Sara part 1
Today, I am 14. 14. 14 and what? 14 and empty. 14, and maybe the wild tingling feeling of a sixth sense that I recently discovered. I have no reason to be thankful, though. Although I am not the first, nor would I be the last to grow up with their grandparents, my case is different. I mean, many kids who grow up with their grandparents, it is either their parents are dead, or serving terms, or maybe because they were separated, and they felt the best place for the kid to be is with their grandparents while each parent marries another partner. For me, not so much. I grew up with my maternal grandparents. Grandpa died while I was 10. He was secretive with many stories and life experiences, but not with his joy. I never heard him talk about his time in military service, but you could tell when the old man was happy or pleased with you. I grew up learning that my parents just disappeared. That mom had delivered me, and they just couldn’t find her anymore. The same with my dad. They were lost in the thin air.
My grandparents’ home house relics of history, including arts, cane chairs, a medal of military service for grandpa, a bull’s horn, and lots more. But never did the walls hold pictures. The only picture was me, sitting with a smile between grandpa Tom and grandma Harriet on a high-raised sofa. They were smiling, too. Tom, with a cowboy heart, a sky-blue shirt tucked into some faded blue jeans pants, and a scarf around his neck. He wore ankle boots, too. Grandma had a black gown that hugged her slender frame, knee-length as she sat. The dress wasn’t tight like the ones you find girls wear at prom, but it was fitting enough to pronounce her little endowments, while her face told the tale of a woman transitioning into ‘old age.’ She wore her hair short, blond, and the frontal fringe was just right above her eyebrows.
Well, that was my belief until I noticed a pattern with grandma after grandpa died. I noticed how she gets excited in a coded way, and how she would not miss a live performance of the musical band Fleetwood Mack, or when it was a solo performance by the lead female vocalist, Stevie. Sometimes, when making my frantic little girl moves and moods, grandma would “shush” me, to allow her to listen. Many times, I had no choice but to sit down and watch with her.
Two driveways lead into the house. There is one that holds a two-car parking lot just right about the front of the house. Then there is this other one, which is by the left side of the house, It had not been in use for as long as I could remember. But when you drive, you see a garage door, which, if it opens, leads you into the house, but like an underground slant. The garage has Grandpa’s 1930 Ford Mustang. I have never seen the car driven out. Although, maybe once in six months, grandpa would just go on to clean the car, sit in the driver’s seat, admire it, and puff a cigarette or two. Sometimes, I joined him in the car, as he would play a song from the car radio, which still miraculously worked. The radio used a cassette tape. There are quite a number of them in the car, but the one he would play often was the Buckingham-Nicks. That wasn’t about the best music from the era (whatever era it was), but I have heard grandpa listen to some more beautiful music in the house. I once asked him why he liked the boring cassette and why it was this particular one that he chose to listen to.
I remember him speaking in one of his calmest voices ever.
“Turtledove,” (that is what he always called me), “you know this was the brightest album from the group, neither is it the best I have heard some of these singers sing. Themselves, the singers knew it was a disaster. But that does not mean they can erase the history of ever once producing a bad album. But... like life, we all have these terrible and disastrous stories that we are not proud of. We may not be able to joke or talk about them in the presence of others, but we are constantly drawn --like some sort of demon-- to go back and embrace the sorrow of the moment. This album mirrors my concerns in life...of the things I thought maybe I could have done better but didn’t. It reminds me of failures that haunt me, even though I do not know what I could have done differently. And even though I am not proud of the album, it is a constant reminder of one part of my life.
“So, Turtledove, there are burdens you bear that others will not understand the many chords it strikes in you and how they are all connected. It is like, say, I die...”
“Grandpa, you’re not gonna die! You’ll live forever.” I screamed almost immediately.
With a faint smile, “Everyone eventually dies, my dear. But, no, I do not mean I will die now; it is an example.”
Please, don’t die. I sang in an almost melodious tune.
“It is like the way you love me, and Harriet, your grandmother. If I die, both of you have lost the same person, but the feeling would be different for the both of you, even though similar. So, no one can understand your burden the way you bear it. We all bear similar burdens in different ways and with different passions. So, no one truly understands how we feel, even when they say they do.”
The garage, a memory of grandpa, the calmest and most caring human I have ever known. Ever since his death, I would only go in there to pick the mechanical tools we needed to fix some things from his toolset box. Grandpa’s death was a focal point in my life because it brought me into the awareness of pain on many levels. Like the pain, I saw on grandma’s when she battles with some things that her husband could have helped her with. Like the pain you’d find with her when she talked about grandpa in the present tense, for her to realize he is late now. Like the pain of the plays and moments that are so personal between grandpa and me, but I cannot get anymore. Like the emptiness that fills you up even when someone else tries to act like him but they never just fit into his shoe. His death made me realize all the pains that I never knew I had, the pains of not having parents. It is an emotion that fills the house with deafening silence when you know this is one of the days when grandpa should be disturbing the whole house with the Caribbean blues.
Hence, going to the garage was another manifestation of pain, because I would only enter the garage, which doubles as a basement, only when grandpa is there, or he tells me to get something. Hence, I have always avoided the place.
