note from ny

I wrote this on the way home from visiting my Grandma in Geneseo, NY, and just never posted it.


I'm writing this from the little Rochester airport, having just spent the last few days with Grammy Bow and Aunt Joyce in Geneseo, NY. Maybe it's age or maybe it's having lost people I love, but I am acutely aware of how limited my time is with the people I love, especially those people are 88 years old. I try to actively appreciate my time with GBow, mindfully absorbing her stories, mannerisms, nuggets of wisdom. That town is so infused with my family's history that it seems impossible to take a step in any direction without finding yourself face to face with an anecdote.

I've had a lot of time to think the last few days, mostly while sipping iced tea on the screen porch, the air thick with humidity, the insects and birds sounding distinctly more Eastern than the ones I'm used to. Of all the stories she tells -- and she tells many -- my grandmother talks about my grandfather the most. These stories usually are about the early days, when they were courting, or just married, or when my dad and aunt were small. If we are at the house when she's telling these stories she brings out a creased envelope containing her favorite photographs of him and sets them out where she can see them while she talks. She talks about the first time she saw him, about what he was wearing and the exact words he said. She talks about the floor plan of the first tiny apartment they shared. She talks about my grandfather's hidden sentimentality. When pushed, she'll talk about other things, too. I asked her how he proposed and she said it happened one evening as he was driving her home from a date, and that he said it out of the blue. She said he was shaking he was so nervous, but that his face was stone. That sounds like him. She said yes. I asked what happened next, and she laughed and said, "What do you think happened next?" I'm not sure what that means exactly, but there was a light in her eye when she said it.

When I think about my grandparents' relationship, especially in the last few years of his life, I don't remember any tenderness or affection. Maybe this was just because I wasn't privy to a sweetness that existed only behind closed doors. Or maybe things did get complicated and bitter at the end. In any case, I've wondered if maybe her losing him freed her to remember him the way she wanted to. It gave her ownership of their shared memories, allowed her to rewrite the past any way she liked.

Whatever the case, it's a hell of a love story. I hope I'm lucky enough to live a love story so great it sustains me when I am very old.

[Letchworth State Park, NY]

[Grandma Bow + Auntie Joyce, Letchworth State Park, NY]

[The Riviera, Main Street, Geneseo, NY]

[Main Street, Geneseo, NY]

[The Big Tree Inn, owned + operated by my grandmother and her family during WWII, Geneseo, NY]

[The Bar at the Big Tree Inn, Geneseo, NY]

[Graveyard near Geneseo, NY, where my grandmother's parents are buried as well as Bows who were buried as long ago as the 1700's]

[my grandfather, my grandmother's enduring love interest]


lauren said...

what a lovely post.

i do love the way your grandmother talks about your grandpa. mostly because i found him entirely intimidating. it's nice to think about him in young love.

sorry there are no posts coming from my end....camera is still m.i.a.

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