I found myself pacing a little this evening. Restless. Naturally, I grabbed a pen and a spiral notebook with the intent to write down whatever thoughts were trying to get out and maybe doodle a bit to spark the flow of words. The left hand corner of the page quickly became filled up with intricate, interlocking swirls sprouting tiny flowers and feathery figures.
My pen zigged and zagged down the page, like a printed heart beat or rocky mountain peaks, and then the swirls followed. The swirls were tighter, grasping each sharp beat so as not to slide off into the white abyss of the remainder of the piece of paper. Oh, but then, one swirl lost it's grasp and rolled toward the middle of the page. Some of it's swirl friends followed like raindrops until they reached the other side of the page.
I studied the progression of my doodle design. Flames. The raindrop swirls needed to be illuminated with tiny flames as they rolled into the white abyss. Unfortunately, drawing flames is not one of my talents and the swirls started to look more like creepy trolls. Luckily, I only tried adding flames to two of the swirls. The rest kept a safe distance from the creepy trolls on their way across the paper.
Sigh. I turned the page. Blank. My previous doodle was too spectacular to try to top so doodling was out of the question. Words, words, words. I need words; something is trying to get out. I positioned my pen. Just write the first thing that you think of. . .
There it was. There's too much I wanted to tell her. Nearly 8 years of my life to fill in; my whole adult life so far. Who knew I was craving to tell her? Certainly not me. Still no words came. Where do I start? I can't start. She's gone and as much as I would like to think she's in heaven pining away to get a letter from me, I think she's actually in heaven, without pain or illness, celebrating with angels. I have no words for her so I found her words.
My Great Grandma Bruns and I wrote letters to one another throughout my childhood and teen years. She always doodled on the pages. She used to write short stories for me. My favorite was about a bee. I can't find it anywhere; I looked and looked. No words.
She used to send me money to purchase blank cassette tapes so that I could record myself singing and mail it back to her. She was the only family member I sang for. Outside of school sponsored solo competitions and choir, no one heard me sing until my late teens. When everyone else, who had never really heard me sing and had only experienced my shyness, scoffed when I decided I wanted to pursue Broadway, my grandma wrote to me and said, "You should try! You just need to gain confidence. Confidence comes with age and practice and you are still so very young."
She wrote once, "I like that you have ambition. Just be careful, you will hit an age when the mystery and excitement of a boy will cloud that ambition. Make sure he's the one who will support you and share in your desires and not one who will make you abandon them."
She was gentle and kind but firm. She inspired me to write, to sing and to be myself. I wanted more. I wanted to be an adult with her; to visit her all the time instead of sporadically, to have tea with her and talk about butterflies.
I was 19 when she passed away. I was driving from Kansas City with my boyfriend, so that he could officially meet my parents, when I received the call. I got through the weekend as best I could and even had fun with my family. Ike was a hero that weekend and initiated us leaving early to drive straight to St. Joe, MO (a good 5 hour drive from my parents home) for the visitation. I got through the talking and laughing. I listened to my relatives tell their young children that Grandma was so happy to be in heaven. I watched one little girl peer into the casket for a long time before finally turning around and saying, "You're right, mommy. Grandma's not in that body anymore."
I stayed the night at Ike's parents house that night. I curled up in a ball on the bed in the guest room. Ike sat next to me. "Are you okay?" After all the traveling and excitement of seeing relatives, the divvying up of her belongings, remaining composed through each interaction and mentally preparing for the funeral the next day, I was exhausted. It was like staring at a blank page, knowing there was a lot to express yet having no words to really articulate it.
"She's really gone," I sobbed.
That was probably the one and only time I cried about her passing. I stuffed the rest of my mourning down deep inside, because what was the point? No need to cry all the time; suck it up and move on. Tonight, 8 years of missing my friend and confidante coupled with never having really mourned caught up with me.
There's a saying that God doesn't give us more than we can handle. I honestly think it wasn't until just now that I was able to handle the actual act of mourning that loss. Maybe that sounds ridiculous. Back then, when I was 19, if I had really mourned for her I think I would have been trapped in that emotion; trapped in guilt for all the times I didn't. . .all the times I should have. . . Tonight, though, I am able to feel sadness for the loss but the resounding emotion is one of joy. She gave me her wisdom, her time, her stories, her love and support. She made me want to be better. To express that fully; there are no words. Sometimes there are just doodles.