Great grandma lived to be 101. She was funny, feisty, and mildly extravagant until the end. I remember sitting with her on the back porch a few summers ago. There was a little chatting, but mostly we sat in silence listening to the birds. That was near the last time I saw her.
Suburban Detroit. With its tight knit backyards, crisscrossed overhead with telephone wires. From where we sat it was a mere 10 mile drive south to one of the richest towns in America: Grosse Pointe Shores. Go another seven miles and you land in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. Alongside it all: the lake. Lake St. Clair. Playground of the wealthy and passageway to Canada.
Above us, the birds lined up on the wires. Little birds mostly. Sparrows. Robins. Black capped chickadees. A handful of crows. Perhaps a blue jay squawking in to disturb things now and then.
Sometimes, they lined up in such a way that they faced each other, almost like sparring armies. Other times, it was more a side by side arrangement, like great grandma and I on the swinging chair.
When we spoke, the conversation was basic. Nothing really “profound” was said. However, there was a sharing that went beyond words, something unspeakable which seems more and more difficult to locate these days. In this hyper speed, alienated from the earth world we live in.
I’m not sure I ever asked great grandma what she thought of the world today, and she’s gone now. However, I know that one of her favorite things to do was to play cards with family and friends. Sitting around a table chatting, goofing off, and occasionally cheating (more than once, that needed ace or king “magically” appeared from under the table) – that was the good life to her. Nothing fancy. No designer gadgets. No virtual game systems. Sound systems.
She was extravagant about living the ordinary well. Cooking pierogis to perfection. Telling a joke off color enough to make her more conservative children blush. Wearing a fancy blouse or set of earrings on a day where nothing was happening, just because.
Sometimes, when I see a row of birds landing above me, I can hear her laughing. If I squint my eyes, and look a little closer, I can even see the hidden ace waiting to be put into her soon to be perfect hand.
Great grandma lived to be 101. It’s up to the rest of us to see that she hasn’t gone anywhere really. Only changed forms, as we all will do someday.
Great Grandmother by Ryan Wiedmaier via Flickr Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.