Tuesday, December 28, 2004

If I May:

My Grandma died on Xmas Eve. The family was over for dinner and gift exchanging. The clearest memory I have of Grandma isn't about her directly, but the painting of Jesus she had hanging in her old blue house. It's hanging in her new white house too, I imagine, but it's in the blue one where I remember it. That white house was never a Grandma sort of place, to me, even though I'm sure she liked it a lot better than the blue one.

That painting was the first exposure I had to Jesus, as a man or a force or whatever he might be to you. I asked my mom (because I was a shy kid, and had a hard time asking things of grown-ups who weren't my parents) if that person in the painting was Grandpa as a young man. She said he wasn't. I asked if he was a relative. She said he wasn't. So, I asked, why did Grandma have a painting of some dude in her living room?

I don't remember how the conversation went. I don't have kids, so I don't know how that conversation works at all, but I imagine it's a weird one. Grown-ups are busy most of the time informing kids as to how things work--logical outcomes and methods of reasoning. If it's raining outside, and you go outside, you get wet. If the stove is hot, and you touch the stove, you get burned. And then they have to explain abstract concepts like faith and supernatural ones like men with beards raising from the dead. When things like that happen in the movies and it freaks us, as kids, out, our folks tell us it's just a movie. But that guy in the painting, he did it for real. But, er, no one else can do it. Ever. Well, my own prejudice is leaking through here, and this is supposed to be about something else.

I have fluctuating opinions about death. Logically, on days when I'm feeling logical, I suppose that nothing happens at all. Hopefully, on days when I'm feeling hopeful, I suppose that there are things in the universe I'm not quite capable of understanding, in which case something might happen after all.

On this trip to Ohio I read a book called American Skin by Don De Grazia. In the book, Alex Verdi explains about babies. I'll paraphrase.

You know babies? You know how we're told, that when babies are babies, and their mother or father or anyone else leaves the room, the baby is incapable of reasoning that they'll come back. The baby figures they can't see them, so they don't exist anymore. Alex Verdi, in the book, explains death as being like that. It's like (and this is me, further opining) when adults leave the kids alone to go do adult-things. The kids don't yet have the capacity to understand what they adults are doing. Grandma is like that now, maybe. She's gone, but only in the sense that the rest of us left don't quite understand what she's up to. But eventually we'll figure it out, and we'll trust that those left will figure it out in time, too. It's no use explaining to the kids left in the nursery, because they just have the tools to understand it yet.

I wonder what will happen to that picture of Jesus. I hope it doesn't end up sad and lonely in some yard sale. I know, in my head, that it doesn't matter what happens to that picture of Jesus, that it's not Grandma's concern anymore, and that letting it go back into the stream of people will allow it to alter more lives the way it altered mine, by bringing Jesus up in the first place. But all the same, I hope that Jesus finds a good home.

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