Thursday, February 19, 2004

Part 2- The little green house

My grandparents have a little green house. I remembered when I would visit when I was young it seemed so big, now it looked like a small-scale model of the big green house that I remember.
Everything seemed miniature; even the big oak trees out front didn’t seem like the giants that they were when I was a child. Everything had an aged look to it as it is with many cities in Michigan. After the majority of the factories moved overseas the cities were left to fall apart with poverty and the pollution left behind. The cities that are left there are ghosts, shadows of the magnificent cities they once were.
My Grandfather worked at a factory making springs for some 50 years. Now his oldest son Jack Jr and his son: my cousin Jack III worked there. My Grandfather was making less than $10 an hour when he retired.
Somehow my Grandparents raised six children in this tiny little house, but now it seemed too small for the four adults who were trying to stay there that night.
My Uncle (My fathers youngest brother) was in the back bedroom, my father on the couch and that left me with staying in my grandmother’s room with her. It seemed kind of strange to me that I would be sleeping with my Grandmother on the side of the bed my Grandfather had inhabited for some 52 years. But I figured if it was all right with her, then it was fine by me.
As we changed the sheets on the bed she joked about how my grandfather was stinky so I didn’t want to sleep on that. I started to think about how strange it was that he would probably never sleep in this bed again and as soon as we changed the sheets his smell will be gone from the bed. How easily we are washed away.

It was a sleepless night. My Grandmother and I mostly just talked and caught up. I really love this woman and I don’t get back home often enough. I really cherish the times I have spent with her.
She is as feisty as any twenty something and she isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She loves her children and grand children and great grandchildren with the ferocity of a mother bear protecting her cubs. She ha s a huge heart and tries to do right by everyone, but after living with my hard headed Grandfather for 52 years she learned a thing or two about making sure she isn’t anyone’s door mat. She knows how to live her life and that is what has kept her so young.

I could hear the fear in her voice. She was talking about how strange it will be without him around any more. We went over the past slowly and methodically, every story we would relive to a point where I could almost smell the air and taste the Thanksgiving dinners again.
She talked about her friends who had lost their husbands in the years earlier and how they handled it. We joked about how after all these years she will actually be able to know what it is like to hold the remote control.
We talked about the day he had the stroke, and even though it was the day before she told it like it happened years ago, with a distance to her face and voice, as if she could not quite live those memories yet as vividly as she could live the memories from days long past.

Sometime around 3AM she went to sleep, we were up by 6AM to go back to the hospital. As I got out of bed to go get ready my grandmother was sitting at the table staring blankly. She had been crying.
When I looked to see what she was staring at I saw why she was crying. She had made two cups of coffee like she had every morning for 52 years. It didn’t even occur to her that she only needed one today until after she had made them.



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