Thursday, June 30, 2011
It's funny sometimes the things that make us stop and remember. Sometimes it's the smell of a favorite food or a photo that's been on your wall for ages that suddenly seems more poignant in the half-light of a summer's dawn. The other day, it was just some numbers on my phone: the date, a date that I hadn't consciously thought about in weeks. I woke up feeling heavy, like someone had strapped one of those lead x-ray aprons around me and sent me off for the day. Then, around noon as I was sitting at work, I realised what day it was: the 30th of June. Suddenly, that weight on my shoulders didn't feel quite so displaced.
And just like that, memories flooded into my mind. I was a little kid again, wrapped up in my grandfather's arms, sitting in the big armchair and tucked into my Nana's robe. He was telling me stories about an incredible heroine named Mageen, his arms wrapped around me, warding me from the evils that lurked in her world. And when my mom would come to take me up to bed, I'd just give her a look and hope that she'd know I wasn't ready to leave, that I needed to hear more, that I just simply couldn't sleep until the last story was told. He never wrote those stories down, just poured them like molten memories into my young mind, branding me with the desire to write and create my own fictional worlds when he was no longer able to make them for me.
We bonded over stories the way some kids bond over sports. Some of my most loved books came from him, in packages on birthdays or ferreted away from his library when I'd visit. I don't think I ever saw him without a book in hand, pages well-loved and slightly abused by crumbs and other lunchly detritus. One of the memories of him that plays most in my mind is him walking up the stairs from the garage at my grandparents' house, wearing one of his vests with a book tucked under one arm and a takeout sack of Chinese in one hand. Even with all those things to carry, he always had room enough to hug me, smiling a ridiculously big grin that I tried my hardest to match. Books meant enough to all of us that I still remember the title of the last book he read on that fateful Lake Powell vacation, and I wonder if he ever got the chance to finish it.
And even though we may have had books to bind us, we also bonded over the things I loved in life: horses, music, swimming. We'd talk on the phone and I'd fill him in on all the new things happening in my young life. I must have rambled on so much, but he never seemed to tire of hearing my childhood tales of horseback rides and school art projects. And every time we spoke, whether it was on the phone or in an email, he would always tell me he loved me and remind me, just before we hung up, to "learn things." I hope he knows how much those words have followed me throughout my life - I went to CSU with them and started the application process here at Trinity with them playing an incessant loop in the back of my mind. Whenever I think of him, I hear those words, said as he would have uttered them: full of the sure knowledge that I would do exactly as he said, that I would learn things no matter what, it was simply a matter of course. His words offered encouragement, but in his voice there was belief, and that always stayed with me.
Last week, it struck me with unexpected force when I realised that the heaviness in my heart had settled on the ninth anniversary of Poppop's death. It doesn't seem possible that it's been nearly a decade since I hugged him, heard his voice, or played King's Corner for M&Ms (which he never "let" me win; I always had to earn it). My mom wisely reminded me that his birthday is coming soon, and perhaps that should be the day I choose to remember, but I can't hoodwink my heart. It knows that date in June just as surely as it knows the 27th of April and every other landmark date in our family. But as I sit here writing this, I expected to feel the weight of his loss once more. Instead, my eyes are burning because the memories I have of him, of us, are so incredibly precious and full of joy. We were so blessed to have had him for the time we did, and even though the 30th of June will always ride heavy onto the horizon, it will depart with a lightness we won't expect.
I love you, Poppop, and I miss you every day...just some days, more than most.
Love and hugs,