Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Seeing Nana

I am in Washington at my parents' house. It's late summer: the woods buzz, the pool is warm, the cousins have come to town, the humidity sticks to our skin. It's DC in August. Today is my niece's 10th birthday, and we made a cheesecake together. Last night I watched Stardust with my mom and played a game called Querkel. Today my sister-in-law and I ate lunch at Booeymonger's (a sandwich place). We are easing into the routine of togetherness, catching up on each other and missed places.

There is one stark change, though. One thing is different about this house I return to again and again with the same dogwood out the window and blue and white tile on the kitchen floor: there is much Nana in this house now. Her presence has seeped in, filled corners, spots on walls and shelves, settled into spaces where I've never seen her before.

When my grandmother Millie died, our house changed, too. What I remember is consulting with my parents about where to hang the tiny-flowered light fixtures, my interest in their repainting the wicker chairs from Millie's den, their giving me a white twin bed and nightstand from her house, and the tall white lamp with the switch like a key. I welcomed her into our space. I was 14.

Nana's entrance is different. I am 32, and I watched her go. I have thought about her leaving a lot, that week, that moment, about where she is now. But though I think about all of this, now that I'm here, I realize my processing is very cerebral; I don't see her as I busy about my days. But now I am here. Here pictures of Nana are tacked in the kitchen, framed on the shelf, on the dining room table, in the living room. Her lamps from her Minnesota living room are tucked here and there, a sketch from her wall is framed in the dining room, her paintings, a note from her sister, their childhood pictures... I face her all day long here, and face her absence.

I didn't expect this. I feel kind of raw, tender.

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