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Boy howdy, was it ever good to feel the sadness of December and January finally lift. So many tears, dear readers, so very many. We celebrated our surfeit of joy by making more, of course, with a stellar weekend of adventure and fun, starting at The Double Wide Friday night. They have TV Dinners! Compartmentalized food rocks! Grits! Portobello mushrooms! Brisket! Sweet potato fries! Shoestring fries! Cornbread! Coleslaw! Eeeek!
Surf Pittsburgh? Maybe I will.
This chest was made in 1760!
An afternoon at The Frick. A scrumptious lunch at the cafe, beautiful art, and positively heady conservatory air. Happiness!
Finished the day in The Strip District, with stops at Wigle (pronounced like wiggle) for Sassafras Whiskey and aromatic bitters (organic and delicious), Italian provisions at Penn Mac, and marvelous art at Contemporary Craft. No chemicals were purchased in the making of this last photograph.
Sunset over the Heinz Lofts. Home we go…
Baby Tess, with my Great Aunt Mary in 1923
She and my Grandpa will marry the following year.
They will have one miscarriage, one still birth, and raise four fine children.
50th Wedding Anniversary
Our final photo together
My Grandma Tess died the day after Christmas, a blessedly quick death, free of complications and suffering, save the ravages of old age. I have yet to conjure a world without her. Her voice, our final, “I love you,” still rings clear. My heart has yet to fully fathom the weight of the inability to pick up the phone for a leisurely conversation; to hear the litany of her ailments; the news of neighbors and relatives; the comings and goings of the skies; her booming at my Grandpa to pick up the phone, to hurry, to perform some task; to make her erupt with laughter; to hear her utter my name.
I am grateful to have had so much time; the parties, the towering stack of buffet plates, everything perfectly laid out: the ice cream loaf with holiday patterns, the relish plate and cheese bell. There I am, running, jumping, screaming around the yard and the house, having the time of my life. Sleepovers as a child, I cuddled on the sofa in the rosy pink nightgown she made, opened the linen closet to inhale the scent of starched linen and cotton, lounged on the back porch to hear the world pass by. The sleepovers as an adult, visiting from Oregon; there we are at the kitchen table: playing games, chatting of everything and nothing at all, her youth, my youth, clothes, what to make for dinner, you paid how much?! There I am, digging through photographs, closets, and drawers, asking so many questions, where and when and how?
Forty-three years, it is all in the past now, nearly two whole days, and, should I have the privilege of living as long as she, it will be fifty years. Fifty years without my beloved grandmother. Oh life, you are strange.
Post script, some of what I want to remember:
Her eye for detail: setting a table, decorating the house, folding the clothes.
Her love of ironing, in particular, my Grandpa’s handkerchiefs.
How she, when nearly a septuagenarian, became an avid Colorado Rockies and Denver Broncos fan, watching every televised game and listening to the others on the radio, reading the sports section to pore over stats, memorizing the names of every player and coach. Her reasoning, she told me, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!”
The way she would go out of her way to right a wrong. Barely twenty-four hours into our honeymoon, the straps on the backpacks the hubster and I bought tore. We were in London and thousands of miles from the Eddie Bauer where we purchased them. Without much choice, we ditched them and spent a precious lot of our savings on new packs. Grandma caught wind of it and decided something needed to be done. I can picture her long fingers, nails filed to a point, scanning the yellow pages for the phone number. I can hear her fiery voice discussing quality customer service and two disappointed kids thousands of miles away on their honeymoon until she got what she wanted – a full refund upon our return, some two months later, without so much as a receipt. A force to be reckoned with. I got that from her.
How she taught me to sew and gave me my first sewing machine. The hubster and I, fresh from our honeymoon and eager to decorate our bare apartment, had little money to spare. She helped me make tab topped curtains like the ones in the Pottery Barn catalog for the dining room. They looked terrific at a fraction of the price!
My friend Rob was in town, a single afternoon of play, and we went for the familiar, with heaps and tons of photos snapped at the Japanese Garden. I am going to miss these days, of him sending a last moment message letting me know he will be here in a day or two, and might I have an open schedule? Yes, of course I do. The timing is always perfect and our shared moments, too. We talk of the big and small and delight at all we find on the other side of the lens. I take him to tasty places and we mmm… and ahh… and laugh and marvel at the wonders on the radio.
And this time, our last in Portland, there was something of the magical. Walking back to the car after lunch, taking an unplanned route, a cat, as if it had been waiting the whole of the morning, bound down the sidewalk to greet ME. My heart leapt and I gasped, for it was no ordinary cat, but a near twin for my dearly departed Paris. She flopped at my feet, in the same way she always did, and I rubbed her belly and stroked her tail, marveling at the silkiness, the turn of the head, the tufts of fur between her toes. Paris. I love you, Birdie. I miss you, so very, very much. And she, in her way, told me she was happy, no longer in pain, running, jumping, flying even, into my heart, up to the sky. Forever and always.
And Rob, for his part, bore witness. Neither of us would have believed it had we both not been there. Perfect timing. Thank you, Rob, for coming, for being one of my oldest and dearest friends, for being here and there.
There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief. . . and unspeakable love.