There are very few people that one has an elemental connection with during their lifetimes. For all of my life, mine was with my grandmother. We just knew each other, and there was such a deep love between us that it’s hard for me to impart the knowledge of it on to people. The only thing I can say is, is that I hope that each one of you has, or has had someone that you’ve connected with on as deep a level.
Simply put, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for Grandmother. When I went to live with her 30 years ago, I was at such odds with the world that I didn’t know what I would do. And Grandmother had just lost her soul-mate in my Grandfather . They were married 40 years. She asked me to come live with her at the house in Santa Barbara while I was going to college, and I had some trepidation at first for many reasons, chief among them was that I was young and going to college! We said we’d see in six months if it was going well and re-think then whether it was such a good idea. Six months came and went and we laughed about it and lived together for another two and a half years while we both picked up our lives and moved on.
When I moved back to Santa Barbara after several years, she was in her eighties and I spent a lot of time taking her places and just hanging out with her. We walked on the beach many times, and shared many meals. Our favorite beach walk was on Thanksgiving mornings where there were free donuts and coffee courtesy of the beach restaurant that no longer is there.
There were times of great loss: my Grandfather, Jack Curtice, their house in a catastrophic firestorm, and two of her step-children passed before she did. Luckily, my Uncle Jim was able to see her through these last years with much care.
I have so many great memories of her that it’s hard to pick just one. She made me Thanksgiving dinner for my birthdays, called all the neighbors to come buy lemonade from our stand outside her house when I was little, and the many times we sat out on the back porch with her Gewurztraminer wine and just talk as the sun set over the hills and ocean you could once see from her back porch.
But there is one memory I have that towers above all others – bringing champagne and strawberries to her in Tucker’s Grove after she’d run six miles on her sixtieth birthday. It was a beautiful May day in the park. She was so full of life and achievement having run the entire way, and it seemed at that moment both of our lives opened up to the years ahead.
Today she passed away. She lived an extraordinarily giving life. Many people will remember her generosity of spirit. I’ll remember the clinking of two champagne glasses, the sweet taste of strawberries, and her bright blue eyes that seemed to know everything about me.
On this emerald isle
of every shade of green
and blue beyond,
I’m thinking of your aged,
textured hands In mine –
wisdom’s fingers pulling away.
Nothing to tie to now but memories:
A looking glass’ reach,
the air palpable as cotton,
sea spray through your hair.
Something is left and returned to:
your blue scarf elegantly draped,
a clock’s key found in ashes,
Heat-fused silver that touched
the mouths of family:
each voice drifting into words,
which are merely sounds now.
We know what they mean, your vowels
Stretching out across years.
We hang on every muttered,
Even your breath, when it catches, is beautiful.
Days slow as night quickens forward
while we wait for a generation
to pass into white.