All that we see or seem…

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All that we see or seem…

“When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut, but I want to land on a star.”

“…Honey, stars are big balls of burning gas. They aren’t solid.”

“I know, Grammy. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible, it only means we can’t imagine it yet. And I also want to be an Archeologist in Egypt. And a Marine Biologist. And I want to find out what words look like to people before they know how to read.”

She just looked at me and smiled her usual ear-to-ear smile, and hugged me with her usual five minute hug. She loved me half as much as I loved her. And she loved me a lot.

I think back to the quieter moments from my childhood, the ones where sunlight had a certain melodious way of sending a sense of sweet sorrow into my soul as it began to set outside my Grammy’s living room window; the ones where the ticking of the massive grandfather clock set my mind in motion with a certain angst and longing for the inevitable passing of time to somehow skip over me & my Grammy’s summer days so they could last forever… Even then, I somehow knew the pain of loss before I’d ever had to meet it face to face.

My Grammy always cried as she waved goodbye, the tail-lights from my dad’s pickup truck casting an ominous glow against the fading palm of my Grammy’s loving hand. I understood at a youngest age why she cried. Every single week. Every single time I had to go. I knew the day would come when saying goodbye would only be a distant memory.

It’s funny how the memories can be so incredibly specific that way. I remember her smell so well that it floods over me — even fifteen years later — when I simply close my eyes.

I dream about her tomatoes. Picking them. Her, and me, and all of my boys out there with us. These dreams are not a slumbering escape from the reality of her being gone; they are an awakening reality of the slumbering life I lead without her in it. These dreams are more real than the long-ago memories we once created; they are the memories we’re creating now.

I can’t say I believe in ghosts, or that I know somehow that it’s not just my imagination coming alive when I dream. But I can say — without reason or justification — that my Grammy does, in fact, visit me. We have moments together now, after all these years, when we truly do pause time. We put the world on hold and we sit back, holding hands, sharing love like a cup of fresh lemonade. Making jokes about bitter old men. Laughing. Talking about all of the things I worried I’d never have the chance to discuss with her: motherhood, marriage, growing up… That sort of thing.

In many ways, I became an astronaut and an archeologist and a marine biologist and I most certainly have discovered what words look like to people before they learn how to read… Although I don’t travel to Egypt or make day-trips beyond the Milky Way or spend long weekends deep sea diving; still, I’ve found the most unique opportunities to develop these fascinations into a deeply useful, deeply gratifying use for my meager existence.

Motherhood has a way of doing that.

I miss my Grammy much like we all miss aspects of our childhood, I’m sure. But mostly I’m just immensely grateful to have been given the opportunity to know and love and be loved by such a magical human being. I hope you each have such a profound connection, such an indescribable blessing at some point in your journeys. Whether in Egypt or on the moon, or in your very living room.

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19 responses »

  1. “I can’t say I believe in ghosts, or that I know somehow that it’s not just my imagination coming alive when I dream. But I can say — without reason or justification — that my Grammy does, in fact, visit me. We have moments together now, after all these years, when we truly do pause time. We put the world on hold and we sit back…”

    I can’t say I believe in ghosts either, but I talk to my Grandma and Grandpa, long since gone to heaven, and I imagine them talking back, and I can see them, in inexplicable ways. They have given me strength and hope, at various times and in various ways. Its a truly beautiful thing.

    I have many friends, relatives, who no longer walk this earth, but I frequently think of them in the crowd of Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses…” They always cheer us on, I believe that with absolute conviction 🙂

    Really lovely post.

  2. As I sit here typing on this God forsaken tiny phone screen, I find some difficulty, as my eyes are filled with tears.

    I wish I could express the way I feel about my Mama Glad (great grandma) in such a beautiful way. I loved her beyond love, and I miss her everyday.

    Reading this brough back such beautiful memories, and I thank you for that.

