Trying to create some structure and routine to chip away at thumbnails coming out of the workshop. So far still motivated and enjoying the setup at my desk.
Helplessly hoping her harlequin hovers nearby
Awaiting a word
Gasping at glimpses of gentle true spirit he runs
Wishing he could fly
Only to trip at the sound of goodbye
Wordlessly watching he waits by the window and wonders
At the empty place inside
Heartlessly helping himself to her bad dreams he worries
Did he hear a good-bye?
Or even hello?
Stand by the stairway you'll see something certain to tell you
Confusion has its cost
Love isn't lying it's loose in a lady who lingers
Saying she is lost
And choking on hello
They are one person
They are two alone
They are three together
They are for each other
-"Helplessly Hopeful", Crosby, Stills, & Nach
Right on the heels of my grandmother passing away, I attended a 1-week intensive graphic novel workshop at the Center for Cartoon Studies.
The timing could not have been more surreal. On the one hand, I am thankful that I had the time away to isolate myself and process my grief, particularly through art and with the guidance of new mentors. On the other hand, I felt so much guilt going off and doing this when my family was in such pain. I wanted so badly to back out and instead use the time to go down and help my family take care of everything we needed to.
In the end, my dad flew down to help my mom and aunt pack up my grandmother's belongings in Florida, sort things by grandchild, and drive the long trek back up to New York in a truck. There was so much heartbreak watching photos stream into text threads of items I associate so clearly with some of the happiest memories of my life, removed from their natural habitat and put forth into the void of "does anyone want this?" I found myself saying I wanted everything that no one else wanted, occasionally having to set boundaries for myself, acknowledging that I have a very small apartment. I wanted to be there, on the ground, to walk through the halls of my grandparents' house one last time before it was disassembled, and now I don't know that I'll ever get the chance. The house is now up for sale.
If I was in a different stage of my life, I might consider buying the house myself. The idea of a stranger entering and living in a house that was so specifically built and occupied by my loved ones seems wrong. But to what lengths can one go to protect themselves from having to let go? How would I feel, living in a home that would only ever be bittersweet, tainted with loss and grief and wistful memories? Not to mention, I have a home and a partner and a job in Boston. I can't uproot everything just to cling to what used to be, sacrificing what is still here.
As with my grandfather, Grandma Rose did not want a funeral. I understand the reasoning, that they had attended so many for their friends and family and the idea of subjecting those that had outlived them to planning something during their grief felt unnecessary. I understand, but I also lament the opportunity to say goodbye and receive closure. We will still have the chance to pay our respects at their grave site at our convenience. I am just sad that I cannot have that clear reason to gather with my family now.
The silver lining is that the workshop ended up giving me all the tools I need to work on my graphic novel. I now feel like I understand where the book is going, and I have had the time and space to process my feelings about my grandparents and the impact they had on my life. I've been working nonstop ever since I returned, and I only hope that I am able to keep up with it in the coming months and years so that I can actually set this story onto paper. I hope to share regular updates on that as I have them.
It's been a week and a half since Grandma Rose died, and our family is in the process of emptying my grandparents' house for good and preparing it for sale. Over the last week I've been writing and drawing nonstop about my memories of Grandma Rose and Grandpa Andy and how deeply both of them impacted me. It is so very hard to say goodbye, especially from far away, but I try to remember that losing them is not what impacts me, it's my memories of them. One of my favorite memories of Rose was from a couple of years ago, when we were sitting across the table from each other while she colored and I tried to draw her beautiful pysanky, which were displayed as a centerpiece. We talked about colored pencils and enjoyed each other's company for an hour or so. I'm so grateful to have her sense of artistry and color and detail, and my grandpa's interest in storytelling, so I can better bring these memories of my grandparents to life.
I love this photo of us. We're both wearing out favorite flower and we're sitting together on my parents' back porch in Upstate NY.
Below is a bouquet of roses lovingly sent to me by my coworkers.
Grandma Rose, and the six women descended from her. Grandma Rose and I shared a birthday, and a name. Grandma Rose shared her gift for lovingly detailed crafts and passion for making with all of the women in the family. Grandma Rose bought her own bedroom set with her own money, before she was married, and kept it her entire life. Grandma Rose signed her name, "With All My Love Always" in a photo to her beloved husband. Grandma Rose received roses from Grandpa Andy every year, and was the inspiration of his rose tattoo on his bicep. Grandma Rose had a garden, and in it she fed a stray cat she called Sweetie. Grandma Rose had a sweet tooth and couldn't say no to a chocolate, or cake, or a cookie. Grandma Rose saved the card I sent her, even when she didn't always know who I was when I saw her last. Grandma Rose loved her daughters, and was so grateful to Aunt Mary who took great care of her after Grandpa died. Grandma Rose and Grandpa Andy are together again, dancing the polka, just like the night she first went up to him and said hello. Grandma Rose and I never got to say goodbye, but I know she felt the love we all felt for her. We will miss you, Grandma Rose
Hannah Dunscombe is a painter and portrait artist based out of Brookline, MA.