Tuesday, May 8, 2012

art is emotional.

Nan and Papa in front of their soon-to-be home.

Friday afternoon I cut out of work early and drove the five hours Northeast to my grandparent's house, because even at twenty five, when given the option of this or nearly anything else, I'll still choose a visit to grandmother's.

We've always been close, although there have been times where a lag between us speaking grows too long and uncomfortable and requires repair.  Still, we reach out to each other to bridge the gap. Because we're family, and we have to, yes, but also because we choose each other.

When, a few years ago, they sold the lake cottage where I spent all of my childhood summers getting sunburned and running wild, I was sure I could never forgive them; I cried myself to sleep for months mourning the place that held so many of my happiest memories. Yet there I was on the day they moved into their new home, helping carry boxes down the perilous stairs and holding a hand for morale and support.

They mean so much that even the fleeting thought of them one day being taken away from me brings involuntary tears to my eyes before I squelch it and move on with my day. A reaction too powerful to really ignore despite the refusal of my stubborn mind to acknowledge the thought.

This weekend, we had a great visit. We dined and cocktailed and chatted and heart-to-hearted. It was everything I needed it to be and it always is. I didn't want to leave, but then again, I've never wanted to leave. They're my biggest fans, so interested in everything I have to say, I feel like a celebrity in their midst. They're equally as fascinating to me. I've grown fixated on asking any question that pops into my mind, determined to learn as much of them and their lives as I can. I attempt to memorize everything so that nothing will ever be lost, no matter the way time and change try to erase things.

After dinner on Friday night we wandered the eclectic downtown area of Ann Arbor, on our way to the ice cream shop as has become our tradition. They're spoiling me, but I think secretly they're partly glad for my visits as a way to excuse generous ice cream consumption. Either way, we're all winning.

We were chatting as we passed a frame shop and I mentioned a map I bought several years ago of the lake that fed my childhood, and how I'd been meaning to have it framed, but it keeps getting lost in the shuffle of life.  Try as I might not to, I always end up bring up the lake when we're together, pushing the tender place we all have on our hearts. What happened next was odd, and heartwrenching.

My papa looked down at my nan and they had a short conversation as if I wasn't even there, and then seamlessly incorporated me back in.

Papa: Nance, I think Sara should get the painting of the cottage, she's always been the one that loved it the most.
Nan: Yes, that sounds right.
Papa: How does that sound, Sara?
Me: I love the painting, of course I'd love to have it. But that's so far away, I've never even thought of it.
Papa: Well it won't be for a while, we're hanging it in the new house. We've still got some life left in us. Just, you know, when the time comes.
Me: I can't really think about that without crying.
Papa: Well, okay. Enough then.

As I am literally choking back tears. I'm just not ready for them to start divvying up their things.
The painting in question is one they had commissioned several years ago, of the cottage and my Nan's garden there in peak form, a reminder they had created for when they were spending winter or fall in their homes in Florida or Ohio.

It's a large picture and it hangs over the fireplace of their sole remaining home in a suburb of Ann Arbor, which they're now selling to move into a smaller home in a retirement community this summer, a fact that equally breaks my heart and infuriates me. I can't stand to think of them getting older and older until they'll eventually leave me.

I just can't even consider it.

They're downsizing for the move to their new, considerably smaller house, and things are being sold and claimed by my dad and his brothers. They're purging their things, and I can't help but think it one of the saddest things a person will ever do in their lives. After a lifetime of continuously, and often accidentally, accumulating all the stuff that makes a life, getting rid of it, putting it into younger hands. Letting things go.
While I'm thrilled at the prospect of having the beautiful painting, a reminder of my favorite place and of my favorite people hanging in my own home someday, I genuinely hope the day never, ever comes when it actually becomes mine.

It was an emotional weekend.

my happiest place.

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