I’ve started imagining that Pepper has many lives and many homes, that we are a silent community of caretakers, filling bowls with cat food and fresh water with an ice cube for good measure.
The year also brought a whittling of the self, especially a recognition of my limits. Time expands beyond the moment to the far reaches of age where, if I’m lucky, I’ll look back fondly on slow walks down the stairs, on the lines of schoolgirls in long, bright yellow hijabs like flocks of canaries, on the hot stacks of loxoox in the kitchen each morning, on the frigid hop from bed to closet on winter mornings. I think about my aged years as though I’m already there, ruminating over a life well lived or not, observing wrinkled, spotted hands, remembering when they were smoother, tighter, and when I took them for granted. I feel fullness, and a gentle longing, and fullness again.
What matters are the earnest embraces of greetings and farewells, the unique infusion of scents that accompany the people you love, the sparks of energy that scatter with their laughter, the loving gaze of those who know your story and bear witness to the triumphant and crushing steps on your upward spiral. While living overseas amplifies the magic of those moments it also rarefies them, detaching you even when you most need them.
Bit of a knock-down the last few days: my grandfather passed, my Last Grandparent Standing. Fortunate to have had him in my life for so long; fortunate to have so many fond memories. He was a mischief-maker right through to the end, always one well-timed pause away from the next joke. I presume he’s back to franks and beans and the occasional ice cream sundae, in a condo at the beach with my grandmother. I’d rather write about him, now, than the regularly scheduled programming.
Herewith, a bit of wit and wisdom from Jack Reilly, Grandpa Extraordinaire:
Brush your teeth after lunch. You don’t appreciate your teeth until you lose them.
Driving in reverse is an equal, if not superior, skill to driving forwards. Learn it well; it will come in handy one day. Freeze candy bars, chocolate covered graham crackers, Oreos: They’re surprisingly delicious cold.
Give more than you think you can to people who need it more than you do.