    • Powerful. Thank you for sharing; I’m deeply touched to know this reached an inner-most part of you. That’s amazing to me.

      Everyone in my Grammy’s life recognized the special bond we shared. Everybody knew that our relationship was unspeakably special, and that no one mattered more to us than each other.

      Because of that, I received quite an overwhelming response from almost every person at her memorial service. For some reason, each person who attended felt it was their duty somehow to give me permission to cry.

      I couldn’t cry. The entire service, I just sat there… Numb. Frozen in space and time; suspended from reality like a puppet on a string, not refusing the grief, but somehow unable to quantify it through the customary tears that every single person seemed to expect me to shed. Tears felt like a disservice to my pain. Like an insult. Tears would have suggested that the loss was measurable somehow, and it simply wasn’t. I couldn’t cry; not because I was refusing to face the sorrow, but because the sorrow was simply too gigantic to portray by crying tears of a loss that becomes accepted and embraced when we mourn. There was no way to mourn this loss… Because it was so huge, so indescribable, that it was a PART of me. The only way I can explain it is to suggest imagining how you would feel attending your own funeral in person. It was awkward and surreal and it felt like nobody truly understood the depth of the pain. If they had, they would have known without question why my heart was too broken to weep.

      And after all these years, all these pivotal moments in my life where I’ve had to re-live the reality of her no longer being here with me, I have cried only once or twice about the fact that she is gone. Fifteen years later, I am still too raw and too lost for words to minimize the pain with tears that can’t reach the infinity of sorrow by her absence in my world.

      I wrote this without any specific goal in mind. I didn’t even intend to write about my Grammy specifically. It was an unplanned free-form expression of emotion that came out way deeper — way more clearly — than I ever could have intended. I think the heart purges itself perfectly when we allow it to do so.

      I say all that to share with you that after I posted this, I read it for the first time (no proof-reading), as if the words and feelings were all brand-new.

      And by the end of it, I realized that I was crying the deepest, truest tears I’ve ever cried.

      Maybe the things that matter the most to us have their own journeys to take through the un-navigatable corners of our hearts and souls. For me, it seems, that much I know is true.

      Thank you for taking the journey with me.

  3. @beautifulmess DAMMIT how do you write so well!? I thank YOU for taking me on a journey I didn’t expect. Ive thought this morning of all the things I wouldn’t be able do to without her influence. My blog wouldn’t even exist, as she taught me everything about sewing.

    I found it difficult to cry at her funeral also. My experience was 99% percent similar to yours.

    Thank you again, and thank you for thanking me in such a poignant way

  4. off topic – Brandy thank you so much for your wonderful, and thought provoking comments, I appreciate every single comment. You are an amazing writer and your intelligence is beyond may other writers. I apologize for not having time to read your posts and comment today, the blog was very busy.

    Tommorow, will read each post and comment thoughtfully.

    Going to sleep, as it is 4:00 a.m. here.

    Night, night and sweet dreams.

    Oh yea, you probably didn’t think I would actually put the countdown widget on the front of my blog did you? 🙂

    Brandies, countdown widget on my blog, probably be there forever with subject each week.

    🙂

    Night and Thank you again!

  5. Brandy, loved how you wrote about the grandfather clock and picking the tomatoes, reminded me so much of my own childhood and my special times with my grandmother, learning to sew or picking flowers. In all honesty, this post brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for writing this, I need to go visit my grandmother who now has (dementia) so it’s hard for me to visit now. Reading this has changed my mind, you brought back memories of brushing her hair, and her singing songs to me.
    Grandmothers are so special to children. I am sorry you lost your grandmother and glad you wrote this special post in her memory. if she were to read this, sure she would be so proud of you and your being a wonderful mother, writer, and thoughtful person that you have become as an adult. I can say I know how you feel about the dreams, I had many dreams last night about people that are either gone to heaven or have left my life for one reason or another.
    Seems as though sometimes God needs the people in our lives, more than we do. Had a discussion today with my husband about how it seems like good people pass away before bad people, I often wonder if that is because God needs them more than we do.
    Everything in it’s own time I guess…..There is a time for everything, a time to reap, a time to sew, a time to live and a time to die as the good book says.
    Wonderful post, and enjoyed the details of your memories very much…Thank you for giving me the push to visit my grandparents, even though they have a hard time remembering and it hurts my heart. They still need me and I still need them, even if they cannot remember my visit or many things from childhood.
    i needed this post.

