We’re back. 23 hours of driving (with a hotel stay in the middle of it). Thank goodness for Terry’s Bonus Things with Holiday Inn, from business trips. They put lots of pillows on the beds. Lots of them. 4 big ones, on each bed. State Welcome Center coffee has to be the worst ever. It may be free, but it’s better to stop at a Waffle House and pay for it.
I am missing my grandmother. It was hard to go to Texas and not work on a puzzle with her, or trade Jello salad recipes, or wander around the ranch looking for a barrel cactus just the right size to go in a pot. I think I will go to Lowe’s and buy one.
I saw her from a distance, in her casket, the same style Granddad had- a nice oak one. I asked Dad if Granddad had purchased them ahead of time, and gotten 2 so he could get a bulk discount. It would have been like him to do that. Dad laughed loudly and probably inappropriately for the setting (the funeral home, during visitation), but I joke when I don’t know what else to do. Grandmother looked lovely, like she was asleep, except she was wearing pearls and she would never have done that in her sleep. I didn’t get up close because I didn’t want to really see her like that. I prefer to remember her with her wispy hair blown every which way by the West Texas wind, while looking for a cactus, just the right size to go in a pot. I’d rather remember her methodical way of putting together a 5000 piece puzzle of the Sistine Chapel, all like colored pieces in paper plates, with the border done first.
It comes and goes, the missing her. I didn’t spend a lot of time with my grandparents when growing up, we always lived so far away. Once I was an adult, I was able to fly out there, to the windy High Plains where everyone complains of the drought (that has always been there) and the wind (that has always been there) and the fierce heat of Summer of cold of Winter. I love it. I love the cold nights and hot days and dust storms and endless horizons and tumbleweeds like something out of a Roadrunner cartoon. But without my grandparents there, without someone to complain about the weather and soothe it all with Jello Salad and a homemade quilt, it’s not the same.
It’s all…flat, like a drawing. There’s no noise, no laughter about a failed cake or faces about a cracked plate or wrinkled nose and decisions to buy a frozen pizza instead of making a complicated meal.
We visited the canyon. The Palo Dura canyon is right there and is always, always visited when going to see the grandparents. Granddad’s ranch was right there on the rim of the canyon and the place is familiar, comfortable, and breathtakingly beautiful. This time it was also engulfed in a dust storm, like something out of a movie. Fierce winds, and a constant gritty brown cloud obscuring vision and filling your head with a fine brown dust. Pictures? of course, but they’re not where I can get to them at the moment. Tumbleweeds bounced across the road, and I saw a single horse, standing with his head down, eyes closed, and a very irritated cast to his ears, mane and tail whipping in the wind.
We visited with cousins and their spouses, met school classmates of Dad’s who’d come to pay their respects, drank coffee and admired the quilts Grandmother had made, that were all displayed in the Fellowship Hall of the church, during the reception after her funeral.
As much as I love the place, without my grandparents to see, it just isn’t the same and I don’t know if I’ll ever return. I doubt I’ll ever eat another FatBoy’s Brisket sandwich, or a piece of fried catfish at Feldman’s Fieldhouse, or count the colorful layers within the canyon walls. It’s not the same without one of my grandparents telling me how they’d cut a cedar from a side canyon for a Christmas tree, or put out corn for the ring-necked doves and prairie hens, or Grandmother concocting yet another version of jello salad. She loved that stuff, I think it was for the colors it came in, because she loved bright colors.
This morning, Terry told me to allow myself to grieve. That’s a tough one. Strong emotions are scary, and I am unaccustomed to allowing them to run rampant, even in private when there’s no one to see it. I’ll try.