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Friday, March 17, 2006

On the eve of the funeral

When I was twenty-four my grandma died.  She was turning 90 that year so we shouldn't have been surprised, except we were, a little bit, because she'd had many strokes in the preceding years and had always recovered from them.  So in spite of the fact that she was nearing 90 and, at 5'5" or 5'6" (she always seemed taller because of her ramrod-straight posture) she weighed less than 100 pounds, we still didn't see her as frail or sickly at all.  We thought she'd live forever.  Or, at least I did.

Still, when I got the news I took it in a detached way.  I told my boss and co-workers that I would be taking time off to fly to California for her funeral and I brushed off the expressions of sympathy and condolence.  She lived a long, full life, I assured everyone.  No tragedy here.  Her death means the end of her suffering, that's all.

I was living in Idaho.  It was January and the middle of only my second winter as I had grown up in Los Angeles, which is where the plane I am on right now is headed.  After an uneventful flight the plane descends upon LAX, which is only minutes away from my childhood home.  It's about 5:00 and the sun is setting and low in the sky.  I can see the ocean, the beach.  The palm trees.  The elaborate, complex patterns the freeways make from up above.  I had lived in L.A. my entire life before moving to Idaho with my husband but I had never realized how beautiful it was.  I lean my head against the glass of the window and my heart aches.  I had really lived here once?  I had sprung from such beauty?

Since I'd been married, all I'd ever heard about my city of origin was the disparaging remarks of my in-laws.  Bill's parents had been truckers for ten years and had nothing but horror stories about the traffic and smog and general un-Idahoness of L.A.  My husband also cited the traffic on the freeways and often said, "I hate L.A."  I had let these cliches and generalizations wash over me for years, and I had also come to love Idaho in the brief time I'd been living there.  Deep down I think I'd have sided with my in-laws and husband if I'd been forced to choose sides, but now, as I lean my forehead against the glass of the window and watch the sun fall into the Pacific Ocean my heart aches with pride and love.  This was my home once.  I'll probably never live here again but all of this, the sun, the ocean, the palm trees and the swimming pools in the back yards, the twisting cloverleafs of the freeways that are now beautifully lit up with the headlights and tail lights of hundreds and thousands of cars - all of this is in my blood and part of me.

Comments on "On the eve of the funeral"


Blogger les yeux de la tete said ... (4:21 PM) : 

I think you captured the essence of LA very well...I feel the same way. It's my home town. No matter where I go, no matter what others say...


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