So much time has passed…

It’s been too long since I posted.  I have many updates, but I am too lazy to go into all of them.  I’ll only post about the biggest one.  My grandmother on my mom’s side (who I have mentioned in other blog posts) passed away in July of last year.  My grandfather had already passed away (also mentioned in blog posts), so her passing meant both of them were gone.  Which was a significant blow.  And still hard to believe.

I am too tired right now to make the effort of linking to the other posts mentioned above.  Go look through my blog.  Be an active reader and put a little effort into it, why don’t ya’?

Things have been surreal.  I have moments of sadness, moments of forgetting they’re gone (the most surreal), and mostly I just regret all the things we regret when someone is gone and we did not cherish them every single second.  Which is everyone, everywhere.  We’re human.

Sadly, my grandmother’s passing has brought on family drama having to do with “the estate”.  I don’t even want to go into it right now, except to say that my mother’s brother is a giant hunk of shit covered in shit sauce served next to a shit sandwich inside a shit roll.  Enough said.

Rather than blather on, I am including a writing piece I’ve been working on.  I might continue it, I might not.  The point was the writing, rather than the result.  But I hope it gives you a sense of what I want to say.

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The House in Fryeburg

Both of my grandparents on my mom’s side are gone now.  Their absence renders a gaping hole in my life.  Not necessarily one in the present, nor the future.  But it is a hole in my past.  It is a void in my foundation.  It is difficult to reconcile who I am, or adequately describe who I am to anyone else who has not met them, now that they are gone.  They had larger than life roles in my world.  For this, I am lucky.

I could recount many stories about who they were: as grandparents, as people.  I could illustrate how my grandmother was unforgivingly judgmental, yet equally as firmly supportive to those she loved.  I could tell tales of my grandfather’s rampant prejudices, and just as many tales of his faith in humanity.  These are real characters; human, flawed, and whole.  These stories could easily be told.  And I might do that some day.

Lately, however, all I can think about is their house.  There were two that they lived in during my life, and I remember both well.  I focus mostly on the one that they were living in when they passed away (two years apart).  I believe these memories of their home stay with me, not because of my age or impressionable times, but because of how my grandparents inhabited it.  Imbued with their personas, this house felt like an extension of my relationship with them.  It was not just a place, but an experience.  Another character in the story.

After my grandmother died (two years after my grandfather), I went to the house.  It still had all of their things:  appliances, furniture, clothes, photo albums, books, magazines, tools, dishes, forks, knives, and so on.  But it felt empty.  So very empty.  Empty like it had never felt at any other time, because, when they died, so did that house.
Currently, the house is being fixed up to be sold.  I have been told it looks great.  Worn linoleum is gone.  Floorboards are polished.  Steps have been fixed.  Yet, I have no desire to see it.  I have such a clear and vivid memory of that house – their home – that I cannot bear to tarnish it with a new improved version of something that is already perfect to me.

Memories come in flashes sometimes.  I see flashes of the way the sunlight hit the wooden floor in the dining room – playing up the golden brown, while casting tiny shadows in the nicks.  Nicks that were caused by a dropped utensil or a scrambling dog claw.  I can recall the sound of oil sizzling in a pan.  It might be cooking bacon or it might be frying up green tomatoes, or smelt.  The tomatoes may have come from the garden in front of the house, where lazy buzzing bees do not scare my very allergic grandfather.

Also flashing in my mind are seasons.  I made iced tea from the canister of powdered sweetened tea on the counter, while marveling at the way my grandparents kept their house cool simply by timing the opening and closing of drapes to coincide perfectly with the sunlight and breezes.  I can picture my grandfather carefully picking his way across the snowy driveway to throw birdseed on the ground by the large tree at the top of their driveway.

We’d watch the birds eating that seed while sitting at the kitchen table – a table with years of wear, scratches, and marks from the positioning of a meat grinder clamp.  My grandmother would leave her toast on the top of the toaster to stay warm, only taking it down when it was time for my grandfather to make his own toast.  I can hear the scrape of his chair on that old worn linoleum as he got up to tend to eggs, bacon, sausage, juice, you name it.

There was a step roughly halfway up the stairway that creaked.  As a child, when I heard this step, I breathed a little easier because it meant someone else was coming upstairs to go to bed.  As a teenager, I remembered to avoid it when I finally went to bed.

Holidays always felt right in their home.  The house kept the warmth and smells from holiday cooking and wrapped them around me.  I can picture the table set with good linens, and the good dishes, and my grandparents moving through all of this as expert travelers in their own realm.

When I look at their photos now, I still feel a sense of loss.  It is an ache that will not ever go away.  Nor should it.  But I also feel a rush of those images, and flashes of memories.  They don’t fill the hole, but they do color it in and decorate it and allow me to walk across the void now and then.

