Tuesday, August 21, 2012

a goodbye

Yesterday afternoon, my grandma died.

She was the last of mine and I loved her. It happened so quickly, so out of the blue. We are characters in a cartoon and the earth has dropped out from under us, leaving us to whirl our little legs in frantic circles.

This is the second storm of my summer, and I'm tempted to say that, as of this afternoon, I have no more tears. I have used them up, squandered them on nighttime sobbing. I have run dry. These are untrue statements, lies as bald as an egg and as easy to break apart. Something could happen to someone I love tomorrow and the tears would be there, like those magic trick cups that are full again as soon as you think you've set them down, empty.

The more we love, the tenderer and more vulnerable we become. So, I suppose, in the end, that one of the goals of our allotment of days, one of the targets at which we must aim the arrows of our lives, is to have inside ourselves a bottomless lake of tears.

Grandma Megs loved hard and often and stubbornly. Her love was magnificently ordinary, offered up in meals cooked, cakes baked, pineapples stripped of their armor and turned into yellow cubes waiting in a plastic dish. She made slippers and blankets. She cut out recipes from newspapers and mailed them across oceans. She did not care for music. She liked dance, if she loved the people dancing. If she escaped drowsiness during a show, that show could be deemed excellent and entertaining, crowned with praise that claimed ignorance, but somehow flew straight for the black-and-white heart of the subject. She collected odd remedies for cramps of the legs (a bar of soap in a bed, an onion on a nightstand, a piece of string tied carefully around a toe). She taught her grandchildren to catch lizards with their hands. She was the only one fast enough to catch a fly. She smuggled scraps of exotic plants in her pockets and stuck them in pots and somehow made single wilted leaves turn into jungles that consumed tame yards for breakfast.

She remembered everyone's name. She remembered how everyone was related to everyone else. She had a thousand stories, all fresh and precise, drawn straight from the day they happened as clearly as if she had traveled in time. There was the time the telephone girls sent the firetruck out and the one fireman, the chubby one who had been taking a break (she told me his name; I can't remember it), came running past and she shouted the address as he went by. There was the time a boy drowned, clinging to a rock at the bottom of the water. There was the time when her mother was a little girl and she slept in a horse trough, waiting for her father to come home ("I love you so much," he said, "that if I put you in my eye, no tears would come out."). There was the time she went to lunch with her friend and her friend didn't know that bolognese sauce contained the same kind of meat that you find in a hamburger.

The lake inside my grandma must have been so wide and deep that you could throw an entire world in and it would fall forever. Her lake would be pleasant, but not flashy or picturesque. Bright, at any depth, and filled with fish that tell stories in which everyone remembers everyone's name, in which nobody is ever forgotten, in which things remain as sharp and unfaded as I wish all good things would.

Helen Hamamura (Grandma Megs) with Kylie Hamamura
California, summer 2012

1 comment:

Ali Trotta said...

Sending you so much love. Your grandma was amazing.