Peering over my shoulder, looking ahead left, right and behind, I backed up. Slowly. As I swung out of the small handicapped parking place (illegal, I am sure) my attention was on a series of granite coping stones that I would narrowly miss if I cut the wheel just right. In order to avoid the rock wall, the rear of my car swung, hugging the edge of busy Route 1. It was a tight squeeze, yet I negotiated the vehicle away from dangers to the right and left. I had not calculated the fact that someone would place a fire hydrant at the entrance of a parking lot or busy street. The immovable object hugging low to the ground was not visible in my mirrors nor by looking over either shoulder. For the first time since owning “Sue”, I could report damage. Driving to the coffee shop, my intended next stop, I found myself shaking. “It just pierced the bumper,” I thought. It was a tiny scar, but I could not shake my feeling of sadness. Not being particularly materialistic, I started laughing; it was all so absurd. Later, peering into my large cup of latte, my stomach twisted. I didn’t get hurt, but “Sue” did I lamented over and over.
More than a year ago, I purchased “Sue” from a friend. “Sue” Baru was how she introduced me to the vehicle. This car carried her through divorce and bouts with cancer. “Sue” was steady and reliable.
I just bought a brand new car. It is spacious, shiny and runs on battery. I can’t let go of “Sue”. Fielding questions about her mechanical status from Craigslist, I wonder if I can let her go. She is old, and yes she needs some work, but she has plenty of life left. Is this reality or a fabrication of owning a 2001 car named Sue? I feel like I am turning my back on an old reliable friend. Meanwhile “Sue” sits in my yard. Waiting. For her fate.
To have a bad memory is a writer’s curse and perhaps a grand daughter’s curse too. Sometimes I think that if I could step through the threshold of my grandmother’s apartment just once more, it would all come gushing out. All of it. The smells. The words that passed between us. The stories. I remember the cool darkness in the heat of the summer. Windows closed and shades drawn to keep out the heat. My grandmother’s life was orderly and tidy (for the most part) so it was easy to negotiate through dim light.
My grandmother was older than my grandfather, by a few weeks. Sometimes my young mind gave this fact credence to their failed love. They barely shared words. Unspoken, I was my grandmother’s ally. Did this rob me of a deeper relationship with my grandfather? For no good reason I was afraid of him. One of my earliest memories of him or maybe it was the repeated stories I heard were of my grandfather cradling me in his arms and singing, “Ba-Ba Black Sheep” gently in my ear. He was a tender man, but later sadly, I kept my distance.
Together alone, my grandparents' days were dimmed by their silence, as they rambled through rooms on opposite sides of the apartment. There are some things that are hard to forget.
Today marks my grandmother’s 122nd birthday. It is my hope that those accumulated years have helped two souls gain wisdom, understanding and healing to find the peace and love they both deserve.
Over a plate of beans, our eyes met. His hair tousled from an afternoon nap. I felt the corner of my eyes knit together as I smiled. My husband, his plate full of beans before him was in heaven. On our way home from an afternoon of boating, swimming and napping we decided to go to an old fashioned “Comfort Food Church Supper.” Inside a long table held beans in crock pots, a macaroni and cheese casserole and salads. At the far end of the table were homemade yeast rolls tucked inside a linen towel. We sat at a round table draped with red checks and adorned with delicate yellow flowers. We ate; watching the church ladies pass a baby with big cheeks and a hearty cry from arm to arm. Others swiped the tables clean, bringing stacks of dirty dishes to the back kitchen. As I sipped a mug of coffee, I thought of how life orchestrates a great symphony of moments. Who knew Saturday night beans could hold such memories? We’ll be back in a month.
These days it seems like we are perpetually preparing. I guess it comes with age. The deck needs replacing, a new roof here and there, and vegetables need to be harvested. Yet it is not these tasks, but the life altering changes that challenge. Conversations lately include phrases like, “When we retire…” Frankly, retirement is frightening to me. Right now, I feel like I am vital to my workplace and am decades from being ready to retire For over thirty years, I have devoted my life to education and defined myself as teacher. That is all I know.
Only recently have I expanded the definition of myself. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, teacher, wife, mother. Now, with a bit of reluctance and hesitation I define myself as a creator; that is I am a photographer, writer and artist. With the years have come the wisdom that springs from knowing that the essence of who I am is so much deeper and larger than merely my occupation. Cultivating my creative side has given me voice and purpose.
There are days when I wonder what I will do. What will I do when the house is quiet with Jerry and I roaming through the house alone hearing the dog’s nails as they click on the hardwood floor. We will eat, in silence. (A comfortable silence that comes with living with someone for most of your life.) Now our conversations are mostly about our children. We will have time to read the piles of books that have made their way into our house and not have to consciously schedule time to read amongst busy-ness. We will approach each day with a quiet that comes with retirement. It will be alright.
While I roam the forest, I will be absorb energy that comes with captivating the wonder of the world; preserving the emotion and tone of the moment on film. I will go home and the words that have been tumbling gently in my head will spill out on paper. I will feel whole. Fulfilled that the days in preparation have been well spent; sifting through the years of responsibility to find the authenticity of who I really am and the essence of who I am meant to be.