Today was the last day of a long weekend, and while it was still quite hot, it wasn’t as hot as it has been. I did not do any real weeding because we’re supposed to have rain tomorrow, which will make the ground softer and the weeds easier to pull, and cool it down a bit; it made more sense to wait.
I did, however, get the patio put together mostly. Flower pots still need to be moved, I’m not sure of the placement of a couple of pieces of furniture, I have a few more plants to put in pots or the ground, but it’s an enjoyable area now, so did do that.
As I think a holiday like this is bound to, I spent some time today thinking about friends and family that are no longer here.
My father died when I was 2, my mother died eleven years ago this week. I don’t remember my father and have few pleasant memories of my mother, so I can’t say I ever mourned either of them. It had a huge impact on my life, obviously, but I’ve never felt the loss emotionally.
I remember my grandmother dying; I was about 8. I knew her only slightly, though, troubled mother-daughter relationships run in my family. My other grandparents were all dead long before I was born.
I was named for my father’s youngest brother’s wife, who divorced him shortly after I was born. She was a lovely person, who saw her husband become more and more unpleasant and angry as he descended into Alzheimer’s, and still visited him daily, and then the other patients she had gotten to know after he died. She died about 20 years ago.
I had an English teacher whom I was very fond of and kept up with for years, Mrs. Angelo. She was the first person to ever ask me to memorize poetry, a habit I have continued throughout my life.
Beth, my ex, has buried her father and her grandmother, and I loved both of them. They were both maddening and endearing, and I have many memories of Christmases where Dad took forever to open a package, admiring the paper, peering at the card, sliding his pocketknife carefully along the seam, and Grandmother Dorris looking at the new dress her daughter always bought her and saying, “Well, that’s so pretty, you can just lay me out in that one…”
The kinky people that we have lost that touched me particularly were Q, Annie and Di. I cried over each of them, more than I cried over my mother.
I found out recently that someone I used to know through the Internet had died, way back in 2001. His views very much formed mine, and I found out by accident.
It was both funny and quite like him that today, on Memorial day, I found an envelope he’d sent me, I believe the only one, sent at the end of August of 1999. Inside was a short card, just a few words carefully written, and a Polaroid of him from an office party, with him hugging Santa. He seemed to have a knack for making the universe enforce some message to me, and this felt the same.
The four-legged family members I have loved and lost were Missy, a terrier/beagle mutt we had when I was a kid, a good dog, a smart dog, and a funny dog. She was born in our laundry room, and was terrified of thunder.
I didn’t have a dog again until Beamer, my first Scottie, who was complicated and way too smart for her own good. She spent her life perpetually acting as though she was a 13 year old with incredibly embarrassing parents.
Beamer was also the originator of my “buttered biscuit” theory of life, which I’ll write about another time.
Lulu was a Scottie , too, who was half-starved and newly-spayed when we got her from the Humane Society, having just been rescued from a puppy mill. She never seemed to forget how much better her life was now, and I will always remember her settling on a down comforter on the bed, every single time, with a big, blissful sigh.
I’ve had cats, too, but while I don’t dislike them, I’m just not a cat person. I don’t remember their names, even, and I never had a true house cat. I’ve had a couple of fish I remember fondly, however, including an upside-down catfish and the creatively-named Mr. Pleco.
A few years ago, our minister gave a sermon I have never forgotten. In his sermon he talked about a man who had lost a child, and come to his minister, who had lost his wife a few years before, to ask how he could bear the pain.
The minister told him grief was like a giant redwood falling in the forest. It leaves a hole in the forest canopy, and even more, it leaves a jagged hole in the forest floor, where the roots have been torn out, a open and gaping wound.
He told the man that now, as time had passed, the hole was still there, the hole in the forest floor doesn’t heal, but what does happen is the edges get less jagged, time and weather softens them.
In time, ferns grow on the fallen tree and birds nest in it, other animals build their homes in the fallen branches, which provide them with shelter and safety.
The hole in the floor eventually becomes a pond, and it nourishes the other trees, and the animals come to drink. And at night, the stars are reflected in the pool, through the hole in the forest canopy.
The emptiness never goes away, but the edges blur, and the landscape of the loss changes.
Here’s to Memorial Day.