Ten years ago my grandmother passed away. She was an amazing woman who I got to know very well; my dad and I lived with her for over 12 years and she was – and still is – an important part of my life: she had an immeasurable impact on who I am today. She could be strict, she was always witty and she was terrible at hiding chocolate, and I miss her every day. I’ve been composing this post in my head for days, and I can’t remember any of it now; all I can think of now are memories and instances where her full personality shone through.
One night, when I was probably 9 or 10 years old, my dad was out – a cartoonist meeting perhaps, or a date? – and I stayed home with my grandma. Her “adopted” granddaughter, my best friend Mika, was sleeping over that night, and the three of us sat on the floor of the living room (I know it was before the remodel because I can clearly see and feel that ugly brownish-gold carpet) eating pizza and Oreos, drinking Pepsi and playing a board game. We laughed so hard that night, and though we may have tried to recreate the energy it was a magical night that was never repeated.
She picked up the phone at 2am when I was drunkenly calling home from a party during my senior year; I can only imagine she was furious. Pre-cellphones, we had an upstairs phone and a downstairs phone, and the upstairs phone sat on a wooden side-table between dad’s and grandma’s rooms – I think she beat him to the draw those wee hours and I could hear the desire in her voice to reach down the receiver and throttle me. Needless to say, I got a ride home from dad.
Always welcoming, my grandma would help anyone and gave everyone a chance. When I met Jesika and brought her to meet my family, she was unlike any friend I’d had before. And my grandma didn’t bat an eyelid; she would take you in as part of the family no matter if you were green, orange, had three eyes or two heads – as long as you were a good person with a decent heart she would show you warmth and affection. I don’t think I had a single friend that felt uncomfortable or unwelcome with my grandma, which is one of the reasons that losing her was hard for many.
Devilled eggs were one of her specialties; I spent hours at the kitchen counter helping her peel boiled eggs and smooshing the yolks up with mayo and mustard to then scoop into the copper piping tool and squeeze stars into the middle of hard-boiled egg whites. I can still feel her when I make devilled eggs, like she’s keeping an eye on me. The first time I made them after she left us I put the eggs on to boil and promptly forgot about them; I remember clearly feeling a supernatural shove that reminded me to check on them. I have never made more perfect hard boiled eggs.
My duty was smashing bananas during banana bread creation; perfectly laying out tator tots to top her infamous casserole; getting out of the kitchen as she swore while making pie crusts – “I don’t know why the saying is ‘easy as pie!’”, she’d yell out, “Pie crusts should be easy to make but they never work for me! Never!”; and most significant were the hundreds of Hersey Kisses I unwrapped over the years. The tattoo of a Hershey Kiss on my ankle is to represent this; while my grandmother was, among other things, a devoted chocoholic, the kiss means more than that. To me it’s an everlasting reminder of our time together in the kitchen, baking cookies for Christmas and my role in that tradition.
She called me a ragamuffin and sang me awake “Wake up sleepyhead; get up, get out of bed!”; she’d rail on me to wash my hair; she put my holey jeans in the trash when I was at school after I had already pulled them out once; she said silly things like “greasy grimy gopher guts”; she would make me laugh and I’m sure there were many times that I – unknowingly, unfairly and unapologetically – made her cry. Sorry for those moments, Grandma.
There are so many things I’m sad she’s missed out on in my life. She died the summer before I moved to Peru and there is so much I wish she could have been a part of. She didn’t get to hoot and holler during our second run of PGB; never got to hear of my adventures or see the splendid scenery of where I lived and travelled; sometimes I’m glad she missed some of the traumatic events that took place in those coming years, however I’m sure she would have knocked some sense into me if she’d been physically present, and I think she would have been the first to visit me in my new surroundings; she didn’t hear my exploits working as a Tour Leader in Central America and most importantly she hasn’t had the chance to meet Matt and Samara.
I remember finding her most current diary shortly after she died; curled up with Autumn and Jesika in the guest bed downstairs, eating pepperoni and pineapple pizza (and slightly drunk, I recall), I shared with them the final time she mentioned me: I had come over (dad and I were living in SE Portland at the time and I wasn’t around as often) to borrow an old, wooden-handled magnifying glass that was my great-grandmother’s. I stayed for a short while but remember being hurried so didn’t catch up as much as I should have (or, in hind sight, would have liked to), taking my leave with a hug and a “thank you”. She commented on this encounter by saying that I only made the time to see her when I wanted something. I’ve never felt so guilty in all my life as when I read that comment.
But deep down I know that my grandma knew how much I loved her and I know she loved me; I was young and didn’t appreciate that the time I had with her was precious, and she was stubborn and didn’t want to pester me so we could hang out more. I wish she had. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe what a caring woman she was, and there are never enough comparisons to draw regarding how much I miss her. I still feel her presence sometimes, and I like it when she visits me in dreams and seems happy, however in those moments I wake up and can’t believe there’s no way to see her again or give her a hug. Even as a logical person, there are still times where I cannot fathom that Matt will never get to meet her and experience her laughter, or that Samara will never meet this wonderful woman who had such a massive influence on me.
In the ten years since we lost the matriarch of our family, a lot has changed. We’ve all loved, we’ve all lost, we’ve travelled and we’ve come back home. But in those ten years since we lost you, Grandma, we’ve never stopped missing you.
PS “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” wasn’t as good as the original; you didn’t miss much.
PPS Where’s your car key?