Well it’s been over a year since my little family became official, and I am amazed at how much things have changed. I am still not sure I can do this on a few days, but there are a lot more days that have me stunned at how blessed I really am. Those blessing have come with lessons—some painful, some joyous.
The first day I realized that the world truly doesn’t stop for anyone was the day my grandmother died. Growing up in the booming (but dangerous) automotive state of Michigan in the 60s, she learned to be strong and confident at a young age. When I knew her, she was a very self-possessed woman—she knew exactly what she wanted. She was not a prodigy by any stretch of imagination, but one may think she were one of some sort by the way she constantly carried herself. Yet, here I was, an awkward 11-year-old suffering from one of the biggest losses anyone can deal with in life.
From the time I was a little girl, maybe at age 7, I have been obsessed with anything outdoors because my “Grampie” took me everywhere with him. This meant that I would help him move tree stands, scout deer, and roam the outdoors looking for an animal to spot. He took me hunting for the first time when I was 8. I can still remember that season like it was yesterday. It was late November, there was about two feet of snow and it was frigid outside. I thought that I had hypothermia in my toes, but I stuck it out because I wanted to make him proud. I really didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing but I knew what the goal was, to kill a deer. As the season passed, I never got a deer. However, I did not let that discourage me. At the end of the season he gave me a simple, “Well?”
There will be a moment in your life when you will feel what it’s like to live without someone. And, I’m not talking about living without an ex-boyfriend/girlfriend. I’m talking about actually having to live without someone because they passed away. There will be a moment when you sit down all alone in your living room and think of what that person would be doing right now and it’s going to hurt. It won't hurt as much as it did the day they left, but you’re going to see and feel that empty hole in your chest. You’re going to be painfully aware of this cavity that cannot, and will not, ever be filled. It seems as though this hole in your chest is encased with precious museum quality glass and allows everyone to see right through you…
It's not everyday you witness the end of a long and wise circle. You start your life thinking of what you will do with it, what you will experience, and where you will go.
Every time I start one of these, I fail. I try to tell myself you'll get one for yourself one of these times. That I'll suddenly find a way to summarize what you and I shared for so long, but never enough. But the stark reality of the situation is that I simply can't. There's too much to attempt to recall, too much to try my damndest to explain to people who just won't understand, because it was our thing. Ours, and now mine. And that, in and of itself, is not okay.
When I imagine a place I’d love to visit, my first thoughts are not the historic buildings of Paris or the bustling streets of New York City. Instead, my vision lies on a quiet cove in a big lake. A small Texas town, barely on the map. A boat with a flat bottom and metal seats notorious for scorching the back of one’s legs on a hot summer day. Two simple fishing poles propped between the bow of the boat and an ambitious tackle box. Loose lead weights rolling on the floor with every soft wake. In the driver seat, my grandfather, aged, but still full of youth, smiling at the simpleness of his favorite pastime.
Now, we have all been there in the same scenario…going away for college and enjoying the college experience and actually living on your own for a bit. On the weekends you would visit home every other week, weekend, or holiday right? Well in my case, I have finished college with my Bachelors of Science degree in Business Administration from California State University, Channel Islands. It was an amazing experience when I was attending the campus. Having the freedom of having my own dorm room and sharing a room with a roommate was a great experience. After college ended, I had to move back home with the grandparents after living on campus for two years to finish my Bachelor’s Degree.
Abandoned, on a cool October afternoon, to the nurses of the Saint Louis World's Fair nursery, Baby No. 13 could have fallen victim to many fates. He could have been left to the already crowded orphanages, to later be institutionalized. He could have been subject to child labor, as this was a time when one third of all southern mill workers were children and child labor laws would not be commonplace for years to come. He could have been lost and forgotten in the system that so often fell short for helpless children.
The beach wasn’t at all how I’d recalled it as a child. I’d often fantasised about scrunching my toes in the soft, glorious sand, shrieking at the countless blue waves, often intimidating in their size, fiercely crashing into the bay. Now upon my return I saw the beach for what it really was. The sand blurred out in a dismal trance, the shore fading into a grey liquid sludge, bleak and miserable in the dull winter light. The sea, now brown in colour, was motionless, dead. Its rancid salty breath blew tepidly through my hair accompanied by the keen bite on my cheeks of cold winter winds. A small colony of gulls chased after the rest of someone’s discarded lunch blustering across the decaying peer. The repetitive buzz of fair ground music and slot machines only soiled the atmosphere further.
As a child, I grew up in a semi-rural/suburban community. In one direction you could easily drive towards the city and the opposite direction would take you into farm country—a fifteen-minute drive, either way. I used to cycle both directions, and I developed a fondness for both alike, sketching pictures of old barns and forest landscapes. On other occasions, I'd visit the city to shop and take pictures, only to sketch them later on. These hobbies were the result of my grandparents, who visited every summer from Europe. They would arrive soon after school was out and return just before September. In many ways, they had a stronger impact on my activities throughout childhood, more so than my parents or friends.
Alma Katherine Hagan was born February 24, 1925 near Strode, Kentucky, the daughter of Erie and Nora Page Hagan. Along with her parents, brothers, sisters and Grandpa Brock Page, the rickety little house a short distance from old Rockbridge School swelled with life on the brink of the Great Depression. They worked hard raising gardens and a family on a tobacco income, moving several times before making a home on the George Carter farm in the curve on highway 1049. Grandma was the seventh of ten children—Neva, Clifton, Glaydell, Odell, Dale, Ruby, Katherine, Sarah, Chloe Eagle and James Wendall—with several not living until adulthood. With the exception of Chloe Eagle, Katherine survived them all. One of her earliest memories was hearing James Wendall crying. He did not live more than a few months.