I sat down and wrote a letter to my long-deceased grandmother earlier this week, and felt wonder at the comfort those impulsive words brought. I hadn't planned to write her, and everyone knows that email isn't typically received in Heaven (unless they get some great wireless broadband coverage), but I wrote her all the same.
I even emailed it to her, knowing it would most likely reject (and it did, the false hope I engendered in you momentarily for great posthumous broadband is now gone...so sue me). The surprising thing to me was the outpouring of emotion and built up feelings I experienced. I had figured my feelings about her passing were grown over, solid skin over old wounds. Instead I found them fresh and painful, newly split open like a sixteenth century sailor's scurvy while at sea. My grandmother has been dead for twenty-two months, passing on after fighting several strokes. I shouldn't have cried tears for her now, the funeral being so long ago, right?
These surprising words and feelings made me realize how much I hadn't said to her--those busy last few days where I only visited twice (afraid in my boyishness and hybris that if I didn't go by, she couldn't pass on, not yet). Oh how I wish I would have stopped by her small apartment to chat her up for a bit about work, life, all the seemingly mundane things that really are the glue of life. I would have shared that extra sharp cheddar/gorgonzola wheel with her instead of by myself in the emptier weeks after (my wife won't touch the stuff, not that I am complaining). None of that could happen now, much as I wanted it to, so I sent my one-sided conversation knowing it would reject, and I missed her with every keystroke.
You may brace yourself for a cringeworthy cliche now, as you may have seen it coming. Every mediocre bit of writing has at least one cliche, as Mr Harlan, my first year english teacher pointed out (I can still hear him: Blair, the best writing has no cliches whatsoever. The best writing is all original, even if writing about your old socks). Well here goes Mr Harlan, proof that my writing is truly mediocre, if nothing but passionate: love them before you lose them.
There. The timeworn saying hackneyed once again for you.
But it's true.
I miss you grandmother, I miss your smell, your laugh, the treasured back and foot rubs. I miss that you strengthened mom. I miss that twinkle in your eye when you thought something was funny, that way you washed and stacked your dishes (I know, random), and the way that you spoke with your southern gentlewoman twang. Mostly I miss how you made me feel. MOst kids would say their grandmother made them feel loved. You were no exception to that, and did it with such zeal that I never doubted. I miss that you love me, and miss you telling me that.
Not that I am feeling ill-loved in any regard. I must clarify that point. Melissa and the kids absolutely fill me up with love and hope and life. I just feel a bit less full if you will. And that makes me think of one of my favorite poems of all time:
The line which gets me every time:
"And so I dream of going back to be.
It's when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree~
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches."
And so I close this post, missing my grandmother still, yet feeling in my hearts that I will see her again. In that regard I am glad I wrote the letter to her.
Finally, some social commentary--some of the scholarly skeptics (on Frost and his poetic virtues) would offer their students hemlock in earthen jars (their Freudian speculations on the meaning of his poem), but I believe it to be honest and true. Frost meant what he wrote, and one day I'll climb my own birch tree and won't descend from it (as will all of us), but continue upwards into the sky; on and on till I reach Keats' Eremite and pass away into the stars.