Friday 23 July 2010 - Filed under WAG
Once in a rare while, in my childhood, a bustling broke out: wiping, sorting, dusting; someone oiled a hinge; granddad tidied his workbench; Junior or Jimmie Dale mowed what lawns we had as well as the wide, grassy alley behind our fence, and coiled the long snake of green garden hose stretched to the spigot out back. Unmistakably, company was coming. It might be a great-aunt or –uncle—I’d speculate—from Missouri or Kansas, or by car all the way from California. They’d stay too short a time; tell kitchen-table stories I couldn’t grasp concerning people whose names I’d only heard. And laugh, how they did laugh. Early morning to well past the time that, under protest, we children were trundled off to our beds; I remember the laughter.
I’d hear the murmurs rise and fall. The mixed cadence of voices around the kitchen table—our favored gathering place. A woman’s low alto would begin. A quiet baritone might interrupt; provide the year or the name. On it would go. Until I lost my way and slept.
Soon, though, the leaving day came. Grownups hugging—that odd sight I never grasped—hugging and crying. Uncles, unnerved by tears, would quickly remind “the girls” of last night’s laugh-till-you-cry-and-begged-him-to-stop story and again laughter. Moist-eyed laughter. Long back-patting embraces. More tears.
Today I understand. We must love until it hurts. We must laugh over shared stories until we cry, watch them on our inner movie-screens; be good brothers and sisters and, interrupting, correct the name or place or year or occasion. We must ache over the good-byes to have done our jobs well as human beings.
I am old, now, the child I once was alive and well. At last, I understand my grandmother’s weeping for days afterward, washing dishes, laughing then crying, hands slipping deftly over each plate, rinsing beneath the scalding cascade that matched her, tear for tear. Granddad tightening the vise bolted to his workbench, blinks back tears and blows his nose. It’s the love, the laughter, the known sweet agony of hello and goodbye.
We know we are eternal, or believe it’s so. Until we love enough to laugh until we cry, cling to one another and pat backs one-two-three—seven times—reluctant to turn loose, only then are we fit to leave life.
2010-07-23 » Kate