Monday, June 20, 2016

Questions Unasked

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I think my plan of “fewer posts yet higher quality” may be backfiring. This was to reduce stress, manage guilt, and eliminate boring navel-gazing dribble, all while increasing donations and entertaining the masses.

My usual lack of time combined with very flexible deadlines is not a working combination. This might become the summer of fewer posts of higher quality.

I have a few pages of loosely fleshed out ideas. Many seemed promising, even beautiful, in my head. But they kept turning a bit too dark, or a bit too private or a bit too something else. One should write like their parents are dead. But I have far too many “parents” and far too little courage.

Still, I cleaned my room and ironed a few shirts last night so the very last of the excuses are gone. Here is one shot from the hip.

The plane landed and I texted my arrival. Unfortunately, though my brief appearance had been planned for months, my grandmother’s social calendar was tight. I would have to wait. She was, though she wouldn’t use the term, on a date.

Howard was introducing her to his daughter over lunch. It seems to me like a big move. She protested all such talk when my aunt teased her about it. Though when the two of us were alone she talked about him, their lunch, and his apartment and then deftly segued away by asking, “Are you dating anyone?”

I know what Howard sees in her. She is witheringly smart, outgoing, and charming. And she has the most beautiful hair.

My grandfather was named Howard too. As my uncle pointed out, she won’t even need to change the towels. It is all rather funny, and wonderful.

What is dating like at 93? Much like it ever is, I suppose.

We sat in her apartment and talked. I’m not sure for how long, but we covered all the important bits, solved all the world’s problems, as we say. It made me think of – and I’m embarrassed to say – the little hobbits, sitting in their small rooms, talking of little things while the wide world, full of big and important players, turns.

The parting came, and it was abrupt and quick and full of real life and there was only a small moment to pause in the doorway. But in that moment I saw and felt all the memories of her and my grandfather, the places, the smells, the little dogwood tree in front of Summit Drive. And I knew this could be my last visit. And I knew no words for such a thing. And there were so many things left unsaid and so many questions left unasked anyway. And then we were out and the rush of time came strongly.

Later, while sitting in my overly warm hotel room in Columbus, I thought of some of the questions I wanted to ask my grandmother. When my uncle died three years ago I regretted that I didn’t ask him what it was like to live in the shadow of death. I spent a beautiful day with him and my Aunt towards the end. At one point we all discussed my Aunts future plans for herself after he died. What must that have been like? Yes, we can all die at anytime, but what is it like to see with eyes of immediate surety? I suppose I have the same question for my grandmother though at a different scale. For while she may have years still to go, no time is promised. Does she still see death in the same way as she did when she was 80, 70, 60?

I’m not afraid to die.
Sometimes it finds me fast asleep,
And wakes me where I lie,
I’m not afraid to die.
-Gillian Welch

Less, morbidly, though perhaps more terrifying, I would love to know what letting go of control is like. One lives their entire adult life independently, supporting themselves, supporting others. How do you transition to accepting help? How do you transition to being dependent? How do you do that graciously? How do you do that at all?

But I didn’t ask.

If you love someone that is a senior, or plan on being a senior in the future, please donate in his or her honor today to H.O.M.E.(Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly)! H.O.M.E. provides safe, comfortable, and affordable housing for low-income seniors in Chicago. Many of their residents would have no other options. Additionally, H.O.M.E. provides vital repairs and other services to keep seniors safely independent in their own homes longer! The more seniors I meet the more I want to support H.O.M.E. I had no clue how limited the housing options are for some of our most vulnerable citizens.

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