Monday, April 1, 2013

Memories on April Fool's Day

Twenty years ago today, my then-fiance and I went to the County Courthouse during our lunch break and got our marriage license.  We had intentionally planned to get our license that day: I've always loved April Fool's Day - even if I don't have a good idea or an opportunity to pull a prank on someone, I love the idea that I COULD - and also it was the only day that we could coordinate our schedules to make it downtown during business hours before our wedding date less than three weeks later.  

It's a good thing we did it that day, because, as it turned out, on April 2, the next day, my grandmother died.  

My maternal grandmother was the grandparent to whom I was the closest at the time; I saw or tried to see some of myself in her - or I guess I should say I tried to see some of her in me.  Anyway, even though she had been sick for awhile as she struggled through a relapse of breast cancer, I was shocked by the news.  I was grateful that my grandmother had hung on long enough to meet my husband-to-be and to hear about my wedding plans - and most importantly to meet her youngest grandchild, whom she held in her arms not long before she went on ahead, but I was so saddened by the loss that I could hardly put one foot in front of the other.  It was the first death that I had experienced of someone to whom I was close, and I was at a loss of how to even try to cope.  

Needless to say, the next few days were a blur as we made our way to the city where she lived and gathered together as an extended family to pay our respects.  I remember that I didn't think I would be able to sit through the service in the church without bolting for the door because I was afraid my cries would be too loud.  I remember hardly being able to bear the pain of looking at my mom, at my two aunts - one of whom had a two year-old and a two-week-old baby - and most especially at my grandfather, whose sky-blue eyes held such endless sadness that there seemed to be no possibility of ever being able to comfort him.  I remember that I stood with one of my cousins and my fiance long after the rest of the people had gone back to their cars at the cemetery; the funeral director had dismissed us after they'd lowered the casket into the ground, but I just couldn't bring myself to walk away before I'd seen her body buried, one final thing I felt I could do, if not for her than in her honor.  We stood there by the headstones of the other graves around her plot, and I looked for four-leaf clovers while the dirt was placed over her beautiful silver casket, adorned with beautiful tiny daisies.  I remember that I was a little bit comforted by wearing one of my grandmother's sweaters to the funeral; it was the only thing I had of hers besides the opal ring she had given me - "October birthday girl to October birthday girl,"she'd said - when I celebrated my sixteenth birthday.  Years later, I pulled that sweater from the back of my closet and wore it to the funeral of a friend, and in the pocket I found the handkerchief that my dad had given to me at my grandmother's funeral, a reminder of both the tears I had shed and of the love my family shared as we tried to support each other through those rough days.  

I knew my grandmother well enough to know that she would absolutely have wanted "the show to go on," and so, just a couple of weeks after we laid her to rest, my dad walked me down the aisle and I said "I do" to my new husband in front of many of our family and friends, at sunset on the banks of the Mississippi River.  I wore the gerber daisy wrist corsage that was intended for my grandmother during the ceremony; I felt my her absence profoundly that day as I have many days since. 

Wearing the corsage meant for my grandmother

Today, when I think back on that April Fool's Day at the Courthouse, to the days afterwards leading up to the wedding, and to the wedding itself, so many emotions run through me.  I feel lucky, I feel loved, I feel happy for what I have learned and shared and survived.  Twenty years, wow.  Pretty incredible.

My grandfather, at my wedding, just two weeks after he'd lost his wife.
"I'm here for two," he said, and I knew just what he meant.

No comments:

Post a Comment