Veni, Vidi, Ventus --
The randomly chaotic and crafty scribblings of a deranged, wannabe artist allowed too many colours in her Crayon box.

Surgeon General's Warning: Some content of "From Pooka's Crayon" may not be suitable for: work, blue-haired little old ladies, the politically-correct, rabid moonbats, uptight mothers, priests, chronic idiots, insurance claims agents, Democrats, children, small furry quadropeds from Alpha Centauri, or your sanity.

Wednesday, September 27, 2000

Of Autumn Bounties

My nose relishes the scents still -- the crisp tang of cut apples and cider, the warm kiss of cinnamon and cloves and butter baked on pumpkin and acorn squash, the dry musky whisper of fallen leaves.

I love autumn, always have. I become a child again, kicking and shuffling through leaves, craving the search for walnuts and chestnuts and the chance to once again stand on a chair in my grandmother's kitchen to help stir, or supervise the baking of seasonal goodies.

Those days are far behind me, but sweet memories linger on. My grandparents are old now, and age has not been kind. There is fear in me, fear of visiting and seeing them, and having that feeble ill health seared into my brain so that it wipes out the only fond memories of childhood. I fear it, because I still see the greatest supporter my family ever gave me, my maiden great aunt, lying in a hospital bed, devastated by cancer. I'm scared. I don't want to lose them.

I could go "home," but it was never really home to me at all.

Now frankly, the whole "Thanksgiving" thing doesn't mean squat to us. There's no glorified celebration of past wrongs committed in the name of conquest and expansion, no triumphant "let's massacre a bird" party for the sacrificial corpse. In my family, this is one of the few times of year when our massive extended family all has a day off and can get together. We're spread out all over the place, and on a daily basis, few of us are able to see the others.

For the largest portion of my life, Thanksgiving was held at the house of my paternal grandparents. All of the cousins, aunts, uncles, and gratuitous spouses or significant others would congregate and plan for the annual Christmas bash, to be held on Christmas Eve like clockwork, every year. We'd eat, drink, watch football, and compare notes on life and pretty much whatever other topic sprang to mind. These gatherings tended to get silly as well. Don't even ask me about food fights. The topic of my incredible aim comes up every damn time. I just don't want to hear about the green jello salad anymore, m'kay? There were wonderful long years of this tradition, even after my grandfather died.

And then Hubby and I moved away. This wasn't any small move this time. Hubby joined the Air Force and our newest family member, Uncle Sam, sent us off to Spokane, Washington, and Fairchild Air Force Base, this time several thousand miles from the yearly gathering. The first Thanksgiving was awful. We ended up in a tiny Chinese restaurant somewhere in downtown Spokane. Neither of us could face cooking or eating a "normal" meal. Christmas was dreadful, of course, and quiet. Again, there was something quite poignantly missing.

January brought us a new surprise, and I was pregnant. That was countered by the death of my grandmother a few months later, who quite possibly was never even able to understand the news that there was about to be another grandchild. This was one of the few times we crossed the miles to be home, and the funeral was worse than anything I could have imagined. I felt guilty for leaving her. I felt guilty for not being there when she died, or when she needed someone to talk to, or someone to be proud of. Worst of all, the only thing I had left of her was memories, and those had been clouded by the miles in between.

That Thanksgiving was only marginally better, for close friends took us under their wings. It was far removed from our "traditional" Thanksgiving, but I think it was easier than having to face the family event without her presence. Thing 1 helped in that aspect as well, since she kept us too busy to worry about what we were missing. Christmas was infinitely better with a baby in the house, but still, there was that sense of loss.

Hubby never really felt it. His family had never been all that close, whereas from the deepest parts of my memory, I could remember being with and knowing my cousins, and second cousins, and aunts and uncles on all sides of the family. I knew my grandparents, and great-grandparents, and their sisters and brothers and cousins. It was hard to explain to him, and I didn't think he was even able to grasp the concept.

He understands now, seeing through my eyes and my tears.


Poppie, the beloved grandfather that absolutely filled every day of my childhood, is suffering from an incurable handicap -- old age.

Over the last few years, I've watched as colon cancer took its toll, added to years of various melanomas on the man who couldn't be kept out of the sun and action if you strapped him down. Now, a stroke has added to that, and the once brilliant and outgoing man is quiet and subdued, and worst of all, slow. He doesn't go outside anymore. He now pays someone else to mow his lawn, where before he would scoff at anyone who didn't bother to work the dirt and grass themselves.

This is the man who, I am quite convinced, spent most of my childhood with me on his back. He'd carry me down the hills of our lakehouse (now sold, and that causes an ache as well that my children will never have the chance to enjoy it as I did) to where the blackberries grew wild. With me on his back, pointing imperiously at the choicest ripe berries, he'd bend and pluck them, knowing full well that the berry would never make it into the bucket. Hours of purple stained lips and fingers later, and he would carry me right back up that hill. His strength never flagged, though I always had to be put promptly to bed, exhausted.

He always had the talent for knowing precisely what would set my mother off, and thusly could finagle a way to achieve the most fun result while being able to placate her. She never really fell for the excuses, of course, but it made the sneaking a lot more fun to think that she did. I can't even count the number of times that we magically managed to just "fall into" the lake, or the number of times one of us had to go in after an item we had dropped. Well, after all, while we were in there, we were already wet and might as well swim -- right?

There was real magic to be found in his gardens. Poppie could grow absolutely anything, and would show us, still covered with dirt and sweat, how to pluck the food item of choice directly from the vine so that we could eat it right there in the garden. "Poppie" even came from there, me being small and impressionable, and seeing a huge field of glowing red poppies. The poppies, and the roses, and the squash, and even the wild blackberries that were somehow not so wild once he had built a cage for the vines to dance across were all a vivid part of my childhood.

I am watching my childhood grow old, and the child inside me is weeping.

It is hard to face the inevitable loss of a loved one. It is even harder when you are slowly watching their decline. My children will never know the fullness of this wonderful man, except through their mother's eyes. They will never know what it was like to be eight, and suddenly decide that the top of a huge persimmon tree was the perfect place to learn to fly -- knowing that He would be there below to catch me when I fell.

Every time I see my grandparents, there is this horrid fear that it will be the last time that I will hold them, and the last time that my children will have to learn who they are. I can't put the camera down anymore. It's become an extension of me, whenever they are around, but not even the best film can compare the dreams and memories that I hold.

It's a bittersweet harvest this year.

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