childhood memories


I stare at the screen and I realize that, until I purge myself in words of some of the sorrow I feel, I will not be able to continue healing.

It’s part of my process.

My grandmother died in her sleep over the weekend. She was on a pain patch and in my uncle’s home so she felt nothing and was not tied up to noisy machines or poked and prodded at by strangers in her last hours. She was in her early 90s (93, I think).

It was pretty much expected to happen but, oh my heart, why can’t we bend the laws of nature and keep these things from occurring.

There is no reason for me to be sorrowful except for the loss of her. And I will miss her terribly. In fact, it will be hard to go without crying when I attend my uncle’s wedding in June in California. Her absence will be right there for me to face and undeniable.

She lived a long and mostly happy life. Sure, she had some trauma happen throughout the years, but I can’t imagine it would be possible to escape unscathed over a 93-year lifespan.

I have no regrets regarding my relationship with her because I made sure to spend as much time with her as humanly possible in the last years of her life.

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She knew I loved her with all my heart just as much as I know she loved me equally. She lived with my uncle in California within eyesight of the ocean and I visited her probably at least twice a year over the last five years. My uncle took wonderful care of her. I am very grateful for all he did and the opportunities he provided for me to spend time with her.

During my visits, when we had alone time, we would talk about life. I would ask her about her past and she would try to reach back in her mind to memories that had been dormant for decades.

Most times, I would bring along a crochet project and she would help me by unwinding bunches of yarn while I would gather the yarn into a ball. Sometimes, I would sing to her and sometimes we would sing hymns together while gazing out as the sea and the rolling waves.

There are so many wonderful things I could write about her, many of them I recorded in a previous blog entry (https://esthernow.wordpress.com/2009/02/20/visiting-grandma-now-and-then/). But I’m not sure what to write from here. So many thoughts cloud my mind.

I’ve wondered in the past how I would handle her death. Grandma (on my father’s side) was one of a handful of soul mates to me. Her age didn’t do anything to hold back the bond between us that formed in my early years.

At that time, my blood grandfather (her first husband) had died un-expectantly and my father moved out there to be with her.

I guess I served as a sign of life for her — a happy, bubbling and giggling baby who grandma could spend time with to escape her pain and focus on someone who needed her. They say special bonds form in one’s early years and I think that explains, in part, why my grandmother and I were so close.

I’m also close with my mother’s mother, and I love her dearly. But there’s always been a special bond between my paternal grandma and me.

Anyway, I’m handling the whole thing pretty good considering how close we were. I even made it in to work today…although I’m not such how much I was able to accomplish.

Yesterday, my wonderful boyfriend stayed around way past his schedule to be with me until my sister arrived.

Then my sister and I proceeded to carry on a long tradition by my grandmother (and an unhealthy one) to eat ice cream right before going to bed. I pulled out albums of recent photos and older ones with her in it and my sister and I cried together over the photos then we talked about some of our memories.

Tonight will be hard, however, because I will be alone. My dog is at my parents because I’m leaving for a trip to Asia on Saturday. They will take care of my dog while I’m gone. But that means I have no one to comfort me tonight.

I’m saving most of my grieving for next week. While in Hong Kong and Vietnam, I will have ample time alone. I already had planned to go out to one of the islands (probably Lamma Island) where cars are not allowed.

On one of those islands or in a park or pagoda, I will find a quiet nook or lookout on top of a hill, write in my journal, and mourn my grandma proper by writing down my thoughts in my journal. Perhaps I’ll even direct the sound of my voice across the island’s cliffs with the sound of the hymns she loved so much.

Goodbye grandma, my friend and soul mate. May we all live as long, pass as peacefully and have people in our lives who love us so dearly.

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On my metro commute into work this morning I happened to glance up from my Suduku puzzle and see our train was keeping pace with a Marc commuter train – a real train.

I couldn’t help but stare at the faces in the windows parallel mine. The faces were dead, half asleep, open mouthed snoring, and a few were turned to PDAs or the morning newspaper.

Childhood memories flooded my thoughts of how father took the Marc train to work from the Point of Rocks station, Maryland, every weekday.

I remembered being half asleep in the blue/grey leather back seat of our white Oldsmobile as mom drove dad to the station. She was a stay at home mom. I remember that on many occasions we would arrive just as a train was pulling out and how dad, in his 30-year-old body, would dash, briefcase and sack lunch in hand, to jump in the open door of the moving train so he wouldn’t have to wait an hour for the next and be late to work.

I recall begging mom, after the train left, to let me lay a penny on one of the tracks to be flattened by the next train. And how we would arrive early in the evening so I could search around the tracks for my flattened penny to add to my treasure trove.

I remember the first time dad took me on the train and how important I thought he must be for the conductors to know his name. I remember how proud it made me.

And I realized this morning that even 25 years later, the expressions on the faces of the passengers on the train and even the metro had not changed. They were ever as tired and worn looking. And I wondered to my self this morning, whether I too had become one of those faces.

I didn’t know for a long time that I had Native American ancestry: Delaware Indian. Yet I’ve been drawn to the culture, the music, everything about it since I can remember.

When I was about 13 my family and I went around the US by train, visiting family and famous parks/places along the way. We went to the Grand Canyon a day or two after I’d bought some Native American music in Seattle.

I turned on my tape player, put on my headphones and jumped a fence to sit on the edge of a cliff and listen to my new music collection.

At first it was just like being in an IMAX theatre with gentle theme music playing, except that it was hot, I felt the mid-day sun on my shoulders, there was no breeze and I could still kinda hear the tourists’ voices come and go.

I was too young to care about my safety.  Ok, in truth, I’d probably do the same thing now, just with a more modern electronics. You can’t really experience the Canyon feel with metal railings between you and the edge.

As the music started to get stronger I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a great bird flying over the canyon.

I would have my arms out stretched and soar near the edge so that  I could trace the edges of the canyon walls, letting the updrafts from the cliffs push me along. If I were a bird, I would dive down to the water to look for food and perhaps leave a mark on some whitewater rafter’s shoulder.

I started trying to match my breathing to the slow pace of the music as I pretended I was the bird.

Then I’m not sure what happened exactly but all of a sudden I had the distinct sensation of flying, of feeling wind fighting against my face, arms and chest and I almost thought for a second that I had somehow actually done it.

I felt free and overwhelmed with happiness at the sights below me. I knew I was sitting on the ground. Yet I didn’t feel like my mind was. I guess that’s the best way to explain it.

I was calm. Every fiber of my 13-year-old anxed-ridden mind and body was happy, calm and I felt a joy welling up inside me that didn’t fight to get out. It just was……

My breathing slowed more and more until the tape ran out (oh if I’d had an iPod back then it probably would have gone on for hours) and woke me from my state when the play button clicked off. The spell was broken. But I was still at peace.

Since then I’ve had the tape stolen from me. And I sooooo sometimes crave to hear those songs again, yet I wouldn’t know where to look.

But not all is lost.

What I didn’t know until we got home and developed the film that summer was that dad had taken a picture of me sitting there looking out over the canyon, listening to the music. He had lifted his right arm above his head and clicked the shutter not knowing if it would turn out.

Those who have visited my apartment know that above my TV and bookcase on the wall there hangs a blown up framed picture (larger than a poster on its side) of me in tan shorts, hair in a pony tail, wearing a soft leather vest (Native American made, in fact) over a white tank top. I’m sitting cross legged with my back to the camera and the tape player is on the rock beside me.