Post 501: It’s here, it’s enough

After going to college in rural western New York, many of my peers flocked back to their big-city hometowns or left their backcountry nests behind in search of something bigger, something better.

I understood the allure — skyscrapers, busy streets, the excitement of being where things actually happen.

I wondered if it was something I wanted, too. So I applied to jobs in Buffalo (a good starting point, I thought), New York City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Tucson. I penned dozens of cover letters and adjusted my creative résumé using Adobe InDesign. I got as far as my starting point, where a local ice cream company said “thanks, but no thanks.”

I ended up in a small town that calls itself a city, nestled just below the famous Finger Lakes region in New York State.

“Why?” You might ask. To that I say “Well, why not?”

You’re talking to the girl who grew up riding her bike down one hill and up another, passing only a decrepit department store, an abandoned train depot and dusty store fronts as she huffed and puffed to the library. 

The girl who ran miles around cornfields and pastures, with one runway of a road – damn you, Wheater! – that seemed to stretch into oblivion. 

The girl who yearned for charming coffee shops, lunch spots and, at the very least, a one-screen movie theater. 

Today, all that is here. And it’s enough.

I frequent several local coffee shops and lunch spots, and I cruise down busy streets to riverfront paths on either two wheels or two legs — it doesn’t matter which. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized this place is as city as Emily gets, and riding my bike or walking downtown to a lively main street full of restaurants, ice cream shops, and trendy bars will never ever get old. 

Now when I visit home I relish in the long, empty roads dotted by farm creatures and picturesque barns. I appreciate what I had, what I have, and what will be. And today if I were to bike to the library from my parents’ house, I’d pass a coffee-shop lunch spot, the two-in-one deal I never knew I needed.

It’s today. I’m here or there, and that’s enough.

Oh, and did I mention the theater here has two screens?!?

Nick is one of my favorite photo subjects.

Disconnected disjointed broken

I remember when they stopped coming.

When they stopped being able to make it to things. When they stopped hearing. When they stopped being able to walk.

The last track meet they ever watched me run in was when I was in seventh grade. I ran the 4X8 and the 1500. My coach let me skip the 800 because I’d almost beaten the school record in the 1500. I had earned the privilege of going home. I remember leaving the track with Grandma and Papa trailing along. Grandma probably carried the scratchy blanket they always used to keep in their car.

We stopped telling them about musicals and plays I acted in because they couldn’t hear the performers anyway. Even home track meets and cross country meets were impossible because they just couldn’t get around to them.

Papa fell at Jordan’s college graduation ceremony when he got up to use the restroom. Adam blamed me because I’d been in front of him. I cried in my black and white polka-dotted dress. My shoes matched perfectly. It’s all a tear-soaked blur, but I can still see him falling. Falling. Falling. The army veteran and former hardworking Cummins salesman was so embarrassed.

I just wrote that we didn’t take them to Trevor’s college graduation, but “them” wasn’t even possible. Papa had died the year before. He saw everyone graduate from high school except me.

I’m all disconnected disjointed broken with my words because my tear ducts still haven’t run dry. I think about last year when Grandma was around for Easter.

Easter was early my senior year of high school and Grandma and Papa watched my brothers and I scramble around outside for an Easter egg hunt.

I won.

Papa went to the hospital a few weeks later.

He died.

I know you’re not supposed to regret things in life, but I regret all the times I told Grandma and Papa, “no thank you” when they asked me to do things. I regret complaining about how slow Grandma walked during our shopping trips, how I had to keep track of her cane, how she never stopped talking. I’d give anything to have the voicemail she left on my phone that I accidentally deleted a year ago.

I’d give anything to have either of them back.

I remember when they stopped coming, but I also remember when I stopped going. Stopped wanting to visit them, then stopped wanting to visit her when she lived there alone. When we stopped inviting them over because it was just too hard and then stopped inviting her over because she never shut up.

 

Dear Emily from a Year Ago,

Stop complaining and go fucking visit her. Give her a hug from me because the clock’s ticking and pretty soon she’ll be gone.

Love,

An older, wiser you

 

I carry them with me everywhere, but the cold metal pendant can’t provide me with the full dosage of warmth I need.

It never will.

Their memories haven’t reduced me to tears since the first day I saw the bed missing from their bedroom. I cried and cried and cried and my dad just enveloped me.

I think my problem is that I just got back from another trip to New York City and I remember telling my grandma all about it last year. I sat on her brand-new couch (that now has my name on it) and she sat in her usual chair. She told me about the time she spent in the city when she and Papa were first married. How they had a bedroom in a house where they lived with a few other people. Papa taught her how to drive in the city, she and Papa played cards in the city. She took a part-time job in a department store(?) while he began his career. If my mom, aunt and uncle can’t tell me more about my grandparents’ lives as newlyweds, those memories are lost forever.

Because he died.

She followed (basically) suit.

Next time I see them, I’ll be sure to invite them to things. Something tells me they’re able to hear and walk better in their post-life adventure.