Gwen Bell · Blog


May 28th 2017

UPDATE: 2017-12-14 Updating this piece to let the record state that my grandmother apologized to me for allowing the locks to be changed and the subsequent aftermath following Bub's death. She apologized on the phone on December 12, 2017. I accepted her apology.

UPDATE: 2017-08-04. On August 1 2017 I met with my grandmother at her request. She'd made the request the day before via phone call to the hotel I've been living at since the day after my grandfather died. She said she wanted to see me in person before I leave for California this month. She said she wanted to give me the Oldsmobile. She wanted to talk in person instead of over email or Skype. She asked me to go out to the house, the one she changed the locks on -- I said that the police officers that night told me that once I left I was forfeiting any rights to return. So, it'd have to be somewhere in Fayetteville. She agreed to Chilis and that's where we met. The two of us talked for an hour. I mostly listened. She said there were things she was angry at me about going years back. I heard her out and wondered aloud why she didn't bring things up as they came up for her -- she indicated I should have known that's not how she does things. Anyway, she wanted to show me samples of the new countertops she's putting in, she gave me a sample of perfume and a phone that I could use if I wanted to call her sometime -- all I'd have to do is put some airtime on it. She offered to take me shopping for clothes, she offered me a ride, she offered the car -- I expressed my appreciation of her offers but told her no, that I'm going to have to figure this out on my own. I wished her luck with her home improvement projects, we hugged and that was that.

Original piece:

In March of this year at my grandparents' request I returned to their house. Along with Everett, I slept in the basement. I put a calendar up that I bought in Mexico City before departure. The purpose: to demonstrate when Everett and I accomplished tasks that my grandparents requested. In the end it served two purposes: one, showing in writing what I was doing with my time. Two, figuring out when the seeds I'd planted had sprouted (or not).

On March 1 Everett and I arrived via Transportes del Norte on the Mexico side and Greyhound in the US. Upon arrival the two of us got to work and got our former jobs back. On March 13 at my grandmother's (referenced here as NN) request she and I went to Lowes to get carpet samples. Later that week she chose a carpet she liked at a place (not Lowes) and scheduled the date for install: April 4. She chose the carpet she wanted so none of us, including my grandfather, saw it until the day it went in. The pink carpet had been in for about 30 years, which is about how old the house that my grandfather built was.

The three people installing the new carpet did a quick, precise job; I served them beverages and turned the fans on because the A/C was off in the house for a change. One of the installers recommended I check out El Cazador for excellent Mexican food. Strong recommendation.

I helped move things, including the tv, that day. When not moving things I was capturing the installation process on the leica.

My grandfather died just a little over a month after the carpet installation. I last saw his body in the bedroom he slept in, in the same bedroom my mom died in years before him. He was rushed to the emergency room with what some in the family thought was a bad reaction to the new carpet.

The x-rays he had taken did not show any indicators that he was having an allergic reaction to the carpet. Nor was it a problem with his pacemaker. The problem was way beyond that. A few days after the emergency room visit he was checked into the cancer ward at UNC-Chapel Hill. On May 5th I visited him at the cancer ward (wearing a mask to protect myself from hospital superbugs; one doctor said he thought I was doing my residency).

Bub returned from the cancer ward on the 8th of May. By the 14th, less than a week after his return from the ward, he had died and that same day I was barred entry from the house shown in these photos.

Pictured above is the April 2017 calendar page. I ripped the May page off the night of my grandfather's death, the night my grandmother and uncle stood at the door with the freshly changed locks.

I left the rest of the calendar in the basement of the house my grandfather built that I intend never to see again. They have the months June through December to do with what they wish. It was a good calendar. They got to keep the seeds I planted, too. I'll start another garden somewhere else.

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