There came a day when I was in so much mental depression and being emotionally overwhelmed that I wanted to burst. So, I went to the garage. I was feeling weird energy. As much as I wanted to cry, I couldn’t. I had a very strong spasm of sensation. I went to grandpa’s car for the first time since he was dead. I think I could relate to the emptiness he meant when he said no one understands your burden the way you do.
I tried to play his favorite cassette, but the car was dead. Battery, I guess. So, I used the tape player that was connected to two overhead speakers in the garage. I preferred the noise. It was soothing and appealing in a certain way. I felt an energy uprising within me. As I began to listen to the song, among the backup singers, I began to hear a familiar voice. It was weird, but I knew what I was hearing. It was the voice of the singer whom grandma had loved to listen to from the band Fleetwood Mack. But this is Buckingham-Nicks. So, I picked up my phone and researched the Fleetwood Mack. That was the change for me. Part of the band is a woman, whom Grandma had always loved to watch perform on TV. I clicked on the names of the people listed, and some of them had no further information. Well, until I clicked the name Stevie Stonemason. That was grandpa’s name, but Stevie sounded like a guy’s name. Alas, it was a lady. A woman. The one grandma often listened to. How come she bore grandma’s last name? I had never bothered to know her name before this day. So, I moved on, saw her discography, and realized she was part of the Buckingham-Nicks, and before then, was part of the Fritz band, Joplin, and Hendrix before she came to starlight. The parents’ names showed Tom and Harriet Stonemason.
What! Oh my God. I know other grandma’s children, Trevor and Gabrielle. But never have I heard of Stevie. I tried to search for more information online and I realized that she mentioned Gabrielle as a sibling. That was all the clue I needed in the world. This was Grannies Tom and Harriet’s child. What was it about them that I didn’t know? Was she given birth to accidentally? Was she a product of an extramarital affair? She couldn’t have been. Was she the one grandpa meant when he mentioned his “failure”?
All of a sudden, my brain seemed to have superpowers. Stevie was a family secret, and everyone knew her except me. Now that she was popular, it made sense that when people greeted grannies when we went out, it wasn’t because of social status popularity, it was also because of their daughter. Why weren’t they proud of her? Simple. Because I was her mistake. I knew my uncle and aunt, and their children. There was a third child I never knew, this woman. And my grandparents were true, my grandparents. What only seemed off was that I bear their last name. I thought my mother was a lost child that they never talked about because of the terror and horror of what the thought could be to them. She was only lost to me. All of a sudden, I see the semblance.
I stormed out of the garage, half walking and half running through the poorly lit doorway that gently ascended to the intercession of the kitchen and game area of the house. I looked through the kitchen to see if mama was there. She wasn’t. She was in a place meant for dining but converted for recreational use.
“Grandma,” I said, in a defiant tone, “who is Stevie Stonemason.”
“Oh my god! Where did you hear that name from?”
“Grandma, don’t lie to me. She is the one you watch on TV.”
“Erhm...” she tried to compose herself. “Oh, yes. She is a popular music star, whose songs happen to be some of my best. And you know what?” asking rhetorically and trying to force a smile, “coincidentally she bears our last name.”
“She bears our last name coincidentally, or because you and grandpa were intentional about it?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“Grandma, so, all my life, I have lived in a lie.” I sighed. “If you like, lie about it, but I am not a five-year-old. Everyone in the family, even the outside world, knows her, except me.”
“Come on, Turtledove...” her usual tone of patronizing me. She only uses grandpa’s pet name when she wants me to do something out of the norm, or I have been wrongly accused and she wanted to pacify me.
“Don’t, grandma. Don’t. You listen to her because she is your daughter. Grandpa listens to her old music because he does not want to publicly adopt her music as you do; so, he stayed with the old album where she was not popularly known, even though it was a disaster of an album. I have seen the similarities: The long, blonde hair, the blue eyes, the oblong face with high cheekbones. The slender frame. The intense gaze that can almost set an object of view aflame. All were from her. Oh my god! I cannot believe this is happening to me.
All the facts were plain, in a couple of minutes, and noting that grandma would say to me that would matter anymore. She couldn’t deny it. All she could say was, “I’m sorry Turtledove.”
“Don’t you dare call me that name again. Nothing is the same ever since he left. Yet, you couldn’t tell me the truth.”
I walked out of the house. Boiling. I walked towards my favorite place, which is a small mountain cave. I began to notice that when I feel like directing my anger at a tree or a lizard, they always react. The tree could bend violently, the lizard could fall off a wall. A chicken may run for its dear life. I noticed I could see distant places and objects with my naked eyes. I liked it, but I was angry. Angry with my life.
In the cave, I had plenty of time to experiment. I saw my mind could move things. It had never happened before. But again, I would soon be carried away by the troubles of my mind and would scream. Out of anger, I punched a sharp edge of a stone. It hurt, my skin cut and bled, but almost immediately, it was healed with no scar. I marveled. I tried it again, it was the same. Then it occurred to me that I have never had any scar. I looked all over my body again, to be sure. Nothing. I wanted to ask grandma, but I was so angry.
And as I sat in the silence and quietness, rethinking my life, since my memory as a child became clear, I am surprised by my ability to remember events. Sitting there, I saw a light flash on my face.