One-way ticket to Tucson …

I just booked one ticket (of two, I’ll be back soon – just not sure when) to Tucson. I’m headed out of town for a bit to be with my Grandparents. While I talk a lot about things past (that I’ve already dealt with), I struggle to talk about current events – things happening right now. Today, I’m leaving. Today, I’m going to Tucson. I’ll be helping my Grandparents move out of their current home and packing up their things. As you read this, I’ll be en route to the airport, big bag of books and computer and things in hand, running to the airport with my sneakers, swim suit, and brown luggage case. 

While the computer comes with me, and I’ll be working for a few hours here and there, it’s the least of my concerns for right now. We can put the computers down. We can walk away. We’re allowed to stop, breathe, and think for a minute. 

I thought I’d share two short essays I wrote in the past two weeks, because they’re how I put words together to say what I’m feeling. For anyone who has lost a family member, grandparent, or is in the process of saying goodbye, this may hit home. Often times – more often than not – I write in my notebooks and journals as a way to figure out what’s going on (most of this unfiltered stuff I share over here). I’ve joked with friends and family that if you ever read my notebooks, you’ll find a different person, because in my writing I cover a full range of emotions and thoughts – often dealing with the toughest stuff through writing. In my journals is a heart-wrenching amount of sorrow, puzzlement, some lectures to myself, and indecipherable notes  – because it’s where I go to figure things out. I only pretend that I know what I’m doing, but I really don’t (for the most part).

Between the skips and the jumps, the love and the hugs — I’m also the person on BART, crying for a minute, remembering the people I love and writing in my journals as the trains screech and jolt back and forth. I’m the one who stops on the corner of the sidewalk, immersed in thought, struggling.

And so, ponytail up and sneakers on, I’m out the door. Goodbye for a bit, San Francisco. I’m out of town for a week to spend time with my grandparents for a bit. Cheers, and more cheery-ness soon. Give an old person a hug today. We’ll all be there one day. XOXO. Sarah

 

***

Dear Grandma

Saturday, June 25, 2011. Riding on BART.

Hi Grandma,

I woke up thinking about you this morning.

I hope you are doing well. Mom said that you’re being moved to a help center and I think that’s good. I wish I could be there to help you every day.

I just wanted to tell you – I don’t know how to say this, but before its too late — I’m becoming the person you said I would be. This week, I skipped down the street laughing because I started to see what I could become. I see everything about what’s possible and I am in awe that my life is becoming what you and grandpa said it could be.

I want you to be around 5 years from now so you can see everything that I’m working on. I want to see you when I’m 30, then 35. I want to tell you the stories of the things I haven’t done yet, because I know that you would be so proud of me.

In a few years, I want you to meet my kids, to see the third round of what you are grandpa started, to show you the kids of the future’s future.

But I know that even today, you’re slowly slipping away. The last time I visited, your mind was slowly disappearing somewhere where you can’t access it anymore and you couldn’t remember most of the things we talked about. Grandpa gets so frustrated with you because you can’t remember the things he tells you – and I feel so helpless because there is nothing I can do. And so we walked around the house and looked at pictures, and I told you the stories of each of your grand kids. You’d written on the back of each one the names, the years, and the ages. You picked one up and looked at the back, and said, ohhh! This one is Ellen! And I smiled because you recognized my younger sister, my beautiful, talented younger sister –

And you opened your eyes wide and smiled at me and said next,

“Who’s Ellen?”

I tried not to let my face fall but my lip quivered and I stuttered for a second. I braved a smile and said, gently, Ellen is my younger sister, this is a picture of her from when she was four. She’s 21 now, tall and gorgeous, living on her own in Southern California.

You smiled and nodded, and with all the graciousness of a woman who was born in 1922 and lived through the 30s, 40s, and 50s – all the way until today – you looked at me as though these were the most fascinating stories a guest in your home could ever tell you.

I stayed in the small bunk bed where my mom lived long ago, my mom and I, exhausted, crying, working to help you as much as we could, telling you stories over and over again and learning to live with the constant repetition of your identical questions as they surfaced every few hours. My mind got slightly dizzy itself as I tried to remember things I’d told you and then forget them all so I could start the stories afresh. I sat on the edge of the bed and sobbed, wanting to know if could do anything, how I could fix it, knowing that this is something you can’t fix.

“Thank you so much for visiting,” you said when you hugged me goodbye the next day.

“It was so nice to meet you.”

Grandma, I love you so much.

***

“You are a good grand-daughter.”

Thursday, July 7, 2011

These words echo in my mind as I walk home alone, slowly, breathing in the shrouded mist of the fog in the dark. Van Ness is a lonely, busy street, one of the streets I dislike in San Francisco’s repertoire of interesting passageways. The six lanes of traffic and cruddy sidewalks add a cacophony of bad noises to my loneliness; the contrast between the race of the cars and the patter of my footsteps always seems asyncronous somehow. In a blink, the feelings and moments before, of being with good friends and wandering and laughing – they softly disappear into the past and I am confronted with a feeling that keeps surfacing in my mind this week.

It’s dark, and I’m hesitant to cross the street, and I look fearfully both ways for cars.

I can’t help but let my happy face crumble, briefly, as I mourn in the memory of my grandmother, who’s not dead but almost gone. My heart aches – scratch that, I don’t know how to describe that, because it sounds so cliche – but little noticings in my body register the changing feelings. My posture sinks in lethargy. My hands hurt, because I don’t want to hold anything. My legs don’t feel like lifting as much. I’m done, I’m alone, and I just want my Grandpa to stop hurting.

Grandpa. He’s alone, and they’ve forbidden him from seeing my Grandmother, and I’m afraid, terribly afraid for him because I don’t know whether or not he will get through this ordeal, and he’s not gone yet. He’s here, but he’s buried under the weight of the loss of his wife, of the end of his life, of the need to make decisions he’s been putting off for so many years.

And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for writing about this, for sharing this, for talking about this. I like being a happy person, and I feel – I don’t know, I feel strange talking about this and what it means, but it’s real. And I promised myself that I would write no matter what, and that I would tell the stories no matter what, because it is. And life is. And that’s just what it is.

I leave town in 3 days to be with them. I am scared of this, I am.

***

Thanks for reading my stories. I try to paint life as it is, in the bits and pieces I see and feel. It’s not always easy, but as I said at the end of last week’s Hello post, it’s worth it. Undoubtedly. 

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