Tuesday: Time to go

by Lisa on March 11, 2014

Death is one of those Grand Canyon moments in life like marriage or having a baby. No matter how hard you try, once you’ve crossed to the other side of the gorge, you can’t go back.  The path you’ve walked on down into the canyon, and through the canyon, seems to  have disappeared just as fast as your feet have carried you. It becomes painfully clear once you’ve finished your assent up the other side of the steep wall that your trail has been completely swallowed up by the winds of time and the dust of now. Your vision has changed. The sun has moved. Your life has been altered. No going back.

The curtains are open and it’s mid day. I can see fresh buds and leaves beginning to pop out on the plants in the backyard. Spring has sprung. Sun light streams through every window in the house. The dishes are done and I’ve folded up the hand towel and put it in its place on the counter. I turn around. I could go sort through some more things or I could sit down and start working on her obituary.

I do neither. I know I’ve started the arduous climb up the other canyon wall. I feel the wind picking up and see the dust beginning to swirl. I want to savor the moment.

I walk over to the  kitchen table and turn the boxy transistor radio on. Loud—trying to recreate a typical Gordo day.

If you were to open the garage door at the end of the long hallway and you could hear the racket long before you could see her sitting, hunched over, at her chair. The black box on the table might be blaring Rush Limbaugh’s voice or some other talk radio person. It could be screaming out a 30 second how-to-invest-your-money commercial before returning to some rockish or current pop type of music. Or it could have some college football or basketball announcer shouting out play by play action. No matter what you knew it was before 4:00 pm because at 4:00 pm the button was slid to off as she made her way to the chair in the living room before the TV to watch a little Judge Judy followed by the local evening news.

Grabbing the iPad I move into the living room and park my backside in the red chair on the north wall. The one next to the hallway door and to the west of her chair. This will probably be the last time I am alone in the house while it still looks like she is here—or at least off at the store grabbing some last-minute groceries.

I look out the front window listening to Barbara Mandrell crooning away about a troubled marriage. I just sit. Soaking it all in. Next comes Johnny Cash followed by Hank Williams. I don’t remember her ever listening to country music. Strange.

Back in the kitchen, she would probably have her glasses on and pen in hand. All the eye drops would be in their “correct”place waiting for the end of the day’s dose. The metal ashtray would be spilling over with loose change and this month’s bills would be piled up in the old egg basket. The calendar on the wall would be open to the current month with everyone’s birthdays written on it.

I continue to sit like a sponge cake in my red chair in the living room. The colors, the textures, the sounds, the smells, and the sunlight streaming through the windows, the memories. They are  all oozing into my core on last time.

The garage door at the end of the hallway, with its familiar squeak, opens up and Mike & Bob come lumbering down the hallway to join me in the living room. They sit. They make small chit chat, but all of a sudden it’s kinda awkward. I suddenly feel like a stranger. An outsider. We continue talking but I can feel it. It’s time. The climb must continue upward.

I load my things in the car, give hugs to my uncles, and then get in behind the wheel. The engine starts and the familiar hum of the car radio. Definitely not Gord’s station. I back out of the driveway. The tears freely flow. With the car pointed east and my head turned north, I shift the car into drive. At a turtle’s pace it begin to move forward down the small incline to the stop sign less than a block away. The brown house begins to disappear from my sightline. I look in the review mirror trying to keep 1586 Juniper in my view, but the brown house stays stationary while I move on.

This moment is almost as painful as her death. Almost as painful as Warren and Billy and Grandma’s death 15 months ago, Or almost as painful as my mother’s death May 2010. It’s another death. Only a greater one. It is the end of an era. An era as familiar to me as the back of my hand—the era of my childhood and young adult life. It’s the end of my playing at the brown house hitting tennis balls against the west wall in the backyard. The end of my walking or driving back and forth from Juniper to N. 9th. The end of laying in bed hoping to, just for a moment, hear my mother & grandmother chatting away at the kitchen table in the morning. The end of helping white-haired Grandma Landles joining Thanksgiving meals that Gord and mom had prepared. The end of “going down the hill” to visit Grandma L. The end… Memories flood in rapid-fire through my mind.

My last alone jaunt through my second home town leads me first to the mortuary to get her fingerprints. Now I have matching pairs—my mom & my mom’s mom. Why, I wonder, did I not do the same thing when Grandma died 15 months ago? I could have had hard evidence of all the matriarchs of my family. While I ponder the car seems to drive itself directly to the run-down white bell-shaped house Grandma raised her children in. It’s been a while since I’ve been here. I notice some of her trinkets sitting on the window sill as I park the car. I get out to wander around the house. The crooked concrete step at the back door gives me just enough height to peek into the kitchen. The familiar red linoleum and grungy orange cabinets peer back. Like the tchotchkes on the window sill, I can still see evidence of Grandma & Grandpa’s 50+ years in the house. I walk around the side of the house to the front porch. There is stuff piled on the porch and broken windows that have been haphazardly been boarded up. I walk to the end of the porch. The curtains into the living room are open and I can see the butterfly hook-rug still hanging on the wall in the same place—the rug I started at 9 and that Gordo finished for me a few years later so I could give to to Grandma for Christmas. Billy’s shoes appear to be laying on the floor like he just forgot to put them away yesterday. Papers and garbage are also strewn all over the floor. I backtrack to the front door on the porch. From this vantage point I can still see the butterfly in the living room, and I can see down the tiny hallway and through another door that opens into the kitchen. I can also see the staircase I climbed more times than I can count and I notice the Asian inspired wallpaper is peeling away and there is broken pottery on the floor. Tears begin to flow again. Looters and squaters have left the house and it’s remnants in shambles.

I step back. It’s kind of a metaphor for how I am feeling right now. Death has become a looter and a squater for my childhood memories and life in Coos Bay—life visiting my grandmas and grandpa, aunts and uncles and cousins, my great aunts and great uncles & godparents, my parents childhood friends, the brown house & the white house, the pool at Mingus park, the beach…

Time to go.

I get back in the car and start heading out of town. I stop at one of the familiar entry-point-hills for one final look. I am peering down toward North Bend. Can see the road leading to the bridge that takes me over the Bay and out of town. This is it. No going back. I get out of the car, stand in the middle of the road, and take a cheesy selfie.

Back behind the wheel I point the car homeward. My vision has changed. The sun has moved. My life has been permanently altered and time waits to more. The climb up the other side of the gorge has begun. And now it must continue.

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