My grandmother travels though time. I'm not certain when she started.

It might have been the lack of interaction. Maybe she started to travel while no one was around because, in my own experience, I find that lonely people dwell on the past. History magnifies, enhances, enlarges and eventually becomes tangible. That quiet space in our heads fill with those problems or joys and some people simply retreat into something happier or simpler.

It's strange to see this happen to someone. When my grandfather died, I watched this play out repeatedly with my grandmother, in our conversations. I overheard it at the funeral home.

I watched her slowly stray backwards through time: a day, a week, a year, a decade. I saw her disposition, her expression became distant, the conversation would leave her, our voices would fade and other voices - from some far memory - would rise.

There were vivid moments when she was simply not there.

At the funeral she asked out of nowhere, "Where did all of these pretty flowers come from?" indicating the funeral sprays and potted plants, roses and carnations draped with "grandfather" and "father" and "brother". Her most surprising statement was: "Look at all of the people here, someone should go back there and wake up Pappa because he's going to miss it all." No one wanted to explain to her how misplaced the comments were. She would see our faces and the frozen smiles and concerned looks. She would then realize why there were flowers. She knew her husband would never awaken.

She would forget her grief for a while and then it would rush back on her. It was always unexpected, it was always new and it was always painfully fresh and raw. She learned about his death over and over and over and over and...

The night of my grandfather's calling we sat around the dining room table at her home - the same we have used for twenty or more years - and someone said my name.

"Jared?" she perked up as she passed the table. She looked at me, not knowing me. "We have a Jared, too."

Everyone looked at me for some kind of reaction, some kind of something. "I know." I said. "I'm that Jared."

She looked at everyone and the years collapsed onto her, again she was in the present, again she was here and now. "You sure have changed." She said nervously and went on into the kitchen to get a drink - shocked, dismayed... temporary.

Everyone laughed - their hearts were breaking.

Thursday, the day of the funeral, my father, brother and I were talking in the kitchen and she came in to get a glass of water. We smiled and hugged her as she entered our midst. We asked her how she was feeling and if she needed anything. She said simply that she was doing ok considering that she'd remembered something: "The funeral was today, wasn't it?" she said.

"Yes." My father said, getting emotional again. He strained to understand where she was. How she could forget that earlier that day we attended the funeral of her husband of 63 years?

She leaned forward and asked, "Did I act OK?" worried that she had made some horrible mistake or faux pas.

"You were fine." We said.

As we talked, she became more coherent. She remembered again what happened and it meant the man she loved was gone.

My grandfather had spent the last years of his life exclusively caring for her, cooking, cleaning... she existed in that place and slowly faded into shadow. She often called him 'That Man who lived with her'. The man she loved was much younger. In her confusion, she took to sleeping in a separate bedroom because "her parents would be angry if they found them sleeping in the same bed". She kept forgetting that her father died in 1969 and her mother died in 1977 - I was nine, I remember it distinctly.

My grandfather continued in his stride and persevered in that faded, historical existence. He loved her and simply cared for her and would not send her away. He would wait for those moments of clarity when he would stop being 'That Man' and become who he was - "There you are, TJ," As she realized who he was. "I see you now. I love you".

Eventually his life just ended. His shadow fell long, away from her; she never realized he was going until he was gone.

As the sun faded on her day, the present dulled and the past became real. She traveled in time and left him waiting. She relived her youth, existed in that painless time. She was forgetting his death and living with the fear she would lose everything else, even the memory of his life.

As we stood in the kitchen, she became clear. I could see a terrified, saddened expression dawn on her face. "What will happen to me?" she asked in a quiet, fearful voice choked with tears. "Where will I go?"

Strange, she's aware that she fades in and out... She forgets at times that her life has long passed its zenith and the clouds are red and gold on her horizon. She comes to her senses long enough to remain with us for moments, then she goes tromping on her own, some fantasy that makes my grandfather alive and my parents married. In that world I'm permanently ten or twelve and when she returns, I grow old in front of her eyes. One instant I'm 12 and the next I'm 35.

I sat at her feet before the funeral and held her hand while she phased, past to present. Sometimes she knew who I was; sometimes I was someone else. She was fascinated by my ring and wasn't certain why I would have it. She touched my hand and commented how warm I was.

She's so fragile that it's scary - her fingers so cold. I wanted to get a picture of her hands but didn't want to explain why.

I was a time traveler too. The funeral and family transported the me, age 12, into the future of me at 35. I was in a place where the family of my youth gathered, old and dying. I saw them as they were, people gathered to make sense of the death and I tried to make sense of the gulf between us. I tried to look across it and see something beyond a death, that past, this future and the memory of who I became.

My immediate family imposed the gulf upon me when we moved away. Eventually I chose to stay away because going home brought back memories of an innocence and happiness that I willingly killed. Those places make me miss the person I was then - in the fact that I was blissfully happy and stupid but I treat the years before I was 13 as the misplaced dream of some other child. It might be that I've become so cynical, as I've grown older, that I don't believe in that past anymore. It is like my Southern Baptist and fundamentalist roots - a past I view with disdain and regret. It was something I believed when didn't know any better.

My childhood was something that I had when I didn't know any better. It's dead, it's my own son sacrificed on the altar of who I became.

I was a woefully inattentive son to my grieving father and family. I spent a lot of time in another room as they grieved. While they hugged and exchanged memories and comfort, I stood outside smoking or looking for another cup of coffee. While they stood around my grandfather's casket, I stood far away, hoping they wouldn't notice me in the corner or try to talk to me. I gave up trying to be more than a distant memory to anyone - I don't know if I was successful.

As I left my grandmother's home, I hugged her and kissed her cheek. "I love you", I said.

She looked up at me and I realized I was just 'some man', some stranger holding her in her living room. She said, "thank you," uncomfortably to the stranger. I could see her wanting to know me, to understand what connection I might have to her.

I smiled and moved away but she held onto me. I wasn't sure if I stepped into some past moment or if iI was in the present. Was this some reunion, some conversation or some moment that took place years before I was born? I fell into that past with her and didn't know who I was.

I wasn't certain if there was something in my face that told her who I was or if I came into her existence at that instant. I wasn't sure -at that point- who was worse off. Who was in the present?

I don't know if I'd rather forget my past or have my past forget me. I may deserve both.

"No...wait." She paused and touched my face - she looked at me again and understood who I was. She pulled me - 'that Jared'- back to her from some future and kissed me. She held me, her delicate, frail arms encircled me - some strength left in her that did not let me go.

There you are...I see you. We're here together, right here and now in this moment - and she said, "I love you."

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