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Ozymandias.

I went and visited my grandparents' grave this past weekend, on my way home from Chicago.

I navigated by memory through the little town I was born in, to my grandmother's house. I thought to enter the address into my navigation system, but it took me quite some time to remember the actual street address, as I haven't used it in years. By the time I got there, I remembered the street name and number: 253 S. Garfield Avenue, Valparaiso, IN 46383.

I saw the house where my just-married parents lived in the in-law apartment under the same roof as my grandparents.

The house where we spent so many of my early Christmases and Thanksgivings.

The house from which I went to kindergarten.

The house where I slept the night before I got dropped off at my dorm at the University of Chicago.

The memory that came most clearly to me, however, is how my Grandma, Dorothy, until even the last time I saw her there, walked out onto the porch and waved goodbye from behind the screen door.

Grandma and Grandpa's house was still there, not as neat as when they had it, overrun with students and cars in the driveway, but it was still there. The big oaks in the front, whose leaves we raked into a pile in the fall, were still there. A few things had changed on the road into Valpo, but a lot remained the same.

The shocking thing to me was that the hospital on the corner, the one where I was born, was gone.

The hospital I was born at is gone. That building, where I spent my first tenuous days of life (I was born premature, at 3lbs, 13oz, in 1971. I was eight weeks early.) is now an athletic field for Valparaiso University.

I was really shocked. Something as big as a hospital and the one I was born in at that (so personal!), was gone. It reminded me of two poems:

The first, Percy Bysshe Shelley's paean to decay, "Ozymandias".

My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

When will your spaces and places be gone? 40 years? 100? Sometime, right? What are you building that you believe will remain? What do you sacrifice for it? My mother has been gone now for two years, seven months, and ten days. I hardly can believe it when I look a photos. My mother outlived her own mother, Mabelle, by only 13 years, and her mother in law, Dorothy, by only five. My son Cooper, who fell asleep in his baby boppy in grandma's living room, is now 11 and past the halfway mark to leaving my house.

Time passes, quickly. Attend! Attend! To every moment, every falling leaf, every wonder that presents itself to you!

The other poem it reminded me of was Mary Oliver's "The Summer Day".

Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

That day, I strolled through the cemetery on a spectacularly beautiful fall day, and I was idle and blessed: I visited the vault where Grandma and Grandpa are interred, and I talked to Dorothy. I thanked her for coming for my Mama in her final months (Mama had some visions of her and Dorothy would ask her occasionally if she was ready to come, which she wasn't. Until she was.) I was comforted by that.

I asked after Grandpa and Grandma Mabelle and Mama. They're all fine, I'm happy to say.

I told her about me and Martin and I cried, and Grandma was just as accepting and kind as she was her whole life. Dorothy was, and continues to be, the single kindest person that ever lived.

She reminded me that cookies and coffee fix everything. So I got a cappuccino and a pumpkin bar and watched the leaves drift down like sparks from a maple aflame with fall.

I was so grateful to have had her.


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