Sunday, April 10, 2016

Birthday.

Gawd, where was I a year ago?  Where was my mind?  Where was my heart?  Where was my body?

Not here.  I wasn't here.  Or was I?  I don't remember anymore.  I guess I'm getting old.

And tomorrow is my birthday.  I'll be 38, which is so close to 40 I'm not sure how I'm supposed to act or be or feel anymore.  What am I allowed to wear?  When I'm 38, You know... all my "teacher" clothes...  Will all those outfits and shoes that the high school girls would gush over, and tell me were so 'cool...' be inappropriate for my age? I can't wear those anymore, can I?  That's what I have... those clothes...  My closet is filled with them.  And I lost years of my life... when I could still wear those things.  They just hung there on perfect, pink, space saving, velvet-covered hangers.

Silly.  This isn't about clothes.  It's not about something superficial like that.  It just turned 8:38 pm!  Ack, That number is harassing me!  38!  It's sinking its teeth in.  But, no.  No!  I shan't change a single bit until I'm ready.  I mean... I want to change, but back to how I was when I was teaching and life wasn't crazy and I wasn't crazy.  I want to be that woman again, and wear my beautiful shoes and designer dresses.

It's already 8:39, and that's how fast I will be through another year!  And then the next, the next, the next. Ha!  It's 8:40.  See?  Minutes pass like years, don't they?  In the scope of life on Earth, and in the Universe and time, we are here for mere moments:  Just moments, before we're gone.  

But it doesn't even matter that I'm moving through time, like this...  The aging part, I mean.  It's that I'm not moving at all... It's that I've been stuck for a few years, and I can't get that time back.  And my babies have grown up, and altered in these years.  My babies.  My little babies...

Having children, watching them change, that is the rub... That is the bite that draws blood.  Time.  It marches on.  I don't want to lock them into a glass case, like Holden Caulfield wanted life to be held still, (never changing... reliable) in the Natural History Museum, yet...  

Ah, I would lock some things away.  I would lock moments in time, and people in time.  As a little girl I dreamed that my nanny and grampy would be protected from time.  I prayed for that.  I wanted it so much, I thought God would absolutely hear me and make an exception for them... for me...  I never imagined I'd have to worry about that with my parents--not when I was a kid.  They were fine.  Vibrant.  Parents, you know?  Just what parents are supposed to be.  And if you asked me how old they are, even today, I have no idea.  I imagine they are 40, still...

But, God, I knew grandparents got older.  I saw my Nanny Stell through her Alzheimer's.  I was the great-grandchild who stayed with her, after school, each day.  I sat with her, when my grandparents would go out and about.  She couldn't be left alone.  And I wanted to be with her.  I didn't know how it would feel to have her slip away, right when I was sitting there with her, watching soap operas and game shows...  We'd still cook lunch together, and I could tell her Grampy Jim was at work, he'd be home later.  She was worried "Jim" would come home and she wouldn't have supper ready.  "We have lots of time, Nanny."  She always remembered who I was, even when I didn't fit into the space and time she was sometimes moving through.  I was Joanna.  And that made her feel content.  

Content... No.  She didn't really.  She'd ask again... about her Jim.  "He'd be hungry when he got home from work."  

It's early, Nanny.  He won't be home for hours.  

See, at first I'd tell her he had passed away, years before.  I'd tell her the truth.  But each time the pain was new to her, and I never wanted her to feel like that...  Not if I could help it.  She'd forget, and ask again.  I couldn't keep telling her he was dead.  I couldn't keep telling her, the love of her life was dead.  "He'll be home after work.  We'll make sure to have supper ready."

Sometimes we'd cook a full dinner for lunch, because she was used to cooking dinner for him, and she couldn't stop thinking about it.  I would help her cut up carrots or potatoes and we would boil them, then butter and salt and pepper them.  While we stood in front of the stove, she would be focused and clear.  She knew what to do with the vegetables.

Yet then she'd ask me what time it was, "Oh goodness, it's only noon?  We have lots of time," she'd say, and we'd eat carrots for lunch.  And as we ate she'd forget she had been cooking for my Grampy Jim, in Heaven.  We'd eat, and she'd settle in front of the television again, even though we'd talk the entire episode. I'd talk first, tell her things about the world, to keep her present, and protect her from the nervous feelign that she had to make sure she had dinner ready for Jim.  I'd tell her how the Quince bushes were blooming. We'd go out on the porch and look at them.  I'd tell her how the weather was getting warmer.  I'd tell her that Topsy and John had gone out for lunch, and would be back later.  It was such a nice day for a drive.  Did she want to sit on the porch for awhile?  Let's watch the birds.  

She would sit quietly, then often say the same things, as if being outside triggered some memories:
"Funny what love is.  You find one person in the whole world, and never give 5 cents about anyone else."  
"Funny what kissing is."

I'd tell her it was wonderful:  Love.  Love was wonderful.  I would ask her to tell me how she met James O'Connor, and about their life together.  I'd ask her about when she was a little girl.  
"My sisters and I, we'd go up the stairs, to the top floor, with just an oil lamp.  Imagine if we'd tripped on our nightgowns.  The whole house would have burned down."  

Ha.  When I was interviewed for stupid Apple Blossom, they asked me why I didn't play sports.  I told them it was because I was with my great-grandmother after school.  I was with my Nanny Stella.  My grandparents needed time alone together... a break... and I would go and sit with her.  No, it wasn't a job.  I was just with my nanny is all.

I made the queen's court.  I didn't care about it much.  I thought it was all very silly.  My grandparents came, and I was embarrassed to dance and sing like a fool in front of all those people.

The judges went straight to my Grampy John, after the show was over.  They all knew him.  "Oh, if they had only known she was your grand-daughter.  We thought she was wonderful.  So lovely.  What a nice young lady."  It makes me smile, now.  How everyone knew my Grampy John.  They didn't just know him, they honored him.  They went right to him.  Everyone did.  They went to shake his hand and talk to him.  I couldn't even go and hug my grandparents until they had moved away.  So many people recognized him, and loved him.  

God, I love him too.  Who is blessed as I was, with grandparents, and great-grandparents, as I was?  Wasn't I lucky.  Aren't I lucky?  One of the luckiest girls in the world.  Funny what love is, you know?  

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