S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night

on 06 January 2010

You know what I hate about traveling?

There's absolutely no way to win.  Because there is a finite period of time, there's no possible way to see everyone we want to see nor everyone who would like to see us.  And knowing this, we decided ahead of time that the priority was to see family and our lovely Cathy of Career Serivces (Chris has started the job hunt again and we can use all the help we can get).

So after 3 long days of happy family chaos, we met up with Cathy, had a lovely visit and headed home to bathe the Boy and put him to bed.  Which we did.  It was cold out so we warmed up some yummy food and sat and ate, at which point I realized that I hadn't seen my Grandma yet.  So I bundled up and walked down the street to see my Grandma.

My Grandma has lived all over the place.  She was married to a sailor and they lived on Guam, Midway, up and down the California coast, Oregon, Washington and other parts unthought of at the moment.  She's a tough woman because she had to be.  They (my grandparents) eventually settled in Arkansas in this somewhat ramshackled house.

As a kid their house was strange to me, it was full of various mementos from their travels so you can imagine the combination of artifacts.  My grandmother is a knitter and otherwise needle worker so there were always these bright lights that she could pull over her work to see better. 

She's since moved more than a thousand miles away and yet there is this ineffable quality to my Grandma's house.  Maybe it's the light, maybe it's the smell, maybe it's the artifacts, I don't know, but there's something about being there that makes me feel young again.

I was looking into her face last Saturday and I felt like a 9 year old again.  Creeping up to my Grandma and holding out my hands imploringly, "Grandma, will you paint my finger nails?"

(She had worked in a salon at one point or another in her history.)

She would look at my fingers with those piercing eyes of hers (the kind that never failed to notice if you were just pushing your vegetables around on your plate instead of eating them, or if you were in any way dirty or slovenly) and say, "You've chewed these to nothing!  I can't do anything with these!"

(My Grandma hates it when we bite our nails, and I was BAD, I chewed my nails until I was in college.  I still do when I get really nervous.)

That 9 year old face, framed by the long curly hair, "Please, Grandma, please?  Please will you paint my nails?"

And she would.  We would sit at her kitchen table with the ceiling fan making a slow strobe light of the flourecents and she would carefully file away the rough edges and paint a thin coat of clear polish over my short stubby finger nails.


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We chatted and talked and she told me stories of her childhood, her parents and my Grandpa Bill.  She told me about the people she goes to church with and things that she used to be able to do that she can't do anymore and she resents it.  She resents getting old.  She misses her independence like you would miss a member of your family.

We talked for more than an hour and eventually I walked out into the cold clear night.  I looked at the moon and the stars as I walked up the hill to my parent's house and I thought about growing up.  How hard it must be the older we get.  I still carry that memory of that 9 year old girl in my head, and it was only 20 (ish) years ago.  My Grandma is 93.  She carries her own 9 year old self in her head but there are even more years to contend with between now and then.

I look around and everyday I'm grateful for Time.  Time with my family and friends, time with my husband and boy, time to work, to read, to relax, to be creative.  But sitting with my Grandma I began to think that Time must also be a heavy burden.  To carry the weight of all those years, of all that memory, to know clearly what you have been and what you are no longer.  To see Time passing in the faces of those you love and to lose those people one by one to Time. 

4 comments:

Whimsy said...

What a lovely and bittersweet snapshot of aging and grandmas in particular.

I haven't had a grandma in several years... and yours, at 94, sounds like a take-no-prisoners treasure. That's awesome.

Kim B said...

I love reading your posts. Your writing ability is amazing.

By the way, Kyle finished off the salsa last night and asked when you were coming back, because it was so cool to have you here, not just for the salsa! I thought you would like to here the compliment.

Bird said...

Your Grandma sounds awsome!

I talk with my great aunt fairly regularly and I see this with her too- that she knows she's getting older and slower but inside she's still a young sprite. I think people with a strong spirit always retain it no matter their age.

Sibley Saga .... said...

I bet my Granny and your grandmother would probably have gotten along famously. I wish I could do justice to her as you did to your granmother. Maybe I'll give it a shot one of these days.