Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Treasure

At one point I heard her laughing, jumping on the bed. There were long periods of silence interspersed with murmured discussion between her and her dad. My superman vision looked right through the wall and captured Bella trying on enormous gaudy clip on earrings, obscenely colorful scarves, and testing my husband's knowledge of my family tree while pointing at old black and white photographs. At one point, a loud bump on the thin apartment wall made my grandmother start. "She's in your room. She thinks there's treasure in there." Grandma gave me a bemused smile. "Remember your room in the old house? I used to love your room -- all of your jewelry boxes and trays -- I would spread their contents over the unused twin bed with the white coverlet and just inhale the mystery. I thought there was treasure in there."

She smiled at me, this time with a twinkle in her eye. "There was!"

**

My grandmother is ailing. She's 89, and lives by herself in an "independent" retirement community, and will need in-home care or moved to a facility with full time care in the near future. Her artificial limbs no longer provide the support she needs to traverse her wee apartment, and her mind is starting to fray around the edges in ways that make us all nervous. Would she have eaten had we not shown up and reminded her that today, Saturday by the way, she would not be receiving food from the service but would have to heat up something in the fridge? My heart broke, clutching memories, made no less bearable when she offered up the (only) table. I demurred saying I didn't have the space, but agreed to take the complicated, dust and junk covered sewing machine.

When she moved from the big 18th century home into the teeny one-bedroom place, I was unable to afford (monetarily or time-wise) to leave my graduate program and go help pack. Although some lovely depression glass was saved just for me, I missed out on the Fiestaware and a few other goodies that got allocated to cousins and (horrors!) the auction block. So the standing joke for the last decade has been to "put a sticky on it!" with your name if you'd like to be bequeathed the cuckoo clock or the roll top desk. Lest you think we're all macabre in front of her, this was her idea and she plays along with us, often with great humor. "Oh, so think that dish is ugly?" (Runs off for the sticky notes.)

I doubt she'd even know what a sticky was anymore, and somehow joking about the future demise of her and avoidance of probate is too close for humor. Tonight out of nowhere, Bella asked me to reaffirm that people don't come back after they die, and then started crying because "I don't want to be an old 100 year old lady. I want to be with my friends!" I tried to explain she could still have friends at 100, and for a few seconds there was a humorous narrative about her and her two best pre-school friends living together as centenarians ("Old people play cards?"). But the slippery slope bombed into an uncomfortable discussion about not wanting to age at all and dying at four.

"Oh Please don't," said as much to the sky and the other and myself as to her.

"Do people who are zero die?"

"Yes, Maddy was Zero."

"I miss Maddy," she said, her voice rising and a fresh well of tears coming.

It's all a bit too fresh this winter.

I also realized during these interludes that if I were to have another child (stop laughing), I would (hypothetically) be an elderly grandma from the get go. I'm not sure what mystery would lie in my bedroom save for miscellaneous bottles of pills.

23 comments:

Hope's Mama said...

I would never laugh at the idea of you having another child, Tash. You sound like you got a lotta love to give. Nice post.

k@lakly said...

The talk of you having another child doesn't make me laugh, it makes me smile hopefully at the possibilty.

I'm sorry about your grandma. I loved mine desperately and remember vividly watching her battle, to no avail, a cancer that robbed her of every bit of her, for almost two years. It was horrible. We too used to joke, in her healthy days about the 'sticky' method of bequeathing and she would often just show up and give you someting saying I can't take it with me so you have it, then I can watch you enjoy it.
And then, she left and even knowing it was coming, it hurt like hell.
It sucks Tash. I hope she is well cared for and without suffering as her sun here sets and that when she is gone you will see her as the sun rises, everyday.
And perhaps, if those things happen, we can believe she will find her way to Maddy and hold her close, the perfect treaure.
xxoo

Lollipop Goldstein said...

Her question broke my heart. We have the opposite since we haven't learned the word "died" yet: "What happens after you turn 100?"

sweetsalty kate said...

Oh, um. Yeah. Not laughing. Just nodding and smiling. I know it's not easy to take that leap, but I also know it's not outrageous. Not at all, tash.
xo

Gal aka SuperMommy said...

I've thought so much about my old grandmother and great aunt since Tikva died. That they will never know her, that one of them is not clear enough in her head to even realize, probably, that I had a baby who died. That my 91 year old great aunt lost her 55 year old son a few years ago, and in many ways I imagine her experience is so similar to mine, because he will always be her baby, even at 55. Life and death and getting old and dying young are strange...

luna said...

it's so hard watching a loved one age that way. bella's question got me, too.

at just about 40, I already wonder whether I will ever even be a grandmother.

Mrs. Spit said...

My mother was advanced maternal age when I was born, my father in law more so when my husband was born. It has been hard to watch them age, to see them slow down like a clock that I cannot figure out how to wind. It leaves me wringing my hands and holding my memories in my lap.

