28 January 2009


November 30, 2003

It was my maternal grandmother, G-maw Baker that introduced me to stargazing when I was a little boy. She was an amateur astronomer, and had a telescope at her house that I loved to play with whenever I would visit. G-maw and I would bundle up and head outside to look for double stars, clusters, nebulae and do some moon gazing. When she got somewhat older and less able to stand out in the cold (winter being better for stargazing in the Northern hemisphere) it fell to me to find the stars or whatever we wanted to see, while she waited inside to stay warm. It was a task I came to enjoy. “G-maw, come see!” I would say, and she would amble outside for us to take turns peeking through the lens. It was such a joy.

While not involving a telescope, meteor showers were particularly exciting for her. I can still recall her saying to me that the “Leonids” or the “Taurids” were coming up soon, we needed to be ready for them. She would always watch for the weather reports, hoping for clear skies, the better to see the trails. I often looked forward to these events because it gave me a reason to stay up past midnight to get the full shower effect. G-maw had explained to me that was because the Earth’s rotation was then at the best angle for the meteors to hit the atmosphere. Funny, though, I can’t remember actually being able to stay awake that long. When I was little, even lying on the cold, hard ground was not enough to keep me awake. I also remember being afraid of getting hit by a meteor while outside. G-maw would just laugh and tell me to remember that most meteors burned up before they hit the ground, so I would be okay.

As I got older my interest in sky watching and meteor showers began to wane. In my teen years the joint viewing sessions with G-maw became less frequent. It was typical adolescent behavior, me finding it more important to hang out with friends (and get into trouble) than to spend time with an old lady who just happened to be family. I am not proud of myself, I can tell you.

G-maw was a stubborn woman, but also wiser than I knew. She had seen a lot in her relatively long life. I am sure she knew in her heart that little boys grow up, and teenage egos have a tendency to lose interest in the older folks. Little boys think they know more than they really do. At that time, I thought my grandmother was okay with my teenage callowness. Being as young, stupid and arrogant as that implies I just let it pass. She may have, on the surface, been okay with my disinterest. Subconsciously, it was always there, that little bit of sadness on both of our parts. I could tell because G-maw would offer to take me out for pizza, just the two of us for dinner, and I could never say no. There was always a twinge in my heart that I could not explain.

I will never forget one of our last pizza dinners together, shortly after I had turned of legal age to drink alcohol. We went to a local Pizza Hut and I decided to be daring and order a glass of beer. Pretty heady stuff, to be all worldly and drinking in front of my grandmother! I was a bit nervous, wondering if she was going to say anything. The waitress brought the glass, set it on the table in front of me, and G-maw just laughed. She had a twinkle in her eyes and asked me if she could have some of the beer! “I’ve been known to have a beer now and then” was all she said. I felt so much more comfortable with her after that incident.

I had no way of knowing at the time that G-maw would become very ill, and would pass away from cancer within the next two years. I suppose that if I had, I would have ordered a few more glasses, so we could raise a toast to a wonderful person possessed of a life well lived.

Something else I was not fully aware of then, was just how much she loved me. It was because of that love that she wanted to spend time with me. My grandfather had passed away shortly after I was born, about two decades before. Many of her extended family were far away, and it was me and my brother and my parents that she had close. If I had not been so self-absorbed, if had taken the scales from my eyes, I would have dropped the teenage attitudes of self-importance and truly understood the value of her presence. I would have been much more willing to spend time with her.

As I said, G-maw was a wise woman. She knew there was no getting blood from turnips, and she did not press me to be more considerate. I still regret being so selfish and not willing to give more of my time. It never ceases to amaze me that G-maw loved me in spite of myself.

There is one meteor shower in particular that stands out in my memory. G-maw and I, along with my mother and brother, were out in my front yard looking up at the sky. We had been out there for quite some time with very little activity, and everyone was getting restless. A few dim meteor tracks and stiff necks were all we had to show for our efforts and we were just about to pack it in when a most amazing thing happened. We all gasped. Low to the horizon, where we least expected it, there was what appeared to be a fireball hurtling across the sky. It was very bright, and to my eyes it appeared to have a greenish tinge. It was moving very fast and had a trail that seemed like it was miles long. Suddenly, it began to shoot off what looked like sparks and BOOM, it exploded into fragments radiating outward. The fragments glowed and rapidly faded from view.

We were stunned. I had never seen anything like it, and have not ever since then. G-maw said it was a ‘bolide’, a meteor that ignites in the atmosphere and more or less explodes. It was a little unsettling, but very beautiful. I was and am so grateful that my grandmother was there and cared enough to show me such an amazing example of natural beauty.

