• Melissa Neeb

Visiting Grandparents Even After They're Gone

My husband and I pull into my grandparents' tiny town. They are no longer here. They passed away a few years ago.

We go down Birch and turn left onto the street they lived on since 1971. It's a dead-end. A few houses after theirs there is a field and the town falls off the map.

In our youth, my siblings and I spent a week there every summer. We played croquet in the backyard, ate toast with strawberry jelly, and popped in to see my grandpa at his Napa store after picking out a trinket at the thrift store. In the mornings we walked the ditches with my grandma looking for cans to recycle. Afterwards, as a reward for our hard and sticky work, we got to fly down the scorching metal tornado slide more times than we could count.

The days churned slowly; our clocks ticking on grandparents' time.

It is strange muscle memory, being back in this town again.

After my grandparents died, my mom and I spent hours, days, going through their stuff. My grandma's purses and blazers all had wadded up tissues from who knows what year in them. Her dressers were haphazardly jam-packed and then forgotten, like a discarded suitcase on the side of the road. Random documents, loose change, costume jewelry, paper clips, perfume ads, old licenses and class reunion invitations, greeting cards from relatives long passed, and even the occasional century-old family photo all shared a home in each ancient drawer.

This place that held so many memories only echoes now. My head overflows with the sounds. A basketball clanking against the wooden backboard hung on the garage. The tinging of the xylophone we played the basement. The clank of the candy lid put back after we each took a piece of ribbon candy or a lemon drop. The grandfather clock incessantly announcing the hour. Giggles as we drifted to sleep under mothball bedspreads.

Now I meander and peer into the shop windows on Broadway Ave, thinking maybe I can catch a glimpse of my grandma's red pant leg as she moves away or my grandpa's jet black hair.

To no avail. They exist in another room now. Another aisle. Another window.

I scoop the dust and breath that they left behind. I let it crowd under my fingernails, into my lungs.

I carry them with me as my camera freezes this moment in time. They are no longer here, but I am.

And so they live on through me.


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