Often, I was the one who stayed an hour or so with Grandma so that Dad could bathe, eat dinner, or pay bills. I had one job: Make sure Grandma did not leave the house. How ironic it was that going home to her meant leaving the house that she and my grandfather built forty years before. Her mind was trapped in a much earlier time.The road that she traveled to get home was a rutted dirt road populated by horses and buggies and the occasional car that moved aside whenever the driver saw someone walking along the road. She did not recognize that it was seventy years later; by now the road was a major U.S. highway, well-traveled by cars and tractor-trailers that would not see her walking in the middle of the road until it was too late.
Tag Archives: loss
“My childhood began as if on a hot-air balloon ride, and Jess was the flame that thrust me into the clouds. The view from on high was magnificent, and the world looked as it does from dizzying heights: sparkling, orderly, a perfect grid. That fateful November day, my flame died, and I watched my childhood come crashing back down to earth at a paralyzing speed, thrusting me into the mud and the muck so long forgotten. It was years before I had the courage to lift my head and look at the messy, chaotic world around me.”
“On my way down the passage I am caught, as I always have been, mid-stride, captivated. A tall oak curio cabinet stands against the wall, honey-colored wood intricately carved, glass-front doors revealing shelves piled with a wonderment of shells. There is a collection of hundreds, some carefully labeled with a Latin name on a tiny strip of paper, others stacked to overlapping. Conch shells, purple striped urchins, varicolored mussel shells spread like wings. Some are familiar, like an entire shelf of pale lettered olives, the South Carolina state shell, sometimes found on the island by the sharp-eyed and lucky. Others are messengers from exotic shores: giant conchs with porcelain-smooth pink centers, a curving cream-and brown nautilus, and tiny wentels spiked and whorled. My mind is pulled past my horizon to another shore, where the life of these creatures begins, the thousands of watery miles of life and death between, the wave that carries them, the hand that carries them here.
I could spend hours here, gazing, but I move on.”
“We invaded the house like the Viking horde. The cars and boats disgorged their load armful by armful. We children ran up and down the stairs and in and out of each room, making sure that the previous year had not altered a thing and each stick of furniture and knickknack was intact. We offered loud reports of anything new: “Mama! They got an os-illating fan!!” Fortunately, the Simons’ didn’t believe in change. Every year, every plastic lobster, every collection of seashells, every deck of cards remained in its proper place, having somehow survived our summer conquest. The house fit us all like a favorite pair of jeans, broken-in just right. Within the hour we had each found our proper places.”
“Because we have all been children, we all have a physical place that is a part of our being, because it was the place of our becoming. As children we are physical beings locked in the moment. The sight, sound and scent of living, the tactile presence of it, embeds itself within us. It is unnoticed but as constant and critical to our growing as oxygen that flows through our blood from breathing. As adults, we live in layers of past, present and future. When my adult present was rocked and cracked by death, sickness and separation until it split into a gaping rift, I found that childhood place. It bubbled up, unbidden, and flowed liquid into the gap. Some embedded tactile presence of living rushed into the emptiness that threatened to take my life and filled it.
This is a story about that place.”