Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ninety-One and....

I spent time with my grandmother this weekend, and it was wonderful. She is 91 years-old and continues to live alone in her two-story house. She lives in the house she and my grandfather spent most of their married life in, and she will only move away when she is carried out.

Everything in his dressing room and on his side of the bed remains as it was the day he passed away 8 years ago. Every shirt, every tie, every pair of shoes and slacks, his wallet and its contents...all of it remains the same. I have a business card case he got on a trip to London, and a silver enameled pill case he got in Florence; these are little tokens of him I have. The rest is unchanged at home.

He lives with my grandmother in her every moment, sleeping or awake, so she won't move out of that house. Every inch of that place is suffused with decisions only they made, with memories only they share, with stories only they know, with a private life only they lived. She is fortunately well and healthy enough to stay alone, and I hope that lasts until her last breath.

You wouldn't know that she lives in her memories if you don't know her well. She would never tell you. But I ask her - I ask her about her reality, and it is filled with the ghost of her truest love, and he never leaves her side. She cannot understand on any level how I don't want to fill my life and heart with that same kind of relationship. She doesn't understand how any human being wouldn't want to be joined with another in such complete union. But she doesn't say much about it.

She is my biggest fan. She thinks I'm completely wonderful from all the way back. We talk a few times a week at least. And if she calls when I'm not home, she's at least gotten more comfortable leaving a message, which always says: "Grandmom calling." And when I tell her I love her, she always says: "Thank you."

You can't believe all the things she'll never say, but she knows I believe in the presence of her ghost, and that's a doorway to conversations that are so rich and wonderful and full of a life you can hardly see in her anymore. She is fine in every measureable way, but I know she's marking time, waiting for the moment when she's a ghost too, and doesn't have to be alone anymore.

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