Oh, jeez. I'm going to talk about my Grandmother. I called her Grandma. She called herself Granny. Her name was Cecile, which is Ave's middle name- after her. She probably had the most influence on me of anyone that touched my childhood. My Grandfather died at 62. She died at 83. The last 3 years she was lost in Alzheimer's, but we had a good decade and a half of adventures, she and I.
I written a bunch of sentimental drivel- so many good, sense-based memories: the smell of starched sheets, the cool of line-dried cotton against fresh-out-of-the-bathtub legs, the taste of fresh raspberries, wild blackberries, the tart of huckleberries, sitting by the fireplace with her in the dark as a wind-storm raged around her house in the woods and we had tea and hot cocoa from the kettle on the wood stove.
We went alot of places, too. We were always hiking and exploring the woods around her house. We camped at Mt. Rainier quite often and hiked up to the ice caves or out to some freakishly distant, alpine meadow in search of a rare, lone wildflower she wanted to photograph. I dragged her into the Phoenix dessert on horseback. She was a walking dictionary of horticulture and botany. She taught me what indian paintbrush was and how to build a kickass fire even in the Washington drizzle. We went to the rainforest and the ocean. She loved animals and always seemed to get stuck with the dogs or cats other people couldn't keep. We raised baby ducks in her basement under heat lamps and then they followed us around the yard while we weeded and dug up rocks. That was her mission, to get the rocks out of the soil. She taught me how to take cuttings and then transplant them later. I can still remember the loamy scent of the greenhouse boxes she built out of wood frames and plastic where all her precious little sprouts would grow until they were big enough for the real world. Oh, the hours she got me to spend weeding at the Arboretum and we volunteered together at the Maple Valley library.
For all the adventures we had, the things that she gave me that I prize the most is my love of the written word. She had piles of books on every subject and from every genre available. She and I spent hours combing thrift stores and used book stores for finds. We would greedily rush home and settle in together to read- sometimes out loud, sometimes side-by-side. She bought me my first typewriter to write out my stories. She was a hard critic.
And finally, one last thing, she died. She is the one person that I've truly known- I could tell the weather of her mood by the color of her eyes. I knew what other people didn't about her, that she regretted her humble upbringing. Not because of what she didn't have in the world but because of the places she never got to see in it. I helped her study Japanese when she was in her 70's because she wanted to go to Japan. I watched while they shoveled dirt over her urn of ashes. I watched them bury her with dreams unrealized. And I gave the eulogy that day. Good words, that means. And I read an Emerson quotation that I thought she would like. I gave a eulogy that day for the people who came to say so long but I never really divulged who or what she was to me. It is a gift to know someone well enough to get to see their heart of hearts, to know their fears and desires. To know them well enough to know where they felt they fell short, to know them well enough to know where they couldn't see what a difference they had made despite their shortcomings.
Her death was a gift to me. It was then that I felt the shock of realizing that not all dreams are fulfilled. We are not invincible. We do not live forever. People die every day. EVERY SINGLE DAY, even as we sit and think, "Ah, tomorrow, I'll do that tomorrow." I also realized that we cannot live with a burden of that magnitude on our shoulders every day. There are no time-outs. The game is on, and it isn't over until it is- and then it is, over.
It is easy to get caught, get snared, get stuck. That silly waiting place of Dr. Suess's- waiting for... something to happen, whatever it is, before we get back in the game. The truth is: this is it. It's on. Now. And we have just so long, just so many heartbeats, just so many breaths. Don't waste it. Live boldly because we never know when the curtain is going to fall.
Roasting marshmallows on the beach illegally in January.