All of these events occurred in my head. Some of them occurred in real life as well.

Monday, April 1, 2013

san diego: on my grandmother (part I)

It hailed on the evening of Friday, February Eighth and I remember it well because hail is uncommon in San Diego and because my parents were visiting me from Kansas and because the next morning would be the first time I would hear that my grandfather had decided that after sixty three years of marriage he would no longer be sleeping with my grandmother. 

My grandmother is a wonderful woman who has succumbed to the inevitable progression of Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, and acute dementia and they have collectively transformed her body into an unimpressive souvenir from a superlatively impressive life.

I can say without reservation that Saturday, February Ninth was one of the most beautiful February days I have ever experienced and it went tragically underappreciated.

It was more than a week later that I found myself staring out at the Pacific ocean and I love to stare at the bright, blue water under a warm California sun that turns the sand to gold and the few, stray clouds to brilliant white but there are other times when the light is flat and the air is cold and the water colder and the waves may still be capped in white but everything else is drab and colorless and it is these times when I truly love the ocean. Bright colors and warm winds are lovely but far from subtle and never passive and I want to be enchanted with understatement and I want to be lost in surprising and unidentifiable beauty and I want to characterize it according to the idiosyncrasy of my moment. If all unhappy families can be unhappy in different ways then all colorless oceans can be uniquely colorless and surely they can never stay the same after you look away.

And I think about those two days and I think about why I would connect them in my mind and I think about storms and hail and sun and oceans and I think about the cool February winds that have surrounded me and I think about my Grandmother and about the woman she was and the woman she is and I cannot say there is any reasonable common thread between these things except that life is hard and it is changing and there are times when it is abundantly clear what you should think and there are other times when you cannot be so sure. My Grandmother was bereft of tact and she was harsh and she was critical and she was as smart as anyone I knew and she was a victim of her time because she might have been president if she had been born later and wasn’t so unashamedly forthcoming with her opinions. My Grandmother’s personality has never been subtle but her love always has been and that is not to say that it was a gentle love because it was a fierce and protective and insatiable love and it has never wanted less than perfection and it has never demanded any less.

I may be confusing my tenses because it has been a long time since I have felt that characteristic love of hers and I am not sure if it still exists or if it faded into the suffocating haze along with her cognitive ability. I want to believe that some expression of it will always remain to surveil and correct, to criticize and admonish, and to protect and console me with its terrifying loyalty but I’m not sure that is true. Maybe this is why I think of my Grandmother when I stare at the ocean, because I can contemplate the undulating shades of grey for a lifetime and they will never tell me what to think and I can just as easily meditate over the blessing that has been my Grandmother and the torture that has been her tragic descent and no answers will ever present themselves and for some reason it was meant to be this way.


  1. Thank you for sharing your heart here, for sharing her. Even never having felt it, reading about such profound love enriches my life, and I'm sure the lives of many others.

    You have suffered such a tremendous loss and no words of mine can change that, but please know that I am with you in spirit and that your courage and words of honesty and love MATTER.

  2. Andy-- I might of cried uncontrollably reading this because it is so indescribably shocking and sad, but I hope you and your family find peace through this difficult time. I know your Grandmother is reading this and proud to call you her grandson. Your words were beautiful and deep, which instantly made me fall in love with her not having met her. I don't think she would want you to sit around and be sad and cry...continue to speak beautifully about her, reflect on all the memories you were blessed to share with her but above all, remember her how she would have wished to be remembered..." The darkest night is often the bridge to the brightest tomorrow"