A week ago Sunday (November 18, 2007) my Grandma (my father's mom) passed away. She had been battling dementia for the last several years and the good days were far and few between. She did quietly in her sleep around 1am EST.
Her death did not come as a surprise to us. I think we've all been preparing ourselves for the day—I know I had been. Regardless, losing a loved one is always hard.
I've been really worried about my father. For the past year (and maybe longer) he had been going to see my grandmother at the Assisted Living facility almost every day. My grandfather passed away over 17 years ago, so my grandmother's death means both of his parents are now deceased. So while I'm sure he's been preparing himself for the day when my grandmother would pass, it still must be a difficult situation to go through—and hopefully something I won't have to go through for many years. From all accounts though, my dad is doing well.
The good to come out of her passing when she did is that her children (my father and his sisters) got to spend time together for the Holidays. I'm not the only convinced that my grandmother decided to go last weekend so that the family could be together for the Holiday. Since my Aunt Danita and her husband moved out of Ohio many years ago, they had not been in town for any major Holiday. I think she's been gone over 25 years now, so it was nice getting to spend time as a family.
After her funeral on Wednesday my cousin, Quintin (who is 16 and lives in Denver,) and my brother, Jeff (who now lives in Baltimore, MD and works for Underarmour) ended up spending the night at my house. My wife (Jenn) made us chocolate chip cookies, we ate pizza and played Guitar Hero II until our fingers bled. It was a really nice night—something I'm glad we got to do. The time I get to spend with my cousin is pretty limited—since they live in Denver, CO—so I treasure the time we get to hang out. As a matter of fact, when I woke up Thursday morning I couldn't help but think my grandma would be happy knowing that her three grandsons spent the night hanging out together. It was always very important to her that her family spend time together, so I know somewhere she was smiling.
I really do believe my grandmother carefully choose her this time to pass away. It was her way of bringing us all back together for Thanksgiving—which is a very appropriate Holiday.
Anyway the Thursday before my grandma's passing, which was after I was alerted that my grandma's time was near, I woke up early in the morning with some memories running through my head that I wanted to jot down. I went downstairs to my office and opened up Word and wrote the following:
I must confess. I can’t recall my very first memories of my grandma, but the things I do remember I think about a lot.
I remember how when a thunderstorm was approaching, she’d grab a blanket from the house and lay it out on the front lawn. We’d lie on the blanket and watch the distant bolts of lightening electrify the sky. I felt like it our own private fireworks display—created just for us. When the thunder would get too loud or the storm would get too close, she would calmly gather up the blanket and we’d head back inside to watch the storm from the safety of the house. I’ve always felt a sense of calm being around big storms that my wife thinks is a bit odd. To this day, I still love watching a big thunderstorm. My wife will open up the window shade in our living room and we’ll watch the storm together. And I always think of my grandma.
I remember how when I’d be scared at night, my grandma would get in bed with me to help me fall asleep. She’d always bring a flashlight with her. She’d hold the flashlight under the covers of the woven blanket and project “stars” on the ceiling. She’d slowly twist and turn the flashlight and it looked as if we were moving through the constellations—our own private Space journey in the safety of the bedroom. She would stay in bed with me until I finally drifted to sleep. Those memories still cross my mind every time headlights bounce across my bedroom ceiling as a car barrels down the road.
And I remember how when I’d be cold at night, my grandma would get under the sheets with me. I’d be shivering, my teeth clattering uncontrollably. She’d pull the sheets above our heads and we’d nestle deep under the blankets. She would tell me “breathe slowly and let our body heat warm us up.” I remember her telling me that as a child this was the way her brothers and sisters would stay warm on the cold winter nights. Sure enough, before too long I’d be hot enough I’d have to pull my head out from under the sheets. I’m sure that’s why I like going to sleep in a freezing cold room and pulling the blankets up tight around me.
I remember how much my grandma loved music. If she wasn’t listening to music on the radio, she was watching “The Lawrence Welk Show” or “Hee Haw” on TV. I’m sure much of my love of music comes from her. To this day any time I hear Andrews Sisters singing the "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" I can’t help but think of her.
And boy, do I remember my grandma’s cooking. She was a fantastic cook. I always looked forward to family meals during the holidays at her house. She always made the best mashed potatoes. She’d mashed them by hand—they were always so thick and buttery. Today as an adult, I mash my potatoes by hand. I try to recreate her mash potatoes, but they’re never quite as good. I think it was the love that made them so extra delicious—the love only a Grandma can put into things.
Any time I see food advertised as “Country style” it makes me think of my grandma. I can’t go into a Cracker Barrel without thinking about her—not only was it one of her favorite restaurants, but the menu consists of all the types of food she used to make. They will never compare to my grandma’s cooking, but eating there will always make me feel close to her.
And I remember Christmases at my grandma’s. As a kid I knew that whatever presents Santa forgot to bring to our house, he would leave at her house. I can recall wondering to myself: “Why does Santa insist on leaving all these presents at my grandma’s house? Didn’t he know that I’d just have to lug them all back home? He could save both of us a lot of trouble by just dropping them all off at my house in the morning.” As a kid I couldn’t appreciate how much “Santa” went through to drop all those presents off at my grandma’s.
As an adult I think back on how hard my grandma worked during the years to make sure she could spoil her grandchildren. I remember going through Sears’ and Jc Penney’s catalogs the size of New York City phonebooks and marking all the stuff I wanted for Christmases and birthdays. It was an exciting and daunting task marking every toy I wanted, but she always wanted to provide for her grandchildren those extra things that we surely didn’t need, nevertheless desperately wanted.
There are plenty of other great memories I have of my grandma, but most of all what I remember is how much she loved us all and how lucky I was to have her as my grandma.
I'll miss my grandma, but one thing I've learned through my 35 years is that time doesn't fade the memories you have of deceased love ones. My grandma will always live in my memories.