But if death sneaks up on you, the only thing you have time to think is ‘Ah shit!’August 4, 2012
It’s been too long. i’ve thought about posting before now but i’ve seemed to find other things to do. And honestly i like it like that. i like blogging, i really like it. BUT i like blogging when it feels right, when i feel like i have something to say. i have a lot of extraneous thought in my head, i really don’t need to spew it all over just to be able to say i posted something. And the few of you who read seem to be okay with my erratic postings so we’re sticking with it.
i have, however, been posting much more regularly over here. Right now you can read my thoughts and Melanie’s responses to my very first viewings of Gilmore Girls. You may also find out why you might never want to watch tv with me.
But none of that is why i actually felt the need to pull up this site and write a post. It is also not because i have nothing left to do at work and still have 2 hours to go, although it is a nice way to pass my time. My real reason for this post is a few things that sort of all tie together. My grandma, an amazing teacher, pop culture stuff, and death.
See, my grandma turned 90 this week. And if you’ve never met my grandma or heard me talk about her she is probably the most amazing person i’ve ever met. She still lives on her own and does everything for herself except drive (she still could she just figures better safe than sorry.) She also doesn’t do the whole computer thing. But she takes the bus to her appointments if no one else needs to go near where she is going. She volunteers at her church, she does at least one crossword puzzle a day and reads at least two books a week. She also has a beer every day. Keep in mind this is only now that she’s 90.
Because before she was 90 she did a whole lot of other stuff. i’m not going to write a biography here but i can tell you some stuff. My grandpa was a pro football player- you can see his stats here. They were married before he went pro so that meant my grandma traveled around and led the football wife life for awhile. She has stories of meeting lots of sports and film celebrities but most of them are people a lot of us have never heard of. She also went with my grandpa when he was recruited to try out for major league baseball. And she was on her own when he was overseas in the war. At some point after he came back they bought a bowling alley and ran that together. Then they bought a Dairy Queen. My grandpa died before i was born but my grandma kept running the Dairy Queen until i was maybe 6. i remember spending the night at her house and waking up early in the morning to go get everything set up, she would make me a malt or a cone or whatever i wanted and i would sit on the counter and pretend that i was the boss and i was making her do all the work. This may have also been where i fell in love with cash registers.
After she retired she started volunteering at two different elementary schools, she helped kids who needed help reading and she helped with spelling. She also came to every one of my performances or games or bring your grandparent to lunch days. When i was in elementary school she moved across the street from me and i would go over every morning for breakfast. We liked to watch Bozo together, especially the Grand Prize Game. One morning i went over and she had created my very own Grand Prize Game from stuff she found around the house. She also took me to school and picked me up if it was raining or snowing too hard to walk. And once when we had a major ice storm while i was at school and they let us out early, she grabbed her garden hoe and made her way to my school by smashing the hoe into the ice (the humor of that phrase alone is not lost on me) and then pulling herself toward it on the ice. Now she only had one and a half blocks to go but still. When i wanted to get better at shooting a basketball or playing four square she came outside day after day and played with me until i improved. When there was going to be a sock hop at my school and lots of people were talking about how they had poodle skirts for costumes and i didn’t we went out and bought fabric and the two of us made one together.
Being an only child and having parents who are both only children AND having only one living grandparent made it so my grandma became my best friend.
The other person is a teacher. And i hope all of you have had at least one teacher who means half as much to you as this one means to me. When i was in elementary school my art teacher, Mr. Eddings was one of the most popular teachers in the school. Every kid wanted his attention but when it came your turn your could swear that there wasn’t another person in sight because his attention was so focused on you. He had a remarkable way of interacting with me that reminded me i was a kid while respecting me like an adult.
