God Help Me, I’m Making Grandma Noises

Not ready to fade…but I’ll take the senior discounts!

Grammie had a distinctive way of clearing her throat.

“Eh-ehehehehehehhh-eh-eh-eh-eh.”

As if she was trying to clear phlegm discreetly.

But there wasn’t really any way to be discreet about it.

That sound drove me nuts, and she did it a lot.

I was sure I would never, ever make that sound.

You know where this is going.

I caught myself doing it the other day, while looking in the mirror at my Mother’s face looking back at me.

I had been so determined not to turn into my Mother, or my Grammie.

And I have been unkind to them both in my writing and my mind, remembering only the annoying stuff (Grandma) and the painful stuff (Mom, a lot of it.)

Yeah, so, Karma’s a bitch, right?

Since Christmas, my daughter and I have been sitting together in the evening for our “music time,” listening to something soothing, and chatting, or just sitting together, until she decides she wants “quiet time,” and turns off the stereo, so we can just sit in companionable silence together.

That’s when I notice I have begun to resemble a slightly more colorful Whistler’s Mother – rocking in my 5-generation rocking chair, the one that started with Great-great Grandma, then Great Grandma, and then came to Grammie, then Mom, then me.

Wearing a flannel nightie, a shaker cardigan,  (not getting paid for those links, just wanted to give you an image of what I’m talking about) a wide plaid shawl on top of the sweater, around my shoulders, and a hat.

God, help me – I don’t want to be a docile, rocking-chair, throat-clearing granny, or a  crotchety Mom, fussing over my daughter’s hair or clothing choices. Not yet, anyway.

I have no intention of going gently into “seniorland.” (Oh, but I’ll take the discounts, thank you very much!) I will reveal my age only so others may marvel at it – “impossible! You don’t look a day over (insert highly unlikely much younger comparison here.)”

This year is a big one for me – when a certain date rolls around, my life as any kind of woman (as opposed to bent, chin-hairy crone) hits the “sell by” date.  I am scheduled to dry up, turn grey, and stop expecting much, especially not love, from life. I am expected to fade uncomplainingly into invisibility, and generally get out of the way.

Hell with that.

You may find me improperly dressed for a woman of my age, singing too loudly at inopportune moments, using foul language when inspired to do so, and generally making a spectacle of myself.

Because if you ask me, as Margo was asked, “is it over, or is it just beginning?” I’d reply:

Enjoy the ride, bumps and all!

(Now if I can just clear my throat….)

Going shopping for a dress like that, I remain,

Your non-smoking, sans diamonds but rockin’ the Bette-Davis attitude,

Ridiculouswoman

Door Between Worlds

Once a year, the veil thins….

Late, after the few little superheroes and monsters and teenagers who aren’t ready to let it go have come and gone, I keep the lights off.

I relight the Jack-o-Lanterns and try to capture the look of them, in the dark,

Dressed in black (ok, black peignoir, ooh!) I listen to Hildegaard von Bingen, which, even though this is the prayerful music of a medieval nun, gives the night an appropriately eerie, otherworldy feel. Sometimes I keep the door-answering witch hat on. Go crones!

In the rare years when it has been warm enough, we’ve had that music on, with the lights out and the door open, to add a little Halloween creepiness to the proceedings.

This year, I had to go to chorus rehearsal, so my Hildegaard time happened very late at night, and the photos were taken just a few minutes before midnight. I took the witch’s hat to rehearsal with me. Kept me warm in the big drafty stone chapel, but I had to take it off so the guy behind me could see the conductor.

So Halloween this year was a little different, but it was OK.

Just to add a little more creepiness, I drove home from rehearsal with the gauge on “E” and the gas tank alert light blaring yellow on the dash. Forgot to get gas early this morning and had to stop, making my daughter a few minutes late for work. My bad.

I made it home last night in time to chat briefly with the (very kind, sweet) companion who volunteered to come over on Halloween.  I stowed the candy, got the garbage and recycling out to the end of the driveway, whispered good night to my daughter (who, according to the companion, had just gone up, but probably fell deep asleep once she heard us talking and knew I was home), and changed into that black nightgown.  I put on the Hildegaard and slipped outside.  I relit the jack-o-lanterns and stayed out there for a moment to enjoy that dark, quiet, intense, open-door-between-worlds vibe of the night, and to snap a few pics.

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And now it’s over, for the third time without Mike (who used to answer the door with our daughter, because most of the kids came and went before I got home from work). She says she’s been dreaming about him, lately. Getting up very early in the morning, actually still in the middle of the night, to “take a break.” The new mattresses, for us both, seem to help, though. When I got to bed I slept heavily and well, and she is starting to, again. But not last night.

She talks about missing  him, and repeats what I have told her about how we will carry that feeling of missing him around with us for the rest of our lives, but that we have to learn to carry it without letting it weigh us down.

“Dad wants you to have a happy life. This adulting thing is hard for everybody, but you’re doing great, sweetie. Dad’s proud of you, from heaven.”

And I’m sure he is, because she is doing well. I can see her learning to manage her sadness wisely as she goes about her day, like the gentle, kind, delightful adult she has become. I’m glad she enjoys the companionship of others, because really, what 20-something wants to spend all their time with their Mom?

She just wants to know that I’ll come back. That I’ll come home. That I’ll be there.

I remind her that I’m here. (But I don’t say, “for now.” I hope there will be decades more before I’ll have to start that conversation – time for her to gain confidence in companions, friends, younger family – and herself).

Instead, I tell her that we’re doing a good job of learning to live our lives without him, because we don’t have a choice. We have to carry on. And he sends his love, always.

Dad’s love never ends.

I heard a rustling in the leaves by the front walk, as I relit the candles. Little votive candles inside the pumpkins. We never thought of that when I was a kid, probably because trying to get a tall candle to stand up in the bottom of a carved pumpkin lengthened the whole already- elongated pumpkin-carving process – “who can scrape the insides cleanest?”-  and kept my brothers and me occupied for longer – very clever, Dad. I didn’t realize your  until tactic until I was past 40!

One of those little votives, in the pumpkin nearest the  rustling sound, stayed burning long after the others burned out. Much longer than I expected. Still burning when I finally went to bed.

I’ve decided to take that as a whisper from beyond, through the veil-between-worlds that thins to near transparency, once-a-year, on Halloween.

Wishing you a friendly rustling of leaves, and a glimpse through the occasional thinning veil, or open door between worlds,

I remain,

for one night a year, your “witchy”

Ridiculouswoman