The story of the fire


This week I got some really crazy news, and I am out at sea right now which just makes it all the crazier — my grandmother died. I mean, I know everyone’s grandparents die… it’s just one of those things that happen, you know, but it was nonetheless pretty upsetting, especially because I couldn’t be there for my mom right now when she really needs me. Anyways, in memory of my grandma, I want to tell this story because it’s been burning a hole in my fingertips for a couple years.

So yeah, a couple years ago, I was away in college and my grandma had a scary episode where she almost died, like everyone really thought she was going to croak at any minute so I flew home, all the way across the country from Nova Scotia, to see her. When me and my mom went to visit, there she was lying in her bed, tired and everything, but still as righteous and spunky as ever. (Or as righteous and spunky as you can be, as a 300-lb, immobile, diabetic). Anyways, I have to admit, even though it’s not nice, that my mind was wandering around aimlessly as she yakked on about her gout and pain in her legs and all that stuff, but I snapped into focus when she started talking about her visions when she almost died there. First of all, she saw her husband (my grandpa Jack, who died several years ago) and he was standing at the end of the hall, but she told him she “wasn’t ready to be with him yet!” Well, needless to say this kind of got my attention. Then she started telling us about how she also dreamt of the fire, something which happened when she was a young girl, I’m going to say around 12 or 13 because I’m not sure. Anyways, she was home alone, with a friend, and was showing her friend her collection of dresses, as little girls do, I picture her as a cute young blonde petite thing, in a family with very little money, but so proud of her party dresses, and anyways, they take a break from this to go out to the barn to check up on the cow out there (they lived on a farm) and while they were in the barn, the house caught on fire. Not only did it catch on fire, it burned right to the ground. When her family got home, all that was left was a pile of charred rubble, her dresses were gone, her brother’s precious violin and the piano and all manner of other family heirlooms carried along with them from Finland… and somehow, I forget how the story went, but they managed to save the family bible, which in old traditions, was super special and would contain all kinds of family trees and information and everything, dating way back. Here is the crazy part: when her mother got home (a very religious, overbearing, and generally awful woman from the sounds of it) she screamed at young Daisy that the fire was HER fault, that it was god’s punishment for her vanity, that because she was showing off her dresses, god was punishing her. Can you believe it? All the sudden it all made sense — why this woman who was incredibly beautiful, feisty, and intelligent, ended up marrying an alcoholic loser (sorry grandpa Jack! I love you, but it’s true) and living in a trailer and never really having anything. What a powerful message that would be, and how it would stick to you — you should not have anything to be proud of or god will punish you.

So anyways, hearing this, I had this newfound respect for this woman who was my grandmother, and a sudden, paradigm shifting understanding of who she was, and is. And as I’m kind of staring at her in disbelief, my eyes pan over to the TV and I’m suddenly drawn to this huge, dark, black, gothic-looking leather-bound book that is being used, strangely, to prop up the TV so she can watch All My Children at the right angle from her bed.  “That’s it, isn’t it, that’s the family Bible,” I say, not really even needing to ask. She just nods and winks. And I know, that even if it wasn’t intentional, using her mother’s bible as a TV wedge was a subtle “Fuck you” to the mother who essentially ruined her life, with one statement.

Rest in peace, Grandma…




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