Wednesday, January 16, 2008

rememberance, part 1

Just over 13 years ago, two brothers set fir to a duplex in Minneapolis, in the middle of the night. The resulting fire had flames shooting over three stories above the two-level home's roof. In the upstairs, was the home's owner, a friend of my dad's family, a bachelor, and his two dogs. In the basement, was pictures and memorabilia of my dad's family's life. In the main level, my aunt, and my grandma, and memories and relics from my grandfather, like his flag encased in a frame, with five bullets-a memory of his time in the service.
My Aunt had just gone into her room, at the back of the house, after making toast. My grandma had been in her room, in the center of the hosue, for a few hours, and was sound asleep. The fire was set at the front corner. The house was old, with wooden siding, wooden floors, a wooden framed front porch. the front porch had an old couch, an old wicker chair, and lamps, with old papaer and cloth shades. The other side of the front porch had piles of newspaper, ready to be brought to recycling the next day.
The fire spread quicvkly, for even though it was the winter, it had been very cold that year, and there wasn't much snow to act as a damper. My aunt recalls hearing a crackling noise, and smelling burnt toast. When she left her room, and entered the kitchen, the house was full of smoke. She panicked, she thought that the toaster had shorted, and set the house on fire. The house was on fire, but not due to the toaster, no, it was started by two people who had never met anyone who lived in the home.
My aunt was not able to get to my grandma. Someone outside the home saw the flames, and dialed 911. Emergency vehicles were on their way.
The man who lived upstairs was not home that night. His dogs, however, perished in the fire. They believe the smoke got to them before the flames. My aunt, sitting in a bus that arrived to offer shelter, had very bad frost bite on her toes.
The firefighters were able to enter the home, and get out my grandma. She was very badly burned. It was found at the hospital that she had third through fifth degree burns over 85% of her body. In some places, the burning was so bad, you could see charred bone. She was unconcious, at the time, they didn't know if it was from shock, or smoke inhalation. They were grateful for her unconciousness, however, and administered drigs in the way to the hospital to keep her that way. My aunt still though that the fire was caused by her making toast.
By the times the flames were put out, there was really nothing left. Because it was so cold, some of the items in the basement, like the pictures, were encased in ice from the hoses. There was water damage, and some are gone forever, but some still exist. The pictures of my grandfather, of my uncle who passed before I was born, and of my great gramma were all on the main level, and are gone forever.
At the hospital, my aunt found out that the fire was not her fault, that it was arson.
At the hospital, we found out that gramma had severe brain damage. That even if she survived the treatments for the burns, she would probably never function again, and if she did, she would be in constant pain, in a wheelchair, more than likely unable to communicate. Ultimately, the request to stop treatment, and to not allow lifesaving measures was made. We know she wouldn't want to live this way.
Thirteen years ago, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, she was buried, in a closed coffin ceremony. I had never personally seen a funeral so large before. Everyone whose life she touched was there. MY mom, my aunt, her sister, and my maternal gramma were even there. At this point, my mom had been divorced from my dad for 14 years.
My aunt needed years of therapy. She needed to learn that it was not her fault. She needed to learn how to live on her own. It took almost 8 years before she could make toast, or smell burnt toast, without becoming physically ill.
Shortly after Hermes was born, the brothers who seet the fires finally had their day in court. It took six and a half years for the system to provide any sort of justice. It was found out that they had set fires before, It was found out that the older brother, shortly before burning my grandma's home, had set fire to the trailer where his ex girlfriend and toddler daughter lived. They were charged with the federal offense of arson in the first, and premeditated homicide. They argued that they didn't know anyone was in the home, but legally, if you set fire to a residence, it is believed that the assumption it is occupied is present.

withen the year following, well the six months following, the fire, is when I first lost contact with my dad. I do not know if it was truly a series of miscommunications, if it was the Step-mom's influence, or if losing his mom finally caused him to flake completely.

A month and a half after burying my paternam grandmother, my maternal gramma died in her sleep.

Every now and then, especially around this time of year, it still hurts. I still miss my paternal grandma deeply. I have no way of knowing what her lifespan shuld have been. I have no way of knowing if she would have lived to see her first biological grandsons, or what she would have thought of them.
I still miss her. I still love her. Occasionally, I drive past where the house was. It's a parking lot, now. Much of the old neighborhood has changed, but there are still some people, who if they see me, when I get out of the van, can peg me as being her granddaughter. They all make a point oftelling me how much she loved me, how proud sahe was of everything I did, and that she always knew I would grow up to do great things.
I wonder, if she is looking over me, sometimes. If she sees how smart her grandson's are. If she is disappointed in her son, for letting me go. If she knows that I crochet and knit, like she did, or if she knows that I can make her ham gravy, and goulash. Would she be proud?


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for what you went through. I've survived a house fire, which was nowhere near the magnitude of what your family went through and that was traumatic enough. I'm so vey, very sorry.

Anonymous said...

Oh I can't believe what I'm reading. Sadly the story isn't very truthful.

The lot where the house stood is not a parking lot and one of the dogs is alive today. You never met the uncle you speak of due to the fact he died before you were born and there are still pictures of your "grandpa" and uncle.

The trailer you speak of was actually an apartment, the toddler was of no relation to anything having to do with them or the ex-girlfriend. As far as the funeral part you left out your boyfriend and the stuffed animal you so proudly presented to the class.

As sweet of a woman as your grandmother was, her death was not from the fire but in fact a condition brought on from drinking that caused an ulcer in her stomach to begin bleeding and that was when they decided to let her pass.

Though a riveting story, not very factual. Spelling sweetheart, don't forget to check your spelling, and your brazen disregard to the facts and who you represent in this story is disrespectful.

No she wouldn't be proud of what you've done!