Traverse City Record-Eagle

Generation Why

September 7, 2010

It's been a long couple years, Grandma

Where was it I saw your face? Maybe it was in the sun hidden behind the clouds puttering across M-22. Maybe it was buried in the lake, peeking just above the surface of the sand bar. Maybe it was in the man gently plucking away at the guitar on his knee. I can't be sure, but I felt you there; you were smiling.

And I can't help but be surprised. It's been a long couple of years, Grandma.

Disappointment's become a maze; I've forgotten just where it started, and the end is nowhere in sight --- I'm lost in it. The basket chair doesn't swing quite as far anymore, the water's never been just as warm. I fight ambition and rarely win. I'd like to just exist, no strings, but it's not that simple. Suppression takes its toll: suppress anger, suppress frustration, suppress guilt. I want to let go, but all I see is you in your hospital gown, feebly clinging to your last breaths, raising mountains with each exhale. In my dreams you're alive and you're crying. I hope I haven't disappointed you.

Do you remember when you'd sit at the foot of my bed singing hymns of shepherds, as jumping sheep gradually would coax me to sleep? Do you remember when you snuck the black-and-white TV into my room to watch your soaps and keep me company as I wrestled with pneumonia? Do you remember the last time I kissed your forehead, as I left you, unconscious, to meet Death? You passed gracefully.

They tell you to cherish the memories you make, but fleeting moments serve as reminders of the ones we'll never get.

You won't be at my wedding.

You won't meet my kids.

You won't see me graduate.

Your voice will fade, your footprint will fade.

... But when I look to the trees, I hear them whisper.

You tell me you're proud.

Breezing over flaws and insecurities you see a heart with something to give and a voice with something to say. Tucked away in a cocoon of apprehension and self-doubt, where Jack quietly sleeps, you see me. I'm scared of the past, I'm scared of the present, I'm scared of the future, and I'm scared that I'm scared of all of this, but existence is brief, and you showed me to live. So maybe I'll bloom someday ... for you.

Your life was an art. Each breath a stroke of beauty, every expression a masterpiece. Your life was more meaningful than two hyphenated dates on a headstone. Short and simple, thanks for making me. Teaching me the art of life. I'm learning. Yes, I'm going to struggle, yes, I'll feel pain, but I hold the omnipotence of you.

Here and then ...

When all is blue and white sky,

When I find your face,

When I hear your voice

... I'll be happy.

Here's to you, Grandma.

Jack Raymond graduated from Traverse City Central in June.

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