Posted in Grandparents

Joy and a Favorite

Today, I am republishing one of my favorite posts and linking it up with Mama’s Losin’ It.

I loved this exercise and rereading the final product still brings me joy

This was the first post I linked up as editor of The Red Dress Club, now known as Write on Edge.

Thanks for reading!

Where I’m From

I am from steaming breakfasts of golden, crispy bird’s nests with magnificent runny yolks, from impossibly weak Maxwell House coffee and pre-dawn moments of true connection.

I am from the salmony pink-shingled house on the corner, drafty, sunny, and melancholy. Three front steps, ever in need of fresh paint, slightly wobbly from the destructive frosting and heaving of the long and brutal winter.

I am from the unkempt clusters of lilacs, scattered dandelions gone to seed, tendrils of fuchsia bleeding hearts, stolen  and fragile jack-in-the pulpits, and haphazard bouquets of fringed chrysanthemums.

I am from high school diplomas and honest work, from Robert and Max and Judy.  Vegetable gardens of diligence and abundance, encouragement and acceptance, freedom and wild brambly raspberries.

I am from delayed gratification and inherent guilt.

From uncanny paternal resemblance and from the weight of the loss of my father placed upon my childhood.  A stand in, but never a replacement.

I am from bean suppers on Saturday evenings. Cream pies, Jello salads, blue hair, and integrity and kindness.

I am from the intersection of Catholicism and Northern Baptist. Where the Trinity meets God and Jesus.  Where faith meets practice.

I’m from New England, Maine, Fairfield, tourtiere pie and sticky, chocolatey whoopie pies.

From the legacy of my father’s senseless murder, my Pépère’s faintly beer-scented breath, his ever-present and lovely banjo, Hawaiian melodies, and his tender and loving soul.

I am from the cedar hope chest, tiny golden key, idyllic dreams, childhood report cards, penmanship awards, and two unlikely college graduation caps and gowns.

What brought you joy this week? 

I’d love to know!

Happiness is a choice…

A few words before you read…this post assumes that you know about my father’s death. If you are new to my story, you can read about it herehere, and here.

Also, I have exceeded my word count with this story and it is truly sentimental. But it is mine and to cut words would be to cut meaning. I just couldn’t do it.

My grandparents stepped in to fill the void left by my father’s death and to offer me a sense of connection to him.

My grandfather, honorable, and upstanding, strong and true, was a leader in the community.

My grandmother, soft and loving, tender and compassionate, taught me to express my feelings, talk when something bothered me, and listen when someone confided in me.

There were no silences, no empty spaces where words should be.

They taught me that happiness was a choice, to see the sunshine and smell the flowers, to cherish my life.

They taught me that I could have more and be more than I ever dreamed.

I spent every weekend with them.  Looking back on that time now that I am a mother, I can’t fathom having Katie and Matthew gone every weekend, can’t imagine those days without them.

My mother let me go for their sake…to help ease their pain from the loss of my father.

My grandparents offered me routine…predictability.  They were constant and true.

Friday nights were for settling in and entertaining company. Friends or family came to play hands of Bridge and 31, but before they arrived, my grandparents played Spite and Malice with me, teaching me the joy of game play.

On Saturday nights, after supper, baked beans and homemade macaroni and cheese, we settled into the living room, where Lawrence Welk greeted us.  Once I made it through the boring polkas, I was rewarded with The Love Boat.

Hands were never idle in my grandparents’ home.  As we watched television, my grandmother taught me to knit and crochet, always giving me a task perfectly suited to making me feel both challenged and accomplished.

Before bed, I helped my grandmother roll her hair, then climbed into my bed, in my own room at their home, the sheets ice cold.  It’s such a funny thing now to think about.  How strange it is that something as simple as a properly made bed can make such a difference at the end of the day.  The ritual of peeling those covers back and feeling the crisp, cold linens, inviting you in for your warmth, is a truly magical thing.

Why didn’t I make my bed at home?  Why didn’t I realize that I could create that routine for myself?

I would lie in bed on those nights and imagine what it had been like to be my father, their child.  They  pushed, yet comforted him.  They had high standards, yet comforted and encouraged him after a failure.

Sunday mornings were lovely.  My grandfather, up before the sun, greeted us as we made our way to the kitchen to collect hugs and my grandmother’s steaming hot coffee.  We went back to her bathroom, where I helped remove her hair curlers and place those soft rollers and plastic picks back in their bag. She fluffed and comb her hair and spritz on her perfume.

We ate the same thing every week…thick, greasy bacon and eggs fried it the fresh bacon grease.  Biscuits and baked beans from the night before finished our meals.

