I am stuck, now, in precarious emotional state, balancing outrage and frustration, grief and heartache, and the desire for contentment. But it is within this volatile simultaneity that I am more aware of my self than I have been in a long time. And I don't mean that in a masochistic sense, that pain is the only way to understanding true emotions, but rather that the stone faced exterior I have cultivated for years is nothing more than a translucent hood, fooling none. Over the course of this past week, many oblivious to my discontents have asked whether or not I was okay, to which I would respond, without fail, "oh yeah, I'm fine." So that's why this week, I've been doing emotions wrong. I would change the title, but we've got a good thing going.
As far as clichés go, I think emotional roller coaster would be the most apt description of my past week. There were the internal family struggles with my younger brother, who is now, hopefully, set in a better path. There were some great comedy shows. But most significant was the passing of my grandmother, whom we affectionately called Nana.
I think it's the case with grandparents and parents alike, that our memory of them doesn't have a beginning, it just always was. Those earliest memories aren't concrete, just brief splashes of sensational bliss, like the soothing quality of her voice or the feeling of her osseous hand. Above all else, though, was the smell and taste of her famous sweet rolls, the delectably delicate pastries that she would bake for us whenever we saw her.
The more substantial recollections are split between our summers spent in Harbor Springs and her home, the one where my father grew up, in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Specifically, I fondly reflect upon my time spent going through the basement, searching through my father's old toys, trying to find hidden relics of an age without video games. My two favorites were a balancing game and shoot for the moon, that game with the steel ball and the two rods where you would, well, shoot for the moon. I wouldn't grow to appreciate these occasions until later, but such is life.
Most recently I visited Nana with my girlfriend on the way home from New Hampshire. She was living in a retirement community and we had such trouble finding her apartment. We were exhausted from the drive and the stop was such a welcome distraction from the hour of driving we had ahead of us. It was 6 PM when we finally found her. She was waiting right outside of her apartment, eager to embrace us. She was quick to offer us freshly baked cookies which we were quick to devour. She quipped, "oh, don't bother with that batch, though," pointing to one of two trays of confections, "that's not very good." Of course she was wrong, they were both delicious. She offered us some white wine, which we politely declined because of our impending drive, after all, we only thought we'd be spending a half hour with her. Still, though, she poured herself a glass. And then we sat and talked.
We talked and talked and it wasn't the kind of talk you have with a grandparent, it was like we were catching up with an old friend, albeit a 96 year old one. Simultaneously, she was interrogating my girlfriend, wondering about her studies and her past. There were no personal questions, no inquiries of great grandchildren or nuptials, just an effort to familiarize herself with the person I loved. She gave us free reign to absorb all in her apartment and as we fawned over pictures of my relatives' better looking days, she regaledus with tales of their pasts. There was no sense of a passage of time, only that we were all so present.
It had been such a long day for us that we were yawning up a storm, something that she could not have noticed due to her sight. It wasn't that we were bored, just that we were so physically exhausted. It wasn't until she yawned that she began the process of politely getting us on our way. She finally asked, "well, it's probably around my bedtime, what is it, 8 o' clock? 8:30?" It was 10 PM. She was almost startled when I told her. We said out goodbyes, but she wouldn't let us out the door without some cookies for the road. And then we exchanged what would become our last "I love you's."
In the car my girlfriend said, "I can't believe she's 96, she doesn't seem a day over 80," and now I just wish that were the case, that I could get another 16 years with her. We planned on stopping by again in a month, again returning home from New Hampshire, hoping for another late night chat. But I'll never have that. And of course that's sad. But what I do have is perfectly lovely. It was such an ideal last day. There was no finality to it, it was just a pure goodbye, and I really don't think I would want it any other way.
A lot of people would say that she's now watching over me, but I don't believe that's the case, because what I have is so much better. That last great impression of who she was will always be with me. She's not above me, she's within me. I'll always carry that last visit with me because it holds such a strong resonance of her character. How kind she was, how loving she was, and how optimistic she was.
And now I'm typing away at my computer, drinking red wine, and trying to figure out what I'm feeling. I've never been good at this. There are so many emotions competing for that primal spot. But mostly I think I'm sad. I'm not unhappy, just a mournful mess of a person. I've always had such trouble expressing myself, especially when it came to the more melancholic sentiments, because the present gives me no time to collect myself. But I think writing this has helped. So thank you for reading and for helping me do things right.