I still have my grandmother's phone number programmed into my cell. I pass it by every time I go to call my friend John.
Or my parents.
I just scroll down and there it is.
I can tell you her area code was 315. I can tell you the rest of the numbers, but it probably belongs to someone else now. Sometimes I'm tempted to call it, just to see how many times it rings. Or to see who answers. And I could tell that person that I used to be good about calling her, despite how often she'd try to get me off the phone, because she didn't want me to spend money on that. On her voice. And of course, I could tell that person that's the one thing I want to hear, and sometimes cannot fathom that my chance is gone.
I can now go for days without thinking about her. But not much longer than that. Not weeks. Something will always happen. Her mass card will peek out of my wallet, or the girls, going through my jewelry box, will see one of the pins she gave to me. And they ask questions.
I've had two dreams that I remember. In one, she was younger, wearing horn-rimmed glasses, and looking sadly at me. I woke up wishing that my brain hadn't conjured that one up.
In the other, Lillian brought her to me, through a doorway, and said, "Look, it's your grandma."
Friday morning, at Hannah's Halloween party, I saw an older woman that reminded me so much of her. There was something about her face that caught me by surprise, even though I was certain she wasn't Italian. Maybe the shape of her nose, and how her hair was styled.
There are times when I'm in my in-laws' house, and I see a picture of my mother-in-law's Eastern European mother, smiling and in her late 60s, and I can see my grandmother there. They look strangely alike.
Driving to school the other night, I heard the Four Tops singing Reach Out, and there she was. Well, actually, both of them, my grandmother and grandfather, because at some point I'd heard this song at their house on a radio, or with them in their car, and hearing it again brought back the love that is there always.
And what it also brings back is the sight of them on their patio preparing green beans for freezing, or the smell of their house, the candy dish, or the raspberries along the fence line behind their garage. I think of these things and the love comes, and the longing, and it fills everything, right up to the entire surface area of my skin, and then I think I must release some of it.
The love and the longing, like scent molecules in air. It clouds and disperses, and I wipe away some tears and go about my business of being. Here.
In the Spring after her death, while we were raking the front yard, the kids were laughing and playing around us, and when I looked up and saw my girls, I also saw something else. In my head, I could see my grandparents sitting in their patio chairs watching their great-grandchildren romp around, giddy with Spring fever. I knew exactly what look my grandfather would have upon his face, the same face that seldom revealed much. I knew that he'd smile and nod. And my grandmother too, nodding her approval and love and affection with each bob of her head. It all left me a little breathless, like I'd been granted a gift, but the kind that you open and take in quickly because it will melt away.
I've been thinking about departure. I see the previews for Hereafter, and yes, I'd like Clint Eastwood to answer for me what happens after death.
Do you feel lucky, Kelly? Do ya?
I'd like to ask him and Matt Damon and the lady that survives the giant wave that swallowed up Indonesia. Where are my grandparents? Where is my husband's brother? Where did they go? I will take the light and love category, that set of beliefs. I will take the foggy but infinitely bright reunion, where the once sharply defined human form becomes amorphous. All the better to float around in complete happiness with.
I will take Heaven for $1000, Alex.
That's what my grandmother believed in.
This morning, while I was grocery shopping, someone said her name. And I smiled as I walked past the cold chill of the freezer cases, with a cart full of whatever.
That's the way they come back. That's the way they say hello, using the only voice they can.
That's what I believe in.