Ink on My Hands

My dad’s hands were often stained with grease from working on the car. My mom’s hands were usually stained from her dye vats. Lately my hands are often stained with ink and paint from making art. I find it an oddly comforting reminder of my lineage.

Ink-Stained Hands

I am leaving shortly to visit my grandmother, who is dying. I’ve never done the family-death-pilgrimage before. Nobody close has died since I was born. The configuration of family I am familiar with has never done the family-death-thing together before. I have no idea what to expect. I wonder if death is an alchemical agent, that will change our family in unexpected ways.

Talking it over with friends, we agree our culture does a weird number on death. Our mortality is hidden until it crops up unexpectedly. Anti-aging creams and pills abound. Growing old seems to be treated as a sign of some ineffable failure. How could you betray our dreams and schemes of eternal youth by being so obviously old? And yet, each of our lives marches inexorably toward it.

I have never gotten along with my grandmother. Some kind of generation gap thing. But recently I realized that no matter how you were raised, you still die. So I make this trip not out of duty, but out of a sense that this, too, is part of my journey, part of the earthly experience, and one that holds mystery and magic in it.

I haven’t been blogging much in the past few months. Inevitably I fall away from it, and inevitably I fall back, often with a realization that I had been thinking that I would somehow “figure it out” and then be able to write from that “figured out” place.

I was at beer and blog one night and another blogger said “I think I read cheekyboots once. I couldn’t figure out the theme…?”. That derailed me. Oh no, how could I not have a theme! What kind of writing disaster was I foisting upon the unprepared masses? Confusion and madness!

Well, OK. Let’s just say, this blog is about my life, and my life has themes. That’s about as good as you’ll get.

As always, I’ve figured out some things, and others remain elusive and puzzling. But life is not about answers and certainty. Life is about the strangeness of death, the curving path of life, the forever unfulfilled desire for the certainty that never stays, and the stains on your hands that tell you that today, you lived.


  1. often, links to other sites and/or single ideas are useful in blog postings. the whole blog doesn’t have to have a theme for it to be useful. esp. since … how often do we return to a particular blog? gracias, cheekyboots and i hope your trip home works out well.

  2. Beer and Blog misses your insights. Just sayin’.

  3. Wow. That last paragraph is incredible: …. and the forever unfulfilled desire for the certainty that never stays….

    I’m glad I read your blog today =)

    I hope your trip to your grandmother’s is as good of an experience as this kind of thing can be.

  4. Hi everyone,

    @alfred I agree, but I also, from a marketing perspective, like thematicness. But I figure – this is a personal blog – the theme is me. =)

    @justin I won’t be there this week, obviously, but I do plan to make it back some time. I feel a blogging stint coming on so this should be a good time…

    @amy thanks =)

    My grandmother passed away last night. I didn’t get to say goodbye in person, but Brome and my aunt Kathy spent the day with her yesterday and said she was in good spirits, and that the nursing staff was very kind, and she seemed more happy and at peace than she had been in the months leading up to this (she didn’t take too well to growing old…). She didn’t quite make it home like she had wanted (she was going to come home today), but all in all it seems it went pretty well as these things go.

    Word of caution about hospitals: the actual cause of death we think was an infection she got in the hospital…they gave her Cipero, which is a pretty heavy duty antibiotic, but apparently they use it a lot more often now, and that can kill your good bacteria and let the bad ones flourish…scary.

    The whole family is either here or will be soon, and we are going to have a memorial/celebration sort of thing on Saturday. We aren’t the normal black-funeral-going types (she wanted to be cremated anyway), so we are going to play music she liked, tell stories, etc, instead. Make it up as we go along, as we do…. =)

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