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Louis and Mary

Dear Rosa,

It’s funny, this strange little world I live in. Searching for people so long gone no one remembers what they looked like. Walking through cemeteries, seeking family I’ve never met. Finding you, Rosa, and your sweet husband, Henry, was a wonderful moment for me last week.

Today brought another special moment. Today, I found your grandparents.

Louis Blain and Mary Adaline Bourdeau. Only here in Vermont they were known simply as Lewis and Mary Blair.

I knew I’d find them. I just didn’t think they’d be buried in the same cemetery as you.

And how sweet is that?

So, next time I’m in little Duxbury, Vermont, you know where old Sue will be. Yup, sauntering up and down perfectly  manicured lawns searching for that small stone that marks her great-great-great grandparent’s resting spot. And when I find their stone, I’ll take a pic or two to share.

Maybe I’ll even plant a lilac tree.

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Rosa · Uncategorized

I found you, my Rosa…

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My Dearest Rosa,

Well, it was a sweet search and one that culminated in a wonderful moment for Sue.

I knew where you were buried, in a little cemetery in Duxbury, Vermont, right alongside your husband, Henry and son, Freddie. It took a while to find you and it was such a charm when I did.

You were there, beneath a shady lilac tree, you and Henry and I was so moved.

My Rosa. My great-grandmother.

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And the little white marker besides yours and Henry’s? It’s your son, Freddie’s. You can’t read his name anymore. 100 years have stolen it away. But, if you look close, you can just make out, “Age 4 years.” Freddie didn’t live long enough, did he?

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And see, Rosa- I thought you might like to know I’ve found you’re mom, Elizabeth. She rests close to me, in Burlington.  Your sister, Hattie,  is there, too.

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I found a measure of peace, knowing you were so well cared for. And the lilac tree- I know where it came from- your daughter, my grammy, must’ve planted it.

She had a matching tree in her yard.

It’s  still there you know, grammy’s lilac tree. Just like yours, it continues to thrive and bring a reminder of the changing of the seasons, the passing of time, and the memory of those who’ve come before us.

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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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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Two degrees off-center…

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Dear Rosa,

If one were to liken a soul to a gyroscope, then mine was knocked off-center by two degrees some thirty years ago.  The day my grandmother died.

Mary Ferry, “Mrs. Ferry” she was called by all the neighbors. You knew her as daughter. For me she was simply “Grammy.” I’ve written of her, scattered thereabouts, stories of her tough spirit, romantic side and always the pragmatic approach to grand kids.

So why write of her again and why now?

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Because, as I look back over the past six months, I see a pattern and hear a child’s grief of all that is lost to me. No one said the people I grew up with wouldn’t be there forever. All those Uncles and Aunts and cousins – the ones that filled Grammy’s kitchen and brought life, anger, joy and sorrow. These people were supposed to be around for the great “always.”

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Some passed away too soon. Long before they were ready.

Clarence fought. He fought like hell to stay just one more day. Still, it wasn’t enough.

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Others, like Everett – the scrawny lad pictured on the left couldn’t wait to leave.

The bottle took care of that.

And Earle  – the one of the far right? Mean man. Didn’t like him. But he was my father’s brother.

He visited Gram so often that he became a fixture. So, to a small child’s mind, he would always be around, right?

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And the ones that left me later in life? Them I miss the most.

Maybe because I felt they really would be here forever, like Hyrim and his sweet wife, Rae.

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Or Paul and Lilah.

And the last to leave won’t be the last. The gyroscope is wobbling now as I watch my parents age.

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When I see this dashing figure, standing in front of his beloved plane and think –

how can Dad not be here to tell me the stories? No one will be left that remembers.

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And my mom. My sweet and so incredibly lovely mother.

How could I even contemplate my world without her?

And so you see, it won’t take much to send that gyroscope careening again.

I still have my four brothers and I’m going to treasure them always. Aunts and Uncles and cousins to my daughters.

Ones that gather at Christmas to eat and laugh and love.

Were we ever that young?

It’s just – how do I tell my kids that always is not always forever?

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Empty words…

I could write a post.

But it feels like empty words.

I could, with some effort, find something to talk about.

But I won’t.

As of now, I’m unplugging the computer, turning off my facebook newsfeed and turning on some gentle music. Not radio either, my mp3 so I can choose the tunes (okay, I might have to play a few Dishwalla tunes… gotta rock out a bit with my boy, JR Richards).

For today, I’m gonna love on my kids, paint more dragons and pray.

For today, I’m gonna wish the world’s pains away.

Tomorrow? Tomorrow I’ll hit you with some of my best Vermont jokes.

Be prepared. They aren’t pretty.

My love to all of you…

Sue

 

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Little Earle

Dear Rosa,

He was your great-grandson and you never met him. Earle’s son and how did someone so sweet come from someone so arrogant and mean?

Little Earle. Special needs and gifted beyond belief, just in a different way than most would understand.

I spoke with my brother, Dave, about him. Had to, he was the closest to Little Earle, he knew him best. Dave said he’d type something up, I thought for now I’d share a few things about this precious soul using his words. Hope he doesn’t mind.

Little Earle loved heavy equipment. Knew everything about them. What size engine, how much horsepower they had. He was happy just sitting in the car watching a construction site. Hours and he would never get bored.

He could list every one of the 161 cars his father owned. Only bought one new once, the rest he traded. Little Earle, Dave said, could tell you their make, model even their colors. Every one of them.

I didn’t miss the tremble in Dave’s voice.

Little Earle would call, Dave said and ask when he was coming to take him to lunch. Had to be careful, couldn’t disappoint Little Earle. Had to make sure he could come when he said. Took him to Burger King a few times a month. Little Earle loved the toys, said they had the best. Special lunches were at Friendly’s and he’d have the shrimp. Still had to swing by Burger King for that toy after…

He went to the Waterbury Flea Market with Joe every weekend. Lived with Joe. Joe was good for Little Earle, taught him about mechanics and healthy food. Sold organic honey and maple syrup they brought from Canada. He was a fixture at the market for many years. He loved the watches. Loved to take them apart. He had jars of parts, gears and such and nothing gave him greater joy than a gift of a cheap watch.

Dave paused and I pressed for more.

He wished others would just get along.

Now I heard the emotion, the love Dave had for Little Earle.

He’d get anxious when people got angry or upset. Couldn’t understand and hated it.

Little Earle passed three years ago. I can still feel Dave’s sadness.

I found this at the Harvest Market yesterday and pictured Little Earle and the way he’d nod his head when he agreed with something. Yup, yup he’d say.

Thought of Dave and how, even now, he’ll go to Little Earle’s marker and leave him a few cheap watches. Somehow, I know Little Earle appreciates Dave and the gift.

Somehow, he knows he’s missed.