Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Only In My Heart

I have a memory of winds and grass. And bitter tears.

I think I was ten or maybe twelve. I had travelled with my Grandmother, Mother’s mom, to the countryside, to the village where she was born, and where her younger brother and his family still live. We used to do that almost every other year, during the summer holidays.

One day we took a walk, my Grandmother, her brother and I, through my great-uncle’s vineyard and then past it, climbing the hill on which the vineyard extended. The grass was tall on that hill, maybe knee-high, and the strong winds laid it down, revealing fallen tombstones. An old cemetery, abandoned, forgotten. I stopped - they went a little further. I watched them, brother and sister, holding each other, crying silently before the graves of their parents. I remained at a distance, shy, reluctant to intrude upon their shared sorrow. I don’t know if I realised the meaning of this at the time, but that desolate scene and that moment remain forever imprinted upon my mind’s eye.

My Grandmother died this day unbelievably twenty-one years ago, at 72. The meaning of the verb “to die” is still absurd to me. I cannot grasp it, be it others or myself that I think about. I cannot conjugate it.

This is not an homage. No poetry is needed nor sought. I will not polish this text – I have no metaphors, no nicely arranged words. It’s hard enough for me to write these simple words, plain as they are.

I still miss her immensely although I don’t think of her everyday anymore. Time numbs pains – so they say. She was the most kind-hearted and open-minded woman that I have ever met, even more so than Mother. She gave everything she had, and more, to others. She was a strong, courageous woman. A widow at twenty, she has never remarried and raised her daughter alone. I wish I did more when she was with us, but childhood is selfish and immortal. Many of these thoughts came to me much later – too late. Sometimes I dream of her and, when she comes to me in my sleep, I wake up happy in the morning, as if I could really touch her, physically, again.

So on this day, of Saint-Nicholas, among the gifts for children, when the pain resurfaces whole, I allow it to tear at my soul. And even though I lost them at other times, I think of my other grandparents too. My paternal Grandmother, who I knew much less but admired greatly for her strength – she lived alone running a household till she died at 87, in 1987. And my Grandfathers, who I never met, both disappeared before I was born, one at twenty-four in 1934, and the other at sixty-five in 1965. They are all mine and I love them.

Life is weird at times, unmerciful. Those were their lives. How strange it feels to use the past tense. And what remains? Some old pictures, some beautiful greatgrandchildren, and the love in my heart…