I’ve gotten in the habit of checking the weather each morning, by internet, in four places – Omaha, where I live now; Washington DC and New York City, where our daughters live; and Alameda, California, my home town. Although I have been gone for a long time, my grandmother remained living there and her small gray bungalow was our home to go back to. For years, weather talk was part of the ritual framework of our weekly phone calls. My grandmother watched the sky with the eye of a farmer’s daughter all of her life, till she faded away last summer; early on a July morning, just as the fog burned off to reveal a perfect clear and sunny day, in the mid 80’s, on the edge of San Francisco bay.
It’s hard to stop checking the Alameda weather – that elongated urban island, with a sandy south shore from which San Francisco looks like a mystical emerald city. It fills a little of the emptiness – It’s not grief exactly. It was the most generous and natural of deaths she had; at 98, in her own bed and her own home; no one would have wished her more days; she’d had enough, letting go, little by little, till nothing was left.
When I search the weather for Omaha, it is all pragmatics. Where is my umbrella? When I imagine the weather in DC or New York City, I am imagining the stage set for one adventure or another in my daughters’ lives today. But when I imagine the weather in Alameda, I am plunged back into every mystery of those early years; the family still unfolding, emerging from fog to come clear in my mind. We were held together and held to this place on earth by so many threads then; one by one those threads are gone.
I still feel tied to this place.
Written in 2006