With the start of this blog, I made a decision to share my life, my inspirations, my creations, my paths and my camera. In doing so, it turns out, I have also inevitably agreed to show some of the breaks, mistakes and transitions. There are ups and downs to baking, to experimenting and to living. Some burns can be cut away; some can be iced and made anew. Others cannot be repaired. I was unhappy, and there was no more icing or reinvention in sight.
I once said this…
There are things a girl needs after a break up, even if she is the one who has cut the ties. She needs boxes of tissues and/or breakable things to throw! She needs friends to listen to her! She needs to be told she is right and better off without him! She needs to go out and feel the rest of the fish in the proverbial sea swimming toward her. She needs to stay home and hate all romantic comedies with happy endings. Above all, she needs alcohol, chocolate and ice cream!
Then I baked…
I concocted complicated little breakupcakes for the very good friend who needed those forms of support.
More than a year later, that loyal, supportive and life-savvy friend sat on my couch as I filled a trash bag full of tissues. When I said my words out loud, they were still tinged with sadness, but assuredness emerged. What I needed was to feel happy, to feel solid, to inhale and to exhale. I said goodbye to the carpenter, and instead of turning to my oven for comfort, I turned to a warm room: a Bikram yoga school.
I focused on such small things: flecks in the ceiling tiles, keyholes, little physical transitions that opened my body significantly, extending my spine, feeling blood beat and pulse aggressively through my veins, the cathartic effect of sweating intensely and the sense of accomplishment and comfort of the “Namaste” in the end. Bikram was my savior, and I felt like an evangelist for his cause. I stood taller, and people took note. I smiled more, and people took note.
Despite the rebuilding, a void lingered temporarily where a man and his four-legged friend once stood. I hope he will one day understand I was not choosing to be stubborn but rather choosing to be happy. I found my rehabilitating happiness in something as vital and taken for granted as inhaling, exhaling, smiling and laughing.
Then something happened that made me dance in the shower. The happiness just welled beyond my physical control. It was a connection that had been such a long time coming. The book was open, and we were finally on the same page.
As I danced in the shower, my grandfather made his final bow and left the dance floor. On May 5, 2011, my grandfather died at the age of 97! I was not sad at the thought of such a good-natured man falling just shy of a century of warming the hearts of all those around him, but I knew the moment would come when I would feel the weight of his death.
Even though I knew she could logically accept that 97 years was a strong run, my mom’s voice seemed so sad and tired in her message when she broke the news. I bought a plane ticket, packed a bag and returned to where my roots began: Nebraska. It had been so long since I had seen my parents.
My hair was significantly shorter, my spine taller, my plans clearer and my personality even stronger, but several elements fell into their old places as my sister, my niece, my parents and I drove over the flat planes to a small, small, small patch of land in Winner, South Dakota.
The moment of sadness hit me, as I knew it would, when I saw my Grandmother behind the casket, and that’s when I knew that even 97 years was not enough time on this earth for such a strong love between two people. She looked beautiful in her black shawl and blue dress as she told herself over and over again that the love of her life, her best friend through so many years and her best dancing partner was going to sleep.
At that moment, I cried, and I might always cry a bit when I think of it. I cried because my grandparents, above all else, made me believe in true and everlasting love. I wish I had known them better, but I grew up on a coast while they toiled on a patch of land in the middle of the country. However, I found so much meaning in the moments we shared and the interactions I glimpsed.
I knew my grandmother to understand inherently the environmental factors they taught me at a fancy, private school. I knew my grandfather to take long walks on sandy roads, as if to say, he was still a young farmer on a daily round. I knew my grandmother to pour her heart into preparing meals for her family, and my grandfather surely to find bits of fried chicken on the bone my picky sisters and I had missed. I knew my grandmother always to have an obligation to help the community in some way, usually by feeding someone who was grieving. I knew my grandfather always to have a joke, or maybe just one joke that bore repeating.
Together, I knew they shared something so special. Perhaps it was the mellowing of years, though I doubt it, but my grandfather always seemed to treat my grandmother as an equal. He respected her and loved her, and all the feistiness I saw her exhibit was her stern way of saying, “Lawrence, you better stop napping and get up to exercise because we still have so much more living to do together.”
Their 65th Wedding Anniversary celebration formed the epitome of love and friendship in my mind. Relatives and friends had gathered from all corners of the country, and they all wanted to see and talk with both of my grandparents. The two were inevitably pulled in various directions, but when it came time to eat, they naturally found each other, sat side by side and shared their lunch.
They did not talk much because for one, my family likes to eat, but more importantly, after 65 years together, the need for togetherness exceeded the need for conversation. It was a quiet contentedness I will never forget and to which I will always aspire. Unintentionally, they unraveled ever fiber of my being when they proceeded to dance a polka together. Some distant cousin with an impressive handlebar mustache told me later that night, “a couple who dances together, stays together.” It was true, and I have never forgotten those words.
As I looked at my beautiful grandmother, beautiful for the 90 years she had lived so far, beautiful for her love and generosity, I felt immense sadness, immense hope and immense happiness all welled into a few tears.
More than breaks and mistakes, life is about these moments of transition and hopefully, as a result, transformations. In these moments, I am finding an honest happiness unlike any I have ever known, and that is why I have decided to share them… all of them!