Somehow, as a writer, my skill is supposed to come in handy on days like this.
Days when I’ve had these disparate experiences that impacted me and somehow, I should know what it all means. Or have, I guess, a way to write them all together and distill a truth.
My grandfather’s not expected to recover now and is just resting comfortably under my dad and aunt’s watchful eyes. He could, of course, get better, but it would not possibly be for anything that could be considered long-term. He is on the soft and sunny side of this long hill we’re all crawling ourselves up and I have this vision that he’s walking, steadily and surely, down into this valley where my grandmother and uncle are waiting. It’s comforting to me when I feel so useless. Again, I have expectations for myself…how grief should look, how love should express itself, how I should be in this moment when my being is in no way part of the equation. When there is no word I could say, no magical phrase that would make my grandfather as I see him in memory: solid, sharp, clever, sitting in the chair next to me watching Megadeth up at the farm because both of us were trying to be kind to the other, both of us weirded out by the idea that the other wanted to watch that. I feel his hand on my shoulder. Those hugs. The way he would insist on washing the dishes after every single meal. The way my grandmother would say Sammy’s so good to me. Ever so good. The way my dad would call up there and start with “Hello Pop!” The noises of his life. The quiet. The little asides. The steady love he gave everyone. The farm that was his domain. I feel all of it and it stays and goes.
This was happening today and I felt guilty, somehow, for this invitation to a dinner theatre matinee. Tickets that would be gone to waste if we didn’t use them. So I found myself sitting across the table from an elderly couple, not so unlike my grandparents at all. Sharp in their minds, but ever gentle to one another. And I making small talk and not knowing what to say – not being able to say that some part of it was my thoughts were elsewhere, another part that I was being rusty and out of practice with faking my way through those kinds of encounters. Eventually, after the free meal that was excellent but entirely filled with calories I did not count regardless of whether I should, this rapid-fire, insanely creative production of Peter and the Starcatcher spilled out in front of my eyes.
The setting reminded of my story – 1885 British Empire on the seas, yet supernatural, players playing a hundred parts and at the center, a female hero the equal of Peter Pan. Peter Pan’s heart and his light and his mother, his maker. That, perhaps, was in the end why they had to be parted. He wasn’t ready to grow up. He needed and deserved that time to be innocent after what he had endured, to be childish, free of pain. She knew that being a woman meant the essence of that great Cheryl Strayed quote, being brave enough to break your own heart. She had to give him up.
That was really where my interest lied – the campiness, the creativity in making the whole thing work on a stage, the side stories…they all had charm. But for me, of late, I care about the romance. Even the romances that hurt.
From there, I flew down to the old stomping grounds and sat in my mentor’s living room for 30 minutes. She had a fire going and her cat came up and approved of me. Suddenly, it was easy to talk about everything. The struggle, such as it is, knowing I would be met with genuine empathy. She suggested I could work for her if it would help in the summer. That it would help her. Weekends, retail, it doesn’t pay any more than a usual retail job. I had thought, laughingly, that I could make something like that happen part-time. That it would give me time to think. To process. I told her, possibly too earnestly, that I would think about it sincerely. We hugged. Her husband popped in. It was nice to feel human, to spill the guts and not worry that the guts would be used against me.
30 minutes past and up I flew again to this Mexican restaurant to say goodbye to a dear friend who was intended to leave for Georgia this past October but the house didn’t sell until now and now she’s moving, homelessly to Savannah. So the old gang was nearly all there. It was lovely, for the most part, toxic for the rest. The changes have rocked everyone. Nobody’s happy, everything is broken when it comes to the thing that united us. There was a lot of venting and lately, our get togethers center around the brokenness. It is hard not to feel like my leaving was pulling that first precarious piece out of the Jenga tower. The nostalgia at once powerful and instantly corroded as soon as it breathed the free air. But it had to be. I had to choose what I chose. I had to be here now and you there now and time had to pass for my grandfather regardless of my regrets of how I spent it.
It couldn’t have been any way other than the way it was. The day, my choice, and everything.