My Gram was a special lady. She is the grandparent I related to the most, and in fact she really was my favorite person growing up.
I remember spending time in her kitchen, making her special molasses raisin cookies and mustard sandwiches (don’t ask) and more. She always had a cookie for me from her special cookie jar, and we watched Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune together whenever we were together. She was incredibly fast figuring out the phrases on Wheel of Fortune. Jeopardy, she wasn’t so good at, but she loved watching it just the same. If I ever needed a hug, she was there to give it to me.
Even as I grew older, I still had a special bond. In college (once I had a car on campus as a junior), I’d drive down to her house every other week to do laundry at her house, chat, and then take her out to dinner. We had some truly special times.
She was the one who taught me how to hold a conversation while simultaneously listening in on a conversation happening two tables over in a restaurant. She was the consummate people watcher, and we loved speculating about the lives of people we saw and giggling at some of the oddities we noticed that most others didn’t.
She passed away in 1999.
We knew it was coming, as she hadn’t been very healthy for some time before that. She’d been in the hospital for major issues twice in the past year, including one where she begged us to just let her die (we didn’t and she was later grateful).
One night, I called her to chat, and she just didn’t sound like herself. I asked if she wanted me to come visit (she was about an hour and a half from me, but that was nothing). She insisted she was fine, but I didn’t listen to her and I drove down anyway. Once I’d arrived, I asked what she wanted to eat. She told me she wasn’t very hungry (which was VERY unlike her – the woman could eat anything anytime) and that she had only eaten a single cracker for lunch. I couldn’t convince her to eat anything, but we settled into her guest room to watch a little tv before I headed back to my apartment.
She laid down and started zoning in and out a little. Our conversations were hard for her to track. I was a little concerned, but I let it go. Within a half hour, I remember her laying on the couch talking about poling a raft down the Mississipi and other nonsense. She was no longer at all lucid. I called 9-1-1 and an ambulance came to take her to the hospital. My family was in Minnesota at the time, so there was no one to help me but I made a panicked call to my mom. I somehow held it together until the ambulance arrived, but I remember sobbing then.
They saved her that night. She had congestive heart failure and wouldn’t have survived the night had I not been there. That fact still sticks with me now. What if I hadn’t gone to visit? What if I’d listened to her and stayed at home? I thank God that I didn’t, as I don’t know how I would have coped with the guilt.
Unfortunately, she never fully recovered from that incident and she died a few months later. She was my favorite person in the world, and I missed her. I still miss her, but I think about her less often now.
Today was different. At church, the reading was from Corinthians – “Love is patient, love is kind.” That was the reading that I had the privilege of doing at my Gram’s funeral. I didn’t cry while reading it that day, but I’ve yet to hear it since and not cry — with one exception. I chose it as a reading for my wedding in honor of my Gram, and I was dry eyed then.
Today? Not so much. Sitting in the chancel with the rest of the choir, I couldn’t quite keep the tears from spilling over. Fortunately, it went unnoticed for the most part.
But for the remainder of today, I keep thinking about how much she’s missing out on. She would have loved to see the wee ones and be a part of their lives. For her to have Mister Man read to her would have brought her so much joy. I can picture her teaching them to play Uno, with chocolate Easter Egg paper scattered on the table, just as she did with me – and I know she’d pretend not to notice them cheating as when I first learned from her.
She never knew my husband either. The last boyfriend of mine she knew she loved because he could get out of the car and run around to the other side to open her door before she could. She thought that was the neatest thing. While I don’t know that my husband could quite accomplish that feat, he definitely has qualities that she’d admire.
We had a concert tonight, and “Rock of Ages” was sung. It was, of course, one of her favorite songs. And again, I was wiping tears away during practice, imagining her proud face in the audience watching me sing.
She was always there, from the day I moved into my first apartment in college where she helped my mom and me clean for three hours, including her climbing on a barstool to hang curtains, to walking for hours on end – long after she passed the point of exhaustion – through Disney World because she knew her grandchildren wouldn’t want to leave until the park closed.
She had the best birthday gifts, the best hugs, the best everything.
And I forgot how much I missed that.
I wish she were still here. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost eleven years since she died. My life has changed so much since I last received advice from her, since she last stuffed ketchup and sugar packets from the restaurant into her purse, since the last phone call just to say hi.
But at the same time, I can picture her smile and hear her voice like it was yesterday. And on days like today, the pain in my heart feels like it was just yesterday.
I miss you, Gram. You’d be so surprised by my life today, and you’d so enjoy your great-grandchildren. I wish you were here.