For my Gramma : my sunshine

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written for the day we celebrated her :::

The last real heart visit I had with my Gramma was a little more than a month ago. I knew that it was the last one. In my heart. She was wrapped cozy in bed and scolded me for fidgeting with the blankets and looked at me with what was left of the spunky sparkle in her blue eyes. She wanted to know if we’d been fishing yet and where were the kids and have I talked to Brodie and how dare I leave Maeryn at the house for an hour by herself and I suppose she’s old enough now and what was the weather like outside and how was church and just what is your mother and Dayle talking about out there in the living room and yes, I love you.

I can’t recall here for every one of you what she is to you. I can only tell you what she is to me and then hope that a little piece of that might ring true for you, as well. I struggled with this because I thought I must tell her story from the beginning to now- that I must encapsulate and crystallize her charmed childhood on the canal iceskating and swimming, her hardworking parents and brothers and sisters, her intelligence and beauty, her love for lakes and snow and feeding the birds and playing cards. The way she was stubborn and diligent, the way she was tender and truthful, the way she was unique and poised. How she pushed through 95 years of the most amazing changes and advances in history and technology and life that our world has seen to date. How she married a man she loved, raised a family and saw birth and building up and burning down and growth from ashes and and death and plenty and need. I can’t tell you about 95 years, although I want to, but I can tell you about 95 years of experience that was tightly woven in the gnarled and perfect hand that I held carefully on that last day we visited.

I can, though, tell you about my Gramma.

I can tell you that she made the best chocolate chip cookies that crisped on the edges. I can tell you that she tucked me into bed like a cocoon and rubbed my nose to hers and prayed with me before I fell asleep. I can tell you that she took me outside and made me rake leaves and then she also made me jump in them. I can tell you that she instilled in me a love of words and let me win at Scrabble. I know that now. I can tell you that she loved her family with a fierce and strong- willed love that demanded family dinners around the table and the marking of milestones with celebrations and remembrances. I can tell you that she endured pain and marked it with grace. I can tell you that she insisted on my posture and taught me to dance- try to dance-  the Charleston.  I can tell you that she told me when I was wrong and that she allowed for mistakes. I can tell you I was there on the couch for the ‘86 Mets and man, that was a night. And I can tell you that she let me take her on snowmobile rides because she loved the wind on a warmer Winter day. I can tell you she didn’t mind that I wasn’t as athletic as her, but when she noticed that basketball wasn’t my game, she told me that the poem I had written she framed the other day.  I can tell you that seeing her stabilized me at a moment’s notice and that it’s true, there’s no place like Gramma’s house.  And I can tell you that she  breathed life into my hardest days and made me a root beer float and didn’t say a word.

And this was us- me and Gramma- the thing that replays in my mind. That one day I stopped in after my summer job and we had a long weekend ahead. July 4, I think. One of her favorites. And we were sitting on her deck and talking about how nice it would be to go to Maine. And that was the moment. We looked at one another at four o’clock in the afternoon and said- You wanna go? And that was that. Off we went. Me and Gramma and a road trip. Gramma’s station wagon, Charley Pride on the cassette tape. And yes, we had the windows rolled down and we got an ice cream cone for the road.

And that was my Gramma. The woman who lived a life well- lived. Adventure, pain, love, happiness, hardship, joy and finishing well.

The woman I could come to when I was crying, the woman I would look for in the crowd, the woman that cradled my babies with open arms and arthritic fingers, the woman that encouraged walking tall and playing on the floor. The woman who brought her family to Maine and in turn, gave us the gift of a place to love life, too.

Thinking of her makes me smile. And that’s enough.

And that month or so ago, I thanked the Lord for that visit. The way He had mercy on me and her- giving us time together with sound minds and happy hearts to chat for a bit. She let me rub her nose with mine that day. She held my hand longer than she wanted and she told me she needed a haircut soon. Short and cute like last time. She was tired and I didn’t want to go. I told her to take a rest and yes, I would bring the kids next time, and yes, I would make sure they get outside and play and yes, I would tell Pete she asked about him. I love you, Gramma. I love you, too.

And she let me sing to her, the one I always did. Because it’s true:

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you…”