Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Tuesday, 26 April 2016


(This is Day One of a Project called "Five Days of Creative Recovery." It is meant as an antidote to Deep Unyielding Depression and various Sources Of Grief. For the next five days, I will do my best to post something creative. Out of words or whatever is possible. Feel free to join me however you'd like!)

Kleenex (working title)

When I was seventeen years old, my father and I flew to Winnipeg, Manitoba to say goodbye to my grandmother before she died. My grandmother was in her late eighties, and I think she had pneumonia.  I know she had nine children, two of them twins, one of them born almost dead. Her husband, Julias had died a good half decade earlier. When he died, I’d sewed Grandma a simple cloth bag out of quilted patchwork. She’d used it to keep her Kleenexes. At one point, my grandmother had insisted on starching my grandfather’s cloth diapers. And then somehow, she’d made the switch from handkerchiefs to Kleenex. Is that what death does to you?

As with most nursing homes, the hallways of Fred Douglas Lodge smelled of urine and antiseptic cleaning supplies. Crowds of half-asleep people in wheelchairs gathered around a large t.v. that played Singing in the Rain. And some poor man in the Lazy Boy cried out for Jesus.

Oh mighty Lord! Help me!

My grandmother spent most of her time in her room. She had a meticulous soap opera schedule to keep up with. When my father and I arrived, the t.v. was on mute. Grandma was lying in bed, a few squares of Kleenex arranged across her chest. We both kissed her and then I helped myself to stale bridge mix. She nodded as I ate. Since we lived so far away, whenever we went to Winnipeg, my father dedicated most of his time to sitting with my grandmother. To make up for all the months he wasn’t there. All his other siblings came at least once a week. If ever anyone missed a visit, Grandma would not be impressed.

Every time I visited Grandma, I felt quite guilty because I had long ago lapsed as her personal correspondent. Between the ages of eight and ten, I’d devoted myself to sending my grandparents letters every single day.

Dear Grandma and Grandpa, How are you? I am fine.

Then I’d go on and on about my violin lessons, swim meets and sleepovers. Back then I was quite a comedian and would often include a few good jokes.
What goes ha ha ha, plop?

Somebody laughing their head off.

Ha. Plop. I feel like I have not said the word “plop” in quite some time.
I used to decorate the envelopes with Mr. Sketch Smelly markers. Then I got busy with my extensive academic, musical and athletic ambitions. The letters simply stopped.
They were the joy of my grandparents’ lives, and then they were over.

“What happened to all the beautiful letters you used to write?” my grandmother sobbed one summer as I kissed her goodbye. Thirteen years old, and now I was a big disappointment. Grandma also complained that my hair wasn’t as lovely and curly as it used to be. So many burdens.
I think I am eleven here. Still sporting the curls, as I try desperately to be photogenic.
But as people are dying, you are supposed to get over such things. On her death bed, every time my grandma had to blow her nose, she ripped off a tiny square of Kleenex. Instead of using the whole thing, she would separate the two-ply pieces in half and then rip them into tiny squares. Four squares for each flimsy half. Days to live and Kleenex still seemed worth saving.
I remember staring at the ripped up Kleenexes. In my seventeen year old head, I thought, “Wow. Life is so tragic. So profound.” I was super deep and wise. Perhaps not, but I was definitely sincere. I felt bewildered that all the people at Fred Douglas Lodge would die, and eventually everyone would forget that they’d bothered to squander Kleenexes all the way to the end. I had this clear thought, that writing was the only real chance for redemption. Otherwise what was the point.

My grandmother died the weekend after we left. It was Easter Sunday. Nobody ever told me whether or not during her final days, she’d branched out and let herself splurge on the whole piece of Kleenex.

The End.
Be Creative.
I love how tidy my bookshelves are. I don't have a bookshelf anymore.
I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt (2-3 bucks on Amazon)


No comments:

Post a Comment