2006-10-05

We're Being Timed

I was emailing with a friend of mine and we were talking about early mornings and heritage and in a weirdly natural way, I started thinking about when I was little, like really little.

We lived in Carbondale and my grandparents, Louis and Mimi lived in Murphysboro. It's really close to Carbondale and it has a Main Street, where there's a bank and the post office and Tippy's where everyone goes to lunch.

When I was really little, I woke up before everyone in my house. On Saturdays, when my parents wanted to sleep in, I didn't turn on the TV or get into all the things that I wanted to get into but couldn't due to good, parental supervision... I got up and I called my Grandpa Louis.

He was my dad's father and he died when I was 6. It was a shocking surprise to everyone, not the least of whom was me. When he died, I felt this horrible sense of guilt for one time when I was walking home from school with Brian Brandon, who lived down the street. We had been told by our mothers that we had to walk home because they were timing us and waiting for us so that they would know when to expect us and when to start worrying that some crazed, acid-tripping SIU student had snatched us in a drug-fueled attempt to make some ransom money for more weed money.
Things are much different now and I'm sure that the meth epidemic has disallowed little children from walking home from Winkler Elementary.

Brian and I were maybe half-way home and my grandpa's car pulled over across the street from us. I will never forget his hat and coat; part of that is how much I love the idea of a man always wearing a hat and an over-coat and part of it is just... memory.
He told us to hop in and he'd drop us off at home.
I told him that, no, we can't because our moms were waiting for us at home and we had to walk so they would know how long it takes to walk.
I think that to my family, this was an adorable anecdote and cute enough that he drove to my house to tell my mom what happened, as well as to reassure her that we were right along on our way.

I know I didn't think of anything when I turned down the ride. There was my grandpa and my mom was waiting for me. The ease with which I said no, the simplicity of having to walk home with Brian, and the perfect innocence of being that child makes me feel so incredibly lucky to be me. I knew my mom would be at the corner waiting for me. I knew that there would be my cat and my dresses and my dinner but I didn't think about those things. Nothing occurred to me but what I was charged with , which was walking home from school. I was a very blessed little girl for not having to think about anything serious.

I know I didn't think anything about it because I know this wonderfully simple thing, this funny story for the Shriners and for the dinner party, it became a moment of intense import to me. I gave a ledge to my life where before, there had literally been backyard daisy-chains, Cheerios, and young parents who adored me. It's still a visceral moment for me.
I can feel it more than I am remembering it.
I know the smells and the way the air felt and my dress and Brian's hand and the quickness of my grandpa's wave when he drove off toward my house.

I don;t have to tell you that he died not too long after The Ride That Was Refused. From then until now, whenever I thought about it, I was seized on the inside. I felt terrible, like REALLY terrible, for years because I felt the pain of adult emotions trying to sort themselves out in a little kid. Not just a little kid but one who was lucky enough to have her family driving around in a town small enough that she could walk home from kindergarten or first grade every day with her neighbor and her mom would meet her at the corner.
Little girls who are that much cared for don't know about guilt or grief and it's a cold, hard shock when they are introduced to serious things.

I missed him.
I felt like I might have broken his grandpa-heart when I told him I didn't want a ride home, which of course wasn't true at all.
But I didn't know any better.
And it seemed like after I refused the ride home, a series of unfortunate events unfolded.
I finally understand, although it's taken me almost until age 33, that unfortunate things happen and they suck but they're not personal. They happen to everyone. They happen and you can't stop them or hide from them or anything.
It's not a question of when you fall (you will), it's a question of how fast you get up (you better).
Rollerderby - I bet you didn't know it could be in this, did you? Surprise! Rollerderby will change your life.

Louis and I were always close. Like a lot of people in my family, I'm named after him. My middle name is Louise.
I was named for that side of my family long before anyone said, "Man she's just like her dad."
"Doesn't she look like Louis?"
"Why don't you call your grandpa?"
The family look and temperament that is so obvious to people has led my mom to believe absolutely in nature over nurture.
My grandfather died when I was 6 and my dad when I was 16 and somehow, I have mannerisms, ways of sitting on the couch and of touching my face that would make sense if I had spent all the time I should have been allowed in a perfect world with them.
Since I lost them so early, it can only be biology that causes me to be so much like Louis and like my dad.

That's a bit of a digression, though.
My favorite thing that I wanted to talk about was Saturday mornings.
How did we get to be so close, me and Louis, besides me looking so much like that part of my family?
I idolized my cousin Robbie when I was little; she was my "big girl" as my Aunt Kathy pointed out. She and Grandpa Louis were really close and I wanted to be like Robbie in every way possible. But besides idolizing Robbie and wanting to be as close to my grandpa as she was, my grandpa woke up early and so did I.
On Saturday mornings, I went to the telephone.
The thing that I wanted to do before I did anything else was to call my grandpa and make plans for breakfast.
Sometimes it was me and him at McDonald's and sometimes it was the entire family, my dad and my uncle who lived in Carbondale's families as well as anyone who was in town or home from school. The big days, we went to Mary Lou's, the diner in Carbondale and on birthdays, we went to Denny's.
Denny's served cornflakes with ice cream and peaches on top and to this day, I love cold cereal with ice cream on top.

I'm thinking about this stuff because there's a major rip in the fabric right now and it's making me feel introspective but I'm also thinking about it because I'm thinking about my future. I'm thinking about how I want to be for the rest of my life… not who I want to be but how I want to be.
I want to be as soft as I was when I was little, and as connected and honest about things as I was when I was little.
I think that nature is winning over nurture for me.
Not only do I see my dad and my grandfather, shaped a little by my mom's cheek bones and green eyes… not only do I see them staring back at me in every picture but I feel myself in every action. It gives me a sense of calm that I haven't had since I was a really little kid.

It's very sweet to feel a sense of faith in the future.
I'd lost that feeling for too long and I don't know that word would really do justice to how at peace I am.
Today, and for many days lately, I am a hundred and a thousand times more like that the little girl walking home from school a very long time ago than I've allowed myself to be in the years that followed that day.

arizonasarah at 1:06 p.m.

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