Summer lulls us into thinking eternally. Long, sun soaked days. Memories wrought from indelible saturated greens. Fireflies dancing on warm evening breezes. An abundance of life, promises and time stretching horizon to horizon.
Time is of no consequence to never-ending days.
Autumn wipes away all that has been built, in transitional beauty second to none. With one gentle hand she harvests. And with one firm hand lays the landscape bare. All in a concert that is both subtle and fantastic. Autumn knows where we have been, and guides us to where we are going. She is ruled by schedule. Ruled by time.
And time is of the essence.
Every season has the upper hand on the one preceding it. And serves only that which is to come. Everything is a cycle. Everything in balance. Summer is born of spring, and winter of autumn. There is a perfection in the seasons that speaks to a higher order of things. An order that is beyond the means and imagination of mankind.
The last four weeks have not been easy. After an abundant September, the tap has shut off in October. When that happens stress levels go up, and my ability to appreciate life falls by the wayside. At the rate I’m going, if I see fifty autumns it’ll be a miracle. Layered upon this has been a week in which three people I know (knew?) passed on, never to see another season as we know it.
Personally the greatest loss was my grandma passed away. She’d seen a hundred autumns. We had just celebrated her birthday.
To the very end she had her wits about her and she looked great. Thought she couldn’t hear worth a damn in her later years. But I suspect if I were that age I wouldn’t care too much about what others had to say anyway. I jest though. Grandma was never like that. She was loving and kind. And she listened.
I try to reflect back on my memories. Try to somehow articulate them into some sort of meaning. I’m not sure there’s much that is monumental here. And therein lies the beauty of it. She was my grandma. To me it was that simple. And in this world simplicity is a wonderful thing. At the risk of being taken for granted, constants, such as my grandma, are rocks that we can cling to when storms whip seas into a frenzy. In my mind’s eye she did not change in the forty-one years that I’ve been in this world.
I’m sure she was anything but simple. You don’t live that long without a treasure trove of memories creating a complex, colorful canvas of a lifetime. I think we fall into that trap of just framing other people into the context with which we know them. Think about it this way, I can write all I want about my grandma but I only knew her for forty-one percent of her life. That leaves nearly sixty years of hopes, dreams, wishes, accomplishments, and tears that I’ll never know about.
So I can only imagine.
I like to think for all her being my grandma, she also was once a little girl who fell down, laughed, played and probably had as much joy on her face as I see in my own children today. She grew up, facing similar wonder, problems and heartaches that any of had as teens. I can imagine her getting yelled at for maybe staying out too late, or whatever you did back in the 20’s and 30’s to get hollered at. Eventually she grew up, fell in love and had a bunch of kids. As a new mom I bet she was scared as hell holding her baby for the first time, just as my wife and I were when we had our son. She went on to a lifetime of work, play, celebrations, happiness, sadness and a myriad of other experiences.
I think there are universal hopes and fears we all have. And for whatever reason, that’s what I find most interesting. To transport myself to those times. Sure monumental events are remarkable and recordable, but the emotion of the mundane is what makes us human.
What I do know beyond that, are my first hand memories.
I do remember visiting grandma and grandpa’s house. Grandma would be baking or cooking in the kitchen and I’d sit on the floor playing with wooden blocks she’d given to me. Simple cut off blocks from her job at some factory. I’d stack them up and knock them over. We even have a handful of the very blocks still to this day. And my kids play with them.
Beyond that though, she fostered creativity and caring in me. Life tools that I carry with me to this day. She helped me understand freedom (walking to the store) and warmth of family (under the protection of her hand knit afghan blankets – one of which I still use to this day).
There are other memories as well. It makes me want to look through old photo albums.
I suppose when you’re a hundred, you outlast many of the people you’ve known. I think I’d be lonely really. Might even be ready to go. I don’t know.
Grandma went out on her own terms I like to think. Peacefully I hope. I don’t know much about anything beyond that. None of us ever could. But we know she’s gone. At least gone from here, where we could hug her or see her ever present smile.
That’s what summer memories are for though.
I’ll miss her.
One of my first pictures with grandma (R) (actually both of my grandmas).
The last picture of grandma and me. Taken about two weeks ago on her 100th birthday.