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.)
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 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.”
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 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.
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.