inspired by Soulemama’s moments
I could of course, spend all week, all month, reminiscing about my grandmother, talking about my childhood, remembering the simpler times when candy and cookies solved so many problems. Our grandmothers, near and far, here and gone, have played roles in our memories that are so often rose colored. As they should be.
On Tuesday, as my family gathered in dogwood bloom filled room 3,000 miles away to say goodbye to my grandmother for the last time, I sat in the dentist’s office. Because life goes on. And little boys bang their mouths on other boy’s heads and then they have to have those teeth pulled.
It was not a pleasant experience. My boy, was not impressed, though now he has an impressive story to tell EVERY SINGLE PERSON we run into, and some we don’t. “It didn’t hurt very much, but there was a needle and that hurted very VERY MUCH!”
And we both cried a little, but in the end we were okay. And we went home together and had a low key evening of movies and snuggling. And low key has extended through the week, we all needed some down time it seemed. The rainy weather has kept us mostly inside. And I have answered lots of questions some about gigi mom, some not. And we have plodded through the week to the weekend. Leaving last week behind.
*And the beat goes on-Sonny and Cher
8 year old: I”m making a funeral card for Grandma Rain, because her mom died
Me: They’re actually called sympathy cards
8 year old: oh
Me: And I think you should draw a bright and cheerful picture
8 year old: (looks at his picture) so not one of people lowering a coffin into the ground?
*Every picture tells a story -Rod Stewart
There were only about four years of my childhood, give or take 18 mths, where I lived within driving distance of my Grandmother. For most of my life, certainly my adult life, I have lived over 3,000 miles away. And yet every summer, we return to that small town in Pennsylvania.
My boy, he’s a hand holder.
Driving down the dead end road, shaded by the trees that have stood sentinel for my entire life, is a trip down memory lane for me. A physical trip I haven’t taken in over a decade. My grandparents moved to a retirement center soon after I graduated from college, and only a few times have I been able to talk a relative into driving me to that street, lost in the maze of a town I cannot find without a map.
So much of my childhood is set there, on the quiet road where my Grandparent’s little yellow house stood. When I see a dogwood in bloom I think of the one outside my grandmother’s house. When I read about and have to explain to my two young sons born and bred in the Pacific Northwest about catching fireflies, I think of the ones that got away on a summer night in my grandmother’s back yard.
The trees in her back yard were some of my particular friends, to this day they hold a special place in my heart and probably more than a few toy figures, left behind in their branches. I can remember the roof of my grandmother’s house as seen from the tallest of the trees as I grew older and learned to climb them. Desperate to escape the reach of my younger siblings and cousin. I can remember the smell of the clover grass and sound of whipperwhils, a sound that to this day will transport me instantly to Grandma’s backyard. I remember evenings of baseball in the fields and chasing bunnies into the old firewood piles, swinging on the rusted metal swing set that must have weighed a ton and as the summer light faded, chasing fireflies in the warm night air.
But mostly I can remember my Grandparents, in that little house on Center Ave, or driving around in their woodpaneled station wagon with the incessant ringing of the blinkers they never could seem to hear. There were big family meals at the dining room table (how did we all fit there?) and more intimate lunches with Grandma in her kitchen. Sitting at the aluminum table eating white bread sandwiches and overly sweetened ice tea as she washed dishes by the window where tomatoes ripened. I remember the glass jars of milk that they still had delivered from the dairy where my Grandfather worked.
I remember nights on the couch with slices of apple, wearing Grandpa’s t-shirt as a night shirt and hanging with Pat and Vanna, as the Wheel turned. When I remember that house, I remember my childhood.
I am lucky, because I remember the good years. Living so far away means that I have not watched my Grandmother’s steady decline over the last ten years. That even though I’m saddened by her decreased mobility and health when I see her in the summer months, they are not the memories that stick with me. The grandmother I remember is very healthy, she is standing in the kitchen talking to the many cats that wondered in and out of it. She is sweeping the backporch steps and tending to her tomatoes, she is making dried flower wreaths in the little room off the kitchen, she is talking on the phone in the corner of the dining room, she is digging through the little house for something to show us.
When I made the decision not to fly to her side this past week, it was mostly made on the realization that while I wanted to be with my Grandma, what I really wanted was to be that little girl that played in the clover grass, and listened to the whipporwhils and practiced swinging on the giant metal swing set. But I am a grown up now, with children of my own, whose childhoods spread before them, they have many trees undiscovered and unclimbed, they have grass unrolled in.
And as much as I want to climb the nearest tree and cry my eyes out because my grandma is gone, I only have this space to do that in. I only have this time to remember her, before I have to make hotdogs for lunch, rescue a chicken from being over loved by a small boy, track down more cardboard for the time machine, search amazon and ebay for typewriting ribbon for an old typewriter, because the script! it’s is not written yet!
This Saturday, I turn 37, one week from the day my Grandmother passed on. Today, I am a mother and wife, I am no longer a little girl. And so perhaps this week I mourn more than the physical person that was Marie Goodwin.
