My grandparents went like a Nicholas Sparks story.
My grandmother first: a surprise to us all.
My grandfather second: no surprise to anyone. He spent 58 years with his beloved, what promise could the earth hold for him?
I include my dog next (guiltily, because you’re not supposed to feel as bad for animals as you are for humans). Only two and a half and full of more love to give than I’d ever seen in a puppy – never happy unless he was curled around your body in some capacity. I’d always wanted that and I couldn’t decide if his disposition was an answer to prayer or if he just knew his life was going to be short. And he wanted to get it all out.
I wonder if I will remember this as the winter where everyone died but I wasn’t overcome with sadness.
There has been a magic to this year, to 30, and suddenly I can be sad without it overpowering me. Suddenly sadness isn’t my whole world. I can taste without being consumed. I can see more of the lay of the land.
There are places besides this, there are feelings besides this.
The last time someone died it was an uncle I barely knew. One of my step-father’s numerous brother-in-laws (Catholic) that I’d seen once a year for half my life but never noticed in the sea of people. I felt like a violation, then, his daughter was my age and she stayed at my parents house with her husband. I was intruding on their grief all week and also feeling lonely because they had each other and I never feel that way in a crisis. I always feel like I need to be okay just having myself and I still don’t know if that is the right way to feel.
The last time a dog died I panicked every time it became more apparent that his time was coming – for two straight years. When he fell down the stairs, when he stopped getting up from the floor when people knocked on the door, when he stopped making the big jump into bed to keep me company at night, I grieved all of these little deaths.
This time, I just grieved once. I don’t know if that is an improvement or if the world is making me cold.
I wonder if I will remember the cold this winter even though it was warmer than usual. The agony of warming up my car in -17 degrees – or that it waited until Christmas for the snow to stick.
I wonder why I am waiting around to see how I will feel in hindsight, as if that is The Marker that makes something real, the Hegelian eagle that will make a forthright and final decision about whether the winter was good, or whether it was bad.
I drove up to the big lake yesterday because I wanted to see freshwater instead of all that ice, ice, ice. There was the snowy shore and the waves and the steam of heat from something somehow not frozen. Everything all together like the way it is with this death in the middle of a very good year.
Maybe that will be the memory: the thawed sea and the icy earth and me, the steam in between, trying to decide what form I am going to take.