11 March 2009

4 2 of 2

#2: old age sets in very sudden.

my grandfather's brother died three days ago.

actually, he died three times last week, but they kept bringing him back because, to some people, in moments like those, that is what it seems you're supposed to do.

so, after considerable persistence on his part, nash has died.

my grandfather was the youngest of eleven. now he's the only one. which has driven home the fact that, important as they are, families dwindle. they do not last.

what i remember about nash is blood and naked ladies.

when i was a little girl, he was an old, old man. an old, old man with a shit-ton of faded tattoos of well-endowed women- relics of tarawa, which he had survived but would never discuss. i cannot stress enough how terrifying he was to me as a kid. all brusque and brawn and wrinkles. a pale john wayne. his clothes seemed to be always hiding a gun.

but there was something about those ladies. i would sit primly in my white cotton dress (legs crossed at the ankles, hands folded in my lap) at a safe distance from the man himself, transfixed by the showgirls dancing up and down the liverspotted flesh stretched paper-thin across his slackened arms.

i was little. i knew nothing of war. i knew even less about the trouble boys get into during it, so it was a tremendous mystery to me how dignified and proper aunt nadine wound up married to a man covered in tarts.

i didn't have breasts, but already i knew nice girls weren't supposed to flaunt them.

the summer my grandfather decided to cut down a huge tree in their backyard, my grandparents were still in memphis then and nash, who came over to help, got beaned by a branch. i later happened upon him in the kitchen, the yellow rotary phone to his ear as he quietly calmed nadine, blood trickling from his temple, running like tears down the women on his arms, collecting on the burgundy tiled floor in a puddle that glinted faintly in the late afternoon, summer sun.

that was twenty years ago and he seemed so old then.

nash died this year. druscilla the year before. great-grandmother the year before that. and none of these deaths have meant much to me, because these are the old guard. the people who have been dying as long as i've been alive.

but, with nash's death, it's as though we all moved up a notch. we all just got older because the old guard is now gone.

the other night my grandfather and i had a conversation about- of all things- the snuggie. i don't know how this came up and i regret that it ever did because, as a result, we spent ten minutes spinning our wheels on quite possibly the stupidest subject available. me trying to establish that he knew what a snuggie was, him saying he didn't, me trying to explain it was a blanket with sleeves, him saying he didn't know about a blanket with fleas but he'd seen this thing called the snuggie, me saying that IS the blanket with sleeves, him saying he didn't know about that, and it starting all over again.

who's on first? damned if i know.

perhaps this would be alleviated if there were government-mandated, state-issued hearing aids for everyone over the age of 75. perhaps then we would realize that half the geriatric population is not as old as we thought they were. or maybe that'd just make us finally face the fact they were. because that's a hard fact to face.

old age is very sudden. whether it hits at 70 or 80 or 90 or 52, it's a sly fucker. you look up and someone who once flung you around by the arms in a circle so high in the air that it made your mother abandon her post at the deep-fryer and come running barefoot across a yard scattered with dog poo screaming, daddy, not so high!!! can no longer walk to the mailbox. can no longer hear over the phone. can no longer get out of bed. can no longer go on.

just like that, it happens. sudden.

4 comments:

Linda said...

welp, you made it into Oral Reading again tonight, love. Ever loves this, and wants to hear more.

Lara Ehrlich said...

This is beautiful!

Les Savy Ferd said...

amazing stuff.

My Grandfather on my Mom's side, "Bompie" is what us grandkids call him, "Prunie" is what he is called by his children (I've never asked--his christian name is Clarence) is also the youngest of several brothers, some of which have passed away in recent years in exotic far off places like Minneapolis and Amherst. Most of them I've never met or have spent so little time with so as not to remember them at all.

I suppose I am lucky that my parents had me when they were so young, a frighteningly youthful 23. Which meant I was introduced to my Grandparents (by this I mean when I was 8 or so as I have no memories before this) when they themselves were in their 50s... something my actual parents are RIGHT NOW.

My Bompie saw some of WW2 while in the Navy, but fortunately for my existence, never saw any action. Since then he's been a volunteer firefighter and mechanic most of his life, although, and I think my entire family would agree with this, he's first and foremost a grandfather. And has a legendary wispy white comb-over.

If I'm half the patriarch he is I'll consider my life well lived indeed.

Osutein said...

Beautifully said.