Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Lovely Bones

So, when you read it for the first time, you think OH, I will start this at 11 a.m. on Saturday and maybe pick it up again over the next few it a bit on Sunday, again on Monday on the train, finish it up on Tuesday at lunch. SURE. But that's not how it goes in real life. You pick it up, you read it straight through until it is done. It is a compelling read, fraught with pain and redemption, yes, but compelling also because you can't help but identify. No, you don't know anyone who has died this way--so few have, thank the Gods or God in Heaven(s) above--but you've known people close to you who have died. And the Heaven portrayed in The Lovely Bones is exactly what you would wish for...and need.

My grandfather was and is my hero. He loved me and took care of me throughout my childhood and adolescence, and he is someone I will look up to--my touchstone--until the day that I die. My grandmother was my contrary mother figure, my teenaged counterpart, my competition and ultimately my heart's darkest pain. As and adult, I can finally understand the complex relationship we battled through, but it was never clear to me when she was living. This creates an unbreakable barracade of pain for me...while I hope she knows how I feel about her now, she never knew it when she was living.

The lovely bones. They reside together in plots right next to each other in Wichita, Kansas. Their human vessels rot away, side by side, hers ten years ahead of his. And the thing I remember, for both--but in very different ways--were their hands. My grandmother's hands were bent cruelly by arthritis. But they were always smooth with lotion...she was very concerned about her appearance, always checking the scale and making sure she stayed as thin as she could. My grandfather's hands were darker, always in the sun with his garden or yardwork. One thumb had no wrinkles at the mid joint. When he was young, I think 18?, he worked at the soda plant (Coke or Pepsi, I do not recall), and his thumb was cut off in an accident. They managed to sew it back on, and he remembered taking his younger sisters to see The Wizard of Oz and all the while suffering horrible pain throughout it as that stitched on thumb wailed and itched. I remember as a child wondering at it, the smooth plain of nothing from the joint at the base of the hand to the fingertip.

My grandmother would pick me up from school every St. Patrick's day to take me to the local parade. I never thought anything of it, until I noticed other schoolmates' hushed whispers when she walked into the room. When she was young, she had an accident in a field...I don't recall if it was corn or wheat or something else...but she fell and something got stuck in her eye. In the crude medical world of early 30s New Mexico, she lost the eye. I grew up seeing her glass eye in a jar of water every night by the bathroom sink. It never regsitered that it might be weird until those schoolmates started whispering.

On occasion, I hated her so much. I wanted to throw things and scream like a banshee. She wanted to do the same. It was a complicated relationship. But now I just wish I'd gone over to their house every week and painted her toenails like she wanted. I wish I hadn't been the selfish, adolescent shit that was too busy to spend some time, have dinner with them, paint some toenails, and watch tv.

Lovely, lovely bones. It is all we have left except our memories and photographs. Momentos are wonderful--priceless--but they can't replace the time we had playing Uno on New Years Eve. Her hands, crimped; His hands, tan and with that one smooth thumb; my hands, young and so like theirs, eager eager eager. Hating Wichita and wanting to fly anywhere but there. What I would give to see them again. And that's the cruel hope of The Lovely Bones. A Heaven where that might be possible. Old wounds healed, hands held, and toenails painted.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

She knew you loved her Lovey. Never doubt that. She loved you too. The problem was beyond her control, severe bi-polar illness. You have been dearly your whole life.

7:55 PM  

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