365 days since Aug. 4, 2013

Grandma was the one constant in my life. I changed, but she never did. She sat in her chair, in her house, read the paper, made simple dinners, called me, asked me to take her out shopping.

That woman loved to shop.

Even when her cane slowed her down and I became aggravated. I tried not to let it show, but I think she could tell half the time.

But she stopped sitting in her chair in her house, stopped reading the paper, stopped making simple dinners, stopped calling me and asking me to take her out shopping. She stopped. Her heart stopped. She died of kidney failure a year ago today.

It’s hard being my age and hearing my peers talk about their grandparents. I feel like I’m too young to not have grandparents.

But, as my boyfriend says, c’est la vie. Such is life. But I miss her terribly.

So this one’s for you, Grandma.

Enter title here

I don’t want to.

I don’t want to think about it.

I don’t want to think about it and her.

I don’t want to think about it and her and seeing her for the last time.

I don’t want to think about it and her and seeing her for the last time and holding her hand and letting her try on my then-new sneakers and hearing her laugh because she couldn’t hear what any of us were saying.

I don’t want to think about her climbing into that red truck and driving away.

I don’t want to think about letting her go.

I don’t want to think about spending a weekend with grandparents that weren’t even mine when my last grandparent took her last breath.

I don’t want to think about her reaction when she saw my pixie cut last year after it had just been done she loved it, she loved it, she loved it.

I don’t want to think about her fingers running through my hair, smiling up at me with her crooked teeth because, at that point, she’d given up on wearing her dentures and pretty much had stopped combing her thinning white hair after years of raking an insistent, painful brush through mine.

I don’t want to think about the phone call and the silent sobs, Hannah climbing into the backseat to hold me, her mom driving on in silence.

I don’t want to think about the three-hour drive home that day because I don’t even remember it.

I don’t want to think about the boy who didn’t care, who hadn’t even checked his voicemail to hear my muffled explanation, who, when I told him where I was, what had happened, how I felt, he sounded…surprised.

I don’t want to think about work tomorrow and the fact that it’s 1 a.m. and I’ll wake up with puffy eyes.

I don’t want to think about this weekend a year ago as the last time I ever saw her alive.

I don’t want to think.

I can’t think.

Life, sans explosion

It would be so easy to die.

To stumble into something you shouldn’t have, cross the street in front of a driver who either doesn’t respect pedestrians in a crosswalk or just didn’t see you, firmly grip the wheel yourself and slowly inch into the other lane…

That’s what I thought on Tuesday while driving. Turn the steering wheel a bit, Emily, and everything you’re looking forward to, all your plans… they’re gone.

Let me be clear: I am by no means suicidal. I may have been back during early teenage years, but I never would have had the nerve to actually do something really harmful to myself. These thoughts merely cross my mind from time to time.

While filling up at the pump on the same day, I spilled a little gasoline on my hands and onto my car keys. I had the brief thought of, What if my car blows up when I put the key into the ignition? 

Silly, I know. But it made me pause and reflect as I hit a perfect $36 on the meter. What if?

Would that be okay?

How would the people around me react, namely the creepy old guy checking me out right now?

What would my family do?

What would my friends do? 

I squirted hand sanitizer onto my key and my hands and scrubbed a little bit. I closed my eyes when I turned the key, but Bubbles merely sprang to life, sans explosion. I sighed, opened my eyes, pressed the brake with my right foot and shifted into “Drive.”

Seeing lights in my rearview mirror scares me more than death does. I’d have to deal with the consequences of getting a speeding ticket; if I were to die, that’d be it. Only those I leave behind have to deal with the grief and suffering.

I’m not ready to swerve into the other lane, I’m not ready for this to end… but would it be okay if, by chance, it did? Yeah. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t have a choice; it would have to be okay.

I’ve been on a lot of adventures, I’ve seen a lot of things, I’ve learned more lessons than I can count. I’ve stumbled into love, been forced out of it by my own ambition and life plans and then obsessed over people and ideas I thought were real. I’ve been struck down, tossed around, taken advantage of and then, through careful character rebuilding, been able to bounce back.

The girl who once tried to control everything and fought everything has become a woman who knows her limits, knows when there is no use, knows when to let it be.

A lot can happen in a day. So let it –– whatever it is –– happen. The end could happen at any second.

From the box to the grave

I wrote this poem in a cemetery I found nearby. In the beginning of the summer, I’d ride my bike there to sit and think. (I’ve spent a lot of time alone over the past couple of months.)

Such a gorgeous, gorgeous couple.
Such a gorgeous, gorgeous couple.

The poem is about my papa. I started crying and ended up calling my boyfriend while he was at work –– I needed to talk to someone. I’m my own worst enemy and often beat myself up mentally. I sat there under my tree near Harriet’s grave (died in the 1870s, no last name on stone), and wished I could visit one for Papa. I wished I could go somewhere to be alone, but still be with him.

When he died, my grandma decided they would wait to open the grave until their combined cremains could be buried together. So his cremains sat in a bag, in a box, on a shelf. And I just wanted closure.

