Thursday, June 29, 2017

The home my grandparents made

Tuesday night I lay awake in bed thinking about how strange it would be to enter my grandparents' house and neither of them be there.

And then I cried silently while my husband slept next to me, the tears matting my hair and dribbling into my ears.

I love Grandpa and Grandmama's house in that small Idaho town where both my parents spent years of their childhood. Even though my grandparents didn't acquire that house until I was a teenager, it's the one I associate most with their presence. And so to be in it, and they be absent, will be very sad.

It's a fine, old two-story home, partitioned into many rooms that have changed slowly over the years, but those rooms always seemed to be brimming with family, with life, and with small, energetic dogs who followed my grandfather around. How many of our clan have spent several nights or even years under the same roof as our patriarch and matriarch in their welcoming home where the coffee and conversation flowed freely?

In the summers of my teenage years, I used to spend the night often - even bringing along my best friend Sarah - and loved the middle room upstairs with its window overlooking a slice of the front yard and its enormous pine trees. I loved Grandmama's fine garden to the back of the garage, that garden she seemed to call forth effortlessly, though I know she must have labored in it continually. I have good memories of sitting on the front porch with her, snapping green beans from that verdant plot into huge bowls.

I loved Grandmama's colorful flower borders by the front walkway, now gone.

...and the raised flower bed and outdoor seating area in back that Grandpa built

...the knickknacks, multiple prints of famous artwork, and abundant furnishings that my Aunt Stephie helped to collect, mostly from yard sales

and the spacious park at the end of the street where Grandmama and I used to walk before stopping in a little cafe to get smoothies or coffee.

Just last October I was in that house, and as usual an abundance of family was there - some I did not expect to but was overjoyed to see - and a new little dog whom I had not met, and the coffee percolated constantly in an industrial-sized coffee machine.

My Grandmama died more than six years ago, but I sat with Grandpa out back beneath the awning he had made as he told stories about his wife, including all the classic ones about how jealous she could be, once telling a waitress to "Get your damn hands off my man!" I love those stories, because I am a jealous woman myself, and they explain where I got it from.

Grandpa was starting to forget things, and there were so many people around, and so he asked me which one I was. I told him I was Hillary, nicknamed Hoodoo, and I reminded him of the time I lived with him and Grandmama for a brief time in Boise after my family moved back to Idaho from Tennessee and how I disliked my new school so much  - built like a prison with slivers for windows! - and was so slow getting up and ready for it that Grandpa, who loved to tease, called my walk to the bus stop (or ride if I were running late) the Hoodoo Trail of Tears.

His eyes lit up with the memory, and he exclaimed, "That's right!" and chuckled afresh.  (It was a story he retold every time I saw him, but I had to tell it this last time.)

On Tuesday I found out Grandpa had passed away, not even a month after we lost my Grandfather Hylton. Our family's grief is compounded. My mom and dad have each lost a parent. My siblings and I have lost both our grandpas. It's a summer for grieving.

I won't hear Grandpa call me Hoodoo again or see that tell-tale twinkle in his eye or hear him chuckle at his own stories.

I won't get another chance to ask him about his service in WWII or the crazy adventures of his unusual childhood.

And I am so sad and heartbroken for my darling mother, his daughter.

But I am sure that whenever we may enter that house again, even while now missing both Grandpa and Grandmama terribly and feeling their absence keenly, it will still be brimming with family and love.




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