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by Lynn L. Shattuck

I remember the lines on her feet, like a dusty map. That she may have been the only person in history to actually read Playboy for the articles. I remember late night egg and onion sandwiches, and that she never said she loved me, but I somehow knew she did. Last Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of my grandma's death. All day I was cranky. I tried to pick fights my husband. I tossed around books trying to find something I could crawl into and disappear for awhile. I sighed audibly. Nothing felt quite right. So I did the only thing that was left, and got a haircut.

Sadly it resembled haircut I had when I was 6, when people would compliment my mom on her handsome son. I phoned my husband. "I won't be coming home for three to six months while my hair grows out." When I finally returned, I slunk into our home with a scarf wrapped around my head, Jackie O'-style.

I am 30 now. My grandmother's death bisects my life. She’s been gone for half of it, but our story keeps twisting and folding. She moved from New England to Alaska by herself in her 20s. She found work, love, winding streets and mountains. I moved from Alaska to New England alone in my 20s, finding work, love, a new ocean and cobblestone streets.

Grief, like life, is wide and long. And love, like bones, survives youth and death. Still, my grandma has faded so much from my memories that now she is mostly shadow memories, memories of memories. Which means that they are altered, morphed. Maybe the only thing that really survives is simply the feeling of a person, the essence. What you get when you sit close to someone and close your eyes and ride your own breath. A collage. The way her skin looked just below her collarbone, stretched and flushed. The flowered waft of her perfume, her sad, coffee-hued, gypsy eyes, toting everything she tried to hold back.

On Sunday, after 15 years, I thought about the lines on her feet. The crisscross of our paths across the country, the angles of my mother's face, tying us together. Lines that will keep stretching and branching. They will shift with each year, not unlike the way I woke up this morning and noticed that maybe, my hair didn't look so bad.

Lynn Shattuck is a writer living in Portland, Maine. She is certified in Thanatology, and received her MA from Goddard College, focused on using writing as a transformative tool in grief and loss.


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