Thursday, July 16, 2009

Living and Dying

On July 30, 2008, my father's father died.

Yesterday, nearly a year later, I went to visit my father's mother as she lay dying. Grammy has been suffering from Alzheimer's Disease for several years. Recently, she had a bout of Pneumonia and, it seems, never fully recovered. Currently, she is being kept as comfortable as possible while the inevitable takes it's course.

When I received the phone call yesterday, I struggled briefly with whether or not to go visit her. I wondered, might it be better if I remember her as she was? Also, I am a grandchild, not a child, might it not be my place? I decided to go, among other reasons, because not everyone has the opportunity to be with their loved ones at such a time.

Upon my arrival, things were not good. Grammy was in pain and her morphine shot was not ready. There were others in the room, but I stood at the end of the bed and rubbed her feet through the covers. When the nurse arrived, I left to make more space in the tiny room. A little while later, my father and I went in to sit by her. Soon after, my brother arrived and joined us. She was resting seemingly comfortably with her eyes closed. I readjusted the cool cloth on her forehead and ran a damp cloth over her face and neck. Her skin and hair were still soft and smooth as ever. I whispered to her a bit and kissed her on the cheek before I left.

Maybe it is "inappropriate" to share such intimate details, but death is a part of life that we rarely talk about and I think we should be more open about it.

Sitting by Grammy's bed, she looked so small and I tried to imagine her as a child. Though I know her as a grandparent, there is so little I know about her as a person. I remember her as matriarch, always at the center of family gatherings. Her laugh. The taste of her Lemon Meringue Pie. The woman who took our family in when we needed a place to stay and food in our bellies. Brooches, scarves, and aprons at the center of her wardrobe. Picking blueberries on 4th of July.

I know the story of how she met my grandfather. I know about her sister Katherine (died young of cancer) and her brother Joe (died in the War). I know that she spent her first years in Pepperell, Massachusetts. She didn't get her driver's license until she was in her forties. When her kids were grown and my grandfather retired, she started a daycare in her home for school teachers' children.

So many bits and pieces make up a life. For everything I know and can remember, I wish I knew more.

In high school, I had to interview an older member of my family and I chose Grammy. I want to go dig out that interview.

I wish I took the time to get to know her better. The woman lying in the bed. My grandmother.

She is still with us, but it is only a matter of days. She will remain with us, even when her breathing ceases and her heart muscle gives out. Her heart, her family, still beats strongly. That I know for sure.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Past is Passed

I keep feeling like I should write about what happened in the past few weeks, but I am not sure where to begin. Is it really interesting or relevant any longer? Do any of you blog friends care that I walked the puppy a million times a day, visited with x & y & z friends, made new friends in the neighborhood?

If I do try and catch up, how do I decide what incidents to write about and what to leave out? What about all of the things that are happening to me presently?

So, I've decided the past is passed. In the spirit of Buzz Lightyear, "To the present and beyond!!!!"

Monday, July 13, 2009

Willow by the Cleared Bank

I am fortunate enough to live just 15 or so minutes outside Boston, but still be surrounded by nature. Every day, on at least one of our many walks, the puppy and I take to the Charles River Reservation Walkway.

We pick one of the entrances along Pleasant Street, walk to Bridge Street, cross to the other side of the river, continue to Watertown Square, and loop back to exit the same way we entered.

The lookouts along the river are plentiful.

The dam, with its feathered occupants, is spectacular.

But the place that draws us back time and again is the Willow Tree by the cleared bank. We stand and watch the river rush over the Willow's roots. When the river is high with the rains the drooping branches of the Willow dance along its surface. In sun, our Willow provides a shaded respite. It is impossible for us to pass by without stopping.

I do not see sadness, only beauty and strength in the Weeping Willow. My first reaction is to smile. I believe it may have been misnamed.

The Willow is mysterious, resilient, and adaptable. It even grows, though considerably shorter, in the Artic Circle. The Osage Indian Tribe has a parable about the Willow.

Growing up, I spent much of my time in the woods and along the banks of the pond behind my house. As a child, I remember being asked time and time again if I might like to be a Botanist when I "grow up". It seems I am given to a curiosity towards and love and reverence for trees, flowers, and nature in general. This may sound strange, but do you have a favorite tree? If not, do you have a place like the Willow by the Cleared Bank, that moves you?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Back to Blogging

Hi. My name is Alex and I am a Blog-Neglector. It has been 20 Days since I last blogged.

They say admitting it is the first step to recovery.

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Despite my neglect, it seems Sandra at Worlds End Farm This and That has generously bestowed the Uber Amazing Blog Award upon me!

It is my pleasure to bestow it upon six others:
If you can't be good, be good at it
Rockstar Diaries
Marvelous Kiddo
Dear Baby: Everything I Want To Tell You
Heatherty Featherty
Trans-Atlantic Adventures in Learning


As for me, I have been busy with my writing. Serafina and Billy, the main characters, insist on telling their stories through me. Maybe I will share a snippet or two with all of you soon.

The puppy has turned my days into blurs of walking, writing and cleaning while he naps, training, and trips to the park. It is joyful, but has been all consuming.

I'm striving for balance and this blog post is a step in that direction.