Monday, September 26, 2016
Her old house was about seven miles to the East, near the water. A home I visited through childhood and later lived in two separate times in my twenties. Loved that place. White brick fireplace. It had this great backyard, too. Citrus trees. My grandmother and grandfather moved there in the early 1970s, after decades in Brooklyn. My grandfather died in 1984. My grandmother remarried in the mid '80s and again in the early '90s. The first guy wasn't the greatest choice. The second was a decent enough fellow who liked to travel in his van. My grandmother rode with him for awhile and during that time, my senior year in college, I lived at the old 355.
A few years after I graduated she moved to 5063-C, located within a modest 55+ community west of town. Her third husband, Vinnie, had passed and she was ready to start anew yet again. She would soon meet her fourth and final husband, Tom, one of the sweetest people I've ever met. They were wed within a short time and had several blissful years together before Tom left this world in 2001. During that time my mother moved into another unit in the same complex. I also lived in both of their apartments at various times while I was still in school.
Each year got tougher for grandma. She survived double hip replacement surgery. There were three hurricanes in two years. I remember hearing Wilma outside the bedroom window; it sounded like a locomotive. Thankfully, no damage to her building. The worst part was the week of no electricty afterward.
Many nights Grandma would cry out in the wee hours, often from bad dreams. Good aides and neglectful aides came and went. Senior Services began to call me with reports that my grandmother's neighbors were concerned for her safety.
In the last month I finally got around to cleaning out my grandmother's belongings. We will be selling the unit, long overdue. I'd been busy with a myriad of things over the past year and a half. A perfect opportunity arose when I was informed I had over one hundred hours of PTO I needed to use before my anniversary date at work.
I spent weeks sifting through clothes, books, photographs, old Avon inventory, documents that dated back to the '70s. Tedious work. I had to carefully examine everything as my grandmother had left currency in pockets and between pages of magazines. Some of my old stuff was among the piles. Old floppy disks and even some grad school paperwork was there, triggering a barrage of memories.
All of it did. As you would expect, not all of it favorable or pleasant. Some reminders of bad periods were there, things I'd blocked out of my mind. Relationships that had soured. Debts that had plagued my foolish younger self. A lawsuit my grandmother filed in vain. Photos of my parents, long separated. But also, photos of a surprise birthday and the early days of my courtship with my now wife.
The a/c in the apartment had failed some time before this big job. It was fixed on Day Two. Thank God. Unfortunately, old boxes stuffed with papers in a stuffy apartment bring bugs. As I opened some of them I was greeted by the occasional cockroach or three. It got to a point where I just took the damned things outside so if any were hiding they could just scurry on into the grass.
Much of what I cleared out was donated to Goodwill. At the time of this writing the furniture is still there, but this task is closer to completion. I am thankful to 5063-C for its years of shelter for my family, but honestly, I won't miss it. Namely because I was never particularly fond of it aesthetically. Also because it was a part of my life that, while necessary, was far from the greatest of times. I mentioned in an earlier post about leaving something in the rear view mirror. This will soon join it, happily, but I am eternally grateful for the love that was allowed to exist there.