Natural beauty was very much on my mind on this November day, as we went out to the cemetery to visit with Connor and Emma. It was cold and breezy, with partly cloudy skies. The wind chimes were in full song. The bronze grave markers were very clean from all the rain we had the previous week. There was very little dirt and leaves to be swept off, just a small amount of mud which I brushed away. Standing there in the cold, I started sobbing while gazing at the names on the plaques. The thought kept looping through my head that we had given Connor and Emma such beautiful names, names that we had spoken far too little. I was thinking of the arc they both made through our lives.

When they were in the NICU, even with all the medical equipment and tape and tubes, my daughter and son possessed an unearthly beauty. It was beauty that would draw you in, helpless to take one’s eyes away from. I looked up into the sky to try and clear my eyes, and it was then that my grandmother and the meteors came back to me. So it was with my darling Emma and Connor. Heavenly objects of rare beauty, they burst into light across our sky, so fast and so bright that I still carry the afterimages burned into my retinas.

G-maw had shown me something rare and exquisitely beautiful. She had shown me things that were here and gone almost before you knew it. The lesson she had taught me was that you just have to be patient and watch; they will come to you. The sadness I felt struck so deep today, because I realized that I never had the chance to return G-maw’s favor, and show her beautiful and precious meteors of my own.

I like to think that G-maw knows, just the same.


SPECIAL NOTE: Tomorrow I will be posting a special collaborative effort with Michelle at Confessions of a Desperate Housewife. We found it exciting, and we hope you will, too! So please set a reminder to check in here and there. Thanks!


  1. Oh Irish - mum's crying now. It's ok, don't feel bad - she cries a lot my mum. She's a great big softy. Love from us both xxxxx

  2. Love this. Love how you wove the story. Love stories about searching the sky for clues in life.

    Other half and I saw a meteor much like you describe last year on Labor Day weekend. What a gift.

    This post is a gift too - I may be linking you.

    Stay warm in the storm today, Gumby.

  3. I'am willing to bet G-MAW knows.
    Find a moment of tranquility
    within your day and savor it.

  4. Your grandmother sounds like a wonderful woman - what lovely memories to have of her.

    Don't beat yourself up too badly about the teenage behavior - I'm sure she understood better than you realize. And yes, still loved you - maybe better than you realize.


  5. You crafted this story in such a lovely manner. I do a bit of star(and moon) gazing myself.
    Teen behavior is INSANE. Grandmothers know this. ~Mary

  6. You've been through so much. How touching that you can weave the love between a grandparent and grandchild, and the love and loss you experienced with Conner and Emma into the same story. Beautiful piece.

  7. G-maw DEFINITELY knows Mister Irish.
    Didn't you see that extra star in the sky the last time you looked?

  8. Nicely told. I think I could use a shot of rare and exquisite beauty in my life right now.

  9. Those babies have been folded in G-maw's arms since they left yours.

  10. Surely you know that you are one of those precious meteors to her, don't you?

    and yes, what Pamela said. :)

  11. I think she knows too, without a doubt.

    I lost my dad last year, and its funny, I really started living and pushing my self after that. Its like I got brave enough to start chasing my dreams and putting myself out there.

    He would have been so proud of my music and videos, he never saw them, it all started just after he died last year.

    I often think about how I didn't spend as much time with him as I should have, but you know, he wanted me to be doing my stuff, and living my life. I think I could have given him more time though. Time, its so precious. Maybe I am making up for it now? I know I feel more connected to some greater universal energy now. I made this video shortly after Dad died...


    I stuggled with the loss, but found positive ways to move through it. I wrote a song that will be on a worldwide CD for Cancer soon, thats taking the loss and using it for good.

    I think that special meteor you saw, sounds like it was Mother Natures fireworks. It sounded SO beautful. Thanks for the story!

  12. I loved the story...my grandmother and I only shared moments in her garden and in the kitchen, she was already a lot older and very conservative southern people, both were...but my aunt, my dad's sister and I were close and after her husband died and I move up East, I brought her to NYC and we had the best time, like to ole gal pals, and when I ask her what she would like to do for dinner, she said "lets go to a bar and have a beer with a lime"...I had never drank with any family members before, and I will always remember her smile as we sat in the Irish Pub, ate, drank, and talked...thanks for sparking that memory!

    Thanks for coming over, I promise I have lots to entertain you with the food, writing, and poetry! I have seen you around on others blog...

  13. I'm with Pamela. . .

    You have shown her those precious meteors . . . and left them to her care. . . no "what ifs" about it!

  14. That was so beautiful. I love how you're sharing and opening up to us about Connor and Emma. Makes me glad to be a small part of all this by reading your words.

    Your G-Maw sounds lovely.

  15. I really shouldn't read your blog in front of Peanut. She wonders why I cry. I tell her they are tears that come when you see great beauty. I hope she remembers that.
    Thank you for another beautiful post.

  16. With that in mind, Gumbo, I'm going to close down my browser and go spend some QT with Liam.

  17. Wow. That was beautiful. I had no idea of your past....but I guess that's true with most people you meet. I wasn't expecting to be touched like that today. Damn it. But yes, love the meteor analogy. I miss my grandma in TX.

