[I originally posted this earlier this week on the day my grandmother actually died and then I decided to take it down, and marinate on it little before re-posting. Anyway, here it is again, a little edited]
All day today I'd find myself doing something... answering a support call or laughing at a joke or wondering why Lost thought it was a good idea to waste one of their last five hours... and then I'd remember that my grandmother died this morning.
She died from being old which is really the best that any of us can hope for in this life. And I went down to Memphis a couple of weeks ago to say goodbye to her. But, this morning when my mother called and told me that she'd died, I found myself feeling like "well, Grandma died." Two weeks ago when she told me that Grandma didn't have a lot of time, I spent the whole day crying. But when she actually died, I was surprised at how at peace I felt about the whole thing.
I've told this story to so many people in my family, I'm sure it's tedious. But, I'll tell you guys anyway. Years and years and years ago, it was the Fourth of July and we were at Grandma's house. The guy across the street was setting off fireworks and we were sitting in the yard to watch. Grandma ran her hands through the grass and said to my mother or an aunt or someone "This Bermuda grass feels so good, doesn't it?" It means something, I think, that this is one of the only moments I can remember her seeming happy.
Or maybe it doesn't mean that much. It would be easy, I think to shove her into a box of "she was an unhappy woman." But that's not fair. I can't say I knew who Grandma was, all of her, because it just doesn't work that way. No matter how many anecdotes or incidents we put together, there will always be large swaths of her that will remain obscured to the generations that follow, sometimes on purpose, other times incidentally.
But, still, the whole of who she was informed who my mother is, who all my aunts and uncles are, and they in turn passed onto their children and we pass it onto ours. We go on and on this way, I think. Laney never knew my father, but, adopted as she is, he's in her. So is Grandma and her sisters, who are all dead now.
All that said, here's a little bit about her:
My mother calls her mother an institution. And she was. She was formidable. She could scare the shit out of you. As I traveled into adulthood, I stayed on her good side, for three reasons: I left Memphis, I liked baseball and I thought Republicans were bullshit. You may take note here that I come by my tendencies towards lefty political stridency honestly.
Don was in with her on his first trip to Memphis when, during a game of charades where the "book" in question was the Starr Report and he nudged her and said "they didn't say fiction." Oh, she liked that!
When we were kids and spent the night, she had us brush our teeth with baking soda and if we acted up, she would spank us with a wooden spoon (I don't think I ever got the wooden spoon treatment, but I know my cousin, Jason did). She lived in this tiny house on an expansive lawn and had one of those clothes lines that you can rotate. She mowed her own lawn up into her 80s, I think. She was mighty.
One Christmas, my aunt gave her crocheted "titty warmers" for Christmas and Grandma thought it was hilarious. She'd probably have had a few scotches to think that was hilarious. It was hilarious, but Grandma was normally not a woman who'd be amused by the word "titty."
She read all the time. Books and books and books. And I think she read the New York Times every day.
And I know she loved us all a whole lot.
I think that one day, off in the future, I'll be with my mother when she's dying. And maybe then, Laney will be in her 40s, with young children who will barely know my mother at all.
But, she'll be in them, and so will Grandma. We raise our children and pass things on, and they just keep going on and going on.
The last thing I said to my grandmother was "I'll see you soon." I expect, in a way, this is true. Someone in my family will say or do something and I'll think, "There's Grandma."