Weekend Part 2: Roots

My grandparents were surprised to see us. Very. Surprised. Which was a sweet thing, and the overwhelming emotion of it is almost too much for me, because it means SO MUCH to them for us to bring that little biscuit-birdy anywhere near them. It’s so sweet and exhausting, just the general being-around. Holding the Bird is the only thing that makes my Gran sit still and stop offering people cookies and cokes and casseroles (is it any wonder my Gramps is diabetic?), although she’ll direct the forcing of starches and sugar from her chair. They are getting so old, and their town is so sad, with almost no industry to speak of and so many scary-slash-dangerous-looking rednecks. I remember King’s restaurant, now empty, the Pizza hut, now empty, the KohlHaus Video, now empty, the Executive Inn*, were I used to have cloth-napkin brunch in the Atrium with my grandmothers, Gregg Park… the list could go on. Most of it is either deserted or should be. Steel Mills have closed, Textile plants have closed, everything has closed. Not a pretty sight, as I am picturing meth labs popping up everywhere on the farm my grandparents used to own. Am I being dramatic? Yes, but these are my sweet little grandparents we’re talking about.

In any case, visiting with them is always painfully wonderful, exhausting, and I leave swearing to do it more often and being so glad it’s over. My grandmother told the story for the zillionth time about when my parents went to Hawaii and left my chicken-pocked brother with she and my granddad,, and she had soothed and loved him all morning, and set him in a chair to start lunch for my Grandad, and he said “Grandma, I don’t like the way you’re treating me.” (My family is chock full of stories about my brother and I being weird feeling-talkers, oddly diplomatic and fair kids. You’d think we were home-schooled or something. We weren’t.) We started talking about Birdy and her features, and who she looks like or doesn’t look like. Grandma showed us a picture of herself in a baby carriage. She had a very round head, like our bird. She said, “My mother told me I had auburn hair as a baby. “ And I thought how strange it would be to have no one on this earth who remembers what you looked like as a child. I mean, sure, there are probably some cousins somewhere who remember playing with her, but she’s the oldest of 9, and there aren’t many pictures of her as a little girl. I’m not saying this to be the gloom-and-doom, “everybody, like, dies, you guys” emo girl. It just hit me that there is no one in this world who remembers my grandmother as a child, her little-kid personality, the way she looked, moved, smelled. It seems heavier to me now, since so many of my conversations with family revolve around comparing memories of other family members as babies to our Bird. This thought, and accidentally walking in on my grandfather having his diaper changed (Whoa! Hey Granddad!) left me with that totally unsettling group of thoughts about age and getting old enough to outlive, and none of them are very uplifting thoughts. They make me want to scoop all of my grandparents up in my arms and put them somewhere that they will all be safe and well and loved forever, but in reality, I guess that’s where their next stop will be.

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