My grandmother was an incorrigibly blunt woman, full of purpose and not particularly flexible. She was one of the few people who was never in awe of my father, even briefly. To Grandma, life was a series of opportunities to put on your big girl panties and deal, and she could be pretty good at doing that. After my grandfather died, she decided her mission in life was to bake dozens of cookies every week for various functions at her church. Four dozen this week, she would say. Double chocolate.
Grandma’s attitude toward life could be shockingly matter-of-fact. She declined to marinate in her emotions, or even, at times, feel them at all. She sprinkled all this with an acerbic wit that seemed designed to poke at those who took themselves too seriously. She could be an overpowering personality, and although I know she loved me, our connection was not intense. My grandfather and I had a close and warm relationship, and she always sort of ceded her territory with me to him, though she did so gladly and warmly.
That is why I was suprised yesterday when the medium informed me that Grandma was one of the spiritual guides pushing me in a creative direction. “Really?” I asked. “Seriously? Is it possible that she became more flexible after she died?” I laughed.
“Actually, it is,” the medium chuckled. “She has a bigger view now.” Frankly, I filed that one away under “Things that Make me More Skeptical of Mediums.”
Until today. One of the big things I wanted to do down here was begin learning underwater photography in the freshwater springs, one of my favorite ecosystems. About two weeks ago I searched on eBay until I found an inexpensive, used, introductory model underwater camera. In underwater photography, it’s good to start low and progress from there. I waited all week until the weather cooperated and gave me a good day with abundant available light.
The camera lasted half an hour. The O-ring that created the waterproof seal failed, and spring water seeped into the camera and killed the electronics. I was seriously, seriously unhappy. But determined to save the day, I snorkeled about, looking at fish and ducks, and then took some land photographs with my good camera before driving back to the house in the honey-light of late afternoon. As I drove back listening to my Rhapsody queue, Frank Sinatra took the opportunity to come on and inform me that life just sucks sometimes.
And I heard my grandmother, yes I did. “You lost a camera, kid. Big deal. There are people out there without food. Get back at it. Pick yourself up and get back in the race.”
And so then, thanks to my memory of Grandma, my day became a No Funk Zone. There was a time not too many years ago that I was petulant enough that this instance of the universe refusing to bend to my will would’ve killed my momentum. And how unforgivably stupid that would have been, because I learned a fundamental lesson of underwater photography today, and had a beautiful day under the water.
To me, my grandmother is still far too matter-of-fact a figure to be a gauzy and wafting spirit pushing me gently in one direction or another. I like her better this way, punching through eight years of death to slap me out of self-pity.
That’s guidance you can believe in.