Looking back now, I’ve realized that, to have closure with him, she had to die, too.

And she did.

I just didn’t think about it at the time.

And I can’t go back to that cemetery ever again. I just can’t.

 

Grandma’s Sentimental Journey

Grandma moved to the couch when I began to cry. She closed both of her warm hands over one of mine and looked me straight in the eye. “I don’t want you to have to leave St. Bonaventure, and your Papa wouldn’t want that either” she said. “I can help you.”

The last time I saw Grandma, 7/8/13.
The last time I saw Grandma, 7/8/13.

I bawled and sank into her warm embrace. I thanked her profusely. I shuddered and said, “Please don’t tell Mom.”

She understood. She provided a little money toward my latest tuition bill and I didn’t have to tell my parents how much I actually owed. It was our little secret. Grandma loved that she could help me and loved that we had a secret. I was her special girl.

She’s gone now.

Grandma filled the plastic pool with water and sat in a lawn chair nearby as my lifeguard. There, in the pink wading pool, I learned how to hold my breath underwater for the very first time.

My salary as a child came from Grandma. She showed me how to take Papa’s old sock, put it over my hand like a glove and spray it with Pledge. Off I went meandering around the house, moving picture frames and knickknacks out of the way to reach the dust underneath. Three dollars sure felt like a lot of money to earn back then.

She’s gone now.

…and I can’t even write this without bursting into tears.

My graduation.
My graduation.

My grandmother was such a wonderful woman and her oh-so-recent death is unfathomable to me right now. It’s not real. It can’t be real. I’ve taken up residence in a wonderful cocoon of denial, but it’s beginning to break open.

She’s gone now, Reality keeps telling me, though I try to drown him out with mindless television, conversations with my family and thinking about anything but Grandma. And, in this way, things seem okay for awhile. Grandma is over at her house, sitting in her favorite chair and reading the paper.

SHE’S GONE NOW, the voice gets louder. She disappears, the chair disintegrates, the piles of newspapers fly around and, when everything has cleared, only the walls, carpets, cupboards, windows and doors remain. Rooms empty, pictures removed from walls; nothing signifying a house made into a home for 40 years. No sign of the couple who filled the home and made it the safe haven that it was.

I’m still in my little cocoon. I catch occasional glimpses of what is actually happening –– like Grandma’s body in a casket –– but quickly dismiss them. I experience flashbacks where I could swear I’m watching short videos of times I’ve spent with her. One second we’re baking cookies, the next she’s teaching me how to make pie and then we’re in Bubbles, driving around her neighborhood as she sticks her hands out the sunroof.

A picture I INSISTED on taking back in May. I'm glad I did.
A picture I INSISTED on taking back in May. I’m glad I did.

I want to break open my phone to retrieve the voicemail messages she left years ago that I so stupidly –– and accidentally –– deleted a couple months ago. I want to delve into the files of my brain and remember every detail of every visit she and I had within the past year. Memorize how she was, hear her voice again. Feel her warmth.

The largest dose of reality came when I took a closer look at her corpse and felt her hands. I kissed her cheek, but that wasn’t my grandma.

She’s gone now.

On a shelf

This is where you should be.

Not in a bag in a box on a shelf,

But in the ground.

Where you can feed the soil

you were born on and fell

in love on.

Soil you fought to preserve,

even though you never talked

about that.

 

I want your ashes to feed the ground

I walk on every day and bring forth new

life.

 

But, most of all, I just wish

you were still here.

So I could hear your voice

softly say my name again.

 

To kiss your sandpaper

cheek one more time

and hear you say “Oh, that’s nice”

and memorize that vibration

of your vocal cords.

 

Vocal cords that don’t even

exist anymore…

 

You’re dust in a bag

in a box

on a shelf.

 

 

~EMS

6/25/13

8:22 p.m.

 

JuneBug and the cardinal

A cardinal follows my aunt during her morning walks on the sand-covered trail near her home in Illinois. The brilliant, red bird flies from branch-to-branch, eavesdropping on my aunt and her friend’s morning gossip sessions. It is my belief that, when we die, we come back as a different being to be a guardian for the loved ones we leave behind. Cardinals that fly by me are my Papa. Pictures of cardinals and references to cardinals –– even the baseball team –– are signs from my Papa. He’s watching over me.

JuneBug, my mama's puppy
JuneBug, my mama’s puppy

It just makes sense. Grandma’s favorite bird is a cardinal, thus her husband came back as one. When I need guidance, something cardinal-esque usually pops up and reminds me of him. A lot of the time, it’s when I least expect it. As I sat at the kitchen table doing a word find during our last break, a cardinal landed on a post outside on the deck. He flew away, but not until after he had gotten a good look at me. The next day, out the bay window at my Grandma’s house, I saw red streak past. I’m so happy he watches over her, too.

And though my mom whines and says, “I wish I had my own cardinal like you guys do!”, we remind her of JuneBug, the warm ball of fur we adopted for her as a family to comfort her after her dad died.

