She has been gone now for nine and a half years. I remember the day she died.
Really she–the strong woman I knew–was gone years before that. It started as forgetting to turn the oven on to make Sunday dinner. She died because her body finally forgot how to live.
She missed a lot. She was gone just months before the first grandchild got married, and years before getting any great grandchildren.
I was twenty-two when she left. I hadn’t graduated from college yet (I would be the second of her grandchildren to do so, and the first and only to get my Masters six years later).
She never met my husband.
Not in this world anyway. I am sure his dad talks him up though.
I have a feeling she met my son…before I did.
And she is taking care of my other two children until I get to them…and to her.
If I could have one more day with her? In my mind, this is how it would go…
As I pull into the driveway, I hear the crunch of the broken cement as I pull my car up to the garage.
It’s a bright fall day. The oak tree in the front yard is a bright orange color and the leaves have already started to fall. I remember helping rake those leaves and picking up sticks and climbing that tree when I was little and less cautious.
I don’t go in the front door. Nobody does. I push through the old wooden door (that always sticks) and in through the garage. It smells like moth balls in here. even though to this day I have never seen what a moth ball looks like.
The door into the house is familiar. I have gone through this door millions of times. If it’s dark, I go quickly so that I don’t have to look down the stairs to the scary basement.
Once inside I pause before opening the door to the kitchen. I know what will greet me. I know she is in there because I can hear her through the door. She is chatting to herself and sort of singing at the same time.
She is expecting me. She can see I am there through her kitchen window.
It’s been a long time since I have been greeted by her. She loves her family and welcomes each of us warmly each time we come over. Today is no different.
She calls me by my full name. My given first name, not the shortened version the rest of the people in my life refer to me as, and my middle name. She is the only person on earth who calls me this. I have missed hearing her say it.
She hugs me–one of my only relatives that I don’t feel awkward about hugging. She is soft and squishy. In my memory she is the same height that I am just softer all over. Her skin is soft, her body is full and soft, her hair is soft salt and pepper colored.
I know when I leave here I will smell like her.
She starts bustling about the kitchen and I sit down at the familiar kitchen table. The table where so many Sunday dinners have been shared. The table with the lace, doily-like table cloth. The table that is old and wiggley and creaking. The table where I have eaten pancake breakfasts on Sunday mornings after a sleepover.
She asks if I want coffee or otherwise I can grab a pop from the downstairs fridge. I tell her if she has cream or milk, I will have a cup of coffee.
This makes her smile. She has never known me as a coffee drinker.
She brings over two steaming cups of coffee and an array of treats that she apologizes for. She is always apologizing for not having enough even though she always has more than enough.
I look out the front picture window and the oak tree. I have missed sitting here.
She is chattering away–her topics don’t necessarily connect, and she assumes that everyone she talks about I know. And then it’s my turn.
She wants to know what has happened in the past nine years.
So I tell her. We spend hours talking. She wants to know everything about not just my little family but my brothers and my cousins.
And she tells me about my other little ones. The ones I haven’t met. She tells me about my father-in-law. She tells me about camp fires and yodeling and dune climbing…just like I remember it.
After hours of talking and pots of coffee, it’s time to go. This gift of an afternoon is over.
I hug her. She kisses my cheek. She is the only one I have ever done this with in my family. She tells me she loves me and calls me by my full name again.
As I walk to my car, she walks with me, still talking. Even as I pull out of the driveway, she wanders down waving and chatting to herself.
I know this is it. Until the other side, that is. So I smile. I call out to her that I love her one more time.
Because you really can’t say that enough.
This post is lovingly dedicated to my maternal grandmother, Grandma Jo. I am who I am greatly in part to her influence in my life. I miss you, Grandma. You would *love* what has become of your family.