“I’m mad that I didn’t stay longer after Grandma’s funeral. I wanted to sit on her porch and lay in her bed. I just needed to say good-bye to her and her home,” I confessed to a friend.
“Would sitting on her porch have changed anything?”
I know it wouldn’t bring her back. I know it wouldn’t stop my grief. I think maybe it was more of a control thing. Nothing was in my control but if I could do these things that I wanted….there would be some control of the situation.
Friday night all the girl cousins got together. These are my mom’s cousins. My cousin Tori and I are the seconds of the group, i.e. our mom’s are cousins. It was a great time with lots of margarita’s and funny stories. I kept looking at everyone and marveling once again how the Sanchez ladies look so much like their parents and the Tafoya women looked like theirs and so on. And then there is Tori and I who look like we could be sisters. What was that show about identical cousins? We aren’t quite identical but we are pretty darn close. She’s beautiful of course. 😉
The Balloon Fiesta was spectacular! We got up at 5 a.m. and headed out to the balloon park. Once there we met up with Caren’s family. There were only 4 or 5 balloons that were “up” at the time. By that I mean, their baskets were on the ground but their balloon was filled. The announcer would do a count down and then all the balloons would breathe fire and light up together. It was so cool! The kids ran from balloon to balloon to get the trading cards for each one. When a balloon would lift off we would all cheer. We ran in between colorful orbs of silk that were in the process of being blown up.
As the sun gave light to day, the shape balloons started to appear. There were the Bees which are an annual favorite. They are two separate balloons but they take off together, appearing to be holding hands. There were new ones this year too. Darth Vader, Elvis, Spyder Pig. So many fun shapes! The kids loved it. The adults were impressed as well. All vowed that we would make it an annual event.
We all went to breakfast, my family and Caren’s. My mother, sister, aunt and my brother’s family all met us there as well. We had the best breakfast! Green chile on everything! Half way through, my Grandma’s sister, Helen, arrived. Bug kept eyeing her. He later told me that at first he thought it was Grandma and that she wasn’t dead after all. He has met her before but was too young to remember. He was so happy to know her now.
“I had no idea about Aunt Helen!” he kept telling me.
Buddy remembered her and gave her a big hug. They held each other for a while. When Helen left Buddy asked if we would see her again this trip.
“We will Bud. We’ll have dinner at her house tonight.”
“Yea!” He cheered and clapped his hands. Yes, it seems Helen will be filling a gap for these boys.
After breakfast a group of us went to the mausoleum to see Grandma’s resting place. Ironically enough, both sets of Caren’s grandparents are resting in the same cemetery. Our grandparents are neighbors!
Once there we all went inside. I had been there once before. The year after my paternal grandmother had passed I was visiting Grandma and she and I went to her gravesite together. (My Grandma’s parents are buried just a few rows up from my Dad’s mom.) After my visit there Grandma wanted to take me to her place. We went in the mausoleum and she showed me the…box? Window? where she would eventually rest. At the time it was lovely and sort of reassuring. This visit was…just different. I really don’t know how else to describe it. When I saw the little brass box that her ashes are kept in I was taken with how small it was. Once we are consumed by fire our mass becomes drastically small. I always called her Little Grandma and looking at that box I kept thinking of just how little she is. Caren went to find her grandparents plots and I sat for a while “with” Grandma and my Aunt. She rest her head on my shoulder and we both cried a few silent tears. We went into the sanctuary afterward and waited a bit for Caren. While we did my niece grabbed a hymnal and sang songs to her daddy. It was like a little angel was there to sing. I know Grandma loved it. She has a very pretty voice.
As we loaded up to leave I told the family that I planned to go by Grandma’s house next.
“Someone else lives there now,” my brother said as he put his arms around me.
“I know,” I explained….again… “I just want to sit on her porch.” I don’t know why this seems like such an odd request to everyone. Geez.
Mom and Sissy were going to visit mom’s sister Gayle. She’s mentally handicapped and lives in a home with other ladies like her and with care takers. So it was just Caren and I. We sat in the car for a bit while everyone else pulled out.
