Mary

Grammy’s house

When I began this blog, so many months ago, I never expected the fresh grief or the healing it would bring. Each memory brought both joy and melancholy as I revisited my childhood days. Of hooligans and shenanigans and Uncles that would sit in their rocking chairs and the sweet sound of my grandmother’s whistle as she did her choirs…

Of all these posts, only one hit me so hard I had to recall, and make it private. I thought to share it with you, as I’m ready to move on. It’s called “Grammy’s house.”

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gramhouse

Dear Rosa,

So I’m writing this while the feelings are fresh and please forgive me if its raw and unfinished. Please forgive me if I don’t edit – it’s a bit difficult to see through the tears.

I  sought Gram’s old house on Summer Street today.

What do you think, Pop, there’s a car in the driveway – can I could drop by for a quick visit? Somehow I hoped he say no. It’d been over 30 years since I last stepped into that house…

It would be best if I came with you, Suss, my dad said with such sad and gentle eyes, the new gal knows who I am – I helped her after Hurricane Irene flooded the place.

We walked down the road, moving at a slow pace, although my breathing came hard. Everything in the neighborhood had changed and yet in a strange way, it remained the same. There at the bottom of the hill was Mrs. Cannon’s house – my other great-grandmother. And there, across the street and right next to Gram’s was the Clough’s place.

Scott’s dead now, Dad said.  Hit a tree trying to avoid a deer.

I thought of Scotty, his soft blonde hair and shy smile – frozen forever in my memory as a young boy. No one would’ve guessed from his adventuresome nature and passion for kickball that he had no future…

We turned the corner onto Summer Street. I watched my father climb the front steps and knock on the door.

This is my daughter, he said as way of introduction, she grew up here, this was her Grammy’s place.

The woman seemed to understand right away. Of course, she smiled and welcomed us in.

Damn. Gram would’ve been pissed.

What was I thinking? That it would all be as she left it? That nothing would’ve changed? That 30 years of floods and countless owners would have kept it intact? And just why was I driven to see it today when I’d hadn’t stepped foot in it since she died?

Her beloved cookstove was gone, the pantry too. They’d even moved the stinkin shed that Marty Dyer, her boarder, used to keep all of his stuff. The floods had taken everything too many times to count. 1927, 1978 and 2011 were bad years for Gram’s house. Even the walls were different.

I felt her though, an echo of her presence.

I merely had to close my eyes to picture the countless scenes… of Gram in her rocker near the woodstove and all of us huddled around watching the tiny black and white tv as Richard Nixon resigned from the White House… Gram whistling the weirdest, saddest song while she cleaned her goldfish tank… Gram hauling her old ringer washer out and ramming her sheets through and me giggling when they came out flat as a pancake.

And I watched my dad as he looked around and wondered:  just how in hell did he do it? How did he not sink into despair when he saw how much had changed? This was his home, not mine – his memories of a childhood gone.

I see my father in a different light now. Courage and strength and by the grace of God he continues on and marks the passage of time. Imagine, to be the last of eight kids, carrying the memories of a lifetime that is no more, walking with courage and dignity into a house cherished by his beloved mother…

I rail against time and it’s cold, cruel nature. I hate that I’ve opened these memories and allowed fresh grief to thrive. I miss these people, Clarence, Lilah, Gram and Hiram. I miss the Sunday afternoons, the conversations, smell of fresh coffee from the bubbling percolator and the taste of her chocolate cake. I miss the life I once had and can never have again.

My daughter brought comfort in the form of a hug. It’s good, she said, that the house is cared for, that the person who lives there has made it their own. Your gram would’ve wanted that.

And damned if she isn’t right.

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16 thoughts on “Grammy’s house

      1. Still trying for April, other than that no specific date yet. Having the fix-up stuff done now….so someone else can enjoy it. Yippee. Insert appropriate sarcasm.

  1. Oh my Susan.. this post made me realize how I have longed to go back to my beloved Grandmother’s house with the red front porch.. I so miss it and her..While the memories are wonderful they do pain us as well.. Head up sister!

    1. I had to wait a few months to share this post – it took a while for the grief to lesson so I could gain some perspective. And what is it with grandmas anyways?
      Oh, and I LOVE your new pic! Look at you, you cutie-pie!

  2. I can never tell you I know how you feel because one never does but I do know about walking in my grandma’s house after someone else lived there and it is so hard. I cried as I was reading. This is haunting and raw.

    1. It’s only since I started this blog last year that I realized how much these people influenced me. My gram was one of the hardest working and loyal people I’ve ever met. Thanks for visiting – hope you are continuing to mend!
      Sue

  3. Funny how sometimes your own little story will stop you right in your tracks.
    Been there!
    When we were kids, we just felt stuff. Once we’ve grown up we feel like we have to explain, label and make sense of all the stuff we used to just feel. Things like seeing your parents as people, not as the perpetual characters “Mom” and “Dad”…that’s the moment I think we turn the corner from being “the children” to being “the adults.”
    I’m sniveling.
    I’ll bet Gram is wondering what all the fuss is about
    I would miss her percolator too 🙂

    1. Thanks, Kassie, for your sweet comment. Isn’t it all so true? And now, as my mom and dad age (he’s 81 and she’s 75) they seem to have shifted from parents to grandparents! It’s so strange to see them that old… but you’re a bit wrong on one part – I bet my tough, practical, French Gram, though in heaven for over 30 years, still misses her little house.

  4. Oh my, wasn’t expecting to tear up! Change is never easy, but always necessary so new memories can be made. We miss the old times, but could never trade today for yesterday, and leave the person we’ve become, and the people we love. No, moving forward, whilst remembering is the cross us human lot must bear. How bittersweet … thank God for memories. 😉 You’re so lovely my dear.

    1. My dearest Kim –
      thank you so much for these beautiful words! They all ring so true. I think, perhaps, that life is bittersweet and remembering is a cross of sorts. Still, my gram helped form me – she had an impact and I know I’m who I am today because of her.
      I’m so glad you swung by – I know you are a very busy little bee! Can’t wait to read your new post –
      hugs,
      Sue

  5. Such a basic but beautifully poignant account of returning to the house…and the losses and memories and affirmations. I found myself taking side detours, wandering into rooms and memories of my own grandmother’s house.
    Very well done!

    1. I never thought I’d find myself weeping after so many years. Stepping into that simple, beloved house nearly brought me to my knees. It was her pride and joy. My gram was the first of her family to ever own land in the United States. Her family – both mother and father – were poor, emigrant French who followed the work trail down from Canada. She lived there alone until she was 88 and could no longer fight her cancer and had to move in with her daughter.
      Thank you for stopping by…
      Sue

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