Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Paradise Found

It's been a little while since I've written, really written. I've done small posts. I managed to get out one poem. I finished some old posts that I had started, but I haven't been able to sit down and face my computer enough to really write a new one out. It occurred to me that I needed to get this one out of my system before I could move on to other things.


"For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered? Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance." 
- Kahlil Gibran

The day I dreaded all my life, that day came last month. The one person that meant more to me than anything and everything, all added up and combined, is gone. She was the one and only person I've ever blended with so completely, so fully. I wasn't the fire to her water, and she wasn't the yin to my yang - it was more than that. We didn't balance each other out because we didn't need to balance - we were balance. We flowed and melded like one person. When she was water, I was water, and when I was fire, she was fire. It required no effort, no work or practice. It just was. We just were. 

I think that thought hurts the most. This person who I shared a perfect balance with, my grandmother, is gone. 
Christmas, 2008. Striking a pose with gram.

My grandmother came from a large family with so many brothers and sisters I can't even keep track of them. She was the best cook in the family, the best gardener, the best sower and seamstress. She was the best at rocking me to sleep and making me well. She was, in every way possible, the best gramma.

She was smart. Silly and smart. Meloi - mine and my mother's combined nickname - that she accidentally gave us, long before the Brangelina's and Bennifer's of the world. She was always calling for both of us and somehow, over time, she blended the two names together. We never knew who she meant so we both answered. She was also crafty. When I wasn't hungry or I didn't want to try something she had cooked, she would say she had made that dish especially for me. This trick would get me every single time. How could I not eat what my favorite person in the whole world had made for me? It wasn't until I was in my early twenties that I finally caught on. And for almost being on this earth a century, she blended her old ways with the new ones very well. The first tattoo I ever got freaked my mother out to no end, but gramma, she loved it.

We were one in the same, and yet I just realized how alike we really were when I had to sort through her things. The quotes, the magazine cutouts of anything and everything that we thought was beautiful, that made us feel something. Coin collecting. Hot tea. Flowers in the kitchen. The color blue - her favorite color. So many things that made us who we were together, and now - now it's just me.

I waver between being completely and totally fine and a complete and total mess. The littlest things make me lose it. The pan she baked her famous chocolate cake in. The things should would write on the back of pictures. Her clothespin basket that we had to throw out because it was too old and stained and weary.  The star we put on the Christmas tree every year. Her matchstick holder. German pancakes in the giant cast iron pan. The chair in her bedroom that she'd put her sweaters and purses on at the end of the day.   The memories I've forgotten that have come flooding back to me, all by the smallest of small things.

She loved pearls, so every year for Christmas I would make it my mission to find her a new pearl necklace. It was my goal to find the most unusual ones that I could. There was one that looked like two peas in a pod, another was in the shape of an owl, and her favorite, a snowman.

Last week I was flipping through a magazine when a snowman pearl necklace appeared on the page below. It was different than the one I had already gotten her. This one was a Christmas snowman, with a black top hat and a red, jeweled scarf that curled around the pearls. Seeing it threw me for a loop. What do I do with this? Do I order it? Because I would have, I most certainly would have. But then what? Do I keep it in a box with the other ones? She would never have even worn it. It wouldn't make sense to keep it with them.  Do I wear it for her? No, no. I couldn't. That would be too hard. But how do I not order it? How do I leave it there, in the pages of the magazine, without doing the thing I would have done?

These questions played over, and over, and over - while I cried, and cried, and cried - at this tiny little thing that I would no longer be able to do for her.

When I was little, before I even knew what death was, I knew that if it took her I would lose her forever, and that was something I dreaded. I would leave her house crying, often, as just a toddler, just a teenager, just a young girl who couldn't bear one day without her grandmother. One time my grandparents went on vacation without us to Arkansas to visit the rest of the family. We were always, always together and not having her with me was killing me and my little 7 year old self. It wasn't that she was on vacation and I wasn't, or that she was with my cousins instead of me. It was that she wasn't with me and I wasn't with her. I didn't care how or when or why, I just didn't want to be apart from her. The thought of never seeing her again, of losing her completely, was too much for me.

