Thursday, April 2

family pieces

last month, there was a funeral.

it was the first of my grandparents' funerals that I've been able to actually attend.

I worried for a minute about the cost, the time, how I'd find a substitute for my undergraduates. and after that I worried a little about the risks of traveling by air during what has now become a rather more alarming global pandemic.

but being there last month felt more and more important than any of those worries. I'm glad they didn't stop me.

in the week leading up to this family gathering, my aunts and uncles asked us to write down some of our memories. mine are flickery at first, like an old-school slide projector. the more recent ones are smoother.

my very earliest memories of Grandma and her home and that whole side of the family are of the basement with seemingly endless bedrooms. every corner of that basement was made up to welcome a whole bundle of little grandkids. there was room for all of us, it seemed like. I remember so many bookshelves and books. under the stairs, along the hallways-- books everywhere. on my own bookshelves now I have a book that I must have "borrowed" from Grandma at some point. The Best Known Works of William Shakespeare--pages of Elizabethan drama in double columned layout, in a tattery black cover. I devoured most those plays as a teenager. how grateful and lucky we were to have grandparents that lived right down the street from the Utah Shakespeare Festival.

I remember tagging along with Grandma to a summer writing group on the SUU campus at some point between college semesters. I was trying to write some good short stories. Grandma worked on poems and song lyrics and things. it felt like such an honor to be included in that.

we talked about family history, too. before I went off to study abroad in England in 2003, Grandma gave me a folder of family trees and other history, so I would know what names to look for if I had a chance to explore the areas our family came from. even though I never did make it to any cemeteries or archives or genealogy centers in Kent, I loved having those stories and names anyway-- hints at memories and lives that predate me and everyone I know.

last summer Jeremiah and I were able to visit and spend two or three days with Grandma, playing cards just like always, doing puzzles, singing a few songs, sitting out on the porch in the mornings and late afternoons. she was as welcoming and lovely and serene as ever, though the house was so much quieter and calmer than it was when we are all little grandkids. I'm going to miss those visits. the house.

the idea of Grandma not being there at all in more-- all her things boxed up to be given away, all the space so empty and different-- it's still a little unreal.

 { 1928–2020 }
just a few months ago, I wrote Grandma a postcard from Prescott, Arizona. I was out there for a job interview (for a job I was later offered, and accepted). I hope it put a smile on her face when it arrived.

I wish I'd called to share the news about the job-- it meant we'd be moving 16 hours closer! we could've reveled in that prospect, enjoyed the happy thought of seeing her more often. but in between the job offer in mid-February and my official acceptance at the end of the month, she passed on.

as empty as her absence leaves us, there's still plenty of family in sunny southern Utah. it'll still only be a six hour drive from where we're moving this summer. there will still be reunions. and family will always include Grandma.


Janeheiress said...

I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother! But you're moving to Arizona?! Exciting!

Amelia Chesley said...

yes-- probably moving at the end of May or so. I'm glad to be moving west again. hopefully the world doesn't completely unravel before we can get settled out there.