The one regret I have, were I to admit to myself that I had any regrets at all, would be that, in moving so far away from the little island which I used to call my home, I have placed an almost insurmountable distance between myself and the one person in my family who I miss the most: my grandmother. We’re just a week from celebrating her eightieth birthday, and where else would she be, but in the hospital, fighting off a bout of pneumonia. My mother informed me this morning, and I’ve been worrying off and on throughout the afternoon regarding just how ill-prepared I am at this very moment to go running back up to the state of Washington should the moment come to pass that I would be worse off for not having gone. Through luck and the gracious love which my wife feels for me, I have been able to stretch what would have been a short sabbatical into something just a little longer as I teach myself to write once more. But we have now exhausted most, if not all of our wiggle room, and should that dreaded phone call come, I’m not sure exactly what I have to quickly liquidate to catch the next flight out of Oakland.
The person who I have become is built upon the foundation which my grandmother laid down by example throughout my youth and adolescence. As far back as I can remember, in my grandmother I have always had an ally in my struggles to come to terms with what injustices I have perceived in my travels through the world. She is a woman of her word, a force for fairness, and the only person to whom I am related that views meaningless debates as a form of exercise. My grandmother has always made time to argue the finer points of irrelevant nonsense, occasionally dipping into the banned weaponry of religion or politics, but even then, only as a retaliatory strike against her upstart grandson who merely enjoys the heated thrashing about of ideas with someone who won’t just quit after an hour or two has passed. And what I respect about her most, in this regard, is that she has always been willing, despite her ideology, to listen to my bleeding-hearted arguments championing socialism and the redistribution of wealth, and every now and then, confronted by evidence in support of a minor point here or there, adjust her moral compass just a little. From her I have learned an indefatigable work ethic, a solid moral code, and the understanding of what it means to remain true to oneself and to one’s word. If only she weren’t a Republican…
In recent years, we’ve had to limit our verbal sparring to the occasional telephonic jab, as her health has been in a steady decline since the very first of her heart attacks back in the 1990’s. It was so noticeable when I was still living at home, or just a quick ferry ride away from her, but since we began measuring time apart in years instead of days or weeks, I’ve seen just how time can wear away at even the most ever present structures. It’s funny: whenever I have heard that someone’s died, I am usually the first to mention how at least their pain has finally come to an end, and whether they fall to the hands of their depression or simply succumb to old age, they have, at last, found some measure of peace. Even the notion of my final moments fills me with nothing more than a sense of delayed relief, and perhaps a hint of impatience that I’ve yet so much to do before I can finally put all this behind me and get all of the sleep of which I have somehow been deprived for all these years. And yet, when I contemplate the mortality of those whom I love more than I am willing to admit, I begin to grasp at every chance to keep them for just a moment longer.
Philosophically I understand that without the dark, the light has no meaning, and that to have a beginning, there must, one day be an end. One cannot revel in a sense of joy and wonderment without seasoning it misery and despair, for there can be no heads without a tail. And yet… Even dancing around all of this, that bitter realization which threatens to rend me from myself and cast me down into a hell from which I am not sure that I can return, I cannot let down my guard and let myself admit just why it is that I am so afraid. Inside I am just a little boy, clinging to the certainty that his grandparents are some type of extension of natural law, having existed long before me, and that it stands to reason that they, like all things fundamental to the workings of reality, must continue to exist for the universe to keep on spinning.
I know that she is in pain, and should something come to pass, that there will be no coming back. I know that she believes that when the moment comes, she will see everyone she’s ever loved, having transcended the bonds of mortal flesh to continue being, but in state of eternal wonder. I know that none of that will matter when the moment comes that marks the end of our arguments, and I am left with an unspoken retort upon my lips, lost forever to the ages, a perfect comeback that comes only when it’s far too late. I know that I am simply working myself up, and that if there were a pressing need to have traveled to the Northwest, I would have already begun to make my way there.
In a world where loyalties are bought and sold, and morality is just something that screamed from inside the television, I wanted to write about someone who was better, someone who has shown me that we can be better. I wanted to write about my Hero.