Grandma is dead. She's dead, and I do not know what I am supposed to feel. Certainly, I should feel sad, right? I should be crushed by grief, and go through all the stages, and have group therapy and cry until I think I'm sane enough to go back to a semblance of living. Or should I be indifferent? I haven't known her that well, her living in Illinois and myself being a ten hour drive away. She was the fragile hug and musty-smelling house for a week and a half in May, after school got out. She was an observer as we cleaned the fish we'd caught in the cow pond down the way, marveling at the sunnies that dwarfed my father's hand.
She was the stories of ancient times, when a woman could only be a teacher or a nurse; she was "Take two aspirin and sit on the pot". She was the relic of the past I was awed by as a child, and a living history I wanted to record when I was old enough to understand the worth of a memory, but never got the chance to – never really tried to – communicate.
Grandma was at once as close as blood and as far as an elderly heartbeat, faintly beating, slow and long and weak, the undertones of a choir, coasted over by the frantic music of youth. I wanted to sit next to her, in the tired sitting room, with the crunchy, plastic-covered couch and the faded toys of my father's childhood. To stroke the beginning of a intricately crocheted lace doily that would never be finished, because Grandma had a stroke and lost her sight. I wanted the potential of a three-generation relationship back; the ideas and the bridges and the disconnect; the distant glimmer of a time where pride was not arrogance.
I am at a loss. My last hope of an elegant, terrifying age is gone; the link to a past I'm not sure existed is gone. A shaky memoir of a time that is disregarded and spit on, that no one cares to want to remember.
But I am selfish. Grandma doesn't have to bear up under the crushing weight of every summer memory, every war report, every tired soldier coming home, every wound that was too terrible to mention. She shed all the chains, broken from her fetters, and finally took off, six years after a silent drake forged his way across a pale morning sky. She finally caught up, and lives at his side once more. She knew in part, but now she knows the whole story.
It's funny, how I never knew how to feel when I lounged uncomfortably in the dry, cramped house surrounded by mature trees that knew their place. I don't cry, I don't weep, wail, or mourn. Only, when a phrase or a picture, song, gesture, a pair of held hands that stroll down the park way, bourne by the leisure of old age, then my heart is tickled into coughing out some of those bottled tears, only it's a bottomless pool, broken glass and all, and it takes time for the tsunami to be calmed by the arbitrator of cool and common sense.
As time passes and the pictures fade into a half-remembered uneasiness, I'm sure I'll forget how to understand and communicate my grief and sorrow; how to love with respect, and how to catch the fish with grasshoppers, and to keep the curious steers at bay with a hefty chunk of firewood; to jump over the electric fence and how to tell when the corn is ready to pick; to listen to eighty-eight-year-old fingers play over eighty-eight keys that aren't sure if they want to associate black with white; to enjoy not having society at your beck and call, and your friends a send button away; to watch the life of a hundred years ago pass by unhurriedly, with no doubt that it will get there when it gets there; to live without a care to worry around the yard like a dog with a dish of reject food. To live with dignity, and be unafraid of an awfully big adventure. To love and let go, to keep and preserve; to remember, to cherish, and to know that in God we trust.
Unless you and I come to an agreement, and you remind me when I fall, and I'll give you a hand up out of the dust.
That way, we'll have each other, and more than just memories or a passing fancy.
Because that way, Grandma, Grandpa, and God can look down and be proud.