Now listening to : Guild League, 'Inner North'
Especially recommended: Track 4, "Citronella"
I've started taking dictation from my grandmother. She's telling stories about growing up and being grown and having been grown, just like she's told since I was very young. But now I'm typing them in this computer because that's sort of what you do when grandmothers get to a certain age, isn't it? You show them proof that you'll never forget the the things they remember. All names are changed, or interchanged, to protect the continuity of personal characteristics (fathers and sons have the same name, sometimes, because of birth certificates; and sometimes just because they ended up alike. Not to mention fathers and husbands . . .), but the stories are as real as she that tells them.
When she was very young, her mother, expecting a third child after two previous daughters, exclaimed in exasperation to my grandmother's aunt, her sister, that if THIS child was yet anOTHER girl, the aunt could have her. My grandmother claims that when the third girl inevitably came, her aunt came running up to the house, through South Dakota winter, to claim this thirdborn child as promised. She then, my grandmother says, was crushed when the birthmother laughingly reneged.
I'm sitting out on the porch tonight, with the babymonitor propping open the screendoor so I can hear if she needs anything from me. I don't want to be inside. I like the cold that's finally coming, cleanly, after too much sun all summer. I like the spasms that aren't quite shivers. I like holding still despite them. It's nervewracking, though, to be in the dark out here with open space behind my head. Watching her these past weeks keeps me always thinking about the fragility of bodies and how lost I'd feel if I couldn't control the sensations mine produces/undergoes. (Back to the kitchen three times for three different tries at eggs sunnysideup, because she's translating her wants through my fingers, and my fingers don't read well any wants but their own. She just sits in the chair, offering rewordings of how she likes her eggs, feeling somewhat bad for the trouble, but knowing like I do that this is her only shot at satisfaction. Why settle for mistaken eggs just because you have to depend on someone else's hands? Especially when those hands owe, chronologically speaking, much of their history to yours.) So my neck and back and scalp feel nervously unprotected from cold and dark and unknown. Respectively. I am uncertain about safety, because that's my metaphor for her uncertainty about health. It probably doesn't help that I've been taking my offhours to get reacquanted with the heavy crush I've always had on mid/late-90s David Duchovny by watching the X-files early seasons in SciFi chanel reruns. Believers, expecially ones with unsettling humour and good arms, are keen. Keen enough to be worth watching horror shows even though they seriously freak my shit out.
Believing is something else I've been going over with my grandmother. We talked a bit about heaven the other day. Whether she believed in it, whether if she did, she believed it looked catholic, let alone papal. My grandmother, who remembers fondly the time, back when she and my grandfather and the first few kids all lived down south in long beach, when she walked out on a dinner party because the other wife at the table maintained the damnedness of unbaptised newborns. She believes she's approaching whatever's after life, so she'd be a fool not to consider what she thinks that is. I think of heaven as a thought exercise, so I said, trying to be comforting I guess, that I thought the whole point of heaven was it's bigger-than-you-ness, and that it therefore, by definition, couldn't be certain. The chair she sits in all day, the bed, the remote control and the large-print edition of writings by Helen Thomas, - these are objects. Objective. Totally known, so totally smaller than she is. Tools. If heaven's to be a comfort, it needs to be bigger than that. Needs to be ambivalent because an idea that encompasses both sides of an argument covers more ground than either thesis or antithesis alone. If she agreed just to shut me up, that's fine. But I'd like to think that what I've learned, partially at her knee, about the ridiculousness of basing life on it's after-, is a good translation of what she was trying to tell me about how she surfed the catholic life-restraints mounted securely, surefootedly, on a liberal democrat surfboard. About religious life and political same not being opposed, exactly, but not servicing the same questions. If a vote gets made to earn you heaven or avoid hell, that's reasoning as bad as a confession you make to get elected (Mcgahem). So this question of heaven isn't really a religious one or a political one. It's a question of storytelling. A way to have conversations about pressing matters like her place in family history and the Do Not Resuscitate we've got on the fridge.
There are two orangey cats coiling and springing acoss the block, lawn to lawn. They make me feel ridiculous for my physical fears, for my night-panic. Lovely bitches.