My grandmother died last night. She was 102 years old. My telephone rang this morning and when I saw my mother’s cell phone number I knew this was The Call. Just last night, my mom had stopped by to deliver my birthday gift (from January).
My daughter sat on my bed in front of me while I answered the phone. I was in the middle of combing out her blond ringlets. My mother told me directly, “Last night Mother died.” At least I think that’s what she said. At these life-altering moments, I seldom remember the exact words.
I hung up the phone and said to my 5-year old, “Great-grandma died last night.”
“Oh,” my daughter said, “She’s going to miss me.”
We’re talked about heaven all day. I can picture my grandma falling into the arms of my grandpa. They were married 61 years when he died on their anniversary nineteen years ago. She has missed him so much. I am so happy that she has finally crossed the threshold into eternity.
I was dry-eyed, curiously unemotional today, though as I bought new flowers and pots for my yard, I couldn’t help but think about my grandmother and her lifelong love of flowers. Rhododenrons remind me of her–she had two giant bushes outside of her back door and my siblings and I lost many bouncing balls inside those shadowy branches. Calla lilies and gooseberries make me think of her, too. As does laundry hung out to dry.
I remember how she sewed me clothes when I was a child. (Always orange and rust-colored, to complement my brown eyes, I guess.) A few years ago, she gave me her treadle sewing machine. I cherish it, even though I’ve never threaded it.
I remember with some lingering mortification, how she taped closed the M&M jar when I wouldn’t stop pilfering those candy-coated chocolates during a childhood stay at her humble home.
I remember her brushing my hair with a stiff hairbrush under a running faucet in the summertime heat. I remember the yeasty rolls she baked and the step-stool she kept in her kitchen where I perched to watch her work. I remember the way she washed dishes–she filled one side with soapy water and the other with steaming hot water. The washed dishes were submerged to rinse in the hot water. Then, always, always, wiped dry with a cotton dish towel.
She never wore a pair of pants in her life, always a dress. If you stopped by during mealtime, she’d have on an apron. I only saw her feet bare once in my whole life and that was when I spent the night with her. Until she was very old, she’d never cut her hair, but wore it twisted up in a bun. She sold Avon when she was younger. Her house always smelled like roses.
I cannot imagine a world where my grandma does not live in her tidy house with her organized drawers and labeled boxes in every closet. I cannot imagine living in a world where my grandmother doesn’t mention my name in her prayers every day. She held my hand to her heart only eleven days ago. I hold her in my heart forever.
Good-bye, Grandma. I’ll see you in heaven. Tell my dad I miss him.
We miss you already.