Walking through Anna’s neighborhood in Billings last week-end, she said, “Grandma, remember when we did our research project on the Allium Trillium?” That had to have been three or four years ago, when i would walk her and Duncan to and from McKinley Elementary School. I loved it in the spring time when we’d look at the blooming flowers along the way, and we all delighted in this giant purple flower, but didn’t know its name. After school, one lazy afternoon, we got on the internet together and found this flower’s name. We all drew pictures of it and colored it with markers and colored pencils. I’ve since seen them referred to as truffula trees in The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, which makes them even more enchanting, but we didn’t know that at the time.
When I spotted the flower on my run this morning, I was in the midst of thinking about grandparents, and about all the recent NYTimes op-eds by my age cohort, who are over the top enchanted to find themselves grandparents. Dominique Browning writes of herself, as a new grandmother: “a heart burnished with the patina of age, a heart that bears the traces of fractures, the patchwork or plaster lathed over bad breaks.” A line from another piece said that in becoming a grandparent, you “grow a new chamber in your heart.” That’s what it felt like when Anna said to me, “Grandma, remember when…”. A small little afternoon at their kitchen table, spring sunshine streaming across the table, studying the Allium Trillium together. Just a tiny memory she’s kept about me, but enough to make that new chamber of my heart skip a beat.
Norah, Cormac and Eamon, the California cousins, lost their first grandparent to death on Friday. We are all so sad for their Dad, for them, in losing Grandpa Ron. Unbeknownst to Mark, I’m certain that his children all have memories, only known to themselves, of a time spent together with Grandpa–maybe just a skiff of a moment they shared, when the sunshine was sparkling, or the stars were dazzling, and it was enchanting in the way only children know and understand. As a grandmother, I am certain that Grandpa Ron’s life was enlarged by having these three youngest grandchildren; and their lives will be enriched by having had him in their lives, in ways we cannot know.
Our stories lie down in the orchard,
their time is not now, but something is
coming, something is going away. They
rise to the stars, and wait to be told.
There are listeners who know how little
we know, how much we are feeling.
We had to go our own way, a little off course,
always, no matter how specific the directions
seemed at the time. In this universe if we’re lucky,
we will live in our children’s stories,
their tales that will turn us to legend,
some absurd truth that has nothing to do
with our plans, our meticulous records.
No matter what stories we discard or keep,
they will give us a life we cannot imagine.
from The Light of Invisible Bodies