And he truly valued creativity. We did clay projects every year and one year i made an elephant and when it came time to glaze my elephant he was more than happy to hand over the purple and teal glaze and praised me for thinking about it differently. The year before i desperately wanted to make a duck. It didn’t go very well. My clay was more dump than duck and i was frustrated in that elementary school perfectionist kid way. When i wasn’t around he smoothed out some lumps and reshaped a little and the next day handed me a picture and told me how good my grouse was looking. Now i know, in some cases this would have been a bad move but in my case it was perfect. i didn’t realize at the time that he had made any changes, i thought i just hadn’t known what a grouse was but if my piece looked so much like a grouse that i might as well make that instead of a duck and my frustration was forgotten.
One of our projects early on maybe first or second was to draw a phoenix (have i convinced you he’s awesome yet?) My phoenix was so intricate, lots of spiky feathers around the edges- after we drew and coloured them we were supposed to cut them out and put them on a different coloured background. i was definitely struggling, i wanted it to be just right and my little hands weren’t that coordinated yet. Mr. Eddings came to the rescue and cut mine out for me and used it as an example for how to put it on the background. i was saved my frustration and no one knew it was because i wasn’t a good enough cutter.
We used to use pastels and charcoal a lot and of course we (and our parents) wanted our pictures preserved which he would do with a mega sized can of AquaNet hairspray. Now something about the smell of that hairspray makes me crazy, i feel sick, for the rest of the day i feel like i’m eating it, it’s awful. He learned this and any time he was going to spray anything he would pull me aside and let me wait inside a storage closet until he was done.
He also put chapstick on my lips in the winter when they were dry and cracked even though i fought him and thought it felt like slime. He was well known for talking in silly voices and making animal noises (this is a major talent in the eyes of elementary school kids.) One day we asked him to make a cow sound and he repeatedly wouldn’t. At the end of class while everyone else was at their desk i went to ask him something and asked him again, just him and me if he would make his cow sound. He said he would if i would so we traded cow sounds and i was a hero.
Most of the time i was Miss Farmer to him and i liked that because NO ONE else called me by my last name and i preferred (and still do) my first name. But when he called me Miss Farmer it was special, it was a nickname just for him. And it sort of all added up. Every conversation we had, every time he helped me or remembered i liked a certain thing, the way his room smelled, and the way he would smile when i came to visit made his room, made him a safe place.
i started cutting in fifth grade and his was the only room i didn’t think about it in. When i graduated from elementary school i cried hysterically mostly because i didn’t want a new art teacher, i didn’t want a new art room. i came back to visit him as often as i could all the way through high school. As i got older i got more introverted, more stuck in my mind, definitely more depressed. But i could still walk into his room and see him smile and feel safe. i didn’t have to talk a lot, i could just be there and that was okay. He always seemed to know when i needed to talk and when i just needed to be there- without ever knowing what was going on behind the wall i put up.
Here’s the thing about these two people. . . i honestly cannot imagine a world that they aren’t in. Nora Ephron just died (can i just pause to tell you how much i loathe the phrase passed away) and many people expressed the same feeling- i can’t say the same about her only because i didn’t know her personally. i know her work and i will miss it but she is not a person that i see or speak to regularly. But i know she was that for other people and i get it. Because my grandma is 90 now and Mr. Eddings is getting older and i know that they could both live to be 156 but that probably won’t happen.
i’m scared of the day when they won’t be here. i’m not scared in a way that i can’t live my life or that i obsessively think about it. But it is something i think about albeit more frequently than i should. And it isn’t to say that i won’t be affected by the death of other people but there are just certain people who make you feel like the world is a little more right in your head and these two are part of it for me. i already lost another one of them and i think about him every single day. Sometimes i wonder if my life would be different if he was still here. He was a teacher as well and has been the inspiration for countless stories, characters, poems, names (including a very real dog,) and conversations.
Now, i’m not trying to be morbid and like i said i don’t think about this all day every day. But it’s there. And i know that my grandma was one of the reasons i wanted to move back here to the cornfield. Because i wanted to spend as much time with her as i could. And if Mr. Eddings was still teaching, i would still go and sit in his room and talk to him as often as i could.
So i guess there isn’t really a point to this post other than to talk about two amazing people in my life and how lucky i am to have them.
Title is a quotation from an excellent tv show about death. If you know it without looking it up you get extra dinosaur points.