Tuesday, June 24, 2008

You'd Be 98 Today...

... and still as spry and wicked as your expression in this photo suggests. The three years you've been gone have passed like the blink of an eye, perhaps because it's so easy for me to pretend you're still around. I talk to your belongings, things I inherited: your paring knives, a square of homemade apron, worry beads, your diamond ring, the shoe trunk your father gave you when you went to college and the rope of square glass beads he gave you when you turned 18. 80 years ago.

On the way home from Mom's I almost always have to remind myself that there's no pulling in to the uncharacteristically bright and cheerful nursing home to find you musing beyond the open door of your room, reading the same headline over and over and clucking at the date. "2003!" you said. "It just can't be." You were born in 1910. It blows my mind to think of all the things you saw pass. Flight. Automobiles. Wars.

We like to reminisce about how tough you were on us when we were young, but it was good for us, and by the time I found my way back home you were an ally, a best friend; Morgan and I camped out on the floor of your room at the home on an air bed one summer. (What kind of people thus invade a nursing home? But it was your home. The staff was so thrilled with our family.) I told you my fears and hopes. You always talked sense to me, even though you weren't quite yourself anymore. You were, in fact, a little more sympathetic by then than you were when I was 10.

It's not sad to fasten bricks loaded with bright artificial flowers to your headstone, the one you were so appalled to find
one year at the cemetery, having forgotten you had ordered it decades before. You had a good long life and the end, when it came, was so easy. You were so tired.

So today would be your birthday, and you would be tickled to have cake and frivolous gifts, sweet-smelling lotions and fancy paste jewels. And Mom would have the Christmas tree we left up in your room year-round decorated with summer things, plastic sunglasses and feathered doves and pink fabric tulips. June would bring you a vase full of your favorite peonies, if they are blooming; it was a very late spring. And what wouldn't I give for those easy evenings to be back again? For another chance to wring stories and Slovenian words from your monumental memory?

Happy Birthday, Gram. 39 and holding.

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