…these are some scary days, my friend!
I’ve been going through some photo boxes — in my neverending quest to downsize, organize and exorcize the humungous amount of STUFF I’ve accumulated over the years — when I came across a picture of my grandmother and me.
The resemblance is amazing, really.
I’m not just talking physically — although, she had the most beautifully shaped breasts I’d ever seen, for a woman in her 90s, which… well… is where we part company, quite frankly — I mean, we loved to hang out together and would spend hours cooking, crocheting, working on jigsaw puzzles and gossiping, while we listened to an old western on television or, a classical piece on the radio.
My grandmother was a wonderful storyteller, who also believed that the happiness of future generations was largely dependent upon reflecting on those who have gone before us and often times would send her grandchildren off to bed with some warm milk (ick!) and a good ghost story!
Especially, the one about her cousin (the one who died) who, visited with her (after she died) because my great-grandmother refused to allow my grandmother to visit her (while, she was alive) the last request she made and on her deathbed.[rolling her r’s and sounding like, Bela Lugosi]
“Und a sound…flew thrrrrew the airrrr…the scrrrreaming…sounded soooo terrrrible…like whips, they did!”
Scared me half-to-death, really.
But, she was also a very avid reader and I would order all of her novellas (The Agatha Christie series was her favorite) from a Hungarian bookseller in New York City.
I enjoyed her company, even after I was married, and she loved when I would stop by for a surprise visit – especially when I brought her a pack of cigarettes and, ultimately, I’d whisk her away to Atlantic City for the night.
Later, while pregnant with my third child, she divorced her husband and, when her health started to decline, she moved into my old bedroom in my parent’s house.
About a little more than a year before her death, I introduced her to my youngest child and laid Mini-me down beside Mama – shortly after her stroke — and I remember how hard she tried to smile.
Finally, it was with great effort that she found a way to speak.
“Now, you are like me.”
I wiped her eyes and agreed that Mini-me — with her black hair and very dark eyes — look alot like us, too.
She shook her head and, as I got closer and tried to understand she was trying to tell me, my mother snapped another picture of us, which, ’til this day, I cannot bear to look at.
“Now, we both have four babies to take care of.”
I never noticed how twisted and deformed her face had been those last months of her life – it didn’t look like Mama…at all.
Shortly after her death, my parents went through a rough patch — both physically and emotionally — and it was only then did I understand the strong bond we had. She kept our families together and, even when she was very ill and basically incapacitated, was strong influence on nearly every decision we made.
I guess that — and the fact that it’s been 4 years since her death on October 13th — it is also why I’ve been thinking about her a lot, lately.
Then the clock started ticking.
“Your grandmother’s here!”
I looked up from the book I was reading — a bit annoyed at how easily I can be startled — and began rubbing the goosebumps from my arms.
It’s the weirdest thing, I swear!
There’s this old black marble clock that my father had given us, right after we were married, and it hasn’t worked right for…sheesh…I can’t remember, exactly.
I know it hasn’t been wound, because the thing scares me half to death — not that it’s evil-looking, or anything — but, the pendulum has two vials…filled with mercury…need I say more?
So, we keep it in the dining room — out of the kids reach and away from the animals — and basically, forget about it.
Until, someone dies, is ill or about to go into the hospital — sadly, it never ticks out a lick of good news.
“Shit, if the phone rings…don’t answer it!”
Look — my husband didn’t believe in this sort of thing, either — let’s just say that I’ve seen and heard too many strange things in my life to not believe that the phone would ring.
The next day (last Monday, in fact) I took the kids to see my folks and started arrangements for my mother’s upcoming surgery, since I needed to coordinate my kids’ and husband’s schedules so that I could stay for about a week, or, however long these shitty things take.
“Oh, did I mention the clock started ticking?”
My mother smiled.
“I guess Nagymama knows…this is it, for me…huh?”
Jey-zoosh, I wished my mother would stop talking like that. And, I told her so. Although, I believe I threw in a couple of expletives, in English and Hungarian.
“Maybe she’s just letting us know she’s like…you know…watching.”
Later, I related the information on what was to happen later this month, to my husband and the clock stopped ticking.
I jumped and rubbed the goosebumps from my arms when the phone rang.
It was my father.
“I forgot to tell you that your mother sent a letter to her brother…you know…the one she hasn’t spoken to since Nagymana died…anyways…he finally called her.”
“Um…when did she send the letter?”
[lots more goosebumps]
“Uh-huh…and…um…when did…GULP…he call?”
Yep, like clockwork — this time, it was good news.
I miss my grandmother. I long for her apple compote and warm, big-armed hugs that smell of talcum powder and a hint of lilac. But, most of all, I miss our talks and the many lazy days that were spent happily watching her great-grand-children play in the sand.
No matter, I make sure that the kids I speak of her often — not to mention, lighting a candle every October 13th and All Saints Day – because, remembering her in our hearts is sort of like believing that she is still with us, today.[ding-ding-ding]
I just wish she didn’t have to scare me half-to-death!