A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween.”— Erma Bombeck
My grandma died today. I had big plans to do a sequel post to my original ADHD post. But then my sweet Mamaw left. She loved that I was a writer. In her younger days, she was a writer. I reminded her of herself, in a lot of ways. The last time I saw her when she was still herself, she showed me a picture of herself when she was about 18 years old. She’s sitting on top of a cinder block wall, her arms propping her up from behind, her legs posed in front of her. I took one look at it and said, “Ooh la la! Mamaw!!” She grinned and said in a sly voice, “I knew you’d like that one,” with a little nudge. And now she’s gone.
I took a picture of that photograph with my phone. When I got home from that trip, I zoomed into it and I realized that I looked a lot like her when I was that age. Lucky me. She was a fox! I remember being a little girl and watching her put in her pin curls and foam rollers on work nights. It seems like a thousand lifetimes since she retired. She got to enjoy life for a very long time after she got out of the grind and good for her, too. She retired from a factory that made portable walls. A stinky, non-air-conditioned factory, but her pin curls, Merle Norma rouge, and red lipstick were always on point. When she still worked any piece of paper, envelope or tissue was fair game to be used as a lipstick blotter and there was always a lipstick print on her styrofoam coffee cup. She drank instant coffee. And Jack Daniels. Not at the same time that I know of. Now she is gone.
I think of all the things I’m going to miss and it feels like a vice grip on my heart. No more fried pork chops or bread pudding. I’ve tried to make both; I don’t hold a candle. I’m going to miss how much she loved me. She loved me so much that she cried every time that she heard my voice on the phone. Love brought tears to her eyes every time she looked at me. She showed me that love for every second of my life. Can you imagine being so lucky? That I got to be loved by this kind, accepting, beautiful woman. So tiny and compact, but capable of bringing up 3 generations of empathetic, loving, soft-hearted people. By herself. She was a force to be reckoned with. Now she’s gone.
I’m going to miss how we would often laugh together about the silly things. She never knew whether to be mad at me or to laugh with me. She used to try to get me in the bath and I would run through the house, butt naked. I was small enough to fit in the crack between the wall and the couch and I squeezed my little naked self all the way to the back; just out of adult reach. My mamaw was a tiny lady, and I remember seeing her little body fill up the opening to my cave. She’d be so stern, telling me to come out and get in the tub, but she’d just laugh and laugh about it later. There are 100 other stories like that, but I won’t tell them all here. I’ll never get to tell them with her again because now she is gone.
We’ve lived far apart since I was 16, only see each other once a year, sometimes less. But our bond never waned. Each time that I spoke with her, it was like no time had passed. Each time that I saw her, she’d sit and stare at me while I told her about what was happening in life. Her grin would spread from ear to ear while she listened. She was a really good listener. You always knew you’d get no judgment from her. There have been many times in my adult life that I’ve had a broken heart and all I wanted was to be in my mamaw’s living room, sitting on her lap and letting her rock the pain away; letting her love the pain away. I wish that’s where I was right now. My mamaw is gone now, though.
Grief is a beast. It comes and goes in waves, some of them as tall as buildings. They crash over you in the moments when your brain remembers; she’s gone. Over and over, it whispers. I’ll never see my mamaw again; never hear her sweet voice. But I will smile when I think of her. I will cherish the memories that she’s given me over a lifetime. I will continue to feel lucky that I was loved by someone so special for 38 years. I will keep writing; for her.
Today I was contacted by people who knew my grandmother. Some of the family, some of them friends. Many of them hadn’t seen or to talked to her in decades, but they all said the same thing. Over and over, “She was so special.” She was special. My beautiful grandma, who loved a good mustard and cheese sandwich, is gone but she touched so many of us with her unique, loving brand of special. Her 89th birthday was on Wednesday and on Thursday night she went to sleep for the last time.
Rest well, Mamaw. I love you so much.