I believe I’m not alone in seeing signs like these. Every family probably has a version of my Papa’s cardinal. I believe in reincarnation. My Papa still hangs around, looking over the family he made and the country he fought to preserve. He just looks a little different now with those bright red wings at his sides.

Aging Sims

I never let my Sims reach old age. I lengthen the time for the young adult and adult stages as far as they will go. The Sim I made of me has four kids – something nearly impossible if the timeline of my Sim’s life had not been tampered with (unless my Sim has quadruplets – God bless her soul).

My grandma is not my grandma anymore. Dementia and Alzheimer’s swallow more of her everyday. She’s why I subconsciously refuse to let my Sims age. I’ve seen it up-close and personal. Why would I subject someone – virtual or real – to that kind of a life?

Grandma was the picture of health when compared to Papa. Papa’s body turned on him with cancer, diabetes and even more problems that he kept a list of (a list that filled up an entire 8.5×11 piece of paper – I’ve seen it). Grandma took care of him. They took care of each other. Now he’s gone (it’s been almost a year) and she’s all alone.

She’s irritable and hard to work with. She puts on a false front for my brothers and me (and cousins, too, when they’re around), but I hear the stories my mom comes home with. Stories about Grandma referencing something that happened 40 years ago, or claiming she just had a conversation with her mother (who’s been dead forever).

I was just getting to the point where I enjoyed riding my bike over to her house to sit and talk with her. After I got my license and Bubbles, I enjoyed taking her out for a ride. We went shopping when we wanted to. I took her out to eat. Now Alzheimer’s has begun settling in and I’m scared of what I’ll find when she opens her door to let me in.

She has her good days and her bad days. Turns out today was one of the bad ones.

The first time she brought a store-bought pie to Thanksgiving, my eyes teared up.

I miss her cookies. I miss her apple pies (I had to finish the last one she started to make, she was so overwhelmed). I miss playing card games and laughing. I miss being the little girl. Now, since her behavior is unpredictable, she’s the child and I’m the adult.

Tonight I’m going to play Sims and let my Sim grow old. I need to face it.

In the words of a band I love called Eisley, “I wasn’t prepared for this.”

Grandma has always reminded me of Bianca from The Rescuers. Always prim and proper, just like Bianca.

I read the news today, oh boy

29 years ago today, John Lennon said his last words “I’m shot!” and then fell to the ground. John Lennon has now been dead for 29 years. I obviously wasn’t living then, but my dad tells me that he remembers that day as if it were yesterday.

I totally forgot about this date. I read about it and told myself to remember it, but guess what? I didn’t. I never remember important things. So, this morning I pulled on my Beatles hoodie, totally oblivious to the significance of December 8th.

In AP U.S. History, I opted not to pay attention to a man that makes me feel small and stupid and instead opened my notebook and started to write (the green honesty notebook). I drew a few doodles, sure, but then I got a song stuck in my head.

Lucy was in the sky with diamonds in my head. I flipped my notebook over to a clean page and started writing.

I proceeded to write one of the most beautiful and thoughtful poems I have ever written. Despite the lack of inspiration in my location (a dull, plainly decorated classroom and a group of students that lacked the laughter I usually provided them with), I spit out my feelings. What blows my mind is that I had no idea about what was important about today at the time. When I got home and was able to check my facebook, my friend had posted “RIP John Lennon <3” in her status. My heart skipped a beat when I realized how everything I had done fell into place. For some strange reason, I knew what the day was subconsciously, even though the perfectly conscious part of my brain couldn’t seem to see it.

I finished the poem I produced with my hands and a pen at exactly 9:00 AM. There may be a more significant meaning associated with that time, but right now all I can think of is that on this day 29 years ago, 9:00 was one of the last times John Lennon ever saw. And so, this is for you John. Even though I wasn’t thinking of you at all when I wrote it. No, I was thinking of myself. And Lucy.

Let Her Be

The girl with the sun in her eyes is surely gone
as is the sun from which it was drawn.
Send me love, you sunless dawn
but no, the sun in her eyes is now gone.

The diamonds have fallen from the sky
10,000 feet; plummeting to die.
Not able to wonder and question why;
she watches the diamonds fall from the sky.

The blackbird’s singing in the dead of night
a beautiful hour lacking light
a gunshot sounds and takes a flight
to the blackbird singing in the dead of night.

~EMS
12/8/09
9:00 AM

RIP John Lennon ❤

What gives you the right?

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately. Mostly about life, death, murder, killing… etc…

Where am I going with this? Well…

I have been thinking about people that have taken another person’s life. Murderers, crazy people, people that should call a jail cell home as punishment for what they’ve done… What gives those people the right to take someone’s life away? Do they think that they are important enough to do something as horrible as that? How can someone stand up, point a gun at someone, shoot, and then still be able to live with themselves afterward?  I have future spreading out in front of me, or so it seems. What if I don’t? What if someone suddenly decides that they are good enough to take my life because they are not happy with their own? Yes, I am full of “what ifs,” but that’s just how I am.

I think guns should be illegal. Yes, they’re useful for hunting and whatnot, but these instruments can end someone’s life with the pull of the trigger – what gives a person the right to do that?