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.”
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.