This is going to be a ramble. It's my Grandma Dory's 97th birthday. She died less than a half a year ago, and I'm still raw with loss on days like today. On other days, I don't always remember, which makes the occasional rawness all that more difficult. For a smart, well-researched, and considered take on The Gorgeous Nothings, please check out the review in the New York Times.
A friend of mine - actually more the mother of a childhood friend that I've known forever - recently posted a picture of birds in a glassed case. She titled it "Three little birds," undoubtedly referencing the Bob Marley song because I know how she rolls. It came after a series of posts about her father - the grandfather of my childhood friend - and his experiences in his assisted living home. He is 102 years old. The image bolted me to the floor.
When I was visiting my Grandma Dory in the past years -- after the fall, before the stroke, after the stroke, before the end, in the middles when it was just fall and I was there, or it was spring, and I was sprung -- I would sit in the broad open visiting area with its hard couches and watch the birds. There was a glass case with a variety of finches, all hopping tropical finery, and a three-ring binder on a string with their names and attributes. I'd page through with my daughter to learn their names in the interstitial times: right before my cousin came and told us stories, right before we set up a dinner in the odd "meeting room" with its badly framed art, right after all that jazz and heartache while I waited for my husband to pull the car around, like one does, my son with his head in the Nintendo DS. The birds hopped.
When she died, my closest cousin and I messaged a lot about what we were going to say. He is the oldest boy of the cousins; I am the oldest girl. (That we are both nigh on 40 years old does not factor; boy and girl were what we were to her in the best most difficult way.) We linked each other a lot of Cure songs and other tragedies. (Six months apart, we are the children of our time, and I'm not going to apologize for that.) Birds were a motif for us, for her, my grandma, all of her watchful years and feeders hung out in front of the picture window. I remember smearing peanut butter in a swinging wooden stand on her behest when I was six, licking the knife. For the birds. I remember the owl and his plastic neck turned nearly around in the woods outside of the Payne Farm house seen through the spyglass she left on the windowsill. Do you see? she would ask.
In this short life that only (merely) lasts an hourHow much -- how little -- is within our power