Fifteen years ago my grandfather died.1 It is the year I realized we give numbers to years and that the year was 2007. And that it would be 2008 so soon.
I am spending some time at my grandma’s. She lives in this small and cozy house at the edge of some woods. It is at walking distance from the perennial plant nursery they used to have together. My mom grew up there. The greenhouses, workshop, innumerable plant beds, and the little office with the loud fax machine are a significant location of my childhood. It brings me great joy that I have access to such a rich set of memories and experiences from that time and place. I am so glad to remember my grandfather. I am so happy to have the ability to be there, in some sense, but at another time and in another way and with just my grandma.
This morning we drove to a nearby town so that I could buy contact lens solution and makeup remover which I had left at home, and she tried to find tulips to bring to my grandfather’s grave. While they were overstocked on tulips last week, my grandma said, they had none this morning. She got roses.
We stopped to try to pick up some fine black wool fabric for an embroidery project at a friend of my grandma’s. This friend lives in her studio. In every place she could conceivably sit and work there are looms, spinning wheels, and balls of wool yarn or heckled flax. Surprisingly, she did not have what we had come to ask for. Well, maybe somewhere upstairs. In front of the staircase stood a large, very old and visibly uncomfortable loom that might get donated to a textile craft group somewhere, she explained. So she’d come back to us on whether she had that fabric.
Down the road we took a right turn into a lane lined with beautiful old beech trees on both sides leading to the cemetery. It is a wonderful place. In the middle stands a large willow. The weeping kind. There used to be three trees on the cemetery grounds, but one had been cut down years before, and another had not survived a more recent storm. In the past few days it had snowed and the drops of cold water melting from the ice on the roof of the maintenance shed dripped into the green plastic watering can standing next to it. It is very appropriate.
We stood at the grave. I like standing there. When we buried my grandfather, my younger brother and I had gratefully taken the opportunity to cover his grave with earth, after family and friends paid their last respects. It was so nice that there was something we could do, and I like remembering that moment. My grandma had taken the comically small pocket knife she carries and dressed the roses for placing them on the grave. She cut all of them in a few quick passes right above the rubber band that held them together. And as she stuck them between the leaves of the dark grass that covers part of the grave the icy snow layer on top gave way with a satisfying sound. The placement of the flowers was by itself the ornament. Ordered neatly and deliberately, with just the right space between each of the stems. Just like she had decades ago, back in the days she and my grandfather had run a flower shop before fully committing to the plant nursery around the time my mom moved out.
We looked at the grave for a minute, around us, we said goodbye. “Another year,” she said, and we talked about whether the old lonely tree would survive for much longer while we walked away.
Around, girlie; opsec!