Today I find myself paying the high price of mortal love. I should have written you long ago. I’m bad about writing. You wrote the sweetest letter to me when Garry got sick, in your shaky script. You were 102 years old and still handwriting letters to your granddaughter.
I’ve cancelled our flight, hotel and rental car that I had reserved for our annual visit on your birthday. You told me last year I wouldn’t be back because you weren’t having anymore birthdays, but you’ve said that before. However, I believed you and we all said goodbye. Then the months dragged on and you were still beating everyone at Uno and Bingo, and I booked a new trip. I figured we take you to Red Lobster. You’d jump out of the car and run in the building before anyone had a chance to help you walk, because you hated help. You’d get a margarita and my son would ask you questions about growing up in Chicago. Instead we will make other travel plans to say our forever goodbyes at your funeral. I will have a margarita.
When I was twenty-four you told me “in my time you would have officially been considered an old-maid” and you suggested that I marry the first boy who was nice to me. I followed your advice, but it took me six years to find a nice boy and another four to convince him to marry me.
You referred to yourself as dopey because school was hard and you never finished. School was hard for me too. I’m dyslexic and it’s genetic. Perhaps it’s one of the many things I shared with you. You were never dopey. You read more in a year than I will probably read in my lifetime. You raised three brilliant boys and you were so proud of their academic and professional accomplishments. I have lost track of the total of degrees between my father, uncles, cousins and brother and me. Not to mention published works. You loved books. You loved history and westerns. You loved big band music and you could dance. You love teddy bears.
My dad loved teddy bears and would buy them for me when he traveled, which was all the time. I love teddy bears and still have part of my childhood collection. My son is literally swimming in them. Garry has a strict “no more stuffies” rule that I make a practice of ignoring and getting the lecture when I get caught. Today after I received the call that you had died, I decided my broken hearted boy and I needed bears. I defiantly told Garry I was getting more bears, and his response was a simple “as you should”. It was extenuating circumstances after all. You always had bears on the door of your apartment, on your bed, and on the walker that you tried not to use. You began to give them to the other residence in your facility because they brought so much joy and comfort and you would say “everyone needs something to hug”.
I remember you told me that you grew a cup size with every pregnancy. You warned me that other women would tell me my boobs would shrink with pregnancy, but not to believe them. You were right. It’s a good thing I only had one baby. You had three and you had a rocking figure all 104 years and 50 weeks of your life. You were a babe, Grandma.
The single greatest thing about you was my dad. He attributed his phenomenal parenting skills to you. He read to us until we were late into our teen years, and his love of books was decidedly from you. When my Dad died the hardest part for me was calling you. I was a mom of a little boy and couldn’t fathom a call like that. It didn’t matter that you were 97 years old. You are not supposed to outlive your children. I’m so sorry that happened to you.
When I shut my eyes and think of you the image that stands out the most is one I saw countless times. It’s of my dad rubbing your soft wrinkled cheek with the back of his hand and saying “you are a very good mommy.” There is no greater legacy than that. I hope someday I have that in common with you. When my son is a grandfather if he still looks at me and thinks “you are a very good mommy” then I will have succeeded in the very best part of life.