A friend of mine is so full of love and happiness right now, appreciating all his blessings, his small children, his beautiful wife. He has a good life, a good job and more importantly, he knows what is important. Another friend, equally happy and so appreciative of her husband and her small daughter. She loves her life and things are going amazing for her.
This is the time of year for vacations, camping, cook outs, bbq’s, sports, etc… All kinds of family based fun and memories. Last summer was impossible, this summer is a little bit better. Mostly because I can think and I can see, I am not numb.
Life going on around us is difficult at moments. And the moments turn into minutes, and hours, and days. I worry about people who have it so perfectly (apparently) and things run so smoothly. Run as smooth as tick tock on a clock.
My grandfather wore a watch for 60 years, same one. It would lose time and he would have it repaired, but it was always the same watch on his wrist. I can remember this watch, when you are a kid climbing on your grandparents there are just things you remember, and that is one thing I remember like it was a picture taken in my mind. The glass was scratched and it had one area where the face was too foggy to see anything below it, this area was by the 4 so I guess he never worried about needing to know if it was twenty past the hour or 4 o’clock. He was probably working at those times anyway, following a strict work ethic and not checking his watch when there was much to be done. The watch was plain on the outside with black numbers that I remember as fancy calligraphy type. It was silver and gold and had symbols on it, symbols that he never told me what they were. He was so quiet, my grandfather. I sat in his lap while he watched news or listened to his records and put his wristwatch to my ear while I was instructed to be quiet myself. Time ticks. I remember the warmth of my grandfathers skin while I moved his arm up and down and probably drove him crazy. He was always warm. On the last visit that I ever saw my grandfather he was laying in a bed they had set up in the formal dining room for him. He could not go up the stairs, he was thin and very sick. Everything was changed, the dining room that we had so many dinners and so many memories was cluttered now. I sat next to my grandfather, not knowing or realizing that I would never sit next to him again. I played with the watch that I had messed with since I was so young. That watch itself was a symbol of my grandfather, the consistent strength and rhythm of a life lived in the right way with the right values. I obviously respected him before I knew what the word respect meant. He laid there, not strong anymore. Not able to take me out to hunt for fishing worms, I couldn’t sit in his lap, he couldn’t even hug me. Then he was gone, they took him to the hospital and would not let us kids go and see him.
I was angry for him leaving me, leaving all of us and not being here on this earth to play with me or to hang out with.
And then my three grandmothers died. Each one holding a different place in my heart. One for roast beef hash, another for cinnamon rolls, and the third for not being able to cook at all…making meals adventurous. They all left. Two of my grandmothers were sick and old, they died of old age mostly I would think. One grandmother died of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. She died slowly, over time, all of us helplessly watching her physical body suffer and give up while her mind was absolutely fine and not ready to go. She was the strongest Grandmother of all three. Lost her husband when I was two and didn’t need another one. She lived alone, worked hard, loved her family. She was a seamstress, a cook, and fun to be around. My grandmother didn’t wear a watch that I remember but she smoked Pall Malls and her toes curled under which I always thought was fascinating.
I don’t remember too much of anyone’s house other than certain pictures and hallways and layouts of the different floors….but houses and cars and stuff like that didn’t matter to a kid. I never even really knew what my grandparents did for a living till later in life, it just didn’t matter.
What mattered was the love I felt from those people. That is what sticks, how people make you feel.
I am a Grandma now. I have the chance to make memories in little people’s lives and have that certain something that sticks with them forever. Things are a little different for me as a Grandmother — in comparison to my three. Life does continue around me, quickly and in a blur. Vacation pictures, sports pictures, weddings, babies, and even snapshots of just messing around. They are hard to look at. Hard not to throw myself in a “longing for how it used to be” kind of mood. I worry about the perfect little families, that tragedy does not strike, that they can continue the happiness and that my friends that are so appreciative….if they do experience trauma in their life I wish for them to be strong.
My Grandfather died in 1980 and the chances that his watch is still ticking are probably slim. But time continues for us, making memories and living our dreams. I told my friend from the beginning of this post that he is awesome and I hope he continues to be able to balance things…. and I was not kidding. I get scared for people who are living what we think is such a fucking perfect life. That was us, everything was damn fine. Then, bam.
~Leslie Beery, The Surviving Project