One hundred years ago Edgar Rice Burroughs published ‘Tarzan Of The Apes’, a character that has endured through literature and film ever since. Charlie Chaplan made his second screen appearance, this time as The Little Tramp – his most enduring and iconic film role.
The world’s first red and green traffic lights were installed in Cleveland, Ohio. Congress set up the Federal Trade Commission. Federal spending was at $0.73 billion dollars. Unemployment was at 7.9% – and the cost of a first class stamp was $0.02 cents.
Above is a photo of Evelyn taken in the 1990’s at one of her favorite places, Moosehead Lake, Maine. She travelled there each summer with her husband, Raymond Pinkham, until age became a deterrent to doing so. The smile on her face, that of a woman content with her surroundings and place in life, remains etched in my mind to this day.
Evelyn, or ‘Nana’ as most who knew her referred to her, was my grandmother. When I was a child, she was my first girlfriend. As an adult, she was my friend, my companion, my confidant, and one of the most significant presences in my life.
I have years of memories of her, as well as favorites amongst those memories. I’ve shared several of them on both this blog and on Facebook. Last year I wrote a post about her and what my ‘truth’ was about Nana, despite the relationship she had with others and what their truths might have been.
During my childhood, Nana lived in Watertown, MA with her second husband, who I referred to as Grampa as he was her husband from before I was born until his death in the late 1970’s. They visited us in Maine, albeit not as often as I’d have liked. Nana was warm and caring to me – loving and giving. I looked forward to her visits with an anticipation that has rarely ever been matched for me by any other impending occasion.
As I reflect back to my childhood, I recall a visit from Nana when things were beginning to deteriorate in the marriage of my parents. I don’t ever recall hearing them ‘fight’ with one another, but there was a sense, even then, that something wasn’t right. My dad, who I enjoy a very nice relationship with now, was not an involved parent. My mother was constantly busy keeping house, working part time, and tending to three children. It left little time for simple enjoyment and fun. There was always a sense of urgency to life – urgency to clean up, to get ready, to get somewhere and get back again. My visits with Nana were calm and enjoyable. She sat and talked and listened and cared. She ‘loved’.
On the visit I am recalling in particular, when Nana and Grampa prepared to leave, they kissed us all goodbye, as they always did, and walked out of the house to their gigantic steam-ship sized 1970’s car, Grampa behind the wheel. I watched them out the picture window of the house I grew up in, the tears already forming in my eyes at their departure. It became more than I could bear, and I jumped off the couch and ran out the door through the garage and out to the driveway. They saw me, and Grampa stopped backing the car down the driveway. I went to Nana’s window, which she rolled down and asked me what the matter was.
I was seven years of age. I had not the intellect nor the articulation to tell her what was ‘wrong’. It wasn’t something that had words, it was a feeling. A feeling that all was not right in my home. A feeling that whatever it was that wasn’t right wasn’t going to get any better.
But I couldn’t tell her that, and so I instead begged her, through my tears, to take me with her. It wasn’t just that I was going to miss her (which I always did), it was that I didn’t want to be at home with my parents any longer. It was that she was, to me, a warmth, love, caring, and safety that I did not feel in my home. It was that I wanted her to just open the door of the car, and open her arms, and let me climb inside and stay there with her forever.
Upon my request, she looked at Grampa, and he back at her, and then she looked back at me. She reached out the window, placed her hand lovingly on my head, and told me that as much as she’d love to have me come with them, I had to stay home, with my family, as that was where I belonged and needed to be. She said she loved me, and would call soon, and to be a good boy and try not to be too sad. She leaned out of the window, gave me an extra kiss, and Grampa even handed me an apple out of a bag they had in the back seat, and then they continued to back down the driveway and were on their way back to Massachusetts.
I stood in the driveway, heartbroken, and watched them go.
Today, had she lived to see it, would have been Nana’s 100th birthday. Each year I think about the last birthday she saw, 89, and how I visited her at her home, a mere seven months before she died, and when I arrived and she hugged me, she asked for a second hug saying, ‘Every time I see you I don’t know if it will be the last time.’ It wasn’t the last time, but it was enough to make me see exactly how old Nana had become. I had at that time moved to Massachusetts myself, and Nana had moved back to Maine and was married to her third husband, Raymond. I visited each time I went to Maine, and called her at least once a week as well. It wasn’t the last time I saw her, but it was the first time I ever really considered that the end of her life might be drawing near.
Not a day passes that I don’t think of her in some way. She left the earth ten years ago this past July, but never my mind nor my heart….
Happy Birthday, Nana. I miss you, I talk about you to the boys and share stories about you, even though you never got the chance to meet them, nor they you. I explain how much I loved you, how much you meant to me, and how I still think of you each and every day, look at your photo, and wish I could sit at your kitchen table and hold your hand and talk to you for hours the way we used to.
I do all this to keep you active in my life even if you can’t be, and to make sure the boys know of you. I recall the lessons you taught me, and the love you shared with me, and try to be a ‘good man’, as you told me to, since it’s the only thing that really matters. I do all this with love and admiration of you. I do what I can to honor you. But there’s one thing I just can’t seem to do.
I never quite get around to accepting that you are really gone.