I’ve been thinking about loss lately. What usually comes to mind is my grandmother, who passed away one Christmas Eve almost thirty years ago. Whenever I think about her and her passing I feel happy. I never had the displeasure of seeing her on her deathbed, so my last image of her is from Thanksgiving when she was every bit lively and her usual self. If I remember correctly, she retold the story she always used to tell about lying to her mother as a kid and saying her sister fell in the well.
“Up went the peas,” she used to exclaim. She’d throw her hands in the air at this part of the story and stamp her feet to demonstrate the action.
And that’s it. The lasting image I have of my grandmother seared into my memory; a still-shot for all-time.
Sometimes I worry I’ll lose her memory. I think about her less and less. She was a good thing. Sometimes we lose those, too.
That’s exactly what my head is spinning around this second full day of summer in the year two thousand nineteen. Losing good things and maybe the power in doing so for the better. It makes me think of all the times I’ve felt stalled out in life and how terrible those times felt.
I think about my grandmother and I think about a short, stout woman with black hair (dyed), thick glasses, and a voice like a shrieking parrot. I think about the time she slapped me in public for sticking my tongue out at her when she asked me to put my shoes on.
She encouraged me to learn how to ride a bicycle.
Memories like these come on at their own rates. I don’t ask for them; they just happen. They come and then they go.
My grandmother was the person that walked beside me as I attempted to make the pedals on my bike work. Kicking, grunting, unable to get my legs to do a full revolution; it was frustrating. And then something happened. The right synapsis fired and my legs turned over and with a rush of air I was off on wheels.
And shed sit there at the end of the drive in an orange lawn chair and watch us bike around. She did this for years; watched us get better and better at banking the turns and screeching our tires to stop. And then she died and she’s not here anymore.
Sometimes I equate not knowing someone the same anymore as them dying, and it always makes me wonder about how similar the two seem. How, if I never knew you, you never existed, even though you most certainly did. What does that mean about memories? If I forget, are you gone? Or do you come back.
In seven days, I move to a different state for a job another version of me living another and different life would never take. But we all watch ourselves change slowly over time.
I’ve watched myself fall in love with someone I have no business falling in love with: Merry. Merry is the sunrise over a frosted landscape, everything twinkling and glistening in the shimmer. And I’m leaving her. Putting her and all of Ohio in the rear-view mirror again.
If you catch a fish and release it, do you ever catch the same fish again? Your heart might tell you yes, but biochemistry says no. As our cells adapt they change and filter and evolve; what is it? Every seven years the human body changes entirely at the cellular level?
Merry will be here in Ohio and I’ll be over there in Indiana and we’ll both go on living but not around each other.
The memory of my grandmother comes to mind again. We don’t live around each other, either. One might argue the one lives inside the other, but is that true? Where do memories lie? In the brain? How do you find a dream? Where do you look?
Loss is the ever-present factor here. Loss is the key. We lose our dreams. We lose our loved ones. We lose our lives. Everybody rides the same carousel. Everything comes out in the same wash. We’re doomed to destiny and destined to be doomed.
And yet, we live our lives. Memories we thought we lost come raging back at odd hours of the most oddly timed days. People we haven’t heard from in years, we’ll hear their voices and wonder if they weren’t just in the other room, and it will frighten us, this clarity, because we miss them, and the thought of just missing them after so long will be too much to bear.
I think about loss and I think about my grandmother, about Ohio and Indiana. I think about memory and giving things up. Words like cessation and weening. Feelings like regret and remorse. Fondness. Anger.
I still tiptoe at night; still run up the stairs like something is chasing me.
I still think about my grandma.
Chad Lutz is a 2018 graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Mills College. He was named the 2017 prize winner in Fiction by Bacopa Literary Review and was a 2017 nominee for the Pushcart in Poetry by KYSO Flash. He is a two-time Tupelo Press 30/30 project participant and currently serves as an assistant editor for Pretty Owl Poetry. Examples of his work appear in recent or forthcoming issues of Wilderness House Review, Peeking Cat Poetry, SCAB Magazine, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and Gold Man Review. If you don’t know these people they rock.