Time Stand Still

Setting: This story involves our family's recent visit to the home of my wife's grandfather in New York.

“We’ll back in a couple of hours,” the Mrs. stated as she escorted the elderly man out the front door.

The diner they were going was not far, but her grandfather’s pace at 93-years old while walking with a cane after a hip surgery would make for a long lunch.

With the sound of the front door closing, the three-year old boy knew he had the run of the place. He darted from the living room to the kitchen to the dining room driven by the stimulating sights and sounds of a strange house.

Grandpa built this home himself on Long Island in the 1950s. He dreamed big, worked hard, and had raised a family within these walls. But now, he lived alone. The empty rooms made the small home much too big for the man.

Hearing giggles and footsteps, I realized the little boy was climbing the short-flight of stairs nearby. I followed as he raced to the end of the hallway and stopped to face a closed door. Driven by curiosity, the youngster pushed open the interior door. The old metal hinge responded with a squeak.

Inside the room and immediately to the left of my son was a bed. A down comforter was folded neatly at the foot.

Impulsiveness reigned supreme, and within a moment, the boy was on the bed and rolling around.

Just to the left of the entry-way, pegged to a cork board on the wall, was a calendar displaying September 1994.

I recognized the pictures on the wall as folks from my wife’s family. Well, at least it was what they looked like in the early 1990s.

A dresser was covered with personal hygiene items: a toothbrush, a hair brush, a container of skin lotion, among other things. A small sewing machine was set on an adjacent table.

A dozen books were stacked on a shelf near the bed; mostly historical biographies. Grandpa’s wife loved to read about the presidents.

I flipped through several of the books wanting to test the theory that survivors of the great depression were apt to hide cash in old books rather than lose their assets to a bank failure.*

In each of the hardcovers, I did not find any twenty-dollar bills, but rather plain red or blue bookmarks that designated the last page read. The books seemed to indicate that the owner would return soon, and was just away shopping or traveling.

The dark-colored drapes covering the window were pulled shut; though some of November’s sunlight slipped into the room anyway. His wife's clothes still lined the closet. The room was dusty and cold, but seemed to have a purpose.

After awhile the little boy wandered into another area of grandpa’s house. As I closed the door to the bedroom, I looked at the calendar again. The page for September 1994 was fastened to the board by five thumbtacks and three push pins—clearly fixed not to move. Permanent.

Throughout the day, the little boy’s favorite spot to spend time was this room.

Later, the Mrs. told me that her grandmother had passed away in September of 1994 in that bedroom.

Each of us deals differently with the death of a loved one.

Recently, I saw a touching interview of Patti Canady-—the mother of television newscaster and murder victim Ann Pressly. Ms. Pressly was beaten to death by an intruder who burglarized her Little Rock, Arkansas home.

Ms. Canady stated to the interviewer that after learning of her daughter’s horrific death she immediately gave all of her personal items away. Canady argued that she would always treasure the memories of her daughter, but that her possessions could only be useful to others now.

After my mother’s death, my father gave away most everything of mom’s-—he did save a few items that were special to her, but did not want clothes or other items that reminded him of such pain.

In contrast, the Mrs.' grandpa had preserved his wife’s room. Things are just as they were in September 1994. Time stand still.

...I'm not looking back
But I want to look around me now
(Time stand still)
See more of the people and the places that surround me now
Time Stands still
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger


*Note: If I ever do find money in an old book I really am not interested in keeping it, but be happy to prove that such a financial tactic was used in the 1930s and 40s.


Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
What an elegy. And I know what you mean about people who preserve or throw away the old effects.

Everybody's got to do it their own way.

You made it seem very dreamlike. I could almost see the dust and the light in the window.

Ann T.

Stephanie Faris said...

I don't know how I feel about it. I think I fall in between those two extremes. I would want a few items of the person's just to always keep with me and remind me of him or her. But no way would I want to keep a room exactly as it was. That would be too much of a reminder and bring too much sadness.

mrsofficer said...

How to let go of those you love? Well for me the answer is you dont. Id probably save everything for awhile and then a few special items aswell. But its the memories,they ways that they made me feel special, be it a smile, kiss on the cheek or a smell. perhaps Grandma's love was still about in that room that had little man so intigued.Either way heart warming

J. J. in Phila said...

Very good, and quite moving. I must admit that I am the opposite. I need the break.

My father grew up in the Depression. after his heart attack in the mid 1980's, I found substantial cash in the house we lived in at the time, including several hundred dollars in rolled coins, and a $20 bill in a shoe.

Dan said...

My grandfather gave grandma's stuff to the kids when she died much like your dad.

Mom gave much of dad's stuff to the grandkids. She also had the grandkids decide what to include in the coffin with dad - thus he was buried with a favorite fishing pole and set of spinners and there was a set of hip waders hiding down by his feet. I really think it helped the grandkids to handle the first death of someone really close to them.

terri said...

I'm not sure which way I'd go. I think I'd want to save a few special keepsakes and hopefully could be practical about everything else.

I really enjoyed this piece!

Pia said...

thanks for dropping by my site. hope to see you again soon. God bless you.

Christopher said...

Excellent writing. This is one to consider publishing.

Slamdunk said...

Thanks all for the kind words and personal insights.

When I started this blog, one thing that I wanted selfishly to do was improve my writing. I only see two ways to improve: read more and practice.

I appreciate you all humoring me through the learning experience as I practice.

Javajune said...

Oh what a beautiful story, written so perfectly. I loved it. We all have a unique way of dealing with things. I don't know what I would do...