Monday, April 7, 2008

Sunny Hills in Springtime

Spring is a little sad to me, even when I convince myself that Jesse is still in my heart, enjoying it with me. I try to walk through at least one sunny park a day, and really listen to the birds singing and children laughing in the playground. It almost works, except for that one special laugh I will never hear again.

Yesterday was Jesse's grandfather Milt's 90th birthday party. He has inoperable lung cancer, has had it for over a year now, but he still gets around ok. We danced together to Beyond the Sea (one of my favorite songs, he whispered to me), not long before the belly dancer showed up to wriggle and dip and get Milt's youngest great granddaughters out on the floor, awed by spangles, trying to approximate her hips. The party was at his sons' art gallery, and all the extended family, and quite a few friends showed up, some of whom I hadn't seen in decades. I've stayed close to my ex's family, mostly because they're kind and supportive, and don't ask too much of me. What I give is given gladly, without thought. That's how I want to be in the world, and they give me the gift of fulfilling that vision of myself.

My own grandfather was dying of lung cancer 25 years ago, at home on his farm. My mom tells me that one afternoon the family was gathered there, grandpa in an easy chair, watching my little sister teach a younger cousin how to play marbles on the rug. She'd learned this, as had we all, from Grandpa when she was a tiny thing. Grandpa turned to my mom and nodded toward the girls. My sister, his granddaughter, teaching his great granddaughter a game he had taught her. That's what life is all about, he said.

But now the farm is sold, the family scattered, my grandfather, and even my father gone. Their graves on the same site, a sunny hill overlooking the town of Connersville, where they were both born. Right now it'll be windy and a bit damp, the first pale new grass and leaves barely grown enough to shiver in the cold breeze. A lonely place.

They say the pain eases. That one day we can visit our dead without tears. I'm not sure I'll ever get there, I still cry when I think about that hill, the graves. The sun on the grass. My grandmother with them now, her funeral marred by a family feud that ultimately means nothing, except money in the pockets of lawyers. Money and anger and loneliness and loss. But they can't seem to stop themselves, what's left of my father's generation, a few members of my own. Even God has been dragged into it: which priest should say her mass, which Church should see her catafalque. Angry even today, bitter over where she was celebrated, where she was taken from God to darkness. She
asked only that the Prayer for Peace be read, and that the priest ask our family to let her death finally unite them. Even this last plea has fallen on deaf ears. The feud has worsened, I can't even bring myself to see them now. Yesterday was the anniversary of her death at age 99, a few short years ago. Today would have been her birthday.

Picking something to have faith in, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, is a painful, terrifying thing. But we have to, don't we?

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