I miss my grandma. She was the only one I had, and she was amazing. My family history is a treasure-trove of incredible characters and stories, but my grandma had some of the best. She lived through the great depression, played piano in a jazz band, where she earned the nickname “Rodney,” recycled long before it was cool, and let my sister and me put her hair in pigtails. But she had the same failings as everyone else. She got old. The first time she broke her hip, she went from the hospital to our house to recover. After the second time, she had to move out of her apartment and into a nursing home. It was all downhill from there. The Alzheimer’s attacked more fiercely when she no longer had her independence and routines to fend it off. The decline was mostly sad to witness, but once, as the present was erased from her mind and she spent her waking moments living further and further in the past, Rodney made an appearance. It was Christmas time, and Santa was visiting the nursing home. Rodney must have taken a liking to him, because she reached right out and grabbed his butt. My grandma goosed Santa. And we all laughed.
Even after watching my grandmother die slowly from a disease that decimates a whole life, one memory at a time, I’m still saddened by the thought that my children will never know their grandmothers. My mother died unexpectedly almost two years ago. She had a pacemaker, diabetes, and chronic pain, but no one expected her to die as suddenly as she did. In a way, it’s a blessing that she went quietly, in her sleep, but it robbed all of us the chance to say a proper goodbye. After hearing the news, Hubby comforted me as I sobbed into his chest, “Our kids won’t have a grandma.” His mother died of cancer more than a decade ago. I never got to meet her, but I will always be grateful that she made Hubby promise to follow through with his plans to study here, in the US. Just five months after she passed away, he left his family and his country to pursue his PhD. I think I never would have met him if not for her dying wish.
Last Christmas, the first one without my mom, I started a poem, but like so many projects around my house, it went unfinished until now. If nothing else, I can take comfort in the fact that soon my kids will be the ones honored with completing the special tradition my mother started.
She made it with her hands, old pantyhose,
an empty bottle of Joy. Grandma’s lace
for a collar, a halo of antique pearls,
she’s forever yellow-yarn blonde, modeled
after girls now grown, having lost
much of their lightness. Tradition says
the youngest child gets lifted to the top
of the tree and sets the angel on her perch
where she remains, eyes closed, hands folded
in prayer, until the tinsel and trimmings
are packed away for another year.
If those embroidered lashes fluttered open,
the eyes would be my mother’s sea-foam green,
looking down on what she’s left behind.