Monday, August 16, 2010

On, In and Around Mondays: A Strange Solace

Grandma and Self Portrait

I have been gone for nine days. Nine days in Tennessee. For some of those days, I slept in my grandmother's room— or, I should say, what used to be my grandmother's room in her latter years.

When I opened the door, the first thing I saw was her "gallery of us." Pictures of my sister and I, displayed in a group, like a window into a mind now gone. My breath caught just the littlest bit. I don't know why this, of all things, caught me off guard, pressed me inward.

For the next moments, I cataloged the other contents of the room... a picture of her New York house before it was hers, a large needlepoint of Jesus knocking at a door, the tiny Snow White and Seven Dwarves painted woodcut I used to gaze at as a child, another painting of two beggar women eating what surely must have been someone else's picnic.

I opened a flip-top on the oak dresser. Empty. I opened another one. There lay a white Spanish fan, shut. I could picture my grandmother having closed it with a final click. I opened a drawer. Empty. Another. Empty. A third. Oddly full of powdered fragrance that might have been hers; if not, I preferred to believe it was. It surrounded me like an invisible embrace.

grandma's house

A few days later I went to exercise in a room on the other side of the house; I recalled childhood days when my grandmother exercised before dawn. "Thump, thump," I could hear her moving, moving.

Now in this room where I came to move, I remembered seeing my grandmother sit in her final years, staring blankly at a puzzle she intended to do, holding pieces static in midair. The closet of the room was open. Her card table, where the puzzles used to lay, was faced away from me. Closed. Its legs, which also close with a noisy click, sat still.

I lifted my arms to the sky and remembered how she used to do the same, and pray. I prayed tiny prayers that sounded like nothing more than, "Lord. Oh, Lord."

More needlepoints surrounded me here. An old fisherman, a Spanish courtyard, a Parisian sidewalk scene. Did my grandmother like Paris? She must have. Do I remember that? No. Odd, I think, that maybe I am living-remembering through my new penchant for French.

On my final morning I ate breakfast on the deck. I peered over the railing, looked down at a barren walk dotted with a few weeds. If my grandmother was here and still strong, perhaps there would have been flowers. I remember that too... how everywhere she went she planted flowers... so many you could hardly come to the end of them. Zinnias. She especially loved zinnias, a straightforward flower if there ever was one.

I moved back from the railing and sat in a wrought iron chair, my time here coming to a close. The air was thick with humidity. The lake made little lapping noises, something like eternity, it seemed to me. I sat and watched the water ripple endlessly. Where do the ripples come from and where do they go? I thought how impossible it would be to trace or count them. A small, strange solace.

Tennessee Lake

Join Claire, Kelly and Sarah for their "solace" prompt. Also, you might like to freeze frame your life's journey the way I have here (my entry is the first photo above... a portrait of my grandmother as a child that contains my reflection too).

Grandma as a Child, Grandma's House, and Lake photos, by L.L. Barkat.


On, In and Around Mondays (which partly means you can post any day and still add a link) is an invitation to write from where you are. Tell us what is on, in, around (over, under, near, by...) you. Feel free to write any which way... compose a tight poem or just ramble for a few paragraphs. But we should feel a sense of place.

Would you like to try? Write something 'in place' and add your link below. If you could kindly link back here when you post, it will create a central meeting place. :)

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Anonymous Sandra Heska King said...

I hadn't planned to shed a few tears already this morning.

8:43 AM  
Blogger togetherforgood said...

This is beautiful. My grandparents recently sold the house they had lived in for thirty years-- my whole life, really. I feel like a little part of my house went missing when they did. Nothing is ever the same.

8:46 AM  
Blogger A Simple Country Girl said...

L.L., all such beauty. You not only shared about your time away, but you started a story. I feel I should turn page after page and read an intertwining saga of your grandmother and you. And why all those drawers are empty.


11:12 AM  
Blogger Red Letter Believers said...

I have had a life change lately and have been 'touching' those objects that meant something to family members departed. I wonder what they thought, what they felt when they purchased them. Its a great way to connect with those we love and have left us.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

So vulnerable, and tender.

1:05 PM  
Blogger S. Etole said...

Feel like I am there experiencing this, too ...

4:49 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

I love every single word of this. It is so touching. Your writing, always beautiful, is especially so in this post.
I felt like I was reading a novel and wanted the story to go on and on. You really should write fiction.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Graceful said...

I love this, L.L. Nostalgia. Sadness and joy entwined. When I was first married my husband and I moved into my grandparents' house -- they had just moved into a nursing home. Going through their stuff -- they were children of the Depression...lots of stuff -- was just like you described, times ten. It was memory after memory after memory coming with the sights of costume jewelry and the scent of Chanel Number Five.

8:08 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Hi LL. I've been absent a while I know. I felt really knid of out of it when you all took the poetry turn. I can't hang with that yet! Anyway, this was an inspiring post! I think you might make it as a fiction writer after all. I know this wasn't a fiction, but, it could know? Blessings. Kim

4:12 PM  
Blogger Kelly Langner Sauer said...

Thank you for taking us with you. I love the water lapping, like eternity. Beautiful.

2:39 PM  
Blogger Bob Gorinski said...

This is great, LL!

And I need to call my grandma.

12:19 PM  

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