Friday, April 10, 2015

11 days

My grandmother died and I wish the weather would let up. Once again, I'm projecting what I feel onto the outside world, as though the universe is aware and cares so deeply about someone I loved very much leaving this dimension. If the sun decided to come out at any point I feel certain that I'd be able to think clearly. Instead I have felt the inside of my head smeared all along the edges, like the windows of a heated car in winter. The world feels Gothic. No, it feels Dickensian, with all its indifference and brutal civilization and all that fucking fog. A large percentage of my time lately has been wondering what I should be doing.

I've discovered that my grieving is a slow burn. I spent the last two weeks gathered within my family and friends and I've felt distracted. I've laughed and thought about other things but always with a lingering feeling at the back of everything, as though I've forgotten my keys somewhere, as though I've been squinting in a dim room for a few hours; my head aches even when it doesn't.

I have a picture in my bedroom that I claimed from the mountain of shots of my grandmother that we scaled in preparation for her wake. It is of her standing next to a statue of Walt Disney during one of her many trips to Disneyworld. My grandparents lived for over a decade just outside of Orlando and they had a friend who worked in the park and so got in for free or for cheap. In the picture she's wearing shorts and a short sleeved blouse, her hair a little damp so I know it was the summertime. She's holding a plastic bag at her elbow, full of souvenirs, no doubt. I don't ever remember my grandparents traveling anywhere apart from occasional trips to Honduras or to visit family in Texas or back and forth between New York and Florida. Travel was just not something they did very often so when I saw that picture of her, next to something so quintessentially tourist, it felt a little like talking to her again right at that moment. You know that feeling of discovering something new about someone you thought you knew everything about? Like a fluorescent light flickering on gradually, I saw her differently than I'd known her to be. I love imagining her traveling with my grandfather, strolling for hours on that day just chatting and observing everything. I like to imagine he pressed her to take the photo even though she wasn't really into it. She rarely, if ever contradicted my his face. I like imagining their mini, playful argument about taking the photo and her self consciousness as she stood just to the side of the statue with my grandfather on the other side of the lens, smiling as he snapped it. When I look at the picture now, it feels like something I've never seen before and at the same time something I've always looked at. She's there, her face as unchanging as I have always and will always remember it and I love it so much. I am so happy that picture exists. I am so happy that she existed and that she was my grandmother and that she exists still in my memory.

There have been moments during the 11 days she has been gone that I've tried to force away thoughts of her. I just couldn't untangle myself enough at the end of that chain to do anything but lie down and seeing how life stubbornly just carries on and on and on, I didn't want to. But right now I want to.
Right now I want to tell you about the singsong way she'd call my name, about her big, open laugh and the taste of the birthday cakes she made for everyone in the family, about dresses and skirts that she made for me that I still own and still wear, 20 years later, about the little turtle pincushion she used to have that she was always misplacing and that I wish had in my hands right now and about her layers and layers of thick, shiny black and white hair that I remember brushing my fingers through when I was a little girl and again just last week as I said goodbye and about the pink and gold pendant  my grandfather gave to me last week that was hers and his mother's before that and that I have not taken off since and that for the first time in my life makes me wish I had been a mother so I could give it to my daughter. All those things and more and more again. I get a little afraid that I won't have enough room for all the memories to stay as clear as they are at this very moment.

But I've written them down and I speak them aloud to my family and there they are. And now I guess it is back to wondering what I should be doing.

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