My grandma died almost 20 years ago. They say things happen in threes, and that particular three was that my friend Darrin died, Operation Desert Shield began in earnest and my Grandma died.
Darrin was cremated, and because of that, I don't think I ever accepted that he'd died. Where the hell was the body? Why was nobody singing Ave Maria? He died on Christmas, someone performed an opera he'd written at the funeral, nobody mentioned him being queer, and then the war really picked up, with people leaving my classes to go fight. I went to some protests and borrowed a five inch black and white tv so I could watch the footage of bombs dropping at nighttime. I continued working the late shift at Yogurt N More, without Darrin.I took my bevy of foster kittens to visit Grandma in the nursing home, and got freaked by all the people who were so desperate to get out, and would grab my hands when I tried to leave. She couldn't swallow, and the staff could never quite remember to sit her up before feeding her. I don't remember when her birthday was, not even what season, but I do remember that she was buried on Good Friday. In my head I've made Good Friday her day.
Gram would be 110 years old this year. The exact same age as my house.It seemed significant in some way that she was buried on Good Friday, a holy day that I'd tried to respect in all the right ways, but with my usual failure at praying. I did all the stations of the cross and inhaled incense until I was dizzy, and spent what felt like forever in perfect silence. That year, we flew to North Dakota with the box of her ashes, and buried it in the grave of the husband she hadn't seemed too close to, and that I'd never met. It was a military graveyard, the ground was freezing my feet through my shoes, and there were deer there on the next hill. I remember reading Susan Faludi's Backlash in the back seat of the car, and feeling very adult and very kid at the same time. I didn't have any money or nice clothes, so my mom had had to buy me a dress.The dramas of Holy Week and the dramas of Passover blend in my head, even though I know they're not the same. The image from Passover that sticks is the blood of the lamb over the doorway in order that your house is passed by the angel of death. I'm more an amulet person, I suppose, than a blood sacrifice person, and my version of this is blueing. I could swear I knew that people in Morocco put laundry blueing on their door lintels as protection. I'm convinced I've seen pictures where it's rained, and the blueing has left stains running down the doorjambs and the door itself. I was sure that people painting their doors and even courtyards blue came from the tradition of safety through blueing. According to the internet, I might have made it up.I used to hang those little blueing tablets tied in cheesecloth bags in my own doorways. Bundles of Ocotillo branches above the door, blueing hanging into the passageway. I had to protect myself.
Maybe by talking about smearing the blood and hanging the blue to avoid death, I'm blending them with Ash Wednesday, too. It's weird, you have to admit, seeing people walking around with an acknowledgment of their mortality on their face all day. I'll be safe over here, behind my amulet.