When I was not working, when I was working as a contractor, I paid more attention to the calendar date each day. Maybe I had the time on my hands, maybe it was that weekdays and weekends were scarcely different to one another and I needed some way of marking each tick of the calendar.
Now that life is far more regimented, professionally, I take weekends very seriously as time where I’m not working. I have work to mark the passage of a week, Monday-starts and Friday-stops, so I suppose the numbers on the calendar that slides down from underneath the Mac OS X menu bar are no longer on any critical path in my mind.
It was this morning, looking at the grid of day-numbers in the calendar that I realized that yesterday, Sunday, was the date on which my Grandmother, Mary, died.
I have written before about my mother, Marie. I have also written of her mother, Mary and even Mary’s mother, Tekla: the Three Graces, I call them somewhat tongue-in-cheek but more ethereally, I’m quite genuine about the name. Three women very different to one another, even in appearance, especially in demeanor. All loving, caring, giving women. All strong women. All three adding to the world rather than subtracting from it any apportioned notion of their fair share.
Mary died on May 22, 1970. Thirty-five years ago. It was still cold outside, that much I remember. I was six years old and there had just been an ice storm.
Where is my mom?
It was odd that my mother was not around. Standing on the front porch of my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s house (they occupied both sides of a side by side duplex), the neighbor girl, Cynthia, told me, “Mary is dead.”
Where is my mom?
“I don’t believe you!” I told her. Or maybe it was, “You’re lying!” That was probably it, because I knew Cynthia was given to lying, and I wasn’t about to believe something like that without my own mother having said it. At least that’s what I told myself. There was that nagging feeling that the world was a little off its usual path, that the world around me was wobbling in some strange way.
It was only a few minutes later that my Aunt Toots—Julia was her name, but everyone called her “Toots”—came driving up in her outsized 1965 Pontiac Bonneville covertible which had been layered with ice from the recent storm. It was difficult to see much, but I did see my mother in the passenger seat, her nose red from obvious crying.
Where is Ma? (“Ma” is what we all called my grandmother)
I knew it was true. I didn’t really know, of course, not yet, but I knew.
I was frozen as the ground, as if motion might smash the bubble around what was left of a world where my grandmother was still alive, still here.
“I told you Mary was dead!” Cynthia said again.
Thirty-five years later, all I can think is, “God, what a bitch Cynthia was.
It’s a profundity not without merits. Then again, thirty-fives years is a blip and nothing more. Then again, thirty-five years is 90% of my lifetime. Then and again, thirty-five years ago was a different world.
I thought about what parts of my job as a Software Architect at Apple Computer would make any amount of sense on any level to her. How would I even find a reference to make her make sense of that kind of job? Would she recognize the Catholics of her day in the political faces of today’s Papists? Would she still cook with lard and bake all day every Saturday?
Would it take her very long to accept Sam as family? Would she be proud of what I’ve done and what I’ve become?
Thirty-five years is a long time in terms of objective progress. And thirty-five years is nothing next to being proud of and earning pride from Family.