I heard the news today, on my way to Six Flags New England, of all places. I heard the news on my way to a surprise for Scarlet on Father’s Day, of all days. On what would have been my father’s birthday too, of all dates. On two days after Des’ birthday and Scarlet’s preschool graduation, and on one day after a night of unsettled sleep, of all the silly times to hear the news.
It was my grandmother. I heard snippets of conversation and I listened closely, even as my head felt woozy and my stomach turned. “Peaceful.. It was time.. On what would have been your father’s birthday.. She lived to 100 years and seven months, so competitive because Pop Pop lived to 100 years and six months.. It was time. You were there for her, in these last two years.”
Father’s Day started after an unsettled sleep. Last night I had felt slightly panicked while standing with friends at a bar. Everything was fine, until it wasn’t. I didn’t want to say goodbye to them because they’re preschool parent friends, and that chapter is over for now. That doesn’t mean friendships are over, but I was still afraid to say goodbye. Whoever wants to say goodbye? I’m quite a fan of the long and lingering goodbye. The topic was ghost stories. I heard a friend tell one fantastic story and then I had to stop. Shut it down. Walk away for the night. Take a deep breath. Say hello again on a different day.
Father’s Day may have started after an unsettled sleep, but it began with breakfast at our favorite place. Brilliant sunshine, frolicking dogs, half-eaten plates from choosing the wrong breakfast, and serendipitous run-ins with old neighbors and new friends. There was talk of ice cream later. It was Cassidy’s idea to spring Six Flags on them – we have season passes and we’ve never been there. It was in the car on the way over that I heard the news, but we didn’t turn around. I wept silently against the window but I could not tell Scarlet yet and I could not stop us from entering the theme park, and entering the frenzy.
We comfort our kids. We comfort other’s kids. It was the way the nursing home put fresh, beautiful lipstick on my grandmother for my mom to see. It was the way my mom consoled me through text messaging, during my private hell of smiling my way through pain, only to confront its freshness in my own reflection in a restroom mirror in Looney Tunes Movie Town.
I’ll always miss her fiery spirit. Her stories have always been my favorite stories. They are stories of triumph and attitude – of mustering all of the strength she had just to walk herself to the dining hall so she didn’t have to eat in her room, or of sending food back in a restaurant. Multiple times. Stories of eating ice cream every day of her life, and hiding cookies in drawers – only to accuse people of stealing them sometimes. (I think I did steal them..but she always shared. She always shared.)
Her stories go on – on my lips and on the lips of the generations directly above and below me. I have to believe that the stories go on, because why else do we get up every morning and make these stories? Why do we write them down? Why do we even try?
I didn’t want to lose the sad. All day, I felt it simmering over to a boil but what could I do? Bawl on the sky ride that I rode alone? I did, a little. Cry in the bathroom stall at Looney Tunes Movie Town? I did, a little. Stare out the window and cry while I was supposed to be dressing Des after his bath, but he was running naked through the house and may or may not have peed on the floor while I cried and blew my nose into one of Scarlet’s clean socks? Ok, that was me. I didn’t want to numb the sad.
We told Scarlet. Cassidy did. I listened. She had a million questions about what Nana Jane was doing before and after she died, and if Scarlet can ever see her again. She wants to write a book. She wants to write 100 books about Nana Jane.
The stories go on. Her stories go on. In the next few days or weeks or months or years, I’ll be writing some of her stories here – like the time she was probably around 95 or so and called my mom with good news. “Guess what?” “What?” My mom probably couldn’t imagine. “We bought a new car!” A new car at 95. Ice cream every night. Ambition and spirit until the end.
If you have any stories, about my grandmother, or your own grandmother/grandparents/parent, please share one (or more) in the comments. Write your own posts. Yell them to the sky. Tell your children and your grandchildren and even your pets.