jacktellslies: (this machine)
[personal profile] jacktellslies
I'd assumed that I was the first of my family to see Iceland. But apparently my grandparents were married while my grandfather, the naval captain, was on shore leave. He thought he had a month during which his time was his own, but the day after the wedding he was told that he had a day to get to port before being shipped back to the American military base near Reykjavik, where he lived for some time. He laughs when he speaks of it now. But how immensely frustrating it must have been! I stood at the bay for a day, once, waiting. Strange, that I wasn't the first to do so. They lived that way for most of their young lives: he was on a submarine, the location of which was blacked out by some military censor in his letters. She was on some tropical island or another, raising five babies alone.

My mother drove south yesterday, but blind, deaf, and barely conscious, my grandmother didn't know she was there.

She died at five o'clock this morning. My grandfather was asleep in the apartment of the assisted living home to which they'd recently moved. She was in the nursing home wing where they'd placed her. An aunt and an uncle were there with her. Surrounded by children again, and no husband.

I'm saddened by the idea, and angry on behalf of both of them. Her deafness has been swelling since I was young, but she could always hear his voice. It was the one that could always make it through. I keep asking my mother how he is doing. She says he's fine, but won't say more than that. What kind of bullshit is fine? What does that mean?

They were married for seventy years or more. Her father was reasonably well off and Catholic, and he was a Jew, poor, the son of a suicide and an orphan. They were rarely in the same country. But they wanted each other. The last I heard on the matter, they continued sleeping together regularly into their eighties, sometimes on my grandfather's boat on the river that ran through the town where they were married. Not a bad life, then, was it?
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August 2009

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