(Published in Pinestraw Magazine April 2013)
My grandmother, Nana, said that it’s called “falling” in love for a reason. Whoever coined that phrase wanted to accurately sum up the lack of control one has when their heart is overwhelmed by another. Perhaps that is the reason I say silly things to my girlfriend without realizing the significance.
This past spring, I took her on an impromptu drive to enjoy a view of the moon when it was at its closest position to the earth. I stopped the car and feigned a Russian accent: “I’ve gotta plan. Want to hear my plan?”
My girl: “What’s your plan?”
Me: “I am going to steal the moon!”
My girl: “The Super Moon?”
Me: “I am totally going to shrink the moon and steal it!”
I’m by no means the first guy to want to give his lady the moon. When your own words fail you, borrow those of a favorite movie character. I have a cartoon curmudgeon named Gru who
plans the ultimate heist while adopting three orphan girls.
My grandfather had Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey.
George: “What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll give you the moon, Mary.”
Mary: “I’ll take it. Then what?”
Well, in the case of my grandfather, the “then what” was a home for his wife Kathleen in Rockland County, New York where they raised their four daughters. Every morning Bob kissed his family goodbye and commuted to the city to work for the NYPD. All in all, it was a wonderful life.
My grandfather left us as a result of a car crash in 1969. Nana never really recovered, but she went back to work for the Pearl River school system, maintained the house on Forest Avenue for another 23 years, and took care of the moon for the next 42 years.
Ten grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren later, the family continued to orbit around her. Nana was the diplomacy that ensued when conflicts erupted. She was the glue that kept everyone close. She knew everyone’s hobbies, knew who had changed jobs recently, knew who was in what grade, and knew who won the t-ball championships. She also knew who was not-yet-married—that’d be me.
Things never really happen the way one thinks they’re supposed to happen. Nana spent the last three years in the Mount Alverno nursing center in Warwick, her mind sharp and somewhat troubled about both her diminished mobility and my unsettled life.
For me, the moon was still at a distance.
Nana never got to walk through the door of the home I bought, but she did get a virtual tour on my laptop when I visited her last summer. Coincidentally, and just days before that visit, I met my wife, but she and I would not run into each other again until several months later.
Nana passed away in June—almost a year to the day of that visit. My girl accompanied me to the funeral. She never met Nana in person, but she was able to speak with her on the phone, and Nana knew I planned to marry her.
Nana took a fall, and the resulting surgery to repair her broken hip left her with an enlarged heart. In her last days, there were only brief moments of lucidity, and I did not get to pass along the news I learned the day of her operation:
My wife is expecting our first child.
When the funeral was over, I drove to 44 Forest Avenue to find the current owner expecting his fourth child. Once again Nana’s house will raise four girls.
Each night I come home and open Facebook to see my cousin is in Afghanistan and safe. I message my niece and nephew about their school day, and I continue to try to broker peace between Mom and my brother’s wife. I look at mobile uploads to see that my aunts are very much enjoying their new grandchildren.
Then I do a little more to clear out and prepare the room that is to become the nursery in my home. When I turn in, I always say a short prayer and ask Nana to help me take good care of the moon.