Last night I was at my grandmother’s tiny, hot house in the small prairie town. The boys were with me, and we were looking through some of the treasures she’s kept for half a century. I had a damp cloth with me and would take to spontaneously washing walls or baseboards or chair-rails.
The air was stifling, and I sent the children out of doors where I could hear them squealing and laughing. Inside, there was no laughter. So many years of our lives lie trapped within walls. Our voices, reverberating there for generations, our conversations played out again and again for all time. Even so, I could not hear Gramps’ voice. He does not visit me.
I could hear only the harsh and cruel things my grandmother had said. The task of going through her prized possessions became a vicious quest to find something she had wished hidden, not to reveal it but to destroy it. Your ghost appeared at the bedroom door to ask what I was doing. I held up a gold ring with rubies inset and said, “finding things that held meaning only in that they were things”.
He said, “you probably shouldn’t be snooping in your grandmother’s things.”
“Now, or later,” I replied, “it makes little difference. These will still be the symbols of what gave her life meaning, since it wasn’t the people who have loved her.”
He shook his head and left the room. I closed the drawer. As I walked through the living room I saw that water was dripping through the ceiling. Knowing there were no eaves there, that it must be the pipes, I told the boys to fetch my Da, while His Nibs and I collected pails for the drips. A dozen pails later, my father arrived, cursing. I offered to turn off the water at the main, fearing the pipes were about to burst. Da nodded and began to survey the damage, which was extensive.
In the basement, I inched past an ancient boiler that has never existed. I shut it off first, the water main was further into the murk of a basement that does not match my grandmother’s house.
That was it. I dreamt of rummaging through my grandmother’s things and of turning off her water. WWJS?*
*that’s “What Would Jung Say?”. Not Jesus. Jesus hasn’t done dream interpretation since the sixties.