This wasn’t exactly how I expected to ring in 2012, with the overwhelming urge to write for the first time in….well…probably more than 6 months.
I got in the car today to ring in this year with some friends. I reflected on what was happening this time last year and I fell apart. I should have gone home. I know that. I should have gone home right then and started writing. But, I did as I usually do, I persisted and headed out anyhow to put on a good face with my friends.
But, that feeling didn’t leave. You see, at this time last year I was unexpectedly saying goodbye to my grandmother. I’d taken an unplanned trip home for this purpose. I meant to write then, and I meant to write when she finally did leave us, but I never did find the ability. So instead I spent the rest of the year immersing myself in new activities and I persisted.
And now, a full year after I said my goodbyes, after I watched a wonderful woman lose the light in her eyes that defined her, I find myself with the need to write about her.
Some of my earliest memories are of her holding me up at the kitchen sink to watch out the window for the tail lights of my parent’s car heading down the road and over the old bridge. A bridge which is long since closed, never to be repaired. I, being a somewhat independent child, loved spending the night with my grandparents even at an early age. It was excitement to be somewhere new, and to have Grandma dote on me the way she did.
I knew that times with Grandma meant foods I loved made exactly the way I requested. Homemade french fries that I could eat until I made myself ill. Then off to church on a Saturday evening, just to come home and sneak the leftover cold fries, giving myself yet another stomach ache. Morning brought buckwheat pancakes on a cast iron griddle covered in crisco. Enough to make the edges of the pancakes crispy in a way mom just couldn’t reproduce. There was roast beef with dumplings, and mashed potatoes that couldn’t be beat, and there was always biscuits. No big family meal was complete without biscuits.
When I was very small, Grandma liked to dress me up, curl my hair, and take me to church. I can only imagine this was to show me off to her friends. Quite frankly, I am amazed she managed to get me dressed up at all, I was not a child to dress up, or sit still, or keep my hair looking nice. I’ll never forget her trying to curl my long hair with a bristle curling iron. In my defense, I told her she shouldn’t do it, that she’d get it stuck in my hair. I imagine this precocious statement would have gotten about the same reaction as I give to Bug. She did it anyhow, and got the curling iron stuck. And then she got nervous! I remember the smell of my hair burning as she tried desperately to get the curling iron out of my long hair, I remember her pulling the cord out of the socket in hopes to minimize the damage, I remember the one lone curl down my back which I was forced to go to church with when she didn’t dare use that curling iron on the rest of my hair, I felt a little silly even at that young age. And mostly, I remember how horrified she was about having to tell my mom that she’d gotten the curling iron stuck.
Church with Grandma meant that she would get all dressed up and wear make up, and then take me the what…block and a half?…over to church. I remember the heavily perfumed smells of her and her friends as we sat for church. I remember trying harder to be good, to be still, to be quiet with her than I would have with my own parents.
As we grew up and moved away, spending time with Grandma was less frequent. But summers meant that we would go camping with my grandparents. This was always a special time getting to know extended family. I wouldn’t give up the memories of those weeks for all the world. Grandma would let us stay up very late, sleeping in the screened tent on cots with other cousins near by. I remember knowing even then that this was a special time because I’d never camp as an adult. I saw what a hard job it was, this camping. Packing everything up, taking it to a camp sight, preparing dinner in less than ideal circumstances and then washing up at some random faucet. I realized even at that young age that the work mainly fell on her, and so I knew I’d have nothing to do with it as an adult. Knowing this made that time all the more special.
My Grandmother had a laugh that couldn’t be beat. You could not help laughing too, it was absolutely contagious. She laughed and giggled like a 14 yr old girl. Sometimes I hear her laugh in the laughter of other family members, and it is so special and bittersweet to know that her laugh lives on.
My grandmother was a caretaker. She took care of hers. She took care of her family and she took care of grandpa. This was never so apparent as in her tireless care of him in his long failing health. I’d go as far as to say she took care of him without regard to herself on some occasions. I wish I had a little more of that quality in me.
However, my grandmother was persistant. And I do like to think that a little bit of my own persistence comes from her.
My grandmother and I are two totally different people. I imagine that there were many times she was alternately amused and horrified by me. As I reflect on 2011, all the joys and pains, the changes, the newness, the heartache, the beautiful moments I’ll never forget, I can’t help but hope that despite our differences that I’ve retained a small portion of her spirit and vitality just big enough to reflect her back to those I love.