“I know we don’t talk about it much, but it really is amazing how much we have in common,” Caren observed.
“It was divinely arranged for us to be neighbors.”
“Now that everyone is gone, do you want to go back in to have time alone with Grandma?” she asked.
“Nah. I think I’m good.”
We headed to Grandma’s house. I gave Caren directions and soon we pulled up to the front of her house. There was a big red truck in her driveway. Grandma’s next door neighbor, Mr. Milianico, pulled out just as we arrived. His wife died within weeks of Grandma’s passing.
“Want to go knock or do you want to go see one of her neighbors first? Maybe get a feel for who lives there,” Caren asked.
“Yeah, that sounds good. I want to see the Bruner’s anyway.”
We crossed the street to the turquoise home of the Bruner’s. I was in one of their daughters weddings when I was four years old. Mr. Bruner was out.
“Mr. Bruner! It’s Michal!” I called to him.
“Yes! How are you?” he said as we embraced.
I introduced Caren and told him of my little mission.
“Oh they are really nice couple. Young. He’s in college and she works two jobs. They come over to see us when they see us outside.”
“That’s nice. How is Mrs. Bruner?” The small talk continued as we caught up. We wrapped up our conversation and Caren and I crossed the street again.
“Do you want me to go to the door with you?” she asked.
We knocked. We rang the doorbell. It seemed no one was home. I stood with Caren on the porch.
“When my grandparents first moved in here, there was nothing between their home and the mountains. My mom said the mountains looked so close that she would try to run to them.”
Now there are miles of subdivisions and shopping centers between Grandma’s house and the mountains.
“She grew violets in the front bed here. When we would sit on the porch she would stick the hose in the bed and water them. My brother and I would catch the snails that hid under the violets. Buddy and Bug would do the same thing when they’d visit.”
I sat down on the front step.
“I’m chilly,” Caren said. “I’m going to wait in the car and give you some time alone.”
I sat there thumbing through various memories. The sun was shining on her lawn. I remembered a few years ago laying in that very spot. I laid on my back and Buddy and Bug laid on either side of me, our heads together, and we looked at cloud shapes. Grandma got a wild hair and decided to call up the neighbors to come over for Dilly Bars on the front lawn. Soon everyone was there. They set up their lawn chairs and we all sat eating ice cream and catching up.
I looked back up at Grandma’s door. Same door. No one behind it. Not even the new owners.
Maybe my friend is right. Maybe this won’t change anything. I don’t feel better. I don’t feel closure. I don’t even feel sad. I’m just sitting by myself on the porch of the place she used to live.
I looked again at Grandma’s door. Just to the right were the black numbers of her address on the stucco wall. I got an idea. I headed back to the car and got my phone out and then returned to the house. I switched my phone to camera and took a picture of Grandma’s address. How many letters had I addressed to that number? How many times had I driven up to that house? For whatever reason, as soon as I snapped the picture I started to bawl. I stepped back into the yard and just sobbed. I stood in front of the den windows. It was in that den that I prayed to marry Man. I climbed that tree in the yard. Bug sat on those boulders in the front yard on the day of Grandma’s funeral, thinking, taking time to himself. I stayed here with my brother when our sister was being born. We filled two Folger Coffee cans with snails and tried to sell them. I cried knowing that she was not living behind those walls anymore.
As we pulled away my mom and sister pulled up.
“I got great pictures of Gayle!” Mom called through her window.
“See,” Caren said as we drove on. “You weren’t the only one who wanted to see Grandma’s house.”
The rest of the day was spent with family. We had dinner at Aunt Helen’s. When we left she gave me a big hug.
“Call me sometimes, OK?” she said.
The next day we headed home. The boys quietly watched movies the whole way home. Man quietly drove and I passed the time listening to my iPod. I was antsy. My teeth hurt from clenching them. My cheeks were sore from biting them. I tried to sit straight, I tried to curl up, I stretched my legs on the dash, I was barefoot, I tried shoes. Nothing was good. Nothing was right. I told Man I was frustrated, uncomfortable in my body, in my head.
“I just wish you could enjoy SOMETHING,” he said. “I wish something would make you happy.”