An Empty Chair: Father’s Day and Graduation, 2012

English: Chair

English: Chair (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tomorrow is Father’s Day, it’s also the day that my daughter, my baby, graduates from high school. My father, her grandfather will not be sitting near me, holding my hand, smelling of after shave cologne. His arm won’t be around my mother’s arm, excited to see their granddaughter walk across the stage, beaming, to get her diploma. He died almost died ten years ago, not seeing any of his four grandchildren graduate.

He will be with me, inside, a huge hole in my  heavy heart and in the tears that I will most assuredly shed. I will wipe them up with a “Vienna hanky” the soft, cotton handkerchiefs that my father always had, that my sister and my mother and I shared upon his death. They are thin now, like transparent paper but some have his initials on them and they are very important to us.

My daughter’s graduation should be a joyous occasion but it too brings mixed emotions, as most everything does. An “empty nest” a sign of us aging, her new life just beginning. I try to be as festive as possible for my husband, father of our two children but he is not that caught up with the Father’s Day holiday as much as I am and frankly he has lower expectations. I don’t blame him at all. Mother’s and Father’s Day were adorable when the children were young but at almost 18 and almost 20, something is lacking, like true sentiment. The kids go through the motion with plenty of reminders but that’s about it and that’s all we can expect at this time in their lives. Hopefully, if they have children of their own one day, they may appreciate us more; they will be able to relate.

I am looking forward to tomorrow with a mixture of excitement and dread; I will try to hide the dread as best I can. My daughter and my “second daughter,” our friend Christina, will be graduating from high school and going off to college in August. I have watched these two special girls grow up. Christina and her family have lived across the street from us since the girls were about three or four years old. They played together every day; they went through the monkey phase together, the gymnastic phase, horses phase and plenty of others together. While they both have other friends, I think their friendship will last in the future.

Christina reminds me of a young me, she is innocent and kind and wears her heart openly. I know what she is thinking and feeling by just looking at her face or hearing her voice. I want to protect her and prepare her for life but of course  I know I can’t do either of those things. My own daughter is more street smart, independent and fearless. She hides her feelings, she is very private, harder to read and fiercely independent.  Tomorrow, when their names are called to go up on stage and receive their diplomas, I will clap and scream, for both of these beautiful, strong and smart young women.

Congratulations to Jillian and to Christina!

The Word Love

Now that I am old  and very alone I bought one  place setting of  five different sets of china. I  use them as my everyday dishes because there is nothing to wait for at my age of ninety-three. We never had good china when I was younger and so I bought it for myself. To live another day and wake up in the morning is an occassion. I have no rules now, I  sleep all day if I want to, in my  comfortable old bed that has shaped around my body like clay. I have an old, worn blanket that used to be pink but now it is a little pink and a little gray from age.

I stopped looking at clocks because time does not matter now. If I am hungry, I eat. Sometimes I don’t remember if I ate lunch or breakfast. The phone rings and I try to pick it up but the buttons and numbers confuse me. I don’t always like to answer the phone but I do most times. If I don’t answer  it will ring again and again with loud noises that do not stop.

If it is sunny I will sit on my front porch that is painted white. The porch swing barely moves anymore but I like that. Sometimes I sit outside and watch the people on the street. I drink my apple juice there and when the sun hits the glass I can see rainbows sometimes, I always liked rainbows.

The days don’t feel very long at all now. There are days that melt into each other like chocolate pudding. My daughter always liked chocolate the best as did my late husband but I like vanilla. Vanilla is smooth and light and sweet; my son likes vanilla better too. When I was young I used to call myself “The Vanilla Girl.”

I would not say I am a happy person but I am not sad; I am still.  I am like a painting that hangs on the wall.  Life without my husband is not a life that I can get used to. I speak to him all the time and I answer for him too. Many things I say, I say out loud.  Nobody is here to tell me not to.

Today I got dressed and I wore a blouse the color of a rose; it has a few stains on it but I don’t mind. My knarled, old feet are always barefoot and I remember walking on the beach with my family many years ago and how my toes loved the sand. I wear only clothes that are big on me because I never liked things that were tight. Sometimes I wear a nightgown all day long that my great grand-daughter sent me. It is my favorite thing to wear because it has yellow and blue flowers all over it and because it is from her. Who could have imagined me alive long enough that I would be a great grandmother. It isn’t the same since Grandpa passed on.

Nobody seems to understand. When my children visit  they say I should be “happy” and I  try. They don’t know how it feels when they leave. I love the visits from my family once in awhile but I feel the pain of missing Grandpa worse. There is a sharper pain and it takes a long time for it to go away; it is different from the pains and aches that I have all the time.  I get sad and then later on I feel better because I am alone and I don’t have to smile if I don’t want to.

Later I will watch television from my bed. I never turn the television off. I like to have some noise in the background to keep me company. At first the kids didn’t  want me to live here alone but this is my home and so I will die here too;  surrounded by all my photographs.

I will eat something when I want  like cheese and the inside of the bread that I used to call “cotton” when I was a young girl. I will spread that with butter that is not cold or warm but  comes in a tub; I don’t need to have four sticks of hard butter. I haven’t baked banana bread for many years now.

I am not a mean woman but I am not a kind one either. I am really nothing but I was somebody once. I was a wife to my beloved husband and a mother to our two children; we first had a boy and then we had a girl. Everyone used to say “it was the best of both worlds” and yes, that is really what it was. When I go to sleep I will try to remember a memory but they come and go and then I forget what I was thinking about. That is alright, because that is what happens.

When I wake up in the morning, I will say hello to my dogs and they will kiss my face, and I will drink Ovaltine in a my very favorite mug that has hearts and the word LOVE written on it. I will go on with the day again, and I will sit outside with my dogs and just be.