  18. I always get around to reading your posts too late in he day and everything I feelwhen reading them has already been said. So I am just gonna go with Awesome.

  19. Ah, my dear Irish!
    That was so lovely!
    It made me think of my own grandma.
    She was such a wonderful lady and I looked up to her immensely.
    I spent my summers with her as a child and as you, when I hit my teen years, I wasn't around so much. But she loved me just the same.
    There were times while I was a teen though, that I would just drive on over and just spend some time with her and go with her to places.
    I like to believe that even those moments were special to her.
    She is gone now. Has been for many years. She had 3 strokes that of course made her lose her memory and that she eventually died from.
    I miss her still...

    Thank you Irish... :)

  20. Probably my favorite thing about being out at sea is the ridiculous amount of stars. If you stare hard enough you can even see satellites while you're out there.

  21. Gumby, hind sight is always 20/20. Children are selfish, plain and simple. The key is to grow up and bear that in mind when your own kids are going through their selfish phase. Your G-maw was a very cool lady. I'm sure will be a very cool grandpa when the time comes!
    When you're old I'm going to call you Gummy instead of Gumby.

  22. Here via Henry the Dog's place.
    Beautiful writing and a good reminder to take the time to spenf the time with loved ones.

  23. Fantastic piece. There are always regrets after someone passes. I know how you feel.

    I'm sure she knows, rest easy.

  24. Henry: Ooh, sorry. Well, I’m a softy, too. Thank you (hugs).

    OAM: Thank you. The images were very powerful in my head. Keepin’ warm!

    Dad: Is that you? (grin)

    Jan: She was pretty cool. Thanks for the hugs.

    FrankandMary: Thank you!

    Csquared: I think I have had some help from G-maw, too. Thank you.

    Belle: I see it all the time :)

    PHFL: Thank you. I am working on distilling that stuff, for the shot. :)

    Pamela and CPM: *sniff* Man, that’s beautiful, thank you :)

    SK: Thank you :)

    Rachael: I hope so. You are welcome. I checked the link you sent *doublesniff* THAT was beautiful/sad/powerful. Thank you!

    ChefE: Thank you for stopping by, and I look forward to hearing more from you!

    Lizspin: *sniff* thank you.

    MD: It’s a new country for me, but the gates are opening up. Thank you for being here with me!

    Michelle: I think she will. You are most welcome!

    Captain: Good man. Enjoy!

    Teri: Thank you. Layers to all of us, I guess :)

    Sarah: That’s okay. I am very glad you’re here, no matter when. Thanks!

    BEW: You’re welcome. I like knowing that others feel the same.

    KMcJoseph: I agree. And I know G-maw would have loved it!

    SweetCheeks: Yes, she was. And what’s that, could you speak up? :))

    Herhimnbryn: Lovely! Thank you for dropping in! I appreciate your comment, and you are welcome, too.

    Heinous: Thank you. I believe she does…

  25. What a lovely tribute to your G-maw.

    And I haven't heard anyone outside of Indiana say get blood from a turnip. Most people say stone. My Florida friends make fun of me when I say it.

  26. SMB: Thank you. And I hadn't heard anyone outside of Virginia say it! That's where I was born and raised. I wouldn't make fun of you :)

  27. I say get blood out of a turnip and I'm a native Californian ... I thought everyone said it? Now I'm confused.

    BUT - what I was going to say is that I was extremely touched by this post. My dad spent his career working for NASA and has always "shown me the stars". He's elderly now and your post made me realize that when he's gone I will never, ever, be able to look at them without thinking of him.

  28. you are a softy what a beautiful piece of your life you shared, it reminds me of my grandma. Thanks for the story you are a great writer

  29. Your relationship would have been very beautiful for G-Maw too you know. Just as you feel deeply about Connor and Emma.
    G-Maw would expect a little off-handedness when you were leaving babyhood behind and relished that too, in her way.
    You are a very honest and feeling irish gumbo.
    June in Oz

  30. I think adults realize, somewhere in there, whenever it is that we become adults, that kids, even grandkids, require a lot more give than take. She knows how much you loved her and she knows how loved all of your children are.

    A beautiful essay.

  31. 24@Heart: Glad you liked it. A good way to remember people.

    CandC: My mom always said I was a “rough, tough cream puff”. Thank you!

    June: G-maw was pretty smart. Thank you!

    Anymommy: *sniff* Yes, she does. Thank you.

  32. Kevin, this was beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. I think you should send it out into the wide, wide world and have it published. I'm fairly certain G-maw would be proud.


  33. Hey, Irish.

    You made me love your G-maw. I'd already fallen in love with Emma and Connor.

    How cool they're all together now.

    Beautiful story, beautiful writing.

  34. Amy Thank you. I am looking into that.

    Janie: Yeah, it would be cool. I hope they are. Thank you!


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...