Autumn is a beautiful word, but it seems so often this time of year we do indeed fall. That has been the story of this year's etchings.
This is late. Yes, I know. On this occasion, life has gotten in the way of life. If that makes sense.
My grandmother passed away several weeks back. In the midst of this, I’ve been dealing with the ghosts of some mental issues; they’ve haunted me for a number of years and they’ve floated back to the fore once again. Between these storms, my shutter has snapped a few times. It’s in these moments that I find a bit more of myself as I reassemble the pieces.
This moment was from about halfway through the memorial service. I’ve been old enough to remember the services of three of my four grandparents. All of them have been in the same room of the same funeral home, which means, aside from a very close friend who passed away two years ago, most of my experiences of death have been in one geographic place.
Each time, we’ve gone to this ice cream place during the service. This time, I was determined to capture that moment. What you can’t see, and is just out of frame to the right, is that there is thick smoke pouring out of a home a couple of blocks away. Someone’s life was being ruined in the middle of a Sunday evening, filled with watching football, finishing homework, and wrapping up leftovers.
That’s the part out of the entire weekend that made me sad the most.
You see, I wasn’t close to my grandmother. To be honest, I was afraid of her. Not that she did anything to make me afraid of her, but I had no idea how to act around her, what to say, etc. We rarely spoke. I think we were interested in how each other were doing, but somewhere along the line we didn’t pick up how we should be. The fire down the street from the ice cream shop was the first thing from that weekend that made me cry.
This isn’t to say my emotions settled terribly well. Up there is a photo of me with one of the two people I love most in this world. We dated a few years back. I’ve had trouble settling into how we are now, though. I think we both have. The Turkish word dost seems to more define us. We love each other, we’re always there for each other. If someone’s lucky in life, they get one person like that. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have already had two so far. Like family for whom you feel a strong affection. The family you choose. I treat her kids like they’re my kids. And with the time we’ve been together, we’re family.
This is the shot she took of upchickadee and I (She took the photo of the two of us from above, too). We were out at the bar, and then I kind of melted down. Not much related to anything, but I got really angry with her about something stupid.
It’s part of this thing I’m going through. I’ve finally got a diagnosis of what’s wrong, and I’m getting treatment. I get very easily overrun by emotion and it gets difficult to control. The last month or two have been very hard. The harder it gets, the harder it gets to control.
Do you know why I’m lucky? Because I have these two images, and these two people both forgave me immediately and unconditionally. They know. They understand. And they love me.
At the end of the memorial service, each of us had the opportunity to speak. I wasn’t going to at first, but then I thought of something to say after several other people went, weeping and getting warm applause.
I told the story of my grandmother that I knew, the only one I knew. The one time she was outside of her home, when she joined us on a family vacation to the town where she was born. It’s a tiny town in South Dakota. There was the old general store, the town’s grocery store. There was the old, still full-service, gas station. The lake where the kids were jumping off the dock on a hot summer day. The old school, where the fire escape was a slide.
She was so matter-of-fact about it all. Yup, this was home. And the next day, before dawn, she got on a plane and went back home, to her house and her husband. I rarely knew her to leave after that. She was with us for days, and then was off, lights fading into the night.
I’ve been researching that small town, trying to write a fitting piece to honour my grandmother. The general store has been torn down. The gas station looks like every other convenience store in this country. The lake is beautiful, but there are no kids to see.
And the school is gone. Because they built a new one, state-of-the-art, bland, and technology-riddled.
I wanted to ask what those things meant, what it felt like to go back to school, the surrounding farms yet to harvest and everyone’s labour now split. What it meant to shop there. To even have a car. What the lake felt like on a cannonball off the pier.
She flew away before I could ask her, out into the night.
There was no applause.
Words and photos by Kevin Hodur. Previously calling suburban Chicago and Portland home, Kevin now lives and works as a writer on Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Catch more editions of The Road Rarely Traveled with next month’s Ending of an Era.