News from home...

We have Caller ID, and it has been one of the best services we've ever purchased, despite my sometimes missing the element of surprise when I pick up the phone. Once, there was a time when the phone would ring, and I would answer tentatively, expecting telemarketers or wrong numbers, only to be thoroughly gratified to hear an old friend's voice on the phone.

Today's version is different. The phone rings, and we do not quite leap to answer as we once did. Instead, a saunter up to the phone is immediately followed by a quick scan of the Caller ID box—is this someone we want to talk to?I never know how to feel when I see the Caller ID box flash my parents' home number, and my mind always runs the same gamut of questions: "Okay, when did I last email her? Is she checking in on me to see if I'm okay?" "Is something wrong?"

If I have learned one thing about my mother in the three years since I've moved away, it's that while she will pass some news on via email, that she will save the most important (or dire) bits for phone calls. It is a legacy left over from her parents, who preferred to break painful or important news in person, instead over the (impersonal, to them) telephone.

The news is a bit that I've held in my heart for a few days, turning it over in myriad directions to thoroughly savor it.

She wanted me to know that the city council, back in my tiny hometown, voted to rename the community center after my grandfather. Mom attended the renaming, and said that actually seeing and touching the plaque on the wall made her cry.

Why is this, the renaming of a tiny community center in a tiny community, important to me? It validates a feeling in me that, in truth, needs no validation: that my grandfather, despite his faults, was a good person who cared deeply about the people he shared his life with. It means that the respect I have for him as a person, as more than just my grandfather, is shared by other people.

It's been five years—five years as of the tenth of May—and slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, my heart is relearning how to remember him in the manner of his life, instead of the manner of his death. For so long—and to some extent even now—it is difficult for me to let go of the scene of his death. Every time I tried to remember him as he was, my mind would jump back to the hospital room, the slant of light on the floor, the sound of machines silenced.

But slowly, slowly, other memories return. Him baiting a fishing hook. Driving a tractor. His propensity for freshly-roasted nuts of any kind. Sitting in the swing under the redbud tree. Making apple butter. Singing in a barbershop quartet—he sang tenor.

When I let them, the memories tumble end over end, tip to top to tail, faster then I can handle or even comprehend.

But I come back to this: how fitting, how absolutely fitting, that the people around him chose to recognize him for what he was—a man who made no distinction between neighbors and family, and who had a great part in raising me to always be willing to accept new people into my life.

I find it somehow comforting to know that I am not the only one that misses him.

* * * *

Other news, less momentous. Mom confirms that my grandmother is recovering very nicely from cataract surgery; the doctors were thoroughly impressed at her fitness level. She may be eighty, but she's still feisty.

Dad's having more tests run. The doctors are trying to rule out certain conditions, but they apparently keep returning to the diagnosis of lupus. I think the entire family would be relieved to finally have an answer to what's been ailing Dad's health for years.

Both of my parents are retiring within the next two weeks. Independently of each other, my sister and I are betting on how long it's going to take my parents to drive each other crazy.

Personally, I'm betting two months.