Sunday, August 12, 2012

Records


The air is that delicious shade of amber when night hovers just beyond daylight's reach.  The cool of the eve is wondrous after the scorch and scrape of August sun.  Somewhere between a siren's call and the battle anthem of summer, the cicadas song echoes through the trees, reverberating in my mind as memories of previous summers flit and dart like a movie reel spliced.  That sound accompanied my first kiss.  My first heartbreak.  There was the smell of funnel cakes and carnival lights and breathless anticipation...

Tonight I sat on the front porch with my grandmother.  She's visiting for a few weeks, enjoying the great grandsons while the weather is warm.  Ninety-six years she has walked the earth...yet so small.  Almost some strange humor as my six foot frame curls into the twin of the chair she seems childlike in, not even five feet tall.  She's wearing long johns beneath her clothes; a bizarre and slightly odd commentary on the fragile straps of the gauzy sundress that barely makes me presentable in this humid heat.  How age changes things.

Oh, how it does.

The light in her eyes is fierce, strong as her mind repeats the loops it has grown accustomed to.  I believe the passionate moments--be them lovely or terrible--carve the deepest grooves in the records that play as we age.  I wonder, as she tells me again of meeting my grandfather, my eyes tracing the lines that web her cheeks, the curve of her ear....I wonder who I will be, what records I'll play.  For her, a widow with three young sons before she was even twenty, one of the records she plays was being desired despite the hungry mouths she brought along by my grandfather, "that wild Cates boy."  His fast car swept her away, and his monthly check when he was gone in the service kept her afloat along with family.  So much tragedy, so much hunger.  Starvation for food, love, security....a time in history we, so blessed, will never truly understand.

And now, so small, so weak...she tells me how the men still want her.  I smile.  I even smile with a wink and a chuckle...and she smiles back.  She shifts in her chair, pulls at the sleeve of her long underwear, and shakes her head softly.  She reaches out to stroke Hazel's back and asks when my husband, whose name she often forgets, will be home.  Sometimes her persistence that "someone is out there" or that "he was looking at me" can be frustrating, life is demanding enough without adding in constant reassurances and appeasements.  But I've begun to think that she clings to this idea because to fully admit that no one really "wants" her anymore, would be to somehow lose meaning...purpose.  She wrestles with being a burden--yet in the same scrappy moment, I think she thoroughly enjoys the 'hand and foot treatment' she receives.  She knows it not, but in a world of fragmented families, to be tucked in with a kiss, and have breakfast laid out each morning....I can only pray I am loved and cared for one day, as she.

It's difficult at times, being stuck in the timewarp she resides within.  My parents are stunning in the years of care--years of bacon and eggs, duplicate loads of laundry, 'please-don't-touch-that' and cleaning up the spills; the privacy they've sacrificed is beyond calculation--I fear at times my mum hedges on the edge of sainthood.  This level of care isn't easy, but I enjoy the opportunities I have to give my parents respite as well as challenge my own family to the joy and discovery that it is to live with an elder.  Lessons in patience, movement on shuffle, hours of quiet.

The crickets have struck up their serenade and the streetlights are glowing softly.  She's begun to repeat herself, in that record-skip way she does, as I lead her inside for the night.


I wonder what my records will be....



20 comments:

Out on the prairie said...

That song can be everlasting, they previewed a new album from the Zombies on Public Radio today,over 40 years later.

The Path Traveled said...

Thats so beautiful!

Shea Goff said...

Just another reason to leave these beautiful notes, I think.

BamaTrav said...

That's cool that men still want her. I see no reason not to if I were a gentleman of her age. It's only our bodies that age, our mind and soul are always young. Old doesn't mean dead. xo

Robbie Grey said...

This reminded me of how much I miss my grandmother. She told some wonderful stories, and I'm sure there are others I'll never get to hear.

mermaid gallery said...

I remember my grandma lost in her memories....lying on the bed remembering....I thought how lucky she was to have a life that could be enjoyed again and again.....My records are close to my heart.....and already I go back sometimes........

Chantel said...

Prairie--totally agree. "Everlasting" is a great word.

Path--thank you!

Shea--so true. I rarely reread things from the past--I think I'm slightly frightened by my ignorance or pain or dreams. I wonder if I will have the courage to reread when I'm older...

BamaTrav--well, these men only exist in her mind, but it keeps her going somehow. I paint her nails and roll her hair and we sit on the porch to watch the world pass by...

Robbie--so sorry she's gone, but thrilled you had time with her.

Mermaid--what a great way to put it, 'enjoyed again and again.' And I do too. :)

suman said...

Chantel,

My sincere compliments to you for well-balance article,barring i do wish to have a say that in every human life a few sweet memoire still relatively mattered,which can resurrect to the person by way of his/her ruminates,from time to time.
If not possible as such kind of wonder then our human life would become stalk as prevented in this terrestrial.
i remain,

Shelly said...

This squeezed my heart, tightly enough that some tears leaked out of my eyes.

Wearing the multiple layers of clothing in the hottest of times, a person forged in great early hardship, now so physically tiny...that was my grandma, who passed away a couple of years ago and would be the same age as yours.

Whatever records we leave will be in harmony with the lustrous recordings made by these strong women.

Mary said...

That was so sweetly written. We are here but for a small moment in the scheme of things. We need to make all our moments count.

Mandy_Fish said...

So beautiful.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I really enjoyed this. So many grandmothers don't get to live with family members, and maybe don't get to tell their stories again and again to an appreciative listener. Wonderful image, six-foot you and tiny grandma sitting together.

The Loerzels said...

Stunning Chantel! You never cease to amaze me, delight me and make me think all at the same time!

Annmarie Pipa said...

a beautiful example of caring for each other...I loved this post.

Chantel said...

Suman--I love the word "ruminates," it brings such a liquid revisitation to mind; something long and unhurried and delicious. :)

Shelly--amen. I think our grandmothers would have been grand friends...

Mary--thank you. Yes, I'm more and more convicted about the brevity of our time, I waste entirely too much.

Mandy--thank you.

Bliss--we are quite the pair, Mutt & Jeff here. :)

Marie--thank you; my, but I delight in great readers!

Annmarie--thank you, with your crew, I can only image how loved your entire life will be...one of the joys of having so many. :)

Candy said...

I completely understand this time warp. And yet I feel as though it grows more and more distant with each generation....

Paige + Shauna said...

oh yes, the lesson in patience is worth its weight in gold.

I hope the time warp I get stuck in has yet to arrive.

when I visit my grans. the most enjoyment for me is sitting on the porch listening to the night tell
of her own time warp and mysteries
that touch my soul.


thank you chantel for another
thought-provoking prose/post.

Mel Heth said...

I miss my grandmas so much. They had the same birthday - August 24th - and couldn't have been more different. Yours sounds like a little doll and there's something so charming about those songs we hear over and over again. I love the long underwear, too.

Please hurry and write a novel so I can read 200+ pages of your writing in one sitting. :)

Pam Lofton said...

Chantel- you are one of the most eloquent writers I've ever had the pleasure to read. Every single thing I read on your blog is packed with a sensory party or humor or thought provoking statements or heart moving sentiment or a combination. My grandparents were the most special people to me- they still are even though they've been gone many years. This post was, as always, beautifully written.

Christine Macdonald said...

Your words always paint with brushstrokes of poetry and heart.

I love how introspective spending time with older (and younger, for that matter) people can be.

The beautiful thing about music - is that there are only a certain amount of musical notes, yet infinate compositions in which to create melodies.

Here's to dancing within our own unique notes, to the beat of our very special drum - crafted by generations before us.