Sunday, July 31, 2011


Inside the shopping bag it's all lavender and frighteningly disposable. The bizarre proportions and gigantic eyes made sense for Ariel who was, after all, a creature of the deep, but, I can't figure out why Rapunzel would need to see in the dark...or how she could possibly eat with such a tiny mid-section.

Now that we're back in the bosom of my family, we're more plastic and made in China than we ever intended to be. They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I wonder what happens to you if you live too long with no intentions.

C's birthday is always fraught with tension for me. I think I manage it well but it's hard to focus on the here and now with all of those 'what-ifs' crowding in with the crepe paper and tacky decorations. When I was pregnant I worried about treating my daughters as individuals--turns out death is no obstacle to certain parenting tendencies.

Luckily, in the midst of my crisis about mindless parenting, consumerism, and birthdays for dead daughters, I happened across this story.

Like all 36-year-old women born and raised in the Philly 'burbs, I find that Wendell Berry* can always explain how I'm feeling so much better than I can myself. Go figure.

*Mr. Berry is not paying me to endorse him...or acknowledging me in any way for that matter since we don't know each other or anything. But, I'm sure he'd like me if he just gave me a chance...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Home Again

In my mind he's perpetually 19-years-old, staring down at a pile of metal bits and figuring out how to resolve them back into the track of a sherman tank.

I didn't actually know him then. I wouldn't even exist for another 35ish years.

Maybe this is how everyone in my generation pictures their grandfathers who fought in the war. All that mayhem and the miracle that they survived long enough to ensure our existence is worth remembering and examining closely.

A couple of years ago I had the distinct impression that the world had flipped 180 degrees and left my grandfather stranded in my place and time. Gadgets that his formerly clever hands couldn't manipulate. Grandkids who drove German and Japanese cars with no trace of guilt. His wife, two of his brothers, and a son-in-law dead. A new roof on his house that would undoubtedly outlast him. Even so, he was still always solidly, reliably present.

In a few hours I'll be at his funeral but I can't quite believe he's gone.


We were out of town when he died, in Kentucky for T's dad's funeral and the second wedding for T's best man. A parade of family, friends, and transitions of the toughest and most joyful variety.

Road trips always leave me feeling a little dislocated from reality but this one brought the drifting feeling to a whole new level. It's not just the standard time suspension that comes with 10 days of suitcase living, the world actually changed, sort of profoundly, while we were moving.

Before leaving Kentucky, we packed our spare suitcase with T's father's unneeded clothes and a flag folded over the expended shells from the 21-gun salute. More items will arrive in the mail shortly. While on the road back to PA, my mom called and said that I should hurry-up and get to Pop's house to claim any items I may want--apparently I have to race my brother and cousins to the choicest mementoes. I feel a little strange about detaching these objects from their homes. There's something so clear and definite about R's particular brand of gone-ness that made everyone else in my family seem hyper-present or super-alive. Even though T's dad and Pop were sick, even though they'd both been labeled terminal, I still wasn't convinced that they would die and I'm still not convinced that they'll stay that way. They both have so many people and things anchoring them to this world--how could they possibly leave? How could we possibly take their stuff? They might still need it.

If I sit still and concentrate, I can bring them back. I don't need objects to remember them. I can smell them and feel their skin, remember their voices and laughter. Among adults there just seems to be a smaller gap between corporeal existence and remembrance. The pile of ashes that used to be T's dad, my grandfather's body that we'll bury today, they're both still more alive to me than R ever was.


Pop grew up with 7 siblings in a tiny house, married and raised 2 daughters in a less tiny house about 30 minutes from his childhood home. He retrieved and repaired tanks in the war. He was a mailman. He grew excellent tomatoes. He was a constant presence at his grandkids' and great-grandkids' t-ball games and dance recitals. He loved a good water fight on the beach. He kept his basement stocked with groceries and never let any of the 'kids' leave without taking at least a couple of cans of vegetables or boxes of macaroni.

There was nothing flashy or grand about his life. He was solid, reliable, game, and good-natured. He loved his family without reservation.

Shortly after R died, Pop told me that he talked to her and my grandmother every night as he drifted off to sleep. He believed that they were together and that he would see them again.

I hope he's right.