Monday, April 11, 2011

The Hero and the Princess

The briefest moments in times are sometimes the ones best remembered. It's the cool, crisp, spring mornings which brings to life memories that seem long lost...

I remember that he often smelled of caramel or Tums. His salt and pepper hair was thick and shiny, combed to the right and styled as though he never left the 50's. He was Peter Falk incarnate, often mistaken for the actor who played Columbo, he politely refused requests for autographs - a common occurrence. He told the best bedtime stories too. He never read from a book, but instead would weave tale after tale, filling them with untold adventure and excitement, straight from his own imagination  and brilliantly intertwined with his memories from The War. I could never tell what story was true or not! His subtle English accent only added to the story's mystery and intrigue and I never doubted that this man was truly the hero his stories portrayed him to be. This man, my grandfather, was the single most interesting person I have ever known.

I remember she was kind and soft and her skin was thin as parchment. I felt safe with her. Her kindness and love stretched over me like a blanket and smothered away a world that had become infinitely cruel to me. She spoiled me and I knew it. She always told me I was special because I was the first born grandchild but I think she saw me as I was - fragile and a little scared. I think she saw herself in me and because she didn't know how to protect herself she took me on as her charge.

They seemed perfect together. The hero and the princess. Of course things are never as they seem - reality is far less romantic, but to a child they were the most perfect people in all the world. I loved them best. I loved them more then my own parents. They weaved their magic spell, the one that made all grandparents immune to true judgment, and I never knew the darkness within them until I was too old to believe in fairy tales - in the stories my grandpa told me at bedtime.

I was 16 when my grandmother took her own life. That fragility of hers, which she tried so desperately to hide, finally collapsed under it's own weight and she needed to move on. She needed to find a place where childhood horror could be forever buried, and where unfulfilled promises and unspoken words never came to rest upon her shoulders. In a generation where silence reigned and truths were buried as deep as the hurt they caused my grandmother never had a chance to find her voice, to express her pain, until one day it bubbled up, boiled over, and started a fire she could no longer contain.

 It broke him to find her lifeless body and the venomous words pleading from the suicide note to let her die or she'd hate him forever. It was too much for a man who had known her since she was a teenager, had married and conceived two children, who had loved her the best way he knew how...But sometimes destruction swells up from the ground and throws us off our feet, and all our mistakes suddenly collide into our world and shatter it into unrecognizable remnants of what should have been.

 My grandfather died of cancer a few years after his wife took her life. He was not the man I had known as a child the day he left this earth. I think in his final hours he finally learned what the world had tried so hard to teach him. That love needs to be shouted from the rooftops because those words you left unspoken yesterday may come to haunt you tomorrow.

Still... on cool, crisp, spring days I don't remember the people they were. I only remember the people I thought they were. The hero and the princess, the people I loved best. Courage and Love - personified.

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