Friday, July 10, 2009

Summers Past

Before I went to bed last night I was thinking about how I need more pain in my life, which is why I'm considering getting an epilator. Okay, the real reason is simply that like most women I don't really like to shave my legs, and epilators promised that you only need to use them once a month. Which reminded me of something my aunt said to me when I was teenager: while we were getting in the pool she expressed surprise that my mother and I shave our legs all, considering how fair our coloring is. Bear in mind that of the three kids in their family, my aunt is the only one who looks remotely Portuguese, so we are startlingly pale in comparison. I explained that it was motivated as much by how things feel as by how they look.

Now you understand why people who know me seldom ask me what I'm thinking about... because what I really want to talk about is summers past, which thinking about that incident with my aunt has brought to mind.

Starting around the age of eight (the summer after my grandmother died), I began to spend a week with my great-grandmother and grandfather every summer. I would actually spend most of the nights at her house, but my grandfather lived next door to her so I got to spend a lot of time with him too. Usually, I'd spend one or more days at my aunt's house as well. Most of my mom's family lived in the same horrible city, so it was easy to see everyone; except my cousin Joey, whose Mom seldom let him spend time with anyone but her.

I enjoyed these weeks during the summer, at least after the first one. I still remember being slightly daunted at the idea of leaving my parents for an entire week when I was just eight, but it worked out pretty well. Being the only girl, as well as the oldest (i.e. the only one who could remember my grandmother,) I was spoiled by my grandfather. My great-grandmother, on the other hand, would set me to work: I spent a lot of time reorganizing cabinets for her.

A few summers later my mother got pneumonia, so my great-grandmother reluctantly agreed to take Vynce too - it was very brave of a woman in her 70s take on a hyperactive first-grader. When that did not result in the disaster she seemed to anticipate, Vynce was included in subsequent summer plans. I never asked my parents, but I'm sure it was nice to have us both out of the house. Besides the summer when he and I both got blistery second degree sunburns at our aunt's pool when our waterproof sunscreen turned out not to be, and that fightworthy incident over Vynce's scraped knee, having him there made things more fun. We seldom didn't enjoy ourselves.

At least until the last summer. I hadn't wanted to go the summer before my senior year of high school. My father basically guilt me into it, telling me that great-Grammy was quite old, and we didn't know how much time we would have left with her. (Later on this statement would come back as a bitter irony, considering we would be moving in with her less than a year later. Maybe we'll talk about the nightmare that is caring for someone with Alzheimer's later.) Looking back, the things that happened that summer should have been a red flag, but nobody seemed to realize that she was so far gone until Christmas that year. Anyway, that summer turned out to be my grandfather's second to last as well, so a strange and unpleasant as parts of it were, I'm glad Vynce and I went anyway.

When people my age, or even older, talk about their living grandparents, I always feel a sort of disconnect. Both my grandfather and great-grandmother died my freshman year of college, and the one grandmother still living when I was born had died when I was very small, as I already said. (My other grandfather, who I rarely think of, died when I was 23. He wanted little to do with his children or grandchildren and I saw him fewer times than I can count, so I was never attached to him anyway) given that they both died when I was 18, I've had the unshakable sense that grandparents, like summers off from school, are part of childhood. I'm sure that this is even worse for Joey and Vynce considering they were only 11 and 12 when Grampy and great-Grammy died.

"Sometime in the summer your eyes will see me, die to see me, but it's only in the summertime/Something in your eyes says you'll die to see me, die to see me, but it's only in the summertime." - Possum Dixon, Only In The Summertime

No comments:

Post a Comment