Looking For The Llama

I wrote this October ’19, but didn’t have the heart to publish it at the time. I slept under Grandma Anne’s quilt last night and thought it was time. We all still miss her.

My grandmother died last week at age 94, leaving her husband of 73 years behind. I thought I was fine saying goodbye since we all knew it was coming, since Grandma herself had been ready.

The night she went into hospice care I dreamt of their old house. I could hear every familiar creak of steps and doors and tinkle of M&Ms in a glass jar and the constancy of the grandfather clock on the mantle, smell the dill in the kitchen and tobacco that my grandfather had quit smoking before I was born, feel the texture of the sofa cushion embroidery and the claws from that mean, fat Tabby when I sat on his davenport.

Everything was there. Every last plastic Donald Duck juice cup and glass jar of spoons and iron cat doorstop and tiny, embroidered foot stool. Everything except my grandparents.

My grandfather will turn 97 in December. Ninety-seven. Imagine a life that began in 1922. Imagine a family that started with an offer to drive the Homecoming queen in the parade, which lead to a 73-year marriage, 3 daughters, 8 grandchildren, and 21 great-grandchildren.

Eight cousins
The 8 grandkids, then
Now

*****
Grandpa had a small fall at the funeral reception and my aunt and I got him back up and resettled, but the worry about his well-being and safety wrecked me and continues to eat at me now that I’m home. I’m laying plans to kidnap him and take him home with me or to my aunt.

*****

My dad’s mother died when I was in college, but I still had three biological grandparents until I was 41. Four decades of simple, easy acceptance and unconditional love. There are no foundations better than that.

*****

When all the guests and most family had left, my brother and I sat in the sun, waiting to leave for the airport. And I suddenly remembered the llama: My grandparents had a piece of driftwood in their garden that looked just like a llama sitting patiently. Grandpa put a dog collar on it for a couple years. I don’t know the llama’s origin story.

My brother, two cousins and I trooped the half block to the old house, now sold and filled with someone else’s things, but uninhabited and unchanged. It was overgrown, but I found the fallen-down, rotted wood llama in the weeds that used to be a sweet little patio garden. No collar. I don’t what I was expecting. I didn’t take a picture.

Man and dog
Grandpa and Sadie. The llama lived just out of frame.

I tried the doors and windows while the other three reminisced. I got a glimpse of the porch we spent late nights on the few days a year we got to visit, for my efforts, and an idea of what it would have been like to be the grandkid who lived just up the street instead of 800 miles away, from their conversation. Both were mildly bittersweet discoveries.

*****

The kids and I were drained from the week, so I kept them home today, watched some of the Hobbit, and went through pictures. I know I never had one, but I was still hoping to find a picture of the llama. Grandma wasn’t sentimental and gave away all her pictures over a year ago. It meant there were just a handful to show at the funeral, and that now I have 80 years worth, all jumbled together. Mom’s baby picture next to my prom and graduation photos. I went through them all. I did find some gems, but no llama. Somethings, there just is no finding once they’re lost.

Grandpa and Grandma
Three Generations: Two grandfathers, Dad and two brothers
Mom
A baby, my mom, now Grandmother herself
and her Granddaughter

Thanks, Grandma Anne for you and all that happened because of you. ❤

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