Friday, October 20, 2006

Went to see my mother's cousin yesterday. Her only child died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack in August. He was 59. Her husband died three years ago at the age of 86. Now she's officially an orphan. I don't know what to say to her even though I love to talk to her. She told me again how my cousin Kenny died while carrying the saddle down to the meadow to get the horse ready for his daughter to ride. She spoke with a slight trace of bitterness that her granddaughter still has both horses and now she takes care of them herself.

She talked about our grandmother, Annie, and the story that Grandma always told about when she was born. She was named for Grandma. She also talked about how the kids made fun of her name when she went to school and the funny retort her father came up with, laughing and laughing at the memory. I said he sounds fun. She quickly replied He was a LOT of fun, her eyes sparkling bright.

Her little apartment is lovely with her water colors and acrylics and she maintains the perfect eye of an artist, commenting about the proportion, shape, colors of signs and windows as we shopped NorthTown Mall for something to wear to her only child's funeral. She's 86 and can calc ulate a 40% discount on a $65 blouse.

She asked some fairly pointed questions about the ownership and transitional affairs of the family business that made her lawyer and accountant scramble for answers and reappear a little uncomfortable. Her crystal-clear, china blue eyes darted over at me, giving me the signal to close in for the details. Not much of anything gets by this one.

She told me she watches the squirrels prepare for winter, furiously moving the acorns from spot to spot in the flower beds outside. She has lovely windows in her apartment and the reds and golds of the season form a beautifully woven tapestry of a world in change.

I don't know what to say to her because I think she is brave, so much braver than me. When I start to think about Kenny dropping dead in the pasture and think about what she thought when she got the call, I cry, cry, cry, cry. The tears come so quickly and so powerfully, it scares me. I am not as brave as she is. Not at all. I choke them off, hard, and swallow, hard. And listen, my lips forming a tight, thin line. I listen to her talk to me.

So we're now we're learning from each other, Anna and me. I can't imagine what it is that I am supposed to show her, but I am trying to understand. I know she has much to teach to me. Soon it will snow.

The 'Kan EWA


Julie said...

I was chatting with my hairdresser today and told her a story of when we first moved here and the new neighbors who moved in just a couple of months after us. The story was of the neighbor and how she cried when I approached her about an indigression. The hairdresser thought that odd, this neighbor has always been known to be so strong. And yet to cry over something that seemed so trivial.

Moral of this story: Just because you cry or express emotion doesn't make you less strong or brave. It just makes you human. To be strong is to be able to handle what is thrown at you dispite the emotion. To be brave is to do something hard and/or distateful because it needs to be done.

You have never struck me as weak or cowardly. Being able to cry is not cause for either. It's just a way to gather yourself for the journey at hand.

curtcon said...

agree with julie.

"The bravest battle that ever was fought;
Shall I tell you where and when? On the maps of the world you will find it not;
It was fought by the mothers of men”

Lynn said...

JB, I have seen people abandon others in their time of need because they do not want to be exposed to grief. I think you are brave and kind.

the psycho therapist said...

I probably already told you this Vendella office rule:

Whoever cries first, wins.

What is brave?

Nice telling, btw. If I had a pair of cool, pink, hightop Converse I'd send 'em along as a consolation prize....for you and "the orphan". Well-deserved.

PS...I had a grandmother named Anne. :)

MarmiteToasty said...

(((JBelle)))) such wonderful stories and memories.... as well as the painful parts ..... hope the good over ride the sadness....

I love old people and listening to their life etc..

My granma was called Clara, she was my mothers mum, the only grandparent I ever had, the only person that really ever loved me... she understood.....she knew, I could see it in her eyes even without spoken words......

((((JBelle)))))..... keep all those wonderfull memories...


jb3ll3 said...

Anna is very particular about what she wears. Highly discriminating sense of personal style. It's that artist's eye that refuses to dim, even after two cataract surgeries. Her cute little feet are all gnarled and a bit twised so she found these orthopedic shoes in a catalog, name of each escapes me, that bear a striking resemblance to the yet to be released hot off the presses Nike tennis shoes I have been wearing, except for the open toes that allow her toes to have their own way with the world. I say to her Cute SHOES. She says, I KNOW. The girls at lunch (this is at the home) were telling me that too. I say They are like mine, look! She scruntinizes mine carefully then says, yeah but mine are black.

jb3ll3 said...

I am going down to Fred Meyer today because I think they have Pink Chuckies. The high topped Converse? I am going to get them and start to find some patches to put all over them. When I don't feel brave I will wear them and think of you.

raymond pert said...

This is raymond pert from over at kelloggbloggin. I had intended to create a link between the fact of Gault Hall being set afire by a Kellogg boy and the story that verified that for me. The link is there now. It's a truly historic, dark day in U of I's history. Paul became the chief suspect for the arson because he covered the fire for the Argonaut (after he set it) and the detailed coverage he provided raise the suspicions of those trying to figure out who the arson was. Thank you for your comments and I'll keep those tv programs in mind...when they come out on DVD..unless they have...I have not entered the world of cable television, yet. Talk about a dinasour!

jb3ll3 said...

Raymond Pert (are you absolutely sure Raymond Pert was not in a Beatles' song?)( :) ): Seasons one and two of 'Rescue Me' are out on DVD. I mention them first, because the protagonists are firemen employed by FDNY. The scene you describe where Jerry Turnbow takes you aside and gives you religion could have been written by Denis Leary, the series' creator and chief writer. The writing is sharp, sharp, sharp. That's the second reason I mention 'Rescue Me'; exceptional writing for television, rich in irony, along the lines of your blog . Thanks for the follow up on Gault Hall; when I was at IDAHO, where I became a card-carrying Cougar detractor, they spoke of the fire that destroyed Gault Hall still and I believe I even saw a picture of the old hall once. But I never knew the story behind the fire. And there's still a little bit of room left for Luddites; long as they tell great Lew Alcindor basketball stories. :)