Friday, August 19, 2011
The Guise of Things
I haven't had a soft serve cone in years... and then in two days, I had two. Back to back.
The pretense being that they were for Jude, and then, when the drips were too unwieldy and melting down his cone and hot hand, I would lick them with the speed of a darting snake tongue--my motherly duty.
My grandma died a few days ago. There will be no service, her remains will be cremated, her body leaves this life quietly and without the fanfare of memorial. But I think of her; I can't stop thinking of her. We weren't close at all and so I don't feel loss (I don't think), but I feel anxiety at trying to cull up her last few moments on earth with a body-- I don't know why I do this fruitless exercise of imagining, but I do. And here's what escapes me: when her body was found lying among her garden next to the tomatoes, was she happy, was she at peace? Was there release for her? Or fear? Was there dark? Was there light?
We talked once about the afterlife, she and I. I brought my first baby to see her and I was ripe cheeked and ripe with innocence about life-- that idealistic belief that everything was black and white/yes or no/cut and dry. She took long pulls on a cigarette and eased into the back of a chair, her hand around a slender glass of something yeasty and fermenting that sweated condensation along its sides. She seemed content, and had this way that when she said something she liked, she would sort of shimmy her shoulders in the slightest shiver and the corners of her mouth would rise and her eyes would crinkle and she would seem pleased. And this is how she looked when she told me matter of factly that she didn't believe in heaven-- she thought for sure that things went black and it was just over. And I was incredulous and naive that she would be ok with that notion and I told her so and she smiled and moved her shoulders and I looked at a statue of Buddha in the corner and wondered what he believed.
I think that the afterlife is here. I think that my grandma is still here, she just doesn't have a body. I think I feel her and I'm sensing her... but do I sense that because I need her? Or does she need something from me?
Mostly, I am worried about my mom, who takes these things in stride and can say over the telephone, "She was ready to go. She was tired. She was old. I know she's happier now," without the slightest betrayal of inflection in her voice. I try to divine something from these words, but I come back to nothing more simple than the truth that my mommy's mommy has died.
And it hurts. I pray for my mom. I pray for my grandma. I pray for all of us to be comforted, whatever we believe. And that, I think, is my daughterly duty.