must be deserved – all this dirty water was finally flowing out of the pipe and it was a relief to see it in broad daylight.
You’d think the whole blog was about her. There are over 60 pieces of writing on that blog and I can’t even remember what the few references to her are. And plus the second blog that is describing my twelve years in the ashram, many of which I shared with her there – not a word about this ashram book that I know has to fascinate her.
It reminds me of 1993. I was becoming a celebrity in the ashram, a public figure. Every morning I was standing up in front of hundreds of people after the long morning chant before breakfast and giving a short talk on the chant, then conversing back and forth with the guru who sat a few yards away on her chair – I was in the spotlight, being spirited around to secret meetings with the top brass – Anasuya sat down next to me one afternoon outside after lunch. She had asked to meet with me. “Everyone thinks you’re great,” she said, “but you’re not.” She stood up then, furious, and left, and I sat there feeling like she must be right, to some degree anyway, and that I had better be very careful, more careful than I was already being, or otherwise I might overlook my own faults.
Today though I don’t sit here thinking she is right. I think she has a very small mind, not to be able to see beyond the handful of times her name comes up, not to have any idea at all why I am writing or see any value in it at all.