Yesterday it was the first day of visiting family, a whirlwind set of visits really. First it was a visit on a front porch with great coffee, after having a delightfully long sleeping-in morning time. Then a quick (perhaps the driver, who was not me, was speeding a bit) drive to a neighboring town for a lunch visit. After that, a stop to visit one set of grandparents, led to a visit with an aunt, uncle, and cousin. This was followed by a visit with the other set of grandparents, aunt, and cousin, and then dinner at a cemetery. I craved a nap around three which never occurred and enjoyed the day thoroughly.
I have to laugh at the themes that seem to have run commonly throughout the day, blueberries being one of them. At each stop blueberries seemed to come up as a topic of “brain food”. Apparently there has been some sort of recent scientific breakthrough on the importance of blueberries, which I have completely missed. Each group seemed to be laughing and discussing how they needed to remember to eat blueberries, kind of like people have joked about the need to remember to take ginko-biloba for memory. The thing I found funny is that it seemed to fit in every single conversation today at least once. How? I don’t know. I wonder if we are really running in these parallel and interlacing topic conversations all the time and just don’t stop talking long enough to listen and realize it, and enjoy it. The world got a little smaller.
The majority of the day was spent with one set of grandparents in particular. As a variety of health issues have kept them unable to visit us eight hours away, these are precious and a little bit sad times. They are precious because they run deep with memories and emotions, sad because every time I come the aging process can strike me when I least expect it. I walked my grandma’s beautiful yard today. She has so many flowers, snowball bushes that make the whole yard filled with a delicate fragrance and the most beautiful rusty red roses you have ever seen. I noticed how large the pine trees were, pine trees that I remember having branches cut off at Christmas when I was a little girl. Grandma would turn me loose with a pine branch, somewhat precariously arranged, in the living room to decorate. She would pull out all the old ornaments she could find and let me decorate it as I wished. There was no hint at going back and rearranging to suit a sense of balance on her part, but it was always something I felt she thought was beautiful just as it was. I have memories of family gatherings in the yard; summers spent smelling the snowball bush every time I walked out of the kitchen door. The memories were as fragrant as that bush and hit me with such a whoosh that I was grateful for the sunglasses hiding the rim of wetness in my eyes.
Finally it was a dinner at the cemetery. On the drive there, grandma shared a dream of all the flat roofed buildings being made into garden areas. She has such a green thumb and love of plants, that I can see how that would have been her dream long before green spaces became the popular thing to do. Sitting in the backseat, the conversation sound moved in and out, and I let myself drift away from that and think of the beauty of flattop roof gardens. Not just produce for restaurants that may be below, but think of how nice it would be step into a garden on a work break, or at a retirement center. Then, we passed the hospital, which is very large and very flat roofed, what a beautiful place that could be for patients and staff to rest and recuperate, either from a medical procedure or just from stress.
But, I mentioned dinner at the cemetery. That may sound strange to you, even a bit morbid. I can offer assurances that it is anything but that. We all showed up with lawn chairs, or a blanket, something to eat, and sat around and talked. There was some memory times being shared, photos, and even a poem and a song. There was laughter and there were tears wiped away. That’s okay; it’s a safe place to wipe those tears. Fears were shared of future ailments and difficulties being walked through in quieter tones as some moved short distances away to talk in the private. A little boy found an excellent climbing tree and took great delight in watching the branches sway above our heads. I sat at one point and listened to four different conversations going on around me, one about genealogy, another about pets, telling stories on children and family gatherings past, and another telling stories on siblings sitting right there. I laughed when I heard blueberries. I have lived away from my “home” long enough that I know that this will seem a strange thing, disrespectful in some circles and perhaps bordering on outrageous in others. It is healing though. I don’t grieve for the great grandmother, great uncle, or cousin buried there. I grieve for us who are left, the son without his mother, the three sisters who miss their mommy, the father and mother missing their daughter. It is okay to grieve them, it is okay to hurt. It is also okay to share our grief in a different way, celebrating not only their lives, but their legacy.
The legacy they leave us, of lessons taught, stories told, songs favored, favorites and dislikes are a powerful thing. Standing in the hallway of my grandparents’ home, I was reminded of one of the legacies they are leaving us – learning, family, memory making, and of course enjoying the beauty of life, be it snowball bush, child, or blueberry. It makes me think a little deeper, plan a little harder and a little more purposefully on what type of legacy I am leaving those around me.