I am sorry Tash.

charmedgirl said...

my stupid mother is young, but horribly inept at grandmothering. so there. just as an example, she brings the kids pill bottles (serious ones, like you get at the pharmacy) with m&ms inside. then she ignores them the whole time she's here.

anyway, yeah. death. all ages. step right up!! i think it still wierds me out that i have been forced to be so intimate with it...forced to let it seep all over an color ever aspect of my life.

my grandmother is 84 and not at all ailing...in fact, is a royal pain in the arse but can be quite funny at times. she's made known that she wants to see us enjoying her shit before she dies, and so, passes stuff out at the slightest indication that you like sometihng of hers. i've bequeathed a fake painting of a "flamenco dancer" sitting on a chair that i used to seriously be in love with as a kid. i loved her red high heels, a lot!! it's now in my dining room and i have to argue with everyone about how she's a flamenco dancer and not a spanish friggin prostitute...

charmedgirl said...

damn it!! she bequeathed to me! that's what i get for trying to be fancy.

Michele said...

This winter is a rough one. I dont remember being 4, but I'm sure that at time all the ideas seems so new that each one is either wonderful or heartbreaking.

I'm sorry about your grandmother. We went through losing my husband's grandparents a few years ago and it was a painful progression as they slowly drifted away. Thinking of your family...

Brenna said...

Oh, that question took my breath way too: "Do people who are zero die?" Tears. So many. Funny, I just posted about my grandma today too. They're such important people in our lives, aren't they? I'll keep you and yours in my thoughts.

loribeth said...

Oh man, Tash, you sure know how to make a girl cry at the office. ;) I can tell some of the exact same stories about my Grandma. She gradually lapsed into a form of dementia -- always knew us, but her memory was shot, & the cooking & cleaning went by the wayside. My mother would go there on weekends & clean & cook up a storm & leave them casseroles in the fridge with reheating instructions... and she'd come back a week or two later & they'd still be there in the fridge, growing mold. :( They got Meals on Wheels for lunch, but not every day, & finally my grandfather got sick & they had to move into the care home. My sister said he looked like something from the concentration camp films, he was so emaciated. (Once they started eating regularly again, he was fine until he finally passed away a few years later.)

I too was away when they cleared out the house. I got some smaller items that I love, but all the bigger stuff went to my mom & uncle, my sister & my two cousins.

Grandpa died in 1998, a few months after Katie, & Grandma almost a year to the day later. He was 86 & she was 85, and I was 37 & 38. I knew they couldn't live forever, & that I was so very, very lucky to have had them in my life for so long, but it hurt so much, and I still miss them horribly.

By the way -- I am now OLDER than my grandmother was when she first became a grandmother (when I was born)!!!

G$ said...

I feel like a broken record, but the words of Bella just amaze me. She is going to be such an amazing woman, as her raw, beautiful questions now are humbling.

You will have plenty of junk kids will want. Treasures. Heck, you probably already have lots of junk I would find as treasure :)

xo

Ahuva Batya said...

is is a beautiful, reflective set of memories and I'm glad you shared them. And like others, the thought of you being a mother again does not make me laugh one iota.

Beautiful Mess said...

Aww your grandma sounds wonderful! Sadly, we've dealt with this subject all to early with 2 close family members in a 2 week period. How sweet of Bella to put all of that into words!
Sending you hugs!
D

c. said...

I don't know which one, but one of my kids asked the same thing, if somebody could die at age O. I'm not sure I made the same connection to Callum. I don't think I can even say he was 0, although I believe it.

I'm sorry about your grandmother, Tash. Sorry that your worry for her has come at a time where you are already filled with woe. You've been in my thoughts a lot lately. XO.

janis said...

Oh damn you, Tash! You either make me laugh, or cry, or both. I barely made it to the end of this post without my nose feeling like someone gave it a good hard punch. And then my eyes blurred. And then I just want to hug Bella and promise her old friends grow old together as old farts and make sick jokes together.

I am not laughing, either, about that second child idea.

xoxo

CLC said...

Gosh, Bella never ceases to amaze me. I know it's rough watching your Grandma get older. I hope you have lots more memories like the one you shared. She sounds like a wonderful person.

Foreverloves said...

I wouldn't laugh. Stranger things have happened :)

Wonderful post.

Val said...

Yes, I have to DROP the habit of reading blogs at work; it doesn't do for Boss Lady to be crying at her desk...
A beautiful post however, Tash.

Bon said...

i too would never laugh, Tash, except with you.

it's hard, all this mix of living and dying and loving. i am sorry about your grandmother...i've been there and it broke my heart. and we are just getting there with the negotiation of how people who are zero can die and oh, god, it hurts.

but it is hurt born of love, and i keep telling O and myself that it's worth it. i still believe it, to my own surprise.

niobe said...

The Bible says where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. But I've always thought it was, you know, the other way round.

Sue said...

When I was 30, my mother finally said it was time for me and my sister to get married, that she wanted grandchildren. She had always been good about not pressuring us, but enough was enough, I guess. My father will be 76 when he finally gets his grandchild. He is a young 76, but not young enough.

And I wonder what my children, should I have any will remember of him.