    • I hope with all my heart that you do visit them. I can imagine the pain of it, but after all this time since my Grammy battled cancer and I watched the chemotherapy suck the life out of her body and eventually kill her (much faster than the cancer would have), it takes huge effort to recall the specific details about her during that time — in spite of how overwhelmingly painful it was back then to see her so frail and yellow and helpless and broken-hearted; none of that ever comes to mind. But I’m convinced that it’s BECAUSE of my commitment to being present in the battle with her despite all the darkness of it, my fonder memories with her were able to remain deeply rooted in my soul in a way that I think would have given way to regret, over time. Go see them. 😉

      Sorry for the delayed response, I haven’t been on the internet whatsoever in days.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments.

      • Yes, it is really hard to face the end stages of life. I do have a book upstairs that supposedly teaches the right way to help people who are in hospice care, but haven’t gained the courage to read it….My aunt said it is a great book, and helped her, but each time I pick it up I fall apart. Every time I visit them, I fall apart emotionally…just heart broken.

        Honestly, not sure how to overcome this, to be there for them in their final days, but know if I do not, it will be a regret for the remainder of my life.

        Oh, just read this again, and haven’t visited. I have to visit…have to visit…face the fear Liz.

        Thanks again Brandy.

  6. “…the ones where the ticking of the massive grandfather clock set my mind in motion with a certain angst and longing for the inevitable passing of time to somehow skip over me & my Grammy’s summer days so they could last forever… Even then, I somehow knew the pain of loss before I’d ever had to meet it face to face.”

    So evocative and beautiful, your memory. It reminds me of my own grandmother, and the sound of her clock in her living room. She died when I was 8. She was my lifeline. I was so incredibly gutted when she left. Apparently, I fell sick (though I don’t remember this…).

    Anyway, I also want to say, thanks for your passion and thoughtful comments – here and elsewhere 🙂

    • Alarna,

      Your thoughts and perspectives are always such an encouragement. Thank you so much for taking the time to share them with me. I enjoy hearing your parallel experiences very much. Your spirit is so alive…

  7. That is one of the sweetest things I’ve read in a long time. You are indeed so lucky to have had a Grammy like that. I hope your next cup of lemonade is an extra-large so you get some extra time.

  8. “She loved me half as much as I loved her.” That made my heart ache. I often feel like I see other people more than they see me. I wonder if it’s really true or if it’s a trick of perspective.

    “These dreams are not a slumbering escape from the reality of her being gone; they are an awakening reality of the slumbering life I lead without her in it. These dreams are more real than the long-ago memories we once created; they are the memories we’re creating now.” Yow, that is beautiful. You gave me shivers there. Suddenly, for a moment, I believe that in dreams, ghosts visit us. We have so many people in our heads, don’t we?

    Beautiful writing, Brandy. (Is this a different or a new blog?)

    • Same blog. I recently found myself churning the neglected dirt in my gardens, turning the earth upside down, giving the cold damp soil air and sunlight, pulling out the early spring weeds; all of it this an unplanned activity that followed a really upsetting moment in my day. The next day I somehow felt like a different person… As if those moments were literally the boundary between a previous me and and a woman I suddenly became.
      The change on this blog suited my inner evolution. 🙂

      If anyone reading this doesn’t know this girl in the hat, I recommend you go introduce yourself. Or at least go read her blog. One of my top five favorites.

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