It seems that the oldest about to die, in their moment of lucidity, request – demand, if strong enough – to return to their most treasured place. The place of relief from oppression, the place of personal balance…..a field of blueberries, a pond by an oak…….for Mammy, it was to “g’out ‘n the porch.”
No concrete platform, balconette, steel-guarded veranda, or womanized deck in her day, but a true “place”. Hand-hooked rag rug runners layered a white-washed clapboard floor, in blues and greens and whites, held down by carpet tacks and deeply cushioned wickers painted royal blue, the blonde rocker facing out, the chaise-lounge to the left of the center door, cushioned with large, Victorian roses and, on her side, the steady squeak-creak, squeak-creak of the pillow-upholstered, quilt-draped, metal-framed couch swing with its odd, mechanical rhythm as she bore up and settled in the left end of it, peeking out over the gnarled tangle of potted, knotted, blossoming begonias and geraniums shoulder to shoulder across the sill. And, all shaded and fortified, on all sides, with deep royal blue canvas awnings that whipped and billowed in the wind, wafting the spicing, sour scent of twin whisker trees reaching up and out from their trunks on either side of the ascending path between the rock gardens below, a canopy for all those walking up the steps to reach her porch as Mammy watched, expectantly, always grinning with joy at the sight of anyone. A sure place to inspire, to expire……a beautiful place to die.
Mammy’s bosom was large and full, her body round. Nestling up against her provoked little childlike reflections, part resolute, part wonder and awe, the giving over of self to the greater God. She reached the end of her days when a 72 year old ectopic pregnancy’s adhesions reared their encroaching head, halting her body’s processes. She was 98; rather than allow her last hours to be increasingly painful, the surgeon performed the necessary, delicate and successful procedure, and then we waited. As expected, the anesthetic was an assault, her O-levels were stubbornly resistant and, slowly, her magnificent, tender mind succumbed to insufficient breath. She passed away in a blissful, oblivious dream-state, watching a cat on the roof outside that wasn’t there, after my mother made the agonizing decision to pull the plug on her respirator but not before she spoke, repeatedly, of “going out on the porch”. How I wish I’d had the presence of mind to have them try to bring Mammy home. The porch would have waited for her.
Bonnie was a beautiful, country girl. Her features shaped her face naturally, the nose slightly broad, her smile wide and immediate, the giggle tight in coiled anticipation, her eyes sparkling with suspended tears. She was flawlessly presented, her grooming a facade, the working woman’s costume, a professional’s care to hair-weave and correct placement but, above the dress, always the radiant countenance of a perfect innocent.
Bonnie should have, at the very least, been brought to Mammy’s front porch, just once in her life. Had she sat there even one time with my precious grandmother, squeak-creaking back and forth on the metal swing, breathing deeply of the sill-flowers and the whisker tree, feeling the slight breeze pass between the awnings and listening to Mammy’s sweet old stories of the good old days, I doubt whether she would have made the irrevocable choice to leave this earth at the might of a steel locomotive just after 4pm in the October of that fateful year. How many times we revolved around the thought that it was the glare of the autumn sun at that hour, masking the oncoming train, hoping for the miraculous assurance that she never knew it was coming.
But, sooner or later, we all know it’s coming.
There’s something about saying goodbye to your second parent, the last one to go. When you know the orphan’s heart, you begin to live differently. Your fear of the unknown hereafter is succored when the resignation settles in, because your parents are already there. But, I do think that we should all choose our point of departure, our place, live within and as close to that spot as we can get, and then pray that we are granted the nearness to it when that day comes. And, just let nature take its course.
Whether we get to be there in this plane, or the one in our imagination, we should take care not to let ourselves or anyone else pre-empt that moment. We would want to be as close to our treasured place as we can be, so God can recognize us in the crowd.
© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 2000-2014.
all rights reserved. Thank you so much.