We dressed for church and drove the short distance to take our seats in the very front, in a pew with a brass plate that bore my father’s name.  The bibles in our tiny little chapel, were donated by my grandparents in my father’s memory.

There was something about reaching for and holding one of those bibles that made me feel connected to my father.

These people knew him.  They knew my grandparents.  And it was one of the very few places that I can remember where I didn’t feel shame…shame of being the child whose father had been murdered.

There, I was accepted and encouraged.

I was hugged and kissed and told a million times over that I was my father’s child through and through, his spitting image.

The relationship that I shared with my grandparents couldn’t have existed if my father had lived…of that I am certain.

With the loss of my father came something so very beautiful and important.

I wouldn’t be me without them.

I welcome concrit on this piece…I feel like the structure should have been different somehow, but my mind just couldn’t pull it together. Every time I write about my grandparents, I’m swept away by my love and memories of them…it’s tough to see things with any perspective. Any suggestions?

This piece is linked up with The Red Dress Club. Our challenge this week was to find beauty in something ugly.



Obituary

On my nightstand is a laminated clipping of my father’s obituary from the local newspaper, printed just days after his death.

I have held onto this piece of plastic that encases this clipping since I was two years old.  The paper has yellowed over the past four decades, despite the plastic protection.  The words on the opposite side of the page have bled through, but the words that matter are still perfectly clear.

I have held it in my hands so many times that I know exactly how sharp the edges are, how smooth the plastic face is, and now, in my adult hands, it is four fingers across in width.

There were nights when I was particularly lonely and swept up in my loss, when I slept with it in my hands.  I would wake and feel it there and be reminded of the sadness and heartache I felt as I was falling to sleep.

The obituary says so much, yet it omits so much more.

My father’s obituary reads:

Funeral services will be held Saturday for Arnal D. Bray, 26, who died in a Waterville shooting incident Tuesday night.

It does not tell you he was shot twice by his best friend.

A native of Waterville, Bray was born March 19, 1947, the son of R. and L. Bray.

It does not tell you his parents were scarred, with wounds so deep they wore them on the outside for their entire lives.  These people who believed in the good of others, who were always the first to offer help to someone in need, were shown just how cruel the world could be.

He was graduated from Lawrence High School, Fairfield, in 1967.  He was a member of Fairfield Lodge, 100F, and of the Shawmut Chapel.

It does not point out that he was twenty when he graduated, proof of his rebellious nature.

A veteran of military service in Vietnam, Bray was employed at Scott Paper Co.

It does not tell you of all he saw in the war.  It does not tell you that he saw babies die.  Women.  Men.  Old. Young.  All dead.  All covered in flies. It does not tell you that he struggled to process all that he witnessed.

Survivors include his widow, Mrs. A. Bray of Fairfield; his parents, of Shawmut; one daughter, Nichole Bray, of Fairfield; two brothers, one sister … several aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

It does not tell you that the hole he left behind was so vast. That each of the people, even those who were lumped as nieces, aunts, cousins, felt his loss deeply.  They felt the reach of the frightening world. They realized that harrowing things didn’t happen only to strangers.  They didn’t happen just in the cities, they happened in their small town, to someone they knew, to someone they loved, to someone they laughed with.  The world became a far more serious and somber place.

Funeral services will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at L Bros. Funeral Home, where friends may call today from 7 to 9 p.m. and Friday from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m.

It does not tell you the way my grandmother cried, the way her heart was more than broken…it was truly decimated.

It does not tell you how hard my grandfather tried to be strong for the family, his wife, his surviving children.

It does not tell you how my aunts and uncles did their best to support their parents, while they were falling apart inside at the sight of their parents’ devastation and heartbreak.

It does not tell you how another piece of my mother died.  It does not tell you I wasn’t there.  That my presence was never even up for discussion.

Bray.  Arnal D. — In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Shawmut Chapel.

This obituary does not tell you my father was magnetic, charming, funny, handsome, dynamic.  It does not tell you he would never be forgotten, never minimized, never truly gone.

I’ve often thought about the person who typed up my father’s obituary.  I’ve thought about him sitting at his typewriter, putting into words the most basic information.  The facts.  That’s what an obituary is.  Truly, just the most basic of facts.  There is no color, no emotion, no compassion.  Just dates, lists of family members, just facts.

The rest, well, the rest lies with those who have lost.


About me

Nichole Beaudry @NicholeBeaudry Location: Northern California
Each and every day, I strive to appreciate the wonder, beauty, and whimsy in the small moments, the moments that, when strung together, form a lifetime.
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