The past weekend I was in unsunny California to help my aunt continue her months-long process of cleaning out my deceased grandmother’s house. What’s taking so long, you may ask? Well, my grandmother kept everything—like her deceased father’s pay stubs from his 52-year career on the Reading railroad and cruise brochures from the 70s—and had a house with many, many hiding places. She was doing a genealogy of our family, and had been doing so for over 50 years. That’s a lot of paper.
As cool as it was to find photos of my beloved and long-deceased grandfather looking spiffy in his Navy uniform or sexy on the beach, it was less fun to chance upon unexpected photos of my brother, or of the two of us together.
Shortly before I left, I was given a small pack of items that my grandmother had had from him, including a sweet note written to her in his baby-handwriting. It simply said, “ I love you Grammy.” It reminded me of his particular ability to love, and the huge, painful absence that he left behind when he died. Later, at the airport, running late and lacking sleep, I was overwhelmed with grief.
People will stare at people who are crying, but they won’t sit next to them, as if they fear that whatever caused your sadness is contagious. I remember the feeling of being shunned from my infrequent public forays shortly after my brother died. It was interesting to be in that situation again, but have the wherewithal to observe others’ behavior, but mostly it was lonely. Grief and sadness are, somehow, in this age of youtube ass (and assery) and religiosity-for-fun-and-profit, socially unacceptable.
Later, when my tears had dried and my heart settled more or less in its usual place, I was still getting looks, but mostly because I looked puffy and unwell-—perhaps a carrier of the piggish flu?