Saturday, August 07, 2010


I've been turning over memories today: searching, finding, sifting through thoughts like river stones, unearthing the smoothest and most beautiful ones to take away in my pocket.

My great-grandmother, the one I never met, was called Maggie.  According to my grandpa, she had lots of poems and stories she would recite to him when he was little, sitting on her lap.  He remembered one, a poem that was a conversation between two chicks.  He tried to recite it to me, but could only recall part of it.

My grandma is forgetful, yet sometimes remnants of her old self shine through.  My grandpa gave the boys some fried chicken when we visited them one day.  Grandma came into the kitchen and pottered around.  She saw the boys eating chicken, and I watched her give my grandpa a little slap on the shoulder.  "That was our supper!"she whispered - not angrily, or resentfully, just matter-of-factly.  He looked sheepish but didn't reply.

He supported her so much.  He listened patiently to her, helped her with the simple things she would forget, and assisted her in recalling people and events.  He watched her carefully, sometimes with a little smile on his face.  Maybe he was enjoying seeing her personality tempered and calmed as it is now in these her forgetful, slower days.

"Look at that!" he said to me one day.  We were looking at a black and white photograph of her as a teenager, wearing a sweater with guys' names printed all over it, a big smile on her dark, pretty face.  "How did I end up with the best lookin' girl in town?"

As I glanced at him, he winked at me.

"I don't know, how did you?"  

He explained that he'd met Grandma on a double date.  He was with his girlfriend, and Grandma was with another guy.  He said the next night, he asked Grandma for a date!  It was funny yet bittersweet to hear their story. Funny, because of the humour they still shared even up until just a few months ago, and bittersweet, because of their care for each other in spite of their age and Grandma's confusion.

Sweet through and through, no bittersweet about it, is the memory I have of what my mother told me over the phone, on Thursday, two days ago.  She said that when my grandpa came home from the hospital on Tuesday for the last time, he told Grandma, "I've been looking for you for three days!"

His journey of eighty-three years on earth ended early Thursday morning. He's not looking anymore, for anything or anyone; he is at peace.

We're the ones searching now through the years of memories, collecting the most beautiful ones to save and put away for later, when we're missing him the most.

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