My heart is aching, tears are flowing. And I suppose it was only natural that an empty house would allow me to finally feel what feels like a never-ending sadness.
My grandma passed away peacefully on Ash Wednesday. She went into the hospital with shortness of breath. A day later, she suffered an unexpected heart attack that sent her lung disease into its end stage. I am thankful beyond words that I, as well as my family, was there as she made her journey home.
Gram was one fiesty lady. I can only imagine the fun she's having with her best friend, enjoying heavenly Packer Games and no doubt "coaching" Vince Lombardi from behind the bench. She told the best stories, even when you heard them more than once. She insisted on handmade pie crusts and whole cloves on the Christmas yams....not sweet potatoes! She worked as a legal secretary for 30 years. She was strong, determined, and firm in what she believed. She took trips all over the world, with pictures of her wearing a lei with a bare-chested mainlander and riding a camel (not on the same trip) to prove it. She loved classic pictures (movies), a cold beer on a hot summer day, and the Packers...just to name a few. Although her health had rapidly declined over the last ten years, she kept fighting. She was outspoken, opinionated, and did I mention fiesty?
Gram introduced me to the piano. She was there for every recital, every school program, every choir concert, my graduation, and first college graduation. She was there when I got married, and when we stepped off the plane with our first child. I am so very blessed to have had Gram in my life for 28 years. Not everyone is given that opportunity and it is not lost on me.
She taught me to appreciate classic pictures and classic music. I have an obsession with the movie White Christmas because of her. I knew she appreciated the time I spent caring for her over the last few years. She understood, more than I did, when AJ's issues brought limitations to my availability. As a child, Gram was always awake on Christmas morning, drinking her coffee (and probably smoking a cigarette). I'd run down the hallway and she'd greet me with as much excitement as my little heart had been building as I ran down that hall. "Go wake your mother!" she'd say. Christmas was the day of the year where I saw her at her softest. She'd listen to my gift of gab anytime and had a way of reassuring me that things would always be okay. She'd make me giggle every time she'd hum a classic tune, like "Moon River", sing all the words to "Tiny Bubbles", or run in place as she sat on the couch watching a Packer game screaming "Run, Run, Run!"
She loved little man-SO MUCH. Thinking about the two of them together brings instant tears. The joy he brought her, is something I will forever be grateful to AJ and the big man upstairs for. Her face LIT UP when she saw him. When we came home with AJ, Gram was at the airport. She couldn't get her hands on him fast enough. Even though he was sick, she insisted on holding him. And I am so glad she did. Watching that video brings tears to my eyes every time. The bond between a grandchild and their grandparent is so very special. I should know, I'm writing this post. But the bond between this Guatemalan Miracle and his Great Grandmother was full of redemption and sweetness beyond my wildest imagination.
She enjoyed watching him eat (that was his thing at Great Grandma's house), and always had to make sure she had something good to munch on. She would compliment his walking, his vocalizations, and his teeth. She would ask questions about his medical mumbo jumbo and had tears of pride in her eyes when she read my letter to the Senator when we fought for AJ's first cochlear implant. I always thought those comments about his traits were to ignore his medical issues. Now I've realized those things didn't matter to her, he was still her sweet "handsome dude". Perhaps I need to step back and look from Gram's point of view every now and then.
AJ knew who she was and knew how to melt her heart by walking straight into her arms. She considered getting an older refrigerator (to replace the new one she had just bought) simply because it did not have the same vibration AJ enjoyed from the the old one. She looked forward to our twice a week visits and thoroughly enjoyed spoiling AJ in every way possible. She'd sing nursery rhymes to AJ, sometimes switching from English to German. I remember standing in the hall sobbing as she sang "Deedle Deedle Dumpling, My Son John..." to AJ on the couch, just days after her cancer diagnosis. I will always be endlessly grateful that she was given time to enjoy her great-grandchild.
Just a week ago she was standing in the hall with AJ at her side. It's hard to believe she's not here. Its that physical presence thing. Tomorrow will the first Sunday (minus a few) in 10 years that I have not been at Gram's. I'm not sure how I'm feeling about that.
Her favorite bible verse was Ecclesiastes 3. There is a time for everything. This was her time. I am so.very.thankful for all of the time I was able to spend with her. I am thankful for her nicknaming Jer "Dr. ", and loving AJ in a way I just simply could not have imagined. I am thankful she loved me and was always there for me, even when emotions were so very hard for her. I am so incredibly sad, yet so incredibly thankful she is at peace. So I guess it is my time. Our time. To move forward. With lots of memories. Love you Gram.