Cemetery Ice Cream

“What about these?”

I turned around to see she was wearing the largest leopard-skinned glasses in the store. I gawked.

“Mom, I’m fine with a hint of my homosexuality, but I don’t want a billboard announcing it.” We started cackling.

We kept trying on pairs, the more ridiculous the better.  At some point we realized we were the only ones making any noise above a whisper in the entire store. Everyone else seemed to be in quiet mourning as they came to grips with the loss of their eyesight.

Once we made a decision, a sweet Russian woman came out from the back room: “You guys were having so much fun! I hope I have what you guys have some day with my own son. He’s just nine months now.”

We did the obligatory glance at her baby photos, paid for the frames, and left. When we got back to the car, my mom started to cry softly.

“Was it what the Russian woman said?” I already knew.

“Yeah…and I was just thinking about my father. We’d go into stores and just laugh. Also, he used to…*she laughed again* he used to pretend he was handicapped.”

“He’d go into stores and pretend to be handicapped?”

“Yeah…it was so stupid.” She laughed as her tears started to dry and fittingly Adele’s “When We Were Young” began its opening chords on the radio.

I cannot overemphasize how unprepared I am to have children. I’m a barely functioning adult as it is. I throw things out of my fridge only when I can smell how bad they are from my apartment stairwell. I think sox are sold in pairs as a light suggestion.

But I want to speed up the process because I want some year soon for my mom’s Mother’s Day to include the word “grand.” The possibility of that not happening, like generations passing in the night, is terrifying.

I have thought about it often but it still amazes me there was a whole treasure trove of memories my mom created with a man I’ve never met. Her father died when she was 23 and so I never knew him.

My brothers and I have memorized the stories though. The one where Grandpa Mike got drunk and drove around in his police cruiser shooting out street lights. The times where Grandpa Mike took my mom to Castle Island for fish and chips at Sullivan’s and would point out where Whitey Bulgar dumped bodies. Or the one where he gave my mom his literal last dollar from his pocket on his deathbed.

But we never got to hear his infamous laugh or his quick wit.

My children will get all the stories though. The one where my mom fell out of a window because she was trying a sneak attack in hide and seek. How the fire alarm would go off to signal that she had finished dinner. The time the Nantucket waves were so strong that they ripped off her bathing suit on what was previously a family-friendly beach.

However, I fear they will only get my stories and none of their own memories. Time will take her away before my children even come to be and they will be left like me—wondering who their wondrous grandparent was. The one who influenced and shaped the parent they—hopefully—love.

That is why I hope one day soon to be in a place to have grandkids. Not just for her, but for me and for a lineage connection that might be unachievable otherwise.

On Easter, we visited my grandparents’ graves as any good Catholics do. (Subtext: Jesus died and so will you.) We reminisced about all the memories we had of our grandmother. She died at 89 and lived in our house for the last 14 years of her life. The laughs and tales were abundant.

But we had none for Grandpa Mike, whose real name—as I often forget until I see his tombstone—is Francis. My mom was the only one standing at his grave who had any memories of him. And she kept those silently to herself.

Instead she just joked that when she dies, she wants us to build a bench next to her grave where we can eat ice cream and think of her.

I will do that. I hope my kids are there too with a sense of who Grandma Gretchie was. Stories are great, but I would trade them all for my kids to one day see her Irish eyes smiling.

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