I never actually stopped feeling that way. It's always been there. My whole life I feel like I've been preparing myself for that moment. I imagined every possible scenario and in all of them it was so incredibly unbearable that I was certain I would either die too, or at least pass out for a good long time. It was surprising to me that neither one happened. That I was the strong one who ended up making the decisions and pulling my mom through. In fact, of the millions of ways I've dreaded and daydreamed this, nothing happened like I imagined. I'm still surprised, still waiting to fall apart so completely that no one can put me back together. I've just started believing that that won't happen after all.

I feel calm, but hollow. Alone, yet embraced. Bad that I can laugh when I feel like I should just want to cry all the time. Happy that she knew this about me - that she knew I would be a complete and total mess and somehow, somehow she made it so I wouldn't be. I feel capable and confident that since she was with me in all things while she was alive, she will be with me in all things now. 

Still, there are moments where I doubt myself.  It's funny how you know things when people are alive, but when they die you question everything. Like did she know just how much I loved her? Even though I told her every day, all my life, did she really know? Yet, how much she loved me - this I can see so clearly. I always knew, always, but it's everywhere, all around me, all around her house with her pictures and little journalings and my school papers that she saved. She saved everything, everything I've ever done. Even the tags from Christmas presents I have given her over the years have been saved. Every little "I love you, Gramma" item was safely put away as a treasured keepsake.  I think I became used to this, to her keeping all of these things around her house, but seeing it all, seeing it so clearly for the first time without actually being able to say the words to her anymore, that is the piece which hurts the most. 

I've kept myself busy mostly until now, when I've run out of steam.  When it was time for me to come home from her house I went on vacation far, far away where I temporarily forgot about everything. Except of course that I didn't, not entirely. I just pushed it away for a while. And while I was back home I kept myself busy, day and night. I cleaned my gramma's entire house, top to bottom, in three days. I went through every file, looked at every picture, opened every drawer. 

Towards the end of my cleaning spree something kind of magical happened. I was cleaning up the guest room and saw a box under the bed. Due to my enormous terror of spiders lurking pretty much everywhere, I had my mom grab it and pull it out. I went about my business cleaning until my mom walked back in holding a sign.

A sign that I had wanted for years now, but had never bought.

A sign that I had long ago circled in a magazine that I must have left at her house.

A sign my grandmother had secretly purchased and hid, from me and herself even, forgotten under the bed.

A sign that said, "Paradise Found."

I always knew she would be there for me during this, when I would ironically need her here with me the most. That she would somehow let me know that everything was going to be alright after this happened. And here it is, my sign. In more than one way. A message that says she is right where she is supposed to be and that she is always thinking of me, always with me.

I couldn't have asked for anything better.

"Loved you then, love you still. Always have, always will."

I love you, gramma.

Thank you to all my friends and family who have been here for me and my mom during this time. Everything you've done, every phone call and letter and card and thought, has been appreciated. We love you all.

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I Love You, Loved You, Always Will
I Remember You
The Story of My Father and the Greatest Gift he Gave Me


Susan H said...

What a beautiful ending to your story, and a lovely reminder from your grandma, that all things are and will be fine. You'll always see it and know the message is specifically for you.

Chantelle Says said...

Thank you, Susan! I feel that way too, that I'll always have it and can remember this.

Anonymous said...

You know Melia, in this past year while we have been reconnecting, i just realized how much you inspire. I went through all your photos on facebook and it inspired me to write and be HAPPY. Truly happy, not lonesome in any way. I am so grateful for that because it is hard to find inspiration and happiness in this life. so thank you. I also make sure to wear a piece of your jewelry from me every day. I love being reminded of you and thinking of you. You have just taken your gramma's place, and i think she knew that you would. YOu make me feel special like she made you feel special so thankyou. BTW i remember german pancakes!!!!!! i need that recipe!
Love, Lyd.

Chantelle Says said...

I love you, Lyd. That was really sweet and beautiful, and I feel so special that you always wear something and think of me. I wear the necklace you made me a lot, and I wore it the day gramma passed because I had this feeling like I would need something to hold on to that was special, and that's what your necklace was for me. So thank you!

Pancake recipe has been sent. Check FB my dear. :)