© 2008 Karen Van Fossan
In between sips of Mystic Mayan Cocoa tea, Jan makes this casual declaration: I like my gray hair. I'm sure she's not the first person to utter such subversions. Mama Lola (as she's known to many) has said the same herself: I like my gray hair. I earned every bit of it.
I jump to three conclusions whenever I see a woman with gray hair. She has...
2) Reached the last decades of her life.
3) Enough of #1 to face #2.
Visiting Ferne at the nursing home, sometimes I want to blurt out, But I'm not ready! I'm not ready to be 99! Then I realize I'm not 99, and I feel a little better.
Still, I have to admit, sometimes I fear for the future. For one, I've kind of gotten used to having Mom and Dad around. A phone call, an email, a hug. I'm a sucker for the stuff that parents can do when they're alive.
Annette (from Dragon Jane) has written a piece for her grandmother that simply tears my heart out. (If you'd like to join me in that, please read on...)
From Dear Grandma by Annette Martel:
...Now that you're gone,
I worry about losing my parents.
The hardest thing I've ever done in my life
was to watch my mother
watching you lie in a hospital bed during your last days...
For a moment, I stopped breathing,
When I realized someday,
That would be me standing next to a hospital bed,
Saying good-bye to my mom.
Like Annette, I'm not ready. I'm a thousand miles from Mom and Dad, and even that is too much. After losing all my grandparents, and a friend, and the loved ones of my friends, and various beloved pets, I'm ready to dig my feet in the ground and cry, No! We're not ready!
But, ready or not, Kris and I make our regular hike to the cemetery. This past Memorial Day, we took flowers to Helen and Fred senior. And that's not all. We also carried a tape recorder. (This is true.) Some people promise you can record voices from the afterlife, voices you can't hear until you play them back on a tape recorder. So we spoke our greetings and offered our flowers. Then, with curiosity bumping into skepticism, we shamelessly pressed record.
I wondered what Helen and Fred might want to say. We love you? Kris, tell your dad there's a million bucks hidden under the floorboards? Next time, bring your fiddle and guitar?
Later, we listened back. And what did we hear?
Traffic. Wind. Our footfalls. No voices.
Which leads me to three conclusions:
1) Maybe recordings of the afterlife are a lot of wishful thinking.
2) Maybe Helen and Fred would rather be silent.
3) When it comes to recording, maybe Fred and Helen just aren't ready.