Mementos of My Grandmother

First of all, I would like to thank all of my friends. When the news came to them that my grandmother passed away last week, my friends from all corners of the globe rushed to my side via the text message, twitter, IM, cell phones and e-mail to be there for me. There are also those that waited until they were able to tell me of their sorrow for my loss face to face. Thank you. I am so blessed to have all of you in my life, I truly am.

My grandmother passed away a week ago today. I was with her when she died. Earlier in the day I had talked to the doctor. He told me quite matter-of-factly that it was just a matter of time. To be honest with you, I was grateful for his direct nature. I don’t like it when people beat around the bush when it comes to things that are just going to break my heart. I’d rather hear it straight, feel the pain, deal with it and get on with my life. He told me that she was in a state of delirium, but he said that he was sure that she knew we were there, and that she understood us and that we could talk to her. I decided to take him at his word. I had the chance to be alone with her before she passed, so I talked to her for a bit. I told her that my cousins and I were all grown up now, I had figured out how to make her wonderful apple pie and that my children were doing well in school and that I was happy. Then I told her the thing that broke my heart to say, but I knew needed to be said, because I knew right down to my soul that she was waiting to hear it. I told her that if she needed to go, she could. I told her that I was a big girl now and could take care of myself.

It hurt so bad to say it, but I meant every single word and less than an hour later, she was gone.

My aunt asked me to speak at the funeral, and I told her that I would, but when I sat down to write a few things, I couldn’t even think. My grandmother was so many things to me. I was her only grand-daughter and because of this I was spoiled, but I was also so loved by her. She drove me absolutely crazy. Every phone call was heavily laden with worry for the health of my children, “Are you feeding them babies enough? They’re not sick are they?”. Her worrying and obsessing over their well-being was so bad that my husband jumped at the first chance he had to move us out of the state when it showed up because he couldn’t watch me cope with it anymore. But in spite of all of that, when she was gone all I could think about was all of her love.

When I was little, Grandma and I would watch musicals together. The first time I saw “The King and I”, my grandma and I sat on the couch in her living room and cried over a box of kleenex as the king died. It is still my favorite musical of all time. We would also sit on the couch and watch game shows, and figure out all the answers on Jeopardy, and Wheel of Fortune long before the contestants ever got their shot. She was a sharp gal, my grandma. She also made these amazing apple pies that will always fill my soul when I think about eating them, because there was love in every bite and no one will ever make apple pie like she did. No one.

All of these memories flooded into my mind at once, and even more because I spent so much time with her. Compared to my cousins, who grew up across the country from our grandparents, I was so lucky but at the same time I still feel as though I didn’t spend enough time with them. I feel like I missed out on way too much, but I know it’s not true. I was there when it mattered. I was able to give her the key that set her free from this mortal life that was filled with hard work, pain, suffering and loneliness. My love for her allowed her to go and be with my grandpa and my uncle. My love sent her home and it is this, more than anything else, that gives me peace.

I have managed to get my hands on a couple of things from my grandparents house. They didn’t have much, they were poor and they worked their fingers to the bone every day of their lives, but what they did have, they were so very proud of. My grandmother’s depression glass collection is on its way, and I have a box that I shipped to myself before I left my parents’ house that contains some of the most precious items of all.

When the box showed up on the kitchen counter, my son looked at me and said, “So what’s with the box?”
I said, “This is my grandmother’s life.”
My daughter looked disgusted and said, “No way! Great-grandma’s ashes are in there?” At this, my husband gave me a dubious look, and then smiled because he already knew what was inside.
I shook my head and said, “No. These are pictures, mementos of every moment of my grandmother’s life. There are pictures from when she was in kindergarten, until the day that her youngest great-grandchild was born.”
My daughter said, “Oh.” and went on about her business. My son nodded and went on about his business too. My husband hugged me and I struggled not to cry.

You see, it’s my job to catalog her life. I am going to scan the photos and send some of them back to my aunt, while others will go into a photo album to chronicle this small piece of my family’s history. Once they are assembled in the book, I’ll sit down with my kids and go over every photo in detail and pass it down to them when I am gone along with the mementos of my life.. and I hope that they remember me with all the love that I feel from my grandmother right now.