With the passing of my grandmother, there is a changing of the guard, another role added to the woman I have become. Each day that I am given here on Earth with my children is a gift, I am grateful for my role as wife and friend. My gratefulness grows from the maturity of my years, from the the experiences I have had and from that sadness of things left behind, of people lost and times gone by.
I do not mean to imply that my childhood is lost, because it is not. It is there in that little yellow house with the dogwood tree out front. It is on the couch (with one cushion upturned, because Grandpa never sat on the cushions) between my Grandparents who smell of selsden blue shampoo and baby powder. And as I end this tribute to my grandmother, that has turned out to be more about me then about her, I know that in mourning the passing of my Grandmother, I am also mourning the loss of that little girl who loved her.
“But stories always end
and if you read between the lines
you’ll know that I’m just trying to understand”
I spent last week waiting. Waiting for my husband to come home, waiting for the bread to rise, waiting for the phone call that would tell me that my Grandmother has gone from our lives.
I knew it was coming. A week ago Friday, I received the call that it wouldn’t be much longer. In a panic, 3,000 miles away, I began looking at plane tickets for the boys and myself. I went for a walk, I folded some laundry, I came back to the computer to see if the plane tickets had magically become free. They had not.
The reality of living 3,000 miles away is that the urge to rush to the bedside is tempered. Tempered by obligations, and reality. Reality was, my grandmother wouldn’t know I was there. Reality was my grandmother hadn’t eaten in several days and as only receiving pain medication to make her comfortable. The reality was we might not make it in time. And a bigger reality was sitting in a room watching your grandmother die might be something you could do, not necessarily enjoy, but appreciate the gift of that time, on your own. However it was not one I could do with an overly sensitive eight year old and a very, very active six year old by my side.
And so last Friday night, after walking into the dark and folding the laundry and sewing and moving erratically from one thing to the next in a weird dance trying to figure out what to do, as my husband corralled and bathed and sent boys to bed, I finally made my decision, and then I took some time to be at peace with it.
I love my grandmother, she is wrapped up in all my childhood memories just like the hard candy she kept in the oven. And while I would not regret flying to her side, be I too early or too late, my responsibilities and my life is here, 3,000 miles from the room where my East Coast relatives gathered throughout the week, texting me with updates and emailing me thoughts.
There were long phone calls, and moments of trying to find a place in myself to grieve. There were questions from my observant six year old, whose father kept him from joining me on the porch steps as I took call after call.
“How come you are having so many very long phone calls?” he asked over peanut butter and jelly one day at lunch.
“Well,” I said, as the hysteria like grief that was bubbly near the surface all week threatened to make an appearance. “Gigi mom (the boys name for their great-grandmother) is sick, and it doesn’t look like she is going to get better.” I said it fast, to get it out, so that I wouldn’t scare him too much with the weird facial contortions I was doing to get through that sentence.
“oh,” he said munching on his sandwich, nonplussed as only a six year old can be in the face of a concept he barely grasps.
Early in the week I made peace with being far away, and knowing that I would grieve just as deeply as those gathered in that room, but that my grandmother, who put her children and then grandchildren first. Who watched us after school and kept us overnight, would understand my decision to stay home, with my boy, who now come first for me.
I knew that she would rather sit with me and watch my oldest as he worked on his time machine (a mostly cardboard affair) and my youngest as he played with the chickens (yes played, he thinks they are pets) in the yard. And so I sat this week, waiting, day after day, text after text, email after email, for the call to come in, that the waiting was over. That my Grandmother, had slipped peacefully from this life into the next.
When the phone rang Saturday morning, shortly after 7am west coast time, my husband handed it to me saying “It’s your mother” and we both knew that the waiting was over.
All my lovin-the Beatle
I’m out of pants. It’s one of those things about juggling balls each day. Something always falls by the way side. My 8 year old is also out of pants. This is not as troublesome to him as he maintains ‘that is is Spring!’ and he will only be wearing shorts from now on. It’s a tad optimistic since Easter Sunday’s high of 70 hasn’t been seen since, nor has the sun. It has rained steadily all week.
Which has given us a lot of time, to check our seedlings everyday for growth, read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, run around town to see just how many teeth my six year old needs pulled now that he killed his two front teeth in some sort of kindergarten playground mishap that I’m still fuzzy on. “my teef hit his head, but I did not cry!”
It has not however allowed me the time required to do laundry apparently. And here I sit, pantless. The truth of the matter is though, we have had a great week, some organizational smack down happened last week and we have all adjusted well, school is getting done on time, even with the extra dental appointments. Free time is free, and not full of finishing up school work. Chores are marked off. Smiles all around.
I congratulate myself on not using the yelly voice as much this week, on getting my (paid) work done in a timely fashion, on enlisting my husband’s help getting the boys settled for the night on then night that I didn’t get work done during the day. It’s a big deal for me to ask for help, I’m slowly growing out of the phase where I think my husband should just know! that I need someone to put the kids to bed so I can just get some emails returned. This way only lead to heartache and wasted time not working. Ask for help! My new thing. We’ll see how it goes.
So life, more organized. Work done at the end of each day. Boundaries with work set! Quilting goals met!
The only thing missing? Pants.
I’m okay with it…
Long Pants-STrong bad