Saturday, May 23, 2009


When I was driving home from my Girls' Night a few weeks ago, the sky was so clear and I could see the moon and so many stars perfectly. Amazing. I started thinking about something I wrote a few years ago. I rifled through my old work and managed to find it. I'm posting it here with some edits:

I can't look at Orion without thinking of my maternal grandmother. I saw it on the way home from Christmas shopping tonight. Luke was asleep in his carseat in the backseat of the Jeep and the stars were so bright. I looked up through the windshield and there he was -- belt, sword, shoulders, knees. I have very few memories of my Grandma before her illness made it too painful for her to walk. It didn't matter to me. I loved her. She taught me how to blow bubbles with bubblegum and how to find the big and little dippers and what cardinals look like and how to tie my shoes and the importance of a firm handshake.

I got my first paying job from her when I was 7 or 8. She paid me fifty-cents a room to dust the furniture. She always checked my work and pointed out any missed spots. She didn't believe in letting me get away with poor work just because I was little. She did get angry sometimes. She would try to bite her tongue until we left the room, but we could still hear her lash out at her caretakers because of the pain. I didn't fully understand then, but I understand now how horrifying it must have been to live in constant pain.

She had been a teacher and an artist in her younger, pain-free days. That teacher spirit never left her. She loved to show us things and help us learn. Sometimes we would hear a train coming on the tracks across the field from their house. My sisters and I would push her wheelchair to the window of the enclosed porch on the front of their house so she could help us count the train cars together. I still count the cars when I get stopped at a crossing and have to wait for a train to pass.

I remember her hands. I'd seen her paintings and sketches, so I know she'd had artist hands, but I never got to see them like that. In my memory, her skin was paper-thin and blotchy. The ends of her fingers were always bruised from from the constant pricking to check her blood sugar. I mostly remember her in her wheelchair, barely even able to lift a spoon. But she could still love us. And still teach. And because of her, I can spot Orion.

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