“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.