Dear grandma

Dear grandma,

Early this morning I half-woke from a dream about you. In my dream I had started to cry, violently, after realizing you were dead: newly dead, even though truly, five years of dream-puffed nights have passed. As I teetered semiconsciously between asleep and awake, the physical sensations of weepiness and sorrow balled up in gut pressed so heavily that my confused brain made a stab at crying in real life too – I think I scrunched up my face all tight, felt a burning seep behind my sinuses…but then I slid more fully into awake and sheepishly realized the folly of what I was doing.

I think of you (awake thoughts) from time to time too. Experience a bittersweet missing. I think of your very small, frail body…how it struck me as strange, every year after the first year that I grew taller than you, that I could put my arm around your shoulder and look down, and how when we hugged you felt so thin between my arms. It was as if I had only ever believed in the first, upward-reaching part of the age-growth curve (increase in years accompanied linearly by increase in size and strength), ignoring the reality of every body’s climax and subsequent decline. Hard to believe in ashes until they materialize out of the space a living person used to occupy.

Then, I think of your grandma smell. So unique. I’m puzzled by the identities of the scents that twisted into each other to form that peculiar mixture. I won’t even venture a guess. If I could uncover the secret, I would collect the individual ingredients, recreate it myself…bottle it up, a highly personal perfume (spritzed only during those moments of private nostalgia drenching). I think of it wafting out of the multicolored, multipatterned patchwork blankets you sent us, months after they arrived. Out of the Christmas boxes of home-made peanut brittle and cookies and divinity (snow-white lumps in egg cartons, one per divot). I went back to the house the other day. Tears sprung, insta-brew-style, as soon as I walked through the porch. A visceral overwhelming. Afterwards it struck me: the smell was gone. I thought your grandma smell was so robust that it would live in that place for years…emanating from underneath tufts of carpet and boards of wall. But it was more ephemeral than I (grasping desperately for threads soaked in the past) had hoped. So I think of that smell and how it’s gone forever and I cannot bear it. I want to dig up some old patchwork blanket and find it still. I thought I’d always have access to that smell. I feel trapped in the barreling-forward of time.

I think of you, and the house, and the town. My mind munches on the pieces: cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches (made with “burpless cucumbers”, of course); duck pond evening walks; French Dip; raspberry jam; ideal book-reading living room recliner; tiny flocked brown bear inhabiting kitchen sink windowsill space; your gravelly voice, saying “davenport”. Sometimes regrets fly in like a pack of cawing black crows. I should have learned from you how to sew. I should have asked you more questions. Real questions, such as “what’s it like to be old?”…“how do you think about death?”…”what’s most important at your age?”…”how do you deal with your husband and family and best friends dying, being dead; how do you deal with living alone?” I never thought to ask you these things, and now I’m cheek-bitingly curious.

And I think of that old round plastic light switch fixture at the top of the basement stairs, and I feel like a chunk of me has been torn out, violently. I’ll never be childhood-whole again. Nothing will ever rival that simple, butter-laced joy.

In any case, I hope you have found Bayard again, and that you are happy together (although since I don’t believe in life after death, this is just a polite closing. And a nice thought, for me). I wish I could see you once more, grandma. I wish I had seen a vision of you in the basement at the house, as you once did of grandpa (asking, hands in air, “Wha’d ya do with all my tools?”).


Your memorylogged granddaughter

~ by kingzoko on July 13, 2010.

3 Responses to “Dear grandma”

  1. you make me remember that i forgot to ask my grandma questions too… questions i need to know before i too become old and live alone…
    this is complete.

  2. Every once in a great while I smell something that reminds me of my grandma and all my grandma memories meld into an instant. Your grandma smell isn’t lost forever.

  3. I’ll never be childhood-whole again.
    That’s a good line.

    Something about that place is indelible. In all time, without any need for life eternal.

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