Why I Am Possibly a Bad Listener

The holidays.  What can I say?  This year was a rough one.  I am still unemployed and yet tried to be festive.  Forced gaiety is exhausting, by the way.

I drove a couple hours to see family.  And I did what I always do when I am around family –  try to figure out where my malfunctions come from.  I mean, I spent nine years of my life with a man who clearly, in retrospect, did not want me in his life.  (He was always searching for someone better.)  And to make matters worse, after I finally came around to this situation, I fully expected this guy to apologize and feel remorse for the years he kept me at arm’s length (years in which I missed out on having a real relationship and family).  The delusion continues to this day.  I am utterly stupid.  I am not blaming my family, but this shit has got to come from somewhere.  Right?

me

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Unfortunately, no light was shed.  But I do get enjoyment from seeing my mom, who is both unassuming and evil at the same time.

My mom and I went to visit my grandmother Christmas Eve day.  (Is there an easier way to say that?  The day of Christmas Eve?  Because it was not actually Christmas EVE, as in the evening.  Gah.  It was Monday.)  After being there for a while, I noticed that my grandmother’s thermostat had a plastic lock box on it.  Like the ones you’d see in an office, or a school.  I asked my mother about this and she informed me this was the solution to my grandmother’s excessive use of the heat.  Apparently, her home was like a sauna.  Because she is old and is always cold.

But now her thermostat temperature is set to go down at night and go back up during the day.  I asked my mom what my grandmother did if it was night and she got cold.  My mother replied simply, “She puts on layers.”  I started teasing my mom – “Too bad, Gram, you’ll have to wait until sunrise to get warm.”  My mom laughed the laugh of the bitterly resolute and we carried on with our day.

Oh, are you cold?  Tough.

Oh, are you cold? Tough.

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My mom’s laugh was a lot heartier when I said, “I think my glasses make me look smarter.”  She laughed too hard actually.

And when I asked her when she was going to quit smoking, I did not even let her reply.  I quickly said, “Just say you are not going to quit so we can stop having this conversation.”

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By far, the most interesting revelation this holiday was the truth behind my mom’s incredibly long conversational pauses.  When I say “long”, I mean LONG.  I’ll say something that should elicit a response or I’ll ask a question and, I swear to you, the pause from her is endless.  I’ll eventually just blurt out, “are you listening to me?”  She’ll usually say, “yes, I’m listening…I’m just processing”.  No.  No, mom.  You cannot possibly take that long to process a reply to, “So, what do you need in the grocery store?”  I AM NOT ASKING THE MEANING OF LIFE.

Even her boyfriend finds this behavior maddening.  She does the same thing to him.  And he also accuses her of not listening.

I finally reached the breaking point and said to her, “You know, it is weird when you do that.  It is totally like you are not listening.”

Her reply: “Yes, I’m listening.  But sometimes…I’m not listening.”

I KNEW IT.

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Happy Holidays, y’all.

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Mem-ries…….like the corners of my mind…

I went to visit my family this past weekend.  Specifically, I went to see my mom so that we could go through some things at my grandmother’s house.  She is still in her home, but does not use the upstairs and stuff is getting old and dusty from not being used.

We also took her out to lunch.

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My grandmother used to be 5′ 1″ but has shrunk from age and poor posture.  She’s also legally blind and mostly deaf.  Outings consist of a lot of screaming and slow methodical movement.  When we got to the restaurant, my mother asked me to bring her in so she could enjoy a cigarette (and perhaps to mellow out after a screaming car ride).  As my grandmother took my arm in the wind, she hunkered down against me.  This made me laugh and when she caught me laughing she said, “If your grandfather was here, he would call me a humped up turd.”

HUMPED UP TURD.

You guys?  That may be the funniest expression ever in the history of the world.  And I could totally hear him saying it.  Humped up turd.  Perfect.

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This prompted us to remember all my grandfather’s other pet names.  Chief among them was the phrase “goddam peckerhead” (pronounced “peckah-head”) and (my personal favorite) calling my grandmother Lo-Ass (her name is Lois).

I know it sounds like he was kind of crappy, but really these were terms of endearment.  If he did not call you something, well…you just weren’t important.

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Furthermore…my grandmother?  She kind of deserved it.  When we sat down in the restaurant a girl walked by and asked my grandmother, “Can I take your cane and hang it up so no one trips on it?”  To which my grandmother replied, “I’d rather have someone trip on it.”  The girl laughed.  My grandmother gave the girl a nice little grimace to give the impression she was joking, but… my mother and I passed a glance – we knew she was not joking.   Lo-Ass indeed.

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Anyway, I love my family.  Not in spite of the mean streak, but because of it.  🙂

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