Thursday, June 4, 2009

Returning to the place where I am from.

Where I was a baby and a small child. For a funeral, and also for myself-- to redeem my past, my feelings, and my heart.

I was greeted by the news of my aunts death when I got off of the plane in Salt Lake City. My sister preemptively hugged me, then told me that while she hated to be the bearer of bad news, I needed to know. It had happened just hours before. My aunt had been battling brain cancer. In the same breath my sister told me that our granny was in the hospital, from blood clots and other complications from a surgery of which I was unaware.

It was too much for me. All of this new information. I was so tired, and couldn't internalize it--couldn't take it in to feel the things that I should feel. And in place of proper feelings I only felt remorse, remorse for crying over a burning building just days before, but not over the death of a relative whom I loved and admired. I felt frustration that my family hadn't told me about my granny's poor condition or antecedant surgery.

And so a few days later I found myself in my parent's van accompanying them the 13 hours to Oregon.

There several things struck me. One is my mother telling me that she feels the pure gospel is taught at funerals. Another is my father actually speaking at the funeral. Still another was my uncle's profound sadness. The way he spoke about my aunt with such tenderness and devotion, how he kept calling her "his gal", and my mother leaning over to me and whispering to me to marry someone who loves me as much as Walt loves Donna. Later my cousin standing and expressing that same wish for herself.

My mom stepped out of the room, and I walked silently to the front until I stood over the open casket. I gazed at this women who had once been so vivacious, with her youthful blonde hair and constant tan, who had loved me, and who I had loved. The cancer had destroyed so much of her body. I felt nauseous and sad and had to turn away. It wasn't her. It was just a shell. When my mom returned she asked me to come with her. I shook my head and told her I couldn't.

My cousins wore her gaudy jewelry. It was fitting somehow. The large gold hoops and bangles.

I found myself surprised how their memories were also my memories, but I should not have been, for they hinged on candy drawer, candy dresser, candy closet, candy room. Then swimming, and swimming, and swimming.

Every other time I looked at my mom that day, and even the next, she had been crying. I would wonder what she was thinking, then, more often then not she wiped the tears away and shared a memory about Donna. But once it was because of a tender story my sister-in-law, Sarah, had just told her about my niece Sienna.

And while there were tears, there was also laughter, and quiet remembrance. Stories and pictures proving that Donna had the best legs in Parma, Idaho, etc.

Then there was Klamath itself. I was amazed by how much I still remembered, and wondered if the memories were only memories of memories. Either way. I knew names. Of people. Places. Streets. A store where I would buy candy and where Hyrum would bribe me when he made me cry, back when my nickname was Cryer Patch Baby. I think it was usually nerds. I went there that day.

When I could finally internalize the fact that my aunt had died I felt that a large part of my childhood had as well, since so many of my memories from that time were centered around her and her house. But in going back, to that city, to that place, part of them were also restored and I felt peace.

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