Almost three weeks I’ve been away — west to British Columbia and then east to Ontario — and in the true spirit of Away, I’ve not been blogging, except for that quick previous post about history meeting and history making on June 5. I like to concentrate on holidays or visits or whatever it is that takes me away. But my neglect also reflects the zone I still inhabit technologically. Blogging adheres to my writing work, which in its turn adheres to places and routines such as my home office, my own desk and computer, a particular view out the window, and the hours I give to being in that room, fed by thoughts gathered in the daily rituals of kitchen and yard and relationships, and in books undertaken in my several favourite reading spots. In other words, blogging — for me — isn’t handheld yet, isn’t easily portable.
Which isn’t to say that I haven’t been gathering all manner of experiences while away to think about further, and that I haven’t been reading, which travels along as easily and necessarily as my toothbrush. These weeks have swung the gamut of life’s highlights, in fact, from Birth to Death and the celebration of a child’s major Milestone, and I’ve been into several fine books. But now I’m back, re-settling Home and the routines of my work, and then I remember, oh yes, Borrowing Bones…
Back, and so much richer for all that’s happened while away. It’s a little like the experience of the foursome in Elizabeth Hay’s Late Nights on Air who make a long trip by water and canoe across a piece of the Arctic, mostly alone in the barrens but then for a few hours surrounded by hundreds of caribou.
Nothing for so long, and then abundance, and then nothing again, but a nothing haunted by the previous abundance.
My “previous abundance”? Well, for openers, the birth of our newest granddaughter, Clara June on the 11th.
Every birth is a story which could be told from any number of perspectives — the mother’s, the father’s, the siblings’, the midwife’s, the child’s — but from this grandmother’s point of view, Clara’s arrival was also the fulfillment of a wish I’d set on to a mental “bucket list” of sorts, which was to witness a birth. I attended the births of our three children, of course, but was much too engrossed in getting the thing done to look into the mirror which, I was later told, hung strategically above me, or to imagine myself into some observer’s view of what was going on.
Since our daughter-in-law had her baby at home, she graciously invited both me and her mother — and her grandpa who was visiting her mother — to participate by witnessing the birth in a second circle’s remove from the mother and father and two midwives who formed an intense knot of dramatic work and pain and astonishing awareness and then finally success. We others watched and marvelled. I think we comprehended the progress and miracle of it most profoundly through its sounds, and I don’t mean screams — because she didn’t — but groans. Groans like groans as all of know them but unique to birth in the unforgettable way they combine pain and hard hard work and longing and hope. And then, some moments after her arrival (and without any hanging upside down or slap on the bum) the sound of her, the child, alive and breathing, uttering her very first cry. Truly and finally here. (If you like birth stories, this one is also told here.)
I can’t say that I feel more bonded with Clara than our other five grandchildren because I saw her arrival, for the bond is strong with each one of them, but I would say that seeing the miracle of birth from a view this close and personal haunts me with unusual gratitude and awe. And will, I suspect, for a long time.
While I was staying at our children’s house, a dear aunt for whom my husband and I had some responsibility in her elder years, had a stroke, and about a week later — the night between my return from B.C. and H. and I leaving for Ontario, where son P. was celebrating his call-to-the-bar ceremony — she died. That evening between the two trips, we sat with her for awhile, and watched and listened while she, by now unconscious, underwent the labour of death. It was noisy too. Not groans in this case, but the struggle of painful breath — a struggle to keep going mixed with a struggle to stop. It too gave way to other sound some hours later, for her attendant while she died that night said our aunt had become ever more quiet in these efforts, until she was peacefully still.
How grateful we are for four enjoyable days in Toronto, celebrating a professional milestone with our son and daughter-in-law (which also fell on his birthday), as well as our (now) second youngest granddaughter’s “dedication” in their church (which also fell on Father’s Day). It was wonderful to mark these occasions together and a bonus that they so conveniently bunched themselves together. The notable sounds across these days were those of pomp and ceremony, speeches, applause, laughter, and prayers for little Holly Anastasia.
Meanwhile, back in Winnipeg, other family members made funeral preparations. I’m glad the day chosen made it possible for us to attend. It was my privilege to read aunt Gertrude (Harder) Klassen’s life story at the service. Such a fragment it is, an obituary, even when enlarged for the funeral service with more commentary than a newspaper obituary or funeral bulletin allows. A last, tiny edit of 87 years, spoken aloud. My aunt’s life touched me in significant ways, but perhaps I’ll save that for a subsequent post. I’m back home, after all, back in blogging zone!