Dark teal is the color of the long scarf Grandma Nome crocheted me the same week she died. It was the last testimony of her deep love for me. She picked my favourite blue, and she made it especially big and long for the birthday trip to New Hampshire where we traveled to see autumn's colours on the East Coast.
I'd dreamed of this moment, pictures cut from magazines and a million images in my mind of how it would be. I was, in fact, dazzled by New England’s beauty; covered bridges, the simple white and Quaker-style bed and breakfast we stayed in, contrasted against mountains ablaze with reds, oranges and yellows dipped sky-side with white. Nonetheless, an unexpected snowfall thwarted my fall fantasies of walking through dry leaves, breathing the autumn air and drawing the golden colours into my nature notebook.
The spontaneous plan to fly out during a somber 911 national pause had been my then husband’s plan, who insisted that we needed to get away. Getting away was his typical answer to the needs of my severely wounded heart. As much as the Man in the Mountain was missing his nose, our bed's crisp white-sheets were just as lacking and as cold. The distance of too many unreconciled hurts. What that charming colonial bedroom needed was a kind heart and gentle hand. Love after all, begins in the kitchen, in the den with the children, in the garden. It happens every season of the year. It flirts every day to include each moment. It grows patiently and warms like sunshine, a year-after-year long journey, a growing and maturing. It's not an impatient, quick-fix trip. So, I guess it's not surprising. I don’t remember much about the touches exchanged there.
What I do remember was my loneliness and then suddenly, the unexpected snowfall that spoiled all nature loving plans to hike, to photograph and draw autumn in all its glory. And you know, that cold snowed on more than those mountains. It foreshadowed something else; it shrouded more than the tree covered hills and darkened more than the New Hampshire sky.
We returned home to grandma dying. She got frightened in our absence, used to living alongside us and when she panicked we not there. Just a couple of days away from home. We thought all would be well, but her call to emergency brought the paramedics who then delivered her into inept hospital hands, all unaware of her fragile state. Without her medical history she was unprotected from their unskilled probing. It proved mortal.
So, I sat with her alone, in disbelief, those hours of hospital white, my hands grasping hers.
I’d heard and read about people taking their last breath. And it’s true. That midnight hour I listened to Grandma'a laboured breathing; in, then out, so slowly that I had to strain to hear her, and then she breathed one more breath, then a last, then none. A still surprise. A. Final. Silence.
How could it be? “Grandma, breathe. Don’t go.” But she was gone, just like that, only minutes past twelve o'clock. My fortieth birthday, turquoise scarf over my lap, was her going home day.