Sunday, February 11, 2007

Expiration Date

The hardest part of burying my grandmother this week wasn't the funeral or the visitation; it was going through her possessions to remove the valuable stuff from burglars. Her house appears to have been frozen in time since last October, andI guess October 11th was the last day she stayed there before they moved her to the nursing home, because the paper on her footstool is still opened to that crossword, and the little bulletin from her church is sitting underneath her bedroom lamp bearing a faded postmark with that date. I had been in her house a few times since she had gotten sick--we had developed a habit of coming and going freely from her house in town while we lived far out in the country and didn't want to make the trek back and forth to our own house--and each time I went in, I felt the heavy silence of anticipation...a life put on hold until her health returned and she could come home with it. Even her curmudgeonly old cat, a part-bobcat hellion I sheepishly begged her to take when I got busted for having it in my dorm room several years ago, sat and stared at the door and waited for her to come through it. There was always blind hope, even in the last weeks of her cancer, that she would get to live in her tiny little house with the antiques and the memories again.

When my dad and I went in after the funeral, though, the silence was suffocating and the tears I refused to shed in front of everyone at the funeral and the interment made my nose hot and threatened to betray my tough-girl attitude I had to the whole thing. Suddenly, October 11th appeared to be her death sentence...the last day of dignity and independence she had before she was finally forced by her own deceitful body into a hospital bed to die. We packed up her jewelry, her old Croesus glassware, and her silverware in near silence, only discussing in hushed tones how my cousin had immediately departed the funeral with a list of my grandma's stuff she was claiming for her own. The cat wound around our feet and looked anxiously at the door, hoping that the trespassers in his house would be replaced soon by the tiny little white haired woman who mixed his cat food with milk and let him claw the afghan in the guest bedroom. We backed out of the front door, arms straining under the collective weight of sixty years of possessions and memories, and as the door slammed behind us I knew that was probably be the last time I would go into my grandma's house before the probate courts and the estate auctioneers got to it. The last time my memories would be intact, each etched in my mind with October 11, 2006 in the corner.


lisa jane said...

I'm speechless Erin.Reading this hurts.Reading this makes me fall in love with your grandma :) sending you love from a stranger across the other sde of the world .

Galen said...

Hey there.

I understand what you're going through; I've been there. My thoughts go out to you.


I'm Fat said...

oh boy. I am really sorry. It really is tough to keep that hard exterior sometimes. You are in my thoughts.

BigAssBelle said...

i'm so sorry, erin. i know how difficult that is. there's nothing to say to make it better. just ouch. hugs. thinking of you.