Last week I was thinking, for various reasons, about my maternal grandmother, after whom girl2’s middle name was chosen.
And, as always with me when it comes to feeling things deeply or admitting uncomfortable feelings, that thinking was somewhat mediated and transformed by music.
Specifically, the Dixie Chick’s song Silent House in which they sing about a relative with Altzheimer’s disease who is slowly forgetting who and what she is.
Some poignant lyrics:
And I will try to connect
All the pieces you left
I will carry it on
And let you forget
And I’ll remember the years
When your mind was clear
How the laughter and life
Filled up this silent house
My grandmother did not have Altzheimer’s, but she did have Parkinson’s, which in the later stages, seemed to leave her not only physically undone, but also mentally.
I lost my grandmother many years before she physically passed away. And one sorrow in my life is that my grandparents never really knew my children .
Because the Dixie Chicks are right. Who do we become when we don’t know where we come from? I mean, of course I’m not saying that our grandparents or parents form who we are completely, and there are cases, like adoption for example, where obviously the parents and grandparents don’t have a huge role. However I dislike or like what I came from, it is what I react agaisnt, it is the basis from which I am setting out in life whether I acknowledge it or not.
And so I believe that when those pieces start to disappear, it is a deep, biting loss that we have no way to acknowledge, no ritual, no way for moving on from.
So here’s a poem I wrote in Japan(pardon the sophomorishness of it) many years ago when my own grandmother started to unravel:
I left my home a year ago
traveled thousands of miles over shining water
to a country where I knew no one, and could not speak
those who loved me sang songs, told tales, wrapped me in comfort from across the world
Grandmother left a year ago, too
traveled across thousands of miles of undiscovered territory
to a country where she cannot know anyone, and cannot speak
but her loved ones forgot the melodies, sat open-mouthed and silent
I chose to put the world between me and my life,
pulled the strings as tight as they would reach
confident they would not break
She never chose that path, lived in the same house most of her life
and there is no word, spoken, sung that can reach her now
they say that people with this absence, this journey begun too soon, they were the lucky ones
escaping death in his 1920 incarnation of plague
but these people escaped, running from that final journey too soon!
so that now, as life lingers, mocking,
we are all, waiting, for death to bring them home