Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Lost Writings In Old Wallets 

Cleaned out my wallet last week. In among the business cards, faded cookie fortunes and ATM reciepts a pair of paper scraps, covered in tiny blue-pen writing, stood out. Turned out to be blogfodder, written almost exactly a year ago, on holiday break in Florida.

A year ago.

My mother's father Jerry and my father's mother Florence were still alive, though both sick in their own ways. Willow could barely string two words together. My back wasn't herniated. My hair was three feet long. My job seemed safe; I was still teaching morning classes, and excited about them.

It was our second visit to Florida since Martha, the first of my grandparents, had passed; the first since I'd been to her gravesite.

And one warm night on the wicker and iron porch of our rented spanish villa, deep in the heart of the authentic 1920 neighborhood of Flamingo Park, I wrote this:
There are moments, here in Florida, when I miss her terribly -- both of them, really, but mostly her. Technically, of course, he isn't gone -- the body remains, and maybe the mind (i hope, and then sometimes, for his sake, hope to God it's not). But he's so far gone from the laughing bristle-cheeked pancakemaker he was when we were small, "he" is gone, after all.

But oh, Martha. Whose funeral we missed, in fear of having the baby that far from home.

Tonight at dinner, looking down at her great granddaughter, surely thinking of her own long-lost daughter Marion, my father's sister who passed away before his own birth, as in all such families the unattainable perfect sibling whose ghost looked and lurked over everything after her -- tonight Florence looked down at my babbling daughter, my precious Willow Myla-for-Martha, fidling with her great grandfather's shoes, and said "Have you taken her to see Martha?"

It was okay, after that tiny stoptime moment -- okay, and I said so, despite Florence's apology. We moved on quickly, and it was okay.

But it isn't, always.

Let's be tough but fair: Martha, of all my parent's parents, was the one who would have most loved, and been most loved, as she was for us. Would have been -- but she missed it, technically by two days, though if you count the time in the coma, by a month or more. For lying still and skin-stretched in that hospice bed she could not have been, would not have been to Willow the woman I loved, admired, feared.

Tomorrow, maybe, I'll leave Willow and Darcie home, and drive to Delray, and sit in the car outside someone else's home, and cry a little. God, I miss her, and the idea of having Willow see her -- presenting Willow to her, and her to Willow -- connecting the generations, proving us all through proving myself.

As I never knew I needed to do.

Until now.
What a difference a year makes.

We're off again for Florida -- same house; a different, smaller family to visit -- next Friday, bright and early. We'll stop in on my father's father, now the last of his generation; visit, too, Martha's sister Lil, still young at heart, still working at the local community college. We'll play on the beach, weather willing, and swim in the surf, and chase seagulls. I'll read on the porch again, a book a night, and breath the humid air, and try not to think too hard.

And maybe, this time, I really will drive by old houses in the night, and cry. For my own lost youth. For the three of them -- Martha, Jerry, Florence. For the surety that, as I know my own great-grands through pictures only -- Willow will be the first of a world who will not remember them, though she benefits from their love, a trickle-down theory.

We used to go for long days on grandparent porches. It's a funny mix of relaxation and reclamation that drives us to Florida now. But regeneration never comes without the bittersweet, I guess. So here's hoping this year's as sweet and summery, as cathartic and calm as the last.

'Cause this time, I really need it.

posted by boyhowdy | 5:57 PM |

Oh, wow, thank you for this entry.

I think about this a lot. My parents are 70 now, and they live a few thousand miles away, and I'm a few years away from being ready to have a child; chances are good that my kids won't know my parents well. My husband's grandmother just died last month, the last of that generation in either of our families.

And as I light candles on my grandfather's yarzheit, the thought that my children will never know him...!

Yeah. I'm right there with you. And I hope your trip to Florida brings you the solace and comfort you're seeking.
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