Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas, from Grandpa's Kitchen

It's been over five years since my Grandpa Razz passed away, but I still miss him every day. And especially over the holidays. I keep thinking it will ease with time. I remind myself that he had an adventurous and full life. And both in life and death and through every season he is with me.

He is an endless Portland summer evening, and I'm relaxing out on the back patio. The smell of his rose garden, the taste of Alpenrose ice cream on my tongue, the sound of his laughter rising above his post-WWII neighborhood.

He is a rainy autumn Saturday in Portland, his hamburger soup served up with crusty bread and parmesan cheese on the stove of his tiny kitchen. The local news hums from the living room. We discuss the Blazer's playoff chances this year. Every Blazer season is Rip City for Grandpa.

He is Christmas. Dipping chocolates onto cold marble in his attic. Every nook and cranny of my grandparent's small home decorated in Holiday. Warmth and giving and friends and memories.

He is hard work and family and love and generosity.

I wouldn't consider myself a generous person by nature. I'm a true introvert. My safe place is within myself. I hold a strong desire to be generous, but too often over think things (Is my gift wanted? Is it the best way to help?) But my grandpa…he just gave. 

He never went anywhere empty-handed. Like Santa Claus, he always came bearing gifts. Always willing to lend a hand. Always wanting to make a new friend. He had beloved nicknames for his neighbors and friends that stuck over generations.

Grandpa helped me move into my graduate school apartment in Eugene after my dad died. He and my other favorite grandpa, both well into their seventies, hauling heavy furniture up my narrow, wooden staircase. My heart!

He was my first phone call after Ed asked me to marry him.

He was my favorite dance at my wedding.

When Ed and I decided to take a job in New York City six months after that wedding, I dreaded telling my grandpa. It took me multiple attempts to spill out the news. The only other time I have ever seen him cry was after my dad's accident, when it became apparent that he would not survive it.

My dad had passed away less than two years earlier. My grandma's dementia was worsening. His health wasn't great. His family was abandoning him (well, at least I was). 

I may have left him for the Big Apple, but he has never left my heart. When I miss my grandpa and want to feel close to him, I know exactly what to do. I find a way to love and be generous towards someone else so that I can feel him strongly inside of me. And I am instantly transported back to the smells and warmth of that tiny kitchen. The Blazer game buzzes in the background. Grandpa is answering his front door to guests. I hear his jingling laugh. Everyone is welcome here.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Noé's Starry Nights

I've been staring at this painting for days after rereading Temple Grandin's Thinking in Pictures.

In the book, Temple explains her theory that Van Gogh was an autistic and painted his world of perceptual distortions:

The swirls in the sky in his painting Starry Night are similar to the sensory distortions that some people with autism have. Autistics with severe sensory processing problems see the edges of objects vibrate and get jumbled sensory input. These are not hallucinations but perceptual distortions.

And now I'm dying to know.....

Is this how you see the world, Noé?

Do the edges of your bedroom, your neighborhood, your school, vibrate?

Is every day a starry night filled with blinding brightness and swirls and dark intrusive dreams?

Do you want to reach toward those bright stars or hide away from them?

Is your world marked by agitation or beauty? Or perhaps both?

One thing I am sure of, my Noécito. You don't see the world with ordinary eyes.