By: Jenna Moore ’12, Copy Editor
I don’t remember what day it was, but I remember where I was and what I was wearing the day that my uncle died. I can still picture the way my father appeared at the door of the gym as I was playing in the Hoops for Heart basketball tournament, and when I saw him, I just knew. All I could think of was how my uncle would have shaken his head at the jumpshot that I failed to block. I don’t remember the year, but I remember that a week before that moment we had laid my grandmother to rest. I don’t remember visiting her in the hospital, but I remember when the news came that “MomMom’s gone,” I was heading to a basketball game and sharing my favorite candy bar with a friend who hadn’t really wanted it, but took it to be nice.
January and February are still stained. I remember the way that my mother cried, the way I saw my father embrace her and just hold on. I don’t remember where I was when she came home, but I remember the way she just let the tears sit on her cheeks, the way I felt them on the top of my head and the way my own fell towards her feet. I remember seeing my grandmother for the last time, the way she was missing her glasses and I told my mother that it didn’t even look like her, so maybe it wasn’t, and my mother just held onto me and told me that she didn’t want her glasses in heaven. I don’t remember seeing my uncle a last time. I remember not being sure that they weren’t just hiding somewhere, waiting for me to seek them, until I stood at their memorials with my mother. Sometimes I don’t remember how to get to the funeral home, but I remember the gold lettering emblazoned on gray marble with their names and those significant years of birth and death.
I remember being told that maybe I should go visit them, talk to them, and I remember not being able to tell my mother that I didn’t know the way, because to me they were still at my grandparent’s house waiting for everyone else to arrive for dinner. I don’t remember when I visited last. I can’t go to their graves without wanting to be sick, without crying. I don’t like imagining that they are in a box, inside of another box, inside this massive wall where I can’t see them and can barely remember their faces. I prefer to remember my uncle standing on the sidelines of a soccer game as he coached, yelling at the referee for a poor call, or my grandmother sitting in her chair by the sun reading a Nora Roberts book as we come through the door. At the graves, I always feel like I’m being watched, as if they know that I’m finally there and that I haven’t been when all they want is a little company. But I always put a kiss to my fingers and my fingers to their names when I leave.
Sometimes, when I get hungry for a snack, I remember the way that my grandmother pulled fresh rolls and butter out of her purse on the sidelines of my brother’s soccer game. I don’t remember the snacks that she brought to other games, but I still remember being in awe of how she managed to keep the rolls warm, as if she were secretly a fairy. I don’t remember the last time we had cream of chicken, but I remember the way her house smelled on those rare occasions that she made it. I remember she always made cream cheese swirled brownies for dessert, and would save two corner pieces for my mother and me so we wouldn’t fight over them.
I remember that my uncle came to my elementary school one day and that it was spring. I don’t remember what special day it was, but it had to have been special because the rest of my family was also there, and with pizza. I remember that during recess he protected me against a bully I had been having trouble with. Sometimes, I wish he were still around to take care of my bullies. I don’t remember if my brother was there that day, but I know that he took over for my uncle as protector. I know that he’s been a protector ever since. I don’t remember much about my uncle, except that I know there are certain things in the house that used to be his. There was a Mickey Mouse towel that my mother would take to the beach for a couple summers after he passed. I remember not being able to use it, because it was my mother’s comfort, but I don’t remember if he was ever at the beach with us when he was alive. Old, quiet air hangs around my grandparents’ bedroom at the beach house. There’s a sacred silence within those walls, heavy with memory. I can feel it the first moment I walk through the door, smell it in the mustiness of a house closed up all winter, and hear it early in the morning when my father is the only one up.
The back bedroom is the worst, the one that my grandparents shared. The furniture is the same as I remember from when I was little, with rubber bands and pens still in the top drawer of my grandmother’s bureau. Old coats of hers still hang in the closet, so when I go to fetch the vacuum I can smell her in the sleeves. I remember the one time I forgot Ellie, the teddy bear she gave me, in my room when we left the house for the last time that summer. I don’t remember the fit of anxiety I must have had, but I remember that she brought Ellie back home to me.
I don’t remember getting Ellie, but I know that it was on my first birthday. I remember holding her so tightly when my grandmother died that I did not care if I was twelve or twenty-two, because I wasn’t letting go of this bear. Ever. I remember thinking that I’d be so old at twenty-two that surely I wouldn’t want a bear, and now I’m twenty two and thinking twelve is so young to ever want to give her up.
There are things that have stayed with me. There are things that I have lost. I don’t remember the way my grandmother’s neck smelled when I hugged her, or how tall my uncle was, the way his voice sounded. But my hands are my grandmother’s hands, and my brother, when you look at him quickly, is my uncle, come again.