Wednesday, August 17

How I'm Grieving

This morning, just after Good Morning America, I pulled on a black dress and grabbed my keys. I could just stay in the bed, gobbling up all the Bachelor in Paradise Hulu has to offer, but I knew that would eventually exhaust itself and I needed a backup plan.

I found myself wandering around Ingle's, mindlessly filling up my little trolley.  Unpacking my grocery sacks gave me the only real laugh I've had in days.  10 am and I was staring down the barrel of bottomless mimosas and an entire Boston cream cake.  Thank God I haven't lost my appetite (sigh....).

Isn't it strange how people grieve?

I guess I've really been grieving for a long time.  Alzheimer's is a nasty motherfucker and it always gets its way, eventually.  In my grandmother's case, it's been years.

I spent time with her a month ago.  She wasn't well, but she knew me.  She'd lost her memories and her mobility but, as always, she was charming and funny. Her nurse wanted her to wear a heart rate monitor, but she was having none of it. She didn't understand what it was for, and kept taking it off.  Finally, the nurse placed it on her middle finger and taped it in place.  And, in true Ellen Hurdt fashion, frustrated and hilariously stripped of impulse control, she proudly stuck her, then, bulbous middle finger right into the nurse's face.

When I was growing up, Nanny would never have thought to do something so vulgar.  She was a regular subscriber to Miss Manners.  That's not to say, though, that she wasn't unconventional.

Once, around 7 or 8 years old, I sat in her kitchen painting my nails with that (since discontinued) weird, clear-pink Sally Hansen polish she always kept.  My little brother wandered in and wanted shiny digits, too, but I told him that boys can't paint their nails. Nanny swiftly corrected me and said that there was nothing I could do that he couldn't and vice versa.  She sat him down at her big, oak dining table and gave him the manicure he desired. (Sorry, David, I had to share!)

She'd been widowed in 1986, but I never saw that as a limitation to her.  If it was, she kept it to herself.  She went to weekly jazzercize classes and didn't eat meat.  She went to every single little league ball game and, between my brother's plays, gossiped with the other women on the side line. She, along with my mother, took us on summer vacations every year.  A picture of us at Gettysburg sits on my desk at work, a mason jar full of seashells on my bathroom counter.

Nanny never let me feel anything other than empowered.  that was the unique and beautiful thing about our relationship.  We fueled each other.  This was a woman who never owned a computer or a smart phone, though books she had en masse. When I was 21 years old, she helped me plan my epic move to Australia via Encyclopedias, globes and a land line.

I remember poring over her black and white World Books from the 1960s, just after construction began on the Sydney Opera House, and telling her I'd climb it for her.  We read National Geographic Magazine articles about the Great Barrier Reef and I told her I'd dive it.

She bought my plane tickets.  And I did all those things we dreamed about.

Tomorrow night a rare lunar eclipse occurs, taking place in the constellation of Aquarius.  It signals a paradigm shift.  It's when she's expected to depart this world and it's the astrological sign that marks my birth.  I don't believe that to believe that to be a coincidence any more than I believe in leprechauns.

It took an extraordinary amount of time for me to get here.  Accepting that she's taught me everything she can, and now it's time for me to let her go.  Knowing her, and in turn, losing her, was DNA changing.  But I'm extraordinary for it.

Monday, June 8

Calico, Ellen

'It may not kill me, but it's sure gonna hurt...' The vinyl cracked and popped as Dolly Parton made heartbreak sound so sweet.  Ellen set aside the basket of newly shorn wool, stepping into the house to turn the LP.  She wiped her brow, appreciative of the gorgeous breeze on the veranda that day.  

There was always money, thanks to that wool, the (albeit) skinny cattle and the fact that she'd never been a frivolous woman.  She'd worn holes in the toes of her shoes and her blouse had seen enough washings that its printed pink flowers were now almost white. 

Thursday, May 28

Calico, Denny

Photo courtesy of Mike Workman

Denny's old man was a truckie.  Road trains, long hauls.  It wasn't that he didn't want to teach him about footy and lift some of the load off his back.  It was just those long hours, weeks even, and his nearly crippled body, spent pent up in the cabin of an American-imported Peterbilt. 

Monday, May 25

Calico, Holly

I painted my fingernails something called 'Dive In'.  It was a $2 bottle from the servo, likely be chipping by the time I managed to wash off my smeared mascara.  But, wiggling my fingers out in front of me, I liked it, nonetheless.  Reminded me of trips up north, Palm Cove and the like.  Good memories there.  Beaches netted to keep out the stingers, I stuck mostly to the sun-scorched, white sand and shade of the giant swaying palms.  When the wind blew just right, the smell of the Coral Sea was perfectly blended with the molasses-tinged smoke wafting out from the burning plains of sugar cane. 

Friday, April 17


She woke at first light, put on Glen Campbell, made her coffee strong and drank it black.  Wichita Lineman wafted out the open windows, mingling with the sounds of waking birds.  She liked this time of day best, the ambiguity it afforded.  The cool calm of the morning, fog shrouding the treetops.  Dew drops created patterns on the Adirondack, those glistening spider's webs draped across the shrubs.    

She may as well have been anywhere. This time of day it felt the same.  The slight prickle on the skin, something to do with newness, the world yet unawakened, a fresh start.  The only part of the day she felt at ease, a shame it passed with such quickness.  
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